The Rare Book Collection celebrates the Chinese Lunar New Year and the beginning of the Year of the Horse with images from an edition of the Er ya yin tu. The famous Chinese dictionary/encyclopedia was first compiled during the Han Dynasty (260 BCE – 220 CE). The woodblock-printed edition above (1801) is based on the text annotated by the scholar Guo Pu (276-324), which became the preferred version during the Song Dynasties (960-1279). The RBC’s Er ya yin tu—which translates as “Approaching the Correct”—was featured in the spring 2013 Wilson Library exhibition The Encyclopedic Impulse.
The Chinese zodiac has a time cycle of twelve years, each year being named for a different animal. Those humans born in a particular year are believed to share some of the traits of its animal. And so, 2014’s babies to come are forecast to be intelligent, popular, and clever, as horses are judged to be.
Tonight is the night for firecrackers and red envelopes, as well as horses, according to Chinese tradition. Happy New Year!
The month of February ended with an opening for the new RBC exhibition The Encyclopedic Impulse. Last Wednesday evening, over one hundred people attended a reception and viewing and a related lecture that followed.
This year marks the three hundredth anniversary of the birth of French philosopher Denis Diderot, co-editor and visionary of the French Encyclopédie. To commemorate the occasion, the RBC decided to display multiple volumes of that work, but as with any encyclopedic endeavor, the project expanded.
The exhibition further illuminates the encyclopedia concept by including other encyclopedias and reference works, as well as significant writings on knowledge. Pliny the Elder, Francis Bacon, Athanasius Kircher, Abraham Ortelius, H. G. Wells, and Jorge Luis Borges are all invoked in the exploration of the human impulse to collect and organize knowledge in a single bibliographic entity.
To celebrate the exhibition, Ken Hillis, professor of media and technology studies, delivered a lecture entitled “From Alexandria to Google: The Mythic Quest for Universal Libraries.” He organized his talk around four ideas/entities: the Tower of Babel; the Library at Alexandria; the art of knowing of medieval mystic Ramón Llull; and H. G. Wells’ conception of a “World Brain.” Co-author of the recent book Google and the Culture of Search (2012), Prof. Hillis ended with a discussion of Google and a reflection on the ways in which its knowledge project coincides with and differs from previous quests.
It was a thought-provoking talk, in sympathy with the Rare Book Collection exhibition, and one entirely appropriate to a university library. The show is up in Wilson Library’s Melba Remig Saltarelli exhibit room through May 26, 2013.