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Friday, February 27, 2015

Happy Year of the Sheep

In honor of the year of the sheep (a.k.a. the year of the goat), which began last week (February 19), we bring you G. Martin's Natural History Cards from the 1820s.

Natural History Cards. Beasts. London, G. Martin, [ca. 1825]. EL3 .A1n 825a. Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Natural History Cards. Beasts. London, G. Martin, [ca. 1825]. EL3 .A1n 825a. Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
We have two different sets of the Martin cards: beasts and birds (of which we have two copies with slightly different envelopes). The images for both are copper-plate engravings, which as their envelope states, are "beautifully coloured."

Natural History Cards. Beasts. London, G. Martin, [ca. 1825]. EL3 .A1n 825a. Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Natural History Cards. Birds. London, G. Martin, [ca. 1825]. EL3 .A1n 825b. Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
One of the Martin sets explains that the cards are for the instruction and entertainment of youth. They are as much moral lesson as natural history; each card contains four lines describing the character and behavior of the animal, followed by an explicit two line moral. Such kinds of educational toys had come into fashion in the late 18th and early 19th century; these particular cards are the same as those marketed by W. Tringham as far back as 1780. By 1814, Sir Walter Scott complained in the first Waverly novel that:

[A]n age in which children are taught the driest doctrines by the insinuating method of instructive games, has little reason to dread the consequences of study being rendered too serious or severe. The history of England is now reduced to a game at cards, the problems of mathematics to puzzles and riddles, and the doctrines of arithmetic may, we are assured, be sufficiently acquired by spending a few hours a-week at a new and complicated edition of the Royal Game of the Goose. There wants but one step further, and the Creed and Ten Commandments may be taught in the same manner, without the necessity of the grave face, deliberate tone of recital, and devout attention hitherto exacted from the well-governed childhood of this realm. It may, in the mean time, be subject of serious consideration, whether those who are accustomed only to acquire instruction through the medium of amusement, may not be brought to reject that which approaches under the aspect of study; whether those who learn history by the cards, may not be led to prefer the means to the end; and whether, were we to teach religion in the way of sport, our pupils might not thereby be gradually induced to make sport of their religion.
 

Despite Scott's (and other's) concerns, instructional games in general and natural history cards in particular remained popular throughout the 19th century. An 1856 Sunday School Union publication advertised Natural History Cards "for infant-schools" at a price of 20 cents for eight cards, and in 1900 a newspaper from New Zealand advertised a set of "Holloway's Natural History cards" which both promoted Holloway's medicines and taught about birds and animals.

Youth's Penny Gazette. August 27, 1857. Google Books.


Tuapeka Times, 21 March 1900, Page 2. PapersPast

Going back to the Natural History Cards published by G. Martin, I will close with a few of my favorites from the birds and beasts sets:

Natural History Cards. Beasts. London, G. Martin, [ca. 1825]. EL3 .A1n 825a. Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.


Natural History Cards. Birds. London, G. Martin, [ca. 1825]. EL3 .A1n 825b. Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Natural History Cards. Beasts. London, G. Martin, [ca. 1825]. EL3 .A1n 825a. Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Natural History Cards. Beasts. London, G. Martin, [ca. 1825]. EL3 .A1n 825a. Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Natural History Cards. Birds. London, G. Martin, [ca. 1825]. EL3 .A1n 825b. Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Natural History Cards. Beasts. London, G. Martin, [ca. 1825]. EL3 .A1n 825a. Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.


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


Friday, February 20, 2015

Feels Like This Today

William Ward after James Ward. Winter. London, 1795. 2005.108. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

It's warmed up to a balmy 11 degrees here in Philadelphia, but 14 mph winds are giving us a wind chill of -4, so I can sympathize with the girl in this print. She definitely seems underdressed, even for a mild British winter--where are her gloves?

This print was engraved by William Ward after a painting by his younger brother, James Ward. It was published on February 15, 1795, when James was 25 years old. He had already been appointed engraver to the Prince of Wales (in 1794) but his career was just beginning. He would eventually become known for his pictures of animals; in 1811 his contemporaries considered him “the first of English animal painters now living.”

"Winter" is a mezzotint, a type of print that tries to replicate the tonal qualities of paintings through the use of  tiny dots. The dots are created by rocking a spiked tool called a "rocker" over the surface of the engraving plate. Mezzotints are about tone rather than line and have a soft, rich quality about them. This particular mezzotint is part of a set; it had a companion "Summer" image of a girl in a low-cut blouse holding a basket of flowers.

If the winter weather outside makes you want to stay inside, you can always curl up with a good book. The author of Wilde in America is coming to speak here on March 11, so if you haven't read that you might enjoy it. Or, of course, Oscar Wilde's own novel The Picture of Dorian Grey (then you can come see the original printing in our exhibition). Or, if you need a more physical challenge, check out this video from Seattle Public Library of the world record book domino chain (no we do not do this withe our rare books at the Rosenbach). Maybe you could do them one better.


Have fun and stay warm!



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

Friday, February 13, 2015

Eat Your Vitamins

The first Italian edition of Gerrit de Veer's diary of his arctic voyages (Tre Navigationi Fatte Dagli Olandesi e Zelandesi... Venice: Printed by Giovanni Battista Ciotti, 1599.  A 599t). 

