Category Archives: Rare books

Color Our Collections at the Burke Library

For the second year in a row, the Burke Library participated in a worldwide weeklong initiative to spread awareness and engagement with Special Collections known as Color Our Collections.

Poster for Color Our Collections, February 2019. Image resembles a colored-in picture from a medieval manuscript of two people drawing.

Poster for Color Our Collections Week 2019 (http://http://library.nyam.org/colorourcollections)

In this series of events, initiated by the New York Academy of Medicine, libraries and museums around the world upload black-and-white versions of images in their Special Collections to create unique coloring books for users to color-in with pencils. (Coloring, traditionally an activity associated with young children, has grown in popularity among adults of all ages in recent years, for its relaxation effects and impact on mindfulness and calm; many bookstores now carry coloring books for adults, and lately I have seen multiple people my own age coloring in coloring books on airplanes.) During Color OurCollections Week, many institutions host coloring events and offer printed versions of their coloring books. Guests can attend these coloring events or visit ColorOurCollections.org and download coloring books from libraries and museums around the world. Participants can upload photos of their creative coloring to social media using the hashtag #ColorOurCollections and see others’ posts and explore the collections from far-flung institutions. This lets users explore and engage through hands-on experience with their collections from home. The Burke Library uploaded a coloring book chock full of images from the archives, rare books and manuscripts.

Image is the cover of a student publication called The Plastic Bag from 1968, image shows a rhinoceros being lifted by balloons with the title "the free university: lifting the weight"

Image from the Burke Library 2019 #ColorOurCollections Coloring Book, “The Plastic Bag” student literary publication, circa 1968 (from the Union Theological Seminary Records, Archives of the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, New York)

There are many wonderful coloring books available on this year’s Color Our Collections page from other libraries and institutions; our colleagues at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University uploaded a very fine selection of images, and the New York Academy of Medicine (the original founders of Color Our Collections) always include intriguing health-related and scientific images from their special collections. From outside the U.S., the Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán and Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg coloring books were both beautiful. Having been raised going on canoe trips in the north woods of Minnesota, I was intrigued by the coloring book from the Grand Portage National Monument Archives, featuring images of Ojibwe artwork, birch bark canoes, and the region’s natural features.

Page from the Color Our Collections 2019 coloring book of the Grand Portage National Monument Archives. Image is a black-and-white edited photograph of a room in a museum featuring a birch bark canoe and indigenous artwork from Minnesota.

Page from the Color Our Collections 2019 coloring book of the Grand Portage National Monument Archives (https://library.nyam.org/colorourcollections/grand-portage-national-monument-archives-collection-coloring-book-2019)

The Burke Library’s own on-site Color Our Collections event, featuring complimentary tea and snacks, drew about a dozen guests, including students from Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University, as well as a few library staff members who saw a poster for the event and decided to drop in on their lunch break to do some coloring.

Photograph from the Color Our Collections 2019 coloring event at the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University. Image shows a table with popcorn and people's hands holding pencils and coloring in images on paper

Photograph from the Color Our Collections 2019 coloring event at the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University

Participants seemed intrigued by the images from the Burke’s collections, engaged in lively conversation about the history of the Burke and its role in the university, and appreciated the fact that we hosted such a nice event open to the community. Some of them took extra coloring books to give to friends. We promoted the event on social media, and some of our remote followers commented requesting links to the site so they could download their own coloring books. Having been alerted to the existence of Color Our Collections last year by Myong Jin, the Collections Assistant at the Burke Library, I was very glad to have collaborated with her again put on our second such successful event this year, and look forward to hosting it again in 2020.

A Chance Encounter with Hans Holbein the Younger — published by Rebecca Potts, Archives Assistant (c/o Carolyn Bratnober)

These images are from a printed collection of woodcarvings designed by the famous Hans Holbein the Younger and carved by Hans Lutzelburger. By chance, I encountered a copy of Dance of Death in the Special Collections of the Burke Library — where I am currently working on Archives-processing projects as a student at Union Theological Seminary — and this unique volume opened my eyes to the world of Holbein’s woodcarvings.

