Displaying the Body

The history of Western anatomy extends from ancient times to the modern analyses of bodily function; however, the scientific study of anatomy, particularly of the human body, is a recent historical phenomenon dating only so far back as the 2nd century.  During this time, the physician Galen compiled most of the writings from other ancient authorities and used empirical observation to develop theories of organ function.  He supplemented authoritative knowledge from classical sources by performing vivisections, mostly on animals, and applying those observations to human anatomy.  His work as a gladiatorial physician afforded him additional opportunities to study various wounds without the need to preserve and examine corpses, and these observations helped him expand his theories on organ function, the humors, and disease.  His tracts became the authoritative foundation for physicians for the next 1300 years.

Contrary to a popular misconception, the dismemberment of corpses wasn’t officially restricted during the Middle Ages and Renaissance; nevertheless, human dissection was rare in part because of local persecution and in part because physicians acquired their anatomical training from book-learning rather than practical observation.  But by the 14th century, some European universities began holding anatomical lectures.  Within 300 years, dissections became increasingly more common, and the modern field of anatomy as we know it today came into being.

With the advent of the printing press, print materials like books and pamphlets provided the means of recording and sharing the observations found in systemic dissections at major European universities.  Anatomists like Andreas Vesalius began to question relying solely on authoritative sources to draw anatomical and medical conclusions.  Vesalius openly denied Galen’s anatomical teachings and advanced the opinion that a new account of human anatomy was necessary.  By the end of the 1540s, his De humani corporis fabrica revolutionized anatomical study; however this work, though attractive, was not anatomically correct, and it required refinement from future anatomists.

A copperplate featuring a skinned nude. Individual muscles are assigned numbers and given labels on the adjacent page.
Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica is often credited as the foundation of modern anatomy. However, other contemporary texts are far more accurate in their prose accounts of the human body. Vesalius had the advantage of attractive, detailed copperplate illustrations, and his work quickly overshadowed these more studied accounts. In time, he would face his critics, such as Juan Valverde de Amusco. QS 4 V575 1543 superv’d.

Bartolomeo Eustachi, unlike Vesalius, was a noted supporter of Galen.  In addition to his rediscovery and accurate description of the tube that now bears his name in the internal ear, Eustachi was the first anatomist to accurately study the teeth and to describe the first and second dentition. He also discovered the adrenal glands.  However, it took many years for him to complete his intricate set of anatomical engravings.  By the time he finished them in 1552, Vesalius was already published. Eustachi would never see his own book printed in his lifetime.

A plate showing the base of the brain connected to the spinal column and its associated nerves.
Eustachi dissected with laborious care. He based his engravings on many autopsies, not just one or two. The plates function as general composites to portray the average human body in the most accurate way possible. This plate shows the base of the brain connected to the spinal column and its associated nerves. QS 4 E91 1722.

Eustachi’s student, Juan Valverde de Amusco, had an equally fraught relationship with Vesalius.  Valverde’s best-known work, Historia de la composicion del cuerpo humano, was published in Rome in 1556, 13 years after Vesalius. Like Vesalius, Valverde criticized Galen, but he disagreed with several of Vesalius’s conclusions. Moreover, he blamed Vesalius and other Italian anatomists for failing to mitigate Spanish anatomists’ ignorance. In his Historia, Valverde asserts that the goal of the book is to aid Spanish surgeons whose minimal knowledge of Latin kept them unaware of the major anatomical reforms coming out of Italy in the mid-sixteenth century.

All but four of the 42 plates in Valverde’s book actually come directly from Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica.  This infuriated Vesalius, who bitterly accused Valverde of plagiarizing him and performing few if any dissections himself.  The inclusion of the plates also led many non-Spainards to believe Valverde had merely translated Vesalius’s work into Spanish.  However, Valverde refuted these claims.  In the introduction to his subsequent Italian translation, Valverde wrote:

Succeſſe dapoi, che molti non intendando la lingua Spagnuola, & vedendo le mie Figure non molto diuerſe da quelle, cominciarono á dire ch’io hauea tradotta l’historia del Veſſalio.

Many of those who did not understand the Spanish language, and who saw that my illustrations were not very different from his began to claim that I had just translated the work of Vesalius (translation by Bjørn Okholm Skaarup in Anatomy and Anatomists in Early Modern Spain).

A copperplate showing the exposed musculature of a skinned anatomy specimen. The figure holds a knife in his left hand and his own skin in his right.
One of Valverde’s original plates, the skinned figure is posed in a way to show its detailed musculature. Here the figure holds a knife in his left hand and his own skin in his right. Each muscle is meticulously cataloged in the adjacent prose. QS 4 V215a 1606.

Valverde longed to prove the inaccuracy of the accusations against him, including Vesalius’s, thereby validating his work as original.  Though it conversed with and pulled material from other books, Valverde corrected or complicated that material, always treating it as the building block to his own larger argument.  Throughout his own book, he corrects Vesalius’s images in nearly every account, improving on or adding details that he claims Vesalius grossly overlooked, most especially in the eyes, which he and other anatomists argue Vesalius universally mislabeled.

