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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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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.

008 edited

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.

001

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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