"The Husbandman," woodcut engraving by Hans Holbein the Younger

“The Husbandman,” from Dibdin, Thomas Frognall, 1776-1847, Francis Douce, and Hans Holbein. Holbein’s Dance of Death Exhibited In Elegant Engravings On Wood: With a Dissertation On the Several Representations of That Subject. London: H.G. Bohn, 1858.

"The Child," and engraving by Hans Holbein the Younger

“The Child,” from Dibdin, Thomas Frognall, 1776-1847, Francis Douce, and Hans Holbein. Holbein’s Dance of Death Exhibited In Elegant Engravings On Wood: With a Dissertation On the Several Representations of That Subject. London: H.G. Bohn, 1858.

"The Abbess," an engraving by Hans Holbein the Younger

“The Abbess,” from Dibdin, Thomas Frognall, 1776-1847, Francis Douce, and Hans Holbein. Holbein’s Dance of Death Exhibited In Elegant Engravings On Wood: With a Dissertation On the Several Representations of That Subject. London: H.G. Bohn, 1858.

Holbien was a 16th century German artist and printmaker who, over the course of his life, did work for Erasmus, Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, and Thomas Cromwell. After working for More—who resigned over Henry’s desire to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon—Holbein began to work directly for Anne Boleyn, More’s political and theological rival. Holbein was able to weather Anne’s famous downfall and in 1536, the year of her execution, he was officially employed as the King’s Painter. He went on to paint Henry, his third wife Jane Seymour, their child Edward, and many different courtiers. Holbein was also working for Cromwell during this time, creating images for Cromwell’s reformist, anti-clerical agenda. Following Jane’s death, Holbein returned to Germany under commission to paint Anne of Cleaves, the woman Cromwell was promoting as Henry’s next wife. As history has it, Holbein’s picture was highly flattering and Henry, distraught that his wife’s true face did not match Holbein’s picture, divorced Anne and beheaded Cromwell. Is it surprising then that a man who had witnessed and survived some of the most famous intrigues and downfalls in western history, would take as his subject, the fleeting nature of life and the constant, smiling certainty of death?

 

The images in this book depict the Dance of Death, or Dance Macabre, as drawn by Holbein. Dance of Death imagery was popularized long before Holbein, appearing in churches, monasteries, and illuminated manuscripts in the European Middle Ages. Ecclesiastically, Dance of Death imagery—people from all stations and ages confronted and called away by the personification of death as a skeleton—functioned as an allegory urging Christians to repent in the face of certain and, in those days, likely immanent death. Yet, as the essays in this 1858 book by Francis Douce demonstrate, the use of skeletons and stories of dancing death have much longer histories and more complex meanings. Douce tells how, according to Herodotus (a 5th century BCE historian), at Egyptian banquets, a dead body was brought out and presented to all the guests while the hosts proclaimed “Behold this image of what yourselves will be; eat and drink therefore, and be happy” (Douce, 2). Later Romans apparently adopted this tradition at their feasts (Ibid., 3). Thus the face of death can be used to call sinners to the church or diners to revelry. This ambiguity is somewhat captured in the once popular stories Douce recounts in which, though the characters and locations alter in every retelling, some group of people are loudly singing and dancing in direct defiance and mockery of priests, who are trying to conduct a religious service. The priest then asks God to force these dancers to continue their dance without stop for a year. God grants this request and the dancers gradually die, starved and exhausted, dancing themselves to death.

