DO/Conversations

Quiescit anima libris. The spirit finds rest in books (and in museum objects, archival photographs, and garden sculpture). This is a Dumbarton Oaks project. For more about Dumbarton Oaks, visit www.doaks.org.

The Hagia Sophia Lives Online

by doconversationsblog

Post by Anne Marie Creighton

For centuries after its completion in 537, the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was one of the largest churches in the world. After Robert Van Nice spent fifty years documenting its every nook, crack, and cranny, it must also rank among the world’s most carefully recorded buildings.

Plate 35: Transverse section, looking south: higher elements (apse, east semidome, and main dome)

Plate 35: Transverse section, looking south: higher elements (apse, east semidome, and main dome)

The published result of Van Nice’s labor, which he began in 1937, was the double folio Saint Sophia in Istanbul: An Architectural Survey, printed through Dumbarton Oaks in 1965. Because that edition lacked a few plates, a second edition with a full complement was published in 1986. The project was led by William Emerson, a professor at MIT,* from its beginning to 1957, and then sponsored by Dumbarton Oaks until 1989, when Van Nice retired more than half a century after he began the project. (1)

For any study of the Hagia Sophia, Van Nice’s work is invaluable. Surveys from the nineteenth century, although those by the Fossati brothers and Wilhelm Salzenberg are gorgeous, were conventionalized to fit contemporary ideals of beauty. This was not Van Nice’s goal; although he studied in the Fossati archive in Switzerland and called Salzenberg’s book “obviously, the fundamental document on St. Sophia,” he aimed for a higher standard of accuracy. In his research notes, he listed some flaws in Salzenberg’s work. These included: “He has a well misplaced in the south aisle”; “His east façade lacks, for some reason, the small projections along sides of the dome-base”; and “His squinches are at 45 (degrees) to the dome-base.” (2)

In each of his 46 plates, in contrast to his predecessors, Van Nice and his team strove to capture every detail as it was when they found it. He recorded the hours each engraving took to complete; the average was around 400. This level of care for each bulge in the brickwork and each angle of hard-to-reach corners makes Van Nice’s work the landmark documentation of the building. By capturing the building so thoroughly, he provided a valuable record of the changes, additions, and decay that had occurred since Justinian had it built in the sixth century. (3)

St. Sophia Project: Distribution of man-hours, December 1959 to June 30, 1962. From the Robert L. Van Nice Fieldwork Records and Papers, ca. 1936-1989.

St. Sophia Project: Distribution of man-hours, December 1959 to June 30, 1962. From the Robert L. Van Nice Fieldwork Records and Papers, ca. 1936-1989, MS.BZ.004, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D. C. (4)

 

This level of detail, up until now, has not been very broadly available. Less than three hundred libraries in the world have a copy of Saint Sophia in Istanbul, much less easy access to both editions. Because Dumbarton Oaks has the rights to the book, it would have been possible to do a new edition. It would have been very expensive, though, and it’s so big that even the libraries that could afford it might not have been able to find a place for it!

 

Deb Stewart, the Librarian for Byzantine Studies, demonstrates the size of the volume

Deb Stewart, the Librarian for Byzantine Studies, demonstrates the size of the volume

 

Now, though, we’ve had it digitized, so it is now totally available online. Have a look!

That’s not the end of it, though, since this summer has seen the completion of two important resources about Van Nice’s work in the Hagia Sophia. In DO’s Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, just across the hall from my office, they have 80-something boxes of archival material pertaining to Van Nice’s surveys, as well as about 2,300 oversize architectural plans and drawings. Through years of hard work, the team over at ICFA has created a 100-page “finding aid” that tells you what is contained within each box, and within each folder inside each box. For a direct link to the finding aid, click here, and for a link to a blog post about it, click here. The 80 boxes are not available online, but our sibling blog for ICFA has a number of blog posts on the archive available, which make for great reading. (5)

The material in the Robert Van Nice Fieldwork Records and Papers collections ranges widely. Their finances were thoroughly documented, as were the methods of the project, like how they had to combat birds that would come into the dome and steal their drafting materials. (6)

I also enjoyed reading about the archive because, by spanning fifty years, it captured a not insignificant slice of world history, and so preserves moments sad, wonderful, and banal. Some pieces in the archive are sad and scary, like one letter from 1940 with the postscript “The world seems to be crumbling about us.” (7) Others struck a personal note, like the mentions of Robert College in Istanbul, where my great-grandfather also spent time in the 1930s. (8, e.g.) Still others are just charming, like this drawing that Robert Van Nice, Jr., completed of the Hagia Sophia when he was just six years old.

