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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Happy Birthday Isaac Watts

What do Joy to the World, How Doth the Little Busy Bee, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, and I Sing the Mighty Power of God have in common? They were all written (the texts at least) by Isaac Watts, who was born on July 17, 1674, and so would turn 340 today (if you don't worry about calendar changes). Despite coming from a Non-Conformist background, a tradition which promoted metrical psalm-singing and discouraged hymns, Watts became the "Father of English Hymnody" and many of his songs are still in use today. He wrote many hymn books, and his children's book Divine songs, in easy language, for the use of children is included in our current exhibition Bescribbled, Nibbled, and Dog-eared: Early American Children's Books.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748), Divine songs, in easy language, for the use of children
New-London [Conn.]: Printed and sold ..., by James Springer, 1796
RBD ROS 223
Rare Book Department, Free Library of Philadelphia

Divine Songs, which includes both the Busy Bee (actually titled "Against Idleness and Mischief") and I Sing the Mighty Power (actually titled "Praise for Creation and Providence"), was incredibly popular. It was first published in England in 1715 and scores of American editions followed (Dr. Rosenbach's collection included ten).  Not only was it printed as a stand-alone piece, but as Dr. R. pointed out in his catalog:


No opportunity was ever lost for forcing these poems on the attention of the children, and selections from them were almost invariably used by printers to fill up the blank pages of any nursery book on no matter what subject.
 
The ubiquity of Watts's poems is highlighted by Lewis Carroll's choice to parody them in Alice in Wonderland, which was published exactly 150 years after Divine Songs first appeared. At one point Alice tries to recite How Doth the Little Busy Bee, a verse that would have been known to every school child, but instead end up with How Doth the Little Crocodile.


 

The copy of Divine Songs in Bescribbled dates from 1796 and bears the bold signature of its former owner, which appears to read Peleg Lewis.
 

Isaac Watts (1674-1748), Divine songs, in easy language, for the use of children
New-London [Conn.]: Printed and sold ..., by James Springer, 1796
RBD ROS 223
Rare Book Department, Free Library of Philadelphia

 For more about Watts, check out Hymnary.org, which has a biography, as well as a list of his hymns and their popularity, as measured in their occurrence in hymn books.You can also find an online version of an 1866 printing of Divine Songs at archive.org.





Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Toledo: a painted lady, ingenious gentlemen, pretty patterns, and assorted connections


In March we told you about the conservation of one of our portrait miniatures and its loan to an exhibition commemmorating the 400th anniversary of the death of its probable artist, El Greco. Last month the exhibition closed (on Bloomsday) and I went to Toledo bring the portrait back. I headed to the Philadelphia airport while the Ulysses readings were still in progress on Delancey Place, landed in Madrid the next morning, and took a shuttle bus to the station to catch a train for Toledo. Suddenly for a moment I was back in Dublin as the bus went past the James Joyce Irish Pub. I didn't have time to get a photo, but here's one from their web site:

James Joyce Irish Pub, Madrid
The  main portion of the exhibition was held here at the Museo Santa Cruz.

Museo Santa Cruz, Toledo, Spain
Most of the exhibition had been deinstalled by the time I arrived,

The last vestiges of the exhibition The Greek of Toledo being deinstalled at the Museo Santa Cruz.
The last vestiges of the exhibition The Greek of Toledo being deinstalled at the Museo Santa Cruz.

 but our lady was still in her case.

One of the museum's conservators and I checked her condition against the report made when she left the Rosenbach and found no changes, so I packed her up for the return trip.
The miniature packed for the return trip to Philadelphia.

