Special Collections COVID-19 Response

Rare Books & Special Collections will continue to provide service via virtual access to expertise and online/digital resources in support of teaching and learning. During this time, our expertise and services are just a phone call, email, or Zoom consultation away. We invite you to consult with us as often as needed.

All tours and in person classes are currently suspended.

We encourage you to visit our Library Service Continuity webpage for detailed information about how to access Hesburgh Libraries digital services and resources, or email us at rarebook@nd.edu.

The O’Neill Collection – A Digital Selection

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

While the Irish Studies collection in the Hesburgh Libraries has grown considerably in recent decades, one of the enduring treasures, and the collection most often inquired about, is the O’Neill Collection. This is the personal library of Francis O’Neill, the famous collector of Irish music who was once Chicago’s Chief of Police.

Francis O’Neill (1848-1936) left Ireland in his teens, travelled the world as a sailor, settled in America and after first qualifying as a teacher in Missouri, moved to Chicago where he joined the police force in 1873. By all accounts a larger-than-life figure, he was well-known both as a police officer and as one of the major experts on Irish traditional music.

In A Harvest Saved: Francis O’Neill and Irish Music in Chicago, Nicholas Carolan tells us how O’Neill’s music collecting began.

Sometime in the later 1880s… Francis O’Neill began to realize that there was yet much Irish traditional music to be collected and preserved that had escaped earlier collectors. He recruited James O’Neill to the project of collection and started to visit him regularly … so that the tunes remembered from Francis’ childhood in Cork could be noted down from his dictation in a private manuscript collection… [i]

As months and years passed and word of their enterprise spread others contributed tunes to the collection and James O’Neill began visiting musicians in their homes to note their music.

Carolan, 11

Nicholas Carolan goes on to describe how O’Neill’s project developed, his publication of O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (1903) and his other books, and of the enduring legacy of these books.

For generations of musicians who play Irish traditional music, O’Neill’s books are perceived as essential. Carolan aptly named his book ‘A Harvest Saved’ as O’Neill collected at a time and place where people had left the communities in which the music had thrived. The 75,000 Irish immigrants in Chicago carried with them the music of many parts of Ireland, and O’Neill was able to tap into the rich repository of their tunes and record them for posterity.

O’Neill was following in the footsteps of important collectors such as Edward Bunting and George Petrie, many of whose books are in O’Neill’s collection and bear pencilled annotations indicating his careful study of the contents.

From New edition of a general Collection of the ancient Irish music. Rare Books XLarge M 1744 .B868 G4 1796

This book is one of the most important works in the history of Irish music collecting. Edward Bunting began his life-long interest in the collection of Irish harp-music in 1792. He notated the music of performers at the Belfast Harp Festival that year, and this inspired him to continue for many years in his collection and study of Irish harp music.

This Dublin edition in O’Neill’s possession was printed some years after the first edition of 1797 which was published in London. For more information on the publication, see ‘Edward Bunting’s First Published Collection of Irish Music, 1797’ on the ITMA website.

The O’Neill Collection includes also Bunting’s two later collections, published in 1809 and 1840. O’Neill’s pencilled notes can be seen in the margins of these books.

Page detail from New edition of a general Collection of the ancient Irish music. Rare Books XLarge M 1744 .B868 G4 1796

The O’Neill Collection includes important works from Scotland including Orpheus Caledonius by William Thompson, one of the earliest published collections of Scottish songs. First published in two volumes in 1725, our O’Neill copy is volume I only of the 1733 edition. This copy has pencil annotations either by O’Neill or by an earlier reader. It also includes a subscribers list, which is not included in the facsimile edition published in 1962.

When Chief O’Neill offered his library to the University in 1931, he described it as having a ‘Hiberniana’ collection and a music collection. In each case, his library was exceptional. Our O’Neill Collection includes a valuable selection of books on Irish history and antiquities, and in the music section, a collection of many well-known collections of Irish music, along with lesser-known books of dance music, and books on the music and instruments of Ireland, England and Scotland in particular.

From A Selection of Scotch, English, Irish Foreign Airs. Properly Adapted for the German Flute, Violin or Fife. (1792) Rare Books Small M 5 .S4

Hoping to bring the O’Neill Collection to enthusiasts who cannot visit the Hesburgh, we selected thirty of the rarest books from the collection for digitization. We plan to share these digital collections in a number of ways — the Internet Archive being one — making it possible to study the books anywhere in the world.

