We recommend — Appendices Pulled from a Study on Light

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“a trace unnameable — place
holding the child
to the first frost,
the street lamp, the pasture — ”

Appendices Pulled from a Study on Light
Geoffrey Babbitt
New York City: Spuyten Duyvil, 2018
PS3602 A224 A6 2018 (General Collection, Level 2)

“This is Geoffrey Babbitt’s first book. His poems and essays have appeared in North American Review, Pleiades, Colorado Review, DIAGRAM, Notre Dame Review, TYPO, Tarpaulin Sky, The Collagist, Interim, Western Humanities Review, and elsewhere. Raised in Boise, Idaho, he studied at Connecticut College and earned his Ph.D. in creative writing at the University of Utah. Geoffrey currently coedits Seneca Review and teaches at Hobart & William Smith Colleges in the Finger Lakes region of New York, where he lives with poet Kathryn Cowles and their three daughters.”

Geoffrey acknowledges the help of many friends, colleagues and faculty from the University of Utah including Luise Poulton, Karen Brennan, Craig Dworkin, Julie Gonnering Lein, Cami Nelson, Paisley Rekdal, Jerry Root, Tom Stillinger, Shira Dentz, Elizabeth Peterson, and others.

Congratulations, Geoffrey!


MS Fragment: 4 — Date: ca. 1375 — Origin: France (possibly northeastern) — current location: Marriott Library, University of Utah, Special Collections, Rare Book Division — Materials: Ink, and burnished gold on vellum — Illustration: Detail — Size: 7 1/8 in. x 5 7/16 in. — Section: Anglo-Norman Litany of Saints — Script: littera gothica textualis formata

“vines scritched, chrysalis
onto vellum leaf–all
lost color, stolen thunder
–spiritual curl
of the vine tending
ultimately toward–tattered edge
curling from the gutters…”


MS Fragment: 8 — Date: ca. 1425-1450 — Origin: France (possibly Paris) — Current Location: Marriott Library, University of Utah, Special Collections, Rare Books Division — Materials: Ink, and burnished gold on vellum — Size: 7 1/4 in. x 5 3/16 in. — Illustration: Detail, border — section: Office of the Dead, Vespers — Script: littera gothica textualis

“lit border
buoys — acanthus
place setting
scribe sets — rinceaux
sprays, gilded ivy leaf,
bryony tendrils, gold pavé
fleur-de-lis — heliotropic
buoyancy — motor cells in
the pulvinus synthesize
bouncing light, con-
vert eye movement, displace
page’s gravitropic
polar auxin transport —
downwarding becomes lift”

April is National Poetry Month.

Book of the Week — Faster Than Birds Can Fly

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“But to go on from here
When it has all come back, bread
On the waters, for life is
This emptying and filling the

Rivers big at their head
Swollen as big as at the mouth,
Shall we begin earlier next time,
Push the seeds to the surface?”

Faster Than Birds Can Fly
John Ashbery (1927-2017)
New York City: Granary Books, 2009
PS3501 S475 F37 2009

This poem first appeared in The World #20 (1970). Illustrations by Trevor Winkfield. Typography by Philip Gallo at the Hermetic Press. Printing by Silicon Gallery Fine Art Prints. Binding by Judith Ivry. Edition of forty copies. Rare Books copy is no. 40, signed by the poet and the artist.

April is National Poetry Month.

Book of the Week — Wrenching Times: Poems from Drum-Taps

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PS3211-A3-1991-Portrait

“When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d…and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.”

Wrenching Times: Poems from Drum-Taps
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
Newton, Powys, Wales: Gwasg Gregynog, 1991
PS3211 A3 1991

From notes by M. Wynn Thomas: “Whitman was in New York, seeing Drum-Taps through the press, when Lincoln was assassinated on the evening of 14 April 1865, at the very time when he had finally secured victory for the Union. Whitman had come to identify very closely with the president, having supported him when others dismissed him as a mere country hick, and having seen him pass every day under Whitman’s window in Washington on his journey to and from the Capitol. Lincoln was, for the poet, the very epitome of Western, frontier qualities and his steadfast adherence, through the worst of times, to his principled belief in a democratic Union had won Whitman’s unqualified and undying admiration. Years later, in his old age, he would still endeavour, whenever his health allowed, to deliver an annual memorial lecture on the day of Lincoln’s death. On that occasion he always ensured that lilacs were placed on the table in front of him.

“The lilac was in flower near his Brooklyn home when Whitman heard of Lincoln’s murder.”

PS3211-A3-1991-Locomotive

Wood engravings by Gaylord Schanilec, made at Gregynog during a residency, supported by the North Wales Arts Association, and printed from the original wood-blocks. Designed and printed by David Esslemont with the assistance of Hugh Willmer on Zerkall mould-made paper. Typeface is Monotype Baskerville. Edition of four hundred and fifty copies, one of four hundred copies bound in quarter leather by Alan Wood and Rhian Ticehurst at Gregynog.

Gregynog Press was a Welsh private press, started and run by two wealthy sisters, whose interests were more artistic than literary. All of the work of the books from this press happened under one roof – design layout, composition, presswork, design and execution of woodblocks, hand-coloring and binding – an unusual circumstance for early twentieth century presses.

Rare Books copy is number 201 with unpublished wood engraving laid in.

PS3211-A3-1991-Horse

April is National Poetry Month.

Cuentos — Students Respond

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Students from Introduction to Textual Analysis (SPAN3070-1), taught by Prof. Isabel Dulfano, met in the Rare Books Classroom three times Spring Semester 2018 to work with three different sets of books from the rare book collections. Themes were “Narración de cuentos: literatura, historia, viajes, biografía,” “Hojas de Lenguas Sueltas,” and “Decir la verdad.” In all, students worked with 74 first and early editions of histories, biographies, poetry, documents and periodicals from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first century. Each session included an assignment, culminating with a short, informal response to one of the books and the impact working with physical primary sources had on the student’s understanding of literary analysis.

Many thanks to the students who participated with such enthusiasm. We will always remember one early exclamation, “Best day of college ever!”


