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

Engravings and their Makers

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

For the past month, I have been leafing through centuries-old books. My task? To take notes on those rare books at Dumbarton Oaks that pertain to the Byzantine heritage of Ottoman Constantinople, recording my summaries of their illustrations, condition, and contents. So far, I have gone through between three and five thousand pages, depending on how you count them, in a dozen books in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, and Latin. I am approaching this project in chronological order, so to date I have worked with books published between 1545 and 1700. Among these books, I have been dismayed to learn how easily the leather of a cracking spine can leave red dust marks on my gloves, and I have gotten to know the delight of discovering passages and illustrations that surprise and charm, like the two engravings I’m sharing here today.

As an aside, I need to emphasize that I am not reading all of these books—I don’t even know all the languages in which they’re written. I have sometimes ended up doing a lot of reading to figure out books that proved particularly challenging, but, in general, the combination of a book’s table of contents, some light skimming, and modern studies of the book does the trick. I cannot emphasize enough what a wonderful advance the table of contents forms in the history of communication. Indexes, too.

My current shelf of books to work on

My current shelf of books to work on

The impetus for this post, however, comes from the Pre-Columbian Studies program in Dumbarton Oaks’ rare book collections—when our last shipment of books for digitization returned from Harvard, Bridget Gazzo, the Librarian for Pre-Columbian Studies, pointed out a fabulous pair of images to me that now lie at the end of this post. These images, an engraving of an astronomer and the original pencil drawing on which the engraving was based, got me thinking about the process of printing images. After that, I found an image from a book in my Byzantine work that also, I thought, brought home the humanity of the people who made the volume, even so many centuries later. The two books also make a good match because their authors—Charles du Fresne, sieur du Cange, a Byzantinist, and Charles-Marie de La Condamine, an astronomer—were both titans in their respective fields. I suppose it is also a testament to the culture of scholarship in early modern France that these two men were experts in topics as varied as Byzantine studies and astronomy!

A page of coins. Charles du Fresne du Cange,

A page of coins. Charles du Fresne du Cange, Historia Byzantina, before p. 1 [2nd set].

This engraving is from the Historia Byzantina of Charles du Cange, which is one of the foundational modern texts for the study of Byzantine history. Du Cange was a French nobleman in the seventeenth century with deep interests in medieval and classical studies. He has the rare honor of being called the father of two academic fields—both Byzantine and medieval Latin studies. Byzantine numismatics was among Du Cange’s many interests, so the thousand-odd page Historia includes about fifty pages of illustrations of coins, like this one. After seeing so many coins, I was starting to pay a little less attention, until we discovered the page above.

Printing an early modern engraving was a tricky business. In the period of this book, ink had to be made carefully, by hand, and often, so that it would stay fresh. Applying the ink to a carved wood block or an engraved metal plate that would create the image was another task, as was properly dampening the page. Ink would leave only a faint image on a page that was too dry; a page that was too wet, meanwhile, would cause the ink to smudge, or the paper itself to crease.

Sometimes, accustomed to modern books, I forget how much human labor was required to make books like this one. This error—whether the plate was printed upside down or whether, once printed, it was bound into the book incorrectly—makes the process of making these books seem more vivid to me.

An astronomer makes observations. Charles-Marie de La Condamine, Mesure des trois premiers degrés du méridien dans l’hémisphere austral, 105.

An astronomer makes observations. Charles-Marie de La Condamine, Mesure des trois premiers degrés du méridien dans l’hémisphere austral, 105.

This image, which Bridget pointed out to me, is the reason I started thinking about engravings this week in the first place. It comes from a title that records one of the most important eighteenth-century scientific expeditions in South America, one that set out to get south of the equator so that the members of the expedition could measure the shape of the earth. On the title page for La Condamine’s work about this effort, therefore, an engraving shows an astronomer taking measurements at night, hard at work by candlelight.

Printing an image like this almost always required the artistic services of both an artist – in this case P. Clavareau – and an engraver. By happy circumstance, Dumbarton Oaks has both Clavareau’s drawing and the engraver’s rendering of it.

"astronome par observation" (?) Pencil drawing by P. Clavareau. See the end of this post for bibliographic information.

“astronome par observation” (?) Pencil drawing by P. Clavareau. See the end of this post for bibliographic information.

You can see how differently textures work in graphite, even graphite done to preview an engraving, and in a print like this one. Graphite is soft, and can create flat shaded surfaces, uniformly gray, while the engraving requires that black be created through narrow lines, which even in the deepest shadows alternate white and dark.

