Rare Book Highlights: Mythical creatures in zoological works

You know that feeling when you are flipping through an early book of natural history and you see illustrations of insects, armadillos, and…mermaids? No? Just me?

Black and white engraving of a creature that is half human with a long fish's tail. The human part is nude to the waste and appears to be female. Script on the illustration reads, "Pece Muger, sive piscis," followed by letters in Greek.

Illustration of a creator that looks like a mermaid, found in Francesco Redi’s work, “Opuscula…” (QH41 R248o).

Truly, you never know what you are going to find when you look through early works of zoology. Mythical creatures aren’t limited to medieval bestiaries. Check out these other interesting creatures from books in our collections.

This two-headed snake-like creature is found in an Italian book on parasites from 1684.

Illustration shows three figures in the shave of a Y, one of which is a two-headed snake.

From “Osservazioni di Francesco Redi” (QL757 .R248o).

And for the Potterheads out there, Charles Owen’s An Essay Towards a Natural History of Serpents (1742) has many delights.

Winged dragons…

Black and white engraving of four types of serpents, the common asp, the winged dragon, the Ethiopian dragon, and the scytale. The two dragons are shown with wings. The Ethiopian dragon is illustrated with wings and two legs.

Illustration of winged dragons from Charles Owen’s “An essay towards a natural history of serpents” (QL666.O6 Ow2e).

a basilisk…

Black and white engraving of four different serpents: two of "the Basilisk or Cockatrice living in the Desarts of Africa," an American serpent, and the elaphis. The top image of the basilisk or cockatrice shows a snake like creature wearing a crown on its head. The second of the two show a creature with a long tail, four pairs of legs, and a bird-like head wearing a crown.

Illustration of the basilisk or cockatrice, from Owen’s work on serpents (QL666.O6 Ow2e).

and various sea serpents.

Black and white engraving of four creatures: the sea serpent, the sea scolopendra, the mistress of serprents, and the natrix torquata. The sea serpents is looped multiple times around intself with a large head, large eye and rows of teeth. The sea scolopendra is shown with a feathery-looking coat down its entire body.

Illustrations of sea serpents in Owen’s work on serpents (QL666.O6 Ow2e).

Owen has interesting things to say about all these serpents. Speaking of dragons, he cites ancient Greek and Roman historians who were said to have seen such beasts. The are supposed to be found in Europe, “between the Caspian and Euxine Sea,” as well as “the Atlantic Caves, and Mountains of Africa.” Surprisingly, “These also have been seen in Florida in America, where their Wings are more flaccid, and so weak, that they cannot soar on high” (192). “The Basilisk or Cockatrice,” he tells us, “is a Serpent of the Draconick Line, the Property of Africa, says Aelian, and denied by others: In shape, resembles a Cock, the Tail excepted” (78). He notes many traditional characteristics of the basilisk–again familiar to Potter fans: “his Eyes and Breath are killing,” “it goes half upright, the middle and posterior parts of the Body only touching the Ground,” and its venom “is said to be so exalted, that if it bites a Staff, ’twill kill the Person that makes use of it; but this is Tradition without a Voucher” (78-79).

Charles Owen (d. 1746), a Presbyterian minister, was following in the footsteps of the authors of early medieval bestiaries, who believed that animals as creatures created by God, were endowed with moral meaning for mankind. Thus, not being a scientist himself, he gathers together what others, particularly the ancient Greek and Roman authors, have written about the creatures and hopes that it “produces in the Reader a more exquisite Perception of God in all his Works” (vii). It comes as no surprise, then, that Owen frequently quotes from the Bible and refers to stories in which serpents play a role, or philosophizes on the symbolism of the serpent as with this passage from his section on dragons:

What is moral Evil but the Venom of the old Serpent? A Venom as pleasant to the Taste, as the forbidden Fruit to the Eye, but the End is Bitterness. And what are Incentives to Sin, but delusive Insinuations of the subtle Serpent? And what is Enjoyment, but a pleasing Illusion, which is no sooner grasp’d, but glides away as a Shadow, leaving behind it a wounded Conscience, direful Apprehensions and Prospects. (193)

Bibliography

Owen, Charles. An essay towards a natural history of serpents. London: Printed for the author, 1742. Call number: QL666.O6 Ow2e

Redi, Francesco. Opuscula… Amsterdam: Apud Henricum Wetstenium, 1685-86. Call number: QH41 R248o

Redi, Francesco. Osservazioni di Francesco Redi … intorno agli animali viventi che si trovano negli animali viventi. Florence: P. Matini, 1684. Call number: QL757 .R248o

 


Rare Books Highlights: Biblio Vault of Horrors!

