Posted on March 2nd, 2015 by Jay Moschella in Collections of Distinction
Tags: Barton Collection, False imprints, rare books, Shakespeare
Jaggard’s Heb Ddiue device on a false folio title page
The corpus of surviving Shakespearean manuscript materials is comprised of just twelve words: “William Shakespeare,” or variant spellings thereof, signed six times across four different legal documents. There are no rough drafts of his plays or sonnets, no correspondence or diaries; nothing to help us understand the inner workings of Shakespeare’s creative process.
This vacuum of evidence has been filled by centuries of speculation over everything from which printed editions most accurately reflect Shakespeare’s original intent, to whether Shakespeare himself was anything more than an elaborate fraud — a boorish country actor at the center of a plot to pass off the writing of another man as his own.
Read more »
Posted on January 30th, 2015 by Jay Moschella in Collections of Distinction
Tags: Astronomy, maps, rare books, Volvelles
A nocturnal in use, from the the 1524 edition of Cosmographia
Cosmographia . . . is about the world, which consists of four elements: earth, water, air, and fire
Thus writes Petrus Apianus in the opening lines of Cosmographicus liber a Petro Apiano mathematico studiose collectus, more commonly known as Cosmographia. The nod to the four classical elements is a fitting introduction to a delightful, wide-ranging work that was partly a rehash of medieval scientific thought and partly a paean to Renaissance ingenuity and the burgeoning spirit of discovery.
Read more »
Posted on December 29th, 2014 by Jay Moschella in Collections of Distinction
Tags: Astronomy, Bowditch collection, erhold ratdolt, incunabula, rare books, Sacro Bosco
One of the major astronomy treatises of the late middle ages was written by the 13th-century scholar Johannes de Sacro Bosco. His work, commonly known as De sphaera mundi (On the sphere of the world), was used as a textbook throughout Europe for several centuries. This particular edition – one of a great many in our collections — was printed in 1485 by Erhold Ratdolt, a German printer and bookseller working in Venice. The 1485 Ratdolt edition of De Sphaera Mundi is significant for a number reasons, not the least of which is an unassuming diagram on page 71 (pictured, in our copy, above). Modest though it may indeed be, this diagram, which shows the mechanism of a lunar eclipse in red, yellow, and black, is the first printed, multi-color book illustration.
Read more »
Posted on December 15th, 2014 by Jay Moschella in Collections of Distinction
Tags: almanacs, greek history, incunabula, maps, marginalia, nathaniel bowditch collection, nautical history, rare books
The Greek islands of Paros and Antiparos
One of the many “firsts” in our collections is this unusual book of sea charts. Printed in Venice ca. 1485 by Guglielmo da Trino, the Isolario of Bartolomeo da li Sonetti is both the first printed book of nautical charts and the first printed version of an isolario, or “island book.” The so-called island book was a kind of precursor to the modern atlas: a curious work of cartography in which maps of the Aegean archipelago were accompanied by descriptive verses intended to help guide seafarers through the region.
Bartolomeo’s Isolario presents the modern reader with a series of recognizable, though, to our eyes, strangely crude outlines of familiar landforms. Each chart is set atop an eight-pointed compass rose, with orientation varying from chart to chart and page to page, the arrow always denoting north and the cross east, toward the Levant.
Read more »
Posted on December 1st, 2014 by Lauren Schott in Collections of Distinction
Of the hundreds of treasures throughout the Collections of Distinction, one of the newest and most thought provoking is a recent addition to the American Civil War: 20th Massachusetts Regiment Collection. It is the pocket diary of Charles Tarbox from Haverill, Massachusetts. This little journal holds the personal recollections of the young Civil War Union soldier as he traveled south with the Massachusetts 35th Regiment, Company G in the summer of 1862. The journal is accompanied by a photograph of Tarbox, looking very solemn, young, and stoic in his army uniform.
Upon its acquisition, the journal and photograph were immediately sent to the Conservation Department at the Central Library in Copley Square to be assessed. Often when a book finds its way there, the objective is to mend the tiny paper tears, holes, and binding malfunctions that make an item difficult to handle in order to maintain its structure and usability for patrons of the future. For the journal, however, there was an entirely different strategy because it is the object’s flaws that make it so very special.
Read more »