The Smithsonian Libraries does not contain an overwhelming number of notable bookbindings in its collections. Unlike some other research institutions, fine or interesting covers are not a collecting focus or reason for acquiring a title. Many of our books have had a hard life, well-used over the decades by staff and researchers in the museums’ departments. These survivors have often been rebound in library buckram (sturdy but oh so boring) or been slapped with labels and barcodes (from an earlier time of library practice). So it is always a thrill to come across a striking specimen of an original binding.
In the early eighteenth century, English naturalist Mark Catesby set foot in a New World. After spending the better part of ten years, spread across two separate trips, exploring and documenting North America’s rich biodiversity, he would eventually publish his research and original artworks as the first fully illustrated book on the flora and fauna of North America. Published over eighteen years between 1729-1747, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and more »
An entry into this magical season can be gained through the Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus (History of the Northern Peoples) by Olaus Magnus, first published in Rome in 1555. It is a work greatly valued by Smithsonian curators and researchers and other scholars, since the author – a true Renaissance man – wrote down his geographical, anthropological and naturalistic observations of a land unknown to much of Europe of the time. In more »
Congratulations to Leslie Overstreet! The Catesby Commemorative Trust’s The Curious Mr. Catesby: A “Truly Ingenious” Naturalist Explores New Worlds book has been awarded the 2016 Annual Literature Award by the Council of Botanical and Horticultural Libraries. Leslie, Curator of Natural-History Rare Books in the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History, authored the chapter titled “The Publication of Mark Catesby’s The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands.”
A small book that is housed in the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History, was recently included in the exhibition Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations , at the National Museum of the American Indian. The book, The Red Man’s Rebuke , was printed and distributed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago by Potawatomi Indian Simon Pokagon. Each measures about three and a more »
The post was written by Daniel Euphrat, Digital Imaging Technician. The 1684 book Recreatio mentis et oculi by Filippo Buonanni is mainly a scientific text about mollusks. However, in addition to many informative illustrations of shells, there are a few more fanciful (and slightly terrifying) illustrations of Giuseppe Arcimboldo-style faces made out shells:
This post was written by Dr. Alexander Nagel, Research Associate with the National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Anthropology. In the fall semester of 2015, I was teaching a course on *Classical Heritage in Washington: Encounters in the Museum* for students from the University of Maryland. Every Friday afternoon around 2pm, students would meet with colleagues and curators, archivists and archaeologists, diplomats and thinkers who work on aspects of heritage more »
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