Illustration of blonde woman with mouth open in a scream.

Oh, the horror!

Gaze–if you dare–on these images of spineless and dismembered books uncovered in our vault.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you…

Broken spines, missing spines, and detached boards

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This one has been stabbed…

This one makes me cry: laminated title page:

Please don’t do this to your books! The adhesive is acidic (see the browning effect?), and it is basically impossible to remove the lamination without destroying the book.

Remember, be kind to books, and they may last for hundreds of years!

 


Rare Book Highlights: Volvelles

I’ll confess: I love a book with moveable parts. I mean, who doesn’t? Who can resist the marvels of a pop-up book, or forgo exploring the many forms that artists’ books can take? In our library’s collections, with our focus on science and agriculture, I may not encounter too many pop-up books, but to my immense joy, early scientific books used a variety of strategies to communicate complex information, including different types of moveable parts. (See, for example, see my earlier post on an early 20th century French technical encyclopedia.)

The latest purchase in this category is a book with volvelles. A volvelle is “‘A device consisting of one of more movable parchment or paper discs rotating on string pivots and surrounded by either graduated or figured circles. With its help problems concerning the calendar, tide tables, astronomy and astrology could be solved’ (H.M. Nixon)” (Carter 218). It is a type of movable chart, round in shape with two or more layers. If you think of a star chart, the round kind with a little window that lets you see the stars visible in the sky during a certain time of year, you get the idea of a very simple, modern version of the volvelle.

Video courtesy Amy Bishop

In the days before computers and modern calculators, volvelles provided scientific readers with the means of making specific calculations. The earliest known surviving example of a volvelle is found in a 13th century manuscript by Ramon Llull, Ars Magna, which is held by the British Library. The first printed volvelle appears in 1474 in Johannes Regiomontanus’ lunar calendar (Karr 101).

Earlier this year I purchased Calendrier perpétuel rendu sensible et mis à la portée de tout le monde, published in Paris in 1774, which assists readers with calendar-related calculations, specifically those related to the liturgical calendar of the Catholic church, including saints’ days, moveable feasts, and dominical letters. Read on for a detailed look at the volvelles in this book, with the caveat that I am not a volvelle expert! Any comments and corrections from those with more knowledge are welcome.

This particular book includes three volvelles. The first page includes 2 volvelles on one page. The top one reads, Concordance perpetuelle du cycle solaire avec les lettres dominicales.

Round, movable chart of two discs. Outer disc includes a sequence of letters. Inner disc has the sequence of numbers from 1 to 28.

Top volvelle on page with two matches solar years to dominical letters.

The outer edge of the large disc is inscribed with boxes of dominical letters. Dominical letters are used to determine the day of the week for any given date. The letters A through G are assigned to the days in the week, beginning with A for January 1. The dominical letter for any given year indicates the letter that is assigned to Sunday for that year. For leap years, two letters are assigned because throughout January and February, Sunday will fall on a particular letter. After February 29, Sunday will fall on the next letter in the sequence.

The inner disc on the top volvelle is outlined in numbered boxes from 1 to 28. This corresponds to the solar cycle (cycle solaire), the 28-year cycle of the Julian calendar. There are 7 possible days to start a leap year, and leap years occur every 4 years, thus creating a 28-year sequence of days on which the new year will begin. So, this volvelle appears to match up the year in the solar cycle with the dominical letter for that year.

The bottom volvelle reads, Concordance perpetuelle des nombres d’Or avec les nombres d’Epacte.

Outer disc has a sequence of numbers, not in numberical order. A separately rotating layer gives the label, "Nombres d'Epacte" The inner disc is labelled, "Cycle Lunaire ou Nombres d'Or, and lists a sequence of numbers from 1 to 19.

Bottom volvelle of page with two seems to be used for calculating the date of Easter.

The larger disc appears to give the epact numbers (nombres d’epacte), or the number of days’ difference between the solar and lunar calendars. The inner disc lists numbers 1-19, to indicate a year’s golden number (nombres d’Or), or its position in a 19-year Metonic cycle. The Metonic cycle refers to the period of 19 years after which the new and full moons will return to the same days of the year. These are used to determine the dates of moveable feasts, notably Easter.

The recto, or reverse side of the page, has a third volvelle.

Base disc is encircled by names of months (often two listed together) matched against a letter A-G. Second disc is outlined the days of the week matched against its corresponding astrological sign.

Volvelle matching months/dominical letters against days of the week and astrological signs.

The base disc has dominical letters A-G matched up against the names of their corresponding months. The second disc has the days of the week along with their matching astrological sign. This, I imagine, helps the reader to calculate the day of the week that begins each month in a given year. I assume this is for common years only, rather than leap years.

