Protecting the Reader: A Banned Books Week Miscellany

Our colleague Doug Archer, a longtime activist for intellectual freedom and a Freedom to Read Foundation Roll of Honor awardee, has always used Banned Books Week as a time to raise awareness of threats to intellectual freedom. During this year’s Banned Books Week (September 27 to October 3), since Doug is enjoying his well-earned retirement, we decided to dive into our collections and identify books whose circulation has been impeded in different times and places.

In this post, you will find an assortment of examples that show various types of books and the ways that they have been withheld, by government or by church, nationally or locally, in various parts of the world.

This was the poster for our 2008 exhibit on the Index of Prohibited Books, curated by Benjamin Panciera (now Director of Special Collections and Archives at Connecticut College). The Freedom to Read and the Care of Souls: The Index of Prohibited Books since the Enlightenment examined how the Catholic Church sought to influence the circulation of ideas in the 19th and 20th centuries and what sort of material was considered dangerous.

Galilei Galileo. Dialogo dei massimi sistemi. Fiorenza: Per Gio: Batista Landini, 1632.
Special Collections Vault QB 41 .G1332 1642

The Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list compiled by the Catholic Church over a period of four centuries, consisted of a large number of books that lay Catholics were not permitted to read. Galileo’s Dialogo dei massimi sistemi [Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems] was added to the Index in 1634 and was not removed until 1822. In addition, Galileo was tried for heresy in 1633 and placed under house arrest, where he remained until his death almost a decade later.

Ulysses first edition cover
James Joyce. Ulysses. Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922.
Special Collections Vault PR 6019 .O9 U4 1922

One of the most famous pronouncements on censorship of a literary work, which occurred in the U.S., is that of Judge Woolsey on James Joyce’s Ulysses. This was widely reported in newspapers at the time.

COURT LIFTS BAN ON ‘ULYSSES’ HERE

Ignores Single Passages

His Judging of Volume as a Whole, Not in Isolated Parts, Establishes a Precedent.

James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” a novel which has been banned from the United States by custom censors on the ground that it might cause American readers to harbor “impure and lustful thoughts,” found a champion yesterday in the United States District Court.

Federal Judge John M. Woolsey, after devoting almost a month of his time to reading the book, ruled in an opinion which he filed in court that “Ulysses” not only was not obscene in a legal sense, but that it was a work of literary merit.

New York Times, December 7, 1933.

As we have seen in the case of Galileo (above), in various places and at various times in history, censorship has not only prevented people from access to certain books, but has sometimes punished, imprisoned, or publicly shamed their authors.

This rare book is an example of early Stalin propaganda. It became the first and only Stalin-era book that glorified the use of slave labor in the massive building projects of the 1930s. An estimated 170,000 prisoners worked in subhuman conditions on Belomorkanal, moving stones and digging the canal using their bare hands or primitive materials and technologies. Tens of thousands of inmates died during the twenty-one months of its construction (1931–33).

Commissioned by Stalin and published in Moscow in 1934 to coincide with the opening of the infamous XVII Party Congress, this book was presented as a souvenir to Congress delegates to celebrate the success of the First Soviet Industrial Five-Year Plan. Thirty-six Soviet writers and many leading artists, including the avant-garde photographer Aleksandr Rodchenko, visited the Canal and contributed their essays and photographic images of prisoners to praise the “transforming power” of the Gulag. By 1937, at the height of the Stalin Great Terror, the policy of “reeducating” class enemies through corrective labor was replaced by mass arrests, imprisonments and executions. The new policy called for the physical extermination of the “enemies of the people” and the obliteration of their names from the public record, including books. Four years after its publication, even this blatantly propagandist piece was found suspect and withdrawn from circulation; most copies were destroyed, and its many contributors were sent to the Gulag.

Eric Cross. The Tailor and Ansty. London: Chapman & Hall, 1964.
Special Collections (Medium Rare) Medium DA 925 .C73 1964

While many countries have not taken such extreme measures against authors, censorship has sometimes been carried out along with public shaming.

In Ireland, books that portrayed indecency or behavior that was not approved by the Catholic Church were often subject to censorship. A famous case was that of The Tailor and Ansty, Eric Cross’s book portraying the storytelling and commentary of a rural couple, Tadhg Ó Buachalla and his wife Anastasia, or Ansty. Not only was the book the subject of government debate over a four-day period, but the couple were visited by a priest (or three priests in some accounts) and ordered to burn their own copy of the book.