The Hagia Sophia

ST. SOPHIA April 28, 1948. From the Robert L. Van Nice Fieldwork Records and Papers, ca. 1936-1989, MS.BZ.004, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D. C. (9)

*Correction: This post originally said the project was based out of MIT, but it was a personal project of Emerson’s, not an institutional one. This post also originally provided citations through links, rather than notes, which has been corrected with the notes appended below. Updated September 8, 2014.

Notes:

(1) Beth Bayley, “The Influential Friendship of William Emerson,” ICFA, March 10, 2014, http://icfadumbartonoaks.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/the-influential-friendship-of-william-emerson/

(2) Beth Bayley, “Motivation, Methods, and Meaning: Architectural Drawings of Hagia Sophia,” ICFA, September 20, 2014, https://icfadumbartonoaks.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/motivation-methods-and-meaning-architectural-drawings-of-hagia-sophia/

(3) Beth Bayley, “A Benevolent Fate: Thoughts on Processing Robert Van Nice’s Papers,” ICFA,  August 20, 2014, http://icfadumbartonoaks.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/a-benevolent-fate-thoughts-on-processing-robert-van-nices-papers/

(4) Ibid.

(5) “New Finding Aids and Inventories from ICFA,” ICFA, August 13, 2014, http://icfadumbartonoaks.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/new-finding-aids-and-inventories-from-icfa/

(6) Shalimar White, “Santa Sophia, Santa Sophia!” ICFA, December 18, 2012, http://icfadumbartonoaks.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/santa-sophia-santa-sophia/

(7) Beth Bayley, “Leaving Hagia Sophia: Istanbul before World War II,” ICFA, April 21, 2014, http://icfadumbartonoaks.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/leaving-hagia-sophia-istanbul-before-world-war-ii/

(8) Ibid.

(9) Clare Moran, “Like Father, Like Son,” ICFA, May 22, 2012, http://icfadumbartonoaks.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/like-father-like-son/

Peruvians and Egyptians

by doconversationsblog

This post is provided by Anne Marie Creighton, who joins us this year as a research fellow in the Dumbarton Oaks Library.

As we finish up the library exhibit on Pre-Columbian processions that I talked about last week, one more rare book caught my eye. This one is called The Temple of the Andes, by R. Inwards, a British guy who published an account of his travels in the Andes in 1884. Inwards’ focus was on Tiwanaku, the center of a civilization that arose around AD 400 on the shores of Lake Titicaca, which now lies on the border between Peru and Bolivia, although his distinction between Tiwanaku and the Incas, both “Peruvians,” was often fuzzy.

One of my vacation pictures from a bay within greater Lake Titicaca

A picture I took of Lake Titicaca; if you traveled about a hundred miles out and to the right, you’d be at Tiwanaku

Some popular engravings of Tiwanaku come from this book, like this one of what’s known as the Gateway of the Sun. Colonial descriptions of Tiwanaku are extremely cool—authors described the ruins as stretching for hundreds of acres, and several expressed astonishment that it could have been built by humans at all. Unfortunately, Tiwanaku has suffered more than many archaeological sites from the depredations of time and inexpert reconstruction, so engravings like this provide valuable information for everybody. Wikipedia notes that one early reconstruction, in particular, “was not sufficiently based on research,” which is about as damning as I’ve ever seen that website be.

Gateway of the Sun, rear view

Inwards also provided a hypothetical reconstruction of what Tiwanaku would have looked at its height, which I think he painted himself. It’s more a fun historical artifact than an actually helpful reconstruction, compounded by the fact that he provided no notes about his methodology. I don’t know, therefore, where he got some of these ideas. (Venice, maybe.)

Inwards’ ‘reconstruction’

In the latter part of the book, Inwards began to compare the civilization at Tiwanaku to other groups, mostly ancient. Based on certain colonial accounts, for instance, he noted, “It is curious thus to notice at how many points the religious system of the Peruvians came into contact with Egyptian, Jewish and Mohammedan, and even Christian observances,” (29). Most of the writings he cited were from Spanish missionaries; I would like to point out, therefore, that their assertions that Inca beliefs often coincided with Christian ones must usually be taken with some grains of salt.

Inwards particularly emphasized Tiwanaku’s similarities with Egypt. Of his illustration below of Egyptian (left) and Tiwanaku (right) figures, he comments that the figure on the right “shows the peculiar mixture of the animal and human forms, indulged in equally by the Egyptians and the Peruvians” (30).

