Giovanni Battista de Rossi (1822-1894) was a distinguished scholar of early Christian archaeology. Born in Rome, he attended the Collegio Romano and La Sapienza, earning a doctorate. After finishing his studies he was appointed scriptor at the Vatican Library, where he cataloged manuscripts. In addition to his expertise in archaeology, de Rossi was skilled in epigraphy and was an authority on the topography of ancient and medieval Rome. His studies of the apse mosaics in Roman churches continue those of the seventeenth-century scholars Jean l’Heureux and Giovanni Giustino Ciampi. He travelled widely, and was acquainted with the foremost European scholars of his day.
De Rossi was a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Antiquarian Society. A devout Catholic, he heard Mass every day. As his health failed, Leo XIII gave him use of an apartment at Castel Gandolfo, where de Rossi died in 1894.
De Rossi published a number of works in the second half of the nineteenth century, among which is this recent acquisition by the Hesburgh Libraries. The Musaici cristiani e saggi dei pavimenti delle chiese di Roma anteriori al secolo XV [“Christian Mosaics and Specimens of the Floors of the Churches of Rome Prior to the 16th Century”] originally was published in 27 fascicles between 1872 and 1896. The Libraries’ set is bound into two folio volumes, the first being the text and the second featuring 53 plates of illustrations. William Jackson of Aberdeen, Scotland was responsible for its binding. This set was presented to a monastery library by Lady Cecil Kerr (1883-1941), a Catholic author who wrote historical and devotional works.
The illustrations in the second volume are fine examples of chromolithography, which was a technique developed in the nineteenth century for the mass production of color images. The process of chromolithography used multiple blocks or stones, each of a different color, which were printed successively to develop each image. The Libraries’ copy includes some highlights in gold.
Ancient Japan, samurai warriors, and your casual spider—casual, that is, until nightfall. According to ancient Japanese legend, these ordinary spiders would morph as dark night enveloped the landscape. Menacing pincers, bulging eyes, and even taking on human form to deceive unsuspecting victims—like the samurai in the tale below—these goblin spiders wreaked terror.
Lafcadio Hearn brings this ancient tale, one of many in the Japanese tradition of ghost stories known as kaidan, to English readers. The Goblin Spider is lavishly illustrated in Takejiro Hasegawa’s five-volume set of crepe-paper books. These brightly colored illustrations are hand-printed using wood blocks on textured pages.
Hearn, Lafcadio. The Goblin Spider. Kobunsha’s Japanese Fairy Tale Series. Second series. No. 1. Tokyo: T. Hasegawa, 1899.
Happy Halloween to you and yours from all of us in Notre Dame’s Special Collections!
We join the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Sergio Sánchez Santamaría is a printmaker, illustrator, and muralist who was born in Tlayacapan, Morelos, Mexico. Also trained in Mexico, Sánchez Santamaría has exhibited his work throughout Latin America and Europe, in the United States, and in Japan and China.
Among Sánchez Santamaría’s collections of linocut prints is a small volume called 500 años, México, printed at the San Jerónimo workshop in Tlayacapan. The 14 impressions comprising this piece offer a visual history of Mexico, from the age of the Mexica (Aztecs) to the late twentieth century. A jaguar and feathered serpent are among the engravings representing the nation’s indigenous past. Also portrayed are major figures historical figures such as national hero and president, Benito Juárez (in office 1858-1872), and the best-known female intellectual of the colonial era, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
Rare Books and Special Collections holds the second of the six copies of 500 años, México produced by Sánchez Santamaría. Depicted here are two images from this copy.
Both prints illustrate the deep relief and heavy ink on cartridge paper characteristic of Sánchez Santamaría’s work. The style and the subject matter of his work tie him to the Taller de Gráfica Popular, a well-known artists’ print collective formed in 1937 that produced artwork designed to promote and advance the causes of the Mexican Revolution.