The Gadfly
E. L. Voynich. The Gadfly. New York: International Book and Pub. Co., 1900.
Special Collections Rare Books Small PR 6043 .O78 G34 1900

In the first decade of Ireland’s Free State, the Censorship of Publications Act, 1929, was enacted to prohibit the sale and distribution of “unwholesome literature”. Over the next forty years, hundreds of books were banned from sale in Ireland.

Ethel Voynich’s popular novel, The Gadfly, first published in the U.S. in 1897, was banned in Ireland in 1943. We had occasion to pull this book off the shelves as a Notre Dame student who is writing her senior thesis on this novel is particularly interested in why the book, popular elsewhere in Europe, was little known and also banned in Ireland.

Land of Spices by Kate O'Brien
Kate O’Brien. The Land of Spices. Dublin: Arlen House, 1982.
Special Collections (Medium Rare) Medium PR 6029 .B65 L3 1982

Novels by Kate O’Brien were banned in Ireland and in Spain. The novel featured here, Land of Spices, was apparently banned in Ireland on account of one sentence in which the protagonist learns that her father was in a homosexual relationship. “She saw Etienne and her father in the embrace of love.” Thus the novel was deemed indecent and obscene.

Edna O’Brien, whose recent books include Girl (2019) and The Little Red Chairs (2016), is the author of novels that were very controversial in Ireland in the 1950s and ’60s. Her earliest novels, found offensive for their depiction of girls’ and women’s lives, including sexuality, were consistently banned by the Irish Censorship Board. O’Brien’s books circulated widely in spite of censorship, and the following account by Dónal Ó Drisceoil shows that the Irish Censorship Board was fighting a losing battle:

At a packed public meeting in Limerick in 1966, O’Brien asked for a show of hands as to how many had read her banned books: she was met with a sea of hands and much laughter.

Ó Drisceoil, 154
Frank O’Connor. Kings, Lords, & Commons. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan, 1970.
General Collection PB 1424 .K564 1970

The censorship in Ireland of Frank O’Connor’s Kings, Lords, and Commons continues to provide amusement as the content that raised the censors’ concern was O’Connor’s translation of the acclaimed poem “Cúirt an Mheán Oíche” written in the eighteenth century by Brian Merriman. Much praised and valued as a literary work, the original Irish language text, and even earlier English translations, had never been censored, but this translation by O’Connor, conveying the humorous, hard-hitting language of sexually frustrated women, suggested that such lively discourse could exist in Irish-language literature, but not in English.

Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Bantam Books, 1949.
Special Collections Rare Books Small PS 3515 .E37 F2 1949

Once again, the Republic of Ireland is the place where this book by Hemingway was banned. This book and many others in our collection that could be freely read in the U.S. might not have been available to readers in Ireland and in other countries where such censorship was practiced. Examples of American books not allowed in Ireland for some time during the twentieth century include Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell (banned 1933), Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos (banned 1934) and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (banned 1941).

Moving from national censorship to local censorship, the Hesburgh Libraries’ shelves are filled with books that have been censored in some way, either by being removed from the shelves of libraries, or being challenged and banned by local school boards. This is the kind of censorship that is generally of concern to the American Library Association, and that is highlighted during Banned Books Week.

Judy Blume, an author whose books have often been removed from school libraries, has become a spokesperson against the censorship of books. Her 1970 book, Are you there, God? It’s Me, Margaret, has a young protagonist who muses on, and discusses, sexuality, menstruation, bras, and religion. Reasons that the book has been challenged and sometimes removed from library shelves include the sexual content and the treatment of religion.

Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, has frequently been challenged, e.g. by parents asking school districts to have the book removed from library shelves. The combination of science and religion in the book, along with a kind of magic or fantasy, is at the root of many of the challenges. The American Library Association’ Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles annual lists of books based on reports they receive from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books in communities across the country. For two decades, L’Engle’s novel was in the top one hundred challenged books.

More on the American Library Association’s findings on the books challenged throughout America may be learned by checking the Banned Books Week website.

References

Ó Drisceoil, Dónal. ‘The Best Banned in the Land: Censorship and Irish Writing since 1950’, in The Yearbook of English Studies 35 (2005), pp. 146-160. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3509330

Labor and Linen — The Prints of William Hincks

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

For Labor Day, we decided to feature people involved in the various stages of the linen industry. These illustrations belong to a recently acquired set of prints: William Hincks: The Linen Industry: A set of twelve sepia printed and coloured aquatints. London: Published as the Act directs by R. Pollard, Spafields, June 20, 1791.

