Rare Books welcomes the Nahuatl Language and Culture Program, Latin American Studies, The University of Utah


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Rare Books welcomes participants of the Nahuatl Language and Culture Program, Latin American Studies, The University of Utah.

This program is in partnership with IDIEZ (El Instituto de Docencia e  Investigación Etnológica de Zacatecas, Mexico). The program offers the opportunity to study classical and modern forms of Nahuatl from beginning to advanced levels. The program is designed to develop language fluency and cultural wisdom. Students experience the continuity between past and present through the study of colonial and modern texts and conversation — investigating historical, economic, political and social aspects of Nahua civilization.

This year, twenty-eight high school, undergraduate, and graduate students from across the United States are attending the program, taught by native speaking scholars from Mexico.

Today, participants take a field trip to Rare Books where they will have a hands-on opportunity to study pre- and post-conquest Aztec codex facsimiles and 16th through 21st first editions of grammar, law, catechism, drama, history, geography, archeology, and poetry documenting this ancient and extraordinary culture.

Descriptions and images of many of these pieces may be found in two of our digital exhibitions:

Viva Mexica Exhibition Thumbnail

Nahuatl Spoken Here 2013

Welcome, Nahuatl Language and Culture Program students and faculty!


Gallery Talk! Tomorrow, Thursday, June 21, 5:30PM, Peter & Donna Thomas, Book Artists



Peter and Donna Thomas are book artists from Santa Cruz, CA. They work collaboratively and individually letterpress printing, hand-lettering and illustrating texts, making paper, and hand binding both fine press and artists’ books. Inspired by a quest for beauty and perfection, and by the potential of word, image, shape and texture to create an illuminating experience, their initial aim was to create limited edition fine press books made of the finest materials and produced to the highest standards of quality, in both full size and miniature format. This aesthetic continues to guide them as they work in new formats made possible by personal computer technology, exploring non-traditional book structures and shaped book objects as both limited editions and one-of-a-kind books. They travel the USA as the “Wandering Book Artists” giving talks, workshops and demonstrations to both academic and community-based audiences.

From the Rare Books Department
May 24 through September 1, 2018
Level 1 lobby, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah

Gallery talk
Thursday, June 21, 5:30pm
Level 1 lobby, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah
Cosponsored by the Book Arts Program


Book of the Week — Prove Before Laying


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“A harsh algorithmic line levels its gaze, makes one blunt admission after another while the time in which the statement is made expands and contracts with efficient respiration, an echo following itself across all the bitmapped spaces of the mind.”

Prove Before Laying
Johanna Drucker (b. 1952)
New Haven: Druckwerk, 1997
N7433.4 D76 P76 1997

Letterpress printed by the author on a Vandercook using photopolymer plates. Hand bound by the author. Edition of forty copies, signed. Rare Books copy is no. 22.

A Recipe for Disaster


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“At two P.M we set sail, and the men voluntarily launched out to make a traverse of fifteen miles across Melville Sound, before a strong wind and heavy sea. The privation of food, under which our voyagers were then laboring, absorbed every other terror; otherwise the most powerful persuasion could not have induced them to attempt such a traverse. It was with the utmost difficulty that the canoes were kept from turning their broadsides to the waves, though we sometimes steered with all the paddles.”

And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken—
The ice was all between.

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

  • “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea …
John Franklin (1786 – 1847)
London: J. Murray, 1823
First edition
G650 1819 F8

Throughout the shelves of the rare book collections, there are glimpses of a body of literature that remains largely overlooked: nineteenth-century polar fiction. Have you heard of it?

If you have ever read the works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Arthur Conan Doyle or Mary Shelley (among many others), you might have glimpsed the brooding nature of the poles, where men become violent and mad, and the true horrors of humanity are displayed. As in Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, framing the stories in the Arctic allowed the writers to explore the themes of the dangerous pursuit of knowledge and the sublime, in addition to developing haunting allusions of Dante’s frozen inner circle of hell.

“We encamped at seven and enjoyed a substantial meal. The party were in good spirits this evening at the recollection of having crossed the rapid, and being in possession of provision for the next day. Besides we had taken the precaution of bringing away the skin of the deer to eat when the meat should fail. The temperature at six P.M. was 30.”

During the nineteenth century, polar expeditions and the search for a Northwest Passage enticed the people of England to the point that people sang polar-themed songs, had polar-themed dinner parties and even staged polar expedition reenactments, and read every single piece of polar-themed literature they could find. The uncharted territory and theories of the mysterious open, polar seas also provided England yet another opportunity to show off their naval prowess and further exert their national identity upon the world.

