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Tag: rare books

Shells and art in Recreatio mentis et oculi

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:

 

When New England was New

This post was first featured on the Biodiversity Heritage Library blog.

 

Map of eastern North America. Detail of engraved map by Nicolaes Jansz Visscher, made about 1655, not long after Josselyn’s first journey to the New World. Note the prominent, plump turkey. Courtesy of Graphic Arts Collection, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of Mrs. Francis P. Garvan.

 

It is a small book, palm-size, with pages of less-than-fine paper, the well-worn letters of the type sometimes carelessly inked. The sparse woodcut illustrations are child-like in their simplicity and straight-forwardness. Yet John Josselyn’s New-Englands rarities discovered, printed in London in 1672, drew me in as I went about cataloging the work. Intrigued by the title and the early date of publication, I found myself reading an account of the landscape of my past, from Boston, “down east” (that is, up the coast as represented in the illustration above) to my place of birth, and points all around. That great bibliography, The Hunt Botanical Catalogue, notes that this book is “particularly interesting to people who are fond of Maine.” Indeed. The text provides a sense of place from the 17th century.

Eerie Anatomy: Vesalius’ De humani corporis fabrica

Want more creepy skeletons? Join us for a live Periscope tour on Thursday, October 29th at 1pm!

Halloween is quickly approaching and with it come the traditional decorations of bats, pumpkins, ghosts and of course, skeletons. Back in the 1500’s, one man changed the way the medical world saw the skeletal and muscular systems of the human body. That man, Andreas Vesalius, illustrated anatomical features in his De humani corporis fabrica (On the structure of the human body) in a way never before seen. Although the pages below may seem pretty gruesome they come from one of the most influential anatomy books of all time.

 

Discover and Connect but Don’t Steal this Book!

This post was written by Julia Blakely, Special Collections cataloger. It first appeared on the Smithsonian Collections blog here.

Discovering an interesting mark of a former owner in a volume is one of the many great things about working with rare books. A signature of a famous person, a fun drawing, a gift presentation, marginal annotations revealing a reader’s thoughts, a memento laid-in, are not uncommon to come upon. Such additions after a work has been printed can provide the researcher with a connection to the past that provides important information. Or, can give a specific warning, if not a curse:

Rare Books and Journals on Aviation Now Digitized

Fantastic Plan Presented by Citizen Monge, of England, in 1798
1798 plan for an airship, featured in 1910 issue of Aircraft

In the early 20th century, few things excited the public more than the development of mechanized flying machines.  Whether aircraft or dirigible, these machines were documented in the specialized and popular literature of the day.  The Smithsonian Libraries is committed to digitizing its special collection of rare books and journals on the invention and growth of aviation. Many of the tiles we’ve scanned and digitized to date are accessible through the Internet Archive.

Conducting a Condition Survey of Special Collections

Le Document du décorateur, troisième série : fleurs stylisées. fNK3449.D62 CHMSC
Le Document du décorateur, troisième série : fleurs stylisées. (18–?) fNK3449.D62 CHMSC

In 2011, The Cooper-Hewitt Museum National Design Library was awarded a $96,000 grant from the CCPF (Collections Care and Preservation Fund, an internal grant awarding source) of the Smithsonian Institution to conduct a condition assessment survey of approximately 4,000 items of its Special Collections. We’ve done many preservation and book housing projects over the years, with repairs and custom enclosures made when the occasion demanded, but we’ve never had the opportunity or plan in place to look at the condition of our Rare Book  collection as a whole before.

Two-Tailed Mermaids and Dog-Headed Men: Looking at a 15th Century Herbal

The most interesting thing about the text, at least to me, is its variety of bizarre illustrative woodcuts. The first half of the text, “De Herbis,” contains many woodcuts of various plants. Three more sections follow, including the next section, “Tractatus de Animalibus,” which focuses on animals both real and imagined. Prüss immediately catches the reader’s attention with a detailed, labeled woodcut of a human skeleton, then continues with hundreds of odd woodcuts, some of which depict animals that the artist had clearly never seen.