The Rare Book Collection and the University Library mourn the loss of George Stuart (Ph.D. 1975), beloved good friend and benefactor.
The Rare Book Collection and the University Library mourn the loss of George Stuart (Ph.D. 1975), beloved good friend and benefactor.
A week ago, on a stormy Thursday, May 15, Wilson Library gave shelter to sessions of the 2014 Conference of the North American Society for Seventeenth-Century French Literature (NASSCFL).
At lunch hour, the Rare Book Collection mounted a selection of outstanding and eclectic imprints from the Grand Siècle, to the delight of the very knowledgeable conference attendees, who left behind their sandwiches and drinks for some bibliographical nourishment.
Materials were grouped thematically: “Arts & Science,” “L’Imprimerie Royale,” “Mazarinades,” “History & Literature,” and “Women as Agents and Objects.” Clearly, there was something for everyone, as well as much surprise that such French literary resources resided in Chapel Hill. In particular, the extensive collection of Mazarinades—pamphlets published during the French civil wars known as the Fronde—elicited a fair degree of wonder. RBC’s cataloging of the approximately 1,000 titles overlapped with the publication of Hubert Carrier’s two-volume opus, Les mazarinades (Geneva, 1989-1991), which consequently failed to note UNC’s impressive holdings. Examples on display and the two drawers of shelflist cards received much attention.
Professor Ellen Welch, of UNC’s Department of Romance Languages & Literatures (and a co-organizer for the NASSCFL conference), has certainly used the Mazarinade collection to great advantage with her advanced French literature courses. A recent class did in-depth analysis of a small selection and produced an informative website.
The 2014 NASSCFL conference display was enjoyed not only by conference attendees but also by Wilson Library employees, who found new books to love. A particular favorite is Adrian Sicler’s scarce cabbalistic palmistry text (left). And our recent acquisition of a rare edition of Melusine has already inspired a post on Wilson Library’s tumblr.
The RBC is pleased to be sponsoring the current Wilson Library exhibition, Imagining the U.S. Civil War 1861-1900, curated by Professor Eliza Richards’s undergraduate seminar in American literature. On April 24, the show opened with a lively reception, where the 21 student curators fielded questions from some 120 visitors about the over 80 items on display. Organized into categories such as “Union and Confederate Poetry,” “The Suffering of Prisoners,” “African American Literature” and “Women at War,” the diverse materials include memoirs, dime novels, anthologies, photographs, broadsides, periodicals, and even a surgical kit.
Professor Eliza Richards led the reading- and research-intensive semester class, and students worked closely with Library staff to create an exhibition that gives a unique perspective on the epochal event through the superb holdings of Wilson Library’s Rare Book Collection, North Carolina Collection, and Southern Historical Collection, as well as the Special Collections at the Health Sciences Library.
The opening took place the day after Unesco’s World Book Day, April 23, the death date of writers William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes. April 23 is also the feast day of St. George, or Sant Jordi, in Catalonia, where it is traditional for a man to present a rose to his beloved. In 1923, a bookseller created an adjunct tradition that caught on, in which a woman gives a book to her loved one. Millions of roses and hundreds of thousands of books are exchanged throughout Spain on April 23.
And so, in gratitude for presenting the public with so many amazing books, the student curators were presented with red roses, which they brandished with great flair for a group photograph.
The exhibition is up for graduation this weekend and continues through July 20.
The current Rooms of Wonder exhibition, which closes this Thursday, April 17, continues to attract enthusiastic viewers in its last weeks and days. On Saturday April 7, participants in the graduate student conference “Making Knowledge in Medieval and Early Modern Literary Culture”—a collaboration between UNC and Kings College, London—streamed into Wilson to see the show with the expert guidance of Professor Jessica Wolfe, who spoke at length about some of her favorite books on display.
Then the large group moved to the Pleasants Family Assembly Room to hear Dr. Pamela Smith, Seth Low Professor of History at Columbia University, deliver the conference’s keynote address, “From Matter to Ideas: Making Natural Knowledge in Early Modern Europe.” Professor Smith examined Renaissance mining and metalworking and the codification of that industrial and artisanal knowledge in Early Modern manuscript and printed books, such as the woodcut-illustrated editions of Georg Bauer, or Agricola. The lecture, one in the English & Comparative Literature Department’s Critical Speaker series, is available in full in video at their site.