Aren’t your fingers just itching to move those discs?

Sources

Carter, John. ABC for book collectors. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1997.

G.S.H. Calendrier perpétuel rendu sensible et mis à la portée de tout le monde. Paris: P. Fr. Gueffier, 1774.

Karr, Suzanne. “Constructions Both Sacred and Profane: Serpents, Angels, and Pointing Fingers in Renaissance Books with Moving Parts.” Yale University Library Gazette 78, no. 3/4 (2004): 101-127.

 


Rare Book Highlights: plants, sex, and poetry with Erasmus Darwin

Painting of a man with shoulder-length light brown hair wearing an eighteenth dentury brown coat and cravat and holding a quill pen.

Portrait of Erasmus Darwin by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1792.

From out of 18th Century England, at the crossroads of the Enlightenment and the Romantic Era, comes a curious work that weds poetry and science in flowery rhyming couplets, heavy with metaphor, and laden with scholarly footnotes. The work is The Botanic Garden (1791), a poem in two parts by Erasmus Darwin, grandfather to the more famous Charles Darwin.

Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) was a physician by trade and a natural philosopher and poet by avocation. He was taken with the recent work of Carl Linneaus (1707-1778) on plant taxonomy, which divided plants into classes and orders based on the number of male and female sexual organs in the flowers, and determined to work this system into poetry in “The Loves of the Plants,” Part II of The Botanic Garden.

While many Englishmen of the time were scandalized by the sexual nature of Linneaus’ taxonomic system, Darwin embraced it, using suggestive images in his floral descriptions, writing of blushing virgins, handsome swains, and deceitful harlots. Take, for example, his description of the genus Gloriosa, which he describes in a footnote as having “Six males, one female. The petals of this beautiful flower with three of the stamens, which are first mature, stand up in apparent disorder; and the pistil bends at nearly a right angle to insert its stigma amongst them. In a few days, as these decline, the other three stamens bend over, and approach the pistil.”

Engraving of Gloriosa Superba with six stamens and one pistil.

When the young Hours amid her tangled hair

Wove the fresh rose-bud, and the lily fair,

Proud GLORIOSA led three chosen swains,

The blushing captives of her virgin chains.–

—When Time’s rude hand a bark of wrinkles spread

Round her weak limbs, and silver’d o’er her head,

Three other youths her riper years engage,

The flatter’d victims of her wily age.

 

“The Economy of Vegetation,” part I of The Botanic Garden, is vast in scope, describing both natural phenomenon and the progress of civilization. In the verses below, despite their references to God, the description of the creation of the universe is more reminiscent of the Big Bang theory than Genesis:

_LET THERE BE LIGHT!” proclaim’d the ALMIGHTY LORD,

Astonish’d Chaos heard the potent word;

Through all his realms the kindling Ether runs,

And the mass starts into a million suns;

Earths round each sun with quick explosions burst,

And second planets issue from the first;

Bend, as they journey with projectile force,

In bright ellipses their reluctant course;

Orbs wheel in orbs, round centres centres roll,

And form, self-balanced, one revolving Whole.

_Onward they move amid their bright abode,

Space without bound, THE BOSOM OF THEIR GOD!

Darwin describes new inventions, like the steam engine, in heroic terms and envisions its many future uses, in boats, cars, and even flying machines:

NYMPTHS! You erewhile on simmering cauldrons play’d,

And call’d delighted SAVERY to your aid;

Bade round the youth explosive STEAM aspire

In gathering clouds, and wing’d the wave with fire;

Bade with cold streams the quick expansion stop,

And sunk the immense of vapour to a drop. —

Press’d by the ponderous air the Piston falls

Resistless, sliding through it’s iron walls;

Quick moves the balanced beam, of giant-birth,

Wields his large limbs, and nodding shakes the earth.

Soon shall thy arm, UNCONQUER’D STEAM! afar

Drag the slow barge, or drive the rapid car;

Or on wide-waving wings expanded bear

The flying-chariot through the fields of air.

 

I was surprised to discover that “The Economy of Vegetation” was illustrated in part with engravings by none other than William Blake, known for his own illuminated books of poetry. His engraving, “Tornado” accompanies this verse:

Black and white engraving of a nude man's body with a face like a man's but a mouth and main like a lion. Entwined around one leg is a dragon's tail, while the head rests on top of the man's head, and the wings spread out behind the man's arms. One arm holds onto a fork of lightning. The entire form floats above ocean waves.

“Tornado” by William Blake.