Although the exhibition was over, there were still a lot of El Grecos on view elsewhere in the city.  I managed to see a number of them, and discovered other familiar faces as well.  Since Toledo is the capital of Castilla-La Mancha, I wasn't surprised to find this ingenious gentleman at the entrance to my hotel.
A metal sculpture of Don Quixote at the entrance to the Hotel Alfonso VI, Toledo

He also presided with Sancho Panza outside the hotel gift shop
Figures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza outside the gift shop at the Hotel Alfonso VI, Toledo
and the dining room
Figures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza outside the dining room at the Hotel Alfonso VI, Toledo

and in the surrounding streets in front of shops like this one.
Figure of Don Quixote outside a shop in Plaza Solarejo, Toledo.
Like him?  He's for sale.

 His creator has a striking and very accessible monument near the Museo Santa Cruz.

All over Toledo you see the interlaced geometric patterns of the style known as mudéjar, influenced by Arabic designs brought by the Moors and developed during the more than seven centuries they lived there.  They're in objects large and small; in wood,
Ceiling of the Synagogue of El Transito
Ceiling of the train station
masonry,
Central dome of the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz

Frieze in the train station
 ceramics,
Tiles at the Conference Centre El Miradero
and metalwork.
Toledo is famous for its steel, both swords and this ornamental work in blackened steel inlaid with gold and silver.

It all reminded me, of course, of another Rosenbach object, the binding of our copy of the 1491 Lisbon Pentateuch:


And, finally, for my fellow Ohioans, here's the sign for a street where I enjoyed a frozen yogurt one evening:

(I don't yet know what this one has to do with the Rosenbach; I'll have to look for a connection there and let you know what I find.)

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Lanky Lawrence lost his Lass and Lobster


Everyone knows the tongue twister:

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled Peppers:
Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled Peppers?
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled Peppers,
Where's the peck of pickled Peppers Peter Piper picked?


But did you know that Peter Piper had friends? The famous rhyme was first published in 1813 in  Peter Piper's Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation and the book contains a similar tongue twister for every letter of the alphabet. Here are some of my favorites:

Captain Crackskull crack'd a Catchpoll's Cockscomb:
Did Captain Crackskull crack a Catchpoll's Cockscomb?
If Captain Crackskull crack'd a Catchpoll's Cockscomb,
Where's the Catchpoll's Cockscomb Captain Crackskull crack'd?
 

Davy Dolldrum dream'd he drove a Dragon:
Did Davy Dolldrum dream he drove a dragon?
If Davy Dolldrum dream'd he drove a dragon
Where's the dragon Davy Dolldrum dream'd he drove?

Lanky Lawrence lost his Lass and Lobster:
Did Lanky Lawrence lose his Lass and Lobster?
If Lanky Lawrence lost his Lass and Lobster,
Where are the Lass and Lobster Lanky Lawrence lost? 


Quixote Quicksight quiz'd a queerish Quidbox:
Did Quixote Quicksight quiz a queerish Quidbox?
If Quixote Quicksight quiz'd a queerish Quidbox,
Where's the queerish Quidbox Quixote Quicksight quiz'd?


Peter Piper's practical principles of plain and perfect pronunciation
Philadelphia: Willard Johnson ..., 1836
RBD ROS 813  Rare Book Department, Free Library of Philadelphia


Peter Piper's practical principles of plain and perfect pronunciation
Philadelphia: Willard Johnson ..., 1836
RBD ROS 813  Rare Book Department, Free Library of Philadelphia

I personally think "Captain Crackskull" is the hardest twister in the book, or at least I can't seem to get my tongue round it at speed. By the way a "catchpoll" is a sheriff's deputy who arrested debtors and in the "Q" rhymer "quidbox" was slang for a snuff box.

An 1836 American edition of Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation will be featured in our upcoming exhibition Bescribbled, Nibbled, and Dog-Eared: Early American Children's Books  (opening next Wednesday July 9)  which focuses on Dr. Rosenbach's collection of early children's books, which he donated to the Free Library in 1947.  We have made a recording of all the rhymes for the exhibit and as the person who does our audio recording, I don't want to tell you how long it will took us to get a clean take of all the rhymes! You'll have to come to exhibit to see how we did and try some of the rhymes for yourself.





Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog.