Category: illustrations

Blog Archives

Amazing Engraved Plates of a Huge Party in Strasbourg, 1744

Louis XV may not have been the most popular king, but when he fell ill and was near death in 1744, his subjects across France prayed dutifully for his recovery.  In October 1744, once he was well enough, the king visited Strasbourg, and the town threw what looks to have been a huge party to celebrate his visit and convalescence.  There were processions through the streets, races, dances, and even fireworks.  These events were all faithfully chronicled by J. M. Weis, "graveur de la ville de Strasbourg," and produced in the nearly monumental format of a large folio with two-page spreads. This is a fete book – a royal souvenir for a royal celebration.

title-pageloius-quinze

 plate10 plate02 plate04 plate05 plate08

The MU Libraries copy is still in the original binding, and if you follow our Adopt a Book program, you may recognize it.  William Heyde III recently donated funds to support conservation work, and Jim Downey at Legacy Bookbindery made the repairs the volume needed.  Once the book was in stable condition, we were able to send it to the MU Libraries Digital Services unit. So, thanks to a generous donor, a conservator, a couple of rare book librarians, and several digital imaging and metadata experts, this book is now available to the world.  We think that in itself is cause for celebration!  

Get a closer look at the plates or page through the text in the University of Missouri Digital Library.  Be sure to use the zoom feature to take in the details – the variety of tiny figures that populate these prints is really amazing.

Weis, Johann Martin, d. ca. 1795. Représentation des fêtes données par la ville de Strasbourg pour la convalescence du Roi; à l'arrivée et pendant le séjour de Sa Majesté en cette ville. Inventé, dessiné et dirigé par J. M. Weiss, graveur de la ville de Strasbourg. Paris: imprimë par Laurent Aubert [1745]. MERLIN catalog record

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

Missale Romanum, 1701

We're always making new discoveries in Special Collections, and this is one exciting find.  This Roman missal was published by the Plantin-Moretus Press in 1701.  It's bound in red velvet with silver clasps and decorations, gilt edges, leather tabs, and red silk bookmarks.  The text is printed throughout in red and black, and there are amazing engravings after works by Rubens. Interestingly, the name of a previous owner is engraved on one of the clasps: "HAC Defresne Possessor – 1817."

There are six copies in WorldCat.  Three, including ours, are in North America (two in the United States, and one in Canada).  The others are in the Netherlands. 

IMG_0011

IMG_0012

IMG_0013

IMG_0015

IMG_0008

IMG_0010

Find it in the MERLIN catalog.

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

Spring brings things

The adult form of a privet hawk

Print 3 (detail)

And spring things bring people who collect them –naturalists and artists such as Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), the first to hitch entomology to fine art and to make a living doing so. Her interests were not limited to European species; she spent two years stalking the insects of Surinam, a colony the Dutch had acquired from the English in exchange for Manhattan about thirty years earlier. She devoted an equal amount of attention to giant flying roaches as to seemlier species, but there is no question that she had a special passion for caterpillars.

Print 7

Merian’s interest in metamorphosis led her to develop a new form of composition. She would depict a single species at each distinct phase simultaneously. She arranged these in a composition on and around the plant that formed its principal food source. In the image on the left several saw-fly specimens pose on a tulip. The caterpillar sits atop a gooseberry at the bottom center, while the adult fly prepares to land on a petal at the top right. In between on a stem and leaf are the pupa and larva. As Ella Reitsma, curator of a recent exhibit, observes about Merian’s work, “In the details the drawing is realistic; as a whole it is anything but. The beautifully balanced composition conjures up a seeming realism, for the successive stages in the development of an insect can never be found together!  Tricks have been played with time and place” (15)

A saw-fly at caterpillar stage on a gooseberry

Print 7 (detail)

 

Heliconiidae on Palma Christi

Print 46

Despite such innovation, Merian’s work languished for a long time under the misnomer “minor art.’ It has only recently come into its own, with exhibitions in Los Angeles and Amsterdam, and a digital exhibit hosted by The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library Rare Book Collection. She is even the subject of a children’s book. Ingrid Rowland notes her “crystalline accuracy, ” “incomparable precision,” and the “electric intensity” of her color. She asserts, “there is no question that she was an artist. Her disquieting view of life in all its forms has carefully, cleverly shaped every one of the images that seem, so deceptively, to present intimate, dispassionate snapshots of reality.”

Pervading her works is a healthy Aristotelian sense that something must be known in all its variousness. Working alongside this cognitive disposition and perhaps encouraging it was a habit that she shared with many contemporaries: collecting. Her life-like compositions conceal the artificial taxonomizing and categorizing that lie behind them, making it appear as if she had discovered, rather than created the scene depicted.

These are qualities that Peter the Great evidently appreciated; he was an avid collector of her work, much of which remains in the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. In 1974  The Leningrad Watercolours is a facsimile edition featuring fifty of the works housed there. It is a large-format edition limited to 1750 copies.  Several prints from the collection  are available to view in our reading room. The entire collection collection (RARE QH31 .M4516 .A34 1974) is also available to consult.

 

Select Bibliography

Reitsma, Ella, Maria Sibylla Merian and Daughters: Women of Art and Science. Amsterdam : Rembrandt House Museum, 2008.

Rowland, Ingrid. “The Flowering Genius of Maria Sibylla Merian.” New York Review of Books. April 9, 2009.

Todd, Kim. Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis. Orlando: Harcourt, 2007.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Rare Book Collection
Archives

Special Collections and Rare Books


Find Us on Facebook