You seize TORNADO by his locks of mist,

Burst his dense clouds, his wheeling spires untwist;

Wide o’er the West when borne on headlong gales,

Dark as meridian night, the Monster sails,

Howls high in air, and shakes his curled brow,

Lashing with serpent-train the waves below,

Whirls his black arm, the forked lightning flings,

And showers a deluge from his demon-wings.

 

Although Darwin’s high style of poetry may be agonizing to many modern readers, The Botanic Garden was popular when it was first published. Its vision of scientific and cultural progress was vibrant and appealing. Associated as it was with the scientific progress and sexual freedom of the French Revolution, however, popular opinion turned against it as the Revolution turned more savage. Only seven years after its initial publication, it was satirized by George Canning in The Anti-Jacobin in the poem The Love of the Triangles. In later years the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge is famously said to have despised Darwin’s poetry.

Erasmus Darwin. The Botanic Garden. Pt. 1, 3rd edition; Pt. 2, 4th edition. London: J. Johnson, 1794-1795. Call number: QH41 D25b3


Rare Book Highlights: Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Black and white engraved head-and-shoulders portrait of a woman with hair pulled back from her face and wearing a dress with a furred or feathered collar.

Portrait of Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799), Italian mathematician, from the Scala Museum, Milano

“For, if at any time there can be an excuse for the rashness of a Woman, who ventures to aspire to the sublimities of a science, which knows no bounds, not even those of infinity itself, it certainly should be at this glorious period, in which a Woman reigns, and reigns with universal applause and admiration.”

So Maria Gaetana Agnesi writes in the dedication of her major work Instituzioni analitiche (Analytical Institutions) to Empress Maria Teresa of Austria, as translated by John Colson in 1801. It was typical for an author to dedicate a book to a monarch, hoping to win favor and patronage, but here Agnesi (although with the usual flattery and praise) also speaks as woman to woman in a world dominated by men.

Agnesi (1718-1799) is considered the first woman mathematician, born in Milan, Italy to a wealthy merchant. She was a highly intelligent child, who spoke fluent French by the age of 5, knew Latin by age 9, and by 11 added Greek and Hebrew to her classical language repertoire as well as several modern languages. Her father provided her and her younger sister with tutors, and he liked to show her off at gatherings in his home with scholars and celebrities. She presented theses on a number of subjects and then defended them in academic disputations with the scholars present. These discussions were held in a variety of languages, and she answered in the language in which she was addressed.

In 1738, she published Propositiones philosophicae, a compilation of her defense of 190 theses that she gave at a gathering as a kind of capstone to her studies. Following this publication, she announced that she wished to join a convent. At her father’s objection, she reconsidered, but insisted on living a simple life devoted to study and contemplation and free from social obligations. At this time she turned her attention to studying mathematics, and after ten years, she published Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventù italiana (1748), or Analytical Institutions for the Use of Italian Youth.

This volume, written in Italian rather than Latin, and presented as a handbook for educating young people in mathematics, was noted for its clarity and comprehensiveness. She treated not only algebra and geometry, but also the newer fields of integral and differential calculus.

Instituzioni Analitiche ad uso della gioventu Italiana Didna Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Milanese, Dell' Accademia delle Scienze di Bologna, Tomo I. In Milano, MDCCXLVIII. Nella Regia-Ducal Corte. Con licenza de' Superiori.

Title page of Instituzioni Analitiche.

She received much acclaim for the book. Maria Theresa of Austria, to whom she dedicated the book, sent Agnesi a diamond ring and letter. Pope Benedict XIV also sent a letter along with a gold medal and gold-and-gemstone wreath. He also appointed her to the chair of mathematics and natural philosophy at the University of Bologna, which she accepted as a purely honorary position. In spite of all this, Agnesi continued to withdraw from society and mathematical work and worked more and more for the church and the poor. Later in life, she became the director of a poorhouse, and held that position until her death.

Four drawings of conical sections, including figures 58, 59, 60, and 61.

Table 10 from volume 1 of Instituzioni Analitiche.

It is often noted that her fame is not due to any major mathematical discoveries of her own, but is based on her reputation for brilliance, which convinced some men of the time that women had the capacity to understand complex scientific and mathematical concepts. In fact, in John Colson’s “Introduction” to his English translation, he challenges English women to take up the study of mathematics in order not to be outdone by Italian women: “[Women] seem only to want to be properly introduced into these studies, to be convinced of their usefulness and agreeableness, and to prevail on themselves to use the necessary application and perseverance. They have here a noble instance before them, of what the sex is capable to perform, when their faculties are exerted the right way. And they may be fully persuaded, that what one lady is able to write, other ladies are able to imitate, or, at least, to read and understand.”

Two books bound in vellum stacked on top of each other showing leather spine labels that have been partly chipped off the spine.

