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Friday, June 28, 2013

Celestial Commentary

This week's blog post comes from collections intern Jay Bilinsky and is out of this world (literally).
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With the recent cosmic events of the summer solstice (which occurred on June 21st) and the hyped-up “supermoon” (June 23rd), people have the cosmos on their minds. As such, it’s a good opportunity to highlight some of the astronomical and cosmological texts here at the Rosenbach. Our collection of scientific texts is decidedly small; still, there are some gems on the topic of astronomy in the collection (old, vellum-bound gems!).

Before I get ahead of myself, I would like to take a moment to explain the significance of the “supermoon” phenomenon. Supermoon occurs when the moon is simultaneously full and at the closest point in its orbit around the Earth, which happens every 14 months or so. It is significant because during this time, the moon appears to be somewhat larger and substantially brighter than usual. The orbit of the moon is in the shape of an ellipse, coming to its closest point in orbit (perigee) at one time and coming to its furthest point (apogee) at the opposite side of the ellipse. In order for the moon to be full, it must be in “opposition” to the sun, meaning that the sun, Earth, and moon line up in that order. Check out the diagram from Cosmographia Apiani to see what I mean.
Cosmographia Petri Apiani, 1545. Rosenbach Museum & Library. A 545c Page 50. The cycles of the moon are shown, as viewed from Earth. Note that the bottom-most circle shows the moon in opposition to the sun.
The oldest scientific texts in the Rosenbach collection are written in Latin, which was once the language of scholars. Although this old Cosmographia text may preclude readers not versed in Latin, it contains many charts, diagrams, and fancy volvelles (free-spinning paper disks affixed with string). These models all give a sense of how much the science of astronomy expanded during the Renaissance. Petrus Apianus, the author of this particular Cosmographia, was an esteemed German scientist whose lushly illustrated books helped popularize the science of astronomy.
Cosmographia Petri Apiani, 1545. Rosenbach Museum & Library. A 545c Page 49. This volvelle (shown twice with the dial in different positions) predicts cycles of the moon according to date and time. Although no longer accurate, the wheels still spin with ease.
Although people have only become interested in supermoon phenomena in recent years, a similar cosmic event has interested people for thousands of years: eclipses. There are two kinds of eclipses: solar and lunar. Solar eclipses occur when the moon blocks our view of the sun. These are more common than lunar eclipses, but can only be seen from certain places on Earth. A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the Earth’s shadow. Lunar eclipses and supermoons are similar in that both can only occur when the moon is full. Books in the Rosenbach’s collections show that eclipses have been well understood for centuries. Information about eclipses can be found in very expected places in our collection, such as our astronomy books and almanacs, as well as some surprising spots, like our medieval belt book. A book titled Time’s Telescope by Duncan Campbell not only describes eclipses, but also accurately predicts them from the time of its publishing in 1734 to 1763.
“A Type of the Moon’s Eclipse." Time’s Telescope, 1734. Rosenbach Museum & Library. Holford 99. Page 96. This illustration depicts a lunar eclipse. The earth and moon are shown to have circular orbits, although this is just for simplicity’s sake; Campbell well understood the elliptical motion of these celestial bodies.

I hope that this post has demystified some of the mysteries of Earth’s moon. To see these historic scientific texts and more, make an appointment at the Rosenbach’s reading room. Finally, I leave you with a nice illustration from the Cosmographia showing eclipses of the sun in the 16th century. Enjoy, keep your eyes out for lunar eclipses, and never look directly at solar eclipses!
Cosmographia Petri Apiani, 1545. Rosenbach Museum & Library. A 545c. Page 13. Illustrations plotting past solar eclipses and projecting future solar eclipses, from 1542 to 1573. Full eclipses as well as partial (when the moon only obstructs part of the sun) are shown.

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Jay Bilinsky is a collections intern and a recent graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. He was drawn to the Rosenbach by its unique collections and fine art.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bay Psalm Bits

The combination of Bloomsday followed quickly by the exhibition of two copies of the Bay Psalm Book has left little time for blogging this week.  I thought, however, I might offer a few interesting and/or quirky links related to the Bay Psalm Book, for the edification and enjoyment of Rosen-blog readers. 

