Rare Book Highlights: Marginalia in Hasselquist’s Voyages and Travels in the Levant

Map of the Mediterranean Sea surrounded by the Greek islands, Anatolia, Cyrpus, the Near East, and Northern Africa.

Map of Hasselquist’s Travels to the Levant from the year 1749 to 1752.

Hasselquist, Fredrik. Voyages and Travels in the Levant; in the Years 1749, 50, 51, 52. London: Printed for L. Davis and C. Reymers, 1766. Call number: QH43 H27iE

The former owner of this book left no record of his (or her?) identity; there is no bookplate or owner signature to tell us who the arm chair traveler was. But he left traces of his musings in the marginal notes and underlinings scattered through the book.

The book describes the Levant, a historical geographic term referring to the Eastern Mediterranean countries, and Hasselquist began his travels in Smyrna, an ancient Turkish city now called İzmir, and continued through Egypt and the modern-day countries of Israel, the Palestinian territories, Syria, and Cyprus. Hasselquist was an 18th century Swedish naturalist and student of Carl Linnaeus, the botanist who developed the modern scientific system of naming organisms by genus and species called binomial nomenclature. Linnaeus gave a lecture in which he lamented that the natural history of the Holy Land was little known, prompting Hasselquist, at the age of 27, to undertake the voyage for scientific study. He traveled for four years, collecting natural history specimens and taking notes on the natural history and the customs of the countries’ inhabitants, but he died in Smyra on his way home. His notes and collections reached Sweden, where Linneas published his notes in 1757 under the title Iter Palæstinum, Eller Resa til Heliga Landet, Förrättad Ifrån år 1749 til 1752. The book was translated into English in 1766.

The owner of our copy seems to have been most interested in the areas of Turkey and Egypt, given the concentration of marginalia in those sections of the book.

Here are some markings of note:

Two pages of printed text. Includes pointing hands drawn in ink in margins and a handwritten note that is not entirely legible.

Marginalia: pointing hands called “manicules” and marginal note, “Similar to the dance [?] amongst the Spaniards V. Barett’s Travels”. [click for larger image]

Our reader used manicules, or hands with pointing fingers, to point out passages comparing the roads in Smyrna unfavorably to the roads in Sweden, and describing the country estate of the Dutch Consul Hochpied containing a variety of exotic birds. On the facing page, he highlights a passage describing a traditional dance and notes its similarities to a Spanish dance described in another travel book.

Note reads, “n.b. women’s howl compared to frogs croak.” [click for larger image]

In the chapter describing Alexandria, Hasselquist describes a group of women giving invitations to a feast, who walked along making loud noises described as “shrill” and “quavering,” meant, as he was told, to signify the women’s joy. In a gloss on the text, the reader has written, “Women’s howl compared to frog’s croak.”

Notes read, “a good observation of an Arabian” and “n.b. – hospitality of the Arabs” [click for larger image]

Referring to a description of the moderate eating habits of some local men, the reader has noted, “* a good observation of an Arabian.” Later he notes a passage describing the “hospitality of the Arabs.”

Who was our mysterious book owner? Clearly, it was someone avidly interested in the customs of cultures foreign to his own. This was no passive reader, but one who wished to return to specific passages of interest. Living at the tail end of the Age of Exploration, there would have been many books to feed his interest in exotic locales. Can you imagine how fascinating it would be to discover other books from this reader’s library, to find out which regions and countries were of particular interest? This book provides just a glimpse.


Rare Book Highlights: Carver’s Travels

Title page of Carver’s Travels through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768.

Carver, Jonathan. Travels through the Interior Parts of North America, in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768. London, 1781. Call number: F597 .C32 1781x

This month I would like to highlight one of our recent acquisitions. For those of us living in the Upper Midwest, this book gives a glimpse of the region just before the time of the American Revolution.

Portrait of Jonathan Carver from the fontispiece of his Travels.

Jonathan Carver was born in Massachusetts in 1710 when it was still an English colony. He joined the Massachusetts militia in 1755 and fought in the French and Indian War. At the end of the war, he set out west to explore the new territory that the British acquired as a result of the war.

He traveled into modern day Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakotas, finding his way to the headwaters of the Mississippi River and traveling around the Great Lakes.

His book is part travelogue, part natural history text. He describes not only the land he passes through, but also the native peoples he meets, including their customs and way of life. The second half of the book describes the animals and plants he discovers along the way.

Colored illustration of a male Native American on the left, dressed in a loin-cloth and leggings and carrying a musket and ax, with a woman and child on the right. The child is nake, and the woman is wearing a white dress with a pink skirt underneath.