The picture above, while illustrating Professor Smith’s lecture, also demonstrates how strangely distorted the experience of books can be when mediated by modern digital technology. So do listen to (and watch) the lecture, but come in one last time if you can to behold the marvelous printed books lent by alumna Florence Fearrington for Rooms of Wonder: From Wunderkammer to Museum, 1565-1865.
On Saturday March 29, the Modernextension Dance Company demonstrated the vitality of rare books in a multimedia dance program, which was partially inspired by Abeceda, a classic work of Czech modernism recently acquired by the Rare Book Collection. The company, directed by Heather Tatreau, performed their “Haunted” program to a full-capacity audience, who were encouraged to change their vantage points during the seven dance pieces, in order to experience different views from within the University’s historic Gerrard Hall space.
Vítězslav Nezval’s Abeceda, or “Alphabet,” was the inspiration for the piece “Ghost,” choreographed by Wilson Library employee and Modernextension Dance Company member Matt Karkutt, and “To the Letter,” in which five dancers created solos in response to the book. Abeceda, published in Prague in 1926, shows dancer Milča Mayerová enacting letters of the Latin alphabet, opposite Nezval’s poems. The noted Czech graphic designer Karel Teige is responsible for the illustrations, which manipulate photographs by K. Paspa.
Karkutt’s choreography and the solo dances effectively exploded common conceptions of the static nature of letterforms and books. Dancers mimicked Mayerová’s poses and spelled out words, with images from the book projected behind them.
It was an evening of forceful performances, with a great vibe. The Rare Book Collection hopes for future collaborations with other artists on campus. Indeed, the RBC considers itself a museum in the very best sense of the word: in it, the muses are at work. All artists–and every man is an artist–are encouraged to seek inspiration in the Rare Book Collection.
A week ago, on Thursday March 20, some two hundred Library supporters gathered in the FedEx Global Education Center’s Peacock Atrium for a reception and viewing of UNC-Chapel Hill’s seven millionth volume, Juan Latino’s first book, the first book of poetry in a Western language published by an individual of Sub-Saharan African descent.
After much joyous socializing, the crowd moved into the Nelson Mandela Auditorium, where University Librarian Sarah Michalak welcomed the audience and spoke about the significance of Latino’s book for UNC-Chapel Hill. And then Borden Hanes formally presented the volume to Chancellor Carol Folt as the gift of the Hanes Foundation in memory of his father, University benefactor Frank Borden Hanes, Sr.
Following Chancellor Folt’s acceptance on behalf of the University, Curator of Rare Books Claudia Funke had the great pleasure of introducing the evening’s speaker, Professor Michael A. Gómez, who gave a masterful address, “Juan Latino and the Dawn of Modernity.”
The public program concluded with closing remarks from Sarah Michalak and the distribution of a beautifully printed keepsake edition of Professor Gómez’s lecture.
There were further festivities at Wilson Library, where the book will be on public view through April 17 and live thereafter in perpetuity in the Rare Book Collection. Seven is indeed a lucky number!
This past week was UNC’s Spring break, and most of our students have been away, at their families’ homes or traveling. No doubt, they’ve all had with them electronic devices: smartphones, iPads, laptops, and Kindles. And maybe some made their journeys with a paperback or two.
Well, if they’d lived two centuries earlier, their portable reading matter might have had more style. The traveling library above, which the Rare Book Collection acquired last fall, is one of the earliest examples of its kind, the volumes bearing dates from 1802 to 1815. The whole is complete, with all 49 miniature books present, corresponding to the engraved contents list (above left), pasted to the inside of the original book-shaped box.
Each volume is 3-1/2 inches high, the pages comparable in size to a smartphone’s screen. Titles include classics by French authors such as Molière, Racine, and Voltaire, as well as the works of other writers less well-known to Anglophones today.
Certainly, this traveling library is limited in content and more cumbersome than recent inventions, but what an elegant way to read on the go. Lore has it Napoleon even owned one.
