Book of the Week — Divi Gregorii, episcopie Nysseni, fratris Basilii Magni, opera quae adipisci licuit omnia…


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“…by an ever greater and greater desire, the soul keeps rising constantly to another that lies ahead, and thus it makes its way through ever higher regions towards the Transcendent.” — Saint Gregory of Nyssa

Divi Gregorii, episcopie Nysseni, fratris Basilii Magni, opera quae adipisci licuit omnia…
Saint Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 335-ca. 395)
Basil: Nicolus Episcopius the Younger, 1562
BR65 G7 1562

This is the most complete Latin translation of the works of Saint Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, to its time, and the first translated by philologist Laurentius Sifanus (ca. 1510-1579), who taught at university in Ingolstadt. The translation has been found by modern scholars to be faithful to manuscript copies of the text. Printed marginal references to passages from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are throughout the book.

Gregory of Nyssa (ca. 335-ca. 395) was born in Cappadocia, modern-day Turkey. An erudite theologian, he made significant contributions to the doctrine of the Trinity and the Nicene Creed. He was strongly influenced by Origen (ca. 185-254) and the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandra (ca. 20BCE – ca. 54CE). He and his older brother, Saint Basil, are credited with defining Christian orthodoxy in the Eastern Roman Empire just as Augustine (354-430) was to do later for the Western Roman Empire.

It is likely that Gregory was taught by his older brother Basil, who attended school in Constantinople and Athens. Gregory drew inspiration from pagan Greek philosophy as well as Jewish tradition. He was well-acquainted with the works of Plato (427-347 BCE) and Aristotle (384-322 BCE).

Basil established a monastery in Pontus, which he directed for five years. He wrote a monastic rule still practiced by monks of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Basil was the leader in the fight against Arianism (which denied the divinity of Christ).

Both Basil and Gregory were very close to their sister, Macrina, who also attained sainthood in the Eastern Orthodox Church. After Basil and Macrina died, Gregory continued Basil’s fight against Arianism. He participated in the Council of Antioch against those who refused to recognize the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God. He visited the churches of Palestine, where he asserted the Orthodox teaching about the Most Holy Theotokos, and visited Jerusalem. In 383, he participated in a Council at Constantinople, where he preached a sermon on the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit. He returned to Constantinople in an official capacity twice more before his death, sometime around 395.

Printer-publisher Nicolaus Episcopius the Younger of Basel used a printer’s device that featured a crane, the symbol of watchfulness and discernment. The crane holds a stone in one of its claws so as not to fall asleep. A hand extending from a cloud grasps a bishop’s crozier upon which the crane is perched. Written across the top of the staff is EPISCOP, a shortened form for the Latin word for bishop, and a play on the name of the printer, a latinized form of the name Bischoff.

Nicolaus Episcopius the Elder married Justina Froben, daughter of the well-known printer Johann Froben. Episcopius the Elder printed in partnership with Hieronymus Froben, son of Johann. Nicolaus the Younger learned to print in his father’s shop. Between 1553 and 1565 he concentrated on printing editions of the classics, philosophy and history, including the works of Philo, Livy and Sir Thomas More. His interests were very much in line of other important printers of the time.

Large woodcut device on title, woodcut printer’s device on verso of last leaf. Woodcut historiated initials throughout. Rare Books copy bound in contemporary pigskin over wooden boards, covers tooled in blind with roll-tools. Three of four brass catches remain, clasps lacking.



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“They who sow courtesy reap friendship, and they who plant kindness gather love.” — St Basil the Great

St. Gregory (325?- & St. Basil (329-379)
9th c. AH/15th c. CE

This manuscript, written on polished laid paper, is an Arabic translation from a Greek or Coptic original of writings by St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nyssa. It is written in large naskh script and contains an illumination of the Coptic Cross, surrounded by birds between the texts of the two books of commentary.

Beginning sections of text are marked with red ink for the text, framed by diamond-shaped lozenges in red and black.

Although the manuscript is undated, the motifs and painting style are typical of Egyptian illumination of the early 9th c. AH/15thc. CE.

St. Basil the Great was born in Caesarea, the metropolis of Cappadocia. After he attended school in Constantinople and at Athens he opened an oratory and law practice. Soon afterwards, he established a monastery in Pontus, which he directed for five years. He wrote a monastic rule which would become the longest lasting of those in the Byzantine East, still practiced by monks of the Eastern Orthodox church. St. Basil was one of the giants of the early church. He was responsible for the victory of Nicene orthodoxy over Arianism (which denied the divinity of Christ) and the denunciation of Arianism at the Council of Constantinople in 381/82.

