A curious hieroglyphick Bible, or, Select passages in the Old and New Testaments, represented with emblematical figures, for the amusement of youth: designed chiefly to familiarize tender age, in a pleasing and diverting manner, with early ideas of the Holy Scriptures: to which are subjoined, a short account of the lives of the Evangelists, and other pieces: illustrated with nearly five hundred cuts. Worcester, Massachusetts: Isaiah Thomas, 1788.
Isaiah Thomas’s hieroglyphic Bible of 1788 is both a landmark piece of American children’s literature and a newly ambitious use of woodcut illustration in an American printed book. The idea of a hieroglyphic Bible, in which select scriptural passages were presented in a combination of words and images, was consistent with Thomas’s interest in works for children that simultaneously instructed and amused. He based his book on an English edition first published in 1783. In his preface—dedicated to the “parents, guardians, and governesses of the [newly constituted] United States of America”—Thomas notes the “considerable expense” involved in commissioning the hundreds of woodcuts that fill the book. Some of these, to the modern eye at least, seem a bit opaque; fortunately, Thomas printed the full text of each passage at the foot of the page. The present copy is a first edition, with all of its pages intact. It was acquired by the Libraries in January 2015.
This exhibition highlights the variety of medieval liturgical manuscripts and fragments housed in the University of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library which contain music. The manuscripts featured date from the eleventh through fifteenth century, and originate from various regions in France, Germany, Austria, and Italy. Some examples represent specific uses such as Carthusian monks or Dominican nuns. Other manuscripts in this exhibit were recovered from book bindings and serve as examples of older practices which may no longer exist in complete manuscripts.
While the etchings from this book are well-known, both as framed reproductions and from the 1978 Dolmen Press edition, original editions, with their large and detailed prints, are very uncommon.
James Malton accompanied his father, an English architectural draughtsman, to Ireland and was employed for a time by the famous architect James Gandon, who was then working on Dublin’s Custom House. He was dismissed and later worked on a series of drawings of Dublin buildings, first published in six parts between 1792 and 1799 and later, in 1799, published in one volume.
I would like to welcome readers to Hesburgh Libraries’ Rare Books and Special Collections Blog. The postings will include highlights from our rich and diverse collections, news about acquisitions, events, and exhibits, our services, and behind-the-scenes looks at the work of our curators and conservators.
Hesburgh Libraries at the University of Notre Dame holds diverse collections of rare and unique materials that range from a Babylonian cylinder from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II to Jean-Pierre Hébert’s In Visible Cities—a twenty-first century artist book that meshes the poetry of Italo Calvino with data landscapes generated from computer code based on the artist’s interpretation of Calvino’s writings. Our holdings include manuscripts, archives, rare books, periodicals, photographs, artist books, ephemera, and other materials with particular strengths in Roman Catholic Studies, Medieval Studies, Irish literature, Italian literature, Latin American history and culture, 20th-century Russian history and culture, Botany, and American sports. Every year, we welcome undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, other researchers, and the general public to our department to use our collections and attend our exhibitions and programs.
For more information about our department and collections, I invite you to visit our website and subscribe to our RSS feed (http://blogs.nd.edu/rbsc/feed/).