Andreas Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica, Bartolomeo Euctachi’s Tabulae anatomicae, and Juan Valverde de Amusco’s Anotomia del corpo umano will be on display in the Fearrington Reading Room at Wilson Special Collections Library as part of RBC’s Anatomy Day Open House.  Please join us from 12:00pm – 2:00pm on Tuesday, November 12, to view historical representations of human anatomy in selected materials from our collections. 

Portrait of a Black Intellectual: The Life and Letters of Ignatius Sancho

One of the Rare Book Collection’s most interesting chronicles of the African diasporic experience exists not as an autobiography, but as a collection of letters. Originally published in 1782, our two-volume first edition of the Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho highlights the unique societal influence of a black public intellectual in 18th century England.

The marbled cover of the first volume of "Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho," 1782 first edition.
Marbled front cover of the first volume, originally published in 1782. CT788.S168 A32 v.1.

When these letters were published by an editor two years after his death, Ignatius Sancho posthumously became the first black Briton to publish correspondence. This was the last in a lifelong record of firsts: Sancho had been the first black Briton to vote in parliament, patronize a white artist, critique art, literature, & poetry, and have an obituary in the British press. He wrote plays, music, essays, and a book, and was well-published in popular serials. Known for his taste level, his creative opinion was sought after by the likes of Laurence Sterne, Matthew and Mary Darly, John Ireland, Daniel Gardner, John Hamilton Mortimer, Joseph Nollekens, and John James Barralet. Much of this status was afforded to him by his high station under the Duke and Duchess of Montagu, as well as his later ownership of a grocery (which afforded him his voting rights). These achievements were especially significant for a former slave, so much so that Abolitionists widely held him as a symbol of the high capacity of the black intellect. A master writer and rhetorician, he used his talents as a tool to gain respect and penetrate social circles previously inaccessible to black men.

The book's frontispiece, Thomas Gainsborough's portrait of Sancho engraved by Bartolozzi. subject Ignatius Sancho sits erect and eyes the distance with a right hand tucked into the bosom of an elaborately trimmed waistcoat.
The frontispiece, Gainsborough’s famed portrait of Sancho, engraved by Bartolozzi. In the painting the waistcoat is a warm vermilion, edged with a delicate gold.

We know that the public held him in high regard because it is indicated in the narrative framing of his Letters. The book begins with a disclaimer that was common in the publications of well-established white figures, but largely absent in those of black writers. The publisher’s note declares, “The editor of these letters [Frances Crewe Phillips] thinks proper to obviate an objection, which she finds has already been suggested, that they were originally written with a view to publication.” University of Maryland professor Vincent Carretta identifies this as an example of “the frequent and usually disingenuous disclaimer by editors of posthumously published correspondence that the letters had not been written with an eye toward publication.” These statements were intended to assert an authenticity of sentiment, countering public suspicions of self-censored and intentionally impressive writing. The fact that Sancho’s letters included such an opening, while equally significant publications by other black writers such as Olaudah Equiano and Frederick Douglass did not, offers us proof of a status and high regard that may otherwise be difficult to fully understand today. It is evidence of an established reputation for wit and artistry that preceded him even in death.

Sancho’s book of letters and other autobiographic black narratives are available in the Rare Book Collection. If you are interested in black experiences in the United States, check out our new exhibit “On the Move: Stories of African American Migration and Mobility,” on display until January 19th, 2020 in the Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibition Room.

Wisconsin Undergraduates Share the RBC’s Tale of Sweeney Todd

 

UWGB Editorial Team
The 2017-8 editorial team. L-R: UWGB students Faith Klick, Heather Matchefts, Sara Ladwig, Emma Ferron, Marisa Slempkes, Miriam Laird, Erica Sorenson, Maria Lemens, Kyle Pech-Kortbein, and Beth Siltala. Photo by Rebecca Nesvet.

In December 2014, UNC-Chapel Hill provided the Internet Archive with a digital facsimile of an extremely rare treasure: the Rare Book Collection at Wilson Library’s copy of James Malcolm Rymer’s The String of Pearls, or the Barber of Fleet-street, A Domestic Romance—the longest and final edition of this original source of the urban legend of the homicidal barber Sweeney Todd.

The bound volume consists of a complete run of individually-published parts of the “penny blood,” a Victorian fiction serial targeting working-class family readers. Only two such copies exist. The other one is in the Barry Ono Collection at the British Library and is not entirely identical to the UNC copy. At the open-access Internet Archive, anyone with internet access can read The String of Pearls.

This is an important text in the British reaction to the Industrial Revolution. In The String of Pearls, Todd’s accomplice Mrs. Lovett hires a succession of frighteningly disposable workers to operate her subterranean “pie manufactory” (58). The archaic term emphasizes that it’s a factory, not a bakery, not even an industrial kitchen. The workers are warm, housed, and fed, but without any company, dialogue, art, science, or other kind of humanistic solace, they “contemplate… suicide” (241).

