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Thursday, January 27, 2011

On the Road

Somewhat in line with the six degrees of Rosenbach idea, one of the things I like about working here is how often I'll go someplace else and run into things with a Rosenbach connection. I've blogged about this before, as in last year's post about Paige M Gutenborg, but I had another Rosenbach moment last weekend when I visited the Three Faiths exhibit at the New York Public Library.

I was there with friends and we happened to arrive just in time for the docent-led exhibit tour. I love tours, so of course I joined up. Anyway, near the end of the tour was a beautifully illuminated medieval manuscript; the label indicated that the abbot responsible for its commission had later been impeached for financial malfeasance and suggested that this book might have part of his profligate spending. The docent explained that its reputation as an expensive book had continued into the 20th century, when the library had acquired it in the 1930s through (who else) Dr. Rosenbach. Apparently he had been instructed to bid on it up to a certain dollar amount, but then kept bidding well beyond the agreed-on limit. However, in his usual way, he somehow he managed to convince them that the manuscript was worth the price they paid. Typical Dr. R.

If you are in New York in the next month, I highly recommend the exhibit (it closes on Feb 27th) and many thanks to Farrar for suggesting it to me. It's quite large--approximately 200 items from the NYPL's Jewish, Christian and Islamic collections and arranged into thematic sections (revelation, commentary, personal faith etc.) . You can check out their Bay Psalm Book as well as their Gutenberg Bible and their oldest western manuscript (the Harkness Gospels), among other treasures. If you saw our Chosen exhibit a few years back you might recognize some of the Jewish items, such as an edition of Nahmanides with an elaborate metalcut border and a Mahzor with the first printed illustration of a matzah. There's also a very nice educational section, called the Scriptorium, which explains the processes of paper preparation, paint-making, calligraphy and manuscript illumination with videos and hands-on examples. Even if you don't make it up north, the Scriptorium videos are available on the exhibit website and are well worth a look.

For more on the exhibit, here's the New York Times's exhibit review.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Six Degrees Revealed

For those of you who have been eagerly awaiting the exciting conclusion of last week's six degrees game, here are some chains I came up with (drum roll please). Once again, these are only my off-the-cuff thoughts and there may be more elegant solutions--if you know of one, let's hear it!

James Joyce to Marianne Moore: Because Joyce and Moore are roughly contemporaries and both had large literary circles, there are a number of potential links here. Christina Deemer correctly suggested Ezra Pound and Shawn Maeder suggested T. S. Eliot. Kudos to both!

Comte de Buffon to Dickens: Buffon to Jefferson (who sparred in correspondence and in print with Buffon over the status of American fauna) to Washington Irving (who caricatured Jefferson in A History of New York) to Dickens

Rebecca Gratz to Lewis Carroll: Gratz to Sully to Queen Victoria (painted by Sully in 1838) to Tennyson (who was appointed Poet Laureate by Victoria) to Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll

Lincoln to Sendak: Lincoln to Emerson (they met at the White House in February 1862) to Hawthorne to Melville to Sendak

Austen to Wilde: Austen to Anne Hathaway (portrayed Austen in Becoming Jane) to Stephen Fry (appeared with Hathaway in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland) to Wilde (portrayed by Fry in Wilde)

You're on your own for the Kevin Bacon connections!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Six Degrees of Rosenbach

No, that isn't a reference to the temperature outside, but to the familiar six-degrees of separation game, in which you try to link disparate people through a chain of acquaintances, relations, influences, etc. (By the way, Truman Capote had a racier version he called the International Daisy Chain, which involved linking folks via sex partners--he claimed Mercedes de Acosta was great for this since "You could get to anyone, from Cardinal Spellman to the Duchess of Windsor") Anyway, the six-degrees game comes to mind frequently at the Rosenbach because of all the unusual connections that we keep turning up between people and objects in our collection.

So for this week's post I thought I'd throw a few questions out there to see if you can link some famous folks who are represented in the Rosenbach collections. For each pair I'll let you know how many intermediate people I needed to make the link, but you may well come up with a more elegant solution. Intermediate links do not need to be from the Rosenbach collection, although you can award yourself bonus Rosenbach-nerd points if you can do an all-Rosenbach chain. Please feel free to share your answers with the class by commenting on the blog or Facebook. I'll do an answer round-up in next week's post.

James Joyce to Marianne Moore (1 intermediate link)
The Comte de Buffon to Charles Dickens (4 intermediate links)
Rebecca Gratz to Lewis Carroll (3 intermediate links)
Abraham Lincoln to Maurice Sendak (3 intermediate links)
Jane Austen to Bram Stoker (3 intermediate links)

Bonus points if you can connect any of these folks to Kevin Bacon!

