Enlightened Timekeeping

Almanach des bergers pour la Seconde Année Républicaine… (Paris: 1793) / QB807 .A46 1793

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.


Page 35 of the Almanach des bergers showing the phases of the moon during Pluviôse, the fifth month of the revolutionary year, which started around January 20 and ended around February 20

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.

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Honoring Alumni Collectors: Bernard J. Flatow, in memoriam

Medina_New World

Pedro de Medina, Libro de grandezas y cosas memorables de España (Seville, 1549) / Flatow DP64 M44 1549 superv’d

This past Saturday, Wilson Library  opened for alumni reunions on campus. And in the Grand Reading Room, a display from the Rare Book Collection demonstrated the diverse collecting interests of UNC graduates.

Among the titles exhibited was an early geographical and historical guidebook to Spain (left). Written for the young prince who would become King Philip II, the volume also includes information on Spain’s exploration of the New World. The RBC’s copy came to UNC in 1985 as part of the Bernard J. Flatow Collection of Latin American Cronistas. Mr. Flatow (B.A. 1941), who received an honorary degree in 2013, passed away on May 1st.

The map of the “Nuevo Mundo” (above) is an appropriate image to represent the breadth of Bernard Flatow’s life activities. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies from Carolina and became a diplomat in the world of business and public relations. In the 1950s, Flatow worked in Bolivia as director of public relations for one of the largest tin mining companies in the world and then for The Texas Company and Sinclair in Colombia and Venezuela. He later handled public relations in Latin America for Pepsi Cola and 20th Century Fox.

With these contacts, he started exchange programs: one bringing 54 Mexican professionals in 21 areas of study to Chapel Hill; one between Venezuela and Kenan-Flagler Business School; and another with specialists in physical therapy and rehabilitation of the blind, between Mexico and the UNC School of Medicine.

Flatow was a member of the Mexican Institute of Culture, and his collection of seventy-six rare books pertaining to the early history of European contacts with the New World is housed in the RBC.

This writer recalls a delightful luncheon with Mr. Flatow and Prof. Kathryn Burns in July 2011. He told wonderful stories of his time in Latin America and his pursuit of rare books there. The best story we heard, however, was about how his passion for the Spanish language began.

When in high school in New York, Flatow was a dedicated member of the tennis team. The sport took a lot of practice time, and he figured if there were one course he could safely neglect, it would be Spanish. He ended up getting a poor grade, and his father, reviewing his report card, told him that he wanted to see an “A” the next time.

So, Flatow took to learning the language with real vigor, attending gatherings at the Pan American Club in New York City. It was filled with businessmen with Latin American concerns, and Flatow was the only teenager there. They took him under their wing. Eventually Flatow found his way to UNC-Chapel Hill, and studied Spanish with Prof. Sturgis E. Leavitt.

At the end of the 2011 luncheon, Mr. Flatow generously presented the Rare Book Collection with a gift in honor of Prof. Leavitt: Exposición que hace un peruano al virey Lacerna, a cerca del verdadero estado político de la América en la presente época (Santiago de Chile: Imprenta Nacional, 1822) Flatow F1412 .P47 1822.

In addition to an honorary doctor of laws degree, Flatow’s UNC awards include the General Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Medal and the Board of Trustees’ William Richardson Davie Award.

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Juliana Powell Earns Student Employee Award

image001The Rare Book Collection is proud to congratulate Juliana Powell, Class of 2016, on winning the 2014–2015 Library Student Employee Appreciation Award. Recipients of the award are chosen by SLAB, the Student Library Advisory Board, a dynamic group comprised of graduate and undergraduate students who broadly represent the academic programs and overall diversity of the UNC student body.

Juliana has worked in the Wilson Library as a student employee since 2012. Her wide-ranging intellectual interests, which span from Japanese language and culture to biology and medical sciences, are matched by an assiduous work ethic. Juliana’s primary duties include paging and reshelving books in the Rare Book Collection, as well as special projects.

We asked Juliana to contribute her thoughts on her work at Wilson, and to tell us about her favorite volume handled during her time as a research and reference associate. She had this to say:

“There are undoubtedly numerous collections that I could comment on, including C.S. Lewis’s personal, annotated library, as well as the Wordsworth collection with its winsome bindings and Type-A cataloguing system. I have collected antique books with my mother since I was a child, namely children’s books that include first editions of Maurice Sendak’s work and Sam, Bangs & Moonshine by Evaline Ness. Although there are few children’s books in the Rare Book Collection, Wilson’s copy of The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey is a children’s book with illustrations similarly styled to the work of the aforementioned authors. The nature of the book and that of Gorey’s previous work ranges from innocent to nothing less than sombre, and I was captivated by this light-hearted, yet, anomalous story. For me, the following verses summarize a genuine reaction towards life, and it has taken my fastidious self years to realize that I am not capable of being in control of every aspect of my life. In the grand scale of a metaphor, however, expecting the doubtful guest and knowing when to surrender concerns is an equally anomalous story in and of itself.”

