Hesburgh Libraries has recently acquired an interesting and quite rare first edition by the great early Christian preacher and writer St. John Chrysostom (349-407). Usually referred to as his “Golden Book” in English translations, De educandis liberis liber aureus (Paris, 1656) discusses the Christian education of children. Printed in parallel Greek and Latin translation, the latter was added by the book’s Dominican editor, Francois Combefis. In the preface, Combefis notes that he had discovered the manuscript of the work in the collection of Cardinal Mazarin, who was responsible for the upbringing of the young Louis XIV, and expresses the hope that it will be useful for his education.
Interestingly, this tract was not included in collected editions of Chrysostom’s works because its authenticity was questioned, and it was not until 1914 that a new edition of the Greek text was issued by Franz Schulte (which Hesburgh Libraries holds in its general collection). This seventeenth-century “editio princeps” is held by only two other North American libraries.
The Hugo Achugar Papers have been recently described and are open to students and researchers.
Hugo Achugar (1944-) is a Uruguayan literary critic and prolific writer of poetry and essays. He has held teaching positions at universities in both Latin America and the United States, including Universidad de la República, Uruguay; Universidad Católica, Venezuela; Northwestern University; and Dartmouth College. He currently serves as a member of the Emeritus Faculty at the University of Miami. Some of Achugar’s better-known works include Ideologías y estructuras narrativas en José Donoso, 1950-1970, a literary essay on the works of José Donoso; Hueso Quevrado (cuaderno de la Bahía), a collection of poetry; and Falsas Memorias: Blanca Luz Brum, a fictionalized account of the life of Blanca Luz Brum.
The collection consists of manuscripts, photographs, clippings, and journals, all forming a record of Achugar’s professional career. Included are correspondence, notes and research files, lecture and conference materials, and poetry. The collection also includes Achugar’s personal library, which will soon be cataloged.
The highlight of the collection is the series of articles and drafts, comprised of drafts of both published and unpublished essays, poetry, and fiction. For some works, there are multiple drafts written at different points in time, allowing researchers to follow Achugar’s writing process. For example, in the series exist various drafts, notes, and preparatory materials for Hueso Quevrado, representing Achugar’s process from research to draft to revision.
Hesburgh Libraries has just acquired a rare and interesting two-volume work, Louis Basile Carre de Montgeron’s La verite des miracles operes a l’intercession de M. de Paris et autres appellans (1737-1741), which provides a view of the continuing Jansenist controversy in the 18th-century French church. Montgeron, a magistrate of the Parlement of Paris, experienced a miraculous conversion at the tomb of Francois of Paris, an ascetic Jansenist deacon, and thus became a champion of the Jansenist cause; in this work he defends the miracles which were claimed to have occurred near the tomb in the parish cemetery at Saint-Medard and the “Convulsionnaires”, pilgrims who experienced convulsions while visiting the site.
Although Jansenism, with its emphases on grace, predestination, miracles and what seemed to critics as denial of human free will, had been condemned by Pope Clement XI in the papal bull Unigenitus in 1713, this account by Montgeron shows its continuing influence through the first half of the century.
By Jennifer Brcka, Processing Archivist for Special Collections
In the immediate wake of the Anschluss, or German annexation of Austria on March 12, 1938, the German Reich initiated a campaign against that nation’s Jewish citizens. The Seklers, a Viennese family, were victims of these actions, and later, of the Holocaust. The Hildegard Sekler Collection, a recent archival acquisition by Hesburgh Libraries’ Rare Books and Special Collections, records the family’s story through a series of letters and documents.
The collection consists of over 400 pieces of correspondence generated surrounding the separation of Leopold and Toni Sekler from their daughter, Hildegard. Most relate to Hildegard’s flight from Austria at the age of sixteen, and chiefly date from the years between 1939 and 1945. The bulk are personal letters and postcards sent to Hildegard by family, friends, and her tutor. A body of official correspondence with governmental and aid agencies has been preserved here, as well. More than 100 documents and personal papers are also found within the collection. These range from official records relating to Leopold’s career in the Vienna Finance Ministry to, less formally, Hildegard’s homework assignments, school notes, and essays.
This group of personal documents includes Leopold and Toni Sekler’s passports. In August of 1938, the German authorities enacted the Executive Order on the Law on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names. This order required Jews with non-Jewish first names to formally add “Israel” for males and “Sara” for females to their legal names. The Seklers were forced to comply. Three slips noting the name changes for each remain inserted in Leopold Sekler’s Passport. Following a similar pronouncement aimed at identifying Jewish citizens, Toni Sekler’s passport was stamped with a red “J”.
