Wordsworth in the 1790s

PR5869 .D47 1793_TP

In 1790, Wordsworth undertook a walking tour of the Alps, carrying him through Revolutionary France | William Wordsworth, Descriptive Sketches (London: J. Johnson, 1793) | PR5869 .D47 1793

One of the most difficult tasks in mounting exhibitions is the sometimes nerve-wracking choice of what to include and what to edit out. “Kill your darlings,” as Faulkner would have it in writing fiction, is just as apt when choosing which six or seven books and objects will stand in as evidence of a rich and complicated historical narrative. These decisions were particularly difficult for Lyric Impressions: Wordsworth in the Long Nineteenth Century—the rare book exhibition that opened at Wilson Library on January 20th.  Clocking in at more than 2,000 volumes, The William Wordsworth Collection is so vast that one exhibition could never do justice to the whole. To remedy that reality, we’ll be undertaking a series of blog posts to explore Wordsworth publications that didn’t make it past the cutting room floor. Each post will expand on the major themes of the exhibition. In this post, we’ll explore Wordsworth’s productive and turbulent development in the decade of the 1790s by considering his first published books: An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches (1793).

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After publishing An Evening Walk in 1793, Wordsworth continued to revise the poem. It appears under the heading “Poems Referring to the Period of Childhood” in his 1815 Poems. | William Wordsworth, An Evening Walk (London: J. Johnson, 1793) | PR5856 .A1 1793

By the time he published Lyrical Ballads in 1798, Wordsworth had developed a distinctive poetic voice, one he conceived of as a departure from the studied, high-flown style popular for much of the eighteenth century. In An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches, composed between 1787 and 1792, this poetic voice was still nascent; in both poems, Wordsworth relies on earlier poetic models, such as Thomson’s The Seasons (1730) and Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667). The poems’ allusive qualities were not lost on his contemporary audience, whose mixed critical reception of the works drew attention to their derivative qualities. Neither were they lost on Wordsworth himself, who later wrote that he found them to be “juvenile productions, inflated and obscure,” nevertheless, they contained “many new images and vigorous lines….”

PR .A1 1793 copy

The 1793 An Evening Walk is a loco-descriptive poem; later revisions incorporated more narrative and dramatic material.

Sales of An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches were not robust. While it is unknown how many copies were issued in the initial print run, the audience of the two works appears to have been small. Wordsworth commented in 1801 that “Johnson [his publisher] has told some of my Friends who have called for them, that they were out of print: this must be a mistake. Unless he has sent them to the Trunk-maker’s they must be lying in some corner of his Warehouse, for I have reason to believe that they never sold much.” Whether or not the unsold copies were indeed scrapped for paper waste, today copies of the first editions are relatively scarce.

Aside from offering a window on Wordsworth’s developing poetic voice, An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches are important works juxtaposed with Wordsworth’s politically charged poetry of the same period. In the 1780s and 90s, Wordsworth was also composing more explicitly radical poems, such as “Salisbury Plain,” and “Letter to the Bishop Llandaff.” An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches both follow a tradition of loco-descriptive verse, where the poet’s reaction to an evocative landscape or monument triggers a philosophic and aesthetic experience. They do not, as some of his other poems of the 1790s do, explicitly confront the incendiary political issues of his youth. Though Wordsworth’s political attitudes are not wholly absent from his published verse, his unpublished (or largely unpublished) poetry is more direct and, at times, inflammatory.

PR5869 .D47 1793

Descriptive Sketches contains allusions to the upheaval in France, though expression of its political sentiments are oblique and have been the subject of much scholarly debate.

Wordsworth’s radical discontent in the 1790s reflected the mood of the country. At the beginning of the decade, economic disparity had reached alarming levels. Radical sentiment, spurred by the rhetoric of the American Revolution and the ideals of the French Revolution, circulated widely. But 1793 would prove to be a decisive turning point, as the British Government enacted a series of increasingly draconian measures designed to stamp out radical dissent, among them the Treason Trials and the suspension of habeas corpus in 1794 and the so-called “Gagging Acts”—the Treason Act and Seditious Meetings Act—in 1795. The government actively sought out radical agitators and their associates—including Wordsworth and Coleridge, who were purportedly investigated by a government spy in 1796.

An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches anticipate Wordsworth’s poetic trajectory toward philosophic verse and also the turning political tide in England. By the close of the 1790s, Wordsworth’s idealistic radicalism had matured and changed, though he would maintain an active interest in political and current events throughout his life.

