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A detail from the portrayal of the “active scholar” in Lefevre D’Etaple’s Epitome (Paris: H. Estienne, 1510) is set against the needles of a loblolly pine from Michaux and Nuttall’s The North American Sylva (Philadelphia: Rice & A. N. Hart, 1857).
The “active scholar” woodcut (the epithet translates studiosus palestrites, the Latin words on the banderoles on either side of the seated man) first appeared in Carolus Bovillus’s Que hoc volumine continentur (Paris: H. Estienne, 1510), a volume of multiple essays. One of these was on the senses, and this arresting full-page image illustrates that writing.
Bovillus believed in the primacy of hearing, auditio, which is shown as a chain that connects with the chain of speaking, locutio. However, in addition to the existence itself of this wonderful image, the importance of vision is attested to by a line that connects the right eye with a hand writing, scriptio, and another line, labeled lectio, reading, which extends from the left eye to the scholar’s left hand, which holds open a book. Behind his forehead imaginatio—imagination, stars and all—is at work.
The book resting on the scholar’s knee features diagrams, which perhaps made it suitable for repetition in Lefevre D’Etaple’s mathematical work, published shortly after the Bovillus. The RBC’s copy is one of 300 volumes printed by the Estienne family that the Hanes Family Foundation presented to the Rare Book Collection as the University Library’s “three millionth volume” in 1984.
Loblolly Pine—pinus taeda—is one of several pines native to the Southeastern United States. It is also known as White Pine or North Carolina Pine, the latter reflecting its strong presence in Eastern Carolina and the Piedmont region, where Chapel Hill is located.
François André Michaux was a naturalist who traveled the Eastern United States. His work on North American trees was first published in English in 1817-1819, with engraved plates executed in Paris. Thomas Nuttall gathered botanical specimens in the Midwest and the Far West during the early decades of the nineteenth century. His work on trees first appeared in Philadelphia in 1842-1849, with lithographic images. In 1857, publishers Rice and Hart combined Nuttall and Michaux and issued a five-volume set, North American Sylva. Our Loblolly pine is a hand-finished color print in that edition, made from the plate engraved after the great French flower painter Pierre-Joseph Redouté.
Which is all to say that here in the piney woods of Chapel Hill, our senses are alive to the riches of the varied volumes in the Rare Book Collection. We look forward to sharing with you new acquisitions, “discoveries” in the stacks, and our doings. Bookmark us, or RSS feed, and keep up to date with bibliographical inquiry in a green spot.
Claudia Funke, Curator of Rare Books