“My original intention, whenever the season should compel us to relinquish the survey, had been to return by the way of the Copper-mine River, and in pursuance of my arrangement with the Hook to travel to Slave Lake through the line of woods extending thither by the Great Bear and Marten Lakes, but our scanty stock of provision and the length of the voyage rendered it necessary to make for a nearer place.”

The explorers who were successful returned to the British Isles with stories of their adventures and went on to publish narratives of their journeys. In 1821, Captain William Parry published a best-selling account of that voyage which propelled him on a book tour, while Elisha Kent Kane’s 1856 Arctic Explorations sold 200,000 copies, which would be the equivalent of two million books today. When Kane died, his funeral procession was the second largest of the nineteenth century, following closely behind Abraham Lincoln.

“The reader will, probably, be desirous to know how we passed our time in such a comfortless situation: the first operation after encamping was to thaw our frozen shoes, if a sufficient fire could be made, and dry ones were put on; each person then wrote his notes of the daily occurrences, and evening prayers were read; as soon as supper was prepared it was eaten, generally in the dark, and we went to bed, and kept up a cheerful conversation until our blankets were thawed by the heat of our bodies and we had gathered sufficient warmth to enable us to fall asleep.”

Of all the Arctic expeditions, Sir John Franklin’s 1845 journey was, without a doubt, the most famous, due to the loss of 128 crew members and their two ships, the Erebus and the Terror. It took more than one hundred years to solve the mystery behind this fateful voyage, and once the ships were found, artifacts and skeletal remains proved the rumors of cannibalism that had been circulating since Captain Franklin and his crew originally went missing. Researchers have speculated that the ships were trapped in ice and that the men aboard likely died from a combination of scurvy, starvation, exposure and lead poisoning from the poorly soldered tin cans which held their rations for three years.

“We had already found that the country, between Cape Barrow and the Copper-mine River, would not supply our wants, and this it seemed probable would now be still more the case; besides, at this advanced season, we expected the frequent recurrence of gales, which would cause great detention, if not danger in proceeding along that very rocky part of the coast.”

Over the course of the century Franklin’s crew was among many that had perished. However, it is important to note that this area was home to the Inuit, or Esquimaux, as they are described in the journals: generations of people who have lived and thrived in the Arctic, raising children, hunting, and tending to their elderly. Unfortunately, racial prejudice of the colonial powers restrained the British explorers from imitating and learning the indigenous ways of traveling, hunting, eating and staying warm.

“Their spirits immediately revived, each of them shook the officers cordially by the hand, and declared they now considered the worst of their difficulties over, as they did not doubt of reaching Fort Enterprise in a few days, even in their feeble condition. We had indeed every reason to be grateful, and our joy would have been complete were it not mingled with sincere regret at the separation of our poor Esquimaux, the faithful Junius.”

Franklin first explored the Arctic in a series of three expeditions between 1819 – 1822. Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea was published the following year by John Murray in London, a publishing company that took particular interest in the poles. The book discusses the four-year journey, revealing the hardships of the overland exploration in the Northwest territories of Canada, specifically around the Coppermine River of the Nunavut Territory. This publication also includes detailed color engravings depicting the landscapes and the many Intuit interpreters who helped along the way. Sadly, this voyage did not prove to be entirely successful either.

“Everyone was on the alert at an early hour, being anxious to commence the journey. Our luggage consisted of ammunition, nets, hatchets, ice chisels, astronomical instruments, clothing, blankets, three kettles, and the two canoes, which were each carried by one man. The officers carried such a portion of their own things as their strength would permit; the weight carried by each man was about ninety pounds, and with this we advanced at the rate of about a mile an hour, including rests.”

The final chapters describe the last months of the journey as the crew traversed the harsh Canadian landscape back to the Coppermine River. In addition to Captain Franklin, Dr. John Richardson, who kept notes and wrote the sections on geology, botany and ichthyology, included his own experience, during the time in which the party had split into three. Their final notes both emphasize the failing morale of the crew, the dropping temperatures, and the absence of food. Plagued by an early winter, the menu became scant: a small variety of berries before the frost; deer and musk-oxen, when possible; fish, until the nets were destroyed; a small supply of pemmican, a paste of dried and pounded meat mixed with melted fat; and partridge combined with tripe de roche.