Here are the two images side by side. Notice that they are the same size, and mirror images of each other. These are both characteristic of the way engravings like these were printed. To see more about this book, don’t neglect to look at the fully digitized copy!

A comparison of the two images of the astronomer

A comparison of the two images of the astronomer


Charles du Fresne du Cange, Historia Byzantina duplici commentario illustrata (Lutetiae Parisiorum: Apud Ludovicium Billaine, 1680), [HOLLIS].

Charles-Marie de La Condamine, Mesure des trois premiers degrés du méridien dans l’hémisphere austral, (Paris: De l’Imprimerie royale, 1751) [HOLLIS]. The HOLLIS record also includes further information about the drawing. The digitized version of this book is available here.

Happy Halloween!

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“The head of St. John the Baptist, which is cut off and honored in the cathedral church of Ambianens”

Charles du Fresne du Cange, Historia Byzantina duplici commentario illustrata (Lutetiae Parisiorum: Apud Ludovicium Billaine, 1680), 101 [3rd set].

Before the Rosetta Stone

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

Something about ancient Egypt sets people’s curiosity alight, making them wonder about its temples and kings, its writing and history. Ever since the proverbial sightseers from classical Greece, writing tourist graffiti on monuments already ancient in 500 B.C., the great pyramids by the Nile have been attracting both travelers and outlandish speculation. Today’s blog post is about both of these things as they appear in the work of George Sandys, an Englishman who visited Egypt in the seventeenth century and whose book included, among other things, his theories about how hieroglyphs worked.

"The entrance in to the Groat Pyramis" - "So that always stooping, and sometimes  creeping, by reason of the rubbidge, we descended (not by stairs, but as down the steep of a hill) a hundred feet, where the place for a little circuit enlarged"

“So that always stooping, and sometimes creeping, by reason of the rubbidge, we descended…” —  Sandys and his companions enter a pyramid (101)

Between the fourth or fifth century A.D., when the use of Egyptian hieroglyphs died out, and the beginning of modern Egyptology in the wake of Napoleon’s expedition there, nobody in the west could read hieroglyphs. That did not stop European travelers and thinkers, however, from trying. Before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799, most European attempts to read them were based on the premise that hieroglyphs were a symbolic system, where each symbol represented an idea. A hieroglyph of a fish, for instance, might represent a fish, or perhaps the ocean, or the idea of “hatred,” as we’ll see below. If they could just figure out the correspondences for each hieroglyph, they thought, they would unlock the writing system.

The key to understanding hieroglyphs, however, is that they are not a purely symbolic system. It’s true that many hieroglyphs are symbols that represent an idea or a word rather than a sound, like Chinese characters do. However, Egyptian hieroglyphs also include phonetic sounds (n is “n”) and determinative characters that provide information like gender or size. These two other types of character threw off European attempts to decode Egyptian hieroglyphs until the Rosetta Stone helped scholars figure it out.

When George Sandys traveled to Egypt, however, it was still two centuries before that discovery, so nobody had any handle on hieroglyphs. Sandys was a translator, traveler, and colonist, who lived from 1578 to 1644. He has one of those rare biographies that connects to both Dumbarton Oaks’ Byzantine and Pre-Columbian Studies programs, actually; he both spent a few years living in the Virginia Colony and published an account of his travels to Ottoman Turkey, Palestine, and Egypt in 1615. (While he was in Virginia, in the 1620s, he tangled with the local American Indians. That encounter went poorly for the English.) In Egypt, Sandys made sure to visit the ruins of the great pyramids, as we saw above, getting a tour inside one by torchlight. Fascinated by ancient Egyptian culture, Sandys also provided a rendering of some hieroglyphs he had seen—whether in person or reproduced in another book about Egypt—a passage “said to be pourtraicted within the Porch of Minerva’s Temple in the City of Sai.”

"Hieroglyphicks" (82)

“Hieroglyphicks” (82)

Sandys explained hieroglyphs as follows:

Their Letters were invented by Mercury, who writ from the right hand to the left, as do all the Africans. But in holy things especially they expressed their conceits by Hieroglyphicks, which consist of significant figures: whereof there are yet many to be seen, though hardly to be interpreted.

His attempted translation of the hieroglyphs above was:

The Infant signifieth those that enter into the World, and the Old man those that go out of it, the Falcon, God; the Fish, hatred, because they hated fish that bred in the Sea, which symbolized Typhon; and by the River-horse, murder, impudence, and injustice: for they say that he killeth his Sire, and ravisheth his own Dam, which put together importeth, O you that enter the World, and go out of it; God hateth injustice.

