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!
In the 'Exhibits' Category...
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold…
John Keats, “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer”
The book that inspired Keats’s famous sonnet, George Chapman’s The Whole Works of Homer, is one of the volumes included in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections fall 2012 exhibit. On view August 2012 through February 2013, Faithfully English’d: Classical Literature in Translation features Greek and Latin classics in English translations from the 14th through 20th centuries. All of the books are from the ZSR Rare Books Collection.
The exhibit includes translations by Geoffrey Chaucer, George Sandys, John Dryden, Aphra Behn, Alexander Pope, Ezra Pound, Allen Mandelbaum, and many others. The books themselves, published from the 16th through 20th centuries, are as varied as the texts they convey. From large, lavishly illustrated folios to cheaply bound schoolbooks, the different physical manifestations attest to the diverse readership of classical translations.
The five centuries’ worth of books on view are a testament to the enduring fascination that English-speaking authors and readers have for the literature of ancient Greece and Rome. But the texts also show how styles and theories of translation have changed over the centuries. George Chapman, a contemporary of Shakespeare, was the first author to attempt to render both the Iliad and Odyssey into English verse. Chapman’s extravagant Elizabethan style contrasts with the carefully crafted heroic couplets of Alexander Pope’s 1715 Iliad. William Morris’s Odyssey (1887), inspired by Anglo-Saxon poetry, proves interesting if not particularly readable. And annotated typescript draft pages of Allen Mandelbaum’s 1990 Odyssey show the painstaking process of translating Homer’s verse into modern English poetry.
Interest in Homer’s epics has scarcely flagged for the past 500 years, but some classical authors seem to resonate more strongly in certain periods. Aesop’s fables, for example, are now largely regarded as children’s fare. But in Roger L’Estrange’s 1692 translation they are the basis for pointed political satire. The Roman poet Ovid, widely read from medieval times through the 18th century, is the subject of many translations and adaptations, from Chaucer’s Legends of Good Women (on view here in a 1515 edition) to Mandelbaum’s 1993 translation of the Metamorphoses.
Throughout the past five centuries translations have provided access to classical texts for those who cannot read the original Greek and Latin. From the Renaissance through the 19th century, anyone who wanted to participate in the literary culture and intellectual discourse of England needed to be familiar with the classics. But fluency in Latin, and even more so in Greek, required an elite education difficult for anyone but the sons of wealthy families to attain. John Keats, the son of a London stable-master, experienced Homer through Chapman’s verses. William Shakespeare, whose merchant-class origins left him with “small Latin and less Greek,” used Thomas North’s 1579 translation of Plutarch’s Lives as the basis for Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus. And Aphra Behn , in a dedicatory verse for Thomas Creech’s translation of Lucretius (1638), praised the translator while lamenting the fact that women were denied a classical education:
The Godlike Virgil and Great Homer’s Muse
Like Divine Mysteries are conceal’d from us….
But… Thou by this Translation dost advance
Our Knowledge from the state of Ignorance;
And Equall’st Us to Man!
The best translations in every era combine thorough scholarship with literary sensibility and a profound appreciation of the original texts. Pope, Dryden, and others preface their works with discussions of how best to render Greek and Latin texts into English. Most counsel a middle ground between literal translation and loose paraphrase. Pope famously observes in his introduction to the Iliad that
It is the first grand duty of an interpreter to give his author entire and unmaimed; and for the rest, the diction and versification only are his proper province, since these must be his own, but the others he is to take as he finds them.
Other authors have adapted Greek and Latin texts to create entirely new works of literature. From Chaucer to James Joyce, whose Ulysses is on exhibit here, countless English authors have taken inspiration from the classics.
The ZSR Special Collections exhibit is one of several fall 2012 events celebrating classical translations and adaptations. Other events include the Reynolda House special exhibit Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey, a celebration of the life of Allen Mandelbaum, and an appearance by children’s author Rick Riordan.
Faithfully English’d: Classical Literature in Translation is on exhibit in the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room on the 6th floor of the Reynolds Wing. For more information contact Megan Mulder at 758-5091.