St. Basil’s brother, Gregory became a Christian in his early twenties. Married, he went on to study for the priesthood. He was elected Bishop of Nyssa (in Lower Armenia) in 372.

Gift of Dr. Aziz and Mrs. Lola Atiya.

Medieval Latin Hymn Fragment: “‘You are my son.'”


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(Dominus dixit ad me: Fill-)
us meus es tu.
Ego hodie genu-
i te. Ps(alm). Quare fre-(muerunt gentes)
In sole posuit…

(The Lord Yahweh has told me):
“You are my son.
Today I have become your father”
Ps(alm). Why (have the nations raged)?
In the sun

tabernaculu(m) su-
u(m) et ipse ta(m)qua(m)
spon(n)sus precede(n)s
de thalamo su(o) (exultavit)

In the sun he pitched his tent
and like a bridegroom
coming out of his pavilion/bedroom
has exulted…”

The first psalm was sung at the Introit early in the mass at midnight on December 25 celebrating the Nativity of Christ. The second was sung as the Sequence later in the mass. The oblong diamond indicates that a letter (usually an “M” or “N”) is missing in the text. The musical notation contains a “do” clef at the beginning of each line and a custos or “guard” at the end of each line.

~Transcription, translation, and commentary by James T. Svendsen, associate professor emeritus, World Languages and Cultures, The University of Utah

MS chant frag. 2 — Parchment leaf from an Antiphonal, 16thc. Spain, the Proper of Time, Feast of the Vigil of the Octave of Christmas (1 Jan), Matins, First Nocturn.

~Description by Elizabeth Peterson, associate professor, Dept. of Art & Art History, The University of Utah, from Paging Through Medieval Lives, a catalog for an exhibition held November 2, 1997 through January 4, 1998 at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

Medieval Latin Hymn Fragment: “…the world was subject to him.”


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(orbis terraru(m) erat subdit(us)
illi Ps(alm) Domini est t(erra)
Euouae V. Exquirebant pue-
rum Maria et Joseph
Re. Inter cognotoes
et notos exin
Pastores in-
venerunt Mari-

the world/universe was subject
to him. The earth is the Lord’s… V(erse). Mary and Joseph were
looking for the child…
Re(sponse). among relatives
and friends…
Shepherds found Mary

am et Joseph
et infa(n)tem po-
situm in presepi-
o. Ps(alm) quod Ioseph
preparaverat bovi

and Joseph
and the infant
placed in a manger
Ps(alm). which Joseph
had prepared for cattle

These hymns would have been sung at the mass and Divine Office celebrating the Nativity of Christ. The psalm “Domini est terra” was sung at the Introit of the mass on Christmas Eve, and the “Pastores invenerung” (Luke 2, 16) was sung as the Sequence. The latter was also sung on the Feast of Saint Joseph and the Antiphon sung at matins early in the morning. The sequence of meaningless letters “Euouae” after the psalm is an abbreviation for the first letters of a common ending, a type of cadence in medieval music. Thus musical notation indicated both a “do” clef at the beginning of the recto and “fa” clef for the remaining hymns with a custos at the end of each line. A textual variant is the verse from Luke (2, 44) which omits the participle “festinantes” signifying “in a hurry” which is present in all versions of the Vulgate.

~Transcription, translation, and commentary by James T. Svendsen, associate professor emeritus, World Languages and Cultures, The University of Utah

MS chant frag. 3 — Parchment leaf from an Antiphonal, 16c. Spain.

~Description by Elizabeth Peterson, associate professor, Dept. of Art & Art History, The University of Utah, from Paging Through Medieval Lives, a catalog for an exhibition held November 2, 1997 through January 4, 1998 at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

Medieval Latin Hymn Fragment: “…bone now from my bones…”


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V. Os nu(n)c de ossibus
meis et caro de carn(e)
mea. R. Fortitudo
et decor indume(n)tum
eius: byssus et purpura…