Colored plate depicting “A Man and Woman of the Ottagaumies.”

In the text, Carver describes coming upon “the Great Town of the Saukies,” or Sauk people–one of the Native American tribes that moved into Iowa in the 1700s. This particular town was located on the Wisconsin River (“Ouisconsin River”) in that what is now Wisconsin, but perhaps it gives a sense of how these same people may have lived in Iowa (through the lens, of course, of a European colonial of the time). He writes,

“This is the largest and best built Indian town I ever saw. It contains about ninety houses, each large enough for several families. These are built of hewn plank neatly jointed, and covered with bark so compactly as to keep out the most penetrating rains. Before the doors are placed comfortable sheds, in which the inhabitants sit, when the weather will permit, and smoak their pipes. The streets are regular and spacious; so that it appears more like a civilized town than the abode of savages. The land near the town is very good. In their plantations, which lie adjacent to their houses, and which are neatly laid out, they raise great quantities of Indian corn, beans, melons, &c. so that this place is esteemed the best market for traders to furnish themselves with provisions, of any within eight hundred miles of it” (46-47).

Detailed view of map showing Carver’s planned travel area. In the lower right quadrant of the image is shown “Saukies Chief Town.”

Carver also describes the animals he encountered, including the “Tyger of America,” which, he says, “resembles in shape those of Africa and Asia, but is considerably smaller. Nor does it appear to be so fierce and ravenous as they are. The colour of it is a darkish fallow, and it is entirely free from spots” (442). Which American cat is he describing, do you think? My guess is the bobcat.

Colored image shows the stalk, leaves, and flowers of the tobacco plant, as well as the caterpillar that feeds on the plant.

Although there are no plates illustrating the animals listed in the book, there is a colored plate illustrating the Tobacco Plant.

In addition to describing the native plants and animals of the region, Carver also describes the starchy plants that the Native Americans grew or harvested, including maize, wild rice, beans, and squash. The New England colonists may have been familiar with corn from their early interactions with the natives in the area, but for Carver’s audiences in England, the plant was likely still a strange exotic. Given its importance to the Iowa economy, it may be interesting to see how he describes this early species of “MAIZE or INDIAN CORN.” The stalks grow “six to ten feet high.” The kernals he calls “seeds,” describing them as “large as peas, and like them quite naked and smooth, but of a roundish surface, rather compressed. One spike generally consists of about six hundred grains, which are placed closely together in rows to the number of eight or ten, and sometimes twelve.”  “This corn is very wholesome,” he continues, “easy of digestion, and yields as good nourishment as any other sort” (522).

Wouldn’t Carver be surprised to see Iowa today with its acres and acres of corn fields?

This book was purchased with funds from the Margaret Mae Gross Memorial Endowment.


Rare Book Highlights: Iowa Private Press books

In honor of National Poetry Month, I am highlighting several private press books that contain collections of poetry. Private presses are run by individuals and are driven less by commercial than personal interests. The works they create have limited press runs, and the goal is to create a beautiful book.

Iowa State University Library has collected the works of a number of Iowa private presses, particularly from those active in the 1960s-80s, and Special Collections holds a related manuscript collection, the Iowa Private Presses Ephemera Collection (MS 414).

Slesinger, Warren. Field with Figurations. West Branch, Iowa: The Cummington Press, 1970. Call number: PS3569.L4 F5

This book of poems by Warren Slesinger published by the Cummington Press in West Branch, Iowa, is quarter-bound with a lovely gray paste-paper with a wavy design. Many private press books use a colophon–a note at the end of the book containing various information about the book and its publication. In early printed books, especially those in the 15th century, the colophon was the only place to find information on the title and author of the work, the printer, place of printing, and date. Today in many private press and artists’ books, the colophon is frequently used to record details about the type, paper, binding, and other physical aspects of the book. In this case, we see that this book is part of a numbered edition–33 of 295 copies–as well as other details about the paper and funding source.

This book is number 33 of an edition limited to two hundred and ninety-five copies, printed on Alexandra Japan paper from Octavian type; its production has been enabled by a grant of money from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Colophon of Slesinger’s “Field with Figurations”.

Sjoberg, John. Hazel & Other Poems. West Branch, Iowa: The Toothpaste Press, 1976. Call number: PS3569.J6 H3

Here is another book with an interesting binding. The colophon indicates that this edition was bound in two different ways. The larger portion was sewn and glued into wrappers, meaning paper covers, similar in weight to a paperback book. Fifty copies, of which this one is numbered 41 and signed by the author, were “quarter bound in Japanese handmade Tomoe paper & cloth over boards by the Black Oak Bindery.” I love this binding. The paper has an almost furry texture, and the swirls have a lovely sheen in the light.