The Bay Psalm Book. 1640. Rosenbach Museum & Library. A 640w

  • In case you missed the Sunday Inquirer article about the Psalm Book display, here's a link. And here's a link to a recap posted yesterday, which includes interviews with some of the visitors who came to see the books.
  • There are 11 extant copies of the Bay Psalm Book. The PhiloBiblos blog has a nice list of where each of them are and a bit about each one.
  • If all this talk has made you wonder about what the Bay Psalm Book's music would have sounded like, the folks at Smithsonian Folkway records put out a record way back in 1965 entitled Early American Psalmody: The Bay Psalm Book-Cambridge, 1640. You can go to their site to listen to decent length excerpts of each track, or to buy the CD. Digital versions are also available through ITunes, Amazon and elsewhere.
  • If you would like to know how Stephen Colbert is linked to the Bay Psalm Book, check out this old Rosenblog post.
  • Two book themed mysteries feature the Bay Psalm Book: The Bay Psalm Book Murder, by Will Harriss (reviewed on the Mystery File blog) and The Collectors by David Baldacci. I haven't read either one, so if you have, add a comment to let us know how they are.
  • The book even gets a cameo in the Batman Comics, in "The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl" which has a detailed summary on the Silver Age Sage blog.

The Bay Psalm Book. 1640. Rosenbach Museum & Library. A 640w

Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at theRosenbach Museum & Library.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Installing the Ulysses Glove Project

With Bloomsday only two days away, we thought we'd share some behind-the-scenes photos of the installation process for Jessica Deane Rosner's Ulysses Glove Project, which is being displayed as part of the exhibition Thy Father's Spirit: A Bloomsday Exhibition of Contemporary Art and Literary Manuscripts. The piece is a tribute to Rosner's father, a Ulysses fan, and features the entire text of the novel written out on 310 kitchen gloves. Each of these gloves had to be individually suspended from an armature attached to the ceiling and it took nearly two full days to hang the gloves. Of course that's nothing compared with the two and half years it took Rosner to create them.

Here is the Rosenbach's curator Judy Guston (on the ladder) working with Rosner to hang the very first glove. The gloves are arranged in a spiral and we worked from the inside out, so the first glove we hung was actually the very end of the novel.

Installing the Ulysses Glove Project by Jessica Deane Rosner

Here we have a few gloves hung.

Installing the Ulysses Glove Project by Jessica Deane Rosner

Now we're over halfway there

Installing the Ulysses Glove Project by Jessica Deane Rosner

 Looking up from underneath provided a great vantage point from which to watch the arrangement of gloves grow. (Please pardon the strange light effects from our ceiling fixtures)

Installing the Ulysses Glove Project by Jessica Deane Rosner

Installing the Ulysses Glove Project by Jessica Deane Rosner

Installing the Ulysses Glove Project by Jessica Deane Rosner
To see the complete glove installation, and to enjoy the fantastic display of Joycean manuscript and printed material on the theme of fathers, you'll need to come to the Rosenbach. If you can't make it on Bloomsday, the exhibit will be up until September 1.

Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Manjiro Homecoming--Part 2: The World of Manjiro

Two weeks ago I wrote about Judy Guston's and my pilgrimage to sites related to Nakahama Manjiro, the mid-19th-century Japanese sailor, translator, and all-around renaissance man whose manuscript we recently loaned to the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum in Kochi, Japan.  This week I thought I'd tell you a little more about the exhibition and the Ryoma Museum.  The museum itself is a stunning glass-enclosed building located south of the center of Kochi city, on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 
The Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum
It seems to jut out over the hillside like a ship being launched, and in fact much of the design of the building was meant to echo a sailing ship--a fitting setting for an exhibition about Manjiro.  Inside, metal beams soar up to the glass top of the building like the yards of a mast, and there's even an observation deck on the roof from which you can see up and down the coast of Shikoku.