Waterford-born artist William Hincks created a set of prints depicting linen production in the north of Ireland. It is assumed that he spent some time in Ulster, but this has not been documented. He published the prints in London in 1783, and the set was republished in 1791 by R. Pollard of Spafields, London.

The linen industry played an important part in Ireland’s economy, accounting for the occupations of a large proportion of the people of Ulster in the eighteenth century. The prints show a whole range of tasks performed in the pre-industrial production of linen, from ploughing and sowing flax seeds in a County Down field, to selling the linen at Dublin’s Linen Hall.

The fourth plate is the first with an indoor setting. Women, girls and a man are engaged in beetling, scutching and hackling. These were all very unfamiliar verbs for me, and I recommend the video of Ulster Folk Museum curator, Valerie Wilson, who describes the process of linen-making from beginning to end. The video is at the end of her blogpost, Warp and Weft: The Story of Linen in Ulster.

This print, the sixth in the series, shows women spinning, reeling, and boiling the yarn or thread.

Following spinning and boiling, the next print shows a weaving shed, with the tasks of winding, warping and weaving. At this time, Ulster had an estimated 40,000 weavers, so one can imagine that the activities depicted were common in villages and towns throughout the province.

The prints will be available for viewing on request once we are able to have a fully open reading room. Also in our collection is a helpful booklet, Illustrations of the Irish linen industry in 1783 by William Hincks, by the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, which describes and discusses this print collection.

As Irish economic history forms an important part of the Irish collections at the Hesburgh Libraries, we have many books treating various aspects of the linen industry. We are glad indeed to have a set of William Hincks’ prints, with their view of activities and equipment that were once an important part of Irish life.

RBSC is closed Monday, September 7th, for Labor Day.

Compendium Animalium: (Re)creating an Early Modern Book

by Erika Hosselkus, Curator, Latin American Collections and Jen Hunt Johnson, Special Collections Conservator

In the fall of 2019, my fellow curator, Julie Tanaka, and I planned our exhibition, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800. This exhibition was an opportunity to share Rare Books and Special Collections’ holdings with South Bend community youth as much as a showcase of our natural histories featuring animals. We promoted the show with local school districts and arranged visits for first graders, second graders, and high school students.

Beyond tours, which are primarily a visual and aural experience, we wanted to provide a fun, hands on opportunity for local kids related to our exhibition. Touching, holding, and even smelling is integral to the experience of handling a book—especially an old book. We wanted young students to be able to feel the weight of traditional early modern wooden boards and handle a half leather binding. We wanted them to be able to view our woodcuts and engravings of an early modern rhinoceros, elephant, sloth, and other critters up close! 

This desire to share the physical experience of a rare book with kids prompted us to explore the possibility of creating a facsimile of an early modern book that students could handle freely. As curators in a special collections setting, we interact frequently with conservators, our colleagues skilled in the treatment and preservation of books. They provide guidance on handling rare materials and perform repairs that facilitate use of our materials on a daily basis. This project, however, was a special opportunity to collaborate with our preservation department, particularly one of our conservators, Jen Hunt Johnson, and our current Gladys Brooks Fellow, Maren Rozumalski. The COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge and has postponed our use of the facsimile, but it has nonetheless been completed! This blog post is an opportunity to share the facsimile with readers and to highlight the collaborations that often occur between curators and conservators.

Julie and I met with Jen, Maren, and Sara Weber, our digital project specialist (and the constant force behind this blog!) to flesh out the details of this project. Ultimately we decided to create a sort of composite facsimile volume comprised entirely of images selected from the works featured in our physical exhibition. Sara photographed the images that Julie and I selected. They were formatted and printed on heavyweight paper chosen to mimic the look and feel of early modern rag paper. Jen and Maren then performed the heavy labor to construct this artifact! In the following paragraphs, Jen describes her work on, and experience with, this project.

Creating opportunities to promote our collections is a goal that’s shared between curators and conservators. As the facsimile provides an opportunity to bring elements of the RBSC exhibit to a broader audience through school visits, and other programming, the project also introduces participants to the work that conservators do in the library to treat and preserve books. Handling this book offers a tactile experience to illustrate the ways in which an historic book structure functions, and allows the audience, particularly children, to handle materials such as paper, leather, and wood, that they may be less encouraged to interact with when encountering our rare and fragile materials. This is an opportunity for participants to feel engaged in an environment where there are often barriers and restrictions to objects that can limit the sense of personal connection.

