Special Collections & Archives Blog

Systema Cosmicum, by Galileo Galilei (1635)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 2:47 pm

Galileo 1636 title page detail

Banned Books Week  is observed each September by librarians, publishers, authors, educators, and readers to show “support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” By calling attention to various attempts to restrict access to books and other materials, Banned Books Week reminds readers that freedom of access to ideas and information is not something to be taken for granted.

Banned Books Week was begun in 1982, but book banning has a much longer history. ZSR Special Collections holds a copy of one of the most famous banned books of all time, Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) became interested in physics and astronomy while a student at the University of Pisa. By 1592 he was a professor of mathematics at the University of Padua and was conducting extensive scientific experiments. He was naturally interested in one of the great controversies of his day, which concerned the theories of Polish mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543).

Copernicus had been one of the first European scholars to question the traditional Ptolemaic universe—the idea that the earth remained immobile at the center of the universe while the sun, planets, and stars revolved around it in concentric spheres. This model was posited by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy (ca. 150 CE), based on the philosophy of Aristotle (384-322 BCE).

nuremburg ptolemaic universe 2

A medieval view of the cosmos, from ZSR Special Collections’ copy of the Liber Chronicarum (Nuremberg Chronicle), 1493

Aristotle’s concept of an imperfect and changeable earthly realm surrounded by an eternal and immutable heaven had become integral to medieval Christian theology. Thus many religious authorities – in particular the Catholic Church—found Copernicus’s challenge to this model an unwelcome threat.

Galileo’s work in astronomy and physics lent support to the Copernican theory. Working with Dutch prototypes, Galileo developed a telescope that allowed him to make unprecedented observations of the moon, sun, and other planets in the solar system.

Galileo 1635 telescope detail

Detail from the engraved portrait of Galileo in the Systema Cosmicum, showing a cherub with a telescope.

His work made him famous and gained him the patronage of the powerful Medici family. But it also attracted the attention of church authorities, who were less impressed.

In 1616 Galileo was called before a committee of the Roman Inquisition and instructed to stop teaching and writing anything that supported Copernicus’s heliocentric model. Galileo’s books were placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum—the Catholic Church’s list of banned books.

Galileo kept a low profile for the next decade, but in 1623 his friend Maffeo Barberini was elected Pope. He requested and received permission from the new Pope Urban VIII to publish a book on the Copernican controversy. The result was Diologo … Sopra I Due Massimi Sistemi del Mondo (Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems), published in Forence in 1632. Pope Urban had specified that Galileo should present the argument as a purely mathematical hypothesis and that he should give equal weight to both the Ptolemaic and the Copernican theories.

Galileo framed his argument in a dialogue (or more accurately, a triologue) among three fictional characters: Salviati, a proponent of the Copernican theory; Sagredo, his friend, who has no fixed opinion but is eager to learn; and Simplicio, a traditionalist who defends the Ptolemaic/Aristotelian view.

Galileo 1635 caption title

It seems that Galileo genuinely believed he was presenting an unbiased account of the argument. But it was immediately clear to his readers where his sympathies lay: in the fictional debate, Salviati easily bests the unfortunately named Simplicio, who comes across as fairly dimwitted. Pope Urban was not pleased when he realized that the objective and dispassionate treatise he had approved was actually a thinly veiled manifesto for Copernicanism. Worse, Urban believed that Simplicio was in fact a satiric portrait of himself. Galileo had lost a vital ally, and within a year of the Dialogue’s publication he was called before the Inquisition, convicted of heresy, and placed under house arrest.

Galileo was by then nearly 70 years old and in poor health. His scientific career was over, but his influence on the scientific revolution in Europe had just begun.

Galileo 1635 portrait

Portrait of Galileo from the Systema Cosmicum, 1635

Even as the Dialogue was being banned in Rome, Galileo’s friend Elia Diodati  was making plans for an international edition. Diodati recruited Matthias Bernegger, a university professor in Strasbourg, to translate Galileo’s text into Latin, the universal language of European scholarship.

Diodati also found a publisher for the book, the Dutch Elzevier firm, one of the most prestigious scholarly publishers in 17th century Europe, based in safely Protestant Leiden. Anticipating an eager audience, the Elzeviers hurried the book into print. Printing (by David Hautt of Strasbourg) was begun while the translation was still ongoing. And the book was published in a large edition of about 600 copies.

Copies were available for sale by March of 1635. The book bore the new title Systema Cosmicum, but the text was nearly identical to the 1632 Dialogue. One striking difference, however, was the newly engraved frontispiece for the Elzevier edition. As in the Italian edition, the engraving showed Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Copernicus engaged in conversation. In the Italian illustration, all three were elderly and all were equally absorbed in the debate.

Galileo Diologo front LOC

Engraved illustration from the 1632 Italian edition of Galileo’s Dialogo; image from the Library of Congress collection http://www.loc.gov/rr/european/guide/science.html .

In the new edition the Greek philosophers were still elderly—Aristotle appeared to be leaning on a cane—but Copernicus was much younger. While Aristotle and Ptolemy focused on the model of the old universe, Copernicus, holding his new model, looked out at the reader, as though he was appealing directly to the sophisticated, intelligent European of 1635.

Galileo 1635 frontispiece

Illustration from the 1635 Elzevier edition of Galileo’s Systema Cosmicum.

The banner overhead pays tribute to Galileo’s patron, Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Since the pages would have been sold unbound, in typical 17th century publishing practice, the illustration would have served as a sort of cover advertisement for the contents inside.

Galileo 1635 binding

ZSR Special Collection’s copy of the 1635 Systema Cosmicum is bound in a typical 17th century vellum binding.

For the editors and publishers of the Systema Cosmicum, the idea of intellectual freedom was as important as the specific arguments about the nature of the universe. The title page of the Elzevier edition prominently featured Galileo’s credentials, and it announced that the two world systems would be evaluated in “philosophical and natural” arguments. It also advertised an appendix in which it would be demonstrated that the Copernican system was compatible with Christian scriptures.

Galileo 1635 title page

Title page from Galileo’s Systema Cosmicum.

The two quotes near the bottom of the page reinforced the theme of intellectual freedom and free inquiry. The first, from the Greek philosopher Alcinous reads “It is necessary for one intending to be a philosopher to be free in thought.” The second, a quote from Seneca, reads “Especially among philosophers should be equal liberty.”

The verso of the title page listed the Catholic authorities who had originally approved publication of the Dialogue and later reneged. And for good measure, there was another quote from a classical author on the theme of truth triumphing over falsehood.

Galileo 1635 title page verso

Title page verso of the 1635 Systema Cosmicum.

A note by translator Matthias Bernegger addressed to the “Kind Reader” described the reasons for publishing a new edition of the Dialogue. Bernegger claimed that the book had been published without Galileo’s knowledge or consent, a patent falsehood intended to protect the author from more persecution. In fact Galileo knew about and enthusiastically supported the project.

Galileo 1635 benevole lector

Matthias Bernegger’s introduction to the Latin edition of Galileo’s Systema Cosmicum.

The text of Systema Cosmicum was an example of a new type of discourse taking shape in Renaissance Europe. Instead of basing his discussion of cosmology on theological principles and classical authorities, Galileo evaluated the Ptolemaic and Copernican systems in scientific terms, using mathematical proofs and direct observation to bolster his arguments.

Galileo 1635 diagram 3

A diagram from the 1635 Elzevier edition of Galileo’s Systema Cosmicum.

The appendices to Systema Cosmicum were an excerpt from the writings of German astronomer Johannes Kepler and an essay by Carmelite monk Paulo Foscarini, which had also been placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Both argued that Christian scripture was not incompatible with the Copernican theory, in part because Biblical teachings were not meant to answer questions about physics and astronomy.

Galileo 1635 appendix foscarini

Paulo Foscarini’s Letter concerning the Opinion of the Pythagoreans and Copernicus about the Mobility of the Earth and Stability of the Sun, included as an appendix to the Systema Cosmicum

The Latin edition of Galileo’s Dialogue was distributed widely throughout Europe. As is generally the case, the controversy surrounding the book only served to pique interest in it. Fierce public debate continued for the next decade, but by the mid-17th century the Copernican model was accepted by most educated Europeans.

Galileo’s works remained on the Catholic Index until the early 18th century. In 1992 Pope John Paul II issued an official apology for the church’s persecution of Galileo.

Galileo would not have called himself a scientist: the term was not coined until the 19th century. But his contribution to modern scientific thought is immeasurable. And Galileo himself has become a symbol of the visionary individual victimized by oppressive authority. Albert Einstein, in a foreword to a 1967 English translation of the Dialogue (University of California Press), wrote that

The leitmotif which I recognize in Galileo’s work is the passionate fight against any kind of dogma based on authority. Only experience and careful reflection are accepted by him as criteria of truth. Nowadays it is hard for us to grasp how sinister and revolutionary such an attitude appeared at Galileo’s time, when merely to doubt the truth of opinions which had no basis but authority was considered a capital crime and punished accordingly. Actually we are by no means so far removed from such a situation even today as many of us would like to flatter ourselves… (xvii)

Not all banned or challenged books end up becoming seminal works in the history of western civilization. But Galileo’s example reminds us that history seldom looks kindly on those who try to suppress “unorthodox or unpopular” ideas through censorship and intimidation.