Hazel was designed by Cinda Kornblum; handset by Steve Levine and Allan Kornblum; then printed on Ragston paper in an edition of 500 copies by Allan Kornblum & a treadle-driven Challenge platen press. Of this first edition, 450 were sewn and glued into wrappers; 50 copies were numbered & signed by the author, then quarter bound in Japanese hand-made Tomoe paper & cloth over boards by the Black Oak Bindery. Numbered 41, and signed by John Sjoberg.

Colophon for Sjoberg’s “Hazel & Other Poems.”

Padgett, Ron, and Trevor Winkfield. How to be a Woodpecker. West Branch, Iowa: The Toothpaste Press, 1983. Call number: PS3566.A32 H68x 1983

Here is an example of a book sewn into wrappers. Sewn with a simple pamphlet stitch, I find it elegant in its simplicity. This book contains a series of 5 poems, each illustrated with a whimsical black and white print. These are also signed by the book’s creators.

(c) 1983 by Ron Padgett and Trevor Winkfield. Handset in Optima type by David Duer. This is number 213 of 600 signed copies printed on Ragston paper by Allan Kornblum and D. Duer. Handsewn in Canson wrappers by A.B. signed in black ink by Ron Padgett. Signed in red ink by Trevor Winkfield.

Colophon of Padgett and Winkfield’s “How to be a Woodpecker.”

Slesinger, Warren. With Some Justification: Nine Poems. Iowa City: The Windhover Press, 1983. Call number: PS3569.L4 W5 1983

This understated volume may be my favorite of all. Its textblock has been sewn onto cloth tapes that have been laced into the simple, light gray wrappers.

The nine poems are disguised as dictionary definitions. Above, below, and between the areas of text on each page are sections of uninked type impressions, type layered over type so that is creates a blurred impression. Cleverly, they carried over this idea of the blind-stamping type into the colophon. Half is inked, and half is like a secret message. Can you read it in the image below? (Click the images to view larger.)

Popkes, Wendy. Iowa Couplets. Art and printing by Ladislav Hanka. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Rarach, Press, 1982. Call number: PS3566 O62743x 1982

This book comes out a press from Michigan, but how could I resist including a book called Iowa Couplets? Bound in a paper with bits of grass, it gives a feeling of prairie before even opening the book. It includes a single poem and prints of rows of corn stalks.

I will leave you with the last lines of the poem,

A tall stalk

sprung from the living room carpet,

I become an acre,

a field in their old eyes.


Rare Books Highlights: Squire on the Longitude

A book open to two pages showing interspered text and rows of symbols.

Pages of Squire’s Proposal showing symbols of her own invention.

Squire, Jane. A proposal to determine our longitude. London: Printed for the author, and sold by S. Cope … and by the Booksellers of London and Westminster, 1743. Call number: QB225 S66x, 1743.

Women’s History Month was established to honor the contribution of women to society, and Jane Squire was not at all shy about putting herself forward as a women with a contribution to make.

Squire was an eighteenth century British woman and the only woman to participate openly when the British Parliament passed the Longitude Act in 1714 that offered a reward to whomever could establish a workable method for determining longitude at sea. Latitude was much easier to calculate than longitude, and the inability to accurately determine a ship’s east-west location sometimes resulted in shipwrecks.

Jane Squire boldly put forward her proposal, expecting it to be taken seriously, even though it was not considered proper at the time for women to engage in navigation and mathematics, especially for monetary gain. In a letter to Sir Thomas Hanmer, published in the book, she counters the objection with a hint of sly wit:

The Term Mathematick, I with great Ease resign to Men; but to count, to measure, &c. which are now generally suppos’d to be included in it; are so naturally, the Properties of every reasonable Creature, that it is impossible to renounce them, and deserve that Honour. (30)

And later she writes, in a frequently-quoted passage, “I do not remember any Play-thing, that does not appear to me a mathematical Instrument; nor any mathematical Instrument, that does not appear to me a Play-thing: I see not, therefore why I should confine myself to Needles, Cards, and Dice; much less to such Sorts of them only, as are at present in Use” (31).

If you are interested in learning more about Squire’s unusual and sometimes difficult life, I highly recommend the blog post, “The Lady of the Longitude: Jane Squire,” from the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Science and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge.

