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One of the Rare Book Collection’s most unusual acquisitions this year has also proved to be one of the more challenging items to view: a perspective peepshow of an eighteenth-century print shop.
Peepshows are two-dimensional, printed or manuscript illustrated cards incorporating cut-outs that, when arranged together, form a three-dimensional scene. Peepshows have a long history as a form of popular entertainment. Examples of peepshows can be found in cultures across the world, but the genre gained widespread popularity in Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Peepshows appeared in the streets, peddled by itinerant street showmen, and in the parlor, alongside paper dolls, board games, and other amusements for the evening hours.
Peepshows varied a great deal in their complexity. Very simple peepshows might consist only of a series of cards, while more elaborate displays incorporated lighting or special bi-convex lenses to enhance the illusion of three-dimensionality. Some peepshows used a thin, accordion-fold tissue along each side of the card series to connect the scene together—see, for example, this 1846 peepshow held at the Getty Research Institute. Other peepshows were designed to be set up in a custom box made of wood or metal. The box held the cards apart from one another and let in an appropriate level of light, allowing the viewer a peep inside the scene.
Our perspective peepshow was probably intended to be viewed in such a box. The cards can, of course, be examined one at a time, but to see the full scene as intended, a custom display had to be built.
Conservator Andrea Knowlton rose to the challenge, creating this custom display. Though straightforward in its design, the execution of the stand took careful planning. Andrea first had to calculate how far apart each card should stand—too close and the details of some cards would be obscured, too far apart and the illusion of three-dimensionality would be ruined. Andrea also needed to ensure that the stand did not block out too much light. Finally, the stand needed to properly support each card upright and allow easy access to the cards so that they would not be damaged during set up or removal.
Our peepshow shows the interior of a print shop with surprising detail. At the front of the shop, a worker dampens paper to prepare it for the press. There are two presses depicted, each in a different stage of the printing process. The first press is being inked using ink balls while a second pressman readies the sheet of paper to be printed. At the second press, a pressman is pulling the bar to make an impression. Behind the press, the copy text is written out in a fair hand and given to the compositors, who can be seen at the back of the shop. Each compositor uses a composing stick to arrange moveable type—stored in the large, tilted cases—into words and sentences.
If you are interested in learning more about the operation of a common press, there are some wonderful demonstration videos online, like this series from the Museum Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp, Belgium. Or, come visit us in Wilson Library to take a peep at the peepshow yourself.
Perhaps some of our followers are headed for one last weekend at the Outer Banks, hoping to read a few good paperbacks under their beach umbrellas. But you never know what may wash ashore if you’re dressed in your sailor stripes. Curator Claudia Funke and departing staff member Matt Karkutt reveal here the faces behind the winter 2014 sweater posts and a fanciful artist’s book of the 1890s, created to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage to America. Its cover adorned with sand, seaweed, and shells, the volume is intended to look like it was recovered after having been lost at sea and is subtitled as a “secret writing” by Columbus for his son Diego.
The Rare Book Collection has plunged deep into the Age of Discovery as it prepares for the September 14 opening of the exhibition Chronicles of Empire: Spain in the Americas. Part of the commemoration “One Hundred Years of Latin American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” the show will display the very real sixteenth- and seventeenth-century volumes in the RBC that tell the story of Spain’s exploration, conquest, and settlement of the Western Hemisphere. Expect more information in future Library and Chapel Hill Rare Book Blog posts.
We end here now by thanking our good colleague Matt Karkutt for his assistance in this post and for his numerous positive contributions to Wilson Library and the Rare Book Collection. We wish him all the best on his next voyage of discovery.
From June 18th to 21st, nearly 100 graduate students, professors, secondary educators, and Jane Austen fans of all ages converged on Chapel Hill to partake in a weekend celebrating the 200th anniversary of Emma. Headed by UNC Professors Inger Brodey and James Thompson of the Department of English and Comparative Literature, the Jane Austen Summer Program (JASP) has now completed its third year and is quickly becoming a June tradition for Janeites from near and far.