Iowa State University copy of Agnesi’s 2 volume work.

The ISU library copy of Instituzioni analitiche includes the bookplate and signature of Henry Bickersteth in each of the two volumes. It is bound in simple vellum with spine labels. Henry Bickersteth (1783-1851) was an English lawyer who, in 1836, became a member of the Privy Council and was created Baron Langdale, of Langdale in the County of Westmoreland.

The bookplate indicates that Bickersteth likely acquired this book before he was given a peerage. The bookplate is simple, with no coat-of-arms, and simply the name followed by “Lincoln’s Inn.” This is, to me, a bit of a puzzle. Lincoln’s Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London, the professional organizations for barristers in England. The puzzling part to me is that in 1808 Bickersteth was admitted to the Inner Temple, another of the Inns of Court, as a student. Why would he be a student at one, and have his residence at another? But there is more evidence that he did, in fact, live at Lincoln’s Inn. The Memoirs of the Right Honourable Henry Lord Langdale by Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy (1852) include a letter from Henry Bickersteth to his brother dated “Lincoln’s Inn, May 31st, 1827.”

Do you know why this would be? Leave a comment!

Maria Gaetana Agnesi. Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventù italiana. Milan: Nella Regia-ducal corte, 1748. Call number: QA35 A27

Bibliography

Agnesi, Maria Gaetana. Analytical institutions, in four books, originally written in Italian. Translated by John Colson, London: Taylor and Wilks, 1801.

“Bickersteth, Henry, Baron Langdale (1783-1851).” Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1885-1901.

Hardy, Thomas Duffus. Memoirs of the Right Honourable Henry lord Langdale. London: R. Bentley, 1852.

Harvey, Joy and Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie. “Agnesi, Maria Gaetana (1718-1799).” The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, Routledge, 2000. 14-16.

Kramer, Edna E. “Agnesi, Maria Gaetana.” Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Scribner, 1981. 75-77.


Rare Books Highlights: The Future is Now

Blish, James. Year 2018. New York, Avon, 1957. Call number: PS3503.L64 Y4x 1957b

Welcome to the future! You probably thought we were already well into the future, considering that we have already passed many science fiction milestones designating THE FUTURE with its array of wonders or horrific dystopias, such as 1984, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and even 2015, the future year that Marty McFly visits in Back to the Future Part II. (Where are our flying cars and *real* hover boards?) If that is the case, then I’m afraid you were missing one other important science fiction future date: Year 2018! by James Blish.

Illustration of Jupiter, a man in a space suit, and a bridge across an expanse of colorful swirls of gases.

Paperback cover of the book “Year 2018!” by James Blish, published 1957.

Year 2018! was released in 1957 in paperback. It was first published in hardcover in England a year earlier under the title They Shall Have Stars and is the first of Blish’s Cities in Flight series. In a foreword, Blish writes that “Avon Publications has kindly allowed me to second-guess this novel, however, so the present version differs somewhat from the British edition.” It is a dystopian novel, which the blurb on the back of the book sums up this way:

In the year 2018…

Man undertook the most amazing project in human history–a bridge on Jupiter!

In that frozen, raging, gaseous Hell, the Spacemen built a colossal, monstrous bridge out of sheer Ice IV–30 miles high, 8 miles wide, and ever growing in its incredible length.

What was the purpose of this fantastic project?

What was the secret that lurked behind the stars?

Only one man knew–SENATOR WAGONER of Alaska, who controlled the U.S. Space Flight Corps–and possessed the most tormenting knowledge in the Universe!

I don’t know about you, but I’m intrigued! Maybe some new reading material to add to your 2018 reading list?

ISU Special Collections holds this title as part of the Margaret Young Science Fiction Collection.


Rare Book Highlights: Pop Up! The Technical Encyclopedia Edition

Henri Desarces. Nouvelle encyclopédie pratique de mécanique et d’éelectricité. 4 volumes. Paris: Librairie Aristide Quillet, 1924. (TJ163 .D47 1924)

Okay, so it is not technically a pop-up book. But as a non-scientist and non-engineer, I find myself drawn most to the illustrations in scientific works. Plates with moveable layers are just gravy. (Look below for videos!)

And yet, scientific illustrations are more than just pretty pictures. They communicate complex concepts both to other experts in a highly specialized field, and also sometimes to general audiences.

This newly-purchased encyclopedia is clearly speaking to experts, as you can see by examining a few pages from any volume:

Two pages show technical text in French along with several scientific and mathematical diagrams.

Opening in vol. 1 of Nouvelle encyclopedie.

This encyclopedia uses a number of different illustration techniques, including half-tones, blueprints, and chromolithographs.