V. (You are) bone now from my bones
and flesh from my flesh.
and beauty (are her clothing:
silken linen and purple…

vestis illius D(o)m(in)e
In sole posuit tab-
ernaculu(m) R.V. Liberasti me Do(min)e
ex ore leomis all’a= Alleluia
R. E. a cornibus
unicorniu(m) humi-
littem mea(m) all’a=Alleluia
Ego ex ore (Altisimi prodivi)

are her vestment O Lord
In the sun (on high) he has placed
his tabernacle [or, tent] V. You have freed me, Lord
from the mouth of the lion Alleluia
R. And my humility from the horns
of the unicorns Alleluia
(I came forth) from the mouth (of the Most High)

These hymns were sung at matins on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary…celebrated on December 8. Many people believe that the feast celebrates Jesus’ conception, but in fact it celebrates Mary’s Immaculate Conception; the fact that Mary was, from the very first moment of her existence (her conception), without sin, and chosen to be the Mother of Jesus. The verses are in antiphonal Plainchant, a pattern of verse and response much like hymns sung today with “call and response.” At matins, a…part of the Divine Office sung early in the morning, a priest or cantor would sing the verse and the choir would respond. The first verse “Os nunc de ossibus” comes from Genesis (2, 23) where Adam exclaims upon the creation of Eve: “This at last is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh” (Jerusalem Bible). Mary is in some ways a counter-Eve, immaculately conceived and the mother of Christ rather than the mother of Cain and cause of expulsion from the garden. The response “Fortitudo et decor” comes from the last chapter of Proverbs (31, 25) which is the “Alphabetic Poem on the Perfect Wife,” a chapter in which each verse begins with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This verse begins with the Hebrew letter “ain.” The verse “Ex ore prodivi” comes from chapter 24 of Ecclesiasticus and the Discourse or Eulogy of Wisdom, the pivotal chapter in the book. Here personified Wisdom speaks of her own creation, and she is identified with the Word of God hovering over the abyss in Genesis. The verse “Liberasti me” is a variation of prayer for aid and salvation from “the virtuous man” of Psalm 21 (22) where he prays in the imperative “Salva me ex ore leonis.”

~Transcription, translation, and commentary by James T. Svendsen, associate professor emeritus, World Languages and Cultures, The University of Utah

MS chant frag. 4 — Parchment leaf from an Antiphonal, 16th c Spain/Portugal

~Description by Elizabeth Peterson, associate professor, Dept. of Art & Art History, The University of Utah, from Paging Through Medieval Lives, a catalog for an exhibition held November 2, 1997 through January 4, 1998 at the Utah Museum of Arts.

Book of the Week — Prayers Written at Vailima


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“Deliver us from fear and favor; from mean hopes and cheap pleasures. Have mercy on each in his deficiency; let him not be cast down; support the stumbling on the way, and give at last rest to the weary.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

Prayers Written at Vailima
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
Pacific Palisades, CA: The Melville Press, 1999
PR5488 P75 1999

In 1889, Robert Louis Stevenson moved his family to Vailima in the South Sea island of Samoa. The Scottish novelist and poet was in failing health. His doctors hoped that a change in climate would help. Stevenson believed in the power of prayer and composed many of his own. He held evening prayer services in his home, attended by his family members and his Samoan servants. The Samoans had a strong tradition of closing each day with prayer and hymns.

Stevenson lived for another four years, dying on December 3rd. In 1910, Fanny Stevenson had her husband’s prayers published as an ornate gift book, to which she added her own introduction. There is a morning prayer and two evening prayers, a prayer for time and a prayer for rain, a prayer for separation, a prayer for friends and a prayer for family, a prayer for Sunday, a prayer for self-blame and a prayer for self-forgetfulness, and a prayer for joy.

In this edition, both book and jacket have a delicate, handmade quality that reflects the subject matter of native prayers in a far corner of the world. Designed by Catherine Kanner, with her linoleum cuts used directly to print the many illustrations. The text was composed using handset Bembo types and printed letterpress by Bonnie Thompson Norman of The Windowpane Press. The paper used is natural white Hiromi-Sansui paper in the 24 gsm weight, in French-folded signatures. The binding design is a collaboration between the book’s designer and Allwyn O’Mara, the binder.

Edition of two hundred numbered copies. Rare Books copy is no. 95, signed by the designer.

