Special Collections & Archives Blog

During November 2012...

New Samuel and Sally Wait Exhibit in the Atrium

Tuesday, November 27, 2012 3:34 pm

A look at the new exhibit

Special Collections is happy to announce a new exhibit in the small case in the atrium. The exhibit highlights the Samuel and Sally Wait Collection and shows examples of their letters from Wait. It also includes Samuel’s walking stick and reading glasses. Take a look when you get a chance!

Divina Commedia, by Dante Alighieri (Aldine Press, 1502)

Monday, November 12, 2012 1:33 pm

From the title page verso of the 1502 first edition

The Renaissance scholar Aldus Manutius (ca. 1451-1515) began his career in typical fashion, as a tutor to an aristocratic Roman family. We don’t know what prompted him in 1490 to move to Venice and try his hand at a business venture involving the exciting new technology that was spreading across Europe: printing with moveable type. But over the next 25 years Aldus became the most important scholar/printer of the Italian Renaissance.

The Aldine Press, as it became known, began by printing editions of Latin and Greek classics that were in demand by scholars. But Aldus also published works in the Italian vernacular, and in 1502 he undertook an edition of the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321).

Title page from the Aldine Dante

Dante wrote his epic poem between 1308 and 1321. There are no surviving manuscripts in Dante’s own hand, but the work was widely copied  and over 400 manuscript copies from the 14th century are known to exist. Dante’s popularity continued unabated into the 15th century, and several Italian printers issued editions of the Divine Comedy between 1472 and 1500. Most of these early editions included the extensive commentary by Florentine scholar Cristoforo Landino. In many of them the commentary almost overwhelmed the text, and little attention was given to accurate editing of the poem itself.

In this page from a 15th century edition of Vergil's works, seven lines of text from the Aeneid are surrounded by extensive commentary. The Dante editions with Landino commentary would have looked similar.

Aldus’s edition, by contrast, dispensed with all commentary and presented the unadorned text of the poem in a small octavo format.

First text page of the Aldine Dante

The text itself was a new version edited by Aldus’s friend and frequent collaborator, Pietro Bembo. Its origin was an early manuscript version of the Divine Comedy from the library of Bembo’s father (though it was not, as Bembo claimed, in Dante’s own hand).

Bembo was a Renaissance humanist and an accomplished scholar. Rather than writing a lengthy gloss on the poem, as Landino had done, he concentrated on making the text itself understandable for his 16th century Italian readers. After the publication of Aldus’s 1502 edition, Bembo’s version became the standard Dante text until well into the 19th century.

Title page from Bembo's History of Venice, 1551

One of Aldus’s and Bembo’s major innovations was the liberal use of punctuation, a feature often missing from manuscripts and earlier printed texts.

First page of the Purgatorio section

The Aldine Press Dante was typical of many of Aldus’s imprints in that it was a small octavo volume, affordable and easily portable. Many 15th century editions of the classics were large folio volumes, impressive but unwieldy and extremely expensive, with text often buried under centuries of accumulated notes. Aldus realized that there was a market in the scholarly community for well-edited and reasonably priced texts. His Dante is one of many small volumes, printed in his trademark italic font. Aldus was an innovator in typeface design, and his italic type was based on the handwriting of two highly accomplished Italian scribes.

Detail from a page of the Paradisio section

The 1502 Divine Comedy was the first book in which Aldus Manutius used his famous dolphin and anchor printer’s device. The emblem was taken from a Roman medal given to Aldus by Pietro Bembo. The swift dolphin and the immovable anchor are a visual representation of the motto “festina lente” or “make haste slowly.” This quote from Emperor Augustus was an appropriate motto for Aldus, whose painstaking scholarship and editing underpinned his prolific output as a printer.

An example of the dolphin and anchor printer's device from a 1563 Aldine Press edition of Cicero

However, not all copies of the 1502 Dante have the Aldine device. The engraved illustration was apparently not ready when the first copies of the Divine Comedy went to press, so the earliest issues (of which ZSR’s copy is one) do not have the device.

Colophon (printer's statement at end of text) of ZSR's 1502 Dante, without the printer's device

ZSR Library’s copy of the Aldine Press Divina Commedia contains bookplates from three former owners. One of these was famous in his own right: the Victorian artist and critic John Ruskin (1823-1900).

Ruskin was one of the most influential writers on art and society in 19th century England,  and he was a great admirer of Dante. In his Stones of Venice Ruskin wrote

I think that the central man of all the world, as representing in perfect balance the imaginative, moral, and intellectual faculties, all at their highest, is Dante.

Ruskin made his first visit to Italy in 1845, spending time in Venice and Florence.  It is  possible that he acquired the Aldine Press volume during this trip. It is also possible that Ruskin was responsible for having the volume rebound in blue velvet, with yellow silk endpapers and gauffred edges.

The blue velvet binding on the ZSR copy was added by a later owner.

The edges of the ZSR volume are gilded and decorated.

In any case, it is clear that this copy of the Aldine Press Dante has been a treasured possession of many owners over the past 500 years. ZSR Library purchased the book from bookseller William Salloch in 1986. All of the images above are from volumes in the ZSR Rare Books Collection.

Charles Lee Smith Finding Aid Complete (Again)!

Thursday, November 8, 2012 3:52 pm

Although the Charles Lee Smith papers have had a finding aid online, it has not been complete. Well, it is now! We have added 3 additional boxes and an over-sized folder to the former collection. Many of you may know of Charles Lee Smith from the Charles Lee Smith Library (the books that are housed in the “Rare Book Reading Room”) but we also have some of his correspondence, scrapbooks, printed materials, and clippings.

Take a look at the finding aid!

 

The Helen Barnette series is complete!

Friday, November 2, 2012 1:39 pm

Helen Barnette

You may remember another post about Henlee Barnette’s Correspondence series being complete. Well, we have now updated the finding aid to include his second wife, Helen Barnette’s (née Poarch), papers. Henlee Barnette’s first wife died, leaving him with two young sons. He later married Helen and they added a girl and boy to the family.

Helen Barnette is well represented in the previously processed correspondence of her husband, but her series of materials illustrates her achievements in education. She was a well educated and well respected member of the Baptist community. Her series will be an asset to researchers.

RG11.1, Audio Recordings: Reel to Reels Processing is Complete!

Friday, November 2, 2012 10:50 am

Special Collections and Archives is excited to announce the completion of the inventory and finding aid for RG11.1, Audio Recordings: Reel to Reels. This collection consists of over 500 recordings that sometimes take up to five reels per title. This is a massive collection.

Now that we have a comprehensive list and description of what is actually in this Record Group (RG) we can move forward with ways to access the content. We have sent out a small group of reels to be digitized, but it is only a drop in the bucket.

Focusing mainly on the 1960s through 1980s the Audio Recordings provide a glimpse of what was happening on campus during these times of tremendous change. This is a great asset to the University record and we look forward to completing finding aids for all of the audio recording formats in our holdings.

Box 16 of 26

Audio Recordings in the stacks

None of this could be possible without the hard work of our student employee Charles, who transcribed paper finding aids and arranged each of the reels. Thanks to Charles!

The amazing Charles


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