Fashion Sense and Beardsley Prints

Noted collector Mark Samuels Lasner closed the RBC’s fall season of events with a wonderfully informative and well-presented lecture on “Aubrey Beardsley and His Publishers.” Thursday evening November 10th, some seventy-five people listened to Samuels Lasner explain how three London publishers – J. M. Dent, John Lane, and Leonard Smithers – shaped Beardsley’s artwork.

Samuels Lasner successfully conveyed the complex relationship between creativity and commerce, referring throughout to Chapel Hill’s strong Beardsley holdings, including genuine annotated proofs for Leonard Smithers’ periodical The Savoy (one is shown to the left). (We learned from Samuels Lasner’s lecture that prints called “proofs” are actually often later reproductions of Beardsley’s work!)

Beardsley material from RBC was on display for the evening, and people saw the items with new eyes after MSL’s enlightening talk. To quote Rod Stewart: “ageless, timeless, lace and fineness . . . beauty and elegance.”

Official Documents vs. Truth

“Residencias” were conducted to ascertain the probity of an outgoing official’s conduct. This particular residencia from Popayán, Colombia, looks into the conduct of one notary named Joachin Sanches. Popayán Papers.

UNC Professor of History Kathryn Burns delivered the RBC/ISA 2nd Hispanic Heritage Month Lecture last evening to an engaged and enthusiastic audience. Discussing her archival experiences in Cuzco that resulted in her recent book Into the Archive: Writing and Power in Colonial Peru (Duke, 2010), Burns provocatively challenged received notions of what official notarial documents can offer us. The talk stimulated much thought, and the question-and-answer portion of the evening was as lively as the lecture. Attendees came away with a sense of how archives and their documents are complicated constructs, and how they require careful interpretation, paralleling the kind commanded by printed books.

On display for the evening were the Hanes Foundation quipu, as well as rare books from the Bernard J. Flatow (UNC A.B. 1941) Collection of Latin American cronistas, and eighteenth-century documents from the Popayán Papers that illustrate notarial practice as discussed in Burns’s book. It was hard to close the  Wilson building, with so many people wishing to linger over the exhibits, their eyes opened to the objects’ significance by Prof. Burns’s lecture.

Banned and in the Rare Book Collection

One way that a book can become rare is to be banned. Banned books – the Rare Book Collection, it has them! A week ago, Tuesday evening, as part of the University-wide First Amendment Day, the Rare Book Collection sponsored an evening where members of the University community read from banned and censored books in the original editions held by RBC. There was also a small one-night display of banned books including Baudelaire’s Fleurs du mal (1857), the Olympia Press edition of Lolita (1955), and the Shakespeare and Company first edition of Ulysses (1922).

The earliest work read from was Voragine’s Golden Legend. RBC’s 1503 edition has the biography of Thomas Becket crossed through and the Pope’s name blotted out. As recently as a 2006 BBC poll, Becket was voted the second-most hated Briton – just behind Jack the Ripper! The censorship of the RBC copy probably took place in the 1530s.

Anne Steinberg, a graduate student in Romance Languages, read “Oppression” from Diderot and D’Alembert’s Encyclopédie – first in her wonderful velvet-voiced native French, and then in English translation. University Librarian Sarah Michalak read the dramatic scene of Eliza’s crossing the ice from Uncle Tom’s Cabin (the book was burned in Atlanta). Poet Michael McFee read from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in the 1855 edition. And Juan Carlos González Espitia, associate professor of Romance Languages, gave us a passage on suicide, in the original Spanish as well as an English translation, from José María Vargas Vila’s Ibis.

First Amendment attorney Hugh Stevens (also chair of the Friends of the Library) read from Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in Joyce’s Ulysses, as well as from Judge Woolsey’s landmark ruling that the book was not obscene. Although the RBC’s copy of the first edition – gift of James Patton (UNC A.B. 1948) and Mary Patton – was on display for the evening, Stevens read instead from the Egoist Press edition, printed eight months later. The copy had belonged to attorney Mangum Weeks (UNC A.B., 1915) and had an apt inscription referring to the inability of the book to travel through the U.S. mail.

Undergraduate English major Margaret Grady howled Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. And Kirill Tolpygo, Interim Librarian for Slavic & East European Resources & Curator of the André Savine Collection, ended the program with a brilliant passage from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s First Circle. He read it from the first Russian edition, and then in English translation from a paperback that had belonged to American writer Walker Percy.

It was an enthusiastic audience, with many undergraduate students being exposed to writers previously unknown to them. Indeed. Libraries exist to collect the historical record. We value the First Amendment!

A Fabulous 14th Hanes Lecture

A standing-room-only crowd assembled last evening in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room at Wilson Library to hear eminent art historian Prof. David Freedberg deliver the 14th Hanes Lecture, presented by the Hanes Foundation for the Study of the Origin and Development of the Book.

The audience was rapt as Prof. Freedberg spoke eloquently on “Pictures, Books, and Science: From Description to Diagram in the Circle of Galileo.” The lecture was long, but attention never wavered! The 17th- century quest to record the natural world by descriptive book illustrations vs. schematic diagrams and charts had all eyes focused on the projected images, and all ears following the speaker’s every well-chosen word.

Indeed, the lively evening fulfilled the Chapel Hill Rare Book Collection’s mission to promote rigorous intellectual thought – and joy. Everyone was smiling as Prof. Freedberg finished his lecture with the famous telescopic moon renderings. Of course – the moon belongs to everyone, the best things in life are free!