Muchos misterios están escondidos en la historia, from Cameron Dower


Entre los remedios q do fray Bartolome delas Casas…
Bartolomé de las Casas (1484-1566)
Fue impressa…en…Seuilla: en las casas de Jacome Croberger, Año de mill y quinientos cinquenta y dos años [1552]
F1411 C32

El 29 de marzo, tuvimos la oportunidad, como clase, a visitar a la colección de libros raros en la biblioteca Marriott. El poder tener en mano un libro publicado hace casi quinientos años es una experiencia extraordinaria. En esta ocasión analizamos libros del género de ensayo. La examinación del libro físico nos permite ir más allá en el análisis de la obra que simplemente leer el texto mismo. Yo me enfoqué en el libro del fray Bartolomé de las Casas. Bartolomé es una figura importantísima en la historia de la conquista de las Américas por España. Fue uno de las primeras voces para luchar contra el mal tratamiento de los indígenas por los conquistadores. En este libro, él expone sus razones por los cuales los indígenas merecen tener derechos sociales.

Esta copia del libro parece tener una historia muy particular. Al examinarlo, encuentro una inscripción en la segunda página detrás del título. La descifro como . ¿Quién fue este Alonso? ¿Cuándo vivió? La inscripción no nos dice, pero podemos encontrar algunas pistas acerca de la vida de Alonso. Como el libro fue escrito en una época en el cual pocos fueron letrados, Alonso probablemente tenía mucho dinero. También podemos ver que Alonso tenía un interés en la reforma social y la igualdad. Siguiendo el trabajo de investigación, encontramos la firma de Alonso debajo de la inscripción. Con la firma se encuentra un símbolo. Al seguir leyendo, vemos este símbolo en cada página derecha del libro hasta que termina después de la octava razón. ¿Por qué terminó de escribir el sello? Puede ser que se le acabó la tinta, o que perdió interés y dejó de leer, murió o cualquier otra razón. También vemos que debajo de la razón séptima, escribió de nuevo <razón séptima>. ¿Puede ser que la razón séptima fue el que le inspiró más o es que simplemente estaba practicando sus letras en el libro?

Muchos misterios están escondidos en la historia. La mayoría quizás no tienen respuesta. Sin embargo, sabemos que Alonso es un ejemplar de los que fueron afectados por los escritos de Bartolomé de las Casas.


A Connection to the Past, from Gardner Lange


Sixteen Century Mexican Broadside
Edwin H. Carpenter
Los Angeles: Dawson’s Book Shop, 1965
Z240.4 C37 1965

Giovanni Paoli was born near the turn of the sixteenth century in Northern Italy, but became known in Mexico as Juan Pablos, the founder of the first printing press in the Americas. Pablos ran the press until his death in 1563, at which time his son-in-law, Pedro Ocharte of France, took over its operation. Ocharte has garnered historical attention on account of his detention and torture at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition. Ocharte was labeled a heretic after allegedly printing a book that questioned the necessity of praying to saints. After lengthy court proceedings, he was acquitted of the charges and eventually allowed to resume printing, which he did until his death in 1592.

I encountered a 1560 print by Pablos and a 1587 print by Ocharte at The University of Utah’s Marriott Library in the Rare Books Department. Both are cartas de poder, or in English, power of attorney, documents. These broadsides may not initially be as thrilling as religious protestations that resulted in persecution and torture, but they captivated me for several reasons. First, I work part-time as a filing clerk for a law firm in downtown Salt Lake City. Nearly every day I read, copy, deliver and file documents that resemble these two broadsides. Handling these documents allowed me to form a connection to the past through experiences that I am familiar with as a legal clerk and aspiring attorney. Second, a close inspection of the documents and their details reveals historical insights that are sure to interest history enthusiasts.

The documents begin with the same phrase, which in English amounts to: Let it be known that the following individuals are witnesses to the authenticity of this document. This is followed in both documents by beautiful signatures of several individuals. Then the printed portion resumes, detailing what powers the client is agreeing to give to his or her attorney.

Interestingly, at the end of these sections, there is more handwritten cursive before the final signatures and notarization. This suggests that the broadsides were generic copies, which could be amended to the liking of the particular client by adding more legal wordage afterwards by hand. Being individual, double-sided sheets may also indicate that these were used for record keeping and not likely bound in books nor widely circulated. Fortunately for the scholars of our day, the publisher of this volume compiled information about many similar broadsides and in 1965 distributed several of them in copies of a book that details some of their history.

One of the most interesting differences I discovered between the two is the mention of slaves as assets in the 1560 carta de poder, which is not found in the 1587 version. Literary analysis textbooks are replete with encouragement to consider the historical context of the works being studied, and if we apply that principle here, it should cause any who examine these documents to consider what changed in the intervening decades regarding slave trade and issues of equality that would cause such a change to standard legal procedure.


A Universal Cultural Appreciation, from Annie Bonebrake


Refranes o proverbios en romance…
Fernando Núñez de Guzmán (ca. 16th cent.)
En Madrid: Por Iuan de la Cuesta, a costa de Miguel Martinez, 1619
PN6490 N8

Refranes o Proverbios en Romance is an encyclopedia of sayings and proverbs in Spanish, Italian, Austrian, Galician, French, Portuguese, Latin, and Greek. The book begins with a Spanish prologue written by Leon de Castrón, the “Maestro Leo.” The sayings are categorized alphabetically with their language of origin noted on the left side of each phrase in old Spanish. Some examples of proverbs documented in the book include “A cafas viejas, puertas nuevas,” in Spanish; “Boire iu fques a la lye-Frances,” in French; and “Comendo holgando, comendo trabalhando,” in Portuguese.

The physical qualities of this book contribute to an understanding of the text’s historical past. The outward appearance of Refranes o Proverbios en Romance is dilapidated, fragile, and used. The parchment cover of the book is creased and wrinkled, and has completely dissociated from the spine of the book. Gently lifting the detached cover from the spine reveals the book’s handmade string bindings. Finally, the text in the book was clearly produced with a printing press, as each individual letter was stamped into the book with visible force. All of these elements contribute to an awareness of a universal cultural appreciation for didactic proverbs and sayings since the book has survived over 300 years and has ultimately landed in the rare book department of a major university.

When considering objects spanning centuries of history, the object’s past must be analyzed in addition to the concrete characteristics of that object. Additionally, in order to conduct a literary analysis of a book able to withstand hundreds of years, one must consider what kind of abstract influence that book has had on a society to determine the author’s purpose for that work. For example, as I conducted a literary analysis of Refranes o Proverbios en Romance I first had to brainstorm for the reasons an encyclopedia of phrases and proverbs might be valuable to western European societies before I could begin to analyze any detailed text within the book; understanding an author’s purpose for writing the book is essential for fully comprehending a book’s literary worth. I determined that Refranes o Proverbios en Romance is an important work because it provides a reference for thousands of famous sayings across various cultures, which are valuable because they are tools used to convey morals or lessons.