While many of the festivities occur off campus at the Friday Center for Continuing Education, the 2015 program kicked off by introducing attendees to some of the fascinating resources on campus with an exhibit selected from the Rare Book Collection of the Wilson Special Collections Library. “Emma, at Home and at Play,” curated by UNC graduate students Rachael Isom and Ted Scheinman and displayed in Wilson’s Grand Reading Room, included a variety of items designed to offer textual, cultural, and historical entry points for guests, as they approached the events and discussions of the weekend.
Comprised of seventeen items from the Rare Book Collection, this exhibit took shape around three approaches to Austen’s novel: the first-edition text of Emma and its illustrated afterlives, books allusively woven into Emma’s daily life, and contemporaneous cultural artifacts that offer a more detailed entry into that lifestyle.
The first segment of the exhibit contained the 1816 Emma (which actually appeared in December 1815), the first of Austen’s novels to be published by John Murray, as well as two twentieth-century New York editions illustrated by C. E. Brock (1909) and Fritz Kredel (1964). Rounding out this section was a mid-twentieth-century critical work by R. W. Chapman, an object of especial interest because of its former ownership and annotations by C. S. Lewis.
The second section invited JASP attendees to consider the books that might have constituted Emma’s library at Highbury by showing examples of texts alluded to in the novel. Prolific eighteenth-century writers Oliver Goldsmith, Ann Radcliffe, and Thomas Gray were joined by lesser known authors of educational texts and Gothic novels to show the various reading interests of Emma, Harriet Smith, and other characters.
The final section grouped together books contemporary to Austen. From fashion plates in The Lady’s Magazine to sheet music by J. B. Cramer, cookbooks and pocketbooks to a unique family scrapbook, these items presented visitors with a sense of the larger social setting of Austen’s Emma. Perhaps guests could imagine Jane Fairfax playing one of Cramer’s sonatas or Mr. Woodhouse flipping through Mrs. Glasse’s Art of Cookery looking for the perfect gruel recipe. Thus, as JASP attendees returned to the text, they could take with them pieces of the culture in which it was written and set by Austen.
In its first year as a Jane Austen Summer Program event, the exhibit was well-received by attendees. Naturally, Austen fans were particularly excited to see a first-edition of Emma, but one guest also remarked that the display as a whole was “well-organized and informative.” Many also commented on the “beautiful” Grand Reading Room venue and look forward to more opportunities to visit Wilson Library.
One such opportunity awaits at next year’s Jane Austen Summer Program, which will feature a special exhibit inspired by Austen’s 1814 novel Mansfield Park. The event, slated for the weekend of June 16–19, 2016, will be open to the UNC-Chapel Hill community as well as to the program’s attendees. For more information, please visit www.janeaustensummer.org.
Rachael Isom is a Ph.D. student in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at UNC. Her research focuses particularly on the intersections of religion and literature in women’s poetry of the Romantic and early Victorian periods. She also serves as Assistant Editor of the Keats-Shelley Journal and works as a Project Assistant for the William Blake Archive.
On the 4th of July, many will be waving the U.S. flag.
In 1910, when sixteen-year-old poet Christina Moody was publishing, it would have been the 46-star one, like that above. We post the flag of Christina’s era on this national holiday, along with pages from the African-American girl’s rare book of poetry, Tiny Spark. Her only known publication, the small volume of varied verse has attracted scholarly and critical attention in recent decades. The two facing poems below have a special resonance today because of recent tragic events that have brought flags to the fore. The poems encourage us to think deeply about symbols and identity, and what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America, as we commemorate the day when our nation was founded.
Today, in honor of the First International Day of Yoga, we look at the dynamic history of the practice of yoga and how it has transformed through time and cultures. A book with some of the earliest illustrated yoga poses—the Baḥr al-ḥayāt—resides in the Rare Book Collection and offers an example of how treatises on yoga spread to the Islamic world through translations written between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries.
The history of the Baḥr al-ḥayāt shows how yogic teachings moved from east to west as the practice, traditionally passed down orally, was written down and translated. The RBC’s copy of the Baḥr al-ḥayāt comes from a 1563 Persian translation of an Arabic version of the Amritakunda (“The Pool of Nectar”), which was a treatise on hatha yoga written in either Sanskrit or Hindi in the twelfth century. The Baḥr al-ḥayāt in UNC’s Rare Book Collection was written and illuminated in 1718, its illustrations likely copied from earlier Persian translations like this early seventeenth-century version from the Chester Beatty Library.