Our copy of Squire’s Proposal is a second edition, bound in leather and decorated with some unusual symbols that seem to be Squire’s invention and can be seen within the text in the image that heads this post. According to the aforementioned CRASSH blog post, this is the common binding for this book, which is interesting at a time when most books were sold unbound.

Shows front cover of book bound in leather with a black circle in the center fo the cover with cross-shaped symbols stamped in gold into the circle.

Front cover of Squire’s Proposal, showing symbols stamped into the leather binding.

Inside the front cover, there is evidence of an interesting provenance, or ownership history, for our copy, indicating that it was owned by at least two notable people.

Inside front cover of a book showing a bookplate in the center with a coat of arms of a birth of pray with wings extended rising out of a crown surrounded by a ring with the words White Wallingwells. Second bookplate is a simple name in white on gray reading Harrison D. Horblit

Two bookplates inside ISU’s copy of Squire’s Proposal.

The round armorial bookplate in the center has the words “White” and “Wallingwells” in the circle and appears to belong to the White Baronetcy of Tuxford and Wallingwells in County of Nottingham, England. Sir Thomas Woollaston White, 1st Baronet, lived from 1767-1816, and could easily have added this book to his library. The plain name plate reading “Harrison D. Horblit” indicates the noted collector of rare books in the history of science, navigation, and mathematics. Horblit is the author of One hundred books famous in science: based on an exhibition at the Grolier Club (call number: Q124 H781o), now a common reference book for rare book collectors and librarians–though it does not include Squire’s Proposal. It is pretty exciting to have a book with such an interesting provenance!

The copy also includes the fold-out summary of the proposal.

Unfolded large sheet of paper with many sections of text and charts of symbols

Fold out summary of Squire’s proposal bound into the front of the book.

This summary gives a visual demonstration of the proposal’s complexity. The CRASSH blog post describes the proposed method as based on “real astronomical research and intellectual trends” but not easy to put into practice. “The scheme centred on dividing the heavens into more than a million segments which could be recognised visually, so that young sailors would not need advanced mathematics, and which were described through a new universal language.”

This book presents an interesting element in the history of navigation and a woman who was not afraid to tread in new paths.

Cited

“The Lady of the Longitude: Jane Squire.” CRASSH blog, Posted 1 Dec. 2014, CRASSH: Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Science and Humanities, www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/blog/post/the-lady-of-the-longitude. Accessed 28 March 2017.


Rare Book Highlights: the oldest book

Large books sits in an open box with sides raised at angles to support the book when it is opened.

Quaestiones de veritate sitting in its cradle box specially designed by a former intern with the library’s Preservation Department.

Saint Thomas Aquinas. Quaestiones de veritate. Colonie: Johann Koelhoeff de Lubeck, 1475. Call number: XI 1475 T36.

It is certainly not the oldest book in the world, but it is the oldest book at Iowa State University Library. This copy of St. Thomas Aquinas‘s work, known in English as Disputed Questions on Truth and originally written in the 13th century, was printed by Johann Koelhoeff de Lubeck in 1475 in Cologne, Germany.  It is what is referred to as an incunabulum, or “incunable,” a book printed in Europe before the year 1501. “Incunabula” is a Latin word that translates to “swaddling clothes,” and it refers to books from “the cradle of printing” period–the first 50 years of printing following Gutenberg‘s invention of moveable type and the printing press. These are the first European books that were made in a mechanized fashion, after centuries of scribes in monasteries painstakingly copying books by hand.

With its designation as ISU’s Oldest Book, this Aquinas sees a lot of use. We trot it out for visiting VIPs getting a tour of the library. We show it to alumni, and occasionally to eager groups of students who heard something about a really old book. And this book is worth seeing. Not only because it is “really old,” but because it demonstrates a lot about how early books were made.

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The cover shows signs of being quite ornamental. Leather was stretched over wooden boards, and the leather was stamped with hot metal tools. These tools created diamond patterns and stamps of what looks like a deer, birds, fleur de lis, and other floral and geometric shapes. There are holes in four corners and in the center that likely once held bosses (click here for another blog post featuring bosses), and there are signs of clasps at the edges of the front and back covers.

Shows an open book. On the left side is a sheet with two columns of handwritten text.

Manuscript leaf used to attach the covers to the book.

Opening up the book, there are more interesting things to see. Above, you can see a manuscript leaf (a page that has been written by hand) that had been used as a front endpaper covering the wooden board of the cover. It was a common practice for early bookbinders to use manuscript waste or print waste in this way. Here is a close-up view of the manuscript writing:

Close up of the manuscript inside the front cover of the book.

Close up of the manuscript inside the front cover of the book.