Inwards' artistic comparison between Egypt and Tiwanaku

Inwards’ artistic comparison between Egypt and Tiwanaku

Inwards also included this eccentric comparison of scale. A through F are Egyptian obelisks or statues. G is the roof of a medieval king’s tomb, placed sideways. The shaded shapes H and I are from Tiwanaku, K is the largest stone at Stonehenge, and L “is one of the largest stones of modern London, being one of those at the base of the fine Doric columns in Hardwick’s grand portico to the Euston Street Station” (31). The idea that a stone from a London train station should be labeled one of “The Great Monoliths of the World” —I can only think Inwards meant this as a self-deprecating gesture to showcase the grandeur of ancient civilizations by comparison, but none of his text even hints at that!

Inwards' comparison of scale

Inwards’ comparison of scale

Inwards’ zeal for comparing Tiwanaku and ancient Egypt struck me particularly because of a Mexican book, published in 1897, we included in the last Pre-Columbian library exhibit.

Title page

Title page

This bookLa clave jeroglífica aplicada á la conquista de México, was a study of the Aztec calendar and calendrical glyphs, I am not sure to what end (despite reading half of it), so the Egyptian system of hieroglyphs came up several times as a point of comparison. Was there something about the last twenty years of the nineteenth century that made people draw comparisons between indigenous American civilizations and ancient Egypt? Maybe these two books are just a coincidence, especially since the Egyptians have the world’s most famous system of hieroglyphic writing. Now that I’ve seen them, though, I’m on the look-out for more examples!

PS The Temple of the Andes is also available online. So if you want to explore more of that one, you can!

Behind the Scenes: The Processions Exhibit

by doconversationsblog

This post is provided by Anne Marie Creighton, who joins us this year as a research fellow in the Dumbarton Oaks Library.

As I mentioned last week, Bridget and I have been working on our next library exhibit. This exhibit will highlight material from the Library and Archives’ Pre-Columbian collections—whether in the Library, the Rare Book Collection, or the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA)—and is designed to accompany the upcoming Pre-Columbian Symposium on processions. Right now, we’re finishing touches for the on-site exhibit as we work on the corresponding online exhibit. Since the on-site exhibit is mostly finished, it seemed like a good time to share what’s been going on behind the scenes!

These cases are empty no longer!

These cases are empty no longer!

To make a book exhibit, the first thing we have to do is pick the books and other materials we are going to display. Bridget Gazzo, the Librarian for Pre-Columbian Studies, created our initial list of books. These included both scholarly works, so we could research Pre-Columbian processions, and rare books. Once we assembled the rare books (and a few modern ones with good pictures), we went to the Rare Book Room to choose the best images from each, using strips of archival quality paper as our bookmarks. We examined both nineteenth and twentieth century travelers’ accounts and some facsimiles of extremely rare manuscripts. (Our facsimile of the Getty Murúa, an illustrated manuscript from Peru, is just beautiful! It’s so carefully done that they even recreated the little holes in some of the pages.) If we’d left ourselves more time for this part, it would have been any bookworm’s dream!

We were in a hurry, though, because digitizing images for the online exhibit required an appointment with a photographer. So after we finished choosing the images, we trundled our cart of books down to Joe Mills’ office. Joe is a Dumbarton Oaks photographer currently working on a massive project on Byzantine seals, but he also took the photographs that we’ll have in the online exhibit. This is a trickier process than you might think! So much so that I don’t have any pictures from it, because I was busy holding the books steady while he photographed them.

Later, Bridget chooses an image from the Christopher B. Donnand and Donna McClelland Moche Archive in ICFA

Later, Bridget chooses an image from the Christopher B. Donnand and Donna McClelland Moche Archive in ICFA

The next week involved sorting and re-sorting our books by theme, including both rare ones and ones from the regular collection. Modern books have an important role to play in most of our exhibits—rare books are less likely to include color than books from our era of the comparatively cheap printing of color photography. Modern books with color illustrations, therefore, are critical to the visual appeal of the exhibit! (Although, to be on the safest side of copyright law, most of them will only be appearing on-site.)

At last, we settled on three themes that we’ll use both online and on-site: pathways, plazas, and processions. There are four display cases in the library, which have each been assigned a theme; “processions” gets two of them because it’s the most important. Three of our cases are vertical ones that look like glass bookshelves; the fourth is a big, low case, much deeper than the others, where we can put books like the one that was half as tall as me.

Me and the Vues des Cordillères of Alexander Humboldt, which is very large

Me and the Vues des Cordillères of Alexander Humboldt, which is very large

Once we have distributed the books to their cases, it’s time to strap them in! To set up each book, there are two steps we have to perform. First, we have to strap the books to the right page. We do this by looping a clear plastic ribbon, to which we’ve attached velcro strips on facing ends, around the book. Then we attach the velcro together behind the book, where you can’t see it when it’s open.

A closed book strapped to the page we chose

A closed book strapped to the page we chose

Our next step is to put each book in its own stand. Our stands are top-of-the-line, but it’s still a very fiddly process.