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The Year of the Monkey

Green and red monkeys from William Jardine, The Natural History of Monkeys (Edinburgh, W.H. Lizars; [etc.] 1833) | QL45.J3 N3

Green and red monkeys from William Jardine, The Natural History of Monkeys (Edinburgh, W.H. Lizars; [etc.] 1833) | QL45.J3 N3

We have officially begun the Chinese New Year. Let’s follow those clever monkeys.

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Counting the Days 500 Years Ago

Detail of manuscript calendar in Incunabula 322

Detail of manuscript calendar in Incunabula 322

As we begin the year 2016, one incunable in the Rare Book Collection offers particular resonance for “timely” meditations: Nicolas Jenson’s 1475 printing of St. Augustine’s De civitate Dei, annotated exactly five hundred years ago in 1516, with a manuscript calendar for that year and lunar calculations.

The volume is one from the personal collection of alumnus Dr. Frederic M. Hanes (A.B. 1903), who led his siblings to establish the Hanes Foundation for the Study of the Origin and Development of the Book in 1929. The RBC traces its beginning to that foundation, which enabled the purchase of nearly 400 incunabula. Following Dr. Hanes’s death in 1946, the Jenson imprint and other high spots that he collected came to UNC.

The book is Jenson’s only edition of St. Augustine’s magnum opus, which sought to vindicate Christianity in the sack of Rome and delineated the existence of two realms: “the City of God” and “the City of Man.” The French-born printer Jenson, famous today for his roman type, chose instead to set the text of this Christian classic, so important in the Middle Ages, with a gothic font, perhaps because of its religious content. The book is noteworthy for stating the printer’s name on the first page of text, the earliest such instance in type, anticipating the invention of the title page.

The Hanes RBC copy is also one of a small number from the edition that feature a setting of type for the colophon statement where names are elided: “Nicolao ie[n]son gallico: Petro moze[n]icho principe.” – “by Nicolas Jenson, Frenchman: for Prince Peter Mocenigo.”

Specific only to the RBC copy are its manuscript annotations and addendum. On the verso of leaf 16 are records of two purchases of the volume: first in 1516 by Nicolaus Fabbrinus, and then in 1691 by one F. M. Arrighi. Two handwritten leaves at the end, most likely Fabbrinus’s work, discuss in Latin and Italian the epact—or the number to be added to the first day of the year to obtain the moon’s age, 15 in 1515, 26 in 1516, and 7 in 1517—and provide a calendar for the year 1516 and a wheel for determining Pascha, or Easter, a movable feast that could fall in March or April.

Wheel for calculating Pascha or Easter, Incunabula 322

Wheel for calculating Pascha or Easter, Incunabula 322

The wheel is divided according to the 19-year lunar cycle, with 19 numbered chords. ”Hic est aureus numerus,” written inside the wheel’s center, indicates that each of these is a “golden number”—as the ordinal number of a specific year in the cycle was termed beginning in the Middle Ages. The golden number is used in conjunction with the Dominical letter (top center) to find the date of Pascha. The Dominical letter designates the Sundays of a year in a cycle where days of the week are lettered A-G, and January 1 is always A.

This manuscript exposition operates under the Julian calendar in use before the Gregorian calendar reform of 1582, a topic of last year’s New Year blog post. Keeping track of the sun, the planets, the moon, the stars, and time has been a central activity for all societies, whether the ancient Maya, the Christian West, Revolutionary France, or our global technological present. Look up tonight; it will be a full moon in Chapel Hill.

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Rudyard Kipling’s 150th Birthday

jungle book

Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book (London, 1894) | PR4854 .J7 1894

Today, December 30th, marks the 150th birth anniversary of renowned author Rudyard Kipling. Kipling was born in British colonial India and spent the first five years of his life and much of his young adulthood there. As such, a great number of his works are inspired by his childhood in India, including his arguably most well-known work, The Jungle Book (1894). The first edition of this work is particularly notable for its design.

