‘The whole man at once’: scientific identities at the Dibner Library

George Sarton, a founder of the history of science as an academic discipline, argued that scholars should pay close attention to portraits. These images, he said, can give you ‘the whole man at once.’ With a ‘great portrait,’ Sarton believed, ‘you are given immediately some fundamental knowledge of him, which even the longest descriptions and discussions would fail to evoke.’ Sarton’s ideas led Bern Dibner to purchase portrait prints of men and women of science and technology. Many of these are now in the Smithsonian’s Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology. – Deborah Jean Warner, Curator, Physical Sciences Collection   A picture may tell 1000 words, but another 500 for context can add depth to the image. Follow this blog series to discover the people behind the portraits available online in the Scientific Identity collection. Joseph Jerome Le Francais de Lalande (1732-1807) Had Joseph Jerome Le Francis de Lalande chosen a different place of lodging, he may very well have become a barrister or priest in the more »

Donations Reveal a Family’s History

Last year, the Dibner Library for the History of Science and Technology received four unique donations by siblings James L. Cerruti and Vera V. Magruder (nee Cerruti): James Bishop’s musical Gamut of 1766, Uri Bishop’s Military Music from the War of 1812, and Jonathan Edwards’ Treatise on Religious Affections (New York: American Tract Society) and Sermons on Various Important Subjects (Edinburgh/Boston: Gray, 1785). These items provide fascinating glimpses into early American history more »

Moving Pictures: Renaissance Painter-Engineers

This post was written by Noa Turel, Ph.D./Assistant Professor, Department of Art & Art History, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Dibner Library Fellow, January-March 2016. Applications are currently open for 2017 fellowship opportunities. My three-month winter residency at the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology was tremendously helpful in shaping and grounding my book project Ingenious Secrets: Painting and Research in Fifteenth-Century Courts. Coming in, I had three bibliographies more »

Salad Days (and Months) in Rare Books

My salad days, when I was green in judgement This common, if well-worn, phrase first appeared in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra of 1606. At the end of Act One of the play, recalling a youthful affair with Julius Caesar, Cleopatra refers to a time of innocence, silliness or indiscretions. Since May is National Salad Month, let us celebrate the greens by looking at the work of another Englishman, John Evelyn (1620-1706). His more »

The Fix – Manuscript Conservation

The conservation of manuscript pages can be very tricky. In the case of the McAuley Diary, from our Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, there were many issues. The manuscript consisted of multiple sized unbound sections housed together in a leather cover that was far too small for its contents. The pages were nearly all crumpled and torn and many pages had areas of loss. In this condition the text was more »

Did a Cat Help Decorate this Binding?

  The style of book binding above with mottled leather is called Cat’s Paw, appearing to have had little inked feline foot pads walk over its covers. But no, this design is actually made with various types of stains and colors, applied in the binder’s workshop without the aid of a willing cat accomplice. The Internet was leaping a couple of years ago with accounts of evidence of a no-doubt confident and more »

The Fix: Saving The Marine Atlas

When Smithsonian Libraries’ material is placed on exhibition, all selected objects are reviewed for display. In some cases, conservation treatment is required in order to make it possible for a book to be opened and pages turned without damaging the structure. Other factors such as conditions for temperature, relative humidity, and light levels in the exhibition gallery are reviewed before allowing items to be exhibited for any length of time. The Dibner more »

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