The books currently digitized on the Internet Archive, found within the University of Notre Dame Hesburgh Libraries Collection, are as follows:

Alexander’s Select Beauties for the Flute. 3rd ed. London: Alexander. Rare Books Large M60 .A4

The Ancient Music of Ireland, Arranged for the Piano Forte; To Which is Prefixed a Dissertation on the Irish Harp and Harpers, Including an Account of the Old Melodies of Ireland. Edward Bunting. Dublin: Hodges and Smith, 1840. Rare Books Large M 1744 .B868 G4 1840

Calliope, or, The Musical Miscellany: A Select Collection of the Most Approved English, Scots & Irish Songs Set to Music. London: C. Elliot, 1788. Rare Books Medium M 1738 .C3

A Collection of Irish Airs for the Flute, Violin or Flageolet, with New Symphonies, Arranged as Duetts or Solos. Dublin: McCullagh, c.1820. Rare Books Small M1 .C6

A Companion to the Ball Room, Containing a Choice Collection of the Most Original and Admired Country Dances, Reels, Hornpipes, Waltzes, and Quadrills… The Etiquette; And a Dissertation on the State of the Ball Room. London: D. Mackay, [1816]. Rare Books Small GV 1751 .B4 C6 1816.

The Edinburgh Musical Miscellany: A Collection of the Most Approved Scotch, English, and Irish Songs, Set to Music. David Sime. Edinburgh: Printed for W. Gordon… et al., 1792. Volume I. Rare Books Small M 1738 .S5 E3 1792
• Volume II has also been digitized and will be available soon.

Hail to the Shamrock. From the Songs of the Emerald Isle. This music collection lacks a title page. The title is assumed to be the title of the first page of music. Bound within the same volume: My Duet Book, nos. 1-3, June to August 1843; The Piano-Bijou, nos. 1-5, April to August 1843; National Melodist, no. 1; Musical Cabinet. Rare Books Small M1 .H3

A General Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland: Arranged for the Piano Forte; some of the Most Admired Melodies are Adapted for the Voice, to Poetry Chiefly Translated from the Original Irish Songs. Edward Bunting. London: Clementi, 1809. Rare Books XLarge M 1744 .B868 G4 1809

The Irish Song Book, with Original Irish Airs. Edited, with an introduction and notes by Alfred Perceval Graves. 2nd ed. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1895. Rare Books Small M 1744 .G783 I7 1895

Musicians Omnibus Complete: Contains 1500 Pieces of Music for the Violin. Boston: Elias Howe. Rare Books Medium M 40 MB

Orpheus Caledonius, or, a Collection of Scots Songs Set to Musick. William Thompson. London: Printed for the Author, 1733. Rare Books Medium M 1746 .T5 O7 1733

The Petrie Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland, Arranged for the Piano-Forte. Edited by George Petrie. Society for the Preservation and Publication of the Melodies of Ireland, 1855. Volume I. Rare Books XLarge M 1744 .P448 1855

Repository of Scots & Irish Airs Strathspeys, Reels &c. Vols. I [& II]. Two volumes bound together; the second volume lacks title information. Glasgow: McGoun, c. 1796. Rare Books Small M1 .R4

The Royalty Songster: And, Convivial Companion; A Collection of All the Most Esteemed English, Scotch and Irish Songs, &c. Sung with the Highest Applause at the Royalty Theatre, and Every Other Place of Public Entertainment. By Mr. Bannister … et al. To Which is Added, A Collection of Toasts and Sentiments, Hippesley’s Drunken-Man and Other Comic Pieces. London: Cleugh, Stalker, 1788. Rare Books Small M 1738

A Selection of Scotch, English, Irish & Foreign Airs, Properly Adapted for the German Flute, Violin or Fife. 2 volumes bound together. This lacks a title page or publication information.
Rare Books Small M5 .S4

 

 

[i] The Hesburgh Library’s O’Neill Collection has only two music manuscripts. It would be wonderful if O’Neill’s own manuscripts were still in existence and could be found.

Week 3 of Special Collections and COVID-19

The lion above is featured in the second edition of Michael Bernhard Valentini’s Amphitheatrum zootomicum (1742), currently on display in the Spring ’20 exhibit.

A few thoughts from Julie, one of the curators stuck at home.

For our diehard fans who anxiously await 9:00am (EDT) to see what fascinating piece we’ve put up, I have some sad news. We’re a bit late today.