Sánchez Santamaría’s work often treats topics in Mexican history and popular culture. In 2016 he released a series of linocuts entitled Personajes de Morelos depicting figures central to the history of his home state. This collection was also printed in Tlayacapan. Rare Books and Special Collections holds copy fourteen of this collection, along with an actual linocut created by Sánchez Santamaría, shown below.
This image and linocut – number fourteen within this collection – depicts Zapatista colonel, Cristino Santamaría. According to Sánchez Santamaría, Cristino Santamaría, a musician and leader of the Banda Brigido Santamaría, fought alongside Emiliano Zapata during the Mexican Revolution. Santamaría’s face is obscured by his oversize sombrero, from under which his trumpet emerges. He is flanked by two figures wrapped tightly in traditional serapes. The print’s heavy lines contrast boldly with the white cartridge paper background.
Close examination of the linocut reveals something of Sánchez Santamaría’s technique. Cuts are of varying depth, to achieve different sorts of impressions. Outlines of the figures and blue pen shading can also be discerned.
Oscar Wilde’s book for children, The Happy Prince and Other Tales, published in 1888, has attracted many artists and printers over the years. The stories have also been adapted for stage performances including, as I discovered recently, a ballet which will be performed in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2018.
Wilde’s stories, in the tradition of literary fairy tales such as those of Hans Christian Andersen, depict poverty, suffering, cruelty and arrogance, with sacrifice or martyrdom occurring more than once. In the title story, the statue of a prince who had been sheltered in luxury while he lived, could now view from his pedestal the poverty and suffering in his city, and so he convinced a swallow to carry each of the statue’s jewels to someone in need. The Happy Prince and Other Tales consists of the following five stories: ‘The Happy Prince’, ‘The Selfish Giant’, ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’, ‘The Devoted Friend’, and ‘The Remarkable Rocket’.
Wilde published a second collection of fairy tales, The House of Pomegranates in 1891. These stories are generally more complex and dark, but over the following century many books have included a selection drawn from both books. Out of the four stories in this book, ‘The Star Child’ and ‘The Young King’ are more likely to be included in selections intended for children. ‘The Fisherman and his Soul’ and ‘The Birthday of the Infanta’ are rarely considered suitable for child readers.
A glance at the editions in our collection, with their range of illustrations and book production styles, demonstrate ambivalence in terms of identifying the appropriate audience for Wilde’s stories. Illustrators Walter Crane and P. J. Lynch both illustrated the book for a child audience, while many editions produced in the intervening century are more appropriately seen as gift books for adults.
The Happy Prince and Other Tales was first published in 1888 by Alfred Nutt and is illustrated throughout. The frontispiece is by Walter Crane, as are a plate illustrating ‘The Selfish Giant’ (shown below) and one illustrating ‘The Remarkable Rocket’. Crane (1845-1915) is frequently cited along with Randoph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway as one of the premier illustrators of children’s books in Victorian Britain.
Small illustrations by illustrator and engraver Jacomb Hood decorate the head of each story. The stories are also richly decorated with vignettes or small decorations.
Another early edition was illustrated by Charles Robinson (1870-1937), one of three brothers who were all prolific book illustrators. This 1913 edition includes eleven color plate illustrations in addition to the frontispiece. As these plates are tipped-in, or attached to pages of the book, it is rare to find an original copy with all plates intact.
With over fifty pages decorated by Robinson, this is what booksellers would call a ‘lavishly-illustrated book’, and these illustrations are reproduced in many later editions and adaptations.
The Overbrook Press produced a limited edition of The Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde with wood engravings by Rudolph Ruzicka. This 1936 edition is part of the Hesburgh’s collection of 135 books from the Overbrook Press of Stamford, Connecticut.
Another fine printing, clearly not intended for the hands of children, is the silk-bound edition published by Kurt Volk, New York, in 1955. This book includes the title story, a short essay on ‘Oscar Fingall O’Flahertie Wilde’, and a slightly abbreviated version of W. B. Yeats’ introduction to a 1923 edition of The Happy Prince and Other Fairy Tales. [i]
One of the most recent editions is illustrated by leading Irish illustrator P. J. Lynch, also known for the award-winning book The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey and his recent book The Boy who Fell off the Mayflower. This edition of Wilde’s Stories for Children, published in 1990, includes ‘The Young King’ in addition to all five stories from The Happy Prince. Lynch has not placed ‘The Happy Prince’ in first place—rather, the book begins with ‘The Selfish Giant’.
