Recent Acquisition: Letter Collection from the Italian Renaissance

by Julie Tanaka, Curator of Rare Books

Bound in modern calf decorated with blind stamped ornaments is a collection of letters written by the sixteenth-century Italian writer, Paolo Giovio. Known as a historian, Giovio became one of the foremost and innovative letter writers of his time. He drew upon his historical knowledge of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to recount in vivid detail contemporary events including the sack of Rome, the election of Pope Hadrian VI, and the Marquis of Pescara’s troops plundering his native home, Como. He made his biting political commentary about these events all too clear in the letters contained in this volume. Giovio practically turned the art of letter writing into a new genre; his letters in many ways were a precursor to journalism.

Giovio, Paolo. Lettere volgari di mons. Paolo Giovio da Como, vescovo di Nocera. Raccolte per messer Lodovico Domenichi. Et nuouamente stampate con la tauola. Venice: Giovanni Battista et Melchior Sessa, 1560.

 

This collection of letters, titled Lettere volgari di mons, is the first edition published by Lodovico Domenichi. It bears the publisher’s dedication to Matteo Montenegro, a Genoese nobleman, dated April 1, 1560. There are annotations in two hands throughout and also a printed bookplate bearing the name of William Wickham.

Paolo Giovio (1483-1552), a native of Como, began studying Greek language and literature in Milan but moved to Pavia within a year to pursue medical science and philosophy, earning his degree from the University of Padua in 1511. Fleeing an outbreak of plague, Giovio settled in Rome around 1516, where he wrote the work for which he is best known, Historiarum sui temporis (History of His Time). Among his other notable works are De Romanis piscibvs (On Roman Fish) and Descriptio Britanniae, Scotiae, Hyberniae, et Orchadum (Description of Britain, Scotland, Ireland, and the Orkneys).

Upcoming Events: February and early March

Please join us for the following event being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, March 1 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar:  MA Presentations — “Alessandro Blasetti’s Cinema and the Fantastic: A Closer Look at the Unmarried Woman” by Genevieve Lyons, and “Representations of Self: Dante’s Use of First Person in the Vita Nova” by Katie Sparrow. Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

 

The spring exhibit, In a Civilized Nation: Newspapers, Magazines, and the Print Revolution in 19th-Century Peru, officially opens on February 9. The exhibit is curated by Erika Hosselkus and draws on strengths of Rare Books and Special Collections’ José E. Durand Peruvian History collection. Together these items offer diverse perspectives on Peruvian political events and cultural and religious practices and preferences from the colonial era, through the country’s birth in 1825, and beyond the turn of the twentieth century.

The spotlight exhibit during February are Reading the Emancipation Proclamation, curated by Rachel Bohlmann, and Baseball and Tin Pan Alley: Sheet Music from the Joyce Sports Collection, curated by George Rugg.

Upcoming Events: January and early February

Please join us for the following event being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, January 25 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Afterlife: the Two Picos and Later Transformations of Renaissance Humanism” by Denis Robichaud (University of Notre Dame). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

 

The fall exhibit, Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture, has been extended into January. If you are planning to bring a group to Special Collections or would like to schedule a special tour, please email rarebook @ nd.edu or call 574-631-0290.

The monthly spotlight exhibit for November and December, Building A Colonial Mexican Tavern: Archive of the Pulquería El Tepozán, has also been extended through mid-January. Watch for a new exhibit to be installed later in January and continue through February.

The winter spotlight exhibit is Baseball and Tin Pan Alley: Sheet Music from the Joyce Sports Collection, curated by George Rugg. This exhibit features highlights from the department’s collection of approximately 400 pieces of baseball related sheet music.

Upcoming Events: October and early November

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, October 26 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “Saying Goodbye in the Renaissance” by Jane Tylus (NYU). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

Tuesday, October 31 at 4:30pm | “Russia’s 20th Century in Ten Short Stories” by Michael Khodarkovsky (Loyola University Chicago). Sponsored by the Russian Program within the Department of German and Russian Languages and Literatures at Notre Dame.

 

The fall exhibit, Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture, continues to be on display through December 15, 2017. Public tours of the exhibit are offered Tuesdays at noon and Wednesdays at 3pm, and are also available by request for classes or other groups, including K-12 audiences. If you are planning to bring a group to Special Collections or would like to schedule a special tour, please email rarebook @ nd.edu or call 574-631-0290.

The monthly spotlight exhibit for October is Images of David and Goliath in the Sixteenth Century, curated by Julie Tanaka. The is exhibit is hosted in conjunction with the exhibit “Rembrandt’s Religious Prints: the Feddersen Collection at the Snite Museum of Art” (September 3 through November 26, 2017).