In The Jungle Book, readers are introduced to a cast of colorful characters, some human, and some animal. Many of them have endured in the public consciousness to this day, such as the boy Mowgli, raised by jungle creatures, and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, a clever, cobra-slaying mongoose. All these characters are brought to life through Kipling’s imaginative poetry and prose.

rikki tikki tavi

Additionally, they are immortalized by the memorable illustrations from the first edition of the book, designed by illustrators W. H. Drake, P. Frenzeny, and John Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard Kipling’s own father, who collaborated with his son on many works. These illustrators also designed the images on the original publisher’s binding of the book, which features three elephants with riders and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi encountering a cobra. Though the RBC’s copy was rebound sometime after the 1930s, the original cover and its spine were preserved in the new binding.

cover and elephant

Kipling’s prolific publishing career is well documented in the RBC, where English-language literature has long been a collection strength.

council rock

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A Chromolithographic Christmas from the Wordsworth Collection

Wordsworth, William. We Are Seven! London: George C. Whitney, 1887 |PR5869 W43 1887

Wordsworth, William. We Are Seven! (London: George C. Whitney, 1887) | PR5869 W43 1887

As 2015 draws to a close, you may be preparing to send a round of greeting cards to friends and loved ones. In the present time, nearly 6.5 billion greeting cards are bought and exchanged annually in the United States—about 1.6 billion of those, during the Winter holiday season. The practice of exchanging holiday cards near Christmas began in the nineteenth century, when technologies in printing, primarily chromolithography, reduced the price of producing color-printed cards.

The history of Christmas greeting cards is inextricable from the history of lithography, in general, and chromolithography in particular. What is considered to be the first true Christmas card was printed in 1843 by Jobbins of Warwick Court, Holborn, London, using lithography, based on a design by John Calcott Horsley. Horsley was inspired by the commercial success already enjoyed by Valentine Day cards—and by a desire to reduce the time spent writing Christmas letters (George Buday, The History of the Christmas Card. London: Rockliff Publishing Corporation, 1954: 6). The idea was quickly adopted and printers used a variety of printing, embossing, die-cutting, and other decorative techniques to produce cards during the 1840s and 1850s. However, widespread production of Christmas cards did not occur until the 1860s-70s, when the use of chromolithography in commercial printing enabled cheap mass production of cards.

Lithography is a planographic printing process, meaning that the printing surface is flat—not raised, as in relief printing, or recessed, as in intaglio printing. Lithography works on the basic principle of the separation of oil and water: a hydrophilic surface, such as limestone, is drawn upon using a waxy substance; the surface of the stone is then wetted with a solution of gum arabic, then inked using an oil-based ink. The oily ink clings to the waxy portions of the stone and avoids the areas damp with water. A sheet of paper is then pressed to the surface of the stone, yielding a print.

Because of its flat printing surface and the ability of the artist to draw directly on the stone, lithography offered artists a freedom of design on par with drawing on paper. Numerous artistic effects—including pen-and-ink, chalk, and watercolor—could be achieved using a lithographic stone. Moreover, the mechanism of the lithographic press was faster to operate than, for example, the rolling presses used to produce engravings; it also exerted less pressure on the printing surface, reducing plate wear. The combination of these factors meant that lithography could produce larger edition sizes in less time than engraving.

In chromolithography, multiple stones are used progressively to produce multi-colored prints. Each color must be printed from a separate stone. As the sheet is passed through each successive print, the different colors blend together, resulting in vibrant tones and shades. For more information, and an animated progressive proof showing the process of chromolithography, check out this online exhibition from the New York Public Library (requires shockwave). The American Antiquarian Society also has an informative online exhibition, including a gallery of Christmas cards designed by lithographic artist Louis Prang.

The example above, printed around 1887, is a typical example of a Victorian greeting card: the central image shows a colorful, chromolithograph scene printed on a heavy card depicting two young children dressed in Christmas finery. A four-line poem functions as a seasonal greeting. The card is mounted with maroon ties on an embossed gold and silver card with decorative maroon and gold thread sewing.

The inside of the card holds a bit of a surprise: instead of the Christmas greeting we might expect to see, the card instead reveals a monochrome lithographic booklet of the text of William Wordsworth’s poem “We Are Seven”:

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“We Are Seven” first appeared in Lyrical Ballads (1798). It would prove to be one of Wordsworth’s most enduringly popular lyrics. The Rare Book Collection contains multiple examples of the poem printed separately in cheap formats for popular consumption, including two chapbook editions, a broadside, and several lithograph gift booklets. The example above closely resembles the other gift booklets in its format and design: alongside Wordsworth’s poem are sentimental scenes of rural life that echo the setting of the poem but were probably not produced specifically to illustrate its narrative.

PR5869-W43_1887_seven

Though there are no overt holiday references in “We Are Seven,” it’s thematic message of remembering absent loved ones is perhaps appropriate, if somewhat morbid, for the season of Auld Lang Syne.