My experience with Refranes o Proverbios en Romance allowed me to practice comprehension of an author’s purpose for a work in the greater context of a society or history. Because Guzman’s encyclopedia of phrases is more like a dictionary than a narrative with a plot, the process of literary analysis of this work was more abstract than concrete. In other words, an inferred understanding as to why a book of proverbs might be valuable to a society was more necessary for my literary analysis than the ability to interpret literary devices.


El arte didáctica, el arte para enseñar, from Olivia Blithell


El atlas abreviado, o compendiosa geografia, del…
Francisco de Aefferden (1653-1709)
En Amberes: A costa de Francisco Laso, mercader de libros, enfrente de S. Phelipe el Real de Madrid, año 1711
Fourth edition

[This work] was published in 1711, two years after author Francisco de Aefferden (a Belgian cartographer) died, in Antwerp by a book merchant named Francisco Laso. It is a leather-bound pocket atlas containing descriptions of the world and very detailed, ornate maps that fold out. They depict bodies of water, rivers, forests, mountain ranges, common trails, and the names of places.

The maps for their time are extremely accurate, with distance scales and longitude and latitude indications on every map.

The pages crinkle when you turn them and you can smell the leather of the binding as you read the book. The reader can see the years in the leather — the binding is wearing thin. You can take a trip around the world, your mind can visit anywhere.

The reader can learn about “El Mundo Nuevo,”

then see all of the forests and mountains in “Alemania” — a glimpse into the past world.

We can see the signatures and notes of previous owners. The waves of their cursive from ink and quill contrast with the Old English-styled font of text. This little pocket atlas was their only tool to get from point “a” to point “b,” when traveling in strange and foreign lands. In today’s world, our pocket atlas is our iPhone, a pocket-sized computer. We have the world in our hands, a technology unimaginable in 1711.

We can see how the world has evolved since the 17th century, both physically and intellectually. There are large cities where forests used to be, some of the towns have changed their names, but many remain. Even though our world has changed, the past is still with us.

We can read the words in the text and see how the people of the day thought. The Spanish text is very beautiful, like Shakespeare. It is different from how today’s Spanish is spoken. It is more poetic and meant to teach, el arte didáctica, el arte para enseñar.


Es Algo Incredible, from James Smith


Reales ordenanzas para la dirección, régimen y gobierno del importante cuerpo de la minería de Nueva-España, y de su real tribunal general. De orden de su majestad
Madrid, 1783
First edition
KC729.5 M48 1783

Como sugiere su titulo, este el libro era hecho con el propósito de ayudar el país de España ministrar sus minerías. Para entender este libro es necesario que primero entendemos porque la industria minería era tan importante por España durante el 18º siglo. La minería de plata pagaba mucho y por eso los indignos de España estaban muy interesado de minarlo. Por la potencia que la minería tenia durante esta época Nueva-España dependía mucho en la minería y por eso creía este libro para introducir reglas de cómo la minería debería funcionar.

Es algo incredíble a pensar que este libro que era publicado en 1783 ha durado por mas que 200 años con las mismas paginas, tinta, y encuadernación. No hay muchas cosas que pueden perdurar por siglos, especialmente los libros. Pero el hecho de que este libro todavía esta en buena condición lleva un mensaje y entendimiento de la importancia de este libro sin abrirlo.

El libro tiene mas que 200 paginas que son separadas por “títulos” que parecen como capítulos. No era escrito por mano pero imprimió con maquina que es algo interesante porque era muy caro a imprimir. Este también refleja que el libro llevaba mucha importancia. Sin leer la primera pagina el lector puede saber que este libro no era hecho con el propósito de entretener, pero algo muy serio.

Si vemos la pagina 23, titulo II, dice “jueces de minas lo serán las respectivas justicias reales, conforme a las leyes de la recopilación de indas, en todo lo que por estas Ordenanzas no se cometiere a las diputaciones del cuerpo de minería.” Aunque Nueva-España era una monarquía usaban jueces y otros formes de gobierno. Si leemos esta articulo parece como una oración aburrida respecto a un tipo de trabajo. Pero realmente este articulo, junto con el resto del libro, contiene muchísima historia.

Para entender la verdadero sentido de esta oración es necesario que primero entendemos los políticos de España, la economía, y la importancia que la minería tenia en la país.


Another Level of Depth, from Owen Orchard


Diario de Mexico
Mexico City: Oficina de Don Mariano Jose de Zuniga y Ontiveros, 1805-1817
AP63 D5

We as a class were given the opportunity to visit the Marriott Library’s rare book collections where we could analyze and observe amazing works of Spanish literature dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries.

The piece that I gravitated towards most was Diario de Mexico. This journal began publication in 1805 and was the first daily news periodical in Mexico. It discussed philosophical, moral, and artistic issues, such as the function of theater. The articles were written by a diverse collection of authors, adding depth to the conversations.

The physical condition and layout of the periodical is impressive. The Rare Books set is bound in a leather cover of a date later than the publication, very much intact. The issues themselves have almost no tears or stains.

Each issue begins with a poem. Many of the articles go into great depth in ways perhaps unexpected by the 21st century reader and perhaps even in the 21st century. Examples include, “Cosas que incomodan en Mexico” and “Falibilidad del la Medicina.”

The opportunity to view and actually touch these works is incredible. When you feel and turn the pages of these books its a totally different experience than just hearing about them. You are able to see whether or not a book was printed or handwritten and also what material the book was made from. This adds so much to one’s literary analysis because you can make guesses as to why it was written on that material or why it was written in that way based off of the time period it came from.

All in all, being able to interact with these pieces in person added another level of depth to my analysis. By looking and touching, I discovered that these texts contain centuries of knowledge and insight as well as an infinite number of underlying details. I have very much enjoyed my time with the rare book collections and now have a vastly greater understanding and interest in this type of study.


The Need to Spread Word, from Anna Paseman


Colección de documentos relativos al departamento de Californias publicados por el ciudadano Manuel Castañares
Mexico: Imprenta de la Voz de Pueblo, 1845

As its title suggests, the text Colección de documentos relativos al departamento de Californias publicados por el ciudadano Manuel Castañares consists of a compilation of letters, speeches, and essays written by Manuel Castañares. Castañares served as one of California’s represetatives to Mexico’s National Congress during the mid-1840s, and his compositions touch on a number of important historical and literary subjects. The physical text itself, a thin, fragile, paper pamphlet, one of only 11 known to exist, exhibits its own literary significance.