Medieval Latin Hymn Fragment: “…of the Apostle and, embalming it with spices,…”


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(Maximilla Christo amabilis
corpus) Apolstoli optimo
loco cum aro-
matibus sepelivit
Ps(alm) Laudate pue(ri) A(ntiphon)

(Maximilla, a woman dear to Christ,
too the body) of the Apostle
and, embalming it with spices,
buried it in the most honored place.
Psalm. Praise the Lord, O you servants…

Qui perse-
quebantur iustu(m)
demersisti eos Do-
mine in inferno
et in ligno crusis
dux iusti fuisti Ps(alm)

You, O Lord, plunged
into hell those who persecuted
the just man, and You were his guide
on the wood of the cross. Psalm

Laudate omnes gent(es laudate Dominum)
Hy(m)n(us) Exultet caelu(m, laudibus)
V(ersus) In omnem (terram exivit sonus eorum)
ex duobus qui
secuti sung Domi-
num erat A(n)

Sing praises, all you peoples, praise the Lord…
Hymn. Let heaven exult with praises…
Verse. Their sound went out unto all the earth…
One of the two who
followed the Lord was An-

dreas frater Si-
monis Petri. Alleluia.
Ca(nent) Magnifi(cat)

Andrew the brother
of Simon Peter. Alleluia.
Let them now sing the Magnificat

The hymns of the previous texts are sung on the Feast of St. Andrew, one of the apostles and the brother of Simon Peter. They are sung at Vespers on his feast celebrated variously but usually on November 30th. The Office of St. Andrew is not a historia presenting events in a logical and chronological order. It focuses mainly on two themes, as indicated in the passages quoted here: 1) his vocation or calling as one of the apostles; and 2) his martyrdom by crucifixion, an event related in the apocryphal Acta.

~Transcription, translation, and commentary by James T. Svendsen, associate professor emeritus, World Languages and Cultures, The University of Utah

MS chant frag. 8 — Parchment leaves from an Antiphonal, 16th c Italy/S. France. from the Proper of Saints, Feast of St. Andrew, First/Second vespers.

~Description by Elizabeth Peterson, associate professor, Dept. of Art & Art History, The University of Utah, from Paging Through Medieval Lives, a catalog for an exhibition held November 2, 1997 through January 4, 1998 at the Utah Museum of Art.

Book of the Week — The Pit and the Pendulum


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Very suddenly there came back to my soul motion and sound — the tumultuous motion of the heart, and, in my ears, the sound of its beating. Then a pause in which all is blank. Then again sound, and motion, and touch — a tingling sensation pervading my frame. Then the mere consciousness of existence, without thought — a condition which lasted long. Then, very suddenly, thought, and shuddering terror, and earnest endeavor to comprehend my true state. Then a strong desire to lapse into insensibility. Then a rushing revival of soul and a successful effort to move.

The Pit and the Pendulum
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
New York: South Street Seaport Museum, 1991
PS2618 P5 1991

Wood engravings by John DePol. Edition of 150 copies, signed by the artist.



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“No single man makes history. History cannot be seen, just as one cannot see grass growing. Wars and revolutions, kings and Robespierres, are history’s organic agents, its yeast. But revolutions are made by fanatical men of action with one-track mind, geniuses in their ability to confine themselves to a limited field. They overturn the old order in a few hours or days, the whole upheaval takes a few weeks or at most years, but the fanatical spirit that inspired the upheavals is worshiped for decades thereafter, for centuries.” — Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

Борис Пастернаk
Париж, 1959

Doctor Zhivago
Boris Pasternak
Paris: Société d’édition et d’ímpression mondiale, 1959
PG3476 P27 D6 1959b

Just because its not a “first edition” and just because its “only a paperback” doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a great story. We present the following case in point:

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) was a Soviet Russian poet, novelist, and literary translator. In Russia, his first book of poems, My Sister, Life, is considered one of the most influential collections published in the Russian language. However, outside of Russia, Pasternak is best known for his 1957 novel, Doctor Zhivago. Critically depicting life between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and WWI, the manuscript was originally smuggled to Milan and published in 1957 by Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. The novel quickly rose to fame and by 1958 Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Although Pasternak was forced to decline the prize by the Soviet government, Doctor Zhivago continued to be mass-produced outside the Soviet Union and throughout the non-Communist world.

In April 2014, the United States Central Intelligence Agency released dozens of declassified documents confirming that it had covertly distributed thousands copies of the original Russian-language edition of Doctor Zhivago to Soviet tourists in Western Europe and also funded the publication of a miniature, lightweight paperback edition that could be easily mailed or concealed in a jacket pocket. The front cover and the binding identify the book in Russian; the back of the book states that it was printed in France.