Through its many loose translations into Persian, Arabic, Ottoman Turkish, and Urdu, the text of the Baḥr al-ḥayāt morphed in different ways, as one might suspect. Early Arabic translators of the Amritakunda drew parallels between Indic and Arabic spiritual practices in order to make yoga more accessible to Muslims. In fact, in Persian and Arabic translations, the asanas (yoga postures) were referred to as mantra chants or ascetic practices instead of physical poses. Translators also added quotations from the Koran and hadiths to the text. To Muslims studying the translations, the teachings of the Baḥr al-ḥayāt probably would have seemed to mesh well with their own faith.
Like the text, the illustrations of the RBC’s Baḥr al-ḥayāt were also likely copied from older versions and reflect changes over time. The varying appearance of successive copies was likely due to differences in regional artistic style. The illustration above, from the RBC’s Baḥr al-ḥayāt, is much simpler than the one here, from the earlier Baḥr al-ḥayāt in the Chester Beatty Library.
We wish you an enjoyable June 21st, whether celebrating the fathers in your family, the summer solstice, or now, thanks to a United Nations General Assembly resolution, yoga!
Today marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, the battle in which Napoleon was at last decisively defeated. Now remembered primarily as a conflict between England and France, the Battle of Waterloo took place south of Brussels in present-day Belgium and included armies from Prussia, Austria, Hanover, Nassau, the Duchy of Brunswick, and England. This Seventh Coalition formed expressly to defeat Napoleon after his return to power during the Hundred Days following his exile on Elba. The Battle of Waterloo ended Napoleon’s rule and two decades of war across the continent of Europe. A precursor to the World Wars of the twentieth century, the Napoleonic Wars brought issues of imperialism and nationalism to the fore, inaugurating modern warfare as they changed the face of Europe.
The Battle of Waterloo is also significant in its immediate incorporation into popular imagination. Only days after news of the victory reached British soil, the battle was already being heralded as one of the most important events in history. Commemoration of the battle began within weeks, bolstered by eye-witness accounts from returning soldiers–many more of whom were literate than had ever been the case in previous wars.
Accounts of the battle took advantage of modern media. Portraits of the generals and principle agents of the battle appeared frequently, creating a cult of celebrity around the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon in particular. Maps, memorials, charts, and dramatic scenes all sought to deliver to the British reader an authentic experience of the battle and its particulars.
Literary reactions to the battle also abounded. Newspapers and journals of the day printed patriotic poetry affirming Britain’s supremacy in the wake of the victory. Leading writers, regardless of their political affiliations, joined the chorus. Sir Walter Scott was among the first to try his hand. His highly publicized Field of Waterloo figured itself as a philanthropic gesture; the proceeds were to fund relief efforts for returning soldiers.
William Wordsworth, long troubled by the threat to European culture and history represented by the chaotic ruin of Napoleon’s campaign, published an ambitious Pindaric ode titled Thanksgiving Ode, January 18, 1916 to commemorate the battle–an effort that met with mixed reviews due to his reluctance to praise the Duke of Wellington, whom he was known to dislike.
Robert Southey’s contribution, The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo, participated in the emerging tourist culture that surrounded Waterloo and other sites of the wars. Southey’s visitation to the scene of the battle provides a template for the literary traveller, who can follow in the poet’s footsteps on a pilgrimage of his own. That Southey’s poem was used as a kind of guide book is apparent in the Rare Book Collection’s copy, which is bound together with an actual travel guide to Belgium, published in the same year.
The primacy of the battle did not fade as the nineteenth century wore on. It remained a watershed moment in the British cultural consciousness. Eye-witness accounts of the battle continued to emerge throughout mid-century, including Fanny Burney’s posthumously published narrative in her Diary and Letters of Madame d’Arblay (1842) and Robert Gleig’s popular Story of the Battle of Waterloo (1848). William Makepeace Thackeray’s fictionalized version of the battle provided emotional crisis for the heroine of his much-read novel Vanity Fair (1847).