Being removed from our collections and separated into our remote offices—and for me, staring out the window at a gloomy gray sky—are posing some challenges such as keeping track of what day of the week it is.

I know all us at RBSC would prefer being back in the office, but for now we’re dong our best. Look for news in the not too distant future about a digital version of the exhibit Erika and I curated, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800. It’s underway. Here’s what I’m working from:

image of hand sketched layout for spring 20 exhibit

You’ll notice the image quality is not up to our normal standards.

Fortunately, I have a Word doc with the text for the exhibit labels and Sara’s been dealing with the joys (that is, the s-l-o-w-n-e-s-s) of accessing our archival images on the server.

So, please, I hope you find a bit of amusement in my morning musing as I drain another cup of coffee and deal with my cat being annoyed because I’m home when I’m normally not.

Keep in mind, we’re still functioning as a remote department, so if you have questions, feel free to drop any of the curators an email or one to our awesome front line staff at rarebook@nd.edu.

Women’s History Month 2020

We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history by celebrating Women’s History Month.

Mary Taussig Hall and Social Reform

by Arielle Petrovich, Outreach & Instruction Librarian and Librarian-in-Residence and Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator of North Americana

In commemoration of Women’s History Month, RBSC highlights Mary Taussig Hall (1911-2015). Hall was a social worker, and an activist for child welfare, civil rights, and peace, from St. Louis, Missouri. Her career spanned most of the twentieth century and shaped social services policy in Missouri and the nation. As a lifelong advocate for peace, Hall’s reach extended internationally: as a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the United Nations Association in St. Louis.

Arielle Petrovich (Hesburgh Library’s Instruction & Outreach Archivist and Librarian-in-Residence) created a Special Collections spotlight exhibition on Hall for Women’s History Month. Because of the Coronavirus that exhibit is currently closed, so we share highlights and photographs from the show here:

    • Women’s Peace Party, St. Louis, secretary’s minutes, 1915-1916

In 1915, Progressive social reformer Jane Addams co-founded the Woman’s Peace Party (WPP), a pacifist organization established in response to the First World War. Florence Gottschalk Taussig, Mary Taussig’s mother, a political activist and a close friend of Addams, chaired the St. Louis chapter of the WPP. Local meetings centered on planning of educational speaking engagements and membership recruitment. (Mary Taussig Hall Papers, MSN/MN 0511, Box 7, Folder 200)

    • Jane Addams letter to Mary Taussig, 10 May 1933

After graduating from Bryn Mawr College in 1933, Mary Taussig was invited by Jane Addams to work as her private secretary and to volunteer at Hull House in Chicago. Addams had established Hull House to support recently-arrived immigrants to the city. Eventually it offered childcare for working mothers, job training, and other services. Mary eventually returned to St. Louis for a graduate degree in social work at Washington University, where she took up the cause of child labor reform among lead miners in Missouri. (MSN/MN 0511, Box 5, Folder 132)

    • FDR telegram to Florence and Mary Taussig, 1936

President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent this holiday telegram to Mary Taussig and her mother to thank them for their support during his reelection campaign that fall. As part of the affluent elite in St. Louis, Taussig and her mother’s social peers generally did not support FDR’s New Deal economic reforms or vote Democratic. Roosevelt applauded both women for maintaining their party loyalty. (MSN/MN 0511, Box 6, Folder 185)

    • The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom pamphlets, 1950s and undated

After World War One the Women’s Peace Party became the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Florence Gottschalk Taussig served on its national board and Mary Taussig Hall eventually chaired a joint committee to commemorate the centennial of Jane Addams’ birth in 1960. After World War Two the WILPF’s work broadened to include world disarmament, racial integration, civil rights, and international peace. (“Billions of Dollars…for What?” Pamphlet, c. 1955; “Integration” Pamphlet, c. 1958; and “The ABC’s of Civil Rights” Pamphlet, undated — all from MSN/MN 0511, Box 7, Folder 210)

MSN/MN 0511-29

The Mary Taussig Hall Papers also document Taussig Hall’s commitments to peace and disarmament in her personal correspondence. In a July 1933 letter to her parents, while she was working at Hull House, Taussig exclaimed, “I want so badly to follow in your footsteps Mum—and really play an important part in the W.I.L. [Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom]. I’m going to work at the Peace booth out at the Fair [1933 Chicago World’s Fair] too—won’t that be fun?”

