Monthly Archives: July 2012

Salamanca, Wellington’s Masterpiece

Portrait of Wellington from Baines' History of the Wars of the French Revolution (London, 1817). The word Wellington is a facsimile of the General's signature.July 22, 2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Salamanca. While Napoleon was in the midst of his Russian campaign, other generals were busy consolidating France’s position in Spain against a combined force of English, Portuguese, and Spanish rebels.

Though Wellington is probably best remembered for the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the battle at Salamanca is often called his masterpiece. On the afternoon of July 22nd, after a full day of fighting, Wellington recognized a weakness in the French army lines. His decisive orders for attack led to a rapid victory for the British forces.

The relative quickness of the British success following this action inspired friends and enemies. The French general Maximilien Foy famously declared “Wellington defeated an army of 40,000 in 40 minutes” when he wrote about his experience at Salamanca in his journal. Robert Southey’s account of the battle from his book Life of Wellington emphasized the dramatic moment Wellington gave his orders.Page from Southey's "Life of Wellington" (Dublin, 1816) describing the moment when Wellington gives the orders that will lead to victory at

“Lord Wellington was at dinner when he was informed of this movement [of French troops]: he saw at once the advantage which had been given; he rose in such haste as to overturn the table, …and in an instant was on horseback, issuing those orders which won the battle of Salamanca.”

While these accounts might not be strictly true, they do reflect the quickness of this stage of the battle and the strategic skill shown by Wellington.

Up to this point, Wellington had generally been regarded as a defensive general. Salamanca established his ability as a skillful soldier and tactician. This statement from Baines’ History of the Wars of the French Revolution is characteristic of many of the tributes to the battle and to Wellington:

Page from Baine's History of the Wars of the French Revolution (London, 1817) describing the battle of Salamanca.

“The battle of Salamanca was distinguished from all other battles hitherto fought in the peninsula, by several important circumstances: it was more masterly in the design, more gallant in the execution, and followed by consequences of far greater importance.”

In retrospect, observers recognized July 22, 1812 as a turning point in the Peninsular War, not only for Wellington’s reputation but for the morale of French army on the peninsula. British forces eventually drove the French armies from Spain and invaded Southern France in 1814. If British officer William Napier is to be believed, Wellington was aware of the shift on the afternoon of the battle. Napier recalls seeing Wellington late in the day at Salamanca “…alone, the flush of victory was on his brow… With a prescient pride he seemed only accept his glory as an earnest of greater things.” Those greater things would culminate in the Battle of Waterloo, and the final defeat of Napoleon.

Map of the Battle of Waterloo from Southey's Life of Wellington (Dublin, 1816).
Robert Muir’s Book Salamanca, 1812 (Yale University Press, 2001) is a source for more information about the battle and its’ importance.

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Depictions of Hell


This outline drawing of a hell-mouth filled with heads illustrates Psalm 5.7 in "The Paris Psalter." It is taken from "Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile, vol. viii"According to an article published in the Weekly World News, the temperature of hell is precisely 285 degrees Fahrenheit. When temperatures soar, it is good to be reminded that there are hotter places than Columbia, Missouri. Many whose works are represented in our collections have depicted hell to provide an avenue for encouraging better behavior, or, more recently, for providing entertainment. Perusing their works also provides an avenue for indulging schadenfreude. This week we bring together works from our collection of diverse periods and genres that share a fascination with hell.

The parable of Dives and Lazarus will be wellEtching from late nineteenth-century Bible known to many. To summarize, in life, the rich man (Dives) ignores the plight of Lazarus, a leprous beggar outside his gates. After death, however, the circumstances  of the two men are reversed:

“The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. Miniature from "Das goldene evangelienbuch Heinrichs III"The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.”

Larazus, though willing, is not permitted, and the rich man is left to suffer his torments without relief.

The image above on the right comes from a copiously illustrated late nineteenth-century Bible from our Rare Books Collection. The image above left is of a miniature illustrating Luke 19-31. It comes from Das goldene evangelienbuch Heinrichs III, a facsimile of the Golden Gospels of Henry III. This facsimile was made in Germany in the 1933. Henry III (1017-1056) was a scion of the Ottonian dynasty, and, like his predecessors, was known for commissioning books with sumptuous decoration. In the detail below, you can see the fate of the rich man’s soul as it is pulled from his body (far left), carried  to Hades by a devil (middle), and as it stands and utters its request to Lazarus in the company of other tortured souls and of Satan.

Detail from "Das goldene evangelienbuch Heinrichs III"

Title page from Whitson's "Josephus's Discourse to the Greeks concerning Hades"Our collection houses a number of sermons that were designed to remind their hearers of the end that had been prepared for them. In the early third century Saint Hippolytus (170-235 CE) in which he described Hades thus:

“In this region there is a certain place set apart, as a lake of unquenchable fire. Whereinto we suppose no one hath hitherto been cast; but it is prepared for a day afore determined by God: in which one righteous sentence shall deservedly be passed upon all men.”

