Purchases at the Pirie Sale

Thomas Browne, A True and Full Copy of that which Was Most Imperfectly and Surreptitiously Printed Before under the Name of Religio Medici (London: For Andrew Crooke, 1643)
Thomas Browne, A True and Full Coppy of that which Was Most Imperfectly and Surreptitiously Printed Before under the Name of Religio Medici (London: For Andrew Crooke, 1643) | William A. Whitaker Fund

The rare book world is filled with talk about the recent sale of the library of late collector Robert S. Pirie. UNC Professor Emeritus Mark L. Reed, III, recalls Pirie as a classmate at Harvard many decades ago, in William Jackson’s bibliography course. Reed was a graduate student in English literature, and Pirie was the only undergraduate in the class. Mark Reed went on to teach at UNC and become a leading Wordsworth scholar, bibliographer, and collector. (His Wordsworth collection, the basis for his 2013 bibliography, now resides at UNC.) And Pirie went on to a career as an attorney and investment banker and to form “what will always be considered one of the finest libraries of English literature of not just our time, but of all time,” as the Sotheby’s sale catalog states.

Pirie’s collection was mostly sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature, and the RBC acquired three books from it that fit nicely with faculty research and existing holdings. Serendipitously, Mark Reed is among the members of the Whitaker Fund Committee, which approved these purchases.

First among the three works is the rare first authorized edition of Religio Medici, which supports the scholarship of UNC Professor Reid Barbour. Professor Barbour writes about its significance:

“When it was first published in the 1640s, Sir Thomas Browne’s Religio Medici made an immediate and a powerful impact on readers throughout Europe. Readers of a wide spectrum of confessional identities celebrated it for its peaceful form of Christianity but others roundly condemned it as atheistic. Over the course of nearly a decade, Browne had transformed the work on several occasions, in keeping with his conviction that his authorial self was subject to change. But the first authorized edition, published in 1643, was Browne’s final attempt to reshape those prose meditations on God, nature, and humanity that were causing such a stir after the work’s extensive manuscript circulation and unauthorized publication in 1642.

“The 1643 edition plays a central part in the new Oxford University Press edition of Religio Medici, edited by Brooke Conti of Cleveland State University and me,” Barbour continues. “UNC’s acquisition of a copy of this edition will enable me to conduct careful and extensive analysis of the book’s physical properties, from its famous frontispiece image of a man tumbling from a steep cliff only to be rescued by the hand of God, to its paper stock, watermarks, and textual variants.”

Other works acquired at the sale are The Crowne of All Homers Worckes Batrachomyomachia or the Battaile of Froges and Mise. His Hymn’s—and—Epigrams Translated According to the Originall. By George Chapman. (London, 1624?) and Elkanah Settle’s The Empress of Morocco. A Tragedy with Sculptures. As It Is Acted at the Duke’s Theatre (London, 1673).

Elkanah Settle, The Empress of Morocco (London, 1673)
Elkanah Settle, The Empress of Morocco (London, 1673) | William A. Whitaker Fund

The Crowne of All Homers Worckes completes The Whole Works of Homer, . . . Translated According to the Greeke by Geo. Chapman (London, 1616), already in the RBC (PA4025.A1 C45). This acquisition sustains the interests of UNC Professor Jessica Wolfe, who has recently published Homer and the Question of Strife from Erasmus to Hobbes (Toronto, 2015).

The Settle will surely be a valuable resource for UNC’s dramatic programs. The RBC has six other works by Settle, an important playwright of his period. The Empress of Morocco distinguishes itself by being the first English drama to be so extensively illustrated.

Jeepers, Creepers, a Peepshow!

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.

The peepshow cards arranged without a display. Without a structure to separate the cards, the scene is flattened.

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.

A single card from the peepshow. Each card contains many small details that contribute to the vibrancy of the complete scene.

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.

Custom display built by Conservator Andrea Knowlton for viewing the peepshow cards.

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.

Cards arranged in the custom display. Each card is supported upright and has enough room to maintain the integrity of the three-dimensional scene.

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.

Arranged properly, the cards in the peepshow give the illusion of a three-dimensional scene.

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.

Each peepshow card is rich with historical detail, such as the work practices and tools of the printing trade. In this card, the copyist is producing the copy text to give to the compositors; and a worker is hanging a printed sheet up to dry.

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.

In addition to building a custom display for the peepshow, Andrea stabilized the delicate cut-outs on several cards, to ensure that they would not be damaged during use.

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.

“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.

Tales of Terror

Happy Halloween to our followers!

Scarey happenings between two covers

For this “holiday” of ghosts and goblins, we offer you images from a recent acquisition, Tales of Terror (London, 1801), complete with its ghoulish full-plate illustrations.

The work was long attributed to M. G. “Monk” Lewis, master of the Gothic novel, who acquired his moniker for writing The Monk: A Romance–a sensationalist story of monastics and murder. However, twentieth-century scholarship has declared Tales of Terror to be a parody of his work.