Here I'm about to adjust a stand

Here I’m about to adjust a stand

One consideration is the angle at which we’re going to display the book: books on the bottom shelf need to be facing up so that you can see them without bending over. Books on the top shelf, on the other hand, need to be as close to ninety degrees upright as possible, so that they don’t point at the ceiling rather than at viewers. Another problem I encountered was the weight of the books. In the photo below, there’s a beanbag weight on the back of the stand, because it’s a small stand carrying a heavy book. Without the weight, the stand fell forward each time I let go of it!

Book with weighted stand

Book with weighted stand

A last variable, and the most difficult one, was the “tightness” of books, a term I have recently learned. When you open some books, they are perfectly happy to stay lying open, possibly until the end of time. Magazines, for example, are usually not tight—you can easily leave them open to any page. Some books, however, are “tight.” This means that the spine has sufficient tension that if you laid them open flat on a desk, for example, they would probably close again. We practically had to wrestle some of our books into submission! This sometimes involved solutions with multiple straps, a lot of velcro, and a weight or two just in case.

Bridget struggles with a difficult book

Bridget struggles with a difficult book

But all of that is finished, and all the books are happily locked into their cases. Check back in early September for an announcement when the online exhibit goes up!

Bridget and I finish putting books into the center case

Bridget and I finish putting books into the center case

Space for Procession

by doconversationsblog

This post is provided by Anne Marie Creighton, who joins us this year as a research fellow in the Dumbarton Oaks Library.

Dumbarton Oaks seems kind of sleepy in August. The summer population of students and interns has departed and next year’s fellows have not yet arrived, so the number of people around the place is diminished. Despite some remarkably nice weather for a Washington summer, things are still a little subdued.

Even in the quiet that comes from the building being less full than usual, however, the staff are as hard at work as ever: planning for the October symposium is proceeding apace! Our fall symposium in Pre-Columbian Studies, this year, is titled “Processions in the Ancient Americas: Approaches and Perspectives.” My job is to assist with special exhibits in the library, so I’ve been helping our librarian for Pre-Columbian Studies, Bridget Gazzo, prepare the book exhibit that will tie into the theme of ‘processions.’

Books for the exhibit are piling up - and this is only a few of them!

Books for the exhibit are piling up – and this is only a few of them!

Much of the exhibit will emphasize the importance of the space through which people proceeded. Just as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade has to be held in Manhattan (I find it nearly impossible to imagine it in the suburbs), so too did the space for Pre-Columbian processions matter, and matter a lot. One type of space the exhibit emphasizes is the plaza, which in Mesoamerica was often paired with the pyramids we associate with Aztec or Maya sites. 

This emphasis on space, both in our exhibit and in the symposium itself, helps offer a corrective to archaeology’s tendency, sometimes, to treat buildings as though they were intended to stand separate from their environments. One rare book we can’t use in the exhibit shows some good examples of this tendency. I liked this book, even though we can’t put it on display, so I’m going to show you some pages from it now.

Title page

Title page

This book is the archaeological report from an excavation done in 1935 at the pyramid of Tenayuca, a Chichimec site in the Basin of Mexico, near the Aztec capital at Tenochtitlan. The Chichimecs were a warlike tribe from the region of northwest Mexico, whom the Aztecs claimed as an important part of their heritage. (The Aztecs saw themselves as the rightful heirs to both the Toltecs, a legendary civilization known for their culture and arts, and the Chichimecs, consummate warriors whose myths involved more skinning of people than do most. Thus the Aztecs could claim to be cultured and fierce at the same time.)

The pyramid in the different stages of its construction

“the Pyramid in the different stages of its construction”

Among other things, the report contains plans of the pyramid in each stage of its construction, although I can’t immediately verify their accuracy. The image above shows the page on which the plans of each phase of the temple could be compared with each other, so readers could understand how the site changed over time, getting bigger with every iteration. The authors’ hypothetical illustration of what the final phase looked like when it was new is below.

Artist's depiction

Artist’s depiction

This page also shows what I mean about taking buildings out of context—although you can see a bit of the pyramid’s surroundings in this image, most of them are cut off. And that’s the most we see of the pyramid’s context in the entire book! Most of the images look more like the line drawings above, even though in most of Mesoamerica, the pyramid wasn’t meant to be understood alone. We can’t understand this site without understanding the pyramid, so this book represents a necessary part of that effort. In our exhibit, however, I hope that our emphasis on the plaza and the processions that took place in it will help viewers focus on how the complex of pyramid and plaza worked together when they both were built.

As for why we can’t display the book right now, I’m afraid it needed a visit to the hospital of injured books, which I’ll profile in an upcoming blog post.