“We supped off a single partridge and some tripe de roche; this unpalatable weed was now quite nauseous to the whole party, and in several it produced bowel complaints. Mr. Hood was the greatest sufferer from this cause.”

Tripe de Roche is the Canadian term for rock tripe, a type of lichen that grows on the rocks of North America. Although not at all nutritious, this edible fungus became the main source of food for the explorers and was often boiled with willows dug up beneath the snow. The taste is bitter and often causes severe stomach cramps and diarrhea and, combined with the extreme cold and deep snow, led to higher levels of exhaustion. A day’s worth of walking diminished from twelve miles to five, depending on the conditions.

“In the evening we encamped at the lower end of a narrow chasm through which the river flows for upwards of a mile. The walls of this chasm are upwards of two hundred feet high, quite perpendicular, and in some places only a few yards apart. The river precipitates itself into it over a rock, forming two magnificent and picturesque falls close to each other.”

To their dismay, even the lichen was all but plentiful in this barren country. Because of this, the men were sometimes forced to eat the leather from their moosehide shoes and scavenge the carcasses of rotting deer, boiling the bones in a soup only to retrieve the smallest amount of marrow. Desperation and despondency took hold of the party and in the final weeks, with many of the men becoming too weak to hunt or even walk. Towards the end of the journey, the group had separated into three, with Captain Franklin leading the pack to Fort Enterprise to find provisions and help from the Inuits. Unfortunately, only seventeen out of the twenty-eight party survived and suspicions of murder and cannibalism began to circulate among the survivors.

“At length we reached Fort Enterprise, and to our infinite disappointment and grief found it a perfectly desolate habitation. There was no deposit of provision, no trace of the Indians, no letter from Mr. Wentzel to point where the Indians might be found. It would be impossible for me to describe our sensations after entering this miserable abode, and discovering how we had been neglected.”

Leaving the men who were too weak to travel behind, Franklin went forward to look for provisions and help. The hunger, cold, and seemingly bleak chance of survival created hostility among some of the remaining crew, particularly between Dr. Richardson and Michel. In his final entry, Dr. Richardson recounts confronting Michel, who “reported that he had been in chase of some deer… and although he did not come up with them, yet that he found a wolf which had been killed by the stroke of a deer’s horn, and had brought part of it.” The meat was eaten with satisfaction but as time went on Michel’s strange and erratic behavior led Dr. Richardson to believe that Michel had either murdered two of the missing men, or found the bodies in the snow and took their flesh. After another man was mysteriously murdered, Dr. Richardson began to fear for his own safety and shot Michel point-blank without any further questions.

“A small quantity of tripe de roche was gathered; and Credit, who had been hunting, brought in the antlers and back bone of a deer which had been killed in the summer. The wolves and birds of pretty had picked them clean, but there still remained a quantity of the spinal marrow which they had not be able to extract. This, although putrid, was esteemed as a valuable prize, and the spine being divided into portions, was distributed equally. After eating the marrow, which was so acrid as to excoriate the lips, we rendered the bones friable by burning, and ate them also.”

Even in the coldest hour, Franklin and the explorers who came before and after saved the pages of their notebooks from the fire so that the people of the world could come to know their adventures. Murder, cannibalism, treacherous landscapes and perilous seas. It is no wonder that, upon returning to England, these narratives, the successes and failures of the Arctic Expeditions, excited the people to the point of inspiring a new genre of literature, one that has for so long been neglected.

~Contributed by Lyuba Basin, Rare Books

Book of the Week — Against Fiction


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“Contents were clearly Marked on The Cover: Container A Momentary Sequence Sealed Into Itself.”

Against Fiction
Johanna Drucker (b. 1942)
Oakland, CA: Druckwerk, 1983

From the artist’s statement: “The book embodied the conflicts I had with the traditions of fiction in which I had been steeped as a young writer and the terms of literary production I was being exposed to in the Bay Area literary scene, as well as in the art contexts I had encountered in Europe and on my return. The “Against” of the title was intended to signal dependence on and rejection of that tradition….” From the colophon: “Handset Stymie. Printed on a Vandercook Proof press.” Edition of one hundred and twenty-five copies. University of Utah copy is no. 96, signed by the author.

“The corner of the room gaped wide open, just as she imagined it would standing there yesterday with a grin in her hand and a paper across her face stating the conditions of occupancy.”