 

Holbein’s woodcarvings seem, to me, located within the space between allegory and ambiguity. Some of the images appear to clearly chastise immoral or corrupt behavior, such as the Judge, who is called by death as he prepares to take a bribe from a from a rich man, or the Advocate, which is similar. Yet others, such as the Husbandman, the Child, and the Abbess, illustrate that death comes for us all, regardless of virtue, age, or hard work. What then is the point of placing an image death before the unjust, as if in punishment, if later images demonstrate the unsettling and incontrovertible fact that death has little to do with justice? Sadly, these woodcarvings, exquisitely crafted and famous though they may be, do no more to answer that question than the mountains of philosophy and theology that came before and since. Therefore, in lieu of an answer to this question, I will leave you with my favorite image from the set: the Nun, kneeling in prayer, yet still able to cast flirtatious glances over her shoulder at the lute player in her room. Though this image was perhaps meant as a warning or a satire against the Catholic Church, I see it as the perfect marriage between the ancient Egyptian and European Middle Ages imageries of death. If life is fleeting and uncertain, why choose between prayer and merriment? Get it, girl.

Coloring in the Burke With #ColorOurCollections

Coloring has long been, for me, a way to relax and unwind during stressful periods of my life–which is why I was intrigued to hear about a fun and fascinating global outreach initiative called #ColorOurCollections when Myong Jin, our Collections Specialist, forwarded me an email from the Ex Libris listserv. The New York Academy of Medicine started the initiative in 2016 as a way for libraries, museums, and cultural institutions around the world to take part in a collective week of coloring and exploring each other’s collections.

Original #ColorOurCollections promotion template, from ColorOurCollections.org (2018)

The way it was designed is simple: institutions share images from their books, archives, and other items in the form of black-and-white coloring pages. This year over 180 institutions participated in uploading coloring books, including libraries like Andover-Harvard Theological Library and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, as well as fascinating international museum sites like the National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum and academic institutions like Universidad de Buenos Aires. Anyone with an internet connection can go to ColorOurCollections.org and download free coloring books from these world-wide repositories, to be filled in with markers, colored pencils, or even paint. Coloring, long a beloved pastime for children, has recently become a trendy crafting hobby for adults, who find shading in the spaces of intricate images to be a relaxing and meditative activity that provides a nice respite during the day. Institutions can host coloring events as a way to engage with the public, and guests have an incentive to visit the museums and libraries to take part in the coloring activities. Participants can then upload photos of their coloring creations on social media platforms with the hashtag #ColorOurCollections. This way the public can “explore, color, and connect with libraries and their collections.”

Myong and I thought it would be fun to join this initiative and have our own day of coloring at the Burke Library. We have had coloring events here in the past (we really like coloring here at the Burke; living in New York can be stressful, and finding ways to unwind is important!) so we already had digital folder of coloring pages ready to go. Plus we uploaded some new ones too. Making a coloring page involves selecting an image from our collections — such as a photo in the archives, a folio of a rare book, and even (in this case) a hand-drawn cartoon that was submitted as part of a student’s thesis in the 1970’s — and scanning it into a digital file. Then, using PhotoShop to make the image black-and-white and adjust the Brightness and Contrast levels, we can turn the scanned image into a graphic with black outlines and white empty space to be filled in by our users.

“How a Coloring Book Page is Made,” Sample from photograph of Brown Tower, at the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary (c. 2016)

We held our coloring event “Color In the Burke” (pun intended… get it? “Color In”?) on February 8th during the lunch hour, and our staff promoted it on Instagram, Facebook, the Union Theological Seminary Student Digest, and on paper flyers and digital signs throughout the building. We had lots of enthusiastic feedback from the community members who heard about the event, although we had lower attendance than expected on the actual day. Those who attended enjoyed coloring in images from some of the Burke’s rare folios. Our printed coloring books are still available at the Circulation Desk, and anyone who wants to see the Burke’s or any other coloring book can go online to ColorOurCollections.org and download any of the hundreds of books available online. They’re fun to look at — I like engravings and woodcuts myself, and I especially like the anatomical drawings from the medical libraries. We’ll gladly participate in #ColorOurCollections again next year.

Sample page from the Burke Library #ColorOurCollections 2018 Coloring Book

Behind the Stacks: Born’s Natural History of Monks

Browsing our special collections stacks surfaced this amusing plate depicting what at first glance looks like random shorts, sandals, and… rope?

Tab. III [engraving of belts, breeches, shoes] — Born’s Natural History of Monks, London 1783.