This translation, of course, is not even close; nobody in the seventeenth century could have translated this passage. To my dismay, the engraving of the hieroglyphs is so stylized that I doubt it would be possible to reconstruct their actual meaning. That said, how interesting is it to see a seventeenth century person grapple with this language! Is the River-horse supposed to be a hippo? I don’t know, but I was so excited to share this when I found it. (source: p. 81-82)

George Sandys, Sandys travels, 7th ed. (London : Printed for John Williams junior, 1673). [HOLLIS]

Later flowers for the bees

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

The lady ginkgoes are dropping their weird, squashy fruit all over the sidewalks and the glossy, dark-fruited chokeberries have sprouted and died, which means it’s finally full fall here in Georgetown. It’s a sunny day at Dumbarton Oaks, and the signs of autumn fill the gardens. Between the pinks and oranges rapidly appearing among the green of the summer leaves and the fall flowers blooming with every shade of the rainbow, the gardens are brimming over with color.

Flowers in the Dumbarton Oaks gardens, October 17

Flowers in the Dumbarton Oaks gardens, October 17

As great as the gardens look today, a wild palette of fall color can also be found inside the Dumbarton Oaks Rare Book Room. In the eighteenth century, gardeners could buy seeds from beautifully illustrated seed catalogs, showing fruit, flowers, or both. One of the first of these, and so beautiful that its illustrations were reproduced in new editions long after they stopped serving as a catalog, was Twelve Months of Flowers, circulated by Robert Furber. (He was the subject of a previous blog post here.) Below, to match the season, is the image for October. Although they’re faint in this image, each flower is numbered and labeled below. The large yellow flower at the very center of the image, for instance, is a yellow poppy, a perennial. Each of these flowers would have been available for purchase from Furber’s business, as was the print itself separate from the catalog.

Twelve Months of Flowers: October

Twelve Months of Flowers: October

The Twelve Months of Flowers, published in 1730, was very popular, and followed two years later by Twelve Months of Fruit. The image for October is below, full of cherries and apples and pears. None of these varieties seem to be common today, at least under the names they have here, but I think they look delicious.

Twelve Years of Fruit: October

Twelve Years of Fruit: October

Furber, Robert. Twelve Months of Flowers: From the Collection of Robt. Furber, Gardiner at Kensington. London: s.n, 1730. [HOLLIS]

Furber, Robert. Twelve Plates of Fruit: From the Collection of Robt. Furber, Gardiner at Kensington. London: s.n, 1732.  [HOLLIS]

The Online Exhibit is Live!

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The online exhibit is live. Check it out!

The plaza of Tenochtitlan, Historia de Nueva España, a 1770 edition of Hernán Cortés’s writings

The plaza of Tenochtitlan, Historia de Nueva España, a 1770 edition of Hernán Cortés’s writings. Here, the engraving says, “eight or ten thousand Indians danced.”

Highlights from the Online Exhibit

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

The online version of the exhibit on Pre-Columbian Processions I’ve been working on since I started here will go up early next week. At last! I’ll be glad when I get this project out into the world—and I’ll post again here as soon as it’s online. In the meantime, here are some highlights! These all come from our section on illustrations of procession; since location was important to processions, the exhibit also has two sections on their spatial context. Because some of those spaces have outlasted the processions that once passed through them, their design and archaeological history can help us understand their original use. Check back next week for more on that – for now, here are some of the illustrations of indigenous processions I like the best.


This page from a facsimile of the Codex Borbonicus, written around the time of the Spanish arrival in Mexico, shows a festival of the offering of flowers, also known as Miccaihuitontli, or “The Small Festival of the Dead.” The left side of the page shows wreaths of flowers and the three gods who were honored at this festival, and children dancing are depicted on the right side. Near the dancers, the page is glossed Fiesta de los niños a los tres dioses del agua, de la semilla y de la caña. Aquí no entraba mujer: “Festival of children to the three gods of water, of seeds, and of reeds. Women did not enter here.”

Ferdinand Anders et al., eds., Códice Borbónico, 1st ed., Códices Mexicanos 3 (Madrid: Sociedad Estatal Quinto Centenario; Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt;  Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1991). See commentary volume, 205–7.

This citation is for a transcription of the text. I found the original handwriting pretty hard to make out!