If you like this you might also enjoy the PBS version for their American Masters series. Maurice Sendak is one of their Masters, so it even has a Rosenbach connection. Happy puzzling!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Resolving to Eat Better

Every year, losing weight and eating better are among the top New Year's resolutions and many health-related businesses find themselves in demand at this time of the year. It turns out that such concerns are nothing new and tips for healthy living seem to have been a selling point way back in the 18th century. Franklin's 1742 Poor Richard Almanack offered quite extensive advice on the subject of "Rules of Health and long Life, and to preserve from Malignant Fevers, and Sickness in general"

[Benjamin Franklin], Poor Richard, 1742. An almanack for the year of Christ 1742. . . By Richard Saunders, philom. Philadelphia: Printed and sold by B. Franklin, [1741] A 741p

Here's what he recommends (thanks to AMDOCs for saving me from having to transcribe it myself):

"Eat and drink such an exact Quantity as the Constitution of thy Body allows of, in reference to the Services of the Mind.

They that study much, ought not to eat so much as those that work hard, their Digestion being not so good.

The exact Quantity and Quality being found out, is to be kept to constantly.

Excess in all other Things whatever, as well as in Meat and Drink, is also to be avoided.

Youth, Age, and Sick require a different Quantity.

And so do those of contrary Complexions; for that which is too much for a flegmatick Man, is not sufficient for a Cholerick.

The Measure of Food ought to be (as much as possibly may be) exactly proportionable to the Quality and Condition of the Stomach, because the Stomach digests it.

That Quantity that is sufficient, the Stomach can perfectly concoct and digest, and it sufficeth the due Nourishment of the Body.

A greater Quantity of some things may be eaten than of others, some being of lighter Digestion than others.

The Difficulty lies, in finding out an exact Measure; but eat for Necessity, not Pleasure, for Lust knows not where Necessity ends.

Wouldst thou enjoy a long Life, a healthy Body, and a vigorous Mind, and be acquainted also with the wonderful Works of God? labour in the first place to bring thy Appetite into Subjection to Reason.

Rules to find out a fit Measure of Meat and Drink.

If thou eatest so much as makes thee unfit for Study, or other Business, thou exceedest the due Measure.

If thou art dull and heavy after Meat, it's a sign thou hast exceeded the due Measure; for Meat and Drink ought to refresh the Body, and make it chearful, and not to dull and oppress it.

If thou findest these ill Symptoms, consider whether too much Meat, or too much Drink occasions it, or both, and abate by little and little, till thou findest the Inconveniency removed.

Keep out of the Sight of Feasts and Banquets as much as may be; for 'tis more difficult to refrain good Cheer, when it's present, than from the Desire of it when it is away; the like you may observe in the Objects of all the other Senses.

If a Man casually exceeds, let him fast the next Meal, and all may be well again, provided it be not too often done; as if he exceed at Dinner, let him refrain a Supper, &c.

A temperate Diet frees from Diseases; such are seldom ill, but if they are surprised with Sickness, they bear it better, and recover sooner; for most Distempers have their Original from Repletion.

Use now and then a little Exercise a quarter of an Hour before Meals, as to swing a Weight, or swing your Arms about with a small Weight in each Hand; to leap, or the like, for that stirs the Muscles of the Breast.

A temperate Diet arms the Body against all external Accidents; so that they are not so easily hurt by Heat, Cold or Labour; if they at any time should be prejudiced, they are more easily cured, either of Wounds, Dislocations or Bruises.

But when malignant Fevers are rife in the Country or City where thou dwelst, 'tis adviseable to eat and drink more freely, by Way of Prevention; for those are Diseases that are not caused by Repletion, and seldom attack Full-feeders.

A sober Diet makes a Man die without Pain; it maintains the Senses in Vigour; it mitigates the Violence of Passions and Affections.

It preserves the Memory, it helps the Understanding, it allays the Heat of Lust; it brings a Man to a Consideration of his latter End; it makes the Body a fit Tabernacle for the Lord to dwell in; which makes us happy in this World, and eternally happy in the World to come, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour."

It's striking how much of this is still valid today. Of course, we no longer worry about our humor type, such as phlegmatic or choleric, when going on a diet, but such advice as bringing one's appetitite into subjection by reason, avoiding opportunities of temptation like "feasts and banquets," and taking a bit of exercise by "swinging a weight" is timeless. Not that it necessarily makes it easier to follow.

Of course, if you prefer a more 21st-century approach to resoltuions, here's Mashable's list of iPhone apps to help you keep your promises.

Happy New Year!