~~Contributed by Lyuba Basin and Luise Poulton

Book of the Week — Queen Moo’s Talisman


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When grief shall rend thy heart, seek thine own soul;
Shut out life’s din, and find that sacred goal.

Queen Moo’s Talisman: The Fall of the Maya Empire
Alice Dixon Le Plongeon (1851-1910)
New York: Peter Eckler, Publisher, 1902
First edition

Alice Dixon Le Plongeon was an English photographer, amateur archaeologist, traveler, and author. She was the daughter of Henry Dixon, a copperplate printer and photographer.

She travelled with her husband, Augustus Le Plongeon, to Mexico in 1873. They were early excavators of the ancient Mayan sites of Chichén Itzá and Uxmal.

While studying the artifacts at Chichén Itzá, the Le Plongeon’s pieced together a narrative of Queen Moo (the Mayan word for “macaw”), an ancient Mayan ruler, and her brother and consort Prince Chaacmol (“powerful warrior”). In November 1875, they unearthed a large statue and other artifacts near the Platform of the Eagles and Jaguars at Chichén Itzá, including a piece of jadeite that Augustus had set in a gold brooch. Alice wore the talisman for the rest of her life.

A talisman I give thee — jadeite green,
‘Twill ever lend thee intuition keen,
Its wearer may with love herself surround,
For with attractive force it doth abound.
Would one deceive, and traitor prove to thee,
His mind with this thou wilt quite plainly see.
Thro’ centuries this talisman can bind
Two souls — desiring this, the way thou ‘lt find.
But keep it sacredly for thee alone;
If thou lose this a foe will seize thy throne.

Even though the archaeological community was not receptive to the Le Plongeons’ theories about Queen Moo, Alice publisher her epic poem. In the introduction, the author discusses the connections, linguistic and cultural, her husband, made between the Maya empire, Egypt, India, Buddha, Brahma, the Ramayana, the Mediterranean, Africa, Greece, Peru, Siam; and the maypole dance — practiced in the Yucatan and the British Isles.

Referring to the Troano Codex and the Codex Cortesianus, he connected the word “CAN,” “the generic word for serpent,” found inscribed in ancient Yucatan ruins with the Khans of Asiatic nations. Dr. Plongeon interpreted inscriptions in both manuscripts as the story of a great flood caused by an earthquake, submerging a “great island in the Atlantic ocean,” suggesting that the Troano Codex dates the disappearance of the island 8,060 years before the writing of the manuscript. “Judging from Egyptian records, the cataclysms must have occurred between ten and eleven thousand years ago.”

The publisher’s prospectus described the work as “a dramatic…account of events which caused the dismemberment of the Maya empire, according to Maya [manuscripts], mural inscriptions and frescos at Chichén in Yucatan. Interesting data are also given concerning ancient rites and religious ideas of the Mayas, their belief in the immortality of the soul, its reincarnation in human form, and its power to manifest, while disembodied, to those in the flesh.”

At the back of the book is included several songs with music, words by Alice Le Plongeon and accompaniment by Ida Simmons.

Rare Books copy is inscribed by John O. Viking, a correspondent of Alice Le Plongeon’s, on the front free flyleaf, “From/John O. Viking/Ishpeming, Mich./April 30th 08/To Sister Benediction/ 8/28, 1950.”

An autographed letter from the author to Viking dated June 22nd in the original mailing envelope and regarding the purchasing of copies of Queen Moo, some Mayan vocabulary, and a few printer’s errors in her book, A Dream of Atlantis, mounted on front pastedown; a typed letter signed by the author to John O. Viking dated May 6th, 1908 regarding the possible publication of A Dream of Atlantis in the magazine The Word also laid in at rear; typed letter signed by an associate of the Theosophical Publishing Company of New York dated August 25th, 1910 addressed to Viking and informing him of Alice Le Plongeon’s death in original mailing envelope affixed to the rear pastedown.

John Olof Viking (b. 1874) was a Swedish-born writer who settled in Michigan with his family in 1882. He worked as a staff writer for the American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal. His articles also appeared in other publications, including Cloverland Magazine and Daily Mining Journal.  

Frontispiece of the author with tissue guard captioned in red. Further illustrated with thirteen black-and-white numbered drawings and three headpieces. Title-page printed in red and black. Bound in publisher’s gray cloth lettered in gilt on front board and spine. Top edge gilt.