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vive!


Or, twenty-one years of history in five photos:
A journey through title pages.

Sometime during the midst of this internship, I realized that if I ever were to return to school for a Ph.D. in a field other than philosophy, it would be one in which I researched book title pages as a socio-political battleground in consideration of the highly envalued* medium of print.

*Do note that I liberally confuse** puns.
**With “confuse” bearing the definitions:
a : to make indistinct : blur
b : to mix indiscriminately : jumble***

***Or, edumacated unmalaprops.

Okay, moving on…

A perfect example of a political battleground can be seen in the following sequence of images from five books I worked with during my internship.

1. Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits de la Bibliothoque du Roi, Vol. 1

Unassuming in appearance, the first text illuminates the location and nature of the text for which this series was published.

(My French is minimal, but it roughly reads: “Notes and excerpts from manuscripts of the King’s Library. Prepared by the Committee by His Majesty for the Royal Academy of Letters and High Arts”.)  The publication year is 1787.

The museum did not have all the texts in the series; however, it can be assumed that the series was intended to be a regular publication highlighting the holdings of the “King’s Library.”

Or, as it should perhaps be called, the “National Library”?

2. Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits de la Bibliothoque du Roi, Vol. 6

One Revolution later, the sixth book of the series, pictured above,  displays some marked changes from its earlier counterpart. First and foremost is the changed language, in addition to the lack of adornment. Published in “An IX” (Year 9, or 1802) of the French Revolution, the text bears all the austerity and minimalism that one might expect of a cultural institution straddling an apolitical fence. Given, however, that its contents were considered to contain the national treasures of The People, the King’s Library was renamed the National Library, and the holdings were expanded with other texts seized from private holdings.

The next volume in the series owned by the library is the eighth tome, published in 1810:

3. Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits de la Bibliothoque du Roi, Vol. 8

Flaunting a flashy image-laden device and “Imperial” language, it’s obvious another regime change has occurred. Vive Napoleon!

4. Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits de la Bibliothoque du Roi, Vol. 9

Firmly enthroned in France, by 1813 Napoleon was waging to conquer the world.  The imagery of the title page is indicative of the larger changes occurring– the device is larger, fancier, and overt in its imagery.  It was around this time that Napoleon was taking on the Russian Empire.

5. Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits de la Bibliothoque du Roi, Vol. 10

Volume ten, published in 1818, reveals the outcomes of Napoleon’s choices. The imprint device is now emblazoned with fleurs-de-lis rather than an eagle, and the Library is once again le Roi’s.

ANOTHER revolution? Vive la Restoration! Vive le Roi!  That’ll teach ambitious European leaders to undergo a land war in Russia.

(Perhaps.)

Unfortunately, this is where the museum’s collection of books in this series ends. Had the original owner kept collecting them, we would see another change in the 1831 version, with France undergoing yet another revolution.

It is this type of historical evidence that I find fanscinating. Can you imagine the lives the the printers, the members of Academie, or just Pierre Everyman living through that span of years (I mean, we all know how Jean Wealthyman fared)?

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De Cruce

For reasons soon to be evident, today reminds me of a book I was assigned to work on with a group one semester. The purpose of the assignment was to research the book and write up an analytic bibliography of the copy we were given. Our book was Justus Lipsius’s De Cruce, which I present below.

Justus Lipsius (1547 – 1606059) was a 16th century philogian, scholar of classics, and professor from the Netherlands. Lipsius is recognized as the founding father of Neostoicism and, according to the essayist Montagne, the most learned man of his time. One of his primary academic interests was to reconcile the Stoic teachings of Seneca with that of Christianity, and subsequently his most famous work, the multi-volume series De Constantia, was foundational to many of the key themes of the Reformation and humanist intellectual movements.

063Additionally, Lipsius wrote numerous texts on ethics, history, politics, and miscellaneous religious tracts; the text in this study, De Cruce, is one such religious text. A scholar of classical studies and language, it is believed that Lipsius wrote De Cruce as a means of demonstrating his reconciliation with Catholicism and religious piety to his new employer, the College of Louvain, after a lifetime of religious drifting.

The first edition of De Cruce was printed in Antwerp in 1593/1594 by Jan Moretus’ printing house. It contained 22 unsigned etchings depicting various crucifixion scenes, and although the illustrations are unsigned and without specific documentation, scholars believe the images could be the work of Peeter vander Borcht. Although the identity of the artist is not assured, archival research has turned up documentation as to where the etchings were printed, and that was in Antwerp by Lynken van Lanckvelt, who received 168 guilders for the service.

This copy of Justus Lipsius’ De Cruce was printed in 1670 in Amsterdam by the printer Andreas Frisius. It appears to be the first of two printings produced by Frisius, and the 1670 edition was printed in a single edition with a second text, Titulus Sanctae Crucis: seu Historia et Mysterium; Tituli Santae Crucis Domini Nostri Iesu Christi Libri Duo by Honoré Nicquet.

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In case you were wondering about the title:

 071

The text explores the types and natures of crucifixion, with accompanying woodcut images. One particular image (that I completely neglected to get a picture of, so Wikipedia will have to supply) has been, if not the source, then the kindling of a longstanding debate between various Christian denominations. You can probably see why:

Other varieties from the text:

067066068

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volumes

The Entomologists' Text Book

For the last four months I have been interning at a local museum cataloging and documenting a collection of books in their possession. In fact, today was my last day of working on the collection, and although I have several weeks of reports and write-ups ahead of me (so I can’t really call my project “over”), I am already missing the opportunity to explore the volumes.

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These books came into the museum’s possession at the same time as the historic building housing the museum; which is to say that the collection was received as a package deal on the terms of accepting the property. Now, if there was one mantra the professors redundantly reiterated repeatedly throughout my program, it was “No gift is free.” All donations come with a price, be it through donor expectations, upkeep costs, long-term preservation, care and maintenance, whathaveyou. Books almost doubly seem true to this statement, as their mixture of materials, hefty combined weight, and particular storage methods give rise to a number of preservation concerns and requirements.

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These books are no exception–languishing in an air conditioned (but not temperature controlled) storage room, many suffer from centuries of dust build-up, insect damage, humidity and moisture, and, apparently at some point in the past, fire and smoke damage. That said, many of the textblocks are still in fine enough condition that I believe that they have a happy future ahead of them.

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