The book is Ignaz Edler von Born’s Specimen of the natural history of the various orders of monks, printed in London in 1783. It turns out to be a satirical, anticlerical pamphlet that describes monks according to a Linnaean classification system.

Detail from Born’s satire, Natural History of Monks, London 1783. Text reads: “The Monk. Definition. An animal inimical to man; hooded; howling by night; thirsty.”

The Burke Library’s copy is an English translation from Born’s original Latin, and includes a “Preface by an English Protestant,” as well as some biting commentary by an unimpressed reader.

Detail from the “Preface” to Born’s Natural History of Monks, London 1783. Marginalia reads: “far too long and contains little or nothing but what every protestant knows as well as the writer.”

There are two more plates of engraved illustrations depicting various aspects of monks’ dress and appearance.

Tab. II [engraving of scapularies, sleeves] — Born’s Natural History of Monks, London 1783.

Tab. I [engraving of tonsures, veils, hoods] — Born’s Natural History of Monks, London 1783.

What was interesting for me was to compare the engravings in multiple versions of this work. From a basic search on Internet Archive, I was able to view digitizations of four different editions:

  1. 1783 English translation, printed in London. From the collections of New York Public Library; same edition as the copy in the Burke Library’s collections.
  2. 1784 Latin edition, printed in Augsburg. From the collections of New York Public Library.
  3. 1884 French translation, printed in Paris. From the collections of the Library of Congress.
  4. 1852 English translation, printed in Edinburgh. From the collections of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies at University of Toronto.

Select engravings from Born’s Natural History of Monks compared side-by-side.

Though this is only a superficial comparison, a more extensive search and closer examination of the engravings could add to our understanding of how reproductive prints spread in the 18th and 19th centuries.

As always, we welcome and invite you to view this or other rare books held by the Burke Library; to learn more about visiting our library or to make an appointment please visit our website at Burke Rare Books & Manuscripts.

Behind the Stacks: You had me at “charts”

Since my last “Behind the Stacks” entry on R. C. Shimeall’s A Complete Ecclesiastical Chart, I have been noticing more charts, awkward formats, and too-large items within our special collections. As a redux of that post, here featured is another circular chart of history and yet another exhaustive production from Shimeall. Enjoy the images!

Cover — James M. Ludlow. Ludlow’s concentric chart of history. New York : Funk & Wagnalls, [c1885]. (Union Rare HH95 L94)

Spread of leaves charting B.C. history and “Modern Quarter Centuries” — Ludlow’s concentric chart of history.

Spread of leaves charting A.D. history; chart is approximately 23 cm in diameter — Ludlow’s concentric chart of history.

Title vignette of chart “exhibiting in one view the… Posterity of every Person mentioned in Scripture” — R. C. Shimeall. A complete historical chronological geographical & genealogical chart of the sacred Scriptures from Adam to Christ. Philadelphia : Published by H.S. Tanner, 1832. (Union Rare CU S55)

 “Explanation of characters” and “Directions for the proper method of reading this map” — A complete… chart of the sacred Scriptures from Adam to Christ.

Full view; chart is approximately 50 x 61 inches — A complete… chart of the sacred Scriptures from Adam to Christ.

To learn more about viewing special collections material at the Burke Library, please visit our website at Burke Rare Books & Manuscripts.

Behind the Stacks: “At a single view” – Shimeall’s A Complete Ecclesiastical Chart

Close-up of the 15th and 16th century sections in Shimeall’s A Complete Ecclesiastical Chart, showing proximity of the advent of printing and the Reformation

One of the joys of my job as Collections Services Assistant is the ability to browse the closed stacks where we store our rare books and special collections. One item I happened to find recently was too large and unwieldy to simply peek at, and since there’s no telling when some reader will next request this item for it to see the light of day, I brought it down to our conference room to spread it out and admire the scale and detail of this chart.