Codex Borbonicus, Bibliothèque de l’Assemblée Nationale, Paris Y 120): Vollständige Faksimile-Ausg. Des Codex im Originalformat. Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1974.


In this engraving of inhabitants of Florida, a woman and her attendants are going to meet the king she will marry. Because Mesoamerica and the Andes are usually better attested than the rest of the Pre-Columbian Americas, this image from a different region is both interesting and valuable. However, it was created by a European artist. It therefore has to be used with particular care, because European images of indigenous people often prioritized looks over accuracy. A common feature of European illustrations was to take a visual element from one indigenous culture and then falsely apply it to others. After taking a class with Thomas Cummins, I’m particularly suspicious of the litter here: the first European images of the Inca ruler are derived “from Hans Burgkmair’s 1508 woodcut Der Kvnig von Guizin (The king of Cochin)…based on Balthasar Springer’s account of his travels in India” (214-215). Two features these images had in common were that the kings in question were half-naked, wearing only loincloths, being carried on a litter. Is it just a coincidence that this engraving of a woman in Florida displays those same traits?

Bry, Theodor de. América 1590–1634. Edited by Gereon Sievernich, translated by Adán Kovacsics. Madrid: Ediciones Siruela, 1992.

Thomas B. F. Cummins, “The Indulgent Image: Prints in the New World,” in Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World, ed. Ilona Katzew (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2011), 200–23.

009580322_murua_pl_0098This painting from the Codex Murúa shows the “General procession of the ancient Indians.” The author’s description of the procession, on the facing page, remarks that the men went along “with much silence, without talking, . . . and then they said: ‘Let the Sun be a youth, let the Moon be a maiden, let the earth not be troubled, let there be much peace. Let the Inca live for many years . . . let him live well, and guard and govern us.’”

Murúa, Martín de. Códice Murúa: Historia y genealogía de los reyes Incas del Perú del padre mercenario Fray Martín de Murúa: Códice Galvin. Thesaurus Americae. Madrid: Testimonio Compañía Editorial, 2004.

Other People’s Books

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

Recently, the Rare Book Collection at Dumbarton Oaks added a new item to its inventory, one that had clearly been much consulted by previous owners. Many of them left their marks on the book, making the history of its previous four centuries visible today. The book in question is a bilingual Spanish-Quechua edition of the Jesuit Cardinal Roberto Belarmino’s Doctrina Christiana, published in 1649; it fits within our Pre-Columbian collection because of the Quechua text.

Title page

Title page

One thing I found interesting about this book was that the front matter, rather than just having an introduction or an acknowledgments pageit had those, too, in seventeenth-century formincluded several poems dedicated to the translator, Bartolome Ivrado Palomino, who rendered the Spanish version of the text into Quechua. There were pages of these poems! Here’s the beginning of one:



The first stanza runs, “Learned doctor, illustrious Palomino / You who give the Indians this brief translation / Where they can drink the sacred faith of God / In nectars of crystal language.”

The remains of a historical controversy also appear in Palomino’s translation of the Doctrina Christiana. In colonial Peru, there was a struggle between different groups of Christian evangelists about how to translate their faith into Andean indigenous languages. Quechua, for example, didn’t have a synonym for “God” as the Spanish understood the word. So some Christian thinkers argued that they should use the Spanish “Dios,” and that Quechua speakers would eventually come to understand it as a loan word. Other Christian thinkers insisted that evangelization would never succeed unless they could explain Christian theology using words from the local language, and tried to come up with work-arounds for important concepts. Palomino’s translation clearly took the first side, as you can see from this page. On the left, in paragraph D., the Spanish reads “If Christ is God [Dios]…” The corresponding Quechua is “Christo checcan Dios,” using the Spanish word.

Page 22

Page 22

To my surprise, I didn’t see any marginalia in the pages of the text itself. I would have expected otherwise, because the front and back flyleaves were covered with people’s names. I assume, but cannot prove, that these were various owners of the book over the years.

Some annotations from the front of the book

Some annotations from the front of the book

One such person who had their hands on this book also drew a little figure whom I like very much. I believe the drawing matches the text “Soy el D. Castro…,” “I am Don Castro…” since the ink is the same color. Maybe the figure is an illustration of somebody else, but maybe it’s a self-portrait!

