Category: Special Collections

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Shells, Snails, and Peacocks

A selection of decorated papers from Ellis Library Special collections is now on display now in Ellis 401.Decorated paper must be one of the most visually striking elements of rare books. They are found as endpapers, pastedowns, and on the covers of books produced in Europe from the 17th century onward. With a little background you can begin to appreciate their textures and patterns, and to identify the papers found in our collection and beyond.

El sacrosanto y ecuménico concilio de Trento Translated by Don Ignacio López de Ayala published in Madrid in 1785  Rare BX830 1545.A4 A7

El sacrosanto y ecuménico concilio de Trento
Translated by Don Ignacio López de Ayala
published in Madrid in 1785
Rare BX830 1545.A4 A7

Of the many kinds of decorated papers, marbled papers are the best represented in our collections. The art of marbling paper was invented in Japan and spread to Europe by the early 17th century. Though no two sheets are alike, certain designs became traditional. These designs are sometimes named after a formal resemblance, such as the “peacock,” sometimes after the country of origin, as the “Turkish” pattern, or both, such as the “French curl.”

Histoire naturelle : générale et particulière Volume 12 by Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon published in 1749 in Paris by l'Imprimerie royal  Rare QH45 .B78

Histoire naturelle : générale et particulière
Volume 12
by Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon
published in 1749 in Paris by l’Imprimerie royal
Rare QH45 .B78

Traditional artisans create these designs in oil-based pigments that float on the surface of water. In a carefully orchestrated sequence, they rake and comb the pigments to rake to achieve a design whose swirls and veins resemble those observed in polished marble. The design “lifts” as paper absorbs the pigment.

Marbled papers are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Artists such as Ann Muir create traditional as well as original designs. In a surprising twist, new technology has created a new demand for decorated papers; luxury cases for mobile devices sometimes incorporate them to create a book-like effect.

Vida de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra by Martín Fernández de Navarrete  published in Madrid by la Imprenta Real in 1819 Rare PQ6337 .N27

Vida de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
by Martín Fernández de Navarrete
published in Madrid by la Imprenta Real in 1819
Rare PQ6337 .N27

These and many other examples of decorated papers from our collections are on display now in 401 Ellis and can be viewed between 9-5.

Further Reading
Link to an article by Joel Silver with a bibliography:

http://www.finebooksmagazine.com/issue/0306/marble.phtml

Link to a guide at Washington University

https://content.lib.washington.edu/dpweb/patterns.html

Apotelesmata astrologiae Christianae, by Pedro Ciruelo. Published  in Madrid, by Arnaldi guillelmi Brocarij, 1521 RARE QB26 C5

Apotelesmata astrologiae Christianae, by Pedro Ciruelo. Published in Madrid, by Arnaldi guillelmi Brocarij, 1521
RARE QB26 C5

Posted in Exhibits, Rare Book Collection, Special Collections

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

 

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Ice Creatures

Jack FrostJack FrostYuki-Onna

Ymir Frost Giants Frost GiantIn honor of the official first day of winter and the recently fallen snow here on MU’s campus, this week’s installment of the Fantastic Beasts series highlights creatures that live and breath the ice and snow of the Arctic.  The first two images show different depictions of Jack Frost, who, in these folk tales from Russia, saves a young girl whose step-mother threw her out in the cold to die.  The next image is of a creature from Japanese folklore called the Yuki-Onna (or, Snow Woman) that kills travelers with her icy breath, leaving them frozen.  In other legends, she breaks down the doors of houses with a fierce wind and then kills its sleeping residents (like she is in this picture).  The final three images depict the Frost Giants of Norse mythology.  in the first, the X-Men prepare to go up against the recently resurrected Ymir, progenitor of the Frost Giants.  In the last two, comic book hero Conan battles two such Frost Giants as he pursues their sister across the ice.

If the weather isn’t cold enough for you yet, or you just want to help celebrate the first day of winter, come see us at Special Collections, where we’ve got all these ice creatures and more waiting to be discovered in the warmth of our reading room.

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