Among the text’s central themes are descriptions of various aspects of the California territory, including its indigenous population, Spanish missions, ports, agricultural sectors, and the 1843 discovery of gold. The mention of the discovery of gold is particularly important because this text is believed to be the first pamphlet to document the discovery and mining of gold in California.

While the documentation of the discovery is interesting, Castañares’s relevant commentary is of greater interest. In various letters, he repeatedly voices concern that the Mexican federal government must proactively safeguard California, such that a foreign power does not take interest in, and devastate, its precious resources.

Castañares’s concerns regarding California’s abundant resources extends to his broader discussion of foreign intrusion into the territory, and the failure of the Mexican government to sufficiently attend to its security needs. Describing the daunting threat posed by the United States, in particular, Castañares writes, “El estado que hoy guarda la república, las tendencias y conatos de una nación vecina para continuar usurpando nuestro territorio, el carácter de invasión que manifiesta toda la prensa americana y nuestra inercia, me hacen temblar por la suerte de la república, si no se atienden nuestras fronteras, principalmente mi Departamento.”

The concern that Castañares expresses for unrest in California in 1845, and the assertive nature of the American government on its frontiers, is foreboding; the next year, 1846, California experienced the uprising known as the Bear Flag Revolt. The Mexican-American War followed, lasting from 1846-1848, and by early 1847 California officially came into the possession of the United States. In this sense, Castañares’s writings serve as a valuable tool for understanding the events leading up to the transfer of California from Mexican to American hands.

The relatively small and cheaply produced nature of the pamphlet likely indicates that it was meant to be portable and read by many. While it is difficult to know with certainty Castañares’s intention in publishing his writings, it is apparent that he felt the need to spread word of what he perceived as a threat, and perhaps, to raise concern among others such that the issue of foreign intrusion would gain attention, and the Mexican government would respond sufficiently. By handling the text, and accepting Castañares’s intentions as previously described, it is easy to imagine the serious political conversations that must have been happening in California during the 1840s, and the types of information that would have informed Mexicans on the state of the territory. Moreover, the text serves as an interesting reminder that California was not always a part of the United States, and that the history of American expansion is not necessarily one of peaceful acquisition.


Somewhere, At Some Time, Someone, from Carlos Ixta

[
Tratado de Paz, Amistad, limites y, arreglo
Mexico: Impr. De I. Cumplido, 1848
Second printing
E408 M62 1848


Treaty of peace, friendship, limits, and settlement between the United States of America and the Mexican Republic: concluded at Guadalupe Hidalgo, February 2, and ratified, with the amendments, by the American Senate, March 10, also ratified by the Mexican Congress, May 25, 1848
Washington, 1848
E408 U583

The Spanish version of this text was printed months after the English edition of the text. I had the opportunity to be able to look at both of them and to compare and contrast the two. The history of these texts is very powerful to me. As a Mexican-American, I have always had a special interest in the events surrounding the American colonization of the U. S., as well as the Mexican-American war, and other historical events. Seeing, reading, and holding the texts in the rare books collection was a profound experience for me. I imagine being back in such a time, perhaps living in California — or even Utah for that matter — both of which were Mexican territories at one time. Then, after years of war, and thousands of deaths, to receive a really small book, perhaps not even suitable to be called a book, somewhat of a 2-page decree from either the Mexican Republic or the United States government stating that the land I’ve lived on my whole life suddenly belongs to a whole different government. How peculiar that must be! Many people had a hard time believing what had just happened and for this reason the Mexican government printed an edition of the peace treaty with an added forward which basically stated that it was true, that this is really happening, and the people must accept it.

As I sat there imagining what it must have been like or how strange an experience that is, it only added to the feeling to be able to hold physical copies of a books such as these. I realized, that these are originals, that somewhere, at some time, someone had helf up the exact copy that I was able to hold and that this really happened to them. Overall, it was an honorable experience to see these and many other books like these at university. There is definitely a difference in reading about the history of things like this in high school history class and being able to hold the actual books published at the time being studied.


Same Event, Two Different Books, Two Different Ways, from Dylan Slavens


Tratado de Paz, Amistad, limites y, arreglo
Mexico: Impr. De I. Cumplido, 1848
E408 M62 1848


Treaty of peace, Friendship, limits, and settlement between the United States of America and the Mexican Republic: Concluded at Guadalupe Hildalgo, February 2, and ratified with the amendments, by the American Senate, March 10, also ratified by the Mexican Congress, May 25, 1848
Washington, 1848
E408 U55 1848

I had the opportunity to hold in my hands these two books during my visit to the Rare Books Department in The University of Utah’s Marriott Library. Although these two books were printed examples of The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo between the U.S. and Mexican governments, I observed many differences between the two. One of these books was written and published in Mexico while the other was written and published in the U.S.

One of the first differences I noticed about the two books was that the physical quality and appearance of the one printed in the U.S. was a lot better than the one from Mexico. The cover and the paper of the U.S. copy were all in a lot better condition. The Mexican copy seemed to be falling apart and the physical materials used to make the book seemed to be cheaper. The U.S. copy had many more pages than the one from Mexico, which surprised me because the Mexican version had both the Spanish and English translations on both sides of the pages.

Having physical contact with these two books helped me process and analyze the differences between the two much more easily. The U.S. copy was written more like a dialog and a journal while the Mexican copy seemed to be more straightforward and official.

The book from Mexico officially explained the protocols necessary for the conclusion of the treaty, including the amendments made to the treaty by the United States. In my short 45 minutes of analyzing and observing these two books I can see many differences not only physically but also literally between the two. Same event, two different books, two different ways of writing and presenting the information of what happened. It was such a unique experience of actually having and holding the two books in my hands.


Revealing Something A Glowing Wall of Text Never Could, from Marc Jackson


Gobierno general: Ministerio de justicia
Benito Juarez (1806-1872)
Chihuahua: 1859
KG3035 A5 1859

The newspaper article is gently held in place by a protective sleeve. Frayed edges and discoloration characterize its tattered face. When turning the pages it almost seems like they could split in two if one was careless. The irony is that this article’s pages were never meant to be turned carefully. The thin paper and poor condition reveal something a glowing wall of text never could. They reveal that this article was not written for royalty, politicians, or clergy but for the masses. The Mexican government printed this newspaper cheaply so it could be sent to as many people as possible. Knowing that the author, Benito Juarez, wrote Gobierno general for the public opens up a deeper analysis. Instead of simply setting up new laws concerning marriage, the purpose of the text becomes gaining public support for dramatic social changes. Instead of the verse-like statements representing legal language, they can represent scripture and therefore the fight Juarez pushed to lower the influence of the Catholic Church on the government. In other words, the purpose of the article is to incite social change and the theme is the replacement of Catholic doctrine with democratic law.