Letters illuminate desperation the family felt in the months that followed. Leopold Sekler appealed to Switzerland and the United States to obtain visas for the family to emigrate. His requests were met with delays and little success. Undeterred, he sought out directories and wrote to a handful of New Yorkers, strangers with the Sekler name, whom he hoped might provide support for a visa application. Replies from a Constance Sekler express frustration over past experiences with the Consulate in Vienna, as well as with her own limited resources. Empathetic, though unable to assist, she wrote, “Whether or not we are related isn’t of great importance because I am just as much interested in your welfare in any event.” A Jack Sekler, living in the Bronx, was able to offer support, though a quota system placed the Sekler family on a waiting list, and ultimately prevented their seeking asylum in America.
In January of 1939, a letter from the Welfare Headquarters of the Jewish Cultural Society advised that it had secured passage to England for Hildegard. At age 16, she quickly fled, unaccompanied, to London where she lived in a youth hostel. A wave of letters from her parents and concerned family and friends soon followed. Many capture the bleakness of the situation for those who remained in Austria. A March 14, 1939 letter sent by Trude Mesuse states (in German), “Furthermore, your father wants you to know, if he writes “ich” like this at the end or the beginning of a sentence, you ought to pay attention to this sentence and think about it, because it will have a particular meaning he can’t express clearly writing from Vienna. And you should be careful when you write, too.”
Many letters express the love and concern of parents separated from their only child. In a letter (in English) from her father on June 1, of 1940, he asks his “Dear Hilde” to, “[…] stay in the garden as long as possible and to sleep by open windows. You had better to speak only English, at home too. It would be better for all big girls. The German language you will not forget, I am sure. The conversation is the most important and the best mean to learn a language, believe me, I know it by experience.” By 1941, sending correspondence to countries at war with Germany was prohibited, and Leopold used the Red Cross Message Service to send his daughter greetings on her nineteenth birthday.
Further correspondence within the collection convey the uncertainties of life in London during the Blitz. Hildegard studied in London with a tutor, Dr. Judah Simon Goller, who wrote her frequently. In an undated letter he mentions two children, mutual acquaintances and also displaced minors, who had recently left London to be reunited with family. He muses, “So the twins have gone, and we are short two more. Please God, [may] they reach their parents in safety and soon forget all their sorrows, and remember sometimes the little joys they shared with us. I wonder what’s the good of telling me not to worry about the children when there’s a raid on? I just can’t help it.”
Hildegard continued, unsuccessfully, to seek a means for her parents to flee Austria. In October of 1942, Leopold and Toni Sekler were deported to Theresienstadt, a transit and labor camp. From there, the couple were transported to Auschwitz on October 12, 1944. Neither survived. Hildegard married her tutor, Dr. Goller, in 1960. She remained in London until her death in 2008.
Through materials largely in German or English (and occasionally in French), the Hildegard Sekler Collection presents a unique view of the Anschluss and its aftermath, unaccompanied child refugees of the Holocaust, wartime experiences in London, and personal histories of prisoners of Theresienstadt. The collection (MSE/MD 6408) is open for research in Rare Books and Special Collections, and a detailed finding aid can be found online.
Hesburgh Libraries has just acquired an important and rare first edition of Girolamo Dandini’s Missione apostolica al patriarca, e Maroniti del Monte Libano (Cesena, 1656). In 1596, Dandini (1554-1634), a Jesuit, was sent as Apostolic Nuncio by Pope Clement VIII to discuss doctrinal issues with the Maronite Christians of Lebanon, whose traditions differed from those of the Latin church.
Dandini’s travel account also includes observations of numerous places and peoples, including Cyprus, Crete, and the Ottomans. His account is significant for its record of Muslim-Christian relations at the time. The work became very popular and was translated from Italian into several other languages.
Medina, a member of the Order of the Brothers of St. James of Mexico City, details Felipe’s birth, his initial affiliation with the discalced Franciscans in Puebla, his missionary work in Manila, the omens preceding his martyrdom, the martyrdom itself, and his beatification.
Felipe found himself in Japan when a storm pushed his ship, destined for Mexico, off course. He and companion friars and a number of Japanese Christians were taken prisoner on orders of Japanese regent, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. After weeks in prison, these men were crucified as an example to others who might consider conversion.
Medina includes an image of the type of cross used in the crucifixions in his work. It was comprised of a crossbeam on top, one on the bottom, and a smaller piece of wood that the victims sat astride, as if riding a horse, in Medina’s words. A metal hoop encircled the neck and, in Felipe’s case, nearly choked him to death as his feet failed to reach the lower support. Executioners ran lances through the bodies of the Christians as they were suspended from the cross.
The title page is printed in red and black ink, but the highlight of this work is the engraved plate depicting San Felipe as he was crucified. The drawing depicts the martyr on a cross, pierced by lances, and with the ring of metal encircling his neck. Interestingly, the group of symbols representing the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan and later Mexico City—an eagle with a snake in its beak atop a nopal cactus—appears in front of the cross. An almost whimsical rendering of Mexico City including a cathedral, a bridge, and small human figures, decorates the bottom of the image.