When they answered the bell on that wild winter night,
There was no one expected—and no one in sight.
Then they saw something standing on top of an urn,
Whose peculiar appearance gave them quite a turn.
All at once it leapt down and ran into the hall,
Where it chose to remain with its nose to the wall.
It was seemingly deaf to whatever they said,
So at last they stopped screaming, and went off to bed.

The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey is call no. PS3513 .O614 D6

The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey is call no. PS3513 .O614 D6

Thank you Juliana! For more information on the awards, see the UNC Library News Blog.

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Book History Students Visit the RBC

This semester the Rare Book Collection was thrilled to host a visit from graduate students in Dr. Ryan Shaw’s INLS 550: Reading the History of the Book course. We gave them a tour through material book history, heard about their researches in RBC’s reading room, and let them get up close and personal with some excellent teaching examples from the Collection. Books and other items were laid out at different stations, exposing students to topics such as the transition from manuscript to print, the differences between hand-press and machine-press books, binding styles and practices, paper, typography, format, early indexing systems, and non-Western book traditions.

Up close with Ms. 98

Up close with Ms. 98

The students examined a Latin manuscript of Spanish origin, written in 1173 in north Castile or Navarre. This manuscript, on parchment, features rubrication, pricked margins, and an ornamental initial.

Rare book research librarian Emily Kader described the process of making paper by hand and showed the students an example of a watermark with the help of a light sheet.

A volume from the Incunabula collection showed the students an early example of a concordance. This book was meant for use by the clergy and contains explanations of difficult words in the Bible. It also features capital spaces left by the printer, here filled in by hand in red, a tradition held over from medieval manuscript culture.


IMG_6415_So. Pam. 1209_

Emily Kader explained the concept of bibliographic format showing a bound octavo volume alongside an unbound pamphlet made up of one sheet of paper, that had been printed and folded into an octavo gathering.

A 1584 edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses provided the students with an example of a book containing an early modern index.

A nineteenth-century manuscript containing Islamic prayers, decorated with vivid pigments and gold leaf allowed the class to see a traditional type of Arabic binding. This style of binding features a flap that extends from the back cover, folds over the book’s fore edge, and tucks under the front cover of the book.





Graduate student Kathleen Monahan helped the students navigate the Liber Chronicarum, better known as the Nuremberg Chronicle, of 1493. The students examined the book’s woodcuts and were able to locate an image depicting Pope Joan.

The Nuremberg Chronicle provided early modern readers with an illustrated history of the world as it was known in Europe in the fifteenth century.

The students compared different styles of binding, here with two copies of the same edition, one bound by a former owner in pigskin, the other bound by a former owner in calf.

The students also examined a volume from the RBC’s Victorian Bindings Collection, a fine example of the late nineteenth-century innovation of decorated publisher’s bindings.

We welcome classes with relevant interests to visit the Rare Book Collection and integrate its holdings into their curricula. Teachers and students who are interested in using the RBC for teaching or research can get in touch with us at wilsonlibrary@unc.edu

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April 1968


McClure, Michael. Grahhr April grharrr April, [Buffalo: Gallery Upstairs Press, 1968] | PS3563.A262 G72 1968

Rough winds may shake the darling buds of May, but the rumbling grahhr of April is what gets us shaking in the Rare Book Collection. We offer for your consideration this broadside from the Beats Collection. The poem is one of several written and performed by controversial Beat poet Michael McClure during the mid-1960s to feature prominent onomonopiac transliterations of beastly speech. Much of McClure’s poetry explores the animistic meatiness of human bodies, abandoning social codes in favor of raw experience.


Detail from McClure, Michael. Grahhr April grharrr April, [Buffalo: Gallery Upstairs Press, 1968] | PS3563.A262 G72 1968

The poem’s aggressive juxtaposition of elements of vitality and mortality echo the tumultuous events of April, 1968, a watershed month in the history of the United States that saw the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and mounting public protests against the Vietnam War.

Large in format (54 x 73 cm), the broadside arranges McClure’s poem symmetrically along a vertical axis, mirroring words and punctuation. The bright, calligraphic red script draws the eye to the visual arrangement of words, distracting from their syntactic meaning. In the background is a stock image of a lion in blue. Blown large and grainy, the lion confronts the reader with his animal and his printed presence, simultaneously an icon of nature and of manufacture.