A copy of Manjiro's Hyosen Kiryaku made after the Rosenbach's manuscript.  They were displayed in adjacent cases, which allowed for comparison of the two versions of the same manuscript.  The first volume is open to a map of Japan.
The Ryoma Museum's exhibition is titled "The World of Manjiro as seen in Hyosen kiryaku," and deals not only with Manjiro's tale of "drifting" (as hyo is sometimes translated--the full title of the manuscript is often translated "Drifting: An Edited and Abridged Account") but also with the other characters involved in disseminating that tale within Japan.  There's Manjiro himself, represented not only by our manuscript, which has drawings and notations in his hand, but by a copy made from our manuscript on display next to it.  The copy was also created by the artist and scholar Kawada Shoryo, an official for the local lord in Kochi when Manjiro returned home.  This version was fascinating to compare with the Rosenbach manuscript and deserves a blog post of its own.  It includes illustrations that aren't in our volumes (including an albatross, such as Manjiro and his companions found on the rocky island upon which they were shipwrecked) and even the format is distinct, with each page containing printed columns to keep Shoryo's text tidy.  Shoryo himself was highlighted within the exhibition, which displayed some of his remarkable paintings. 

The sailors aboard the John Howland, which rescued Manjiro and his four companions from a deserted island after their shipwreck, also had a part to play in the exhibition. 
The stern of the John Howland, with its American eagle and "E Pluribus Unum" motto.  Nakahama Manjiro, [Hyosen kiryaku] illustrated manuscript.  1852.  AMs 1296/14. The Rosenbach Museum & Library, Philadelphia.
Sailor's log book from the John Howland, open to June 1841.  Courtesy of the Manjiro-Whitfield Commemorative Center for International Exchange.
A sailor's log from the ship is on display, which is an extraordinary record of the daily activities of a whaling vessel.  The sailor depicted tails whenever a whale's flukes were sited, and an entire whale whenever one was pursued and killed.  The darker lines of ink appear to be the silhouettes of islands or rocks that the crew could see from a distance.  The red arrow on the right points to an entry about picking up five Japanese or Chinese on one island, whom the sailors could not understand, except that by signs they made it clear that they were starving.  Mentioned almost in passing, this event signaled a change in fortune for Manjiro, from a poor, illiterate, shipwrecked teenager, to the seafaring, bilingual internationalist he would become over the next ten years.

The museum's namesake, Sakamoto Ryoma, played an indirect role in Manjiro's story, though many artifacts from his life were also on display.  A minor samurai at the time Manjiro returned to Japan, Ryoma was determined to modernize his country's government.  Influenced by ideas of modern navigation and commerce such as those Manjiro brought back from the United States, and which he partly learned from contact with Kawada Shoryo and Katsu Kaishu (who sailed to the U.S. with Manjiro in 1860 for the first Japanese delegation to Washington), Ryoma forged alliances, helped develop a navy, and eventually negotiated the end of the shogunate and the restoration of the Meiji Emperor.  The exhibition also introduces his wife Oryo, who aided Ryoma during their honeymoon in Kyoto when he was attacked by his rivals and wounded.  Ryoma's portrait can be found all over Kochi (his hometown), but our favorite was the cocoa dusting in his likeness on the cappuccino at a cafe next to the museum. 

All of these remarkable stories--Manjiro's, Shoryo's, Ryoma's, and that of Captain Whitfield and the crew of the Howland--were meticulously researched and beautifully presented at the museum.  The books, manuscripts, and artwork that witnessed Manjiro's adventures form a remarkable collection of artifacts from around the world and represent collaborations with many public and private collections.  Such collaborations would not be possible without the hard work of the staff at the Sakamoto Ryoma Museum and the current torchbearers of Manjiro's legacy in Japan and around the world, most especially Junji Kitadai.  We especially want to thank Natsuki Miura, who curated the exhibition at the Ryoma Museum along with his colleagues Yukie Maeda, Mika Kameo, and Masayo Nakamura.  They did a tremendous job bringing Manjiro's world into focus for visitors to the exhibition. 
Top row (left to right): Yoshio Tanaka and Akio Hosokawa of the Tosa John Mung Society; Mika Kameo and Natsuki Miura, curators at the Ryoma Museum; and Kenshiro Mori, President of the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum.  Bottom row: Junji Kitadai; Judy Guston, Curator & Director of Collections at the Rosenbach; me; Yukie Maeda, chief curator at the Ryoma Museum.