The inside back cover is similar, but here, a strip of the paper has been torn away to reveal the cords laced in the board. The pages of a book are sewn onto a series of cords. These cords are then attached to the boards, as can be seen below. On the spine, you can see evidence of the cords hidden underneath the leather in what are known as raised bands.

Looking into the pages of the text itself, we see that the pages of the printed text look very similar to the manuscript pages lining the boards. In both the  manuscript and printed leaves, the page layout is very similar with two columns of text and wide margins that was commonly used for medieval manuscripts. The typeface was designed to resemble the form of letters in medieval scripts.

Two facing pages of a book. Each page has two columns of text. There are large red initial capital letters and other red markings added to the text by pen.

Inside pages of Quaestiones de veritate.

What also stands out are the red initial capital letters at the beginning of sections of the text. These features were also brought into printing from the medieval manuscript tradition. These initials could be decorated in various ways, and could sometimes contain elaborate figures and scenes. Here they are simple red letter forms, but I find them no less appealing for their simplicity.

The pages also contain numerous other red markings in the text. This is referred to as rubrication and is usually used to indicate the end of one section of text and the beginning of another, and sometimes to announce the subject of the section or its purpose. The word “rubrication” comes from the Latin rubrico, meaning “to color red.” A completed text was given to a special scribe known as a rubricator who would add the additional red markings. Here we see this early printed work following a similar process.

Thanks for coming on this tour of our oldest book in the collection. Now you can see why it gets so much attention!


Coming soon: Avian Archives of Iowa Online (avIAn)

Black and white photograph of baby chipping sparrow sitting on a tree branch with its mother feeding it.

Photograph of chipping sparrows from Walter Rosene Papers, MS 589. Back of photo reads, “Meal time in the chipping sparrow family. This youngster is 9 days old.”

We are very pleased to announce that Iowa State University received a 2016 Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives Award from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). This grant will fund a two-year project to establish a web portal for digital Iowa ornithological primary sources dating from 1895 to 2012. The Avian Archives of Iowa Online (avIAn) will include material from eight collections from Special Collections and University Archives. These collections  document over one hundred years of bird study in Iowa and encompass some of the Midwest’s most influential conservationists.

Handwritten journal page reads, "Saturday June 14, 1924. Left Sioux City at 3:45 p.m. Speedometer reading 16998. Photo of us by car at start (spoiled). Red wing - Dickcissel - Meadowlark. Mourning Dove - Flicker - Barn Swallow...

Journal from Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota bird watching trip, 1924. Walter M. Rosene, Sr. Papers, MS 589, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library, box 13, folder 1.

The selected collections include:

Once completed, avIAn will present the items as both archival materials and as scientific data, expanding its potential user base.

For more information, see the Library’s news release.

 


Rare Book Highlights: Benjamin Franklin and electricity

Franklin, Benjamin. Experiments and observations on electricity, made at Philadelphia in America. London: Printed for F. Newbery, 1774. Call number: QC516 F854e5

Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Vol. 47, London: Royal Society of London, 1751-52. Call number: Q41 R812p

We’ve all heard the story of Benjamin Franklin discovering electricity by tying a key to a kite and flying it during a thunderstorm. But have you ever thought about how that story was documented?

Diagrams of leyden jars, lightnight rods, and various electrical experiments

The title page and frontispiece of Benjamin Franklin’s “Experiments and Observations on Electricity.”

As usual,the truth of the matter is a little more complicated than what we learned as children. Mythbusters performed an experiment to show that Ben would have been killed by the electric shock if he had actually touched the key. Other scholars note, however, that the charge in the key came from the surrounding atmosphere, and not from a lightning strike, making the charge much lower in intensity. Nor did Franklin exactly discover electricity. At the time, electricity was known and studied, but only in its static form (Carter 119). Franklin did prove through his experiments that lightning is a form of electricity, and he first proposed the use of lightning rods on buildings, masts of ships, or other tall structures, to attract the lightning away from the building and conduct the electric shock down into the ground.

Ben Franklin conducted a number of electrical experiments throughout the 18th century, along with a community of scientists throughout Europe. He shared the results of his experiments by letter, and he enjoyed a particular correspondence with Peter Collinson, a British scientist and Fellow of the Royal Society of London.  In his letters to Collinson, he described his experiments with Leyden jars, charged clouds, and lightning rods. Many of these letters were read at meetings of the Royal Society, where the experiments were discussed. Several other men of science performed their own experiments, and shared the results of these experiments through papers read at Royal Society meetings and through correspondence to Franklin and others.