With this resounding success, the Rare Book Collection looks forward to continuing the distinguished Hanes Lecture series on the history of the book in the years ahead.


Original Sin Reprinted

Sometimes a book is so rare and so important, it gets to be reprinted. Last year the Rare Book Collection was thrilled to receive a copy of Un mejicano: el pecado de Adan (A Mexican: Adam’s Sin), printed in 1838 in the city of Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. The gift of George and Melinda Stuart, it joined the wealth of rare Yucatan imprints in our Stuart Collection. Our copy is one of only five listed in the WorldCat database.

We knew the book was important, being so early for a work of literature published in the Yucatan. But we didn’t know that just months before receiving it, the Instituto de Cultura de Yucatán had reprinted the volume because of its literary and historical significance.

The introduction to the new edition by Rubén Reyes Ramírez describes the work as the first “novel” of the Yucatan, inspired in form by Dante’s Inferno. The work was controversial because of its treatment of religious themes and Mexican and Yucatan independence. The author, Pedro Almeira, destroyed most copies after publication, hence its scarcity.

Our original has a bookseller’s label on its front pastedown: “Establecimiento de M. T. Almeida y de J. C. Caseres. Merida de Yucatan” – the former, perhaps a relative of the author. It also has the upside-down ownership stamp of one “G. Molina” on the title-page, that surname belonging to one of the prominent families of the Yucatan.

The physical attributes of the original speak to its moment in history in a way that the 2010 reprint cannot. Ironically enough, however, as rare as the 1838 printing is, the reprint is even scarcer among U.S. libraries. At this writing, UNC Chapel Hill is the only institution listed in WorldCat as holding it! Institute publications are notoriously difficult to obtain. We were lucky that UNC Mayan literature expert Prof. Emilio Del Valle Escalante obtained a copy for the Library while visiting Merida.

We’re holding fast to our original – and glad to have the reprint accessible in Davis Library. Perhaps this post will encourage other U.S. libraries to acquire copies of the new edition of Un mejicano: el pecado de Adan.




John Donne’s Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions

We are excited to report that we’ve acquired a very rare edition of John Donne’s famous Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, known best for containing the oft-quoted “No man is an island” and from whence Ernest Hemingway received inspiration for the title of his book, For Whom the Bell Tolls. Our copy is of the very uncommon fourth edition (1634) and is all the more rare because it includes the engraved title-page by William Marshal depicting Donne in his death shroud based on his marble effigy in St. Paul. The fourth edition is the first with this engraved title-page, which is often missing in other copies.

BV4831 .D6 1634 / William A. Whitaker Fund

The passage containing Donne’s famous lines is found in Meditation XVII, ‘Nunc lento sonitu dicunt, Morieris’, the tolling of the passing bell:

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the Maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontory were, as well as if a Mannor of thy Friends, or of thine owne were; Any mans death diminishes mee, because I am involved in Mankinde, and therefore never send to know for whom the Bell tolls, It tolls for thee.


Physiologie du musicien – Wick Collection of French Romantic Literature

The Physiologies of a variety of subjects—including the physiology of physiologies—were all the vogue in France between 1840 and 1850. A new one in the Rare Book Collection is the Physiologie du musicien, acquired as part of Peter Wick’s incredibly rich collection. Written by Albert Cler and illustrated with wood-engraved vignettes by Daumier, Gavarni, Janet-Lange, and Valentin, this tongue-in-cheek analysis of the musician is broken down into chapters dealing with topics such as …

Comparing musicians of before and today, the latter among whom is featured the famous pianist and composer Franz Liszt:

Franz Liszt

As well as a hilarious jab at musical amateurs, connoisseurs, and dilettantes,

among whom we might find those who, at the Opera, insist very seriously that they simply cannot hear and understand the music without a lorgnette:

We’ve Been Busy, But Now We’re Back!

We’ve been busy since we launched our Blog. The Print Council of America made its first visit ever to North Carolina at the end of May, and Wilson Library was the venue for the annual meeting. The Rare Book Collection mounted displays of its diverse graphic holdings. Caricature is back in vogue, as a presentation at the meeting indicated, and our Cruikshank, Grandville, and Leech materials were much appreciated. Our copy of Grandville’s Types modernes, from the famous Donaueschingen Library—and with original drawings—was a particular standout.

Also on view for the Print Council was the new exhibition Meaningful Marks: Image and Text and the History of the Book. Up through September 28, the show explores why authors, artists, editors, and publishers often join image with text, creating more complex composite texts. It features some of the Rare Book Collection’s most provocative illustrated books.

Image of the Emperor, in Archbishop Rabanus Maurus of Mainz, De laudibus Sancte Crucis opus (Pforzheim, 1503)
Vivien and Merlin, in Julia Margaret Cameron, Illustrations to Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, and Other Poems (London, 1875)
Handmade colophon with 1763 print of the Virgin of Guadalupe, for Molina, Vocabulario en lengua castellana y mexicana (Mexico City, 1571)
Wampum Snake and Red Lily, in Mark Catesby, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (London, 1731–1743)
Aubrey Beardsley, illustrator, Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, proof for Oscar Wilde’s Salome (1893)
Eugène Delacroix, illustrator, Gretchen in Church, in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust: tragédie de M. de Goethe (Paris, 1828)