McClure was well known for his public readings—Kerouac’s Dharma Bums includes a fictionalized account of his performance at the 1955 San Francisco Six Gallery. Those interested in hearing this poem vocalized are encouraged to consult the catalog for a 1968 recording on vinyl where McClure appears alongside fellow Beats Allen Ginsburg, Lew Welch, and Aram Saroyan, amongst others. McClure also recorded a filmed version in 1966 where he reads the poem aloud to a cage of lions.

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“We like March, his shoes are purple”

Here at the Rare Book Collection, we find ourselves agreeing with Miss Emily Dickinson–we, too, like March. Especially as it brings with it our 2015 Recent Acquisitions Event. February snows caused us to postpone this biennial showcase of the collections, but its time has come ’round at last. On March 31st, we invite you to join us in the Grand Reading Room in Wilson Library from 5 to 7 p.m. for a not-under-glass display.

RBC_Folio2_F1376_W1518_1838_supervd_pl_iv copy 2

Frédéric de Waldeck. Voyage pittoresque et archéologique dans la province d’Yucatan (Amérique Centrale), pendant les années 1834 et 1836. Paris: Bellizard Dufour et Co, 1838 | F1376 .W1518 1838 Folio-2 | Hanes Foundation for the Study of the Origin and Development of the Book

The items on display were acquired over the last two years and include purchases made on endowed funds as well as materials donated by alumni, staff, and other friends. The great variety of the display underscores not only the diversity of collecting interests within the Rare Book Collection, but also the intellectual passions of our community of benefactors.

These galley proofs contain emendations in Eliot's hand and an inscription from E. McKnight Kauffer, an artist and book designer who worked with Eliot and the Curwen Press.   T. S. Eliot. Four Quartets galley proof. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1943 | in process | Gift of James R. and Mary M. Patton.

These galley proofs contain emendations in Eliot’s hand and an inscription from E. McKnight Kauffer, an artist and book designer who worked with Eliot and the Curwen Press.
T. S. Eliot. Four Quartets galley proof. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1943 | Patton Folio-2 PS3509 .L43 F6 1943b | Gift of James R. and Mary M. Patton.

The pictures in this post highlight just some of the materials included in the event—the full list is so superlative that we find it rather difficult to pick examples.

Literature in English is well represented by items as diverse as galley proofs for T.S. Eliot’s tour de force modernist masterpiece The Four Quartets and Geffrey Whitney’s A Choice of Emblemes and Other Devises (1586), the first illustrated English emblem book, thought to have informed Shakespeare’s works.

There are also strong examples of innovation in visual media, with items such as Flora Anomoia (1817), the first British book illustrated by nature printing, Ansel Adam’s photographic volume Taos Pueblo (1930), and Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse’s Between Page and Screen (2012), an experimental book that explores the pleasure and play that emerge when the printed page meets the computer screen.

pend nameh 2

This important work of Sufi poetry contains the text in French and Persian.
Farīd al-Dīn ʻAṭṭār. Pend-namèh. ou Le livre des conseils de Férid-Eddin Attar. Traduit et publié par M. le B. on Silvestre de Sacy. Paris: Debure brothers, 1819 | Accession 130829 | London Fund

The Acquisitions Evening is also our opportunity to showcase the global aspect of the Rare Book Collection. The evening will include poetry and fiction from France, Ireland, Persia, and the West Indies, travel books on Mexico and the Yucatán, French colonial serials from Vietnam, and books printed in Scotland, Russia, Barbados, and Belgium.

As an added bonus, visitors will also have an opportunity to view the exhibition An Alphabet of Treasures: Special Collections from A to Z in the Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room. The exhibition features a wide array of items from six University Library special collections, arranged alphabetically by themes—including three recent Rare Book Collection acquisitions: the University Library’s seven millionth volume, Juan Latino’s Ad catholicum … (1573); an early nineteenth-century traveling library; and Karel Teige’s avant-garde masterpiece Abeceda (1926).

The Rare Book Collection Recent Acquisitions Evening takes place Tuesday, March 31, 2015 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Grand Reading Room in Wilson Special Collections Library. The event is free and open to the public.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day from UNC’s Rare Book Collection

Across the Western world today, the legendary deeds of Saint Patrick, the fifth-century “Apostle of Ireland,” are celebrated by the Irish and the Irish-at-heart. Pictured here is a page from The Rhymed Life of St. Patrick that describes one of the Saint’s most legendary acts, the banishment of Ireland’s snakes.


Katharine Tynan, The Rhymed Life of St. Patrick (London, 1907) / Yeats PR4790.H3 R59 1907 / Hanes Foundation for the Study of the Origin and Development of the Book

The Rhymed Life of St. Patrick, by the Irish poet and novelist Katharine Tynan, is a work from 1907. During the early twentieth century, Irish writers and poets wanted to present an Irish identity that was void of British influence. The growing interest in Irish language and culture at that time, as seen in The Rhymed Life of St. Patrick, fueled what would become known as the Irish Literary Renaissance. It was Tynan’s contemporary (and one-time suitor) W.B. Yeats, who came to lead the movement.