Typescript letter, not transcribed.
MSN/MN 0511-121

Nearly thirty years later Taussig Hall received a personal note in a letter from Guy W. Solt, a staff member at the American Friends Services Committee in Philadelphia. On 29 June 1960 he wrote, “War is obsolete. But beyond the abandoning of war there remains the far more magnificent achievement of creating a strong spiritual bond between the peoples of the earth, and especially between the white and the colored peoples. Surely it is God’s plan that we live as one people. . . . I close with this quotation from above the door of a Catholic church in Boston: ‘Send forth thy spirit, and it shall be created, and thou shalt remake the face of the earth.’”

Taussig Hall remained active in peace and civil rights work in St. Louis through the early 2000s. RBSC holds a portion of her papers. The Missouri Historical Society holds most of her papers in the Mary T. Hall Papers, 1888-2003.

St. Patrick’s Day Postcards

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

To mark St. Patrick’s Day, this year we are featuring a small selection from our recently-acquired collection of Irish postcards.

Picture postcards, commercially produced in Ireland by the beginning of the twentieth century, became enormously popular as a means of communication. From a wide range of postcard types, we have selected a small sampling of the type of cards used as St. Patrick’s Day greetings.

MSE/IR 1403-165A

Postmarked in 1912, this postcard shows a boy wearing a large cross for St. Patrick’s Day, a custom no longer practiced now, but recorded in various sources. According to Cronin and Adair, crosses made by paper or card were commonly worn by children on St. Patrick’s day until early in the twentieth century. [i]

Searching the wonderful online source of Irish National Folklore Collection, Dúchas.ie, for references to St. Patrick’s Day crosses, we find some good primary sources. From 1937 to 1938, Irish schoolchildren interviewed older people in their homes and communities about folklore. In some of these accounts, people describe the ornate colored crosses they made as children for St. Patrick’s Day. The following is from a woman in County Kerry:

I used to make a beautiful cross for that day. The first thing I got was two pieces of stiff card-board, one piece longer than the other, then covered these pieces with some nice pieces of silk and I sewed them together in the shape of a cross.

For about a month before St. Patrick’s day I used to be gathering the nicest bits of silk or satin I could find to cut them into narrow strips to make nice, neat, fluffy little bundles of them. I then sewed one bundle on each of the four ends and one on the centre of the cross.

Then my cross was complete and ready to wear on my left arm on St. Patrick’s day and for a whole week after going to school. There wasn’t any “meas” [ii] on any little girl that had not a cross for St Patrick’s day. [iii]

Many postcards suggest nostalgia and homesickness for Ireland, and may have been produced with emigrants in mind. They feature stereotypically Irish decorations such as shillelaghs, Celtic crosses, harps, and of course, the shamrock, which is specifically associated with St. Patrick.

The shamrock has become the most popular symbol for St. Patrick’s Day, referring to the legend which tells that Patrick illustrated the concept of the Trinity by plucking a three-leaved shamrock from the ground. Thus, many cards include the shamrock, and in some it is the main feature.

MSE/IR 1403-89A

‘The Dear Little Shamrock’ song was composed by Limerick-born Andrew Cherry, an actor, playwright and theatre manager who was active from the 1770s until 1812. At the time of this postcard, the song must have been well known, being part of the repertoire of John McCormack, whose performances of Irish songs were very popular on his concert tours of the United States.

A 1904 recording, digitized by the Ward Archives in Wisconsin, allows us to hear McCormack’s voice. [iv]

This card was posted in September 1911 from Dublin to Middlesex, England.

MSE/IR 1403-109B

The Green Isle of Erin, posted in England, is a German-produced card full of standard references, i.e., the green isle, harp, emerald and shamrocks. Ann Wilson’s informative article on Irish picture postcards of the Edwardian Age tells us that Germany was the location of much of the early picture postcard production. [v]

MSE/IR 1403-109A

Though this card celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, it was posted in November 1904 from County Cork to South Africa.

When postcards first began to be used, a message was written on the front of the postcard and the address written on the back. It took time, after the development of picture postcards, for postal administrations to allow for a message written on the same side as the address. Though the British Post Office allowed a message on the left and address on the right from 1902, this was not generally accepted in other countries at the time this card was posted, hence the writing on the picture side of this card.