“Features of distinction differentiate one house from another. This sense of identity, position, less distinct than letter from letter, accomodates [sic] itself to description. A place dying to be sold.”

“My second idea was to leave, to hide, to remember all I’d seen and manage it later on. But my final, fatal decision in that moment was to lend a hand and not know what I was in for.”

Book of the Week — Movies as a Form of Reincarnation


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“Because you thought I was given the key to that library, becoming in that regard its keeper, I was able to become a triumphant blur, an unmistakeable hum in the night. These are the corridors where I wandered, a shrouded, lightning haunted landscape at the edge of sight, a ruined world, that memory, that deceiver, cannot shake loose.” — John Yau

Movies as a Form of Reincarnation
John Yau and Archie Rand
New York City: Granary Books, 2004
PS3575 A9 M68 2004

Text by John Yau. From the colophon: “Images are digitally manipulated photocollages created and hand-colored by Archie Rand. The book was designed at Granary Books: the types used are Caslon Antique and Evil of Frankenstein; Silicon Gallery Fine Arts Prints in Philadelphia printed the book on the Iris 3047 using Lyson Quad-Black Neutral ink. The text stock is Somerset Book 175 gsm. Bound in cloth over boards by Judith Ivry in New York City during the summer of 2004.” Edition of forty copies (1-25 for sale; 26-40 hors commerce) each signed by the poet and the artist. Rare Books copy is no. 29.

Stop and Smell the (Arctic) Flowers


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As if some little Arctic flower
Upon the polar hem –
Went wandering down the Latitudes
Until it puzzled came
To continents of summer –
To firmaments of sun –
To strange, bright crowds of flowers –
And birds, of foreign tongue!
– Emily Dickinson

The Northwest Passage was the name given to the sea route which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific along the northern coast of North America via the waterways in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Toward the end of the 15th century and into the 20th century, colonial powers from Europe sent their best explorers on countless attempts to discover a commercial route, with many failing and turning back and others ending in disaster. The first successful journey was made in 1906 by a Norwegian explorer named Roald Amundsen, completing the passage from Greenland to Alaska.

Prior to Amundsen, notable captains such as John Ross, Elisha Kent Kane, James Clark Ross and William Parry explored separate parts of the Northwest Passage in the first half of the 19th century.  Parry’s first voyage was, without a doubt, the most successful in the search for the passage and his second and third attempts continued to uncover new information about the mysterious archipelago, including research on climate, flora and fauna. In fact, the notes taken by Parry and his shipmates and recorded in three separate journals contributed to crucial research in botany, among other natural sciences.

Journal of a Voyage of the Discovery of a North-West Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific
William Edward Parry
Philadelphia: Abraham Small, 1821
First American Edition
G635 P3 A3 1821

Between 1821-1825 three ships from the British Royal Navy, the Fury, Hecla, and the Gripper, took three separate journeys into the Arctic under the leadership of Captain Parry and Captains John Ross and George Frances Lyon. While their expeditions proved to be successful, they were not without tragedy as scurvy became common and ships were often stuck in ice for weeks on end. Narratives of the journeys were published in London and Philadelphia, respectively, with detailed accounts of the days on board as well as their interactions with the Inuit, described as Esquimaux in the journals.

Journal of a Third Voyage of the Discovery of a North-West Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific
William Edward Parry
Philadelphia: H.C. Carey I. Lea, 1826
First American Edition
G650 1824 P31

A Brief Narrative of an Unsuccessful Attempt to Reach Repulse Bay
G.F. Lyon
London: J. Murray, 1825
First Edition
G 650 1824 L9 1825

In addition, the journals included spectacular illustrations of the ships amid the looming icebergs and intricate appendices which accounted for the varieties of animals and plants that they encountered along the way. Among one of the shipmates that helped with the drawings and collecting data was Henry Parkyns Hoppner, listed as ‘lieutenant’ on the Griper in the first journal’s roster. Hoppner accompanied Parry on all three expeditions, first as a lieutenant on the Griper and Hecla, and later promoted to second in command on the Fury in the last voyage. Although Hoppner never received the kind of international acclaim as his Captains, his creative and artistic role on board as illustrator and actor proved to leave an impression.