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And finally, the 4th “Atlas” volume contains chromolithographic plates with several layers of overlays that are just seriously cool:

The Nouvelle ecyclopédie is a comprehensive guide to the state of mechanics and electricity (volume 3 is entirely devoted to electricity) post-World War I. It was compiled by Henri Desarces, an engineer at École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris. He first published the work under the title Grande encyclopédie practique de méchanique et d’electricité in 1913. For this second revised and updated edition, Desarces collaborated with many other French engineers who were specialists in various fields. The French publisher Quillet was a well-known publisher of illustrated and accurate technical encyclopedias.

This is a wonderful addition to our engineering books, and I am excited to share it with classes and researchers!

Here’s a bonus video:


A conversation of books and prints

Amy N. Worthen: The World in Perspective, August 22 – December 17, 2017, Brunnier Art Museum, 295 Scheman Building, Iowa State University

Is there a book you’ve had a conversation with over the course of your life? Has its meaning changed each time you return to it? Has it influenced your own work?

Here is an opportunity to see such a conversation play out in the works of an artist.

Amy N. Worthen: The World in Perspective. Prints and Drawings

Introduction label to “Amy N. Worthen: The World in Perspective” at Brunnier Art Museum.

About a year ago, I was contacted by Adrienne Gennett, Assistant Curator of Collections and Education at Iowa State University Museums, about the possibility of Special Collections and University Archives loaning some early printed books for an exhibition featuring a locally-based printmaker to help illustrate the history of printmaking. I had never been involved in an exhibition loan, but I was excited by the idea of our collections reaching an audience outside the library’s walls. As I met first with Adrienne, and joined later by the artist, Amy Worthen, the ideas for the book portion of the exhibit began to take shape.

Amy Worthen sent me a list of books with prints that had been influential to her–both as an art historian and as an artist. Since she lives for part of the year in Venice, Italy, she also listed some of our early books printed in Venice.

As Amy and Adrienne paged through books here in Special Collections, I got a peak behind the curtain, listening to their curatorial conversations as they determined the interplay of historical to contemporary prints.

Two books open for display in a glass museum case.

Two volumes from Denis Diderot’s Encyclopedie (call number AE25 .En185): the entry on Gravure (engraving) and a corresponding illustration from the plates volume.

After the final selections were made, other library staff contributed to getting the books ready for their exhibition debut. The library’s conservator, Sonya Barron, reviewed the items to identify any needed repairs. Preservation department staff member Jim Wilcox built the cradles to support the books. Finally, the books were ready for packing up and installation, completed by Sonya in collaboration with Museums curator Adrienne.

When I visited the exhibit, it was satisfying to see the final results. As Rare Books and Manuscripts Archivist, I was delighted to see some familiar faces in a new setting, and viewing the results of Amy Worthen’s “conversations” with the early prints was illuminating.

One of the first cases you see when you enter the room lays the foundation for the exhibit. Two volumes are displayed side-by-side in a case. One is entirely text–the entry from Denis Diderot’s French Enlightenment Encyclopédie on “Gravure,” or engraving. To its right is one of the encyclopedia’s plates volumes, opened to an illustration of engraving tools. When you turn to your left, you see a corresponding case of engraving tools and a copper plate, etched with fine lines by the artist. Hanging above it on the wall is Worthen’s framed artist’s proof of Strumenti d’ Incisione (Engraving Tools), 1995, a true counterpart to the Encyclopédie‘s illustration–she created it to illustrate her entry on printmaking for the Grove Dictionary of Art.

Another example of Amy Worthen’s prints in conversation with earlier pieces can be seen in the pairing of a print from Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Le antichità romane (1756) (call number NA1120 .P664a), with the artist’s Catacomb. The accompanying label reads, “When she was in college Worthen first saw original Piranesi etchings. She was greatly inspired by his approach to architecture – part documentation, part exaggeration, and part fantasy.” Both of the prints feature Roman catacombs, or underground burial sites.

Some of my favorite pieces in the exhibition are those with elements of whimsy and humor, such as The Department of Agriculture, depicting a cow seated at a desk inside the State Capitol building addressing a group of animals including 2 pigs and a litter of piglets, a rooster, and a big-horn sheep. I laughed out loud when I saw Worthen’s Self-Portrait as a Pineapple:

Print of black lines on yellow showing a pineapple form with a face underneath the leaves.

Self-Portrait as a Pineapple, 1970
Amy N. Worthen (American, b.1946)
Un-numbered
12 1/4 x 9 1/8 in. (31 x 23.2 cm)
Loaned by the artist

This is only a sneak peek at the exhibit. You’ll want to visit in person to see the eight books from Special Collections and more than one hundred prints, sketchbooks, and printing plates.