This is the only copy of this work in the United States and one of the few copies anywhere containing the engraved plate.
Hesburgh Libraries has just acquired a unique set of over eighty bound, handwritten letters, Traicte pour les tres devotes & tres vertueuses dames, les dames religieuses du Calvaire (MSE/EM 2833), from Francois Leclerc du Tremblay, also known as Pere Joseph, to the nuns of Calvaire between 1614 and 1638. Pere Joseph began his career as a soldier, serving at the Siege of Amiens in 1597, but in 1599 he renounced the world and entered the Capuchin priory of Orleans. He became a notable preacher and in 1606 helped Antoinette d’Orleans, a nun of Fontevrault, found the order of the Filles du Calvaire—the community to whom these letters are addressed.
Pere Joseph (1577-1638) is also known as a confidant of Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642), and was the original “eminence grise” (“grey eminence”), the French term for a powerful advisor who operates “behind the scenes.”
Recently acquired is a full-size, color facsimile of the Golden Qur’an (Cod.arab. 1112), held in the Bavarian State Library (BSB) in Munich. The original manuscript was restored by the BSB’s Institute of Book and Manuscript Restoration in 1967. This true-to-size facsimile replicates both the physical appearance and features of the restored codex. Some loss of the ornamental decoration along the edges indicates the text block was trimmed when the codex received a later binding.
The Golden Qur’an is among a small number of Qur’ans written using colored writing materials. The most notable example of these colored works is the late 9th- or early 10th-century Blue Qur’an from Tunisia that was written in Kufic script on indigo-dyed vellum.
The holy text in the Golden Qur’an is written in black Naskh cursive on gold-coated paper. The image below reveals the reflection from these golden pages.
Each sura heading is framed in blue, white, and reddish-brown script and is decorated with floral and arabesque patterns. Verses are separated by rosettes.
This Qur’an probably originated in Iraq or Iran. It has many features which indicate that it was a product of the school of Ibn al-Bawwab, the early 12th-century Persian illuminator and calligrapher. The Qur’an employs ink colors—white, brown, crimson, and black—that had been introduced by Ibn al-Bawwab. The vertical letters slant slightly to the left and are written in a dense but clear style that is characteristic of his school. In addition, the first page features an unusual arrangement of two sura titles. In the basmala (the name for the Islamic phrase which translates into English as “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”), the Arabic letter “sin” is elongated.
The item featured in this week’s blog post is on display as a spotlight exhibit through the end of August.
French book artist Didier Mutel, inspired by Forbes Magazine’s annual listing of the world’s wealthiest people, created a portfolio called The Forbes simulachres: historiées faces de la mort, autant elegammẽt pourtraictes que artificiellement imaginées(Images and Illustrated Aspects of Death, as Elegantly Delineated as They Are Artfully Imagined). This 75-sheet portfolio, generously sized at 62 x 45 cm, comprises 36 pairs of woodcuts. Each duo consists of a full-page illustration of a skeleton, accompanied by text naming an individual from Forbes’ 2009 list of billionaires.
Mutel’s inspiration for this work was the iconic “Dance of Death” woodcuts created by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543). The Dance of Death (danse macabre in French, Totentanz in German) is part of the medieval tradition of memento mori (contemplation of death). Its visual representation typically pairs a living person with a skeleton, reminding the viewer that death comes to all, regardless of their worldly circumstances. Holbein depicted this theme in woodcuts which he completed in 1526 while living in Basel. They were first published, however, in 1538 in Lyon, France.
In the Forbes simulachres, Mutel portrays skeletons in a variety of settings. Some are engaged in recreational activities such as skiing or surfing while others are shown in more mysterious and threatening circumstances. Every skeleton is paired with a plate of text accompanied by biblical verses in early French, and each references Forbes by giving individuals’ names and ranks on its annual list of the wealthy.
Didier Mutel, born in 1971, is an engraver and printer who specializes in book arts. He studied at l’École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs (1991-1993) and l’Atelier national de création typographique (1994-1995). He has received numerous awards including a “Grand Prix des métiers d’art de la ville de Paris” in 1997 and was named artist in residence at Rome’s Villa Médicis from 1997 to 1999. Since 2003 he has taught engraving and drawing at l’École des beaux-arts in Besançon.
When Mutel returned to Paris from Rome, he joined the workshop of a master artist, Pierre Lallier, whom he had met in 1988. Lallier’s workshop originated in 1793 and was the oldest continually operating etching studio in France. After Lallier’s retirement, Mutel continued his work, maintaining legacy equipment and original printing techniques.