The summer spotlight exhibit, “Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory” — Friendship Albums of Antebellum America, has been extended through October. The fall spotlight exhibit, opening in November, will feature highlights from the department’s collection of approximately 400 pieces of baseball related sheet music.

Who’s Who in RBSC: Tracy Bergstrom

“We are in fact convinced that no human experience is without meaning or unworthy of analysis, and that the fundamental values, even if they are not positive, can be deduced from the particular world which we are describing.”
–Primo Levi, If This is a Man

In Se questo è un uomo (If This is a Man), Primo Levi articulates that all experience informs our thinking and understanding about what it means to be human. Levi’s own experience as a chemist and a human subjected to extreme suffering in Auschwitz resonates throughout his works on display here.

Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture, the current exhibit in Special Collections to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Levi’s death, is curated by Tracy Bergstrom with assistance from Vittorio Montemaggi (Lecturer, Religion and the Arts, King’s College London) and Valentina Geri (PhD candidate, Italian). Tracy is the Program Director for the Specialized Collection Services Program and the curator of the Zahm Dante and early Italian imprints collection at Notre Dame. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Italian Studies and Art History from Smith College, a Master of Arts in Archaeological Studies from Yale University, and a Master of Library Science from Southern Connecticut State University.

The exhibit invites viewers to engage with the works on display to explore Levi’s life and work. Tracing the development of Levi’s writings and their reception, Elements of Humanity demonstrates how they are interconnected. The books on display challenge viewers to reflect on what they see, on how art and history are related, on the connections between truth and fiction, on the relationship between scientific and humanistic knowledge.

Elucidating this synthesis is Levi’s Il sistema periodico (The Periodic Table). His scientific knowledge and analysis are woven with his literary skills, illuminating his experiences—personal, social, and political. In the series of short stories, each bears the name of an element which Levi uses as a metaphor for particular experiences from his life. On display, set in front of stunning images created by the Japanese artist, Yosuke Taki, is the opening of “Carbon” in which Levi traces the journey of a single carbon atom across time and space, a journey reflecting the experiences of the writer himself.

Most of the books in this exhibit are part of the Primo Levi Collection in Special Collections. Beginning in 2009, Hesburgh Libraries and Italian Studies partnered to develop this as a new collection that deepened the Italian holdings’ reach to include contemporary Italian literature. At the launch for this collection in Fall 2011, Father Hesburgh spoke about the importance of Notre Dame holding such a collection to use for teaching and research. The Levi Collection now includes all first editions of Levi’s works printed in Italy during his lifetime and of notable translations, especially in German and English, and adaptations that document Levi’s importance outside of Italy.

The Primo Levi Collection in addition to the Zahm Dante Collection and the other Italian literature collections held by the Libraries continue to support teaching and research for the campus and international visitors, and it also provides an invaluable resource for a new PhD program in Italian. These collections are heavily used by undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty at Notre Dame and by visiting scholars. Over the past few years, Italian Studies has made increasing use of these materials for the seminars it holds related to Italian Holocaust Studies. Of note, in 2012, Robert Gordon (Serena Professor of Italian at the University of Cambridge) examined the collection, gave a talk titled “Outrageous Fortune: Luck and the Holocaust,” and met with graduate students.

Works from the Italian literature collections have been exhibited on numerous occasions. Between 2008 and 2011, rotating exhibit cases featured topical exhibits: “Petrarch in 16th-Century Translation” and “Dante for Children.” A spotlight exhibit, “Plumb Crazy: Dante and Music,” ran October 3-28, 2016. “The Sixth Centenary Festival of Dante” was on display in Fall 2015, displaying works to commemorate the 600th anniversary in 1865 of Dante’s birth. Italian collections were also featured in All Roads Lead to Rome: New Acquisitions Relating to the Eternal City (Fall 2011).

Elements of Humanity opened on September 5, 2017 with remarks by Tracy Bergstrom, Vittorio Montemaggi, and Valentina Geri. The exhibit will remain on display through December 15, 2017. The exhibit is free and open to the public, Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm.

Public Tours

• Tuesdays, noon
• Wednesdays, 3pm

Tours for classes or other groups, including K-12 requests, are available. Please contact Tracy Bergstrom at tbergstr@nd.edu or (574) 632-1763 to schedule a class or tour.

Suggested Resources

Further Reading (pdf)

Upcoming Events: September and early October

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Tuesday, September 5 at 4:00pm | Opening reception for the fall exhibit, Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture. This exhibit is curated by Tracy Bergstrom (Curator, Italian Imprints and Dante Collection) and opens on August 21.

