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.

Tag: Pre-Columbian

Engravings and their Makers

by doconversationsblog

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

Sources:

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.

Highlights from the Online 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.

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.

001015851_codex_pp_0028

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.

DSC_6454

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

by doconversationsblog

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:

Sonnet

Sonnet

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

by doconversationsblog

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!

DSC_0158

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!

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. 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