Creating the facsimile during the initial outbreak of a pandemic was not without its challenges. Working remotely restricted access to tools, equipment, and a proper surface to work on. Coordinating decisions regarding printing, sewing, material choices, and also foreseeing and troubleshooting problems was much harder to do through emails and still images, as compared to face-to-face meetings, and ready access to materials and supplies. In the end, a patio table and clamps set up in my living room served as a sturdy station for preparing wooden boards. A lying press, non-slip foam shelf liners, and careful balancing made do for a job backer to secure the material being worked. A 12 x 12” granite floor tile made a reasonable weight, applying even pressure when drying large areas like endsheets when a book press was unavailable. I even had to source material from a mail order wood shop when I realized the original wooden board I had purchased to work with was too thick to fit our textblock, and local vendors were closed due to the pandemic. None of these situations were ideal, but working through the process and figuring out what worked was ultimately rewarding, and fun!

We are very excited about the final product that has emerged from this collaboration. Here we share some photographs of our unique creation, Compendium Animalium, and we look forward to sharing the volume in person in the future with students on campus and in the South Bend community!

Who’s Who in RBSC: Julie Tanaka

“It is with bittersweet feeling I write to announce that Julie Tanaka accepted a position as Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Arizona State University. Julie is excited about the opportunities in the new position and I am very happy for her.” —Natasha Lyandres, Head of Special Collections

Julie Tanaka achieved so much that it’s difficult to believe that she arrived here less than eight years ago. Along with her role as Curator of Special Collections and as subject liaison for Western European History, Julie took on many more responsibilities in Special Collections and in the Hesburgh Libraries.

Julie’s impact on the role and visibility of the Rare Books and Special Collections has been appreciated throughout campus and beyond. In her willingness to partner with professors of History, English, Design, and other disciplines to plan excellent programs for research, she has set high standards for her fellow curators. In fact, she initiated and designed many programs that are now an integral part of RBSC.

Julie approaches the library world not as a gate-keeper but in the generous spirit of an educator who wishes everyone to learn and to benefit from the collection. Her outreach to professors who had not considered integrating rare books and other library materials in their courses has had great results. Julie applies the same high standards of planning, teaching and performance from tours for the children of Notre Dame’s Early Childhood Development Center to a research methods class for graduate students.

Julie’s commitment to outreach helped ensure that Rare Books & Special Collections was a welcoming place for students and faculty. But it wasn’t just members of the Notre Dame community who benefited from Julie’s vision.

Everyone who came in, from visiting researchers, who gained access to far more research materials than they originally anticipated, to football fans who happened to wander in on a rainy Football Friday just curious about what goes on behind the smoky glass walls on the first floor of the Hesburgh Library, left fascinated by the items housed in our department—all thanks to Julie. One notable visitor was a ten year old boy from Albania. Julie had noticed the young man and his English-language tutor visiting our exhibit room weekly. They liked to look at the books in the glass cases and study the English letters on the exhibit cards. Julie introduced herself and asked if, on their next visit, they would like to see some more items from Special Collections … outside the glass. Julie carefully choreographed a display for the young man. He left in awe of what he had seen,  with a personalized Special Collections coloring book in hand, full of English letters and wonderful pictures to aid him in his studies. For the remainder of the semester he would come in to say hello and happily test out the new English words he had learned.

The current exhibit, Paws, Hooves, Fins & Feathers, co-curated with Erika Hosselkus, was planned with the greater community in mind. Julie and Erika curated an exhibit that highlights our remarkable natural history collection, with a well-planned outreach to local schools integrated into the plan. In light of the closure, they have transformed the physical exhibit in a digital one, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers Digital.

As a historian, Julie has been proactive in ensuring that Notre Dame’s students receive a good grounding in library and archival research, and her work over the years with library colleagues and with faculty from various departments, has resulted in the development of a series of classes and workshops carried out in the Special Collections.

Despite Julie’s dislike for our Midwestern winters, she was invariably the first person to arrive every morning. We expect her to send us regular notes about the warm temperatures in Arizona. And in return, we will send Julie pictures of any innovations we develop in the design of our reading room, because Julie taught us that there is an optimal way to arrange the classroom furniture for every class.

We wish Julie the very best in her new endeavor.

Congratulations to the 2020 graduates!

All of us in Rare Books and Special Collections send our best wishes to all of the 2020 graduates of the University of Notre Dame.