You still have time to stop by and see Amy N. Worthen: The World in Perspective. It is on exhibit through December 17, 2017, at Brunnier Art Museum in 295 Scheman Building.


Rare Books Highlights: Books from the Index librorum prohibitorum

This week is Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the freedom to read. Book banning and censorship have gone on for centuries, and one of the most prominent vehicles for such activity in the Western world was the Index librorum prohibitorum, the list of books banned by the Roman Catholic church for spreading heretical ideas. The Index made its first appearance in 1559 under Pope Paul IV, and it carried broad restrictions, including all books by heretical authors and printers, and books without identifiable authors or printers. The Pauline Index was not readily accepted because of the severity of its restrictions, and so it was replaced in 1564 by the Tridentine Index, coming out of the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic church’s 19th ecumenical council convened in response to the Protestant Reformation. This Index followed more narrow rules for prohibiting books. For example, books of a non-religious nature by a heretical author were not necessarily prohibited. The Tridentine Index laid the foundation for later editions of the Index. In 1571, the Sacred Congregation of the Index was established to oversee and periodically update the Index and to investigate particular cases of denounced writings. The final 20th edition of the Index appeared in 1948, and it was officially abolished by Pope Paul VI in 1966.

This post highlights two famous astronomy books from our collections that spent time on the Index.

Nicolaus Copernicus. De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. Basileae, Ex Officina Henricpetrina, 1566. Call number: QB41 .C79d

Nicolaus Copernicus. Portrait from Toruń, beginning of the 16th century.

Copernicus overturned the long-held idea of an earth-centered universe in his De revolutionibus. He demonstrated mathematically that the Earth and the other planets revolve around the sun, and that the moon revolves around the Earth, as shown in the diagram below.

Page showing a diagram of the heliocentric solar system model from Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus.

The book was not censored immediately upon publication. Though the work received criticism for being in conflict with Joshua 10:13 from the Bible, in which the Sun is commanded to stand still in the sky, thus indicating that the Sun circles the Earth, it took over 70 years for the book, first published in 1543, to come under consideration by the Congregation of the Index, due in large part to the astronomical work of Galileo (see more below). In 1616, the Congregation placed the work on the Index “until corrected,” and in 1620 ten specific corrections to the text were outlined that were designed to make heliocentricism appear to be theoretical only and not a description of a natural phenomenon.

Some copies of the book were “corrected” by hand, especially copies owned by people living in Roman Catholic countries. The ISU copy is, perhaps unfortunately, not corrected. Check out this blog post from University of Rochester River Campus Libraries for examples of a corrected copy.

Coat of arms stamped in gold leaf on brown leather.

Coat of arms on the cover of ISU’s copy of De Revolutionibus.

Although lacking the corrections, the ISU copy does have some interesting elements. Check out the coat-of-arms on the binding. A note pasted inside the front cover indicates that this coat-of-arms was used by the “eldest son during father’s lifetime” of the Berkeley family, a family from the English nobility from a long-running Saxon line.

 

 

Galileo Galilei. Dialogo di Galileo Galilei. Fiorenza i.e. Napoli, 1710. Call number: QB41 .G35 D5x 1710

Justus Sustermans’ Portrait of Galileo, 1636. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

The writings of Galileo and Copernicus are closely linked in their relation to the Index. In fact, he wrote as early as 1597 to both Johannes Kepler and a former colleague named Jacopo Mazzoni, sharing his support for Copernicus’ model of the solar system. Galileo’s work at this time focused largely on mechanics, but with the invention of the telescope in 1608, he turned his attentions to improving it. In 1610, Galileo took his improved telescope and starting looking to the heavens. Galileo made a number of famous discoveries, including four moons of Jupiter, which he published in a book titled Sidereus nuncius. His made later discoveries, including the phases of Venus, that removed objects to the Copernican system, and in 1613 he published Letters on Sunspots, in which he first spoke openly in favor of the Copernican system. Later than same year, theological objects to the Copernican system were raised, and Galileo rose to its defense. He wrote on the necessary separation between scientific investigation and theological issues, and he even went to Rome in late 1615 to advocate against the suppression of the Copernican system and to clear himself from any condemnation. Galileo failed to stop the 1616 edict against De revolutionibus, and while no actions were taken against him or his works, he was instructed to no longer defend Copernicanism.