Friday, September 15 at 4:00pm | Dedication program for Emily Young’s sculpture Lethos, to be followed by a reception in the Carey Courtyard View Area (Second Floor – Hesburgh Library). Sponsored by the Hesburgh Libraries and the Alumni Committee for Poetry and Sculpture.

Thursday, September 21 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “Titian’s Icons” by Christopher J. Nygren (Pittsburgh). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

The monthly spotlight exhibit for September is The Art of Botanical Illustration: Philip Miller’s Gardeners Dictionary.

The summer spotlight exhibit, “Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory” — Friendship Albums of Antebellum America, continues to be on display through September and features seven volumes from Special Collections’ manuscripts of North America holdings.

Upcoming Events: August and early September

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, August 31 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “Talking Heads: Relics, Rituals, and Diplomacy in Renaissance Rome” by Margaret Meserve (Notre Dame). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame. (This event was originally scheduled for August 24.)

Tuesday, September 5 at 4:00pm | Opening reception for the fall exhibit, Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture. This exhibit is curated by Tracy Bergstrom (Curator, Italian Imprints and Dante Collection) and opens on August 21. (This event was originally scheduled for August 31.)

The spring/summer exhibit “Preserving the Steadfastness of Your Faith”: Catholics in the Early American Republic will remain on display through August 4.

The monthly spotlight exhibit, War as Child’s Play: German Children’s Literature from the World Wars, continues through August. The summer spotlight exhibit, “Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory” — Friendship Albums of Antebellum America, continues to be on display through September and features seven volumes from Special Collections’ manuscripts of North America holdings.

Please note that Special Collections will be closed to the public the week of August 7-11 due to facilities maintenance.

Upcoming Events: April and early May

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections (102 Hesburgh Library):

Thursday, April 13 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar“Visualizing Fascism” by Ruth Ben-Ghiat (New York University). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

Thursday, April 27 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar“Living on borders: Cityscapes in transformation in Italian literature and cinema of the ‘Economic Miracle’ ” by Alberto LoPinto (Notre Dame). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

The current exhibits are:

“Preserving the Steadfastness of your Faith”: Catholics in the Early American Republic.

To schedule a class or group tour, please contact Rachel Bohlmann via email or phone: (574) 631-1575.

Spotlight Exhibit: Exhibition of Artifacts from Mother Cabrini’s Archive

Upcoming Events: March and early April

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections (102 Hesburgh Library):

Wednesday, March 22 at 4:00pm | Exhibit Talk“Saint Elizabeth Seton: A Reading Life” by Catherine O’Donnell. Co-sponsored by the Hesburgh Libraries and the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism.

NOTE: THIS EVENT HAS BEEN RESCHEDULED
Thursday, March 30 April 27 at 5:00pm
| The Italian Research Seminar“Living on borders: Cityscapes in transformation in Italian literature and cinema of the ‘Economic Miracle’ ” by Alberto LoPinto (Notre Dame). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

The current exhibits are:

“Preserving the Steadfastness of your Faith”: Catholics in the Early American Republic.

Join co-curators Rachel Bohlmann (American History Librarian) and Jean McManus (Catholic Studies Librarian) for a guided tour Thursdays at 12:30 pm through March (excluding Spring Break, March 16), and learn more about American Catholic history held in the library’s Rare Books and Special Collections and ND Archives. Tours will last up to an hour.

To schedule a class or group tour, please contact Rachel Bohlmann via email or phone: (574) 631-1575.

Spotlight ExhibitsBram Stoker’s Lecture on Abraham Lincoln and The Nathaniel Rogers Sermon Notebook, ca. 1634-1645.

Upcoming Events: November and early December

Please join us for the following event being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, Nov. 10 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “The Dynamic Psyche: Italian Pragmatism and Fascism” — Francesca Bordogna (Notre Dame). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

The current exhibits during November are:

Ingenious Exercises: Sports and the Printed Book in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800 | What was the nature of sports in the early modern era, before the widespread preoccupation with rules, records, and Reeboks? And what kinds of books did people write about them? “Ingenious Exercises: Sports and the Printed Book in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800,” addresses precisely these questions. This exhibit of volumes from the Joyce Sports Collection is open to visitors 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday.

Spotlight Exhibits: Two Irish Bibles and The Nathaniel Rogers Sermon Notebook, ca. 1634-1645

 

Rare Books and Special Collections will be closed for Thanksgiving Break (November 24-27) and for Christmas and New Year’s Break (December 23, 2016, through January 2, 2017). We remain open for our regular hours during Reading Days and Exams, and welcome those looking for a quiet place to study.