MSE/IR 1403-108B

Posted from Adrian, Michigan to Brooklyn, New York on March 15th, 1909, the cluster of items on this card suggest a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and an American celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

MSE/IR 1403-136B

St. Patrick’s Day Souvenir. Meeting of the Waters Killarney, sent from Shakopee, Minnesota to St. Paul, Minnesota. The Lakes of Killarney were among the most celebrated beauty spots for tourists to Ireland, and so this postcard imparts a romantic view of Ireland.

MSE/IR 1403-14A

The Crescent Embossing Company in New Jersey published many American patriotic cards such as Independence Day greeting cards. The signature on this card, as on other cards by Crescent, are of the owner, Fred C. Lounsbury, rather than of the artist.

As these cards suggest, celebrating St. Patrick’s day in the golden age of the postcard veered from a celebration of early Gaelic Ireland, with the symbols of Christianity such as the cross and round tower in this last postcard, to wistful nostalgia such as that depicted in the ‘Dear Little Shamrock’.

The postcard collection is currently being cataloged so that in time, it will be possible to locate each postcard from our online finding aid.

 

 

[i] Cronin, Mike, and Daryl Adair. The Wearing of the Green: A History of St. Patrick’s Day. Routledge, 2002.

[ii] Meas is the Irish word for ‘respect’.

[iii] Transcribed from the account of Mrs. J. D. Riordan of Barna Co. Kerry. The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0448, Page 198. https://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4706359/4706107

[iv] McCormack, John. Dear Little Shamrock. Record Label and Issue Number: Edison Bell 6442 (1904). Ward Irish Music Archive: Collection: Irish Fest Collection. WIMA ID: IF CYL 00-026 https://wardirishmusicarchives.com/Exhibits/Irish-Music-on-Cylinder-Recordings/Dear-Little-Shamrock-John-McCormack.htm

[v] Wilson, Ann. ‘Image Wars: the Edwardian Picture Postcard and the Construction of Irish Identity in the Early 1900s’, Media History 24:3-4 (2018), pp. 320-384.

Recent Acquisition: Enlightenment Text Leading to the Revolution

by Julie Tanaka, Curator of Special Collections

Contextualizing the turbulent landscape that beset France during the Revolution of 1789 is this set of nine texts spanning the years 1783 to 1785 . In 1783, the French gastronome, Alexandre-Balthazar-Laurent Grimod de la Reynière, hosted a fourteen-course feast, each course comprised of five dishes, for seventeen guests. A few days later, his Philosophical Reflexions on Le Plaisir; by a Bachelor went on sale to great acclaim. It went through three editions, launching the career of the first gastronomical critic.

This collection also features works of the well-known authors, Voltaire and Mirabeau (their Les Soirées Philosophiques du Cuisinier de Roi de Prusse (1785) and Sur Les Actions de la Compagnie des Eaux de Paris (1785) respectively), Antoine de Rivarol’s De the universality of the French language (1784) on the origins and characteristics of the French language, and several texts criticizing the social, economic, and political situation in France during the reign of King Louis XVI (r. 1774-92).

An extremely rare allegorical work from 1784 rounds out the collection. Using the pen name Francisco Xaviero de Meunrios, Louis de Bourbon (Louis XVI’s brother) who became King Louis XVIII (r. 1814-24), composed Historical description of a symbolic monster, taken living on the shores of Lake Fagua, near Santa-Fé, by Francisco Xaviero de Meunrios, Count of Barcelona and Viceroy of the New World. Sent by a local merchant to a Parisian friend.

The Description features two engravings of monstrous harpies; this is timely as Courier de L’Europe reported about these creatures for the first time in the same year. Their discovery in Santa Fé, Peru at Lake Fagua resulted in numerous depictions. It is extremely rare for both male and female amphibious monsters to appear in this type of printed tract and when they do, the plates are generally lacking.

Information used in this post provided by Gerald W. Cloud, Rare Books, Manuscripts, Archives, Petaluma, CA.

Upcoming Events: March and early April

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

CANCELLED Thursday, March 26 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “Points of View: ‘The People’ in the 19th-Century Italian Novel” by Roberto Dainotto (Duke).

Sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies.

CANCELLED Saturday, March 28 at 10:00am-noon | Exhibit Event: “Animals, Animals, and More Animals: The Zoo Comes to Special Collections”

Scholars Lounge (10:00-11:00am)
Special Collections (11:00am-noon)

 In order to protect the health and wellness of our community, this event has been canceled. We will share more information on rescheduling, as appropriate, at a later date.