In 1623, Pope Urban VIII was appointed in Rome. Galileo met with the new pope in 1624, and over the course of several meetings, the pope granted Galileo permission to write about the Copernican system, so long as he presented it as a theory. The result was Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The book took the form of a conversation between a spokesman for Copernicus, a spokesman for the Ptolemy and Aristotle (who promulgated a geocentric model of the solar system), and an educated layman for whose support the other two are vying. The follower of Ptolemy and Aristotle is named Simplicio, which looks suspiciously like a double entendre for a simple-minded person, since the Italian for simple is semplice. While on the surface Galileo remains uncommitted to the Copernican system, the course of the book systematically disproved the geocentric model of the universe. He also put the arguments used by Pope Urban VIII himself in conversations with Galileo into the mouth of Simplicio, which seems to have caused great personal offense to the pope. Upon publication of the Dialogo in 1632, copies were sent to Rome, and before long Galileo was ordered to appear before the Inquisition.

Galileo’s Dialogo was written as a conversation between three speakers, but it proved many mathematical points, as illustrated by the diagram on the right page.

The results of Galileo’s trial are well-known. He was found guilty of heresy in his support of the Copernican system and was forced to abjure those views. He was sentenced to imprisonment, but due to health issues the sentence was commuted to house arrest for the remainder of his life. Finally, the Dialogo was placed on the Index.

Galileo continued to write while under house arrest, publishing an important work in physics, Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences, in 1638. Because the publication of any of Galileo’s works had been banned, he had to have the manuscript smuggled out and published in Holland by Elzevir.

ISU’s copy of the Dialogo is a large-paper copy of the second vernacular edition, meaning the edition that was printed in Italian, rather than the original Latin. Published in 1710, almost 80 years after the first edition and 68 years after Galileo’s death in 1642, it was still a prohibited work. Perhaps that is why there is no publisher indicated and there is a disguised printing location–the title page says Florence, but bibliographic scholars have identified that it was actually published in Naples. This edition is important in that it contains, in addition to the Dialogue, several other related texts that were not available at the time of the first edition. Notably, it includes the first Italian printing of Galileo’s Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, in which he argued for the independence of science from religion, and a reprint of Paolo Foscarini’s Lettera, which was the first Italian work defending the Copernican theory. This last work was banned in 1616 at the same time as Copernicus’ De revolutionibus, and existing copies were burned. Also of interest is the Inquisition’s sentence of Galileo and his abjuration.

Both works by Galileo and Copernicus remained on the Index until 1835, when the Catholic Church abandoned its official opposition to heliocentrism.

 

This post was written with help from:

Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.” Wikipedia. 30 August 2017. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialogue_Concerning_the_Two_Chief_World_Systems

De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.” Wikipedia. 9 September 2017. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_revolutionibus_orbium_coelestium

Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Charles Coulston Gillispie, ed. Scribner, 1981.

“Galileo Galilei.” Wikipedia. 18 September 2017. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei

Index Librorum Prohibitorum.” Wikipedia. 28 July 2017. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Index_Librorum_Prohibitorum

“List of authors and works on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.” Wikipedia. 23 June 2017. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_authors_and_works_on_the_Index_Librorum_Prohibitorum

“Nicolaus Copernicus.” Wikipedia. 18 September 2017. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaus_Copernicus

Two New Sciences.” Wikipedia. 21 September 2017. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_New_Sciences


The results are in: Intaglio class final projects

It is not often that I get to see the results of my Special Collections instruction sessions in such a tangible way.  Back in February, I worked with April Katz’s Intaglio class, who came in to view and take photos of examples of intaglio prints from a variety of our rare books to incorporate into their own studio projects. In April I had the pleasure of attending the class’s final critique and seeing the fruits of their labor.

All of the prints were inspiring and beautiful to see. I am highlighting here a few in which I could clearly decipher where the inspiration came from in our collections.

Here, for example, is the work of Jen Wichers, who took as inspiration images from a book on French fashion from the 1780s (Cornu, Paul, et. al. Galerie des Modes et Costumes Francais. Paris: É. Lévy, 1912?. Call number: GT865 G132).

 

Anna Wagner was inspired by images of tools from Diderot’s French Enlightenment Encyclopédie (Diderot, Denis. Encyclopédie. Paris: Briasson, etc, 1751-65. Call number: AE25 En185) in these prints of hammers with entwined flowers.

One of our botanical books inspired this work by Alexandria Collins, which shows the interplay of the natural and the man-made. (Hooker, William Jackson. Flora boreali-americana. London: H.G. Bohn, 1840. Call  number: QK201 .H764f)

Here is a final set of photos of the work of Jordan Jorgensen, who was also inspired by Diderot. I like the interplay of the hand tool (scissors) and the larger machine (spinning wheel) and the faceless woman running it.

Thank you to April Katz’s ARTIS 357/557, Intaglio & Monotype class for allowing me to attend your final critique and show off your work on our blog. You did great work!