Without feeling the thin pages and physically interacting with the original work it would be much harder to conclude that the audience is the general public. If the reader only had the words themselves it’s likely they would conclude that Juarez only wrote it for lawyers. However, touching the original page transports the reader to 1859. A lawyer doesn’t hand over the newspaper, an excited Indian does. He talks about how much it means to him that an indigenous Mexican is representing him and that the government is openly talking about issues that until recently were taboo. This newspaper article proves that information essential to understanding literature is hidden everywhere the words aren’t, preserving words isn’t enough, the physical objects and their connection to the past must be preserved or our understanding of older texts might never dive beneath the surface.


Bound Together in Honor of Its Memory, from Marisol Padilla Fragosso


Madrid Comico
Madrid, 1885-1897?
AP111 M347

The book that caught my eye on my third visit to the Rare Books section of the Marriott Library, or as I and several of my classmates have called it, the “Restricted Area,” was Madrid Comico, “Comical Madrid” in English, a Spanish magazine published between 1880 and 1923. This magazine contained anti-Modernism propaganda and was full of humorous stories and comics, as the title implies. The issues in Rare Books have been bound together in what appears to be a binding contemporary to the time period of the magazine’s run. At some point, the owner of these issues had them bound together, giving the sense of a commemorative book. Who did this and why they did so is not known, however, it would be appropriate to guess that this book came to be because the magazine shut down in 1923, as if the issues were bound together in honor of its memory.

From all of my experiences and interactions in the Rare Books area, I have learned to appreciate books even more than I did before. Some of these books are centuries old and are in incredible condition, which is great for the reader because this means the text is legible instead of smudged, pages contain no significant rips or tears (if any), and no pages appear to be missing. This is important to the reader’s experience. There is no gap in the flow of the text, due to illegibility, a condition that might ruin the world of the reader and what the author had in mind.

When you touch a book that is over a hundred years old, you can’t help but feel awestruck and humbled; of course, precautionary measures are taken so that the oils in human skin don’t harm the books (that’s what the baby wipes are for) and you have to be gentle with the binding — opening, closing, and flipping through the pages gingerly. Another thing that I realized from my experience with these rare books, is that books truly are precious treasures: If they were not to be treasured, someone would not have taken the time to carefully preserve them in the best condition possible.

While holding these amazing books, I couldn’t help but apply textual analytic tools that I learned in my textbook for my Spanish class, Aproximaciones al estudio de la literatura hispánica, 6ª ed. The main tool that I used was looking at the Who, Where, When, Why, and How. Once you are able to answer these questions about a book, you are better able to understand the depth of the text and the author’s, as well as the publisher’s, vision for it. When I apply this tool to my analysis of texts, I feel as though I am tapping into the mind of the author and publisher, almost as if I was a profiler looking at a crime scene, figuring out who did it, when they did it, how it was done, and the motive behind the crime.


A Personality Distinct From All Others, from Tosh Noskowski


Siluetas: con retratos y…
Urbano Gonzalez Serrano (1848-1904)
Madrid: R. Serra, 1899
PQ6072 G6

Urbano Gonzalez Serrano was a literary critic as well as philosopher and professor. Siluetas is a compilation of brief biographies about various authors of his time.

Each biography begins with a picture of each author and a copy of something handwritten by him that includes a signature.

The book, in and of itself, is really small — it can fit in the palm of your hand. This makes is very approachable, as many large books can be intimidating and bring a sense of prestige with them. A small book makes the literary analysis easier because it does not give the impression of being above reproach.

Literary analysis can be augmented by being in physical contact with the book because it brings to light how the book was meant to be read, and can even help identify target audiences for the text. The size and weight of it may limit those who were meant to read it, which can be a key factor when analyzing aspects of a text.

The literary analysis tools focus on trying to understand the meaning and purpose of any given text. It can be approached via different questions and angles depending on the genre of the text, but seeing the books in person truly gives weight to these questions. It’s not just a bunch of words in a textbook any more, it gives purpose to what the literary analysis is trying to do. Simply analyzing a text on a screen or in a textbook doesn’t represent the work as it was meant to be. The physical form, age, and wear and tear of a work gives it a personality distinct from all others. From here, the analytic tools learned through a textbook can be applied in a much more meaningful way.


The Search for Truth, from Camille Morgenstern


González Videla, el laval de la America Latina: Breve biografía de un traidor
Mexico City, 1949
First edition
F3099 G6 N4

When perusing the rare texts around the themes of “ensayo” and “decir la verdad,” i.e. the search for truth, this folleto by Pablo Neruda caught my eye because of the interesting and rich historical context surrounding the piece, but also because of Neruda’s specific use of the book as a medium for disseminating his truth.

The folleto is presented as a collection of brief pieces in a wide range of genres, from poems to essays to letters to testimonies, all denouncing Gabriel González Videla. Neruda was, at the time, a Communist Party senator and member of the Communist Party of Chile. Videla was a presidential candidate representing the Radical Party and asked Neruda to be his campaign manager. Once in office, Videla turned against the Communist Party, violently repressing a Communist-led miner’s strike. Neruda disassociated from Videla, and began to publicly critique him in speeches, which carried over into the form of the folleto. In this text, Neruda compares González to Pierre Laval, prime minister of collaborationist France during German occupation in WWII.

What fascinated me most was Neruda’s use of the physical book to convey his truth. The book itself is very small and lightweight, facilitating the circulation and distribution of the text. The cover art, by renowned Spanish (and Communist) muralist Josep Renau, is strikingly bold, and is the only color found throughout the book. His use of strong imagery here mirrors the forceful tone of the texts inside, and his use of other images such as posters and photographs to supplement the vignettes strengthens his story and allows the book to reach a wider audience as well. The folleto contains a number of different essays in forms such as denouncements, poems, records, and more, with titles such as “El Complice de los Nazis,” “Violader de Convenios Internacionales,” and “El Traidor Contra su Pueblo,” presented together in a format resembling a newspaper. This method enhances the underlying argument that Neruda’s experiences are truth, and breaks the truth down into simple yet poignant terms.