References

J.L. Heilbron, Galileo (Oxford University Press,  2010).

Maurice A. Finocchiaro, Retrying Galileo (University of California Press, 2005).

Galileo, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, translated by Stillman Drake (University of California Press, 1967).

The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director (1754), by Thomas Chippendale

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 5:30 pm

chippendale plate xvi ribband back chairs detail

By the end of the 18th century, Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) was the most famous furniture designer in England and North America. The term “Chippendale” had come to refer to a style of furniture prevalent throughout Europe and the United States. What started Thomas Chippendale on the road to this renown was the publication of a book.

In 1754 Chippendale was an up-and-coming young furniture designer, recently moved to London. Raised in a family of woodworkers, he presumably received extensive hands-on training in his early life, which no doubt served him well once he began to design his own furniture based on the popular styles of his day. But fashionable London was a competitive market, and Chippendale needed a way to distinguish himself from the crowd.

He hit upon the idea of publishing what was essentially a deluxe catalog of his designs. It was titled The Gentleman and Cabinetmakers Director. A few English furniture makers had published their designs before, but nothing had come close to the scale of Chippendale’s large folio volume.

chippendale title page

Title page from the 1754 first edition of Thomas Chippendale’s Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director.

The book was, its subtitle announced, “A Large Collection of the most Elegant and Useful Designs of Houshold [sic.] furniture in the Gothic, Chinese and Modern [i.e., English Rococo] Taste.”

The Rococo style, a French import, was the prevailing fashion in the mid-18th century. It was characterized by elaborate carving and sinuous forms, often featuring decorative elements taken from the natural world—leaves, shells, animals.

chippendale chairs plate xii

“A variety of new-pattern Chairs, which, if executed according to their Designs, and by a skillful workman, will have a very good effect. The fore feet are all different for your better choice. If you think they are too much ornamented, that can be omitted at pleasure.”

The Gothic style of furniture was part of the medieval revival in art and architecture, which began in the 18th century and became even more prevalent in the Victorian era. Gothic furniture tended to feature elements found in medieval architecture, such as arches and openwork patterns.

chippendale chairs plate xxi gothic

“[N]ew designs of Gothic Chairs; their feet are almost all different, and may be of use to those that are unacquainted with this sort of work. Most of the ornaments may be left out if required. The sizes … may be lessened or enlarged, according to the fancy of the skillful artist.

And finally the Chinese style of furniture was part of the 18th century’s fascination with Chinoiserie—decorative objects imported from Asia. The European version of Asian decoration stressed its exotic and fanciful elements, such as dragons, birds, and elaborate pagodas.

chippendale chairs plate xxv chinese

“Chairs in the present Chinese manner, which I hope will improve that taste, or manner of work; it having yet never arrived to any perfection…”

Chippendale self-published the Director, financing his venture by recruiting subscribers—buyers who pre-paid for their copies of the finished book. This was a fairly common practice in the 18th century.

The list of over 300 subscribers in the 1754 first edition of the Director includes both categories of reader mentioned in the book’s title: Gentlemen—members of the aristocracy who would purchase Chippendale’s furniture; and Cabinetmakers—Chippendale’s fellow craftsmen who could adapt his designs for their own use.

chippendale subscribers

Subscribers to the first edition of Chippendale’s Director.

Chippendale’s friend Matthew Darly engraved most of the illustrations, based on Chippendale’s own drawings. The 160 plates show the wide variety of furniture and decorative objects that his workshop could produce. Chippendale also included at the beginning of the book a brief discussion of five orders of architecture and instructions on drawing furniture in perspective.

chippendale chairs in perspective text

Chippendale’s instructions for drawing chairs in perspective. He included similar instructions for other types of furniture.

chippendale chairs in perspective plate

Chippendale’s diagram for drawing chairs in perspective.

The more elaborate pieces featured in the Director obviously required a very high level of woodworking skill to execute.

chippendale plate xxxi doom bed

Chippendale’s alarmingly named “Doom [i.e. Dome] Bed” illustrates the elaborate lengths to which “Chinese” style could go in the 18th century. It is also a reminder that English orthography was still somewhat in flux in 1754.

Even before the book was published, Chippendale apparently encountered some skeptics who suggested that the finished furniture could not live up to his drawings. Never lacking in self-confidence, Chippendale addressed his detractors in the Preface to the first edition:

Upon the whole, I have here given no design but what may be executed with advantage by the hands of a skillful workman, tho’ some of the profession have been diligent enough to represent them (especially those after the Gothic and Chinese manner) as so many specious drawings, impossible to be work’d off by any mechanic whatsoever. I will not scruple to attribute this to malice, ignorance and inability: And I am confident I can convince all Noblemen, Gentlemen, or others, who will honour me with their commands, that every design in the book can be improved, both as to beauty and enrichment, in the execution of it…

In fact, many of the designs include instructions for the less experienced cabinetmaker and options for making pieces more or less elaborate, as the craftsman’s skill level and purchaser’s income demanded.

chippendale plate xlix writing table

“A Writing Table, the front feet to draw out, with a double rising top, as in in profile D; ee is the Table top, h is a horse that turns up; G is part of the front rail morticed into the foot, which draws out with the front, and parts at C; G is the end rail morticed into the foot, as you see by the prick’d line; a is the end of the drawer, with its grooves for the slider and bottom as at A in the plan; F is the turn’d column glued into the corner of the foot.”

Chippendale’s catalog offered designs for many other household items besides furniture. Candle holders, clock cases, fire screens, shelves, mirror frames, and many other elaborately carved items were available from his workshop.

chippendale plate cxxxi brackets for busts detail

One of Chippendale’s bracket shelves for decorative busts.

Chippendale’s Director was not an inexpensive book. It sold for £1.17s in unbound sheets, slightly more for a pre-bound copy. But it apparently sold well enough to warrant a second edition less than a year after its appearance. And in 1762 Chippendale published an updated third edition.

chippendale binding

Chippendale’s Director is a very large folio volume. ZSR’s copy has been rebound in early 20th century brown morocco with gold tooling.

As a marketing tool, the Director was a great success. Chippendale’s business took off, and he was soon overseeing a large workshop of skilled craftsmen. With the publication and wide distribution of his book, Chippendale also –unintentionally—insured his legacy as the 18th century’s best known designer of furniture. Copies of the Director circulated across Europe and North America. Chippendale’s influence was particularly strong in the English colonies, later the United States, as woodworkers adapted his designs to American materials and tastes.

chippendale plate xxxviii sideboard table

“Plate xxxviii has two different feet, which are both cut through, as likewise the rail; the dimensions are also to the design.”

Many copies of the Director made their way to North America, and many examples of Chippendale-inspired furniture from 18th century America have survived. The collection of Winston-Salem’s Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts includes a sideboard based on Chippendale’s design pictured above. By publishing his designs in text and illustrations, Chippendale spread his influence far beyond the reaches of his London workshop.

Interested in learning more about American furniture design? Be sure to visit Reynolda House Museum of American Art’s special exhibit The Art of Seating: Two Hundred Years of American Design.

Sarum Breviaries (1555, 1556)

Friday, July 25, 2014 10:17 am

One of the shelves in my office has a small label that reads “Problems.” On it are books that were found, in a recent inventory of ZSR’s Rare Books Collection, to have incorrect or nonexistent catalog records. One of my summer projects this year is to evaluate and create records for this small collection of obscure, odd, or otherwise inexplicable volumes.
problems

Recently I pulled down two volumes bound in dark blue velvet.
sarum breviary covers

An order slip tucked inside one of the books indicated that they had been purchased by the library nearly 50 years ago. But we could find no indication that they’d ever been cataloged.
sarum breviary order card

Purchased in 1967 from book dealer Paul Stroock, they were supposedly a two-volume set of a breviary—a Roman Catholic liturgy book—of the type known as the Salisbury (or Sarum) usage. This was by far the most common type of Catholic liturgy used in England in the 16th century. Many editions were printed in England or on the continent for English use, especially during the reign of Queen Mary I (1553-1558), when Catholicism was briefly reinstated as the official religion in England.

sarum breviary 1556 moveable feasts

A page from the Sarum breviary giving a table for calculating dates of “moveable feasts”—liturgical holidays and events, like Easter or Pentecost—whose dates change from year to year.

An initial examination of the books revealed several things. First, the velvet bindings were clearly more recent than the text pages. The decorative metal bosses in the center of the covers, looked like they might date to the 16th century, but the books had been rebound in the 19th or early 20th century, perhaps by a collector or book dealer. What this meant was that the two volumes may not have originally been a matching set, and that the original order of the pages may or may not have been preserved when the books were rebound.

The title page of the first volume indicated that the book was published in London in 1555, but the publisher’s name did not appear.
caly title page

A check of a standard reference work (R.B. McKerrow & F.S. Ferguson, Title-page Borders used in England & Scotland 1485-1640)  indicated that the decorative border and printer’s device originally belonged to Richard Grafton (McKerrow & Ferguson, 48).