Collection of Plants Found in the Arctic Regions…
Henry Parkyns Hoppner (1795 – 1833)
Publisher not identified, 1821
QK 474 H66

Impressions are also what we find in this small and unassuming book. From each of the pressed flowers, a ghostly accompaniment is imprinted on the opposite page, hinting at traces of life as much from the colorful flowers as from the hands of the shipmate who collected them. Impressions are also present as the handwritten notes inked on the beginning and end pages of the book. With no bibliographic information, we can only look to a small note which describes the book as “a collection of plants found in the Arctic Sections … made by Captain Hopner … 2nd in command of H.M.S. “Fury” … The “Fury” and “Hecla” (Captain Lyon) sailed to discover the N.W. passage May 1821.” Following the description, the book is addressed to Hoppner’s friend James Christie.

Attached to a page, there is also a miniature envelope that holds “moss which Franklin and his party had as their only food.” It is possible that this note alludes to the failed overland expeditions in the Arctic lead by Sir John Franklin between 1819-1822. During this time, Franklin lost more than half of the men in his party to starvation and, in order to survive, the remainder of his crew ate lichen, with some attempting to eat their own leather boots. Furthermore, there were rumors of cannibalism and at least one murder reported.

In addition to the handwritten notes, a bookplate on the first page suggests that sometime during the mid-20th century the book was held in the Department of Botany in Oxford while Nicholas Polunin was the Keeper of the Herbaria, which is now almost four hundred years old. While lecturing at Oxford, Polunin traveled to the Canadian Arctic as a botanist on an expedition that discovered the last major islands to be added to the world’s map.

Polunin was well recognized for his research and publications, specifically Circumpolar Artic Flora which was published in 1959. This book helped inspire James Walsh’ modern herbaria, The Arctic Plants of New York City, which “combines personal letters, poetry, prose essay, scholarly research, botanical exploration and artistic investigation,” of plants gather in Brooklyn, New York. The bibliography includes a reproduction of the index from Polunin’s work, in which the author has marked in red pen the eighty-eight Arctic plants that occur in New York City.

The Arctic Plants of New York City
James Walsh
New York: Granary Books, 2015
QK177 W35 2015

From the publisher’s website: “The Arctic Plants of New York City […] ranges from the Doctrine of Signatures to the sleep of plants, and from Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Muir on mental travel to Giacomo Leopardi and Charles Baudelaire on the necessity of illusion for art and life. Interspersed throughout the book are a number of two-page spreads that focus on a single plant, such as Common Mugwort, with a mounted botanical specimen of that plant surrounded by texts drawn from earlier writers on botany and set in verse, creating a field of word-objects interacting with plant-objects. The letters that open the book lead into a prose essay that touches on the souls of plants, their use in medicine and as spurs to mental travel, their transience, their migrations, their meaning.” Written, designed, and letterpress printed by James Walsh, with eighteen botanical specimens pressed and mounted by the author. Bound by Daniel Kelm at Wide Awake Garage. Edition of forty copies, 34 of which are for sale.

~Contributed by Lyuba Basin, Rare Books

On Jon’s Desk: Forkel’s Allgemeine Litteratur der Musik crosses paths with Harry Potter


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“I knew it! I knew it!
“Are we allowed to speak yet?” said Ron grumpily. Hermione ignored him.
“Nicolas Flamel,” she whispered dramatically, “is the only known maker of the Philosopher’s Stone!”
This didn’t have quite the effect she’d expected.
“The what?” said Harry and Ron.
“Oh, honestly, don’t you two read? Look — read that, there.”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Allgemeine Litteratur der Musik; oder, Anleitung zur kenntniss musikalischer bu̇cher, welche von den ȧltesten bis auf die neusten zeiten…

Johann Nikolaus Forkel (1749 – 1818)

Leipzig: Schwickert, 1792

First edition

ML105 F72

It seems to me that a person either loves the Harry Potter series or hates it. Some people even refuse to read it despite the pleas of HP lovers close to them. As we fanatical fans know because our hearts tell us it is so, the abstainers would love it too if they would just finally read it. But for those of us who aren’t able to convince the last hold outs of our generation, at least we can experience the magic of sharing J. K. Rowling’s world with the children we are raising as they become old enough to join the Harry Potter fan club. It is in this light, that of needing to be the expert of all things Harry Potter in order to guide my nine year old son as he reads the series this summer, that I contemplate a recent important discovery.