Mutel often revisits historical creations of music and literature. His inspirations range well beyond Forbes Magazine and include TheMetamorphosis by Franz Kafka and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. In 1994 he published a noteworthy interpretation of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The library’s copy of the Forbes simulachres is number 6 in an edition of 42 and is signed by the artist. Its case is unusual in having been fabricated from one of the woodblocks used to produce the text for plate number 6 featuring Karl Albrecht.
Bringing together his interests in Africa and artistic skills as a printmaker, Tom Killion issued his beautiful, hand-printed Walls: A Journey across Three Continents. Gracing the one hundred sixteen pages of hand-made Japanese Torinoko paper—a lustrous, smooth paper with texture and color resembling a hen’s egg—are the author-artist’s travel log and sixty-five original illustrations.
Before Killion conceived Walls, he had planned to “reproduce an illustrated travel diary from a journey [he] made in 1976-1977” (Walls, colophon) through parts of North America and Europe. Various demands on his time interrupted that project—establishing his own private press (Quail Press in Santa Cruz, CA), earning a PhD in African history from Stanford University, creating woodcut prints of the California landscape, working in Sudan as an administrator for a medical relief program, and traveling through war-torn Eritrea with a group of nationalist rebels. Finally, in 1988, Killion returned to his original idea of producing Walls, but now he broadened the scope of his project to include his travels in Africa, documenting the many types of walls he encountered there as well.
As an artist from the recently colonized land of North America, where social boundaries are defined by wire fences and rivers of moving cars, I was struck by the stone walls which dominated the landscape of Europe and Africa: walls that were built to keep people out, to keep people in, to hide and sleep behind, to throw down and rebuild. These walls were laid across fields and mountains, across rivers and marshes, and in places they clawed at the sky (Walls, 4-5).
Killion commences his journey from California’s western shore. Traveling north for Puget Sound by train, Killion found himself five days later looking upon the Olympic Mountains, clear and cold, glittering above miles of dark forest.
Nearly six months later, the young traveler sat beneath the Eiffel Tower chatting about the city with a young Algerian. Then over the next two months, he traveled through the French countryside, Switzerland, and then into Italy.
Aboard a train on his way to Athens, Killion met an Ethiopian student headed to medical school in Thessalonika. From this young man, Killion became fascinated with the Ethiopian Empire and how it faced a revolution that overthrew the emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, a power struggle between student revolutionaries and the military, and rebels trying to gain independence for Eritrea from Ethiopia.
By November 1976, Killion wound up his travels in Europe and departed Marseilles for Tunis and spent just over a year in Africa, traveling across the Sahara. This trip fed his interest in Africa. As a doctoral student at Stanford, Killion returned to Africa in the early 1980s to conduct research on the Ethiopian labor movement and the national liberation movement in Eritrea (Walls, 89-1) and then went back again and spent from 1987 to 1988 at three Ethiopian refugee camps in Eastern Sudan working as an administrator for medical relief programs. In the midst of the war in Eritrea, Killion documents the struggles—the civil war between the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), EPLF’s revolt against Ethiopia, the conditions of the Eritrean people, continued air raids, and death.
Killion’s images reveal his synthesis of techniques that draw on nineteenth-century Japanese ukiyo-e landscape artists, Hokusai and Hiroshige, and twentieth-century American and European wood engraving techniques. The color prints in Walls are produced from woodblocks. Killion began carving the woodblocks for the prints in Walls in 1981 and continued to do so sporadically until the book was completed in 1990. The process to create the final version of each print is lengthy and involves multiple steps (Killion demonstrates this process in a YouTube video). To create the woodblock image, the artist takes his sketch of a scene, reverses it onto a block called the key block. This block contains all of the visual information needed to make the rest of the blocks used to print the various colors in register for the final image. Killion carves the reverse image into the block. He then transfers this image to several more blocks and carves the image into those blocks. Once completed, either a single color or combinations of colors (to show gradations) are rolled onto a block.
Printing the image begins with aligning the first color block that is inked with the lightest color with the key block. Killion then uses his Asbern proof press (a type of press with a fixed bed and rolling carriage made in Augsburg, Germany in the 1960s and 70s) to print the image on hand-made Japanese Torinoko paper. He pulls sheets equal to the edition number plus a few extra just in case. Then this process is repeated with each color block, with one to two days between each printing to allow the color to dry. Each copy of Walls required one hundred ninety-nine pulls to produce.
In addition to sketching the images, transferring them to and carving them into blocks, and paying meticulous attention to setting and printing the images, the production of Walls involves a series of other artistic choices. In addition to selecting the type of paper on which to print, Killion chose the typefaces Centaur and Arrighi (the italic of Centaur) with which to print the text of Walls. He then bound the printed text block in raw half-linen and Niger goatskin, and enclosed the finished piece in a matching linen slipcase.
Tom Killion’s Walls is a recent addition to Special Collections’ modest artist’s books collection. For more information about this, please contact Special Collections.