Grafton was a successful London printer during the reigns of King Henry VIII (1509-1547) and his son Edward VI (1547-1553)*. He was appointed King’s Printer in 1547. But with the death of the Protestant Edward and the ascension of his Catholic half-sister Mary, Grafton’s fortunes changed, and by 1553 his printing operation had been taken over by Robert Caly, a staunch Catholic. Caly continued to use Grafton’s decorative border, with the printer’s device at the bottom slightly altered to change the initial G into a C. Caly printed many pro-Catholic publications, so it made sense that he would publish a breviary for use in England.

However, at the end of volume I was another publication statement called a colophon. These were common in books from the 16th century (and earlier).

sarum breviary 1556 colophon detail

The colophon indicated that the book was printed in London by John Kingston and Henry Sutton in March of 1556, not by Robert Caly in 1555. Kingston and Sutton had also begun printing in London around 1553, taking over the shop of a Protestant printer who had fled to the continent. Kingston had been Richard Grafton’s apprentice, and in his new partnership with Henry Sutton he produced more Sarum liturgies than any other English printer. So Kingston and Sutton were also very plausible candidates for publishers of our volume. But there was no indication that they had ever partnered with Robert Caly, so it made no sense to have both imprints in the same volume.

Another feature that struck me as odd was that the page following the volume I title page—the first page of the calendar that begins the breviary—was badly damaged and discolored, as though it had been exposed to the elements over a long period of time. The final colophon leaf (pictured above) had shown the same type of discoloration, as though the book had been used, unbound, for many years. But the title page at the front of the book was relatively clean and undamaged.

sarum breviary 1556  leaf1r

Yet another inconsistency in volume I was a bit of text in red on the title page, indicating that it was for the “Pars Estiualis”—the summer section of the liturgy. This made sense, because Sarum breviearies from this period were usually divided into separate volumes for the winter (hiemalis) and summer (estiualis) liturgies. Except that the text of volume I actually began with the winter section, the “Pars Hyemalis.”

Hoping to find some answers, I turned my attention to volume II. It opened with a page indicating the start of the section of services for the summer liturgy.
sarum breviary caly leaf1

Like the title page from volume I, the decorative border on this page was attributed to the printing shop of Richard Grafton (McKerrow & Ferguson, 59), later taken over by Robert Caly.

However, when I turned to the verso—the reverse side of the page– it became clear that this section page was out of place.
sarum breviary caly leaf1verso

How did I know this? In part because the catchword at the bottom right of the page did not match the first word of the following page.

Catchwords are words (or parts of words) found at the bottom of each page of text. They are almost universal in books printed before the 19th century. Catchwords are meant to insure that pages of a books are ordered and bound correctly—the catchword at the bottom of a page should match up with the first word of the text on the following page.
sarum breviary caly leaf1verso catchword

In the case of our breviary, the catchword on the verso of the first page was “Edgarus,” but the next page began with two large initials “B” and “L”.

sarum breviary caly leaf2r

About 100 pages into the volume, I found the text that matched our catchword:
sarum breviary caly aa2 detail

The running heads at the top of the pages also indicated that this was the original placement of the initial leaf. So the “title page” for volume II had been removed from its correct spot and placed at the beginning of the book. But why?

The colophon for volume II further confused the issue. It indicated that the book had been printed in Paris by Francois Regnault in 1535!
sarum breviary caly regnault colophon

So our book had at least three possible printers and three publication dates spanning over 20 years. It was time for some research.

A good starting point for research on 16th century English imprints is A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland, originally published by Alfred W. Pollard and G. R. Redgrave in 1926 (later edited and enlarged by other scholars). Popularly known as the STC, it is a monumental work of bibliographic scholarship, accomplished long before the advent of laptops and scanners.
STC

The STC listed several 16th century editions of the Sarum breviary, none of which matched exactly the volumes in our collection. The STC listings included

  • An edition printed by Francois Regnault in 1535 (#15833)
  • An edition printed by Robert Caly in 1555, which was reprinted from the 1535 Regnault edition and mistakenly included its colophon (#15840)
  • An edition printed by John Kingston and Henry Sutton in 1556 (#15842)

ZSR’s volume I matched up perfectly with STC #15842, except for its title page, which was the one associated with STC #15840. Volume II seemed likely to be STC #15840, except that it lacked a title page. Had there been some mixing and matching of pages in our breviary?

A note at the beginning of the STC’s section on liturgies suggested that this was not only possible but quite likely. Pollard and Redgrave observed that “Most bibliographers are hesitant to deal with liturgies from the period before, during, and after the Reformation” because the multiplicity of textual variants and editions made it nearly impossible to create a definitive list. In addition,

the problem is compounded by the sad state of the majority of copies, some surviving only as fragments rescued from bindings and others having undergone contemporary, near-contemporary, or modern mutilation and/or sophistication: “made-up” copies in every possible sense.

It seemed likely that ZSR’s books were among the many “made-up copies.”

sarum breviary caly initial G

A capital G from a 1555 English breviary nicely illustrates a Rare Books librarian’s frame of mind after she has spent a few weeks on the Problem books.

After weighing the bibliographic evidence, I formed the following hypotheses:

  • ZSR’s volume I and volume II are from two completely different editions of the Sarum breviary, rearranged and bound to look like a single publication.
  • Volume I is a copy of the Hiemalis section of the 1556 Kingtson and Sutton edition whose title page went missing long ago.
  • Volume II is the Estiualis section from the 1555 Caly edition that mistakenly included the colophon from a 1535 Paris edition. (It’s likely that the compositors—the people setting type—in Caly’s shop had used the 1535 Regnault edition as their source copy. Whether through carelessness or lack of facility with Latin, the compositor responsible for setting the final page had included the source copy’s colophon in the text of the new edition.)
  • At some point a person in possession of both volumes had the title page from the Caly edition removed and placed at the beginning of the Kingston and Sutton volume I. Presumably the same person relocated a section page from the Caly edition to the beginning of volume II, to replace the title page that had been moved to volume I.

Most of the bibliographic evidence supported my hypotheses (but experts on Marian liturgical printing are welcome to weigh in with alternative theories!), so I felt confident enough to create catalog records for the volumes. But some mysteries remain, the most obvious being: why would someone go to the trouble of rearranging pages in the two books?

It’s possible that the rebinding and rearrangement were done early in the books’ 450-year history by an owner who actually used the volumes as liturgical books and wanted a uniform set. It’s much more likely that the alternations were a “modern mutilation and/or sophistication,” intended to make the volumes more attractive to a non-expert collector. Perhaps the moral of this story is that anyone setting out to collect early modern liturgical books should be able to translate Latin– at the very least, “caveat emptor.”

*For more information on 16th century English printers see: Peter W. M. Blayney, The Stationers’ Company and the Printers of London, 1501–1557 (Cambridge UP, 2013).

Complete Book on the Judgment of the Stars, by ʻAlī ibn Abī al-Rijāl (1485 Erhard Ratdolt edition)

Monday, March 31, 2014 4:49 pm

Liber in iudiciis astrorum incipit

Preclarissimus liber completus in iudicijs astrorum, a Latin translation of Alī Ibn Abī al-Rijāl’s principal scientific work, Kitāb al-bāriʻ fī aḥkām al-nujūm.

One of the oldest printed books in ZSR’s Rare Books Collection is a Latin translation of Alī Ibn Abī al-Rijāl’s principal scientific work, Kitāb al-bāriʻ fī aḥkām al-nujūm. The text, commonly known as Liber in iudiciis astrorum,  is a treatise on astrological methods by an 11th century Arab mathematician, printed in 1485 by a German printer working in Venice. The book is featured in the Special Collections exhibit Letters in Lead: Moveable Type and the Books It Created. Its history is a fascinating anecdote in the story of how print culture developed in Renaissance Europe.

Around 1450 a goldsmith in Mainz named Johannes Gutenberg developed a viable method for casting moveable type out of metal. The invention made mechanical printing feasible and gave rise to an entirely new profession in Renaissance Europe. Many aspiring printers learned the craft of printing from Gutenberg’s successors, and within a few years a coterie of printers had formed in Mainz. In 1462, however, warfare between rival sects of German Catholics led to the sack of Mainz and a diaspora of its printers around Europe. One of these displaced printers was Erhard Ratdolt, who transplanted his fledgling business to Venice.

Ratdolt flourished in his new location and quickly gained a reputation as an innovative printer of scientific texts. He experimented with multicolor printing and invented techniques for integrating woodcut illustrations and diagrams into pages of text. Ratdolt is particularly famous for producing the first printed text of Euclid’s Elements in 1482, and he specialized in printing editions of classic works of science and mathematics.

In 1485 Ratdolt printed the book in ZSR’s collection, a work on astronomy by the 11th century Tunisian court mathematician Alī Ibn Abī al-Rijāl, whose name was Latinized to Albohazen Haly or Haly Abenragel in European publications. Ratdolt’s volume bore the Latin title Preclarissimus liber completus in iudicijs astrorum ( The Complete Book on the Judgment of the Stars).