Poor book

An injured book

PS

When I was browsing some old entries in this blog for fun (a leisure activity I highly recommend), I came across this post from way back when, called “Steps & Stairs.” That post is about steps, movement, and the rhythm of walking throughout the Dumbarton Oaks gardens, so if you’re interested in processions in a very different context, that’s one place to start!

Friday Updates!

by doconversationsblog

This post is provided by Anne Marie Creighton, who joins us this year as a research fellow in the Dumbarton Oaks Library.

Hello to all our readers! I just want to make a note about the schedule for the blog for this coming year, separately from our regular posts. Because I was hired, among other things, to do social media, there will now be blog posts here every Friday until next July! We’ll have some special posts at other times of the week, too, but from now on there will be a regularly scheduled update each Friday. Look for the first one in this new schedule tomorrow!

A Strange Bird

by sarahkburke

This post is written by Sarah Burke Cahalan, Special Projects and Reference Librarian at Dumbarton Oaks.

I don’t always get a chance to pay close attention to the image orders that cross my desk. There are simply too many other details to monitor. The nature of the work necessitates a focus on paperwork, image specs, and the details of sending the right MediaFire link to the right patron. But an image from a new acquisition caught my eye, in part because images from this book will likely be used in the upcoming symposium volume for Botany of Empire. It also registered because it is just plain weird: What is this giant bird doing on a raft?

The harbor at Paita, Peru

The harbor at Paita, Peru

I posted the image on my personal Twitter account [“NBD. Just taking my eagle out for a paddle.”] and didn’t think much more of it, besides taking the usual satisfaction in the number of times the Tweet was starred and retweeted by colleagues who also enjoy the esoteric details we come across in special collections materials. But then I thought about it again over the weekend. This should be a relatively easy puzzle to solve. What was this giant bird doing on a raft? So I consulted the text.

Title page, Oost- en West-Indische voyagie

Title page, Oost- en West-Indische voyagie

Fortunately there is an English translation of Admiral Joris van Spilbergen’s Oost- en West-Indische voyagie, door de strate Magallanes naer de Moluques, a seventeenth-century account of a journey through the Strait of Magellan to Indonesia, commissioned by the Dutch East India Company (VOC). The Dutch and the Spanish were, of course, rival powers in this period, and this image shows the battle over the port of Paita, Peru in 1615. In the engraving, we see Dutch ships in the harbor and Dutch troops approaching the city, with Spaniards retreating over a hillside in the background. This book was acquired by Dumbarton Oaks in part because of its depiction of balsa rafts, such as the one with two sails in the middle foreground. The use of such rafts for riverine and oceanic travel dates far into the Pre-Columbian past, and this image is therefore a fascinating example of European and American vessels depicted side-by-side.

While VOC ships were moored in the harbor at Paita, Admiral Spilbergen dispatched some of his men to find food. On their expedition they also found two extraordinary birds. The following quotation is from the English translation I mentioned above:

During the time that we were at anchor the Admiral seeing that our victuals were beginning considerably to diminish sent four well equipped boats to the aforesaid Island de Loubes in order to catch some of these fish named loubes. This they did bringing a large quantity some still alive others dead and which when cooked were of good flavour and afforded perfect nourishment…

On the island our sailors also caught two birds of marvellous size having a beak wings and claws shaped like an eagle a neck like a sheep and combs on the head like cocks being formed in a very wonderful manner.

The “Island of Loubes” refers to the Lobos de Tierra, located to the south of Paita. And the bird? Most likely it was an Andean condor, which does in fact have a fluffy white neck “like a sheep,” and a comb and wattle like a rooster.

This 1648 volume reprints Willem Cornelisz Schouten van Hoorn’s publications of thirty years previous. The image itself derives from an earlier engraving; one example has been digitized by the John Carter Brown Library.

Highlights of the Music Exhibit, Pt. 2

by doconversationsblog

This post is provided by Anne Marie Creighton, who joins us this year as a research fellow in the Dumbarton Oaks Library.

Having covered the musical material from the main three sections of the Library—Pre-Columbian, Garden and Landscape, and Byzantine—a few days ago, it’s time to turn to the music that the Blisses collected from their contemporaries. Dumbarton Oaks has been associated with music ever since the Blisses’ day (I doubt I will ever again work in a place after which Stravinsky named a concerto!), a tradition that carries on through our annual concert series and in which this exhibit takes part.

The association between music and Dumbarton Oaks originated with Mildred Bliss, a lifelong lover of music. Because Mildred Bliss was well-connected with the French music scene, Dumbarton Oaks possesses some interesting scores from the early twentieth century, which are housed both in the Rare Book Collection and in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives. These include a handwritten fanfare by Francis Poulenc, as well as several pieces dedicated to Mildred Bliss herself.

