Category:

Blog Archives

The Battle of Waterloo

map-2You, whose greatcoats were lithely streaming,
Reminiscent of broad sails,
Whose voice and spurs were gaily ringing
Like silver bells,

Whose eyes, like diamonds, were leaving
On hearts their delightful trace,–
The charming fops of vanished being
In time and space.
(Marina Tsvetaeva, To the Generals of 1812)

“The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815, near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.”

Two hundred years ago two very ambitious generals met in the battlefield.

Napoleon Bonaparte, former Emperor of the French, and Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, had a lot in common: both were forty-six years old, born only a few month apart; both had very little interest in education, but could make rapid and precise mental calculations; overconfident and dictatorial, both were unhappily married yet loved by many women. The difference between them was one — but a major one: Wellington was born noble, while Napoleon was not… That defined their characters: almost “supernaturally balanced” Wellington was not vain in any sense, treated everyone equally, with the same directness, from monarchs to soldiers; Napoleon admired pomp, power and attention; treated people as inferiors, including kings and princes. Wellington cared for his soldiers, never sacrificed his troops for a quick victory; Napoleon was his complete opposite, could not stand rivals and claimed all credits for victories for himself. He never learned from his failures, in which he usually blamed others.

The battle of Waterloo was one of the bloodiest at the time. More than fifty thousand men and countless horses were left dead on the field at the end of the day.

It seems that fate was not on Napoleon’s side this time. It had been raining the whole night before, and by the dawn the battlefield turned into a bog. Napoleon’s cannons got stuck in the heavy mud up to the axles; Wellington’s smaller troops were positioned uphill, so Napoleon’s cavalry could not effectively attack; while Wellington was athletic and exceptionally fit, Napoleon’s suffering from hemorrhoids that day was also seen by historians as the reason for his failure; both sides were exhausted in the five hours of fighting, when Blucher with his Prussian troops arrived and decided the outcome of the battle in favor of the Allies. This ended Napoleon’s military career and the war which was going on and off since 1805.

big-book2Here in Special Collections we have a very beautiful book, A Summary of the Life of Arthur Duke of Wellington: from His First Achievements to the Decisive Battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1815, by Robert Southey.

Known mostly as one of the finest poets of the so called “Lake School”, Robert Southey (1774-1843) was also known to his contemporaries as a biographer of John Wesley and Lord Nelson, and to the majority of us as the author of “The Three Bears”.

The book in our collection is bound in a crimson morocco leather with gold tooled borders. But the most delightful secret lurks in its fore-edge paining. Practically unnoticeable to the unsuspecting reader, it suddenly reveals a battlefield when edges are squeezed properly. You can then see charging soldiers, explosions… And if you look long enough you might even hear a distant rumble of cannons!

foreedge1

wellington

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Rare Book Collection, Special Collections

Aldus Manutius Romanus, 1449-1515

We do not know the exact place and time of Aldus’s birth. Most scholars agree that he was born around 1449 near Rome, and died on February 6, 1515, apparently after a long illness in Venice.

1502-Ovid-end

At about 1501 Aldus adopted his famous printer’s device of dolphin and anchor. According to the popular legend, Cardinal Pietro Bembo gave Aldus a denarius of Vespasian, on the reverse of which was the image of a dolphin entwined with the anchor.

Aldus’s motto σπεῦδε βραδέως (make haste slowly), or festina lente in Latin, is attributed to Augustus by Suetonius.

“The Prince of Humanists”, Erasmus, made a cheeky compliment to the “Prince of Printers” in his Adages: “Aldus, making haste slowly, has acquired as much gold as he has reputation, and richly deserves both.” The more delicate Bembo thought that the image was to symbolize Aldus’s aim to “produce much by slow action”.

It would became the most famous printer’s device of Aldus’s time, pirated by the contemporary publishers and just crooked printers, coveted by book collectors of all times.  Demand for Aldine texts was high. Aldus once remarked that the pace of work in his shop was such that “with both hands occupied and surrounded by pressmen who are clamorous for work, there is scarcely even time to blow my nose.”

Between 1494 and 1515 he produced some 134 editions: 68 in Latin, 58 in Greek, and 8 in Italian. A typical edition ran to 1000 to 2000 copies.

Aldus Manutius Romanus, 1449-1515 will be on exhibit in the Ellis Library Colonnade through February 2015.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Exhibits

Blessed are the Merciful…, or Missouri to the Rescue

Only a few days separate us from Christmas, and at this time we especially remember people in need, and perhaps try to do something to help them. I wanted to recall a story of great generosity and humanity.

Russia, a major exporter of grain in the 19th century, in 1891-92 suffered one of the most disastrous famines in its history. It was a combination of inclement weather and severe drought that struck the Russian South. People starved, many died.

It was estimated that about 35 million people were affected. The exact death toll is not known, but Richard Robbins, an American historian, put it at about 300,000.

The government, and especially the royal family, did everything to alleviate the disaster; the Emperor himself gave half of his income, around five million rubles, to relief funds; he also appointed the heir to the throne, Grand Duke Nicolas, the future Emperor Nicolas II, as chairman of one of the major relief committees; many wealthy people generously donated money and personally participated in the relief efforts. Anton Chekhov, the famous writer who was a physician by training, went with other doctors to the regions stricken by cholera and typhus to treat the sick and needy; Leo Tolstoy collected and distributed relief donations and organized food stations for peasants.

Leo Tolstoy and the relief committee

Leo Tolstoy (center) and the relief committee

The United States responded swiftly and generously. Millers of Minneapolis organized a gift of flour; Nebraskans contributed one-and-a-half million pounds of corn meal; besides, Americans collected through charities about a million dollars in addition to several shipments of humanitarian aid. First to the Russian shores (the Baltic port of Libava, now in Latvia) came the steamer Missouri with the cargo of grain. Two more U.S. ships followed later.

The Missouri at sea

 The Missouri at sea ( from: W. C. Edgar, The Russian Famine of 1891 and 1892)

The future Emperor Nicolas II said:” We are all deeply touched by the fact that America sent us ships full of foodstuff.” A special resolution prepared by the distinguished representatives of the Russian public stated: “The United States show us the most moving example of brotherly feelings by sending bread to the Russian people at the time of such privation and need.”

One of the most famous marine artists, Ivan Aivazovsky, depicted the arrival of the Missouri to the Russian shores.

Ivan Aivazovsky. “Arrival of the ship “Missouri” with grain to Russia”.

 

And here is a depiction of the joyful reception of the American help in the Russian village by the same artist.

Aivazovsky, American help arrived

 

Tagged with:
Posted in Special Collections
Archives

Special Collections and Rare Books


Find Us on Facebook