Interacting with the physical form of the book was a much richer form of literary analysis because it provided another layer of understanding. By holding the form in which the text was intended to be absorbed, I was able to connect the text itself to the physical format and understand more clearly Neruda’s intentions behind creating the folleto in the way he did. Additionally, it connected me more closely to the historical context in general, because I was in contact with a tangible object from that time.


I Will Be Coming Back, from Cameron Dower


Excavator, Barcelona, Excavador
Jake Tilson (b. 1958)
London: Woolley Dale, 1986

During the time I had the opportunity to visit the Rare Books Department at the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah, I found some amazing books. One that really reached out to me was Excavator, Barcelona, Ecavador. This book has photographs and text. It was made from a clandestine pro-terrorist publication on police detecting methods. The chapters are as follows: 1-1 Burial attempt. 1-2 Immortal Man. 2-1 Horizontal Clock, Barrio Gatico. 2-2 Department of Correction. 3-1 How to Film a Panic. 3-2 Making Impressions Visible Again. 4-1 The Killing Jar. Thought provoking, no? Just the titles themselves make you want to take a second glance.

The cover has aspects of the world, people, secrets and color you would not normally find in modern day art, or in classical art.

Each picture contains answers to questions you want to ask. Slices of humans, places, world politics and personal views are riddled into the art. Tilson uses maps and locations in sections. The style seems almost crude. It has a very rough yet very thought-out look. It feels as if you could look at only one part of the painting and feel enraptured.

The text is in the art itself. It is rarely in a paragraph. Tilson adds poetry in and around the vivid yet vague images. This invokes an uneasiness in the reader. In only short verses Tilson alludes to politics, science, government and controversial social topics. As the reader turns the page, he fears that he will miss something important in each corner of the painting. Tilson uses symbols. The reader may see them in each of the photographic works. This reader found symbols of government, Egypt, cartography, cities, numbers, dials, clocks, measurements, footprints, fingerprints, hidden societies, and landmarks, all seeming to mean completely different things within the art. Within each piece and as a collection, there is tension and the suspicion that all have aspects in common, yet part of a puzzle — we don’t see the big picture…yet.

This was a fantastic experience and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the rare, the historical and the bizarre, an experience not the same as we have every day from mainstream media. Thank you. I will be coming back.


*Editor’s note: minimal changes of one form or another have been made to each of these short essays, reflecting a few minor corrections in spelling and punctuation, or in slight clarification of the text, or in reducing the text to fit the blog format.

Curtis Census

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Rare Books is pleased to announce the launch of the Curtis Census, a website produced by Tim Greyhavens for the global community. The J. Willard Marriott Library is one of the institutions that holds an entire set of Edward Curtis’ The North American Indian.

From Tim’s website: “Published by Edward Curtis from 1907 to 1930, The North American Indian was planned to be a limited edition of 500 sets. Due to the extremely high cost of the publication and the prolonged publication cycle, it’s thought that no more than 300 complete or partial sets were finally printed. This census will determine, as accurately as possible, the actual number of complete or partial sets that were printed and their present locations…Although The North American Indian is one of the great publications of all time, there is no definitive answer about how many sets were originally published. Curtis did not keep a master subscription list, and different documentation about the project provides conflicting information.”

Congratulations, Tim, on a great project.

Click here for the website’s biography of Edward Curtis. Curtis was born in 1868. 2018 is the 150th anniversary of his birth.

Click here for the website’s excellent article on Curtis’s The North American Indian.

Visit Rare Books to look at this remarkable set of photogravures.

THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN
Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)
Seattle, WA: E. S. Curtis, 1907-30
E77 C97

A collection of 2,232 photogravures of American Indians taken between 1890 and 1930 and published between 1907 and 1930. A massive project, professional photographer Edward Curtis’ intention was to document every major tribe west of the Mississippi, portraying what he perceived to be a vanishing culture. While he was neither the first nor the last person to photograph the American Indian, he was surely the most prolific. His monumental publication presented to the public an extensive ethnographic study of numerous peoples.

The North American Indian consists of twenty portfolios of photogravures and twenty volumes of field notes bound with smaller gravures. A photogravure is made from a printing process utilizing a copper plate that is made from a glass positive which itself is made from a glass negative. The plate is hand wiped with sepia inks. Excess ink is removed and the plate is forced onto paper with a handpress, capturing all the etched details on the plate. The photogravure produces a soft, atmospheric appearance similar to that achieved by French Impressionist painters. This photographic process, along with drawing and painting on negatives, platinotypes and gum prints, was popular at the end of the nineteenth century. The movement, known as “Pictorialism” was a way for photographers to add personal vision and expression to their works.

The portfolio gravures were printed on three different papers, Van Gelder, a watermarked paper, Vellum, a rice paper, and Tissue, Japanese handmade silk tissues. Forty of the original sets were printed on Tissue, the rest equally split between Van Gelder and Vellum.

Images selected and scanned by Scott Beadles.

Book of the Week — The Saint John’s Fragment: Against the Odds

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a King I am. For this I have been born
and I have come into the world so that I would
testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth
hears of me my voice.” Said to him
Pilate “What is truth?” and this
having said, again he went out unto the Jews
and said to them,” I find not one
fault in him.”
–translation of a fragment of St. John’s Fragment

The Saint John’s Fragment: Against the Odds
David Annwn
Santa Cruz, CA: Foolscap Press, 2015
PR6051 N615 S3 2015

Poem inspired by the St. John’s fragment, a papyrus fragment now in the collection of the Rylands Library at the University of Manchester (Rylands Library Papyrus P52), dated between 100 and 150 CE and thought to be the earliest extant manuscript of a New Testament text.

From the Afterword: “The piece of papyrus called the St. John’s Fragment was acquired in an Egyptian market in 1920 by Bernard Grenfell, an English scientist and Egyptologist…

Written on both sides of the papyrus, it must have been part of a a codex, that is, a collection of sewn and folded leaves, not a scroll or an isolated sheet. That being the case, it would be among the earliest surviving examples of a literary codex. It was written in Greek in a script known as Hadrianic, named after Hadrian (76-CE – 138 CE), the Roman Emperor of the time…

Specifically, the text on this piece of papyrus is from the Gospel of John 18:31-33 and the verso holds a snippet of verses 237-38…”

From the colophon: “Thomas Ingmire’s calligraphy shows the image of the actual Fragment, then the restored page, then the English translation of the restored page. Mark Knudsen made the stencils for the pochoir painting of the Fragment. The poem is printed in Tiepolo type to complement the Fragment…The book is printed on Frankfurt Cream and bound in Cave paper.” Edition of one hundred and sixteen copies. Rare Books copy is no. 41, signed by the poet and the calligrapher.