Collinson gathered Franklin’s letters together and published them in London in 1751 under the title Experiments and Observations on Electricity, Made at Philadelphia in America. Five editions were printed by 1769, and editions in French, German, and Italian, were published not long after. Franklin’s work in electricity established his international reputation as a scientist, and this publication is considered to be “the most important scientific book of eighteenth-century America” (Carter 119).

Iowa State University library holds a copy published in 1774, the fifth edition by the printer F. Newbery of London. A description of the famous kite experiment can be found in Letter XI, from Oct. 19, 1752, shown below.

ISU also holds the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, where many of the letters from Franklin to Collinson and others are published. A different letter to Collinson describing the kite experiment is published in the Transactions. It was dated from Philadelphia on October 1, 1752, and it was read two-and-a-half months later, on Dec. 21, 1752.

Others were studying electricity at the same time. The same volume of Philosophical Transactions includes “An Account of the Effects of Lightning at Southmolton in Devonshire, by Joseph Palmer, Esquire,” which was read to the Society on January 9, 1752, and “An Account of the Phaenomena of Electricity in vacuo, with Some Observations thereupon, by Mr. Wm. Watson, F.R.S.,” read February 20, 1752.

Even if Ben Franklin did not “discover electricity,” he certainly made important contributions to the general understanding of the nature of electricity and lightning.

Work Cited

Carter, John, and Percy H. Muir. Printing and the Mind of Man. Karl Pressler, 1983.


Rare Book Highlights: Hammer of Demons

Alexandro Albertino. Mallevs daemonvm, siuè, quatuor experimentatissimi exorcismi, ex Euangelijs collecti : in fine erunt due Benedictiones, & vna vulgaris deprecatio pro ignaris, & mulierbus, vt possint semetipsos praeseruare, & liberare Deo auxiliante : si non habuerint sacerdotem. Veronae: Typis Bartholomaei Merli, 1620. (Call number: BF1555 A38x )

The demon-possessed woman. Obscure Latin verses causing the possessed to writhe in agony. Familiar scenes to any fan of exorcism movies, or to any TV channel surfer this time of year.

That is why I couldn’t resist choosing Malleus Daemonum (or Hammer of Demons) for this month’s Rare Book Highlight after discovering this book while perusing our shelves recently. While works on demonology, or even religion more broadly, are not a collecting area here in Special Collections, we do have a few interesting books to be found on subjects such as these from an earlier era of less discriminate collecting.

Title page of Malleus Daemonum, 1620.

Title page of Malleus Daemonum, 1620.

Malleus Daemonum appears to be a very rare book on the subject of exorcisms. Trying various searches in WorldCat (an online union catalog that includes items from libraries in 170 countries), I found only 4 other copies of the 1620 edition like we have (one at the University of Illinois here in the United States and three at libraries in the United Kingdom), and another five copies of the 1624 edition in the United States, Australia, and in Rome.

First page of the litany section of Exorcism I

First page of the litany section of Exorcism I

As the subtitle implies (quatuor experimentatissimi exorcismi, ex Euangelijs collecti, or Four Most Experimented Exorcisms Collected from the Gospels), the book explores the subject of exorcisms in the context of the four Christian gospels. The main part of the text is divided into four sections, Exorcismus I, II, III, and IIII. Written in Latin, each begins with a litany, or series of formulaic petitions, along these lines: “Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison, Christe audi nos, Christe exaudi nos. Pater de Coelis Deus, libera hanc Creaturam tuam ab omnibus malis, et vexationibus Daemonium.” (Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Christ have mercy, Christ hear us, Christ graciously hear us. God the Father of Heaven, God, deliver this creature of thy family, from all evils, and vexation of evil spirits.) The litany continues for several pages, calling on the Trinity, the apostles, and the saints, to drive away demons. It culminates in a prayer, beginning, “Oremus” (We pray…) Next, are long sections discussing or perhaps quoting specific selections from each of the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The book ends with what appear to be three testimonials from priests, testifying to the book’s orthodoxy.

Oremus ("we pray")

Oremus (“we pray”)

To put this book in context, I looked at a number of recent scholarly works exploring witchcraft and demonic possession in early modern Europe and North America, roughly from the late 15th century to the late 18th century. In her book Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early Modern France, Sarah Ferber explains that the high number of cases of demonic possession and exorcism of that period took place in the context of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, which brought a great deal of turmoil to Europe. She writes, “…in this context, public displays of battles with Satanic forces became a showcase for rival strands of Christianity. Exorcism – the ritual invocation and controlling of possessing demons, using prayer, sacred texts and exhortation – took place among every western Christian group, to varying degrees, in Europe and in its colonies” (3). The belief in demonic possession, or that spirits can take up residence in a person’s body in order to control it, has scriptural authority for Christians, specifically the gospel account of Jesus’ driving out the “Legion” of spirits from the man in Mark 5, essentially the first performance of exorcism in Christianity (Levack 11).