Full view of the 3.5 feet wide circular chart

 

Created by Richard Cunningham Shimeall in 1833, and revised at the latest in 1853, this item may be best described by listing its full title:

A COMPLETE ECCLESIASTICAL CHART, From the earliest Records, SACRED AND PROFANE, DOWN TO THE PRESENT DAY; SHOWING ITS CONNECTION WITH CIVIL HISTORY AND PROPHECY: And exhibiting at a single view, the IDENTITY AND PERPETUITY of the CHURCH, IN HER ADVERSE AND PROSPEROUS STATES, UNDER THE Mosaic and Christian Dispensations, And embracing a detailed account of the Political Events, External History, Internal Government, Religious Observances, and growing corruptions of the Church; and of the REFORMATION: AND EMBRACING THE NAMES OF REMARKABLE PERSONS; Viz. Bishops, Popes, Martyrs, Writers, Doctors, Philosophers, Emperors, &c. And a general survey of Doctrines, Sects, Councils, and Prevailing Philosophy; The comparative Rise, Revolutions, and Fall, of the PRINCIPAL EMPIRES IN THE WORLD, And a complete Nucleus to the FULFILMENT OF PROPHECY OF THE WHOLE.

Section of chart showing figures and events of the “Æra of the Jewish Church”

In the accompanying key to the chart (also available in digitized form), Shimeall describes how the chart is to be read and how he has used shapes, colors, and placement to indicate the changing size or influence of the Church in relation to civil and political events.

Data visualization, 19th century-style: section of chart showing the “Æra of the Christian Church” and the use of widths of color bands to show comparative social forces in time.

Truly a feast of type, decoration, and illustration, the chart was engraved and printed by Samuel Styles of New York. Imagine composing and proofing for this job!

Close-up of the 1st century section, showing a box that seems to have been mistakenly left blank

Calling the chart his “Great Circle,” Shimeall chose the circular shape to “serve as an intimation of [the Church of the living God’s] final recovery to a state of eternal peace and glory.”

Close-up of vignette in the 19th century section, depicting an angel and a broken hourglass, seeming to herald the “Prelude to the close of time.”

The Burke Library’s copies of the key to the chart come with pages of contemporary testimonials and reviews, and many of the reviewers express the sentiment that they could not do justice to the exhaustive detail of the chart and recommend that the work be viewed in person. And indeed, we welcome and invite you to view this or other rare books held by the Burke Library.  To learn more about visiting our library or to make an appointment please visit our website.

Behind the Stacks: Acts of the Saints

A piece of waste paper stuck to the verso of the title page in a volume of the Acta Sanctorum

In the course of preparing more of Burke’s rare books for preservation boxes, I came across a set of the Acta Sanctorum (published from 1643 to 1794) with each volume holding a small piece of waste paper behind the title page. It’s not unusual to find random scraps of paper stuck in the pages of our rare books, but this was curiously consistent in this 53 volume set. Looking closer, I realized these had been used to blot the ink from a library ownership stamp.

Underneath the waste paper is a stamp

Close-up of stamp that reads “Duplum bibliothecae Univers. Friburg. Brisg.”

The blotter has done its job

Reverse of the paper piece shown above, with signature marking “G7”

Another piece of waste paper used to blot the stamp ink

Reverse of the paper piece shown above, with signature marking “G6”

Another view of waste paper used to blot the stamp ink

Another view of waste paper used to blot the stamp ink

From the stamps, it appears these books were formerly duplicates in the library at the University of Freiburg. I can’t help but picture someone, years ago in Germany, going through these books, stamping and conscientiously placing a piece of paper to blot the ink in each of the 53 volumes. Now, at the Burke Library in New York, we’ve carefully measured and fitted these books into sturdy clamshell boxes that will help preserve them for today’s and future generations of scholars. The pieces of waste/blotting paper are still there for now.

We welcome and invite you to view this or other rare books held by the Burke Library; to learn more about visiting our library or to make an appointment please visit our website.

