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Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Zodiac Man

The answer to last week's puzzle is that the image is a detail from the Zodiac Man from Poor Richard's Almanac. I specifically took this image from our 1733 Poor Richard, but it can be found in other editions as well, and versions of the Zodiac Man were a standard feature of most period almanacs.

[Benjamin Franklin], Poor Richard, 1733. An almanack for the year of Christ 1733. . . By Richard Saunders, philom.Philadelphia: Printed and sold by B. Franklin, [1732] A 732p

The Zodiac Man, or man of signs, links each astrological sign with a portion of the human body. This idea, which dates back at least to the medieval period, arises from the concept of the human body as a microcosm of the universe. In some images, including this one, the connection is underscored by having the figure seated on a globe.You can see some wonderful medieval illustrations of the man of signs at the Luminarium Encycopedia project.

According to traditional astrology, the signs could be used to time medical treatment; for example, bloodletting should be avoided when the moon is in the house of the afflicted body part. Ares, the first sign of the zodiac, is associated with "the head and face." and the later signs go with lower portions of the body (Taurus/neck, Gemini/arms, Cancer/breast, Leo/heart, Virgo/bowels, Libra/reins, Scorpio/secrets, Sagittarius/thighs, Capricorn/knees, Aquarius/legs). Pisces, the last zodiac sign, is associated with the feet. By the 18th century, more modern theories of medicine were also available, but almanacs continued to reprint the traditional guide as well.

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What Is It?

I've been super-busy this week getting ready for our upcoming exhibition, Titanic: The Rise of Rosenbach, so instead of my usual wordy post, I'm going to tempt you with a mystery object.

This is a detail from an item in our book collection. What is it?

Hint, it has something to do with someone famous (and dead) who had a birthday this past week.

Go ahead and post your guesses. Answer to be revealed next week!

Kathy Haas is the Assistant Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dave Burrell

It's hard to believe, but we've been getting to enjoy Dave Burrell's wonderful Rosenbach-inspired compositions for over five years now. We first started collaborating with him back in 2006, to accompany our exhibition Look Again: African American History is American History. That first year sticks out in my mind because I had my second child during the run of the exhibition and while I was in the hospital a doctor came in, looked at the chart at the foot of the bed and noted my insurance and employer. The Rosenbach, he said, isn't that the place with the Dave Burrell concerts?

So thank you Dave, for five years of bringing your fans to our collections and bringing our collections to life through your music.

For anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of seeing him work, or hearing him talk about his process, Dave takes his role at the Rosenbach incredibly seriously. We call him a musician-in-residence, and while that term can mean many different things, for Dave it really means residence, as in spending lots of time here at the museum. In between his busy concert schedule, which has him flying to Europe, Africa, and beyond (and having me wish I could hide in his luggage), Dave keeps a standing appointment in the reading room for months on end, coming in twice a week to look at primary sources, read reference materials, and bounce ideas off the staff. We haven't even had our 2012 concert yet and Dave has already asked me about my availability to start looking at materials for next year!

The annual process usually starts with the identification of a theme. We know that for 2011-2015 the concerts will be focusing on the Civil War, so the question was what to look at within that broad area. This is a collaborative process between Dave and the staff. Last year's concert was "Portraits of Civil War Heroes" and had a decidedly military focus. It seemed likely that 2013 might also have significant military content because of the Gettysburg 150th, so we all thought that having a chance to focus on civilians this year might be a welcome opportunity. Plus, the themes evoked by the civilian experience, such as patriotism, worry, and loss, seemed like they had great musical potential.

After there is an agreed-upon theme, we in the collections department work with Dave to identify relevant collections materials and secondary sources. From his research he then comes up with topics, and preliminary titles, for particular songs. The titles (which often morph over the course of the composition process) seem to be very helpful to Dave in organizing his thoughts. One of the first one he came up with this year was "Code Name: Cheap Shot," which describes a composition about spies in the war, inspired by our Belle Boyd scrapbook, Rose O'Neal Greenhow letter, and ciphered telegrams. The idea of a musical piece incorporating the rhythm of a telegraph relaying messages really captured Dave's attention and you'll have to come next week to hear how he ended up working it out! "Three Way Tie," about the Commissions (Christian and Sanitary Commission) was another fairly early concept, coming out of materials relating to the Philadelphia Sanitary Fair of 1864.

This year, after identifying his topics and looking at our materials, Dave asked about seeing related materials at other area institutions, so I had the great pleasure of getting to introduce him to our colleagues at the Union League and the Library Company. Many thanks to them for their generous help!

Enough yapping from me. Just come next week to hear Dave's performances (next Wednesday at 6 and Saturday the 21st at 2 & 7) All the details are on our Programs Page. There should also be time for some Q & A after the performances, so you can hear from Dave himself about how he turns 19th-century texts into into 21st-century music.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Joyce in Public (Domain, that is)

2012 marks a number of important milestones related to the Rosenbach; not only is it the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic and Charles Dickens's 200th birthday, but on January 1st, 2012, significant portions of the Joyce oeuvre entered the public domain.

Copyright is a tricky thing and the laws vary by country, but for many countries author's life + 70 is a critical threshold. James Joyce died on January 13, 1941, but for legal purposes all copyright holders are considered to have died at the end of the year in which they actually shuffled off this mortal coil and so copyright status changes on January 1st of the following year, in this case 2012.

In the U.S., life+70 marks the copyright expiration on unpublished works, which means that Joyce's letters, manuscripts and other material that was not published posthumously will now be in the public domain. Published materials are more complicated. Copyright on works published before 1977 is usually based on the date of publication + 95, with all items published prior to 1923 being automatically in public domain, so some of Joyce's published books are public domain, while others are still protected.

In the EU (including Joyce's native Ireland) works published during the author's lifetime expire at life+70 which means that that texts like Dubliners, Finnegans Wake, and Ulysses are now public domain there.

The various copyright expirations are a boon to Joycean scholars and also to public Bloomsday celebrations, which in Ireland and other European locales have been hampered by the notoriously tight restrictions placed by the Joyce Estate.

I'm neither a Joycean or a copyright lawyer, so to find out more, check out these links:

"The Injustice Collector" ( 2006 New Yorker piece about the Joyce Estate)
Irish news coverage of copyright lifting (from RTE news, with video)
Status of Joyce published works in different countries (from the Joyce Foundation at Ohio State)
Status of Joyce unpublished works in different countries (from the Joyce Foundation at Ohio State)
U.S. copyright cheat sheet (from Cornell)

If your interest is piqued, this year's Bloomsday exhibition will focus on the copyright and legal questions surrounding Joyce's work--more details to follow as we get closer to June 16.

I will leave you with this wonderful "Public Domain Day" video from our friends over at Ulysses Seen