The proliferation of exorcism during the period was viewed as problematic by the Catholic Church, according to Ferber. Exorcists were sometimes viewed as having made a pact with the devil themselves, in their development of rituals to drive out the possessing demons, but the rite of exorcism also had its defenders. Most famously, Girolamo Menghi, an Italian Franciscan priest, published an authorized exorcism manual by the title Flagellum daemonum (Flail of Demons–it seems to me that our author Albertinus likely had this book in mind when titling his own) in 1576. Exorcists, both those viewed as genuine and those believed to be charlatans, used this work to establish their legitimacy (Ferber, “Demonic” 579, and Ferber, Demonic 38-39). In order to systematize the practice of exorcism, Pope Paul V approved an exorcism ritual that was published in 1614 in the Rituale Romanum, the priest’s service manual (Ferber, Demonic 38-29).

Malleus Daemonum on the shelf with its neighbors. See faint markings of previous letters on the spine.

Malleus Daemonum on the shelf with its neighbors. See faint markings of previous letters on the spine.

Examining the book beyond its text and historical milieu, it shows some interesting binding features. It is bound in limp vellum, meaning that the vellum is not stretched around a board, but is simply attached to the spine and folded around the text block, providing a flexible cover. On the spine is written, “E | V | Alberti | Malleu |Daemo | 23.” Beneath that are traces of previous writing that has been removed. This is what is known as a palimpsest, familiar to scholars of medieval manuscripts. Parchment and vellum were expensive to produce, so they were made reusable by scraping or washing the ink from a page. I am not experienced enough to know if this is a common feature of vellum used for bindings, but it is not something I have come across before. I cannot quite make out what was written underneath the current title.

Front cover of Malleus Daemonum in limp vellum with scribblings in ink.

Front cover of Malleus Daemonum in limp vellum with scribblings in ink.

Further of interest, there is more writing, not so thoroughly erased, on the front cover of the binding. It is more messily written, as if it were used to scribble some notes, and makes me wonder if this book was bound with a piece of reused parchment. Again, I cannot make out much more than “Ergo” (therefore). More of a student of paleography than I can currently claim to be would need to take a look at it.

Works Cited

Ferber, Sarah. Demonic Possession and Exocism in Early Modern France. Routledge, 2004.

–. “Demonic Possession, Exorcism, and Witchcraft.” The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America, edited by Brian P. Levack, Oxford University Press, 2013, 575-592.

Levack, Brian P. The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe. Pearson, 2006.


Rare Book Highlights: Like a Boss

Clavius, Christoph. Gnomonices libri octo. Rome, 1581.

In 1581, Christopher Clavius, a German Jesuit mathematician and astronomer, published what has been called the most comprehensive work on sundials of the period, Gnomonices libri octo. Clavius is most famous for his involvement in the development of the Gregorian calendar, which is the modern Western calendar in use today. The work is full of impressive tables and diagrams, but what I really want to focus on is the binding of the particular copy in our collection.

Cover of book in light-colored leather with metal pieces in the corners

Cover of Clavius’ Gnomonices Libri Octo

Our copy of Gnomonices is a first edition, published in 1581. Books printed at that early date, and continuing until the 19th century, were typically sold unbound. That means that the book was sold as a block of pages sewn together and covered in plain paper covers or boards, and the purchaser would take the book to a bookbinder to have a custom binding created for it. Often purchasers would have all the books in his library bound in the same style. That means that copies of early books could have vastly different types of binding. Our copy of Gnomonices is interesting because it has a fairly elegant binding with lots of hardware.

Close up of hole in leather showing wooden board underneath

Close up of hole in leather showing wooden board underneath (click for larger image)

Geometrical patterns stamped onto leather

Close up of blind tooling (click for larger image)

The binding material is blind-tooled pigskin over wooden boards. Let’s break that down. Pigskin is a type of tanned leather that was popular in Germanic and Scandinavian countries, made from pigs, as the name suggests. Tooling refers to the designs pressed into the leather made with metal hand-tools. If you are crafty, you might have done some leather tooling yourself. Blind-tooled simply means that the impressions are made directly into the leather, making an impression on the surface. Alternatively, the binding could have gold tooling, in which gold leaf is applied to the surface of the leather, leaving a gold pattern on the surface of the leather.