Models and panoramas of the battle provided another avenue for commemoration. Panorama paintings first began to appear in the 1780s but gained wide popularity during the nineteenth century as a pre-cinematic immersive experience for those who could not afford to travel to historic sites. Guides, prints, pamphlets, and other ephemeral publications produced in conjunction with panorama displays can help us recreate the space of the panorama, if not the experience.
Patrons interested in learning more about the history of Waterloo may consult the Rare Book Collection’s Hoyt Collection of French History. The collection includes over 5,000 valuable books and documents related to the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.
The Rare Book Collection joins in the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats by posting this portrait of him from Mosada: A Dramatic Poem, his first separately published work. The drama had appeared in the June 1886 issue of the Dublin University Review; the twelve-page pamphlet in wrappers, a reprint by Sealy, Bryers, and Walker, followed in October. As William Michael Murphy notes in his book Prodigal Father: The Life of John Butler Yeats (1839-1922), it was W.B’s father, a painter, who “insisted on including as [the pamphlet’s] frontispiece a pencil portrait by himself of the author, preferring this to ‘a picture of some incident in the play,’ as had been planned at first. In the sketch Willie wears a fuzzy beard, which his father had urged him to grow.
“The volume had little sale. Papa and Willie gave copies away liberally. One reached the hands of an English Roman Catholic priest who had recently come to Dublin, Gerard Manley Hopkins.” (p. 146) As Murphy recounts, the great poet politely refrained from expressing his negative opinion of the work to the elder Yeats.
The RBC’s copy of Mosada is one of three identified by bibliographer Allan Wade as bound with a thicker paper, unlined. While we cannot boast a provenance for our copy that includes Gerard Manley Hopkins, former owners known to us are New York editor and noted folk art collector Cyril I. Nelson and renowned British bookman Anthony Hobson.
This first separate publication is one of the rarest items in the RBC’s extensive Yeats Collection, a gift of the Hanes Foundation as the University Library’s five millionth volume. The RBC continues to add to the Yeats Collection as opportunities present themselves.
The vibrant covers of the Almanach des bergers stand out among the Rare Book Collection’s acquisitions of the year so far. This almanac dates from the second year of the French Revolutionary Calendar (1793–1794), which would mark time for the French Republic through the end of 1805.
Almanacs like the Almanach des bergers were marketed to the lower and middle classes, especially farmers who relied on the books’ predictions of meteorological events for planting and harvesting crops. When the National Convention created a completely new calendric system during the French Revolution, almanacs replicated and explained the new calendar. These almanacs were then printed in a large number and made widely accessible.
The Revolutionary Calendar was devised methodically, with a focus on the marking of time as it relates to the movement of the earth around the sun. This kind of organized structuring of the natural world was typical of the Age of Enlightenment (ca. 1650-1780). Months were renamed corresponding to the harvest cycle and were reformatted to contain three weeks of ten days each (décades). Five feast days occurred at the end of the year, and a leap day was observed once every four years. The Revolutionary calendar omitted the excessive feast days of the Gregorian calendar (see our earlier post) and strictly regulated the French citizen’s work week.
Besides delineating the past—the ère vulgaire—from the present, the new calendar also incorporated contemporary values into the measurement of time. The calendar was based on the natural world, dividing time into even segments of ten, and it created a more rigorous work schedule. The author of the Almanach des bergers, thought to be one Taillardat, draws many parallels to the ancient Greek calendar, and suggests that perhaps the ancient Greek calendar was the inspiration for beginning the revolutionary calendar year in autumn. The new calendric system was regarded as politically neutral, as it was based on reason and the natural world, even though it was established by a very political group and acted as a tool to control the citizen’s schedule. The wide distribution of almanacs could even be compared to the distribution of political propaganda.
The Revolutionary Calendar was short lived. It fell out of favor during the reign of Napoleon, when concerns of inconvenience to international commerce prevailed. The Gregorian calendar, still in use today, was reinstated on January 1, 1806. The Almanach des bergers is an artifact of a brief but important period in the history of French culture, a sign of the French Revolution’s impact on the daily lives of French citizens.