The Rare Book Collection has a substantial W.B. Yeats collection, acquired as the University Library’s five millionth volume through the generosity of the Hanes Family Foundation. The RBC also has many works from other Irish Literary Renaissance writers like Tynan, John Millington Synge, and Sean O’Casey.

Outstanding Irish purchases of late will be on display at our Recent Acquisitions Evening on March 31. Until then, we wish you a safe and pleasant Saint Patrick’s Day!

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Such Love I Don’t Envy!

Francesco Petrarca, Il Petrarca (Lyons, 1550) PQ4476 .B50

Francesco Petrarca, Il Petrarca (Lyons, 1550) / Whitaker Fund / PQ4476 .B50

If you find yourself in the grips of unrequited love this Valentine’s Day, you might seek company with the verse of Francesco Petrarca, esteemed lyric poet of early Renaissance Italy. Petrarca (often known as Petrarch in English) wrote that he first spotted his muse-to-be Laura in church, at an Easter mass in 1327. Her glowing beauty and evident virtue immediately overwhelmed him. She quickly became the heart (!) of hundreds of his poems. The title page from the pocket edition at left (printed in France by Jean de Tournes) shows the profiles of Petrarch and Laura: he gazes dreamily at the wondrous beauty before him, while she follows Cupid’s arrow with her eyes. A previous owner of the volume has commented with a manuscript annotation above: “tel amour n’envie,” “such love I don’t envy.”

The book contains Petrarca’s songs about Laura that form his Canzoniere, as well as his poems known as the Trionfi or Triumphs. Laura’s true identity has never been confirmed, although she may well have been Laure de Noves of Avignon, who was born in 1310 and died in 1348 during the Black Plague. The name Laura conveniently coincides with the Italian words for laurel and breeze, both particularly poetic.

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Travel Through Time: The Gregorian Calendar

With the start of a new year and a new calendar, it is timely to reflect on how calendars have evolved and changed throughout the centuries. One volume in the Rare Book Collection has particular value for this endeavor, the Martyrologium Romanum ad novam kalendarii rationem et ecclesiasticae historiae veritatem restitutum.

The RBC edition of the Martyrologium Romanum was published in 1598, just fifteen years after Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar.  Before 1582, most of the western world used the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BCE.  The Julian calendar had 365 days divided into 12 months with a leap day added to February every 4 years, making each year exactly 365.25 days long.

Under the Julian system, the equinoxes and solstices advanced by 11 minutes annually with respect to the calendar.  While this seems like a small increment, this meant that by the 16th century, the spring equinox was falling on March 11th rather than March 21st.  This was a particular problem for the Catholic Church because the date of Easter each year depended in part on the full moon after the equinox, so the shift in the calendar caused Easter to be celebrated earlier and earlier in the year.  To solve this problem Gregory XIII instituted a small reform.  His Gregorian calendar moved ahead 10 days and would omit three leap years every four centuries.  The Gregorian calendar is still in use today, and while it remains out of sync with the astronomical calendar by twenty-six seconds, it will take thirty-five centuries before the calendar is off by an entire day.

The Martyrologium Romanum was published by the Typographia Apostolica Vaticana, the official printing press of the Vatican.  The 1589 edition is the third and was updated to include the feast days of Nereus and Achilleus (two early Roman martyrs) in the calendar. This combination of a calendar and theological history was not intended for a single year, but was intended for reuse each year.  To that end, rather than assign the day of the week to each date, every entry has what is known as a Dominical Letter. January 1 starts with A, and the sequence runs through G and then repeats. It would be announced each year on which letter all Sundays fell.

Epact table

Epact table

Because lunar dates were also valuable, particularly in determining the date of Easter as well as some other moveable feasts, each entry also lists the ages or phases of the moon in a table, depending on the epact (or age of the moon on January 1) of the year, which can be determined using charts at the beginning of the volume.  If we’ve done the calculations correctly, the age of the moon for 2015 will be listed under the character “k” for each entry in this volume and all Sundays fall under dates with the Dominical Letter “D.”

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Happy Holiday Travels!

Polaris DisasterWhen making a trip to the North Pole, you may have better luck hitching a sleigh ride with a mysterious old man cloaked in red, rather than traveling with arctic explorer Charles Francis Hall. His expedition to the North Pole in 1871 via the sailing ship Polaris ended in disaster due to harsh weather and an unruly crew. Hall’s arctic adventure and many others are chronicled by Alexander Hyde in The Frozen Zone and Its Explorers  (Hartford, Conn., 1874) / Travel Collection G620 .H9. Wherever you are headed this time of year, the Rare Book Collection wishes you safe travels and a good read.  Happy Holidays!


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