However, it is not the most accessible Victorian novel. There is no critical edition of the 1851–1 text, nor any edition of that text published since 1850. This is problematic because the penny parts are riddled not only with references to a culture that no longer exists, but with a great many typesetting errors, probably due to its publisher Edward Lloyd’s frenetic publication pace. Moreover, the interface of the Internet Archive doesn’t easily facilitate twenty-first century popular reading—that is, reading on a phone.

To solve these problems and make the story of Sweeney Todd accessible to a new generation of readers, upper-level undergraduate students of English and Digital Humanities at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay (UWGB), have been creating a digital documentary edition of The String of Pearls. Since 2015, these students and UNC alumna Rebecca Nesvet, Assistant Professor of English at UWGB, have been correcting the Internet Archive’s OCR-generated transcription of the UNC copy, encoding the resulting transcription in XML in accordance with the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Guidelines, and annotating the text with contextualizing notes (and corrections of the original typos.) In 2016–7, UWGB student (now alumnus) Matt McAnelly designed a Graphical User Interface (GUI) intended to make the edition legible on a phone. By January 2018, the team has produced a very rough draft of the first sixty chapters. This spring, we will receive feedback from external peer reviewers: undergraduates at Babson University, taught by Prof. Kellie Donovan-Condron.

Still to come is proofreading of most of the existing chapters, additional chapters and notes; web development for improved accessibility and nonlinear reading; a bibliography; and a searchable gallery of illustrations, displayed in a carousel.

To “attend the tale of Sweeney Todd” (as Stephen Sondheim advised in his 1979 musical adaptation), you can start with Nesvet’s General Introduction, then read the main text chapter-by-chapter. Alternately, consult the Chapter Synopses to find the most exciting bits of the long-running serial.

The UWGB editorial team is inexpressibly grateful to the RBC for acquiring The String of Pearls in 2013 and making it publicly available both in Wilson Library and via the Internet Archive.

 

The Incubator Awards: Research Grants for Creative Artists

This year, the Wilson Special Collections Library is partnering with the Sloane Art Library to support the art community of UNC with the Incubator Awards: Research Grants for Creative Artists. The Incubator Awards are designed to encourage students to draw on UNC’s Special Collections for creative research, and will provide financial and research support to project proposals that incorporate UNC’s historical and rare library materials into their artistic practice. In November, selected proposals will be awarded for the Spring 2018 semester. Awards provide between $1000 and $3000 in financial support for projects. Applications will be evaluated based on the feasibility and strength of the proposed projects. Graduate and undergraduate students from all creative disciplines are welcome to participate.

Incubator Awards Poster: Research Grants for Creative Artists

To learn more about the Incubator Awards, join us for the Incubator Awards Open House on Tuesday, October 10th.  At the event, applicants will have an opportunity to discuss their interests and potential project with the library staff, and browse a diverse sample of special collections materials. This will be a drop-in, informal event for those interested in our collections to help formulate ideas for projects.

Artists using special collections material often have a different relationship to research than traditional academic researchers. Special collections research provides creative artists an opportunity to enhance and inform their work, but may take a more open-ended, exploratory path. This topic is explored in an entertaining zine from the Providence Public Library in Providence, RI, created by a local artist in collaboration with library staff called “Lizard Ramone in Hot Pursuit: A Guide to Archives for Writers and Makers.” The comic tale is designed to “demystify archival research” and be a “bridge helping artists and archivists to find each other.” Our hope is to create another such bridge between creators and librarians through the Incubator Awards.

Excerpt from Lizard Ramone in Hot Pursuit
An excerpt from Lizard Ramone in Hot Pursuit about using archives for creative research

If you’ve never used our Special Collections before, and even if you have, this is a great opportunity to dive into our unique and vast repository of books, music, films, maps, and other materials in your creative work. The Incubator Awards aim to foster engagement with UNC’s rich cultural and historical resources and encourage students to pursue new directions, topics, or methods in their work and creative process.

A Fast Vanishing Type

Eneas Africanus, written by the prolific Southern writer and journalist Harry Sitwell Edwards, was and is one of the most popular works of pro-slavery literature in the post-Civil War era. Wilson Library holds nine total copies of the book across three collections: the Rare Book Collection, the Southern Historical Collection, and the North Carolina Collection. Each copy of the book held at Wilson is unique, produced at various times over the course of the book’s long and storied print run. The number of different copies of the book still extant attest to its ongoing popularity and the enduring legacy of pro-slavery sentiment in America long after abolition.