The piece we displayed from Francis Poulenc, often listed among the greatest French composers of the twentieth century, was a playful one, a birthday present. Written in 1957 for the seventieth birthday of Nadia Boulanger, it runs “Vive Nadia, la chère Nadia Boulanger, la très chère Nadia. Alleluia.”

Nadia Boulanger then gave it to the Blisses, adding the inscription on the bottom that runs, “ma chèrie Mildred, à mon chèr Robert mes amis incomparables que j’aime de tout mon coeur, Nadia, 16 septembre 1957.”

This sheet of paper involves some interesting characters from early twentieth century musical history. Poulenc wrote it late in his life, in the same decade that he wrote some of the religious choral compositions that continue to be among his most-performed works. Nadia Boulanger, for whom he wrote it, was a noteworthy figure in her own right—as a piano teacher, she influenced a number of famous musicians and composers, and she was one of the first prominent female conductors. This birthday present, given twice, reflects the long friendships between Boulanger and Poulenc and between Boulanger and the Blisses. The latter relationship is significant, among other reasons, because it was Nadia Boulanger through whom the Blisses commissioned the Dumbarton Oaks Concerto from Stravinsky, and it was she who conducted the premiere at Dumbarton Oaks when Stravinsky proved too ill to travel.

The other piece of music I will highlight today, given to Mildred Bliss by the composer and conductor Ernest Schelling, comes from much earlier in her life. This piece of music, for which we still have the original envelope, is engaging because of the significance it holds to the Blisses’ personal lives.

Envelope for Intermezzo

Envelope for Intermezzo

Intermezzo for the Organ

Intermezzo for the Organ

Intermezzo for the Organ, Interior

Intermezzo for the Organ, Interior

The first page of the music is inscribed “Intermezzo for the organ, by Ernest Schelling,” and “For Miss Mildred Barnes, 4/14/1908.” The envelope is addressed to “Mr. Helstein [?], Organist of Grace Church, Broadway + 9th St, New York,” and is marked “Please deliver at once, Important.” This is significant because that very day, on April 14, 1908, Mildred and Robert Bliss were married  in Grace Church, New York. I do not know whether this piece of music made it to the church in time to be performed—if Schelling mailed it on April 14, it seems unlikely, but perhaps he dated the interior with her wedding date and not the date he sent it. With this, however, we can see Mildred’s association with music when she was still in her twenties, and one of her (perhaps belated) wedding gifts.

Highlights of the Music Exhibit, Pt. 1

by doconversationsblog

This post is provided by Anne Marie Creighton, who joins us this year as a research fellow in the Dumbarton Oaks Library.

Dumbarton Oaks has been humming with activity this year, much of it about sound and the senses. There is a temporary sound sculpture in the gardens right now, surprising and delighting those who pass by the Lover’s Lane Pool, and the Byzantine and the Garden and Landscape Studies symposia this spring both took the senses as their theme. To harmonize with these events, the spring 2014 library exhibit centered on music, including the Exultet rolls we featured earlier this year.

When the exhibit came down last week, we wanted to memorialize some of its highlights here in cyberspace, so that they would live on even after all of our gathered books had been re-shelved.

One of the cases of the exhibit

One of the exhibit cases

The exhibit featured materials from all three sections of Dumbarton Oaks’ Library—Byzantine, Garden and Landscape, and Pre-Columbian—as well as material from the Dumbarton Oaks Archives and the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives. The exhibit emphasized Byzantium to complement the Byzantine symposium and to provide material for the Byzantine Greek summer school here, but there were items to appeal to scholars in all three programs as well as to those interested in the history of music. The archival material will be featured in its own post on Friday, so check the blog again soon!

In the absence of pre-conquest American musical notation, representing Pre-Columbian cultures was perhaps the biggest challenge. The exhibit showcased ethnographic studies of traditional music as well as depictions of people playing music in facsimiles of early codices. Two examples involved the conch shell, which appeared as an instrument both in photographs of Moche pottery and in our facsimile of the Aztec Codex Borbonicus. Below is my picture of the Codex Borbonicus, and you can go here for Guaman Poma’s depiction of the Inca messenger, or chasqui, who played the conch shell. A fact I enjoy about the conch shell is that it is sometimes known in Quechua as the ‘pututu,’ which is a wonderful onomatopoeia.