I remember when I first entered the world of Harry Potter. It was the summer after my first year of college and I was looking for my summer fiction fix, an annual college ritual created by restricting myself from fiction during the school year in an effort to achieve better grades. In May 2003, as classes were ending, the release of the fifth book in the Harry Potter series (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) was eagerly anticipated the next month (June). I had been hearing about the series for a couple of years and it was finally time to take the plunge. And I dove deep. I read the first four books in the series at a pace of about a book a week and was ready for the fifth installment of the series when it was released in June. Needless to say I, like so many millions of others, was hooked on HP from then on. I have to admit to having read the series in its entirety several times in the years since I joined the club.

And strangely, at no point in any of those readings did it occur to me that a certain important character in the first book (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) is an actual historical figure. Every time I read about Professor Dumbledore’s association with Nicolas Flamel I assumed J. K. Rowling had created Flamel as a fictitious character. It wasn’t until this week and a chance encounter with Allgemeine Litteratur der Musik while conducting research on a separate topic that I discovered how all these years I had been missing something.

But let me back up and provide a little context. The plot of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone [spoiler alert] follows Harry Potter, a young wizard who discovers his magical heritage on his eleventh birthday, when he receives a letter of acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry makes close friends and a few enemies during his first year at the school. With the help of his friends Ron and Hermione, Harry faces an attempted comeback by the dark wizard Lord Voldemort, who killed Harry’s parents, but failed to kill Harry when he was just 15 months old.

During his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry the successful enterprise of preventing his nemesis’ return hinges on Hermione’s deductive reasoning in deducing what Professor Quirrell is after, and Professor Dumbledore is hiding, within the school. This artifact, the Philosopher’s Stone, is the creation of the alchemist Nicolas Flamel – an associate of Professor Dumbledore. And this is where Rowling’s fiction intersects with historical fact.

Nicolas Flamel (1340 – 1418) was a successful French scribe and manuscript seller. After his death, Flamel developed a reputation as an alchemist. Lore has it that he discovered the Philosopher’s Stone and achieved immortality. These legendary accounts first appeared in the 17th century. I had no idea that Nicolas Flamel was an actual person until I found him, completely by coincidence, in Forkel’s Allgemeine Litteratur der Musik (1792).

Johann Nikolaus Forkel was a German musician, musicologist, and music theorist. The son of a cobbler, he received early musical training (especially in keyboard playing) from Johann Heinrich Schulthesius, who was the local Kantor. In other aspects of his music education he was self-taught, especially in regards to theory. As a teenager he served as a singer in Lüneburg. He studied law for two years at the University of Göttingen, and then remained associated with the University for more than fifty years. There he held varied positions, including instructor of music theory, organist, keyboard teacher, and eventually director of all music at the university. Forkel is often regarded as the founder of Historical Musicology because through his vision the study of music history and theory became an academic discipline with rigorous standards of scholarship. He was an enthusiastic admirer of Johann Sebastian Bach, whose music he did much to popularize. He also wrote the first biography of Bach (in 1802), which is of particular value today due to his decision to correspond directly with Bach’s sons Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (thereby obtaining valuable information that would otherwise have been lost). Forkel’s Allgemeine Litteratur der Musik (Dictionary of Musical Literature) is a survey of musical texts arranged by author’s last name in alphabetical order, with dictionary-style entries.

On page eleven is an entry for Nicolas Flamel. Loosely translated from the German, in part it reads, “A French poet, painter, philosopher, and mathematician in Paris at the end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th centuries, born in Pontoise … He was especially known for alchemy…” Forkel’s description includes the texts written by Flamel (easily distinguished in this work because the Latin titles were printed in a Roman typeface rather than the Gothic) which relate in some way to music. He provides references to important passages in regards to music within Flamel’s texts as well.

In addition to being able to share this new insight with my nine year old son as he reads Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, this experience has led me to conclude two things: there is more depth to the Harry Potter series than some people want to give it credit for and more importantly, the rare books collections are an incredible source of knowledge and insight. Irreplaceable is how I would describe them, actually. It wasn’t through the internet that I found out that a character in one of my favorite books is actually a historical figure. Rather, like Hermione with the information that allowed Harry to defeat Lord Voldemort and stop his return, I found it in an old book in the library.

~ Contributed by Jon Bingham, Rare Books Curator

Stop and Smell the Flowers


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“But I must gather knots of flowers and buds, and garlands gay;
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.”
–  Alfred Lord Tennyson, “The May Queen”

When was the last time you stopped to smell the flowers? I did it just two days ago, when the purple and white lilac bushes in front of my house produced such an aroma after the rain that I had to stop in my tracks to take it in. Some days I’ll pick the poppies and sunflowers that grow wild in the backyard and set them in a vase on the kitchen table, and if I’m feeling particularly extra, I will even go out and buy an arrangement to add some oomph to the room.