So_Pam_6136_c2_covers
Two different bindings for Eneas Africanus. The paper-covered copy on the right is a very early issue and lacks the illustrated frontispiece. On the left, a later printing in green “suede board” cost $0.75 when new. PS1570 .E6 1920 | So. Pam. 6136 c.2

Eneas Africanus was first published in 1919 by the J.W. Burke Company in Macon, Georgia. The book went through a dizzying number of editions, reprints, and re-issues over the course of the twentieth century. J.W. Burke alone offered the book in an ever-widening array of bindings, with and without illustrations, between 1919 and 1954. The firm also published a sequel tale, Eneas Africanus Defendant, in 1920. “The Demand for Eneas and other books by Mr. Edwards is so great,” reads one advertisement, “that we believe his friends will appreciate our bringing out these additional gems of the Old South, the old-time negro and his old-time ‘white folks.’”

PS1570-E6_1920_frontispiece
A frontispiece depicting Eneas was added sometime after 1920. PS1570 .E6 1920

The use of the word ‘old-time’ is more than just savvy advertising: at least part of the appeal of Eneas Africanus for twentieth-century readers was its almost aggressively backward-looking mentality, a nostalgia for a romanticized version of pre-war racial harmony predicated on black dependence to white masters. In the wake of Reconstruction, as former Confederate states sought to reassert a racial hierarchy through Jim Crow legislation, pro-slavery narratives emerged as a way to repackage the subjugation of black individuals by recasting the slave/master relationship as familial. Pro-slavery narratives advanced an essentially racist notion that black people were inherently child-like and unsophisticated, in need of white protection. These racist depictions often passed as innocuous because their stereotyping was seen as depicting black people as essentially good, if inferior.

Eneas Africanus perfectly encapsulates this pro-slavery narrative. The story is presented as a series of letters written in response to a newspaper ad, reminiscent of an eighteenth-century epistolary novel. The letters follow the journey of a former slave, the titular Eneas, as he seeks to return to his former master, Major Tommey, in the wake of the Civil War. Eneas himself does not appear until the final chapter of the book, but is described by various correspondents throughout the South, who have encountered him on his journey. The letters emphasize Eneas’s ignorance of names and places–his journey is much extended, for example, by his confusion at there being multiple towns with names like Jackson or Decatur. Summaries of the book often emphasize Eneas’s faithfulness to Major Tommey, and his desire to return home. In fact, the plot of the novel hinges on the possibility of Eneas’s disloyalty. The catalyst for the initial newspaper ad is Tommey’s wish to reclaim a valuable silver cup, a family heirloom, before the wedding of his only daughter. In letter after letter, characters from across the the South write to Tommey insisting that the cup must be lost forever, and imply that Eneas must have stolen it. Only in the final pages does Eneas appear in person to reveal his faithfulness—not by his return, but by the returning of Tommey’s property.

C813_E26e1_rearendpapers
All of the editions of Eneas Africanus, regardless of the publisher, feature a map highlighting Eneas’s journey through the South. C813 E26e1

Of course, Eneas himself is also property by the logic of the plot, and he reminds Tommey, and the reader, that this is the case. He even goes so far as to extend Tommey’s property rights over his own wife and children, comparing them to the colt born of Tommey’s brood mare during his journey: “Some folks tell me dey is free, but I know dey b’long ter Marse George Tommey, des like Lady Chain and her colt!” Although slavery has ended in America, Eneas cheerfully volunteers himself and his family to remain enslaved.

The book’s emphasis on a new generation of slaves is at odds with the authorial preface, which marks Eneas as a “vanishing type.” There is tension between the book’s message that black subordination is natural, not subject to law or government, and its uneasy recognition that the tale is difficult to believe. “Is the story true?” the author’s preface anxiously asks, “everybody says it is.” Unlike Eneas, who returns to the site of his former enslavement after seven years of freedom, the book’s popularity coincided with the height of the Great Migration, a time that saw great numbers of African Americans leave the South for urban centers in the North.

C813_E26e1_p18
The 1940 Grosset & Dunlap edition features illustrations romanticizing Eneas’s 7 year journey. C813 E26e1

It’s also no coincidence that the popularity of Sitwell’s “vanishing type” came just on the cusp of the Harlem Renaissance’s New Negro Movement. Literature and art of the Harlem Renaissance foregrounded black experience and black consciousness through the eyes of black authors—Sitwell’s Eneas stands in stark contrast to these contemporaneous works, and its popularity is a signal that white representations of blackness continued to dominate popular culture. The circulation of copies of the text is itself interesting: three of the copies in Wilson Library come from personal archives of Southern notables. Elsewhere, intriguing association copies proliferate: Eleanor Roosevelt owned a copy given to her by politico Chip Robert; Carl Van Vechten, author of a controversial novel chronicling the Harlem Renaissance, owned a copy given to him by African-American novelist Nella Larson.