Behind the Stacks: Manuscript facsimile

In youth, I spent interminable hours copying out by hand long passages of the Bible for Sunday school. I also remember dutifully copying out lecture notes in school and feeling grateful for mechanical pencils (no sharpening!). These days, I use my phone to snap a picture of some text, printed or handwritten, and in a few moments have an OCR (optical character recognition) converted text file to save, share, or copy-paste however I want. The motivations behind these actions are different, but I had reason to reflect on the far cry between such modes of copying when I happened upon this title in Burke’s Special Collections:

Eröffneter Weg zum Frieden mit Gott und allen Creatüren, dürch die Publication der sämmtlichen Schrifften Christiani Democriti

Eroffneter Weg title 1

Produced in the 18th century, well into print culture, this very long manuscript copy of an already printed publication is an intriguing item that was quietly posing as a printed book among thousands of others in our special collections. I happened to open it in the process of measuring a number of our rare books for preservation boxes, and noticed that it was not actually print. We’ve since reclassified it into Burke’s manuscript collection.

Eroffneter Weg praefatioEroffneter Weg caput

The 2 volumes contain over 2,000 hand-written and -drawn pages, painstakingly copying not only the text but the printed ornaments from its source.

Eroffneter Weg orthodoxieEroffneter Weg ende

Even the frontispieces are drawn in imitation of [probably] etchings.

Eroffneter Weg frontispiece 1Eroffneter Weg frontispiece 2

(For comparison, a printed copy of the title held by Princeton University can be viewed here: https://clio.columbia.edu/catalog/9377442)

We welcome and invite you to view this or other special collections held by the Burke Library; to learn more about visiting our library or to make an appointment please visit our website.

 

Behind the Stacks: Unheard-of Curiosities

As the Collection Services Assistant at the Burke Library, I am constantly in and out of the stacks and handling materials from both the special and general collections. In the course of my work, I frequently stumble across interesting items, images, or views that may otherwise go unnoticed or are even inaccessible for the public. It’s my pleasure to start sharing some of these finds through the Burke blog.

One the most common finds I make among the special collections items are foldouts with fun illustrations. For today, I’ll share images from this 1706 publication of Jacques Gaffarel’s Curiositates inauditae. An unassuming exterior contains some delightful illustrations of “unheard-of curiosities”:

Jacques Gaffarel's Curiositates inauditae, 1706

Jacques Gaffarel’s Curiositates inauditae, 1706

Triton. Siren.

Triton. Siren.

Dagon

Dagon

Diana

Diana

Cherubim

Cherubim

Moloch

Moloch

Theraphim. Averruncus.

Theraphim. Averruncus.

We welcome and invite you to view this or other rare books held by the Burke Library; to learn more about visiting our library or to make an appointment please visit our website at Burke Rare Books & Manuscripts.

Coloring in the Burke

In honor of the Burke’s first “coloring book,” created for a stress buster event the library is hosting for Union Theological students next week, I thought it would be nice to show off this sweet children’s coloring book from ca. 1920:

color post card_1

Color post card_3

 

Each page offers a new image (x3) to be painted in with the way it should be painted in attached.  The image below shows what the backs of the pages look like.  Children could paint these in, then tear along the perforated edges to mail off as a post card.
Color post card_4color post card_6color post card_7color post card_8My favorite aspect of this book are the instructions given at the end,”Read this before Painting the Pictures”:

Color post card_5

Before going into great detail about how each of the different skin tones should be painted, it instructs the child to “Be sure not to begin painting before you have cleaned your paint-box.  To do this let just a trickle of water from the tap run on to your paints while you wash them carefully with your brush.  Then dab away the water with a rag, except when the paints have got hard and dry – these you can leave full of water to soak a bit.”  Just to give you the reader a little perspective below is an image of my daughter’s paints.

color post card_9

 

 

This was not quite the neat image of a paint box conjured when reading those instructions!

 

 

 

 

This children’s coloring book is part of the Mission Research Library pamphlets held by the Burke Library, many of which are fully digitized and available on the Internet Archive.

Creation of the Burke coloring book referenced in the very beginning was inspired by the inaugural #ColorOurCollections week (February 1-5) started this year by The New York Academy of Science Library.