Liber in iudiciis astrorum colophon

Colophon (a printer’s statement found at the end of a text) from Erhard Ratdolt’s 1485 edition of Liber in iudiciis astrorum, indicating that printing was completed in Venice on July 4, 1485.

This astrological text was already well known to scholars in Renaissance Europe. It had been translated from Arabic into Castilian Spanish by astronomer Jehuda ben Moses Cohen in the 13th century, and from Spanish into a number of Latin translations.

In the world of the Renaissance, there was no sharp division between what we would call astronomy (the study of celestial bodies)  and astrology (the influence of those celestial bodies on terrestrial events). Medieval astrology was based on an Aristotelian concept of the universe, as interpreted by Claudius Ptolemy , which posited a universe with a stationary Earth at its center, surrounded by concentric spheres containing stars, planets, and other celestial bodies.

nuremburg ptolemaic universe 2

A woodcut illustration of the Ptolemaic universe from ZSR’s copy of the Nuremburg Chronicle (1493)

Medieval and Renaissance astrologers used mathematical formulas to predict the movement of objects in the sky. These calculations were used to create calendars, to determine propitious times for various activities, and to predict eclipses and other unusual events. Astrology was an important scientific pursuit, and Renaissance scholars eagerly sought to recover Arab and Byzantine astrological texts. The eastern astrologers had developed advanced techniques that were of great interest to scholars in western Europe.

Liber in iudiciis astrorum t8r

A page from ZSR’s 1485 Liber in iudiciis astrorum, with handwritten notes and astrological symbols in the margin.

Erhard Ratdolt’s Venice edition of Liber in iudiciis astroroum made this text available in print for the first time. As an example of incunabula (books printed in Europe before 1500), it is both typical and innovative.

Fifteenth century books share many attributes of the manuscript volumes that existed for centuries before the invention of moveable type.

MS oxford 1240

A page from a 13th century manuscript in ZSR’s collection

Like most early books, Ratdolt’s volume has no title page or table of contents. Its text was printed in  black letter type, which reflected the manuscript handwriting prevalent in 15th century Europe.

Liber in iudiciis astrorum q7r

Another page from the Liber in iudiciis astrorum; notes in red were added by hand by a 15th century reader.

As in manuscript volumes, the text is printed in two columns with minimal punctuation. Medieval and Renaissance manuscript texts, like the one pictured above, relied on rubrication – initial letters and other text in colored ink—to indicate section breaks and other textual navigation. Early printed books often left space for rubrication to be added by hand to printed text, since multicolor printing was difficult and time consuming. Erhard Ratdolt hit upon the idea of using decorative woodcut initials in place of color.

Liber in iudiciis astrorum q5r

Page from Ratdolt’s Liber in iudiciis astrorum, with various large, decorative initials denoting section breaks.

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Detail of one of Erhard Ratdolt’s decorative woodcut initials.

Ratdolt also pioneered techniques for including tables and woodcut charts in his pages of text, which was particularly important for scientific and mathematical books.

Liber in iudiciis astrorum chart

Page from Liber in iudiciis astrorum with woodcut diagram integrated into the text block.

In the 1480s Erhard Ratdolt also printed editions of several other important astrological works.  As historian Jonathan Green observes, Ratdolt “achieved a near monopoly during that decade for many astronomical and astrological works” [Printing and Prophecy (Ann Arbor: U. of Michigan Press, 2012) 135].  

Ratdolt’s edition of Liber in iudiciis astroroum was a large and probably expensive book. But the original purchaser of ZSR’s copy obviously make good use of the volume. It was heavily annotated by its 15th century owner(s), with pages full of manuscript notes, underlinings, added headings, and astrological symbols.

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Annotated page from ZSR’s Liber in iudiciis astrorum.

Erhard Ratdolt’s Liber in iudiciis astroroum embodies the cultural exchanges and the technological innovations taking place in Renaissance Europe. ZSR’s copy of this book was purchased in 1964 with funds from the Oscar T. Smith endowment. It is on view in ZSR Library’s Special Collections and Archives Reading Room through April 30, as part of the Letters in Lead exhibit, which traces the development of printing type and book design in Europe from its beginnings through the 21st century.

Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, by Robert Burns (1787)

Saturday, January 25, 2014 9:43 am

Title page of the Edinburgh edition of Burns's poems

Title page of the Edinburgh edition of Burns’s poems

In December of 1786 a young country poet from the west of Scotland traveled to Edinburgh. Robert Burns hoped to drum up support for a second edition of the collection of poems that he had recently published by subscription in Kilmarnock. On 6 December Burns wrote to a friend

I have now been a week in Edin[burgh] and have been introduced to a great many of the Noblesse.—I have met very warm friends in the Literati… [Letters of Robert Burns, 2nd edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985) 61A]

Shortly thereafter he joked to another friend that

I am in a fair way of becoming as eminent as Thomas a Kempis or John Bunyan; and you may expect henceforth to see my birthday inserted among the wonderful events, in the Poor Robin’s and Aberdeen Almanacks… [Letters 62]

Burns could hardly have imagined that his birthday—January 25—would indeed be celebrated far beyond Aberdeen. Robert Burns Night is commemorated all over the world with food, speeches, and song in honor of the man now widely known as the national poet of Scotland.

Frontispiece portrait of Robert Burns from the Edinburgh edition

Frontispiece portrait of Robert Burns from the Edinburgh edition

In 1786, however, young Robert Burns was an obscure country poet. The son of a tenant farmer from the southwest of Scotland, Burns always had a talent for poetry and song. He also had a fondness for women, which may have led indirectly to the first publication of his poems. A few months before his trip to Edinburgh, Burns was making plans to emigrate to the West Indies, in part to escape the demands the family of a woman who had recently borne his out-of-wedlock twins. Before quitting Scotland Burns decided to publish a collection of poems based on the traditional dialect and songs of his native land. The very modest volume, titled Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, was printed by John Wilson in Kilmarnock in July 1786, its production paid for by Burns’s friends and supporters.

In October 1786 Burns approached Wilson about the possibility of a second edition, which would include some new poems. But, as Burns recounted in another letter, the printer insisted on an advance of £27 for the paper

[B]ut this, you know, is out of my power; so farewell hopes for a second edition ‘till I grow richer! An epocha, which, I think, will arrive at the payment of the British national debt. [Letters, 53]

Before leaving the country, Burns decided to make an attempt at finding patronage in the much larger city of Edinburgh, where, he had heard, copies of the Kilmarnock edition had been well received. He was indeed eagerly received by the Edinburgh aristocracy, and he quickly secured the patronage of the Caledonian Hunt –an exclusive social club for Scotland’s wealthiest men—for the second edition of his Poems.

Dedication page addressed to members of the Caledonian Hunt Club

Dedication page addressed to members of the Caledonian Hunt Club

Much of Burns’s stay in Edinburgh was taken up with preparations for this second edition, which included some new poems not found in the Kilmarnock edition. Writing to one of his partrons in March 1787, Burns records that

I have today corrected the last proof sheet of my poems and have now only the Glossary and subscribers names to print. . . . Printing this last is much against my will, but some of my friends whom I do not chuse to thwart will have it so. – I have both a second and a third Edition going on as the second was begun with too small a number of copies.—The whole I have printed is three thousand. [Letters, 90]

The average edition size at the time for a work of poetry was under 1000 copies, so an edition of 3000 copies was clear evidence of Burns’s ascendant fame. And the 46-page list, printed at the beginning of the volume, of names and tiles of subscribers provided incontrovertible evidence that the literary elite of Scotland had given their approval.

First page of the subscriber list for the Edinburgh edition of Burns's poems

First page of the subscriber list for the Edinburgh edition of Burns’s Poems

Robert Burns was a gifted poet, but he also had the advantage of appearing at the right time. The antiquarian movement of the 18th century had brought about great interest in the literature and material culture of the distant past. And in Scotland, antiquarianism had a decidedly nationalistic bent. English language and culture had been encroaching in Scotland since the union of the two kingdoms in 1603, and Burns’s poetry provided a direct link to traditional Scottish folkways and dialects. Burns himself embraced his identity as a national poet, writing in 1787:

The appellation of, a Scotch Bard, is by far my highest pride; to continue to deserve it is my most exalted ambition.—Scottish scenes, and Scottish story are the themes I could wish to sing… [Letters, 90]

burns twa dogs

Among the new poems included Edinburgh edition was “The Brigs of Ayr”—a dialogue between old and new bridges over the river Ayr– dedicated to his friend and longtime patron John Ballantine. The desire to see this poem in print was a motivating factor in Burns’s publishing a second edition. In 1786, despairing of being able to raise money for a second Kilmarnock edition, Burns wrote

There is scarcely any thing hurts me so much in being disappointed of my second edition, as not having it in my power to shew my gratitude to Mr. Ballantine, by publishing my poem of The Brigs of Ayr . [Letters, 53]

burns brigs

Burns’s ode to haggis was likely responsible for this rather off-putting concoction (offal, onions, and oatmeal boiled in a sheep’s stomach) being enshrined as the national dish of Scotland.