Wordsworth is much remembered in the RBC these days as we make our preparations for the Spring exhibition Lyric Impressions: Wordsworth in the Long Nineteenth Century. The exhibition will be mounted from January 20-April 15, 2016, with an opening keynote lecture on February 22 by Duncan Wu, Professor of English at Georgetown University, titled “Wordsworthian Carnage.” Stayed tuned for more information on the exhibition opening, and keep reading the RBC blog for more highlights from the William Wordsworth Collection!

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Purchases at the Pirie Sale

Thomas Browne, A True and Full Copy of that which Was Most Imperfectly and Surreptitiously Printed Before under the Name of Religio Medici (London: For Andrew Crooke, 1643)

Thomas Browne, A True and Full Coppy of that which Was Most Imperfectly and Surreptitiously Printed Before under the Name of Religio Medici (London: For Andrew Crooke, 1643) | William A. Whitaker Fund

The rare book world is filled with talk about the recent sale of the library of late collector Robert S. Pirie. UNC Professor Emeritus Mark L. Reed, III, recalls Pirie as a classmate at Harvard many decades ago, in William Jackson’s bibliography course. Reed was a graduate student in English literature, and Pirie was the only undergraduate in the class. Mark Reed went on to teach at UNC and become a leading Wordsworth scholar, bibliographer, and collector. (His Wordsworth collection, the basis for his 2013 bibliography, now resides at UNC.) And Pirie went on to a career as an attorney and investment banker and to form “what will always be considered one of the finest libraries of English literature of not just our time, but of all time,” as the Sotheby’s sale catalog states.

Pirie’s collection was mostly sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature, and the RBC acquired three books from it that fit nicely with faculty research and existing holdings. Serendipitously, Mark Reed is among the members of the Whitaker Fund Committee, which approved these purchases.

First among the three works is the rare first authorized edition of Religio Medici, which supports the scholarship of UNC Professor Reid Barbour. Professor Barbour writes about its significance:

“When it was first published in the 1640s, Sir Thomas Browne’s Religio Medici made an immediate and a powerful impact on readers throughout Europe. Readers of a wide spectrum of confessional identities celebrated it for its peaceful form of Christianity but others roundly condemned it as atheistic. Over the course of nearly a decade, Browne had transformed the work on several occasions, in keeping with his conviction that his authorial self was subject to change. But the first authorized edition, published in 1643, was Browne’s final attempt to reshape those prose meditations on God, nature, and humanity that were causing such a stir after the work’s extensive manuscript circulation and unauthorized publication in 1642.

“The 1643 edition plays a central part in the new Oxford University Press edition of Religio Medici, edited by Brooke Conti of Cleveland State University and me,” Barbour continues. “UNC’s acquisition of a copy of this edition will enable me to conduct careful and extensive analysis of the book’s physical properties, from its famous frontispiece image of a man tumbling from a steep cliff only to be rescued by the hand of God, to its paper stock, watermarks, and textual variants.”

Other works acquired at the sale are The Crowne of All Homers Worckes Batrachomyomachia or the Battaile of Froges and Mise. His Hymn’s—and—Epigrams Translated According to the Originall. By George Chapman. (London, 1624?) and Elkanah Settle’s The Empress of Morocco. A Tragedy with Sculptures. As It Is Acted at the Duke’s Theatre (London, 1673).

Elkanah Settle, The Empress of Morocco (London, 1673)

Elkanah Settle, The Empress of Morocco (London, 1673) | William A. Whitaker Fund

The Crowne of All Homers Worckes completes The Whole Works of Homer, . . . Translated According to the Greeke by Geo. Chapman (London, 1616), already in the RBC (PA4025.A1 C45). This acquisition sustains the interests of UNC Professor Jessica Wolfe, who has recently published Homer and the Question of Strife from Erasmus to Hobbes (Toronto, 2015).

The Settle will surely be a valuable resource for UNC’s dramatic programs. The RBC has six other works by Settle, an important playwright of his period. The Empress of Morocco distinguishes itself by being the first English drama to be so extensively illustrated.