In conjunction with the Words Awake celebration of Wake Forest writers, the spring exhibit in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives features six Wake Forest authors whose papers reside in the archives and manuscripts collections.
Laurence Stallings, Harold Hayes, John Charles McNeill, W.J. Cash, and Gerald Johnson received their undergraduate degrees from Wake Forest. Maya Angelou was awarded an honorary doctorate and is a member of the WFU faculty. Each collection is a fascinating record of the author’s life and career.
A writer’s published works are the end products of a long process of thinking, researching, drafting, and editing. The material on view in Writers’ Lives illustrates this process. In one letter Harold Hayes tries to interest Gerald Johnson in writing an article for Esquire on the hypothetical result of the South winning the Civil War. In another Laurence Stallings describes the trials and tribulations of rehearsing a Broadway musical with his collaborator Oscar Hammerstein. W.J. Cash’s typewriter sits next to his annotated typescript of The Mind of the South. John Charles McNeill’s college notebook contains manuscript versions of poems published in Wake Forest’s Student magazine. An early draft of Maya Angelou’s screen adaptation of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is handwritten on notebook paper.
All of the archival materials in these collections were donated to ZSR Library by the authors themselves or by their family members and friends. The Special Collections and Archives department now makes them available to researchers all over the world.
The Writers’ Lives exhibit will be on view in the library’s Special Collections Reading Room (Reynolds Wing, 6th floor west) through June 2012. Special Collections is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information or to make an appointment to view the exhibit after hours, please contact Megan Mulder at 336-758-5091 or email@example.com.
God’s Sacred Word Amongst Us: Historic Bibles from the Z. Smith Reynolds Library Rare Books Collection
On exhibit in the Special Collections Reading Room, September 2011-January 2012
Title page from the 1612 octavo edition of the King James Bible
The title of this exhibit, God’s Sacred Word Amongst Us, comes from the dedication of the of the English translation of Christian scriptures that came to be known as the King James Bible. 2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible’s first publication, and in commemoration of this event the Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections has mounted an exhibit of 30 historic Bibles.
The exhibit includes a 1611 first edition folio King James Bible. Other Bibles and historical documents from the English Reformation are also featured. These include a 1599 edition (probably pirated) of the Geneva Bible, the popular Calvinist-influenced translation that James I hated and that he hoped would be replaced by his newly commissioned version; a 1582 first edition of the Catholic Douay-Rheims New Testament; and a 1612 second edition King James Bible.
Another section of the exhibit features some of the first Bibles printed in North America. Highlights include a 1685 second edition of John Eliot’s Algonquin Bible, published in Cambridge, Massachusetts and translated into the language of the surrounding native peoples. The 1663 first edition of Eliot’s Bible was the first Bible printed in the western hemisphere. Also on view is a 1782 first edition of Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken’s Bible, the first English-language Bible to be published in America. Often called the “Bible of the Revolution,” its publication was commissioned by the newly formed Congress when the embargo of English goods cut off the supply of Bibles from London.
From Gutenberg onwards, printed Bibles have inspired artistic and technological innovation, and the final section of the exhibit features examples of this. Artist Hans Holbein’s Images of the Old Testament is an important work in the history of biblical illustration (also featured on the Special Collections website as August’s Rare Book of the Month). Examples of Renaissance printer/scholar Robert Estienne’s Latin psalter and Greek New Testament display advancements in typeface design and in scholarly editing inspired by the Reformation. John Baskerville’s 1763 folio Bible, Owen Jones’s 1862 chromolithographed Victoria Psalter, and the beautiful Dove’s Press Bible printed in the first decade of the 20th century all represent milestones in book design.
During the last week in October, ZSR Special Collections will coordinate with the Wake Forest School of Divinity to host a traveling exhibit of historic Bibles from the personal collection of Atlanta collector Michael Morgan. Mr. Morgan will be the featured speaker at a Library Lecture Series event on Friday, October 28 at 3:00 p.m. This lecture is open to the public and will take place in the ZSR Library Special Collections Reading Room.
For more information, contact Megan Mulder at 336-758-5091 or firstname.lastname@example.org .