Facsimile of the Codex Borbonicus, including a man playing a shell

Facsimile of the Codex Borbonicus, including a man playing a shell

I had two favorites from the items we displayed from the Garden Rare Book Collection. One was a French comic opera from 1761 called Le Jardinier et Son Seigneur, or “The Gardener and his Master.” While that book fit our theme precisely, the contents of my other favorite had nothing to do with music at all: this one was a book printed in the early seventeenth century, titled Cognoscite lilia agri quomodo crescant, or “Learn how the lilies of the field grow.” It is an early, pre-Linnaean, book of engravings of flowers and plants, so it provides valuable material for the study of early modern botany. So why did we choose this book for our music exhibit? Flower engravings, although interesting, seem to have nothing to do with music. We chose it, however, not for its contents, but for its binding—when it was printed in the 1610s, it was bound in a sheet of medieval music, specifically the Latin Office for the Dead, as we can see below.

Cover

Cover

Interior engraving

Interior engraving

The facsimiles of Byzantine and medieval music are not so photogenic as the other items, but they lay at the heart of the exhibit. Juxtaposed with transcriptions by modern scholars providing modern musical notation when possible, images of musical manuscripts were displayed for study both of the texts and of musical notation in the last centuries of Byzantium. Although our understanding of Byzantine music is imperfect, these manuscripts provide insight into the history of liturgy and polyphonic music that still form part of modern Orthodox services. We also displayed facsimiles of western medieval and medieval Slavic musical manuscripts, the latter influenced by the Byzantine tradition, so that viewers could compare and contrast how early written music worked and changed in Europe.

Image sources, in order of appearance:

Codex Borbonicus, Bibliothèque de l’Assemblée nationale, Paris (Y 120) : vollständige Faksimile-Ausg. des Codex im Originalformat (Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1974). [HOLLIS]

Crispijn van de Passe, Cognoscite lilia agri quomodo crescant (Cologne?, ca. 1614). [HOLLIS]

 

Healing Plants from Brazil

by sarahkburke

This post is provided by Bridget Gazzo, Librarian for Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks.

plate 22, Davilla rugosa

plate 22, Davilla rugosa

Saint-Hilaire, Auguste Francois César Prouvencal de, 1799-1853. Plantes Usuelles des Brasiliens. Paris, Grimbert (printed by Casimir), 1824-1828. [HOLLIS]

From the beginning of Brazil’s colonization by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, Europeans were keenly interested in its biodiversity. Jesuit priests, the first foreigners to make direct contact with native Brazilians, integrated Brazilian botanical remedies into European medicine. The French botanist Auguste de Saint-Hilaire was one of the first scientists to freely travel throughout Brazil, from 1816 to 1822. Saint-Hilaire, born in Orleans in 1799, had the opportunity to accompany the Duke of Luxembourg on his journey to Brazil to assume his post as French Ambassador in Rio de Janeiro in 1816. Saint-Hilaire spent the next six years traveling ten thousand kilometers to explore the southern provinces of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul, Espiritu-Santo, Mato Grosso, Cisplatina (currently Uruguay), and the old missions in Paraguay. He returned to France carrying 7000 plant species, 4500 of which were unknown to science at the time. These collections are deposited in Paris’ Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, along with Saint-Hilaire’s six volumes of field books. In his field books, Saint-Hilaire registered the vernacular names of the plants and, very importantly, also provided descriptions of the traditional uses.

While data from many species recorded in the field books has been published, as many as 75 species from these manuscripts have not been published by Saint-Hilaire or by later scientists. These field books continue to be a trove of unstudied raw material. The most common traditional uses recorded for the plants identified were as purgatives and febrifuges. Next in frequency were treatments for venereal disease, snake bites, and diuretics. Many of these efficacies have been, and continue to be, confirmed by laboratory studies.

Plantes Usuelles des Brasiliens (1824-[1828]) is one of Saint-Hilaire’s major publications on native Brazilian plants and their beneficial uses. Dumbarton Oaks has recently acquired a copy of this work, which will supplement research in Pre-Columbian Studies and the exciting, interdisciplinary work being done on the history of science in the New World. The first plant described and illustrated is none other than Strychnos faux-quinquina, with nom vulgaire quina do campo, highlighting the intense nineteenth-century interest in quinine and quinine substitutes. Another quinine substitute included in the book is Solanum pseudoquina. (Cinchona, the traditional source of quinine, was often over-collected, leading to the search for substitutes.) The author dedicates the book to the Emperor of Brazil, Pedro I, with gratitude for the constant protection of his Majesty’s government during six years of traveling through Brazil. Our newly acquired copy is an especially interesting object because of its hand-colored images and its retention of the publisher’s original boards and wrappers.

plate 21, Solanum pseudoquina

plate 21, Solanum pseudoquina

Anda gomesii

Anda gomesii

GOAL!

by sarahkburke

It has been noted—with good humor—that several of this summer’s World Cup matches have pitted the geographic areas of the Pre-Columbian world against those of the Byzantine. Colombia trounced Greece. Argentina defeated Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mexico finished Croatia. But it was in neither the Byzantine nor the Pre-Columbian collection, but rather in a book from the Garden rare book collection that we come across Guiseppe Zocchi’s eighteenth-century engraving of Florentine calcio.