Burns's ode to haggis, a traditional Scottish dish made of offal, onions, and oatmeal boiled in a sheep's stomach

Burns’s ode to haggis

The glossary included in the Edinburgh edition of Burns’s Poems preserves distinctively Scottish words and pronunciations. But the fact that even his fellow Scots needed a guide to the language attests that the dialect was rapidly disappearing from everyday use.

Burns's glossary recorded the pronunciations and vocabulary of the traditional Scottish dialect

Burns’s Poems included a glossary of distinctively Scottish words

The Edinburgh edition of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect made Burns’s reputation. It also gave him financial security, at least temporarily. On the eve of its publication Burns wrote that

I guess I shall clear between two and three hundred pounds by my Authorship; with that sum I intend, so far as I may be said to have any intention, to return to my old acquaintance, the plough, and, if I can meet with a lease by which I can live, to commence Farmer. [Letters, 90]

Burns did indeed go back to farming, at least for a while. He married the mother of his twin children and fathered several more children. Eventually he took on a job as an excise officer in Dumfries. But he continued to write poetry and continued to take an active interest in the study and preservation of Scottish culture. One of his best known poems, “Tam o’Shanter,” was published in a volume dedicated to the preservation of Scottish buildings and monuments.

First publication of Burns's poem "Tam o' Shanter" in The Antiquties of Scotland (1791)

First publication of Burns’s poem “Tam o’ Shanter” in The Antiquties of Scotland (1791)

Burns died suddenly in 1796 at the age of only 37. But enthusiasm for his poetry never flagged. Memoirs, tributes, and collections of his works were published, and the 1859 centennial of his birth was the occasion for many celebrations.

Souvenir publication from the Burns Club of New York City's centennial celebration

Souvenir publication from the Burns Club of New York City’s centennial celebration

Since then the tradition of commemorating Burns Night on January 25 has spread throughout the world. Robert Burns would no doubt be delighted that his writings have brought the songs and poetry of his beloved Scotland to a global audience.

ZSR’s copy of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect is from the Charles Babcock collection. It is particularly interesting as an artifact because it has never been altered or rebound. With its original printer’s cardboard binding and untrimmed pages, the book is exactly what an 18th century reader would have purchased from an Edinburgh bookseller.

Original publisher's binding on ZSR's copy of Burns's Poems

Original publisher’s binding on ZSR’s copy of Burns’s Poems

A Northern Christmas, by Rockwell Kent (1941)

Thursday, December 5, 2013 4:34 pm

A Northern Christmas, by Rockwell Kent, was an American Artists Group gift book for 1941

A Northern Christmas by Rockwell Kent was an American Artists Group gift book for 1941

American artist Rockwell Kent spent Christmas 1918 in a small cabin on an island off the south coast of Alaska. More than twenty years later he recalled the experience in words and woodcut illustrations in a holiday gift book titled A Northern Christmas.

Title page from A Northern Christmas

Title page from A Northern Christmas

The small book was published by the American Artists Group, an organization founded in 1935 for the purpose of providing art for the masses and, in the process, creating a market for artists to earn a living during the difficult years of the Depression. Many prominent artists were members, including Edward Hopper, John Sloan, Thomas Hart Benton, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Max Weber, and Eugene Speicher. The American Artists Group published small monographs and offered unsigned engravings, lithographs, and woodcut prints for sale at very affordable prices. But the group was perhaps best  known for its yearly offerings of Christmas cards designed by its artists. In 1941 they also began a series of small holiday gift books, of which A Northern Christmas was the first.

Frontispiece illustration from A Northern Christmas

Frontispiece illustration from A Northern Christmas

Let it snow or rain and grow dark at midday! The better shall be our good Christmas cheer within. This is the true Christmas land. The day should be dark, the house further overshadowed by the woods, tall and black. And there in the midst of that somber, dreadful gloom the Christmas tree should blaze in glory unrivaled by moon or sun or star.

Rockwell Kent, A Northern Christmas

Cover from American Artists Group Illustrated Monograph no. 2

Cover from American Artists Group Illustrated Monograph no. 2

Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) was born and educated in New York. His first art teacher was William Merritt Chase; later he studied with Abbott Handerson Thayer, Robert Henri, and Kenneth Hayes Miller.  Kent also trained as an architectural draftsman and was an accomplished carpenter. He worked in a variety of artistic media, but he is best known for his prints and for his many illustrations for classic literary works like Candide, Leaves of Grass, The Canterbury Tales, and, perhaps most famously, Moby Dick.

Rockwell Kent's famous dust jacket design for Moby Dick (Random House trade edition, 1930)

Rockwell Kent’s famous dust jacket design for Moby Dick (Random House trade edition, 1930)

Kent also wrote and illustrated several of his own books, many of them memoirs of his extensive travels. He often sought out remote areas of untouched wilderness for artistic inspiration. In 1918-19 he spent several months in Alaska with his young son (also named Rockwell).  The resulting book, called Wilderness, was published by G. P. Putnam in 1920.

Cover illustration for Rockwell Kent's Wilderness (1920)

Cover illustration for Rockwell Kent’s Wilderness (1920)

The south coast of the mainland of Alaska is a wilderness of spruce-clad mountains whose outlying, isolated peaks are islands. On one of these we lived, a father and his eight-year-old son. . . . the man in pursuit of his profession, the boy in pursuit of what of education lay in doing things, and both in that pursuit of happiness which, with whatever right, is still what every living creature wants. . . .

Of the fullness of the days–fullness of work and thought, of play, of little happenings, of uneventful peace–we kept record. That record is a book: its name is WILDERNESS. From WILDERNESS these notes about a happy Christmas in the north are drawn.

A Northern Christmas

The Rockwell Kent Papers in the Archives of American Art include extensive correspondence between Kent and Samuel Golden of the American Artists Group. In the 1941 correspondence they discuss all aspects of the production of A Northern Christmas, beginning with the necessity of getting permission from G. P. Putnam for the use of excerpts and illustrations from Wilderness. The publisher at first demanded a rather steep fee but became more reasonable after a “sharply worded letter” from Kent. In the end, Kent insisted that Putnam’s cooperation should be acknowledged in the colophon of A Northern Christmas.

Colophon from A Northern Christmas

Colophon from A Northern Christmas

A Northern Christmas  consisted mostly of excerpts from Wilderness, along with an introduction and a few new illustrations.

From A Northern Christmas

From A Northern Christmas

For Rockwell Kent, the wilderness idyll was a welcome respite from the materialism of the modern world. In the excerpts chosen for A Northern Christmas, Kent describes, in words and pictures, the spare and simple Christmas that he and his son celebrated with their landlord, an old Swedish homesteader named Olson.  The presents are few– young Rockwell receives a pocket knife, some old National Geographic magazines, and a broken fountain pen, but he “sits on the bed looking at the things as if they were the most wonderful gifts.” The holiday proves all the more memorable for its minimalism.

Christmas menu from A Northern Christmas

Christmas menu from A Northern Christmas

The food is good and plentiful, the night is long, only the Christmas candles are short-lived and we extinguish them to save them for another time. Finally, as the night deepens, Olson leaves us amid mutual expressions of delight in one another’s friendship, and Rockwell and I tumble into bed.

A Northern Christmas

Rockwell Kent wrote and illustrated a very different gift book for the American Artists Group the next year. The 1942 book, called On Earth Peace, is a rather bleak wartime fable about a Jazz Age princess humbled by loss and privation.

Cover illustration for On Earth Peace, Rockwell Kent's gift book for 1942

Cover illustration for On Earth Peace, Rockwell Kent’s gift book for 1942

Kent’s popularity as an artist waned somewhat after the war. His style fell out of fashion in the age of abstract expressionism, and his ongoing involvement in  socialist causes aroused suspicion in the Red-baiting 1950s. At one point Kent’s passport was revoked, and he sued to have it reinstated. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled in his favor, a landmark decision that made it more difficult for the government to curtail a citizen’s right to travel.  Kent continued to work for progressive causes and tried to promote improved relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Typed letter to Lynwood Giacomini, signed by Rockwell Kent

Typed letter to Lynwood Giacomini, signed by Rockwell Kent

The items pictured here are all held by ZSR Library’s Special Collections. The library has a sizeable collection of Rockwell Kent books, most of them previously owned by publisher Lynwood Giacomini, whose collection of American literature was purchased by the library in 1976. Giacomini kept up a friendly correspondence with many authors, and his collection includes a few typed letters from Rockwell Kent.

Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers, edited by Denis Diderot (1751-1780)

Thursday, November 7, 2013 3:12 pm

Title page from vol. 1 of ZSR's Encyclopedie

Title page from vol. 1 of ZSR’s Encyclopedie

The Encyclopédie; ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers is a 28-volume monument to the French Enlightenment, combining a wealth of information about all aspects of  human thought and achievement with a subversive attack on the stifling old regime of religion, classical tradition, and superstition. Many hands contributed to the Encyclopedie, but the man most responsible was Denis Diderot, whose recent 300th anniversary was marked by a renewed interest in his life and work.