CANCELLED Thursday, April 2 at 5:00pm | Ravarino Lecture: “Niccolò Acciaiuoli: Contradiction and Interdisciplinarity in the Study of Trecento Italy” by William Caferro (Vanderbilt).

Each year, thanks to the Albert J. and Helen M. Ravarino Family Endowment for Excellence, the Center for Italian Studies sponsors a public lecture by a distinguished scholar of Italian Studies.


The spring exhibitPaws, Hooves, Fins & Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800, is open and will run through the summer. This is an exhibit of rare zoological books featuring early printed images of animals. We welcome classes and other groups of any age and would love to tailor a tour for your students and your curriculum — and if you can’t come to campus, the curators can bring the exhibit to you. Watch for forthcoming announcements of additional related events!

For more information about the exhibit or to set up a visit, contact curators Julie Tanaka and Erika Hosselkus.

The current spotlight exhibits are: John Ruskin and Popular Taste (February – April 2020), featuring materials from Special Collections relating to the Ruskin Conference that was held at Notre Dame in February, and The Papers of Mary Taussig Hall, a selection of items from the collection documenting her legacy and path to activism (March 2020).

RBSC is open regular hours (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm)
during Notre Dame’s Spring Break (March 9 – 13)

Color Our Collections: Spring and Summer 2020 Exhibit

Today’s coloring sheets come from our current main exhibit, Paws, Hooves, Fins & Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800. This exhibition presents the animals of early modern European books of natural history — meet some of the animals featured in our exhibit, and more of their friends found in the early printed books on display, in this week’s coloring pages.

The exhibit is open to the public through July 2020. For more information or to schedule a tour for your class, organization, or interested group, please contact the curators, Erika Hosselkus (ehosselk@nd.edu) and Julie Tanaka (jtanaka1@nd.edu).

Spring and Summer 2020 Exhibit – Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800

In 1515 an Indian rhinoceros boarded a ship bound for Lisbon. Given as a gift to King Manuel I of Portugal, the animal was a sensation in Europe, inspiring drawings, paintings, descriptions and woodcut prints that circulated around the continent. Although he never saw the rhino, German painter and printmaker Albrect Dürer created an iconic woodcut image. His rhino served as the model for many of his contemporaries, including the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner, and endures in popularity even today.

This famous rhino appeared in his monumental Historia animalium (History of Animals) and its subsequent editions. The rhino printed in the 1583 German edition of Gesner’s work is a focal point of the exhibition, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800, open now and through the summer in Rare Books and Special Collections.

Like many of the animals reproduced in Gesner’s volume, this rhino’s appearance derives partly from second-hand observation, partly from classical descriptions, partly from the artist’s imagination and technical skill, and partly from the print technologies available in the early sixteenth century. In Gesner’s influential tome, the rhino shares space with domestic cats, farm animals, other exotic beasts such as elephants, as well as creatures of the imagination such as unicorns and sea monsters. Images of animals in early modern books were not entirely realistic, offering a unique window into the fluid spaces between art and science, legend and observation.

Along with our rhino, this exhibition features early printed images of an octopus, sloth, anteater, hippo, coot, emu, otter, and more. Some of these animals appear in wide-ranging catalogs of the flora and fauna of the entire world. Others are in works that offer systems of classification specific to a single type of animal. Still others live in the pages of books that describe animals of one part of the world, whether the Americas, Asia, or Australia.

Also on display as part of this exhibition are specimens on loan from the University of Notre Dame’s Museum of Biodiversity. If early modern naturalists were writers, they were also collectors. They populated cabinets of curiosity and proto-museums with animal and plant specimens represented in their books. In recognition of this link between early science and collecting, some of the specimens – an arctic fox, a turtle carapace, and a collection of moths – inhabit a miniature a cabinet of curiosity.

Special Collections invites animal lovers of all ages to join us for this exhibition. We look forward to sharing these materials with the South Bend community. We are especially excited to welcome students and educators from the South Bend School Corporation and PHM Schools for tours this spring and look forward to taking this exhibition on the road to South Bend and PHM Schools and to Marquette Montessori. We are currently hard at work on our homemade reproduction of an early modern natural history book, which features reproductions of images included in the exhibit!