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Panel Discusses Early Latin American Novel on Lesbianism

David Foster Wallace, Daniel Balderston, Ariana Vigil, and María de Guzmán

David William Foster, Regents Professor, Arizona State University; Daniel Balderston, Mellon Professor, University of Pittsburgh; Ariana Vigil, Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill; and María DeGuzmán, Director of Latina/o Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill

On November 18, Wilson Library and the Rare Book Collection hosted a panel discussion sponsored by the Department of Romance Studies. The topic was the recently published novel En los jardines de Lesbos, written by José María Vargas Vila in the late 1920s. In 2010, the RBC acquired the original manuscript of the heretofore unpublished work about a lesbian artist, along with other papers of the controversial Colombian-born writer.

Vargas_Vila

Manuscript of En los jardines de Lesbos from the José María Vargas Vila Papers, Collection 12019, Rare Book Literary and Historical Papers

UNC-Chapel Hill’s own Juan Carlos González Espitia, associate professor of Romance Studies, edited La cosecha del sembrador, which includes En los jardines de Lesbos. The volume from the Colombian publisher Panamericana also contains Vargas Vila’s little-known work Ítalo Fontana, a novel about incest.

Vargas Vila died before he was able to publish En los jardines de Lesbos. The evening’s panelists debated the work’s relationship to earlier, contemporaneous, and later Latin American writing and conjectured on what its publication would have meant in its own era. Professor DeGuzmán drew comparisons with English literature, including Radcliffe Hall’s Well of Loneliness (1928) and the earlier poetry of Swinburne.

About seventy members of the University community listened to the lively and learned discussion. The Vargas Vila papers, part of Rare Book Literary and Historical Papers, are available to researchers in Wilson’s 4th floor manuscript reading room. The Rare Book Collection’s extensive holdings of his published works are accessible in the originals at Wilson’s 2nd floor reading room and online at the José María Vargas Vila Digital Library.

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Ahoy, Savoy!

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The Savoy, April 1896 | AP4 S37 c. 2 no. 2

The eight issues that comprise the full print run of The Savoy magazine are part of the RBC’s William Butler Yeats Collection. Yeats contributed poems, stories, and essays to the short-lived periodical, prompted by his friendship with the magazine’s editor, Arthur Symons. Through his association with The Savoy and with Symons, Yeats developed an interest in the Symbolist poetry of Paul Verlaine, Stéphane Mallarmé, and others—a connection sometimes overlooked in evaluating Yeats’s long career as a poet.

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Proof of cover design for April 1896 issue of The Savoy | AP4 S37p

The Savoy made its debut in 1896, a transitional moment in British letters when the aesthetically driven Decadent movement rebranded itself as the avant-garde Symbolist movement. Symons, a jobbing writer remembered now mostly for his literary criticism, provides an explicit link between decadence and Symbolism: in 1893, before his work on The Savoy, Symons authored a manifesto “The Decadent Movement in Literature,” defining the key features and leading writers of “art for art’s sake”; in 1899, two years after the close of The Savoy, Symons expanded the essay to a book-length work, retitling it The Symbolist Movement in Literature.

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The Savoy | AP4 S37 c. 2 no. 7

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Proof of cover design | AP4 S37p

Symons’s partner in shaping the aesthetic and artistic parameters of The Savoy was illustrator Aubrey Beardsley. Beardsley had previously worked as art editor and designer for Elkin Mathews and John Lane’s The Yellow Book—to which Symons also contributed—but he was asked to resign after Oscar Wilde’s conviction for gross indecency colored Beardsley’s past association with Wilde as scandalous. Mathews and Lane’s squeamishness was not shared by the publisher of The Savoy, Leonard Smithers. Smithers, whose publishing ventures included erotic texts as well as literature, encouraged Beardsley and Symons’s artistic productions.

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Proof for Beardsley’s design for advertising matter | AP4 S37p

In addition to the full print run of The Savoy, the RBC holds printing proofs of Beardsley’s designs for The Savoy, annotated with Smithers’s notes on production. These proofs have appeared previously on the RBC blog, following a lecture by collector Mark Samuels Lasner that discussed their status as true proofs—not later reproductions of Beardsley’s artwork.

While Beardsley’s designs for The Yellow Book had featured bold contrasts of white and black, for The Savoy Beardsley developed a style incorporating the use of texture and fine detail. Beardsley’s cover art, in particular, reflects the richer designs of his illustrations for The Rape of the Lock and Lysistrata. Beardsley’s drawings, prized now for their artistic excellence, are often reproduced divorced from their original contexts; the RBC’s proofs of Beardsley’s designs for The Savoy remind us that Beardsley was a working artist, and above all an illustrator of texts.