C813_E26e_titlepage
The sequel short story Eneas Africanus Defendant was printed both as a standalone work and as an appendix to Eneas Africanus. C813 E26e

The J.W. Burke imprint represents only a portion of the total editions of Eneas Africanus. Several private press editions were produced at presses across the country as well as two trade editions: a Canadian edition in 1937 and a New York edition in 1940. The New York edition, published by Grosset & Dunlap, includes a preface by Sitwell’s daughter, Holly Bluff, who took over printing the book from J.W. Burke Company’s 3rd edition plates under the imprint Eneas Africanus Press. Eneas Africanus Press released a more lavish illustrated edition (printed from the plates of a 1932 private press production) in 1973. The appeal of the book in the North points to creeping pro-slavery sentiment outside of the former Confederacy.

So_Pam_6136_c2_titlepage
Variations between title pages are one way of distinguishing different states of the J.W. Burke editions. The type ornament border, display fonts, and central decorative motif vary in each copy in the RBC. So. Pam. 6136 c2

Found in the Stacks: The Golden Legend in Printed Waste

While putting together materials for an instructional session for a cross-listed German and Religion course titled “Luther and the Bible: German Reformation Literature,” I stumbled across a number of discoveries in the Incunabula collection at Wilson Library. The course emphasized placing Reformation literature in its cultural context, so I wanted to make use of one of the collecting strengths of the Rare Book Collection to do so. Our holdings are particularly strong in incunabula, books printed by moveable type during the first 50 years of printing in the west. I found a large number of early editions of Jacobus de Voragine’s Legenda aurea (the Golden Legend) in our catalog in a variety of languages. The Golden Legend is a collection of hagiographies, or saints’ lives, first compiled around 1260. The Golden Legend was among the most widely read late medieval texts and went through several editions in the incunable period. In deciding what to show, I needed to pull a large number of these editions for a closer look.

While paging these volumes, I noticed a small volume on the shelf bound in printer’s waste. From the small amount of text visible on the spine I could tell it was German and likely fifteenth-century. I pulled the item off the shelf to read a bit more, and afterwards was relatively certain that this waste was from one of the hagiographies included in the Legenda aurea. I scanned the incunable range of the stacks and quickly found three other volumes bound with the same text. What made this particularly exciting (and rather coincidental) was that the professor of the course, Dr. Ruth von Bernuth, and I had spent several years working on identifying, dating, and describing a fragment of the Golden Legend in Middle High German that was preserved as the binding for this seventeenth-century book in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Printer’s waste bindings on Incunabula 32, Incunabula 57, Incunabula 175, Incunabula 503

Jacobus de Voragine’s Legenda aurea was one of the most beloved and most disseminated texts during the medieval and early modern periods in Europe: by 1500 more than a thousand manuscript versions and about one hundred incunable versions existed. The text was extremely popular both in Latin and in the vernacular. In the German language alone there were about two hundred manuscript versions and forty early printings. The Rare Book Collection has three of these early German printings and none match the printer’s waste on the binding (Zainer, 1471-1472Bämler, 1475Schönsperger, 1496-1497).

The type does, however, look very similar to that of an early German Bible printed in 1483 by Anton Koberger. I found that Koberger had also printed a single edition of the Golden Legend in German in 1488. Both the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich and the Herzogin Anna Amalia library in Weimar had nicely digitized copies with indexes. I found the corresponding story in the digital copy and was able to confirm my suspicions: all four of the volumes were bound in printer’s waste from Anton Koberger’s 1488 German edition of the Golden Legend, making this the fourth incunable edition of the German translation of the Golden Legend held by the Rare Book Collection.

Printer’s waste binding of Incunabula 32 detailing the life of Saint James.

The printer’s waste contains fragments of three different stories of saints. There is a leaf from the story of Saint James, which details the miracle of an infertile woman who petitioned James for a child, became pregnant and gave birth to a son. There are two items bound with leaves from the same episode where Theophilus is sent to discover the body of Saint Anthony. The final waste leaf details episodes of the Virgin Mary’s miraculous interventions and help for those who prayed to her. Koberger uses the same beautiful type from his 1483 Bible in his edition of the Heiligenleben, a print fashioned after fifteenth-century hand, thin and graceful, yet surprisingly easy to read and incredibly recognizable. You can see the catalog record I created here.

Leaves of parchment and paper were often reused in the binding of early modern books. These leaves were typically taken from broken, discarded, or outdated manuscripts. Liturgical manuscripts were commonly used for binding as they were frequently replaced due to heavy use. The three German editions of the Golden Legend in the RBC’s Incunabula Collection are bound with leaves from a liturgical manuscript. Manuscript or paper waste was used as book covers, end leaves, spine linings, and more, sometimes invisible until a book is damaged.

Johann Schönsperger’s 1496–1497 German edition of the Golden Legend bound in liturgical manuscript waste | Incunabula 111

The bindings created using leaves from Koberger’s Golden Legend may be evidence of the history of antiquarian book collecting. These four bindings date from the late 19th or early 20th century and have a shared provenance: the library of Reverend Aaron Burtis Hunter, clergyman, educator, and book collector. They were acquired by the Rare Book Collection in 1929 through the generous support of Hanes family. Because Koberger’s edition was heavily illustrated and often hand-colored, woodcuts were often removed and sold separately to collectors. All of the leaves used in these bindings do not contain woodcuts, but are close to leaves that did. It may be that rather than keep a heavily mutilated book, the leaves without illustrations were reused as waste for bindings.