Authors of introductions range from W. B. Yeats, who knew Oscar Wilde, to Stephen Fry, the actor who played Oscar Wilde in the film Wilde.
The bibliography below lists the editions held in the Hesburgh Library’s Special Collections.
[i] The full text of this introduction is online in The W. B. Yeats Collection (a Chadwyck-Healey subscription database) which includes the following source information: Introduction to Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince and Other Fairy Tales (1923). According to catalog records such as in the Hathi Trust, this appears to be volume 3 of a multi-volume collection of the works of Oscar Wilde.
Paul van Vlissingen, owner of the Dutch company SHV (Steenkolen Handels Vereeniging), commissioned the noted book maker Irma Boom to create a volume to commemorate the anniversary of his family’s firm. Boom had full access to the archives of the company and the family to aid her in conceiving what became a 2,136 page tome.
Given full artistic control and no budget, she spent five years fashioning the volume. It is a most unusual creation, incorporating a wide range of surprising and innovative design elements. As an example, the edge of the text block displays a field of tulips when its pages are flipped from left to right, but flipping them the opposite way reveals a poem.
The book’s contents are arranged in reverse chronological order, and are unnumbered to encourage accidental discovery. Pages are perforated and use different inks and typefaces. Irma Boom has received many awards, including a Gutenberg Prize, for her book designs. The SHV Think Book is her most celebrated work, and was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art as an international icon of Dutch design.
The Very Rev. Jeremiah Donovan, D.D., professor of Rhetoric at Maynooth College, travelled to Rome in the 1830s and resided there for nine years. He documented his observations and recounted his impressions in his four-volume Rome, Ancient and Modern and Its Environs, printed privately by Crispino Puccinelli in 1842-44. Enhancing the text are 62 copperplate engravings by Roman artist, Gaetano Cottafavi.
The preface delineates the text’s arrangement as a “rapid historical sketch . . . with notices geological, statistical, political and religious,” followed by an admirably detailed description of the modern city’s “churches, palaces, museums, galleries, charitable institutions, hospitals, prisons, schools, colleges, universities, and other public establishments.” The work continues with “the antiquities ranged for the most part in chronological order” and “conducts the stranger through the environs of Rome” before concluding with a “copious and accurate index.”
Donovan emphasized his “personal observation and methodical description” and does not spare his subjects “unflinching but impartial criticism” even in light of Rome’s “transcendent and peculiar charms.”
An important new acquisition is Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Antichità d’Albano e di Castel Gandolfo (Antiquities of Albano and Castel Gandolfo), published in Rome in 1764. This volume is dedicated to Pope Clement XIII, who was an important patron of Piranesi’s. It is bound with two related works from 1762: Descrizione e disegno dell’emissario del Lago Albano (Description and Design of the Emissarium of Lake Albano) and Di due spelonche ornate dagli antichi alla riva del Lago Albano (Concerning Two Caves Embellished by the Ancients on the Bank of Lake Albano). All three focus on the environs of Castel Gandolfo, which is just outside of Rome, overlooking Lake Albano, and is the summer residence of the popes.
Piranesi (1720-1778), best known as an etcher and engraver, was an influential figure in eighteenth-century neoclassicism. His Vedute di Roma (Views of Rome) were informed by his personal architectural and archaeological research and are especially celebrated. Also of significance are his Carceri, which are imaginative views of early Roman prisons.
The volume acquired by the library was produced soon after Piranesi opened his own printing studio in 1761. It is a very early edition, issued without several of the illustrations that appeared in later versions. Two of the plates in Di due spelonche have lettering and drawing in pen and brown ink which are believed to be in Piranesi’s hand. Only eight other copies of this kind are known to be in existence.