The Encyclopédie was first conceived as fairly simple moneymaking venture. In 1745 printer/bookseller Andre-Francois Le Breton enlisted three other partners in a project to produce a French translation of Englishman Ephraim Chambers’s Cyclopaedia, or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. The two-volume Cyclopaedia, one of the first modern encyclopedias, had been a strong seller in England, and Le Breton saw a niche in the French market. But the first translator he hired proved incompetent, so he turned the project over to two young rising stars of the 18th century French philosophes: Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert.

From the outset, Diderot and d’Alembert saw the Encyclopédie project as an opportunity to set out their iconoclastic ideas on a grand scale. D’Alembert’s introduction, the Preliminary Discourse, has often been called a manifesto for the French Enlightenment. It reads in part:

 The work whose first volume we are presenting today has two aims. As an Encyclopedia, it is to set forth as well as possible the order and connection of the parts of human knowledge. As a Reasoned Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Trades, it is to contain the general principles that form the basis of each science and each art, liberal or mechanical, and the most essential facts that make up the body and substance of each. These two points of view, the one of an Encyclopedia and the other of a Reasoned Dictionary, will thus constitute the basis for the outline and division of our Preliminary Discourse. We are going to introduce them, deal with them one after another, and give an account of the means by which we have tried to satisfy this double object.

If one reflects somewhat upon the connection that discoveries have with one another, it is readily apparent that the sciences and the arts are mutually supporting, and that consequently there is a chain that binds them together. But, if it is often difficult to reduce each particular science or art to a small number of rules or general notions, it is no less difficult to encompass the infinitely varied branches of human knowledge in a truly unified system.
[All English translations from The Encyclopedie of Diderot & d'Alembert:  Collaborative Translation Project.]

Frontispiece to vol. 1 of the Encyclopedie

Frontispiece to vol. 1 of the Encyclopedie

Diderot and d’Alembert attempted nonetheless to offer a unified vision of human knowledge. The engraved frontispiece for Volume I set out the basic ideas in visual form: the personification of Truth is illuminated in her temple, with her handmaidens Reason and Philosophy at her side. Theology is relegated to a subordinate position at Truth’s feet, and other branches of the arts, sciences, and trades fill out the scene.

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A later volume includes a large folded engraving of a “Tree of Knowledge” representing a taxonomy of human knowledge. Following the ideas first set forth by Francis Bacon, the Encyclopédie’s tree has as its three main branches Memory, Reason, and Imagination.

Tree of Life fold-out frontispiece from the first Table Analytique volume of the Encyclopedie

Tree of Life fold-out frontispiece from the first Table Analytique volume of the Encyclopedie

Diderot was the general editor for the project, and he and d’Alembert wrote many of the articles themselves. But Diderot also enlisted many other authors, including Louis de Jaucourt, Baron d’Holbach, Voltaire, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Some of the contributors to the Encyclopedie

The first edition of the Encyclopédie was offered for sale by subscription, a common practice for expensive works at this time. Originally conceived as a work of just a few volumes, the Encyclopédie quickly grew into a massive undertaking. The first two volumes of text appeared in 1751. Fifteen more text volumes followed over the next several years. Over 2500 engraved illustrations were also published in eleven volumes separate from the text. Subscribers did not receive the last volume until 1772, and the cost was far greater than had originally been proposed. But the readership was undaunted: as the publication process progressed, the number of subscribers increased from 2000 to over 4000.

The large folio volumes of the first edition were printed by at least four Paris printing houses. Illustrations in the Imprimerie section of the Encyclopédie itself illustrate the process by which the volumes were constructed.

18th century printing press in action

18th century printing press in action

Printing in the 18th century was a labor-intensive process. Compositors set each letter by hand; pressmen printed sheets one at a time. Binding was a completely separate process. It is estimated that a single volume of the Encyclopédie took nearly five months to produce, even with four or five compositors and twenty pressmen on the job.

diderot_printing3

Not surprisingly, the Encyclopedists often ran into trouble with the civil and  religious authorities in 18th century France. Printing and selling of books was tightly controlled: one had to have an official permit from the king– called a privilege—in order to publish anything, and Diderot was constantly in danger of losing his. But the Encyclopédie project also had friends in high places. One of the officials in charge of government censorship of the press was Guillaume-Chrétien de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, himself a proponent of Enlightenment thinking. Malesherbes made sure that the work of the Encyclopedists could continue without interference, at one point hiding Diderot’s manuscript in his own home while government officials searched Diderot’s residence for subversive material.

Title page for vol. 7 of the Encyclopedie

Title page for vol. 7 of the Encyclopedie

In 1759 the Catholic church placed the Encyclopédie on its index of prohibited books. Even though French officials had little desire to interfere with what was by this time a very profitable enterprise, they had to pay at least lip service to the Pope’s ban.  Diderot’s privilege was revoked, and publication (which had reached the letter G) was temporarily halted. But with assistance from Malesherbes and others, Diderot was soon back in business, publishing the remaining volumes under the false imprint of a Swiss printer.

Title page for vol. 8

Title page for vol. 8

In the end the Encyclopédie contained over 70,000 articles on the widest imaginable range of topics. Subjects included a staunch defense of Reason (vol. 13) as the primary source of human knowledge:

No proposition can be accepted as divine revelation if it contradicts what is known to us, either by immediate intuition, as in the case of self-evident propositions, or by obvious deductions of reason , as in demonstrations.

And an equally impassioned condemnation of the Slave Trade (vol. 16):

Slave trade is the purchase of Negroes made by Europeans on the coasts of Africa, who then employ these unfortunate men as slaves in their colonies. This purchase of Negroes to reduce them into slavery is a negotiation that violates all religion, morals, natural law, and human rights.

But not all entries took on lofty subjects. An article on Werewolves (vol. 9) is decidedly skeptical:

The demonologists add that these men are not really transformed into wolves, but that the devil simply gives them that shape, or that he carries their bodies somewhere and substitutes for them the appearances of a wolf. The existence of such creatures is proven only by stories that are totally unconfirmed.

And in his entry on Chocolate (vol. 3), Diderot tries to be diplomatic on the controversial topic of whether or not to add vanilla:

The sweet scent and potent taste [vanilla] imparts to chocolate have made it highly recommended for it; but time has shown that it could potentially upset one’s stomach, and its use has decreased; some people who favor the care of their health to the pleasure of their senses, have stopped using it completely. In Spain and in Italy, chocolate prepared without vanilla has been termed the healthy chocolate ; and in our French islands in the Americas, where vanilla is neither rare nor expensive, as it can be in Europe, it is never used, when the consumption of chocolate is as high as in any other part of the world.

However, as there is still quite a large number of people who favor the use of vanilla, and as it is only fair that we should respect their feeling, we shall use vanilla in the composition of the chocolate , the one that might be the better-prepared and the best overall…. Since there are in tastes an infinite variety of opinions, everyone wants their interest to be reckoned with, and one would concede what the other refuses; and even if we were to agree on the ingredients to be mixed, it proves impossible to pinpoint dosages that would be universally accepted; and it should be deemed enough that these dosages suit the highest number of people, thus forming the trend that is most popular.

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More than 3000 engraved illustrations accompanied the text volumes. The plates are equally detailed and wide-ranging in subject matter. They cover everything from Shipbuilding . . .

diderot_p

diderot_o

. . . to horsemanship (or lack thereof).

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Music. . .

diderot_q

. . .to Mammals.

diderot_t

Astronomy. . .

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. . . to Anatomy.

Volume of plates from the Encyclopedie currently on exhibit in ZSR Special Collections, along with artifacts from the Coy C. Carpenter Library archives

Volume of plates from the Encyclopedie currently on exhibit in ZSR Special Collections, along with artifacts from the Coy C. Carpenter Library archives

More than 4000 copies of the first edition of the Encyclopédie were printed in large folio format– a very large print run for an expensive book in the 18th century. Nearly half of the first edition went to subscribers outside of France, in other parts of Europe and North America. The Encyclopédie was reprinted in smaller, cheaper editions that proved equally popular. Many copies still exist in libraries throughout the world, providing countless readers with a direct link to the 18th century Enlightenment.

ZSR Library’s complete first edition was purchased with funds endowed by George W. Paschal, Jr.

diderot_r

Recommended Reading

Death of a Naturalist, by Seamus Heaney (1966)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 3:39 pm

ZSR's copy of the first edition of Death of a Naturalist

ZSR’s copy of the first edition of Death of a Naturalist

When poet Seamus Heaney died last month at age 74, obituaries hailed him as the greatest Irish poet since William Butler Yeats. The New York Times noted that Heaney, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995,

was renowned for work that powerfully evoked the beauty and blood that together have come to define the modern Irish condition. The author of more than a dozen collections of poetry, as well as critical essays and works for the stage, he repeatedly explored the strife and uncertainties that have afflicted his homeland, while managing simultaneously to steer clear of polemic.

Heaney was born in Northern Ireland in 1939. The eldest child of a Catholic farming family, he showed his intellectual gifts early and was sent to boarding school and then to Queen’s University in Belfast, where he took an English degree and began writing poetry.