Zocchi's plate, "Veduta della Chiesa e Piazza di S. Croce con la festa del Calcio fatta l'anno 1738 alla Real presenza de Regnanti Sovrani"

Zocchi’s plate, “Veduta della Chiesa e Piazza di S. Croce con la festa del Calcio fatta l’anno 1738 alla Real presenza de Regnanti Sovrani”

Zocchi worked under the patronage of Marchese Andrea Gerini, who oversaw his training and commissioned the Scelta di XXIV vedute delle principali contrade, piazze, chiese e palazzi della città di Firenze (first published in 1744, reissued in 1754). As with earlier works by Giovanni Battista Falda and Dominicus Barrière, such prints were purchased by visitors to Italy as a memento of their journey. Zocchi’s prints are noteworthy for the charming and human details that occur within the neighborhoods and piazzas of his title: dogs greet each other, men and women flirt. In the case of the illustrated game, individuals in the foreground climb over one another in an attempt to view the match.

costumesAnd what of that match? “Calcio fiorentino,” or “calcio storico,” is one of the many predecessors of the game now known as football or—since Dumbarton Oaks is located in the United States—soccer. Calcio (also the modern Italian word for the game currently being played in Brazil) may trace its roots back to Roman harpastum and earlier Greek games, although these classical games seem to share few elements with the modern iteration besides the vying of teams for control of a ball. The Renaissance Italian version was documented by Giovanni de’ Bardi in 1580. Bardi’s handbook to the game was reprinted throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and it outlines the basics of the game: twenty-seven players per team, played between January and March, and the basic roles of different positions on the field (rushers, ball-keepers, interferers, strikers, and so on). It was typically a game for nobility and early editions of Bardi—as we see repeated in Zocchi—show the game being played in Florence’s Piazza di Santa Croce. Bardi defines the game as follows:

“Calcio is a public game, of two teams of young men, on foot and unarmed, who, in an affable manner and for the sake of honor, contend to pass an inflated ball from the posta (on one end of the middle-line) forward to the opposite goal. The field where it takes place should be a main square of a city so that the noble ladies and the people can better stand and see the game.”

field 1The game might be played to celebrate a significant civic event, such as a coronation or the marriage of royalty. Players would don costumes of silk and gold. The conclusion of a match was marked with a feast. By the seventeenth century, commoners occasionally played as well, although not always successfully: a game on Carnival Sunday, 1679, had to be halted due to out-of-control crowds in the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. The “carnivalesque” aspect of the festival is on clear display in Zocchi’s engraving, where we see individuals in animal costumes, dwarves, and a decorated carriage pulled by two oxen (perhaps an example of the scoppio del carro). On the field of play we can see not only the teams but also their respective drummers, trumpeters, and standard-bearers. This eighteenth-century print documents “calcio fiorentino” at a period of waning interest, however, which coincided with the waning power of the Medici family in Florence.

scoppioD. Medina Lasansky documents a revival of interest in the sport in Fascist Italy. The regime used the Renaissance past to define a shared Italian culture, reinstating such festivals as calcio in Florence and the palio in Siena. Lando Ferretti, who oversaw propaganda under Mussolini, believed that such festivals hailed “the spiritual rebirth of a new era in which such initiatives have brought hidden treasures, traditions, and histories back to life.” These civic events taught people about history and united them in a shared Italian culture. This revival of the Renaissance version of “calcio fiorentino” survived the Fascists; games are still played annually in Florence. But interest in the modern version of calcio (a.k.a. football, a.k.a. soccer) far outstrips interest in the historical game!

Italy is no longer in contention for this summer’s World Cup, but some traditions are alive and well. They may not wear silk and gold livery, but the Italian team was surely among the best-dressed of the tournament.

 

Lasansky, D. Medina. The Renaissance perfected: architecture, spectacle, and tourism in fascist Italy. University Park, Penn.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004.

Magoun, Francis P. “Il Gioco del Calcio Fiorentino.” Italica 19, no. 1 (1942): 1-21.

Magoun, Francis P. “The Long-Lost Instruzione del Modo del Giuocare il Calcio a I Giovani Nobili Fiorentini of 1739.” Italica 22, no. 1 (1945): 14-20.

Mommsen, Theodor E. “Football in Renaissance Florence.” The Yale University Library Gazette 16, no. 1 (1941): 14-19.

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