In fact, the Incunabula Collection also holds thirteen volumes bound in printer’s waste from Anton Koberger’s 1483 German Bible (Ninth German Bible). This adds to the hundreds of volumes similarly bound in modern bindings worldwide. The RBC also holds a heavily mutilated copy of this Bible, but the leaves used to bind these volumes did not come from this particular piece as many are present despite the mutilations.

Mutilated leaf from 1483 Koberger German Bible | Incunabula 130.5
Decorated initial removed from leaf CCCVI of 1483 Koberger Bible | Incunabula 130
Incunabula 179 bound with leaf of 1483 Koberger Bible

Much can be learned from binding waste: textual transmission, provenance, book history, textual history, popular culture, and more. These particular fragments testify to the enormous popularity of the text both in the vernacular and in Latin. The images and tales of the lives of the saints were deeply embedded in popular culture and these binding remnants are a visual reminder of this.

Conservation of Les declinaisons

Estienne, Robert. Les declinaisons des noms et verbes…(1545) | Estienne PC2271 .E8

Les declinaisons des noms et verbes… is part of the Estienne Imprint Collection, a collection of more than 500 titles printed by the Estienne family of scholar-printers in sixteenth-century France, presented by the Hanes Family Foundation as the University Library’s three-millionth volume. It was also the first treatment project to greet me when I began my job in Wilson Library’s Special Collections Conservation Lab last November.

The 1545 text was rebound in the 19th century by the Parisian firm Lortic in a style typical for fine bindings from that time and place. Accented with gold tooling, the brown calfskin binding has an overall feeling of refinement thanks to its careful decoration and delicate profile. The binder achieved this profile by paring the covering leather thinly enough to emphasize, rather than obscure, the sharp contours of the corners, caps, and raised bands. Though a sophisticated choice aesthetically, the thinly pared leather was weak. It had split over the book’s front joint, leaving the spine piece partially detached and vulnerable to the loss of its uppermost panel. The Rare Book Collection curator had selected the volume for conservation because its condition left it at risk for further loss during research use.

Though the damage appeared dire, the book’s binding had served its intended function by protecting the contents inside. The internal structure was intact, with the pages held together securely and the paper strong and flexible. Repairing a binding can often be simpler than stabilizing internal issues such as broken sewing threads, and less time consuming than extensive mending of torn pages. In this case, my treatment objectives of rebuilding and reattaching the compromised leather spine would be relatively straightforward to accomplish.

To create a replacement spine panel, I used cotton blotting paper as a base. This material, like all we use in conservation, is designed to remain stable over time. It can be layered and/or delaminated to approximate the thickness and shape of the missing material, and its edges can be easily feathered to create a non-damaging intersection with the original materials of the binding. Because the blotting paper is bright white, I then needed an outer layer to visually assimilate my repair with the book’s covers and to join the detached edge of the spine to the front board. While new leather might seem the obvious choice to repair old leather, a long-fibered brown paper from Japan was more appropriate for the context. This lightweight, strong tissue, made from kozo (mulberry) bark, is more stable than leather and can integrate less invasively and less obtrusively with a variety of materials. The efficiency of its working properties is key in our library setting, where only two conservators have responsibility for a vast collection.

In my treatment, I aimed to only roughly match the missing spine panel’s shape, thickness, and flexibility, along with the covering leather’s color and texture; I also opted not to re-create any missing decoration. These decisions allow the book to function and to be experienced as whole, while still signaling the interloper status of the replaced spine panel. They also reduced the amount of time the book spent in conservation. Researchers can now access the book comfortably, focusing on its contents rather than worrying that it will fall apart as they use it.

Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Manga, and More: The Mexican Comic Collection

A unique set of comics, graphic novels, manga, fanzines, trading cards and more has made its way to the shelves of Wilson Library and is ready for research. This new collection, the Mexican Comic Collection, focuses on comic material created in Mexico. The dates of the materials range from 1998 to 2015, with the bulk of the materials dating between 2010 and 2015. The collection gives a broad picture of current comic books and graphic novels in Mexico, also showing the growing interest in Spanish manga that began in the late nineties.

Due to the nature of the collection and the common use of pseudonyms, self-publishing, and other peculiarities, I had to get creative in learning about these pieces in order to bring the collection together. In fact, author and illustrator pages on Facebook and Twitter were incredibly useful in learning the context of these works and how they were created, as well as who might be behind the pseudonyms.

There are a number of collection highlights that will be of interest for anyone looking to learn more about and access recent Mexican comic books and graphic novels.