Although my allergies have been getting worse and worse every year, my enthusiasm for flora has yet to subside. I’ve been enjoying the slower campus days at The University of Utah, when I can wander around outside the library and take in all of the new blooms. I am always impressed with the assortment of flowers lining the pathways, some of which I recognize as native to the state, while others look unfamiliar, yet still alluring.


Natural Flowers of the Holy Land
Jerusalem, 1900s
QK 378 N37 1900z

We might find flowers attractive for a number of reasons ranging from color, shape, texture or smell, but did you know the craft of pressing flowers is actually an ancient art that dates back to 16thcentury? It is said that Samurai warriors in Japan once practiced this art, called Oshibana, as part of their discipline to promote patience and harmony with nature, as well as to enhance their powers of concentration.

The art of drawing with petals gradually spread from Asia to the Middle East along growing trade networks of the Silk Road. One outcome of this global commerce and tourism were elaborate souvenir books, popular in the late 19th century, Jerusalem. Different renditions of Flowers of the Holy Land combined photographs of holy sites in and around Jerusalem with pressed flowers gathered from those sites. These flowers were artistically formatted, bound between olive wood covers, and included translations from Hebrew into French, German, English and Russian, as they were sold to visitors coming from different parts of the world.



Flowers of the Holy Land
Jerusalem, 1900s
QK89 F56

Around the same time, botanists in Europe began systematically collecting and preserving flower specimens from all over the world. No longer a simple art form, the pressed plant books allowed scientists to study the flora of other countries and understand the variety of plant taxonomies, geographic distributions, and to develop an efficient and stable nomenclature. Furthermore, the books are able to preserve a record of change in vegetation over time for future scientists who are tracking changes in climate and human impact. Some books can even be viable repositories, holding seeds of extinct or endangered plant species. These specimen books, or herbaria, are not just pretty to look at for they contain crucial knowledge on every page.


A Collection of Wild Flower of California
E.C. Alexander
San Francisco: The Popular Bookstore, 1895
QK 89 A375

Anyone can gather flowers and create their own pressed flower book. Like Ruth Miller Staats, a resident of Valdez, Alaska who sold cards, artwork and booklets of pressed flowers to tourists during the 1930s and 1940s. Although Ruth had been paralyzed from the waist down following an airplane crash (she had sustained a double compound fracture of both legs, fracture of the pelvis, and a fractured lumbar vertebrae), her friends and neighbors gathered flowers for her to compile the pieces. Many of her items can now be found in the Valdez Museum Historical Archive.

Wild Flowers of Alaska
Ruth M. Staats
Valdez, Alaska, 1930s
QK 89 S73

The craft of pressing flowers can also extend beyond books. Petals and leaves can be applied to trays and other wood furnishings using the technique of découpage. Those who have a deep interest in the art can join the Pressed Flower Craft Guild, founded by Joyce Fenton and Bill Edwardes in 1983. Other organizations include the International Pressed Flower Art Society and the Worldwide Pressed Flower Guild, with members coming from countries such as Japan, Mexico, France, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom and United States.

So come by and smell the flowers and allow yourself to appreciate the little things in life. Reflect on what is beautiful, fragile and simple, such as this small collection of books.

~Contributed by Lyuba Basin, Rare Books

Exhibition — Travelers ~~ In Celebration of Peter and Donna Thomas ~~ Forty Years of Books to Go


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Peter and Donna Thomas are book artists from Santa Cruz, CA. They work collaboratively and individually letterpress printing, hand-lettering and illustrating texts, making paper, and hand binding both fine press and artists’ books. Inspired by a quest for beauty and perfection, and by the potential of word, image, shape and texture to create an illuminating experience, their initial aim was to create limited edition fine press books made of the finest materials and produced to the highest standards of quality, in both full size and miniature format. This aesthetic continues to guide them as they work in new formats made possible by personal computer technology, exploring non-traditional book structures and shaped book objects as both limited editions and one-of-a-kind books. They travel the USA as the “Wandering Book Artists” giving talks, workshops and demonstrations to both academic and community-based audiences.
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.

Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
— Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

From the Rare Books Department
May 24 through September 1, 2018
Level 1 lobby, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah

Gallery talk
Thursday, June 21, 5:30pm
Level 1
Cosponsored by the Book Arts Program