We would particularly like to congratulate the following students who have worked in the department:

Eve Wolynes (ND ’20), Ph.D., Department of History. Her dissertation is titled Migrant Mentalities: Reconstructing the Community Identity and World of Venetian Merchants in the Late Medieval Mediterranean.

Hannah Benchik (SMC ’20), Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Saint Mary’s College, with a minor in German from Notre Dame.

Jessica Saeli (ND ’20), Bachelor’s, double major in Philosophy and Russian.

Both images: MSE/EM 110-1B, Diploma, University of Padua, 1690

Movements in Art: Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider)

by Julie Tanaka, Curator of Special Collections

In 1911, a new group of artists who called themselves Der Blaue Reiter organized its own exhibition and published an almanac also named Der Blaue Reiter. Edited by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc and published by Reinhard Piper in Munich, this volume contains a wide range of contributions including theoretical treatises on artistic form, vocal scores, children’s drawings, and illustrations of sculpture.

The formation of this group stemmed from an event involving Kandinsky. Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), the Moscow native who was among the pioneers of abstract art, composed ten works between 1910 and 1939 that he considered to be his most important paintings. These ten paintings constitute his Compositions of which seven survive; the first three were destroyed during the Second World War. The artist’s guiding principle for each of these works was what he called the “expression of feeling” or “inner necessity,” a combination of “perceptions that arise from the artist’s inner world [and] . . . the impressions the artist receives from external appearances.” (1) In these paintings, Kandinsky explored the manipulation of color and form, emphasizing the artist’s process of creation and “pure” painting.

During the process of creating Compositions, Kandinsky submitted Composition V (1911) to the Neue Künstlervereinigung (NKV) to be considered for inclusion in the NKV’s third exhibition in 1911. The NKV jury rejected his work on the grounds that it was too large though the rejection probably represented the opinions of a faction within this group who opposed Kandinsky’s experimentation to represent spiritual values in a new way. (2) Upon his work being rejected, Kandinsky along with Franz Marc and Gabriele Münter left the NKV. Joined by others including Paul Klee, August Macke, and Marianne von Werefkin who also rejected the NKV’s traditionalism, these artists founded Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider).

Special Collections’ copy of the 1912 printing of Der Blaue Reiter is one among a few works acquired related to German Expressionism. These acquisitions were made in collaboration with faculty in the German Department to support the undergraduate courses they teach. Notable among these works are:

 

Notes:

(1) Magdalena Dabrowski. Kandinsky Compositions (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1995), p. 11. Accessed April 12, 2020, https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015034282809 (\Access provided through HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service).

(2) Shearer West, The Visual Arts in Germany, 1890-1937: Utopia and Despair (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2001), p. 65.

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)

Upcoming Events: February and early March

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

Thursday, February 20 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: MA student research presentations.

Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.


The spring exhibitPaws, Hooves, Fins & Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800, is now 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) and Ruskin, Turner, and Popular Taste (February 2020), both featuring materials from Special Collections relating to the Ruskin Conference being held at Notre Dame in February.

Recent Acquisition: Miniature Books on the Four Elements

by Julie Tanaka, Curator, Special Collections

Les Quatre élémens appeared around 1830 in Paris printed by Maulde and Renou. These four miniatures—a mere 3.25 x 2 inches—were designed to teach French children about the properties of the four elements: earth, fire, water, and air.

Each volume is a tricesimo-secondo, more commonly referred to as a “32mo”. In book production, these terms refer to a single sheet that has been folded to produce 32 leaves (64 pages).  Each volume has glazed pastel paper boards (covers) in lavender, yellow, green, and pink. Each front cover is blindstamped with a decorative frame that surrounds a raised vignette representing the element featured in the volume.

Inside of each book are two wood engravings. One of the engravings in La Terre depicts a family fleeing an earthquake (below) and its other shows farmers harvesting crops.

Le Eau contains wood engravings of a fisherman (above) as well as a flood. In Le Feu, children see a volcano erupting (below) as well as a display of fireworks.

In the fourth book, Le Air, a mother and her children look upon a hot air balloon (above) and in the other wood engraving, the winds blows a man’s hat off.

Special Collections’ acquisition of this fine example of nineteenth-century science education in France was a collaboration with Professor Robert Goulding (Program of Liberal Studies, Director of the Reilly Center, and Director of History and Philosophy  of Science). Professor Goulding states that this set is “probably one of the last publications to teach the old system of the elements as a scientific theory.”