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Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Merrymaking

The Rosenbach will be closed from December 24 through January 1, so this will be the last blog post of 2012. As I often do, I decided to turn to our collection of Cruikshank illustrations for some images, this time of holiday merriment. If you aren't familiar with George Cruikshank, you might enjoy this post from a couple of years ago, that explains his work and our holdings.

We hope you have all been enjoying a festive round of holiday parties. These Cruikshank characters seem to be having some December fun.

George Cruikshank, December from The Comic Almanack. London: Charles Tilt, 1835. Rosenbach Museum & Library 1954.3208
This image is from the 1835 version of Cruikshank's Comic Almanack; you can read more about the Almanack and its pseudonymous compiler Rigdum Funnidos in a neat blog post from the Princeton graphic arts collection and another one from The Cat's Meat Shop.

Here are some high spirited New Year's revellers, this time from the 1838 edition of the Almanack. The girl on the left holds a full cornucopia marked 1838, while the veiled, wraithlike woman on the right drags away an empty cornucopia marked 1837.

George Cruikshank, January from The Comic Almanack. London: Charles Tilt, 1838. Rosenbach Museum & Library 1954.1880.3586
But of course what comes of too many holiday parties is the dread indigestion, which is depicted as torment by devils in this Cruikshank print. It one of several he did depicting medical maladies. Note the pudding on the table with the festive sprig of holly and the second plum pudding being carried by the blue-clad figure in front of the hearth--in my case the culprit is more likely to be too much cheese or artichoke dip.

George Cruikshank after Alfred Crowquill, Indigestion. London: S Knight, 1825. Rosenbach Museum & Library 1954.139
 Enjoy the last few days of 2012, beware the indigestion, and we'll see you in the New Year!

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

Friday, December 14, 2012

Death of Washington

Our national celebration of Washington comes on his birthday, February 22 (February 11 according to the Julian calendar that he would have used then), but December 14 marks the day of his death. Given that Washington has often been revered as a sort of secular saint, it seems only fitting to remember him today as well.

Washington had spent December 12, 1799 out inspecting Mount Vernon on horseback in snowy wet weather.  He developed a sore throat and other symptoms including hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and difficulty breathing, and died sometime between 10 and 11 PM on December 14. You can read a much more detailed eyewitness account of his illness from Tobias Lear, his secretary as well as a modern physician's attempt at a historical diagnosis (he concludes it was epiglottitis).

Washington's death inspiring a huge public outpouring of sentiment: eulogies, poems, songs, orations, and visual remembrances. Printmakers embraced both patriotism and a profit opportunity and supplied many memorial images, such as this one, printed in Philadelphia in 1800 by Pember & Luzarder. 

Columbia lamenting the loss of her son. Philadelphia: Pember & Luzarder, 1800. Rosenbach Museum & Library 1954.797
The text at the bottom explains what's going: "Columbia lamenting the loss of her Son/ Who redeem'd her from Slav'ry & Liberty won/While Fame is directed by Justice to Spread/The sad tidings afar that Washington's dead." The mourning woman on the left represents Columbia, while the woman on the right represents Justice, who is pointing to Fame, which is embodied as an angel  with a trumpet. The print also offers a pithy epitaph for Washington, "Lived respected and Fear'd - Died Lamented and rever'd."

The picture is awash with the classical imagery that was so popular at the time: Washington's image (after the Stuart portrait) sits atop a giant urn and obelisk. Not to mention the allegorical figures themselves. I'm sure the palm trees must have some classical or symbolic significance, but I confess I don't know what. This interview from curator Kim Ivey from Colonial Williamsburg talks about some of the popular symbols found in mourning art and also about the role of Washington's death in contributing to a fashion for all types of mourning pictures, needlework, jewelry, etc. Some of it was Washington's popularity, but there were cultural factors as well, such as "the neoclassical movement, the study of Greek and Roman ruins, just the whole religious movement during the 18th century, and free will." She notes that the death of Princess Charlotte in England in 1817 also set off a great period of mourning.

If you're feeling the urge to remember George Washington, mark your calendar for the Rosenbach's Founding Fathers Hands-on-Tour being offered at 3 PM on January 4.

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

Friday, December 07, 2012

Rudimentum Novitiorum

I’m Emelye, a new intern here with an inclination towards all things medieval.  This week I want to share little bit about a particularly impressive item in the Rosenbach’s incunabula collection.  Titled Rudimentum Novitiorum, this book was printed in L├╝beck, Germany in 1475 – one year before the printing press even came to England.  The work’s author remains unknown, but its purpose is evident: it was intended as a textbook for novice monks and expounds the history of the world, beginning with Creation and weaving its way down through contemporary events.  

The Rudimentum Novitiorum is a formidable object. I thought my high school calculus book had been bad: I pity the monk who had to lug this thing around.  Elizabeth (the Rosenbach librarian) and I wrestled the 16.5 x 12 x 5 inch, 950-odd page volume, in its modern wood binding, into the research room and heaved it gently onto a cradle.  This is what we opened up to:

Rudimentum Novitiorum. Lubeck: Lucas Brandis, 1475. Rosenbach Museum & Library Incun 475r
The script is beautifully printed in Latin, and has been well-studied, judging by the hand-written annotations in the margins.  The numbers at the tops of the pages have also been hand-written in red ink, and most openings have one or more woodcuts adorning the text – though the photo below catches the printer in the act of using the same woodcut to illustrate two different stories.  Above, on the left hand page, Adam and Eve’s immediate descendants are mapped; on the right hand page a scribe sits within a letter A.
Rudimentum Novitiorum. Lubeck: Lucas Brandis, 1475. Rosenbach Museum & Library Incun 475r
The most exciting thing about this volume is the inclusion of the first printed world map (excluding very simple T-O diagrams of the earth):
Rudimentum Novitiorum. Lubeck: Lucas Brandis, 1475. Rosenbach Museum & Library Incun 475r
Printed using two half-circle woodcuts, one on each page, the map may have been done using new technology, but it embraces many medieval conventions.  East – rather than north – is at the top of the page (you can just make out the word ‘orient’), and the map is divided into three continents, with Asia spanning the entire upper half of the world.  Jerusalem is at the center, largely lost in the crease of the book.  Priority is placed upon the spiritual importance of a place – thus Jerusalem is nearer to Rome than to Greece – and upon the inclusion of important landmarks, rather than parsing out their geographical locations and relationships.    

The historian V. Tooley wrote that  “it is unwise to assume that medieval scholars were as ignorant as their maps would imply.  Their aim might be, and probably was, symbolic and moral rather than utilitarian.”  Medieval maps were not meant as travel guides: check out the map of the Holy Land, below, which emphasizes the connection between locations and specific Biblical lines:

Rudimentum Novitiorum. Lubeck: Lucas Brandis, 1475. Rosenbach Museum & Library Incun 475r

If this approach seems impractical, rest assured: others at the turn of the sixteenth century felt the same way.  Within a few years of Rudimentum Novitiorum, printed versions of Ptolemy's Geographia appeared including maps based on Ptolomy’s model and mapmaking changed forever.

Emelye Keyser is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh and is currently interning in the collections department of the Rosenbach Museum & Library.