Valdez, Gerardo. El Lider Fantasma: Hortax el caballo de batalla (2011) | PN6790.M482 M4

The collection holds quite a few items from Gerardo Valdez’s El lider fantasma, including the original series, a book of artwork, manga, and two copies of El lider fantasma: Hortax el caballo de batalla (2011). You can learn more about the series here or on this website, dedicated to the study and distribution of comics in Mexico. The volume pictured here is very unique, and if you head to the character’s Facebook page, you can see what Hortax the war horse might look like as an action figure.

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Victor Vega, “De un Jalon Hasta el Panteon,” in La Catrina: Bella Bellisima Catrina: Ven y arráncame la vida (2015) | PN6790.M482 M4

Among the collection pieces devoted to comic book history and art, of particular interest is an artbook collecting comic depictions of La Catrina, a popular icon of Mexican art. The figure of La Catrina is attributed to Mexican printmaker and cartoon illustrator José Guadalupe Posada (see an image of his original print from between 1910 and 1913 here). This image of a female skeleton dressed only in a hat has inspired art, makeup, sculpture, and much more ever since. La Catrina is now a symbol of both “El Día de los Muertos and the Mexican willingness to laugh at death itself,” according to David de la Torre, who was the director of the Mexican Museum in San Francisco until 2015 (Delsol 2011). You can see further examples of La Catrina in popular culture here and here.

Some pieces in the collection even have author dedications directed at UNC, including one from izzaki and one from OrenJuice (make sure to read this name aloud):

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OrenJuice, Aquí está él | PN6790.M482 M4
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oni-koni/izzaki, Trauma Nation | PN6790.M482 M4

Manga is well-represented in this collection, and the serial pictured here, Doon!! mangazine, is quite active on social media. Manga has become very popular in the Mexico comic scene, and you can find a small glossary of manga terms and history on the Asamblea Comics website (Part I and Part II), written by Mario Cárdenas.

Doon!! mangazine, No. 001 (2012) | PN6790.M482 M4

In addition to a number of issues of Comikaze, an Indie magazine devoted to Mexican and foreign comics, the collection also includes fourteen trading cards highlighting important figures in Mexican comics.

Comikaze trading cards | PN6790.M482 M4

To see these items and more, stop by Wilson Library. You may also be interested in our Latino Comic Books Collection, which focuses on comic books and other graphic material by United States-born Latino writers and artists, also available in the second floor reading room of Wilson Library.

Fairies, Spiritualism, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

With the recent adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes proliferating in television and film, I thought it would be interesting to see what works by Doyle could be found within the Rare Book Collection. The Rare Book Collection houses the Mary Shore Cameron Collection of Sherlock Holmes & Sherlockiana, which contains approximately 1,000 items related to Doyle’s famous detective, and has additional materials related to Doyle in other collections within the RBC.

Perusing the catalog, Doyle’s The Edge of the Unknown caught my eye. I thought this would be a good starting point for understanding Doyle within the context of flourishing spiritualism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Left: The Edge of the Unknown (1930) | Murray 1023; Right: Essays on the state of psychical research, including an essay by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | Murray 1713

 

A collection of tales by Doyle with supernatural elements (such as the unicorn pictured here on the cover), published at the same time as his report on fairies (1922) | Murray 5485

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published a full report of his investigation into the Cottingley fairies in 1922, The Coming of the Fairies, which you can read online here. In this book, he compiles evidence for the existence of fairies. (In case you were wondering, the sisters who created these alleged photos of fairies when they were 9 and 16 did finally admit to faking them in the 1980s.) Published in 1930, Doyle’s The Edge of the Unknown collects his essays on a number of supernatural phenomena, including Doyle’s belief that Houdini’s magic was indeed supernatural, despite Harry Houdini’s attempts to convince him otherwise. Doyle notes that he himself has “no spiritual gifts […] and none of that psychic atmosphere which gives a tinge of romance to so many lives.” (Doyle 158). He did have encounters with the supernatural with the help of mediums, which he details in the chapter “Some Curious Personal Experiences.”

From here, I wanted to see what other materials on Doyle and fairies existed in the collection, when I stumbled upon Richard Doyle’s In Fairyland: a series of pictures from the Elf-World (1875). Richard Doyle was the uncle of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and known for his illustration of the supernatural and the fantastic. As it turns out, an interest in fairies ran in the family, as his father, Charles Doyle (Richard Doyle’s brother), was also an illustrator known for his depiction of fairies.

Cover of Richard Doyle’s Fairyland | PR4004.A5 I5 1875
Page 9 of Richard Doyle’s Fairyland

Fairies were just one small part of the spiritualism that was sweeping the world at that time. Investigations into the paranormal were commonplace, leading to profuse publications on topics such as mesmerism, animal magnetism, and séances. The Society for Psychical Research was founded in 1882 to conduct scientific investigations of supernatural phenomena, and many publications from this society and other related materials can be found in the Rare Book Collection here at Wilson.

Just one shelf of many with materials related to spiritualism. These materials are part of the Yeats Collection.