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Book of the Week — Anatomy of Plants with an Idea of a Philosophical History of Plants and Several Other Lectures…

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“At a Meeting of the Council of the Royal Society, Fe. 22. 1681/2 Dr. Grew having read several Lectures of the Anatomy of Plants, some whereof have been already printed at divers times, and some are not printed; with several other Lectures of their Colours, Odours Tasts, and Salts, as also of the Solution of Salts in Water; and of Mixture; all of them to the satisfaction of the said Society; It is therefore Ordered, that He be desired, to casue the to printed [sic] together in one Volume.” — Chr. Wren P.R.S.

Anatomy of Plants: With an Idea of a Philosophical History of Plants and Several Other…
Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712)
London: Printed by W. Rawlins, for the author, 1682
First edition
QK41 G82

Rare Books was recently graced with a visit from a member of the Royal Society and two other guests, all three royalty in the world of science. This visit and the accompanying bright blue spring skies brought to mind flowers, vegetable gardens, herb gardens and this book. The great Sir Christopher Wren, founder and then-president of the Royal Society, “Ordered” Nehemiah Grew to publish the work presented here.

Nehemiah Grew was a physician, but made his reputation in the fields of plant morphology and anatomy. At the Royal Society, he met Robert Hooke, who was progressing in his studies in the field of microscopy. At the same time that Marcello Malpighi presented papers to the Society, Grew presented his The Anatomy of Vegetables Begun (1672). Both men reported on the cellular construction of the woody parts of plants, the beginning of a hypothesis of a cellular theory of plant life. Grew’s work led him to the announcement  that there were two sexes in plants.

This book is based on three earlier publications, “The Anatomy of Vegetables Begun (1672),” “An Idea of Phytological History Propounded (1673),” and “The Comparative Anatomy of Trunks (1675)”, together with a fourth unpublished book, “The Anatomy of Leaves, Flowers, Fruits, and Seeds,” dedicated to Robert Boyle, and six discourses that had been delivered before the Royal Society.

In Grew’s dedicatory epistle to King Charles II, he wrote, “Your Majesty will here see, That there are those things within a Plant, little less admirable, than within an Animal. That a Plant, as well as an Animal, is composed of several Organical Parts; some whereof may be called its Bowels. That every Plant hath Bowels of divers kinds, conteining divers kinds of Liguors. That even a Plant lives partly upon Aer; for the reception whereof, it hath those Parts which are answerable to Lungs. So that A Plant is, as it were, an Animal in Quires; as an Animal is a Plant, or rather several Plants bound up into Volume.”

Nehemiah Grew’s work turned the anatomy and physiology of plants into a new science. This is the first book in which Robert Hooke’s newly invented microscope is demonstrated for the examination plants.

Grew began his studies with naked-eye observations and then continued with observations seen at the higher magnifications made possible with Hooke’s microscope.

“…all the Observations conteined in the First Book, except one or two, were made with the Naked Eye. The the end, I might first give a proof, How far it was possible for us to go, without the help of Glasses: which many Ingenious Men want; and more, the patience to manage them. For the Truth of these Observations, Seignior Malpighi, having procured my Book to be translated into Latin for his private us, speaks his own sense, in some of his Letters to Mr. Oldenburge, printed at the end of his Anatomy of Plants…Having thus begun with the bare Eye; I next proceeded to the use of the Microscope. And the Observations thereby made, first on Roots, and afterwards on Trunks and Branches, together with the figures…”

Through these observations he was able to describe the structure of stems and roots by the combined use of transverse, radial, and tangential longitudinal sections.

“In the Plates, for the clearer conception of the Part described, I have represented it, generally, as entire, as its being magnified to some good degree, would bear…Yet have I not every where magnify’d the Part to the same degree; but more or less, as was necessary to represent what is spoken of it. And very highly, only in some few Examples, as in Tab. 40. which may suffice to illustrate the rest. Some of the Plates, especially those which I did not draw to the Engravers hand, are a little hard and stiff: but they are all well enough done, to represent what they intend.”

Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus dedicated a genus of trees to Grew in appreciation of his work. Few important advances on the ideas of Grew would be made for nearly another one hundred years.

Illustrated with eighty-three engraved plates, some double-page, showing microscopic sections of plant structures.

 

On Jon’s Desk: Contemplating Passover with A Book of Songs and Poems from the Old Testament and the Apocrypha, published by Ashendene Press

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“Then on that day David delivered first this Psalm to thanke the Lord into the hand of Asaph and his brethren: give thankes unto the Lord, call upon his name, Make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him. Talke you of all his wonderous works…”

~ The Psalm of Thanksgiving of David

A Book of Songs and Poems from the Old Testament and the Apocrypha

Chelsea, England: Ashendene Press, 1904

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passover is an eight day Judeo festival celebrated in the spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan (March 30th – April 7th, 2018). Commemorating the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt, Passover is observed by avoiding leaven and is highlighted by the Seder meals that include four cups of wine, eating matzah and bitter herbs, and retelling the story of the Exodus. In Hebrew it is known as Pesach (which means “to pass over”) because God passed over Jewish homes when killing the Egyptian firstborn on the very first Passover eve. Passover is divided into two parts: The first two days and last two days (the latter commemorating the splitting of the Red Sea) are full-fledged holidays on which candles are lit at night and kiddush and sumptuous holiday meals are enjoyed. Those observing the holiday don’t go to work, drive, write, or switch on or off electric devices. The middle four days are called Chol Hamoed, semi-festive “intermediate days,” when most forms of work are permitted.

To commemorate the unleavened bread that the Israelites ate when they left Egypt, chametz (leaven, or food mixed with leaven) is not eaten (or even retained in the observant’s possession) from midday of the day before Passover until the conclusion of the holiday. Instead of chametz, matzah (flat unleavened bread) is eaten. It is a mitzvah (religious duty or commandment) to partake of matzah on the two Seder nights. The highlight of Passover is the Seder, observed on each of the first two nights of the holiday. The Seder is a fifteen-step, family-oriented and ritualistic meal. In addition to the partaking of the four cups of wine, matzah, and bitter herbs, another focal point of the Seder includes the recitation of the Haggadah, a liturgy that describes in detail the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The Haggadah is the fulfillment of the biblical obligation to recount the story of the Exodus on the night of Passover.