Trick, or treat? Or both? Come into Wilson Library, and you decide.

Tales of Terror (London, 1801) PN6110.T5 L5 1801 c.2
Tales of Terror (London, 1801) PN6110.T5 L5 1801 c.2

Celebrating the Seven Millionth

Reception in Peacock Atrium of the FedEx Global Education Center
Reception in Peacock Atrium of the FedEx Global Education Center

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.

Food for the mind. The first literary work of the African Diaspora in the West
Food for the mind. The first literary work of the African Diaspora in the West. Juan Latino, Ad Catholicum, pariter et invictissimum Philippum . . . (Granada, 1573) / PA8540 .L615 A65 1573 supv’d
Professors Frank Domínguez, Bill Andrews, and Rosa Perelmutter
Professors Frank Domínguez, Bill Andrews, and Rosa Perelmuter
Food of the more common kind to sustain the evening's intellectual activity
Food of the more common kind, to sustain the evening’s intellectual activity
Teresa Chapa, Latin American and Iberian Studies Librarian
Teresa Chapa, Latin American, Iberian, and Latina/o Studies Librarian
Professors Genna Rae McNeil and Bereket Selassie, foreground
Professors Genna Rae McNeil and Bereket Selassie, foreground










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.

Borden Hanes and Chancellor Carol Folt
Borden Hanes and Chancellor Carol Folt and the book, with Carolina blue ribbon

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.”

Michael Gomez and Juan Latino's first book
Michael Gómez, Professor of History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University, with Juan Latino’s book

The public program concluded with closing remarks from Sarah Michalak and the distribution of a beautifully printed keepsake edition of Professor Gómez’s lecture.

Curator of Rare Books Claudia Funke with a printed copy of Michael Gómez's lecture
Curator of Rare Books Claudia Funke with a copy of Michael Gómez’s lecture


Keepsake edition
Keepsake edition






Sarah Michalak and Borden Hanes
Sarah Michalak, University Librarian, and Borden Hanes, Chairman, John Wesley and Anna Hodgin Hanes Foundation




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!

Daphne Bissette and Alia Wegner of the Rare Book Collection with Juan Latino's book
Daphne Bissette and Alia Wegner of the Rare Book Collection with Juan Latino’s book at Wilson Library


RBC's Tori Darden finishes an exciting evening's work with a smile
RBC’s Tori Darden finishes an exciting evening’s work with a smile

On the Road: Spring Break & Kindles Past

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.

Bibliotheque portative / Leslie Weil Memorial Fund
Bibliothèque portative du voyageur (Paris, 1802-1815) / Leslie Weil Memorial Fund

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 an early example 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.

Demoustier's Lettres à Emiie (1813)
Demoustier’s Lettres à Emiie (1813)

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 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.

Juan Latino and the Beginning of African Diaspora Literature

Juan Latino, Ad Catholicum … Philippum Dei gratia Hispaniarum Regem …, epigrammatum liber (Granada, Spain: 1573)

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 volumeto be presented by the Hanes Foundation on March 20is 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.

The Black Tradition in RBC

LC2852 .M6 S7 1865 superv’d

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.

In Living Colour

The Cambridge University Library has just mounted Printing Colour in Tudor England, a display informed by the research of Munby Fellow of Bibliography Dr. Elizabeth Upper. The exhibition traces the history of color printing in England from its earliest example, the Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Heraldry (1486)—also referred to as the Book of St. Albans, after its place of printing—through the sixteenth century.

Dame Juliana Berners, supposed author, The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Heraldry (St. Albans, England, 1486) / Incunabula 533.7, superv'd.
Dame Juliana Berners, supposed author, The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Heraldry (St. Albans, England, 1486) / Incunabula 533.7, superv’d. / Hanes Foundation

The Book of St. Albans is certainly well known here at UNC, as the Rare Book Collection acquired a copy in 1974 as the University’s second millionth volume. The RBC copy was featured in the Meaningful Marks: Image and Text and the History of the Book exhibition at Wilson Library in 2011. And this past semester the artistically significant rarity made an appearance for Professor Tatiana String’s course “Art and Culture in Tudor and Stuart England.”

The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Heraldry is the first printed English sporting book and the first English printed armorial, as well as the first English book to employ color printing—most interestingly, in the heraldry section. Heraldic symbols became widespread in Europe in  the thirteenth century. They were certainly an effective means of visual communication in a preliterate society, particularly in warfare, serving as they did to announce loyalties. Color was of course integral to the power of armorial designs, as the woodcut illustrations in this volume demonstrate. That’s the Tudor coat of arms, bottom right, on the page above.

Millionth volumes are a grand tradition at UNC-Chapel Hill, thanks to the John W. and Anna H. Hanes Foundation. Our millionths are always very special single volumes or book collections that promote ongoing conversation, like the Book of St. Albans. We look forward to celebrating another millionth volume—the seventh—on March 20, 2014. Stay tuned to our blog for further details.