1965 pamphlet published by Queen's University, Belfast

1965 pamphlet published by Queen’s University, Belfast

By 1965 Heaney had published poems in a number of magazines and newspapers. He submitted a manuscript for a book of poetry to Liam Miller, proprietor of the Dolmen Press in Dublin. Miller and his wife Josephine had founded the Dolmen Press in 1951 with the express purpose of publishing and encouraging Irish poets and artists, so it was a natural outlet for the young poet’s first publication. However, while Miller still had his manuscript under consideration, Heaney received an inquiry from an editor the London publishing firm Faber & Faber.

Title page from the first edition of Death of a Naturalist

Title page from the first edition of Death of a Naturalist

Heaney asked Miller to return his manuscript. As Clare Hutton observes in her introduction to The Oxford History of the Irish Book, Volume V, Heaney was influenced by the “cultural prestige” of the firm associated with T.S. Eliot, combined with the fact that “Faber was in a much more stable position than Dolmen, which, like many small Irish publishing houses, ran on a precarious financial basis.” So Heaney’s first volume of poetry, Death of a Naturalist, was published by Faber & Faber in 1966.

From the dust jacket of Death of a Naturalist

From the dust jacket of Death of a Naturalist

But the inscription in Liam Miller’s copy of Death of a Naturalist (now in ZSR Library’s Special Collections) suggests that he and Heaney remained on friendly terms.

ZSR's copy of Death of a Naturalist is inscribed by Seamus Heaney to Liam Miller

ZSR’s copy of Death of a Naturalist is inscribed by Seamus Heaney to Liam Miller

Death of a Naturalist was generally well received by the critics. Christopher Ricks wrote in the New Statesman (27 May 1966) that

Literary gentlemen who remain unstirred by Seamus Heaney’s poems will simply be announcing that they are unable to give up the habit of disillusionment with recent poetry. The power and precision of his best poems are a delight, and as a first collection Death of a Naturalist is outstanding.

The reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement (June 1966) called the collection “substantial and impressive” but took Heaney to task for the “rather glib or incongruous imagery stuck on in what seems to be an attempt to hit the required sophistication.” Meanwhile in the New York Times (26 March 1967) John Unterecker was a bit dismissive, calling the poetry “urbane, accomplished, [and] predictable,” but allowing that

Other poems, however, tougher than the norm and more powerful, build out of Heaney’s memories of his rural childhood a poetry that is a little like that Theodore Roethke might have written had he had an Irish upbringing rather than an American one.

Unterecker also devoted quite a bit of space to a discussion of the “odd, persistent set of rat references” in the collection. In this he may have been a kindred spirit of the unnamed reviewer, noted in Heaney’s own annotated copy of the book, who described the title poem as “a long, disappointing poem about frogs.”

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Faber & Faber published Heaney’s next collection, Door Into the Dark, in 1969.

Liam Miller's copy of Heaney's second published book of poetry

Liam Miller’s copy of Heaney’s second published book of poetry

Seamus Heaney went on to publish many collections of poetry, as well as essays, translations, and dramatic works. But at his death, many of the remembrances quoted “Digging,” the very first poem in Heaney’s first published collection. In it Heaney describes his father’s and grandfather’s work on the family farm and concludes

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

The “squat pen” responsible for Death of a Naturalist would go on to compose some of the most iconic Irish poetry of the 20th century.

"Digging" is the first poem in Death of a Naturalist

“Digging” is the first poem in Death of a Naturalist

All of the images in this article are from Seamus Heaney titles originally owned by Liam Miller. ZSR Library’s Special Collections acquired Miller’s library and the Dolmen Press archives in 1986.

Clotelle, by William Wells Brown (1867)

Monday, August 26, 2013 2:59 pm

clotell illus2

Illustration from William Wells Brown’s Clotelle; or, The Colored Heroine

When William Wells Brown’s Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter appeared in London in 1853, it was the first novel ever published by an African-American author. Brown’s novel was reissued four times over the next fifteen years, and with each edition the author made changes to the characters and the narrative. ZSR Special Collections recently purchased a copy of the 1867 edition, titled Clotelle; or, The Colored Heroine. This is the fourth and last version published and the only one in which the Civil War and its immediate aftermath are addressed.

clotelle tp1

William Wells Brown (1814-1884) was born in Kentucky to an enslaved woman named Elizabeth. His father was a white relative of his mother’s owner, Dr. John Young. The household soon relocated to St. Louis, and young William was put to work at various tasks. As was common practice, he was also rented out as temporary help to others, including a slave trader who regularly transported slaves down the Mississippi from St. Louis to New Orleans. It was from one of these voyages that William managed to escape in 1834. As he later recounted in his 1847 memoir Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave, he made his way through Ohio and finally to freedom in Canada. William took his surnames from an Ohio Quaker man who assisted his escape.

clotelle chapter6

From Clotelle; or, The Colored Heroine

By the 1840s Brown was living in New York and was active in the American abolitionist movement. He became a popular lecturer at anti-slavery meetings and in 1849 undertook a lecture tour of England. Reluctant to return home after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, Brown remained in England for several years. He had already published works of nonfiction, but the tremendous success of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (serialized in 1851 and published as a novel in 1852) inspired him to try his hand at fiction. The result was Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States.

This original version, intended for an English audience, had as its starting point the persistent rumors that Thomas Jefferson had fathered the children of an enslaved Virginia woman. In this first Clotel Brown gives Jefferson two fictional daughters, both of whom are sold at the auction block. One of them is the Clotel of the title, who suffers various trials and eventually escapes her captors. But when Clotel returns to Virginia to rescue her still-enslaved daughter, she is set upon by slave-hunters. To avoid inevitable capture, she throws herself to her death in the Potomac River—just a few miles from where her indifferent father is absorbed in power and politics. As the book ends, however, Clotel’s daughter Mary manages to escape to freedom in France.

Brown’s narrative was not published in the U.S. until 1860, when it was serialized in the Anglo-African Magazine under the title Miralda; or, The Beautiful Quadroon. In 1864 a third edition titled Clotelle: A Tale of the Southern States appeared as part of abolitionist James Redpath’s Books for the Camp Fires series intended for Union soldiers. And finally in 1867 the last version, Clotelle; or, The Colored Heroine, was published as a novel by the mainstream Boston publishers Lee and Shepard.

redpath title1

Title page from James Redpath’s biography of John Brown, held by ZSR Special Collections. As the anonymous readers’ annotations suggest, Brown remained a controversial figure for many years after the Civil War.

The original Thomas Jefferson storyline is absent in all of the American editions. In the 1867 narrative, the title character Clotelle corresponds to the daughter Mary of the original novel. Clotelle is here the granddaughter of an enslaved woman who claimed that her father was an unnamed “American Senator.” Brown never made explicit the reason for this alteration in plot, but it is possible that he did not want the Jefferson controversy to overshadow his larger message, which was that slavery existed in large part because those men with the most power, influence, and moral credibility in U.S. society had refused to condemn it. As Brown states in his Preface to the first edition of Clotel,

 Were it not for persons in high places owning slaves, and thereby giving the system a reputation, and especially professed Christians, Slavery would long since have been abolished. The influence of the great “honours the corruption, and chastisement doth therefore hide his head.” The great aim of the true friends of the slave should be to lay bare the institution, so that the gaze of the world may be upon it, and cause the wise, the prudent, and the pious to withdraw their support from it, and leave it to its own fate. It does the cause of emancipation but little good to cry out in tones of execration against the traders, the kidnappers, the hireling overseers, and brutal drivers, so long as nothing is said to fasten the guilt on those who move in a higher circle.

The 1867 Clotelle is in effect the first Civil War novel by an African American, as Brown added four short chapters at the end which detail his characters’ experiences during and immediately after the war. When war breaks out in 1861, Clotelle and her husband Jerome, also a fugitive slave, are living happily in Europe. They return to the U.S. to assist in the war effort, and Jerome is almost immediately killed in battle (in a fictionalized version of the Louisiana Native Guards at Port Hudson). Grief-stricken Clotelle becomes a volunteer nurse for the Union prisoners at Andersonville and aids in the escape of 96 men. She is imprisoned as a Union sympathizer but escapes with the help of her captors’ slaves, and she flees to New Orleans to wait out the end of the war. The novel closes after the war with Clotelle returning to Mississippi and purchasing the plantation on which she was once a slave in order to open a school for freedmen.

clotelle chapter36

From Clotelle; or, The Colored Heroine (1867)

The 1867 Clotelle, like the previous versions, stuck closely to the standard formula for a 19th century sentimental novel. The plot is full of melodrama and highly improbable coincidences, and the female characters are all virtuous, beautiful, and very light-skinned (the term quadroon referred to a person with one black and three white grandparents). Later critics accused Brown of promoting stereotypes and currying favor with his white readers by making his heroines nearly white and conventionally beautiful. But the mixed racial heritage of Brown’s female characters also serves to highlight the hypocrisy of 19th century racial distinctions. The opening paragraph of Clotelle satirizes the sentimental depictions of mixed-race women:

For many years the South has been noted for its beautiful Quadroon women. Bottles of ink, and reams of paper, have been used to portray the “finely-cut and well-moulded features,” the “silken curls,” the “dark and brilliant eyes,” the “splendid forms,” the “fascinating smiles,” and “accomplished manners” of these impassioned and voluptuous daughters of the two races, — the unlawful product of the crime of human bondage.