Very special thanks to Sara Weber for her design work, image creation, and layout of our book. We extend our gratitude to our conservators, Jen Hunt Johnson and Maren Rozumalski, for creating a period binding for the reproduction, and to Neil Chase for mounting all of the materials for us. We are grateful to Barb and Ron Hellenthal of the Museum of Biodiversity for their generous collaboration.

For more information or to schedule a tour for your class, organization, or interested group, please contact the curators, Erika Hosselkus (ehosselk@nd.edu) and Julie Tanaka (jtanaka1@nd.edu).

Recent Acquisition: The Civil and Natural History of Jamaica

Patrick Browne’s The Civil and Natural History of Jamaica

by Joel Gabriel Kempff, PhD Candidate, English Department, University of Notre Dame

Rare Books and Special Collections is pleased to have acquired The Civil and Natural History of Jamaica. This 1789 edition of Dr. Patrick Browne’s description of the Caribbean Island, contains 49 stunning color plates, illustrated by Georg Dionysius Ehret, one of the period’s most lauded and influential botanical and entomological artists.  The Civil and Natural History of Jamaica includes an account of the British colony’s governmental and economic structure at the time, a description of the soil and fossil content of the island, as well as a comprehensive account of its flora and fauna.

Patrick Browne was born in Ireland in 1720. Educated as a botanist and physician, he made the harrowing transatlantic journey six times in his life, collecting, organizing, and cataloging the natural history of not only Jamaica, but several British sugar colonies of the West Indies. In his preface to the section which catalogues the animal life of Jamaica, Browne muses eloquently on the purpose of such a book as his. Beyond its scientific value as a simple taxonomy, the creatures cataloged in his book offer important knowledge to do with a range of topics.  Browne writes:

…the Naturalist endeavors to observe the peculiar forms, differences, classes and general properties of all. The nature of society we may learn from the Castor, and the rules of government, industry and friendship, from the Ant and the Bee. The little Nautilus has first taught us to sail; and the uses of the Paddle, the Lever, the Forceps, and the Saw, with a thousand other mechanical powers are daily shewn us by numbers of the insect tribe.

Browne goes on to suggest that works such as his Natural History offer a new, more respectful way of understanding so many of the world’s tiny creatures, which were before only regarded as pests that produce only “filth and putrilage.” Browne writes that is this new kind of scientific inquiry which allows humans to gain new respect, even awe, for all sorts of plants and animals. When one views such intricately drawn, to scale illustrations of a bell flower, a flying fish, or a lobster, one does indeed wonder at the complexity and beauty of such creatures and can’t help but reflect on what humans might still have to learn from the plant and animal kingdoms. At its time of publication, and even now, Browne’s work has been valued as an astonishing addition to natural philosophy and science.

Archives of Natural History notes that Browne’s work on Jamaica “is now considered one of the most significant natural history books of the mid-eighteenth century, in some respects second only to the earliest works of Carl Linnaeus.”[1] In fact, Linnaeus himself—the father of modern taxonomy[2]—wrote from Sweden to Browne, “I never coveted any Book, I know not by what instinct, with more ardour desire than yours .. [and having] obtained it I spent day and night reading it through, I read it over but never enough  … Good God how I was transported with desire of a book infinitly [sic] to be commended” and “you ough[t] to be honoured with a golden statue”.  Linnaeus also wrote to the English naturalist Peter Collinson that “No author did I ever quit more instructed.”[3] Patrick Browne’s collected physical specimens now reside in the Linnaean Society Collection.

Throughout his life, and during his retirement in Ireland, Browne catalogued the flora and fauna of County Galway and of his home, County Mayo. His manuscript on Irish flora was published in the handsome Flowers of Mayo: Dr. Patrick Browne’s Fasciculus Plantarum Hibernicae 1788, edited and with substantial commentaries by Charles Nelson of the Irish National Botanic Gardens. This book, with color plates by Wendy Walsh, may also be viewed in the Hesburgh Special Collections.

Dr. Browne was known as a gentle and generous man by his colleagues. He married an Antiguan woman who lived with him in Ireland until his death on August 29th, 1790.

 

 

[1] E. C. Nelson, ‘Patrick Browne’s The civil and natural history of Jamaica (1756, 1789)’, Archives of Natural History, vol. 24 (1997), p.327–36.

[2] Calisher, CH (2007). “Taxonomy: what’s in a name? Doesn’t a rose by any other name smell as sweet?”. Croatian Medical Journal. 48 (2): 268–270.

[3] Transactions of the Linnaean Society, iv (1798), 31–4.