Soy el Don Castro

Soy el Don Castro

New Books: Acquisitions and Collection Development

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

This is a time for new arrivals at Dumbarton Oaks, since twenty-something new residential fellows arrived last week. Because of this, I’ve been thinking about a different kind of arrivals: books at the library. In college, I never knew how the books I read came into a library’s possession in the first place. This week, therefore, I did some research around DO to find out how we do it. My sources were Bridget Gazzo and Deb Brown, our area studies librarians in Pre-Columbian and Byzantine Studies, and Sarah Mackowski, the Acquisitions & InterLibrary Loan Assistant. This post will cover works that enter the regular library collections and rare books.

Some new books in Garden and Landscape Studies

Some new books in Garden and Landscape Studies

To make sure that our collections are up to date, we’re always acquiring new books. (“New” not meaning newly published, but new to us. We buy both recently published books and ones that came out some time ago.) The librarians do a thorough job trying to ensure both depth and breadth. Recently, for example, Deb ordered some books to make sure our collections represented scholarship on the central Asian nomads who interacted with the Byzantine empire. When Deb finds such books, she puts in a request, and it becomes the province of the acquisitions staff. These librarians handle both the majority of books that the Dumbarton Oaks Library receives through its regular processes, as well as special requests on nomads or whatever else.

Sarah Mackowski, one of the acquisitions librarians

Sarah Mackowski, one of the acquisitions staff

Sarah Mackowski handles many of Dumbarton Oaks’ book orders. Once she has double-checked whether we already have a book, she places an order with the appropriate book-seller. (Sarah says one critical skill that she has developed for handling Byzantine books at Dumbarton Oaks is the ability to transliterate a variety of Eastern European languages.) After the book has come in the mail, the acquisitions librarians “arrive” it, which is the library software’s term for receiving it. They check to see if its quality is good—we don’t want books that are damaged or written in. Deb, Bridget, and/or Sheila Klos, the Director of the Library, check the book’s relevance to DO—if we bought it for its section on Japanese gardens, but it turns out that section is two pages long, we might send it back. Then the book moves to the staff who catalogue it. My favorite/least favorite detail from this whole process was the very literal color scheme for processing books. All newly arrived books get an “arrival slip,” which is color-coded with a highlighter. Byzantine Studies is blue; Garden and Landscape Studies is green; Pre-Columbian Studies is pink. And orange is for anything “other.”

Photographic evidence; blue on the right, pink on the left

Photographic evidence; blue on the right, pink on the left

Acquiring rare books, on the other hand, is often a long-term project, because years may pass before a copy of a certain title comes on the market. Each rare book, therefore, has its own story. One recent acquisition in Pre-Columbian Studies was the Relación histórica del viage a la América meridional by Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa, an account from the most significant scientific expedition to colonial Spanish America. This was high on our list of desiderata for many years for its geographical and archaeological text and engravings. Bridget put the word out with her rare book dealers that we were interested in acquiring the title.   After several months’ time, one of them located a copy.. Whether to buy that copy was a difficult decision, however, because it was both very expensive and missing a number of plates.

Luckily, we were saved from this decision due to a pair of happy coincidences. Almost twenty-fiveyears ago, Bridget went to a conference for Latin American Studies librarians that was held at the University of Virginia (SALALM), where she met a family of rare book dealers: a husband, wife, and son. I do not think anything came of it at the time, but a few years ago, the son took over the family business. In this digital world, he emailed a catalog to every person who had ever been on his parents’ snail mail list to receive catalogs including, as Bridget put it, “those from days of yore.” He happened, at that point, to have a copy of the Relación that was both finer and less costly than the other one we were considering. Our copy is currently up at Harvard being digitized; here’s a preview!


The Hagia Sophia Lives Online

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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.


(1) Beth Bayley, “The Influential Friendship of William Emerson,” ICFA, March 10, 2014,

(2) Beth Bayley, “Motivation, Methods, and Meaning: Architectural Drawings of Hagia Sophia,” ICFA, September 20, 2014,

(3) Beth Bayley, “A Benevolent Fate: Thoughts on Processing Robert Van Nice’s Papers,” ICFA,  August 20, 2014,

(4) Ibid.

(5) “New Finding Aids and Inventories from ICFA,” ICFA, August 13, 2014,

(6) Shalimar White, “Santa Sophia, Santa Sophia!” ICFA, December 18, 2012,

(7) Beth Bayley, “Leaving Hagia Sophia: Istanbul before World War II,” ICFA, April 21, 2014,

(8) Ibid.

(9) Clare Moran, “Like Father, Like Son,” ICFA, May 22, 2012,

Peruvians and Egyptians

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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!


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