Notwithstanding the fact that Brown himself is often guilty of such breathless descriptions, he nevertheless reminds his readers that these visions of loveliness are the product of a corrupt society that condones adultery and the sexual exploitation of enslaved women.

clotelle chapter1

Opening chapter of Clotelle; or, The Colored Heroine (1867)

Many of the incidents in Clotelle are based on Brown’s own experience of slavery. And, as with many abolitionist writers of the time, one of his main goals is to debunk the notion that chattel slavery could ever be a benign institution. When Clotelle tries to convince her white, slave-owning father to free his slaves, he argues that

I have always treated my slaves well… and my neighbors, too, are generally good men; for slavery in Virginia is not like slavery in the other States.

But Clotelle’s husband Jerome counters that

Their right to be free…is taken from them, and they have no security for their comfort, but the humanity and generosity of men, who have been trained to regard them not as brethren, but as mere property. Humanity and generosity are, at best, but poor guaranties for the protection of those who cannot assert their rights, and over whom the law throws no protection. [103]

All of Brown’s heroines are at some point under the protection of one kindly white man or another. But this protected position is never secure. When the women’s masters or lovers die, or leave, or suffer financial setbacks, the women and their children can suffer a slave’s worst fate. The sudden reversals of fortune common in sentimental novels here serve to illustrate Brown’s point.

clotelle front2

The frontispiece illustration from Clotelle; or, The Colored Heroine depicts a white slave owner offering a young boy as payment for his gambling debts

The first three versions of Clotelle were abolitionist novels, written to win readers over to the anti-slavery cause. So why did Brown and his publishers feel the need to issue yet another edition in 1867, after the war had been won?

The last Clotelle hints at some of the issues that Brown knew would face African-Americans after the war. He recognized the urgent need for education of newly-freed slaves, and the continuing hostility of many white Americans toward them. And as a historian, Brown also understood the vital importance of telling the stories of African-Americans before, during, and after the war. The added chapters of the 1867 Clotelle also touch on the role of women in post-war society. Although Brown’s Clotelle is in many respects a typical heroine of the 19th century domestic novel, the last version of his book denies her the traditional happy ending of marriage and family. Instead she is forced to rely on her own resources to create a life of useful service for herself.

clotelle dedication

Dedication page for Clotelle; or, The Colored Heroine

Many other authors would go on to describe the African-American Civil War experience in works of fiction. But as the first of its kind, Brown’s novel in all its versions offers a fascinating glimpse into both the literary conventions and the political controversies of this pivotal era in American history.

____________________________

Selected Resources

Brown, William Wells and Robert S. Levine. Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States. Bedford Cultural Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000.

Ann duCille.  “Where in the World Is William Wells Brown? Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and the DNA of African-American Literary History.” American Literary History, Vol. 12, No. 3, (Autumn, 2000), pp. 443-462. http://www.jstor.org/stable/490213

Jennifer James “ ‘Civil’ War Wounds: William Wells Brown, Violence, and the Domestic Narrative.” African American Review , Vol. 39, No. 1/2 (Spring – Summer, 2005), pp. 39-54. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40033635

Smiling Through the Apocalypse, edited by Harold Hayes (1969)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 3:51 pm

Dust jacket designed by George Lois with illustration by David Levine

Tom Hayes’s documentary film on the life of his father, Harold Hayes, is titled Smiling Through the Apocalypse: Esquire in the Sixties. The film, which is currently showing at the River Run Film Festival, takes its name from a 1969 anthology of Esquire magazine pieces. Both works provide a view of the decade as chronicled by the iconic magazine and its remarkable editor.

From a typescript draft with notes by Harold Hayes

In November of 1969 Esquire magazine subscribers received a special offer from publisher Arnold Gingrich. The enclosed letter began, “You are just now escaping, by the skin of your teeth, the most incredible decade in this country’s history: the 1960′s.” It continued,

From Jack Kennedy’s brave cry, “Let us begin,” to the mad smile of Sirhan Sirhan . . . from the first jarring beats of rock music through the frightening chants of “Up Against the Wall,” you have in fact lived through the most interesting of times: a time of generation gaps, sex explosions, peacock revolutions, drug fads, pop art, war, madness, and super-cockeyed wackiness.

And so, welcome to the end of it all. The “cursed” decade is over, and frankly we are in a mood for celebration. To this end we have prepared the most ambitious project in Esquire‘s 36-year history — a book of the decade, our own special version of the sixties. It is a big, handsome, oversize volume of more than a thousand pages called

“Smiling Through the Apocalypse: Esquire’s History of the Sixties”

The anthology gathered some of the most memorable articles from Esquire’s most memorable decade. Wake Forest alumnus Harold Hayes had become managing editor in 1961 and chief editor in 1963, and as Frank DiGiacomo observed in a 2007 Vanity Fair article

Hayes’s Esquire would identify, analyze, and define the new decade’s violent energies, ideas, morals, and conflicts—though always with an ironic and, occasionally, sardonic detachment that kept the magazine cool as the 60s grew increasingly hot. Esquire would become the magazine of the New: “The New Art of Success,” “The New Seven Deadly Sins,” “The New Sophistication,” and, ultimately, the New Journalism, the fancy term given to nonfiction that’s written like a novel.

The Harold Hayes Papers, housed in ZSR’s Special Collections and Archives, shed light on  the creation and development of Smiling Through the Apocalypse. The project was important to Hayes, as it documented the eventful decade in the history of both the nation and the magazine. In a memo to Arnold Gingrich Hayes asked for complete editorial control of the project: “I hope you will not believe me to be challenging your authority or position with the magazine if I lean heavily on your forebearance [sic.] and request you to let me do this one alone.” (Gingrich’s response in a handwritten note: “I thought we had already reached that conclusion.”)

Materials in the Hayes Papers also show that the anthology’s (and the magazine’s) tone of casual irreverence was achieved through a great deal of creative brainstorming and meticulous planning by Hayes and his editorial staff. Below is one of Hayes’s many pages of notes on Smiling Through the Apocalypse. Here he listed possible titles for the book itself and for its sections.

Another page of notes listed categories with possible articles. A potential “section on Ladies” did not make it into the final book.

In order to have the anthology ready for sale by Christmas 1969, Esquire staffers had to meet some tight deadlines– as this memo to editor Byron Dobell made clear.

The volume led off with Norman Mailer’s famous article on John F. Kennedy, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket.” Its original publication in 1960 had sparked the first of many conflicts between Esquire and the contentious author, when Arnold Gingrich changed the title of the article without Mailer’s consent.

Although all of the articles in Smiling Through the Apocalypse had been published in Esquire, there were still issues of copyrights and royalties to be sorted out for the 50 authors collected in the anthology.

A typescript draft of another advertising flyer for the book is an artifact from a time when cutting and pasting involved actual scissors and tape. But the pasted-in quote from Harold Hayes provides his raison d’etre for the Esquire anthology:

The real history of the Sixties has already been written . . . by talented people who didn’t know (or care) they were writing history, because they were reporting what happened– as it happened. It’s all there — told like it was — in the pages of ten years of Esquire.

Harold Hayes’s introduction to Smiling Through the Apocalypse sums up Esquire‘s journey through the pivotal decade in American history. His take on Esquire began as a reaction against “the banality of the Fifties.” Hayes and his fellow editors and writers wanted to shake up the magazine world and bring a fresh perspective to American journalism:

[I]n words and/or pictures (curiously the pictures always provoked the greatest outrage, especially George Lois’s covers)  and occasionally with some loss of dignity, the idea was to suggest alternate possibilities to a monolithic view. . . . At Esquire our attitude took shape as we went along, stumbling past our traditional boundaries of fashion, leisure, entertainment and literature onto the more forbidding ground of politics, sociology, science and even, occasionally, religion. Any point of view was welcome as long as the writer was sufficiently skillful to carry it off, but we tended to avoid committing ourselves to doctrinaire programs even though advised on occasion that we might thereby better serve the interests of mankind.

As the decade wore on, the writing in Esquire reflected the increasing upheaval in the society around it:

Against the aridity of the national landscape of the late Fifties we offered to our readers in our better moments the promise of outright laughter; by the end of the Sixties the best we could provide was a bleak grin.

Hayes concludes his introduction with a reference to the “collective confusion” of Americans in 1969.

Harold Hayes continued as editor of Esquire until 1973, when a dispute with the management led to his resignation. Hayes went on to other projects, and Esquire became a very different sort of magazine. Nearly 50 years after its publication, Smiling Through the Apocalypse is a fitting monument to the editor and the magazine that best captured the Zeitgeist of the 1960s.

ZSR Special Collections’s copy of Smiling Through the Apocalypse was owned by Harold Hayes himself. It was part of the  large collection of books and manuscripts that Hayes bequeathed to his alma mater shortly before his death in 1989.

 


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