International Visitor Leadership Program Tours Wilson

On June 7, the Rare Book Collection was pleased to host five librarians from Portugal who were visiting UNC Chapel Hill under the auspices of the U.S. State Department. They were here to learn about U.S. library management and collection development, and special collections at Wilson was part of the tour.

NA5831 B27 S68 / Plans, Elevations, Sections and Views of the Church of Batalha

Their visit gave the RBC the opportunity to pull some of its Portuguese-related rarities, including plays from its vast Iberian drama holdings, as well as Richard Fanshaw’s translation of Luís de Camões’ The Lusiad, or, Portugals Historicall Poem (London, 1655). The greatest exclamations were elicited, however, by the large plate book Plans, Elevations, Sections and Views of the Church of Batalha: in the Province of Estremadura in Portugal (London, 1795), a classic work on the great Gothic monastery complex.

That is, until they were shown the RBC’s most recent acquisition, The Canticle of Jack Kerouac: Lowell Notebook, March 21, 1987 (Accession 129008), a sketchbook with early versions of the poem and original drawings by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (UNC A.B., 1941). They delighted in this beautiful object and were fascinated to learn of the UNC connection to the Beat Movement.

The range of taste and appreciation that our international colleagues demonstrated made the afternoon a true pleasure. The RBC – All Worlds, All Time

Congratulations to UNC Chapel Hill Graduates!

Patton PR6019.O9 U4 1922 superv’d

Last weekend was graduation.  Students and their families and friends celebrated on campus. And more than a few wandered into Wilson to experience its amazing architecture in the Grand Reading Room, as well as some of the amazing books RBC holds. Among the treasures from UNC alumni on view were the Hanes Book of Hours (Bruges, mid-15th century), bequest of Dr. Frederic Hanes (B.A. 1903); James Joyce’s Ulysses (Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922), gift of Mary M. Patton and James R. Pattton (A.B. 1948); and Washington Irving’s notebooks of his Tour in Scotland, 1817, gift of Preston Davie (L.L.D., 1946), a collateral descendant of UNC founder William Richardson Davie.

The display underscored our wishes for our graduates. May they experience good fortune and beautiful books in their odysseys to come!

Adrian Johns at Wilson Library: The Invention of Scientific Reading

The Rare Book Collection partnered with our friends in the Department of English and Comparative Literature to bring Prof. Adrian Johns to speak on Tuesday April 10. Johns, one of the most provocative thinkers and writers on the history of the book, delivered a lecture in the English Department’s Critical Speaker Series, “The Invention of Scientific Reading.”

It was a fascinating and nuanced presentation that looked at three scientific revolutions and specific moments in which an act of reading “made” a critical piece of knowledge or unmade forms of knowledge. Johns discussed Galileo and the Copernican revolution; Isaac Newton and rational mechanics; James Clerk Maxwell and modern field theory; and concluded with remarks on contemporary efforts to automate reading, “an altogether terrifying prospect.” But don’t let us muddle all the details, access the podcast. Well worth the listening!

An Evening of Enchantment

BF840 .P7 1586 Giovanni Della Porta, De humana phisiognomonia (1586) Hanes Foundation for the Study of the Origin and Development of the Book

On Thursday evening March 29th, the Rare Book Collection celebrated its new exhibition Nature and the Unnatural in Shakespeare’s Age with a reception and lecture by Prof. Mary Floyd-Wilson, “Maidens Call It Love-in-Idleness”: Potions, Passion, and Fairy Knowledge in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The exhibition, curated by RBC research assistant and UNC Ph.D. candidate Jennifer Park, is a rich exploration of early modern understandings of nature and the unnatural in Shakespeare’s time. Its fascinating selection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English and Continental books connects astronomy, alchemy, animal husbandry, agricultural practice, and more to the language and themes of Shakespeare’s plays. Also included in the show are the RBC’s copies of the second, third, and fourth Shakespeare folios.

In her splendid lecture Prof. Floyd-Wilson conjured up a world of customs and concerns which translated into the Bard’s perennially popular play in wondrous and inventive ways. Few present will forget her discussion of the cunning woman/man, a fixture of English village life, or, for that matter, the sale of human fat by the local apothecary.

The well-attended lecture was a fine start to the graduate student conference, Shakespeare and the Natural World, jointly sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and King’s College London.

The Electrifying Tiny Spark

PS3525.O47 T5 1910 / William A. Whitaker Fund

In recognition of Black History Month, we highlight one of our favorite RBC purchases of 2010-2011, Christina Moody’s Tiny Spark. Imagine a sixteen-year old African-American girl publishing a book of poetry in 1910: some of it in dialect, some of it provocatively proud of her race, grappling with serious issues – like how a Negro can pledge allegiance to the American flag – as well as the problems of “Chillun and Men.”

The actual book is rare, with only five copies listed in WorldCat. However, you may read her words on the Internet Archive, where the Library of Congress’s copy has been digitized. But know that you can’t see the earnest young poet there, because the LC copy lacks the frontispiece author portrait, which our copy preserves.

Indeed, it goes without saying for those of us who love books, seeing it on the web just isn’t the same. In particular, one doesn’t have the same awareness that the book *is* tiny, the size of one’s hand. Tiny, but electrifying, when you open up and see Christina, and read her verse.

This February 2012, we celebrate the great tradition of African-American poetry and RBC’s fine holdings of it with Christina Moody’s Tiny Spark.


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.