Bad Children(‘s Books) of History #25: Folly of the Beasts of the Earth

Special Collections has recently acquired an eye-popping addition to our Whaling Collection: Das Jagen, Fangen, Zähmen und Abrichten der Thiere, a 19th century German children’s  book about hunting animals. (The title translates as “The Hunting, Catching, Taming and Dressing of Animals”.)

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The book’s frontispiece shows a spectacular, full-color whale-hunting scene, complete with befuddled walrus, spectator seagulls, and a very morose whale with a baleen mustache.

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(Let’s pretend those dual arches are an exaggerated version of the southern right whale’s “characteristic double spout“, and/or that the sad whale is blocking our view of a smaller, simultaneously-spouting cetacean.)

This generally text-heavy book contains five plates, each of which bears nine tiny engravings. (I don’t recommend scrolling through the following section of engravings if you are 1) a small child, despite the fact that this is a children’s book, or 2) of a delicate constitution.)

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The engravings, as you’ve likely gathered from the above, exhibit all manner of grisly ways in which humans kill other animals (some of which I consider anthropologically suspect, but I’m not a hunting expert).

For instance, there’s the old “bear impaled on a spiky board” trick:

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There’s also the “scaring seals with weird faces over a grassy cliff onto curved spikes”  approach:

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And, lest we forget, the “whipping birds while mounted upon a galloping horse” technique:

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The digitized book can be viewed in its entirety online, either here or here. If you do look over the digital version (or come to Special Collections to view our copy in person), I challenge you to find the engraving of the sneaky person hunting reindeer while dressed in a reindeer suit. Really.

Historic Book Person of the Week #22-262: Everybody Else

For over a year now, we’ve been offering a regular series of portraits of members of the book trade. Today’s post is a little different, because now we’re giving you access to hundreds of images of printers, booksellers, bookbinders, etc. through a new online resource: The Updike Collection Book Trade Portraits Database (beta).

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This collection of over 500 portraits (of more than 250 members of the book trade) resides in four large binders in our Daniel Berkeley Updike Collection, and now it resides digitally online at http://www.pplspc.org/portraits . You can search and browse in a number of different ways, or just pick a random portrait and see who turns up. And you can get a printed broadside depicting some of the all-stars of the book world to hang on your wall if you so choose.

One important note: This is very much a work in progress, so there’s still a lot of proofreading and tweaking to do. Please send suggestions, or a note about the errors you’re inevitably going to come across to jgoffin@provlib.org.

Thanks to Rick Ring, Janaya Kizzie, Robin Camille Davis and Zachary Lewis, who began work on the project a long while back.

Historic Book Person of the Week #21: John Boydell & John Boydell

There are good-engraving days…

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And then there are the bad-engraving days…

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The subject of the portraits, John Boydell, was himself a major figure in the history of English engraved prints.

Historic Book Person of the Week #20: Abel Roper and Edward King

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This is a very strange portrait. It depicts two individuals (off-center and not filling the frame): Abel Roper (who published a newspaper called the Post Boy starting in 1695) and his nephew and assistant Edward King. Roper’s publications tended to make people angry (apparently angry enough to pull off his wig and beat him).

The curious emblem at the bottom of the print depicts a pillory and what appears to be another form of punishment device (leave a note in the comments if you know its proper name) with pages nailed to the bars. And the motto (“Nec lex est justior ulla”) is an abbreviated and modified form of a passage by Ovid that translates as “There is no law more just than that the plotters of death should perish by their own designs.” Often connected in biblical commentaries with Haman’s execution on the gallows he had originally built for his enemies, the lines point to the irony of being destroyed by your own schemes. Used here, beneath the portrait of a man well-known for using print as a political weapon, is it an indication that this was a hostile depiction?

 

Historic Book Person of the Week #19: Georg Sigmund or Johann Gottlieb Facius

Cue the pipe organ.

Cue the pipe organ.

The brothers Georg and Johann were engravers working in London in the late 18th and early 19 centuries. A little research could probably determine which of the two is depicted here, so if you have any guesses, please leave them in the comments.

Update: In an email, an artist and printer has pointed out that this may be a proof print from a not-yet-completed plate, explaining the appearance of the subject’s face.

 

Paul Revere Print, Lost and Found

We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of an exciting discovery at Brown University of a rare Paul Revere engraving. (Here’s the NY Times article discussing the discovery.) This Wednesday at the Providence Athenaeum, you can hear all about the print and its discovery from the people who found it. Marie Malchody, Holly Snyder and Richard Noble will offer a lecture titled “‘Buried with Him by Baptism’: A Revere Print Unearthed” at 5:30 PM, and a copy of the engraving will be on display as well. More information is available here. This lecture is part of the John Russell Bartlett Society’s 2013 events series. Other JRBS events are listed online at the JRBS website.

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