 With a -2 degree windchill today seems like an appropriate day to consider a book about the arctic.  You may have heard of the Northwest Passage, the theoretical sea-route across arctic Canada and Alaska that many explorers sought over the centuries (and the remains of one of their ships has been in the news fairly recently).  Well, there's also a Northeast Passage across northern Siberia by which you could travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific, though it's not for the faint of heart.  The Dutch navigator Willem Barentsz attempted to find the passage on three voyages from 1594-7, and he died at sea during the last of these.  Fortunately, an officer on two of these expeditions, Gerrit de Veer, kept a journal (no doubt with frostbitten fingers), which was published upon his return to Amsterdam.  Ours is an Italian version from 1599 but an English edition was published in 1609. 

Barentsz's mission wasn't the first--and wouldn't be the last--arctic expedition to suffer major setbacks.  Sea ice was a constant threat, even in the summer, and polar bears could be dangerous.  De Veer chronicled several run-ins with the large predators, none of which ended well for the bears.  During the group's third voyage in 1597, their ship reached the large island of Novaya Zemlya ("Nova Zembla" as they called it) but became trapped by ice.  Using wood from the ship, the crew constructed a lodge and used it to survive on the frozen tundra for 10 months before finally being able to take to the sea again.  After using up whatever provisions were on board the ship they took to trapping arctic foxes for food.  At one point, having shot a polar bear with their muskets, they used its blubber to light their lamps, and at another point they ate a bear's liver.  Since the liver of arctic mammals is exceedingly high in vitamin A, and polar bears eat lots of seals, de Veer ended up recording the first written instance of hypervitaminosis A: he and his crew experienced headaches and nausea, bone pain, and eventually widespread peeling of their skin.  The symptoms didn't linger too long but were a complication the stranded and freezing Dutchmen could have done without.  


 

The dangers of ice, hypothermia, and bears aside, de Veer did record observations on some wondrous people and phenomena encountered in the arctic.  On Barentsz's second voyage they met groups of Nenets, one of the indigenous peoples of Northern Russia (called "Samiuti" here, derived from the now outdated term "Samoyeds"), with whom they had good relations.  De Veer described their reindeer fur clothing and weapons in detail and the Dutchmen shared some of their ship's biscuit with the Nenets chief. 


 De Veer also recorded an atmospheric phenomenon now known as the Novaya Zemlya effect, a kind of mirage in which a sun that is actually below the horizon and shouldn't be visible has its rays reflected like a mirror by a thermal inversion (warm air on top of cold air).  What de Veer observed was a weirdly distorted sun, flattened out like a pancake and repeated, which the engraver of the volume in our collection rendered in this fanciful image of a dual-sun with a suggestion of rays emanating from the sides.  How's that for finding a silver lining on a frigid day? 


Patrick Rodgers is a curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library. 

Friday, February 06, 2015

Do You Have Your Valentines Ready?


Valentine's Day is only about a week away, and if you are stuck for inspiration, the Rosenbach has your solution! We are running our popular "Love Letters" hands-on tour on Friday 2/13 and Saturday 2/14 so you can get up close and personal with some fabulous sentiments. Or for some less exalted (but quite amusing) Valentine's Day ideas you can turn to a "valentine writer." This genre of chapbooks was popular from the late 18th century until the middle of the 19th century and provided pre-fab verses suitable for a variety of situations. We have a couple of these in our collection; my favorite is a ca. 1820 British example called The School of Love.

The School of Love. London, ca. 1820. El3 .A1sc The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

For the low price of  sixpence The School of Love, like many other valentine writers, offered verses suitable for different occupations; listed on the cover are trades and professions ranging from linen-draper to fish-monger to pastry cook. To give you a sense of the contents, I'll start with one described as "from a bookseller," which would be equally applicable coming from any lover of books.

From a bookseller

In vain I read what sages teach
Philosophy I cannot reach;
To read your charms is my delight,
An index of your mind so bright;
Consent to bind your fate with mine,
And I am blest, sweet valentine


Some of the verses have responses to go with them, such as this exchange between a blacksmith and his beloved:


From a blacksmith
Tho' mine is but a noisy trade,
I am a quiet man, sweet maid;
Never prone to make a strife,
But fond of a domestic life.
At the forge I labour hard,
And money, love, is my reward.
Shall we then in marriage join,
Say, my pretty valentine

Answer
No, blacksmith, no, it will not do,
I've not the last regard for you,
No chains I'll rivet , till I see
One with whom I can agree;
So your offer I decline,
Look out another valentine.


Other period books, such as Cupid's Annual Charter, offer both positive and negative responses, but those in The School of Love seem to all be negative. A few of the verses are written from the female perspective, such as this one to a miller:

To a Miller
Whene'er I come unto the mill,
My beating heart will not lie still;
For love it has caused such a wound,
That like your sails my heart goes round;
To pity may your heart incline,
And take me for your valentine

It turns out that these valentine writers were very popular. The earliest examples were British, but they began appearing in America in the 1840s. According to Barry Shank's book A Token of My Affections, in 1847 the New York valentine purveyor T.W. Strong offered retailers pre-packaged valentine merchandise containing from 14 to 40 valentine writers. In Consumer Rites, Leigh Eric Schmidt documents examples of valentine writers that have clearly seen use, such as a copy of Strong's St Valentine's Budget at the American Antiquarian Society which has check marks next to various verses, as well as notations for verses to be used for "Jack" and "Willie."

In honor of my own cheese-loving Valentine, I'll close with this wonderful verse "From a Cheese-Monger" (with a little design help from www.greetingsisland.com)