The binding also features a number of metal objects. Attached to the corners are bosses, metal knobs that slightly elevate the book from the table surface, protecting the leather from wear. These were features of medieval bookbinding, but they were also used later as decorative features. The book also shows evidence of clasps, which have come off the book over the years.

Metal corner on edge of book featuring an upraised knob in center

Close-up of boss

Clasps were another medieval bookbinding feature and were designed to protect the integrity of the binding, keeping the book closed during movement and thus easing the strain on the joints, where the boards were attached to the block of pages. These books were large, heavy objects!

Close-up of clasp remains

Close-up of clasp remains

What does it mean that this book was bound the way it was? By the 16th century the use of bosses and clasps were fading away as books were becoming more affordable through Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type and the spread of the printing press throughout Europe. Their use in this case then is primarily decorative. The bosses and stamps, as well as the tooled leather, suggest that this was the purchase of a particularly wealthy individual or institution. Was it bound as it was to join an illustrious library of many generations containing medieval manuscripts? Was it the prized possession of an individual and bound to enhance the prestige of the owner? What do you think?


Rare Book Highlights: Cobbett’s Corn

Cobbett, William. A Treatise on Cobbett’s Corn. London: W. Cobbett, 1828.

What do you think of when you think of Iowa?

Let me guess. Corn.

Cobbett's Corn title page, printed on paper made from corn husks, 1828.

Cobbett’s Corn title page, printed on paper made from corn husks, 1828.

That is why I love to pull out Cobbett’s Corn when people come to ISU’s Special Collections and University Archives. Not only is it a rare book focused on corn, but its first two leaves are actually printed on paper made from corn husks to demonstrate the usefulness of the plant.

William Cobbett was a lively writer with strong opinions. In his “Introduction” to the book, he explains that in the book he will

“show, what a blessing this plant will be to the English labourer, and how it will and must drive the accursed soul-degrading potatoe out of that land, into which it never ought to have come” (8).

Tell us how you really feel, Cobbett!

William Cobbett, portrait in oils, possibly by George Cooke, about 1831. National Portrait Gallery, London.

Cobbett’s animated writing style was matched by a spirited personality, which showed itself in his campaigns against corruption and fiery journalism that had a tendency to run afoul of the authorities. Born in 1763 in Farnham, Surrey, to a farmer and innkeeper, he joined the army at the age of 21, which took him to New Brunswick in Canada. After his return to England and leaving the army, he accused several of his former officers with corruption. Fearing retribution, he fled to France, but, as the country was in the midst of revolution, he soon left for America, settling in Philadelphia in 1792. There, he began his career in political journalism, returning to England in 1800 after losing a lawsuit for libel brought against him by the physician Dr. Benjamin Rush. He continued his political journalism in England, founding the Political Register in 1802, which he published until his death in 1835. He spent two years in prison (1810-1812) and paid a hefty fine for criticizing the flogging of a militiaman who had protested against unfair paycuts. Through his paper, he was an advocate for the poor and a proponent of Parliamentary reform. In the midst of social unrest, the government repressed dissent, which sent Cobbett fleeing once again to the United States in 1817, where he lived and continued to publish the Register for two years before returning to England.

Cobbett’s periods in North America exposed him to the maize that is native here. In fact, it was while serving in the army in New Brunswick that he first experienced “Indian corn” and “made many meals upon ears of corn in their green state” (14). Until this time, he writes,

“I used to be greatly puzzled by that text of Scripture (St. Matthew, chap. xii., ver. 1,) which told me that, ‘at that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn: and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat'” (14).

He then goes on (what I found to be) an entertaining digression for several pages of what he calls the “Scriptural history of the corn” (20), which includes little jabs at the corruption of the Church in England.

Engraving of a corn plant.

Plate 1 from Cobbett’s Corn, 1828.

The corn he suggests growing in England is a particular variety that his son discovered in France. It is a smaller variety that does not require long periods of heat to ripen, thus making it appropriate for England’s shorter, wetter summers.

Cobbett’s Corn is a less known book. He is better known for Rural Rides, in which he describes horseback rides through the country landscapes of Southeast England and the Midlands and shares his views on social reform. But Cobbett’s Corn is worth a look, as well. The bibliographer Morris L. Pearl wrote, “In this most entertainingly written treatise Cobbett skilfully blended agricultural and political advice with fascinating reminiscences. Contemptuous of his critics and enemies, he waxed lyrical at the prospect of English farm-labourers seeing ‘this beautiful crop growing in all their gardens…instead of the infamous Potato'” (Pearl, William Cobbett (1953), no. 154).