On the left is the title page of the 1737 edition of the sermon edited by William Whitson. Whitson followed tradition in attributing this work to first-century Jewish historian Jospehus, though scholars now attribute it to St. Hippolytus.

Henry Greenwood preached a sermon on the grounds of St. Paul’s cathedral on June 14, 1614. The sermon was titled Tormenting Tophet, or, a Terrible Description of Hell, Able to Breake the Hardest Heart, and Cause it Quake and Tremble and published in 1628. Greenwood uses the sermon to think through the nature of hell. In particular, he Title page from Henry Greenwood's, "Tormenting Tophet, or, a Terrible Description of Hell, Able to Breake the Hardest Heart, and Cause it Quake and Tremble"relentlessly questions the nature of hell-fire, whether it is allegorical or substantial (substantial, he avers); if substantial, then of what material (of a special sort that does not require wood); and whether this material is corporal or spiritual. “What is most probable,” he concludes, is “ that it is, and shall be, a corporal fire, with an extraordinary afflicting power given unto it, tormenting both soul and body….[T]his fire shall outwardly burn thy flesh, and a worm shall inwardly gnaw your conscience.”

Engraving by Luigi Portirelli from an 1804 edition of "L'Inferno" published in Italy 1804.  The topography of hell will be familiar to readers of Dante’s Inferno. The engraving on the left comes from a three-volume Italian edition illustrated by Luigi Portirelli and published in 1804. Also among the many editions we have of this work is an early sixteenth-century edition that contains woodcuts by several artists. Woodcut from 1512 edition of "L'Inferno"On each page, the copious commentary of Christoforo Landino overwhelms Dante’s text. The image on the right contains text and commentary for the end of Canto XXXIII and the beginning of Canto XXXIV. “Look straight ahead and see if you can make him out,” begins Hollander’s translation of this last canto of Dante’s journey.

Last but not least, our extensive Comics Collection weighs in on the nature of hell. Gary Panter’s  Jimbo’s Inferno, published in 2006, superimposes the landscape of the Inferno onto a contemporary shopping mall. The result is, according to the subtitle, “A Ridiculous Mis-recounting of Dante Alighieri’s Immortal Inferno in which Jimbo, Led by Valise, in Pursuit of the Soulpinx, enters Focky Bocky, Vast Gloomrock Mallscape.”

Illustration from Gary Panter's "Jimbo's Inferno," published in 2006Cover from "Lucifer," published in 2001If Jimbo’s Inferno brings hell up to date with some of the more banal features of contemporary American culture, Lucifer (for mature audiences only), reinvents hell as a steamy piano bar in Los Angeles. Lucifer was created by Mike Carey, Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly and published in 2001.







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Catherine the Great

150 years ago today, on July 9, 1762, Catherine the Great began her thirty-four year reign over Russia.  Following the assassination of her husband, Peter III, Catherine assumed the throne and presided over what became known as both the Golden Age of the Russian Empire and the age of the Russian Enlightenment.

Catherine was born in Stettin, Prussia (now Poland) on May 2, 1729.  Her name at birth was Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg.  When she married Peter III, she converted to the Russian Orthodox faith and changed her name to Ekaterina, the Russian equivalent of Catherine.  She gave birth to four children and all were most likely illegitimate, although Peter III claimed the firstborn son, Paul, as his heir.  Most likely, Paul was actually the son of one of Catherine’s lovers, Sergei Saltykov.  Catherine never remarried, but instead maintained a string of lovers up until her death at the age of sixty-seven.

Catherine the Great Charter

Charter signed by Catherine the Great


Special Collections at Ellis Library possesses a charter signed by Catherine the Great’s hand that promotes Aleksandr Mukhanov, a young Russian nobleman, from regimental baggage-train driver to Lieutenant-Captain (Secund-Rotmistr) in the Horse-Mounted Guards.  The charter was produced in 1790 and is extremely ornate.  If you would like to stop by and see the charter in person, we would be happy to bring it out for you during our normal operating hours.

Posted in Rare Book Collection

Special Collections is on C-SPAN!

Watch our very own Alla Barabtarlo show off a few highlights of our collection on C-SPAN’s Book TV.

Posted in SCARaB in the News, Special Collections

London and the Olympics

2012 London Olympics LogoThe 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London begin later this month on July 27th. For nineteen days, athletes from 205 countries will compete in 300 events for gold, silver, and bronze medals. Over one billion people watch the Summer Olympics, when it is held every four years. This month, the colonnade of Ellis Library is showcasing both the history of the Olympic Games and this year’s host city, London. As you are walking through the library, why don’t you stop by one of the displays and learn about some of the most memorable moments in Olympics history, or the history and culture of the only city in the world to host the Summer Olympics three times.

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