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Proof of “Pages from the Life of Lucy Newcombe” | AP4 S37 c. 4 no. 8 1-3

In addition to the proofs of Beardsley’s drawings, the RBC also holds three drafts written by Arthur Symons related to the short story “The Childhood of Lucy Newcombe,” which appeared in the final number of The Savoy. Symons wrote three stories about Lucy Newcombe, a fictionalized character drawn from the life of Edith Catherine Robichaud: born Edith Catherine Broadbent; called Ryllis Llewellyn Hacon during her first marriage.

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Typescript draft of the end of the “Life of Lucy Newcombe” | AP4 S37 c. 4 no. 8 proof 1-3

Robichaud, an artist’s model and escort under the names “Amaryllis” and “Muriel,” was Symons’s mistress. Her past, steeped in mystery and intrigue, becomes in Symons’s stories a psychological character study. Symons planned to turn the series into a novel, a project he clung to even after the close of the magazine. Symons wrote to novelist Thomas Hardy for advice on the novel, citing Jude the Obscure as one of his influences, but Hardy discouraged Symons from seeking a publisher. Hardy warned Symons that his risqué choice of a sex worker for a protagonist would ruin his reputation.

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Typescript draft of the end of “The Life of Lucy Newcombe” | AP4 S37 c. 4 no. 8 proof 1-3

 

 

Despite her scandalous past, the real Lucy Newcombe went on to become an incredibly successful society matron: she married William Llewellyn Hacon, became a great patron of the arts, and joined the women’s suffrage movement. Even after ending her career as an artist’s model, Robichaud sat for several prominent painters, including Charles Condor, whose 1896 painting of Robichaud “The Shore at Dornach, Highlands” hangs in the Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museum.

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Fort San Juan Lecture Available on the Web

Detail of map of La Florida showing Xuala or Joara near present-day Morganton, North Carolina, based on the work of Spanish royal cartographer Gerónimo Chiaves from Abraham Ortelius, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Antwerp, 1592) | G1006 T5 1592

Detail of “La Florida” map showing Xuala or Joara near present-day Morganton, North Carolina, based on the work of Spanish royal cartographer Gerónimo Chiaves. From Abraham Ortelius, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Antwerp, 1592) | G1006 T5 1592

On October 21st, Professor David Moore of Warren Wilson College delivered a public lecture on the excavation of the first European inland settlement in what is now the United States: Fort San Juan, established by the Spanish in 1567 in present-day North Carolina. For those who were unable to attend and learn about the fort’s history and that of the neighboring Native American town, Joara, we’re pleased to announce that a video is now available on the Library News and Events Blog.

The exhibition Chronicles of Empire: Spain in the Americas, which includes the map above in its display of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century publications, continues on view through January 10, 2016.

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Carolina Kabuki Blue Halloween

Kuge-Bōrei, The Ghost of Abe-no-Nakamaro (a court noble) devised by Sawamura Sōjūrō, the Fourth (1784-1812) , plat no. 34 in Masaru Kobayashi, Kabuki kumadori gaikan (Kyoto: Guroriya Sosaete, 1931).

Kuge-Bōrei, The Ghost of Abe-no-Nakamaro (a court noble) devised by Sawamura Sōjūrō, the Fourth (1784-1812) , plate no. 34 in Masaru Kobayashi, Kabuki kumadori gaikan (Kyoto: Guroriya Sosaete, 1931).

The RBC has just prioritized the cataloging of the books in Paul Green’s library that relate to Japanese drama. The late Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and former UNC professor spent three weeks in Japan in 1951. There, Kabuki theater made a deep impression on him. An article on his visit in the November 7, 1951, issue of the Nippon Times quotes Green on Kabuki: “Japan’s got the best acting and the best produced plays I have ever seen.”

Green, a lover of books, brought back a number of rare and valuable volumes on Japanese theater. These were eventually gifted to the UNC Library.  The plate reproduced above comes from a beautifully made prewar volume on Kabuki makeup.

The color blue, associated in our part of the world with Carolina, was associated with spirits and demons in Kabuki theater. The frightening spectral face above sets a high standard for terrifying countenances, making it our staff pick for a Halloween post.

Green was reported to have wished to adapt elements of Kabuki staging to his outdoor dramas. He also had a keen interest in the expressive power of Kabuki makeup as demonstrated by his book collecting, including the volume featured above.

The Japanese books from Green’s library promise to be a rich resource for students of Asian theater at UNC.

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