While not part of Passover observance per se, it may be nice to take a look at this beautiful collection of Old Testament songs and poems, printed by the Ashendene Press in 1904. Operated in Chelsea (an area in southwest London), England from 1895 to 1915 and then again from 1920 – 1935, the Ashendene Press was a small, private press founded by Charles Harold St. John Hornby (1867 – 1946). Naturally, St John Hornby was aided in the running of the press by his wife Cicely (daughter of Charles Barclay, a director of the National Provincial Bank, and Charlotte Cassandra Cherry) whom he married on 19 January 1898. In 1900, Hornby met Emery Walker and Sydney Cockerell (then William Morris’ secretary at the Kelmscott Press). Together, they encouraged and instructed Hornby and helped in devising two typefaces for his own use, Subiaco and Ptolemy.

Most Ashendene editions used one of these two typefaces, which were specially cast for the Press. Subiaco was based on a fifteenth-century Italian type cast by Sweynheim and Pannartz in Subiaco, Italy. The Ptolemy typeface was originally created by the Ulm based printer Lienhart Holle in 1482 for the work Cosmographia, a cartographic work by Claudius Ptolemaeus. Hornby, Walker, and Cockerel wanted to recreate a typeface with a character equal parts Gothic and Roman (“Gotico-Antiqua”) and they re-created the Ptolemy typeface for that reason.

Some Ashendene books were illustrated with wood-engravings, but the majority were printed solely using type. The wood engraver William Harcourt Hooper worked for Ashendene Press starting in 1896, after working at Kelmscott Press from 1891 to that time (during which he had contributed to works such as the Kelmscott Chaucer). It is reported that Hornby called Hooper “almost the last of the old school of wood-engravers and a very fine craftsman.”

A Book of Songs and Poems from the Old Testament and the Apocrypha is a wonderfully produced, sixty-two page book printed in an edition of 175 copies (150 on paper and 25 on vellum). The text is printed in black and red, with initial capitals in blue by Graily Hewitt, on Batchelor’s “Hammer and Anvil” paper. This octavo book (19 x 13 cm or 7½ x 5¼ inches) contains eleven selections. Eight of these from the Old Testament and three from the Apocrypha, which are biblical or related writings not forming part of the accepted canon of Scripture. The Biblical Apocrypha is a set of texts included in the Latin Vulgate and Septuagint but not in the Hebrew Bible. Of the eight selections from the Old Testament, one is from Exodus, two from Deuteronomy, one from Judges, three from Samuel (one Samuel I and two Samuel II), and one from Chronicles I.

Rare Books copy contains unattached, but laid in, bookplate of “Ken Tomkinson, High Habberley House, Kidderminster Worcs [Worcestershire], England.” While we don’t know much about Ken Tomkinson, author of Kidderminster Since 1800 (1975) and Characters of Kidderminster (1977), we can at least surmise that he possessed excellent taste in books since he owned this one.

A Book of Songs and Poems from the Old Testament and the Apocrypha is a fantastic addition to the University of Utah’s amazing Rare Books collections – and somewhat miraculously, perhaps, it came just in time for Passover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~ Contributed by Jon Bingham, Rare Books Curator

Book of the Week — Promenade de Longchamp, Optique no. 4

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Facade
— Photographs by Scott Beadles

PROMENADE DE LONGCHAMP, OPTIQUE NO. 4
Paris, ca. 1810

The Promenade de Longchamp was an annual social event which took place on the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of Holy Week every spring along the Champs-Élysées and through the Bois-de-Boulogne. The tour ended at the abbey of Longchamp, where the nuns sang the office of Tenebrae, a village four miles from Paris. A convent there, established in 1256, had long been a destination for religious pilgrims. In the late seventeenth century, the pilgrimage became unauthorized secular spectacle.

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The nun’s choir was fortified with singers from the Paris Opera. The theater in Paris was closed during Lent, which made the Promenade one of the few ways in which high society could flaunt their new spring fashions. A procession of people in festive costume traveled on horseback, in carriages, and on foot. Wealthy citizens of Paris vied to have the most elaborate carriages and clothing, while the lower classes, including laborers, soldiers, and prostitutes, lined the route to gawk. Police turned out in force, to keep the parade participants safe. The Paris Archbishop de Beaumont tried to halt the parade by ordering the convent closed during Holy Week. The parade did not stop. Participants were there to see and be seen.

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In 1789, the Promenade was disrupted by an angry mob. The convent, by then wholly peripheral to the show, was closed by the Revolutionary government. Napoleon revived the parade in the 19th century, in part as a way to bolster the fashion industry, but the later parades did not match the lush grandeur of those in the 18th century. Still, the parade contributed to later fashion phenomena. The American “Easter Parade” and the big, ostentatious hats of the Kentucky Derby can be traced back to the Promenade de Longchamp.

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This early 19th century concertina-style peepshow depicting the Promenade de Longchamp in Paris is etched on the front and back panes and contains four cut-out sections in-between, all hand-colored. The front panel has a circular viewing aperture. It is housed in its original marbled paper slip-case with engraved label.

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Rare Books goes to UMFA

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Greek inscription

A piece from the rare book collections is on loan at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, in its ongoing exhibition,  Ancient Mediterranean Art: Res Mortis. The piece may be viewed at the museum through September, 2018.

The carved fragment of limestone celebrates the life of Helene, to whom is given the credit “In peace and blessing Ama Helene, a Jew, who loves the orphans, [died]. For about 60 years her path was one of mercy and blessing; on it she prospered.”

The piece has been at the J. Willard Marriott for nearly thirty years, a gift of Aziz S. and Lola Atiya. Aziz Atiya founded the University of Utah’s Middle East Center and the Marriott’s Middle East Library in 1969. Rare Books holds many gifts from Dr. and Mrs. Atiya, including this epitaph and one of the largest collections of Arabic papyrus fragments in the world.

When the epitaph was given to the library, it was provisionally identified as a “Coptic inscription, dating from the dawn of the use of the Greek alphabet, not earlier than the second century, but not later than the third.”

Years later, in 2016, Lincoln Blumell, associate professor of ancient scripture, at Brigham Young University translated it, publishing his translation in Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period. News of the piece attracted world wide press attention.

For more information on Dr. Blumell’s translation see our previous post.

— photographs by Scott Beadles