If you are interested in learning more, these titles in the Rare Book Collection may be of interest:

Melchior Gorles; a tale of modern mesmerism (1867)The Peckster professorship: an episode in the history of psychical research (1888)The spirit-rapper; an autobiography (1854)Experiences in spiritualism with D.D. Home (1924)Light in the valley: my experiences of spiritualism (1857)Spiritualism: its history, phenomena and doctrine (1918)The Margery mediumship (1929)Mrs. Piper & the Society for psychical research (1903)The secret commonwealth of elves, fauns & fairies: a study in folk-lore & psychical research (1893)Hypnotism, animal magnetism, and hysteria: abstract of an address delivered at the Sheffield Philosophical Institute (1893)

The Ikemua and a History of the Hawaiian Language

Sheldon Dibble, O ka ikemua… (Oahu: Mea Pai Palapala A Na Misionari, 1840) | PL6445 .D52 1840

Since languages are of human origin, it only makes sense that they go through differing phases as part of an overarching evolutionary process, just as humans do. For all the thousands upon thousands of languages spoken by people today, there are just as many that have completely fallen by the wayside. When we think of dead languages, we often first think of ancient ones—Latin, Sanskrit, Ancient Egyptian, and Sumerian, to name a few. But each of these languages died long ago or have long since evolved into something else. Languages are constantly in the process of dying or evolving. Throughout history, as certain languages such as Chinese, English, and Spanish have become more and more widespread, others, only naturally, have fallen away. Between a language’s birth and death, however, it occupies a number of phases as the population of its speakers changes over time. The Rare Book Collection holds materials representing an abundance of languages, many of each at differing points in these phases. One such work is a short instructional book, the Ikemua, written in Hawaiian by missionary Sheldon Dibble.

Hawaiian is one such language that has passed through most phases of language evolution. It has developed over centuries from other Polynesian languages, flourished, declined, and, at near death, has been revitalized. This piece by Dibble was published in 1840 at a particularly interesting period in the history of the language. While Hawaiian was still widely spoken during this period, it was only just beginning to be written down. Like most other written Hawaiian works from this time, the Ikemua was authored by a non-Hawaiian, a missionary from the mainland United States. Missionaries sought to learn the Hawaiian language in the hopes of publishing a Hawaiian Bible, and, upon discovering that Hawaiians had no written script of their own, utilized Latin letters as the official Hawaiian alphabet.

The Ikemua features a wide variety of content, all for the purpose of instilling literacy in speakers of the Hawaiian language. The book is particularly targeted toward children, featuring short stories, paraphrased Bible passages, and short poems that explain everyday objects such as trees, umbrellas, and bells. Dibble includes a short note in the beginning of the book, instructing teachers on how to best teach children. It is quite comprehensive in content and includes detailed illustrations by Dibble’s fellow missionary, Alonzo Chapin.

Depiction of the bronze serpent erected by Moses in the Book of Numbers

While the influence of English-speaking people in Hawaii caused a rise in Hawaiian literacy rates, within the next couple of decades, from the mid- to late 19th century, a growing anti-Hawaiian sentiment caused fluency in the language to fall as quickly as its literacy rate had grown. This decline is partly due to the crop of new diseases that began to sweep over the native Hawaiian population, brought about by western settlers. Illnesses such as smallpox and influenza caused the number of native speakers to drop dramatically. As the native population fell and the population of westerners increased, English gradually became the language of those in power in Hawaii, and thus the one that ought to be learned. A mere 53 years after the publication of the Ikemua, a group of westerners within the Kingdom of Hawaii’s government, many of them Americans, staged a coup d’état that ultimately led to the United States’ annexation of Hawaii. Just three years later, in 1896, Sanford B. Dole, the president of the Republic of Hawaii (a short-lived state that existed between the coup d’état and the American annexation) passed a law banning the usage and instruction of Hawaiian in schools. Virtually no Hawaiian children were taught the language, as those caught speaking it in school often faced harsh punishment. Within the span of five decades, westerners in Hawaii went from actively advocating literacy in the Hawaiian language to extinguishing it altogether.

Like some highly-endangered languages, Hawaiian was revitalized somewhat in the 20th century. Starting in the 1950s, Hawaiian began being offered in schools, and new dictionaries and other reading materials were published. A number of Hawaiian language immersion schools currently operate, and today approximately 24,000 people have some degree of fluency in it, about 1.7% of the total population of Hawaii.

Since languages like Hawaiian can sometimes undergo dramatic changes in the span of just a few decades, it is always remarkable to find a document rooted in one particular phase of the language, such as the Ikemua. It stands frozen in time as the Hawaiian language itself has since shifted in its prominence over the years. Hawaiian is only one example of many endangered languages represented in the Rare Book Collection. One can also find works in Navajo, Irish, Rusyn, Basque, Cherokee, Scottish Gaelic, and other endangered languages throughout the collection.