We make one final post for Black History Month on this last day, and an exciting post it is. The University Library has just announced that its seven millionth volume—to be presented by the Hanes Foundation on March 20—is a copy of the first book by Renaissance humanist Juan Latino, widely considered to be the first person of sub-Saharan African ancestry to publish a book of poetry in a Western language. The rare and important 16th-century imprint will become a part of the Rare Book Collection. Read more about Latino and his book in the library news release. And join us for the viewing, presentation ceremony, and a lecture by Professor Michael A. Gómez at the FedEx Global Education Center.
We couldn’t let Black History Month pass without blogging about the Rare Book Collection’s outstanding resources for the study of the Black tradition. Here we highlight a recent acquisition and an extraordinary survival. This ephemeral broadside for the Sabbath School of the State Street M.E. Church is an African-American imprint, dateline Mobile, Alabama, March 17, 1865. There is only one other printing issued in the Confederate States of America known to be of African-American authorship.
This single sheet gives the rules, regulations, and by-laws for a school that appears to have became the first one for African-Americans in the state of Alabama. Sabbath schools were different from the Sunday schools of our era, offering non-religious instruction on the Sabbath, that day being the only one of the week that the laboring classes might have free. The creation of a school for African Americans was a bold move, and this document was produced on the very day that Union forces began their campaign to take the port city.
The State Street Methodist Church was founded in 1829 as a mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, later the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. It came to have a congregation of 500 full members by 1855, when an imposing Italianate structure had been erected as its home. The landmark building still exists in Mobile.
In Urban Emancipation: Popular Politics in Reconstruction Mobile, 1860-1890 (Baton Rouge, 2002), Michael W. Fitzgerald notes that “less than one month after the city fell, the ‘State Street M.E. Colored Church’ opened a school with the assistance of a northern aid society. Ten days later over five hundred students were in attendance, gathered from churches throughout the city.” The broadside now in the RBC would seem to relate to that school’s origins and history. It also elicits all kinds of queries: from the circumstances of access to a printing press to the identities and lives of the “Committee and Framers,” a few of whom can be found in the 1870 census for Mobile, with their “Color” listed variously as Mulatto or Black.
Other schools for African Americans rapidly opened in Mobile in the wake of State Street’s. Tragically, at least two were destroyed by arson. A true rarity, the RBC’s broadside provides material evidence of the Black quest for education in the United States and opens up new avenues for thought and research on Reconstruction and Black history in the American South.
A record-breaking number of people arrived at Wilson Library last night to view Rooms of Wonder: From Wunderkammer to Museum, 1565-1865 , an exhibition from the collection of alumna Florence Fearrington (A.B. 1958). The extraordinary assemblage of books, prints, and objects captivated an audience of over 200 students, faculty, and friends, who came from near and far. Exhibition goers had the opportunity to examine a range of important items that document the cabinets of curiosities phenomenon, from the first book to illustrate a specimen cabinet (1565) to a P. T. Barnum show bill advertising living wonders (1863).
Also on display were objects from the North Carolina Collection Gallery’s natural history holdings and the Rare Book Collection’s own Curiosities Cabinet (mostly non-codex examples from the history of the book), all of which recall the contents of Wunderkammers past and greatly enhanced the exhibition experience.
After the viewing and reception, people headed down to the Pleasants Family Assembly Room to hear a lecture entitled “The Cabinet of Curiosities in Word and Image: 500 Years of Representation (and Misrepresentation),” delivered by the leading scholar on Wunderkammers and the origins of museums, Arthur MacGregor, former curator of antiquities at Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum.
The overflowing crowd was also accommodated in a room on the other side of Wilson’s lobby, where a live audio-video stream enabled those seated there to follow the speaker’s every word and projected image.
MacGregor gave a sweeping survey of cabinets of curiosities, analyzing the degree to which many of the arresting renderings of Wunderkammers matched—or failed to match—their textual descriptions. It was an expert exploration of the topic, and appreciated by all in attendance. UNC is grateful to Mr. MacGregor, and, of course, to Ms. Fearrington for such a special evening.
The show will be up for the next two months, and we suspect that we’ll see many of you in the Saltarelli Exhibit Room again and again, as this is an exhibition that repays revisiting. Also, mark your calendars for a future Rooms of Wonder lecture on Saturday, April 5, by Prof. Pamela Smith of Columbia University.