Archive for March, 2012

Just acquired, a copy of Nuttall’s Manual of the Ornithology of the United States and Canada (Boston, 1840) which belonged to Vincent Barnard, a 19thC Pennsylvania naturalist.

The author of the book, Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859), was born in Yorkshire, worked as an apprentice printer in Liverpool, and became so enamored of natural history that he emigrated to Philadelphia in 1808, where he found a mentor and patron in professor Benjamin S. Barton (U Penn).  Nuttall then traveled the U.S., from the Great Lakes to New Orleans, and across the southeast. Returning to the Northeast, he lectured at Yale in 1822 (on botany) and was appointed curator of the Botanic Garden at Harvard in 1823, lecturing there until 1834.  His study of birds dates from this period, from which the present book was produced.

A former owner of this book was Vincent Barnard (1825-1871), a native of Pennsylvania described as “naturalist, botanist, ornithologist, entomologist, taxidermist, mineralogist, artisan and universal genius.”  On one of the blank fly-leaves is written “Vincent Barnard Bought Philada 8th Mo 2nd, 1847,” and a two-page “list of new species described by Audubon discovered since the publication of Nuttall’s manual.”  Shown here, opposite the title-page, is an explanation of Barnard’s annotating system:

“The species marked thus + , I have seen in a living state”

“Those marked thus ++ are prepared in my collection.”

“[three vertical plus signs] This mark denotes that the species was not described in the first edition of this work”

“cc signifies that the species is an inhabitant of Chester County, PA.”


“Master Class” on early Italian books

   Posted by: rring    in Events

Last night we were happy to host Michelangelo Zaccarello (Università di Verona), a philologist and expert on book history, who held a two-hour “master class” seminar on several early printed books from Italy in the Watkinson’s collection.

Professor Dario Del Puppo brought the group together, which included students from both Trinity and UConn.  Michelangelo provided a narrative about the history of each book (which included our copy of Galileo’s Diologo (1632),  and why he chose these in particular. He also emphasized the book market in Italy in the Renaissance and Early Modern period, and spoke with knowledge about the market conditions for these rarities today.


CT author on Beards

   Posted by: rring    in New acquisition

Here is a fun little nugget we just acquired by Connecticut author/bookseller Edwin Valentine Mitchell (1890-1960), published in 1930.  “This year,” says the dust-jacket blurb, “may be said to mark the centennial of the beard in the United States.  One hundred years ago Joseph Palmer, a friend of Emerson and Bronson Alcott, was flung into jail in Worcester, Massachusetts, as a result of his refusal to shave.  To commemorate this event the author has written a history of beards from the earliest times down to the present day, with descriptions of the world’s most famous beards, real, false, and coloured.  Many strange and obscure volumes have been delved into for material, and some strange and amusing anecdotes have been retrieved.”

“The notes of this little bird render it more conspicuous than most of its genus, for although they cannot be called very musical, they are far from being unpleasant, and are uttered so frequently during the day, that one, in walking along the briary ranges of the fences, is almost necessarily brought to listen to its whitititee, repeated three or four times every five or six minutes, the bird seldom stopping expressly to perform its music, but merely uttering the notes after it has picked an insect from amongst the leaves of the low bushes which it usually inhabits.  It then hops a step or two up or down, and begins again.

Although timid, it seldom flies far off at the approach of man, but instantly dives into the thickest parts of its favorite bushes and high grass, where it continues searching for food either along the twigs, or among the dried leaves on the ground, and renews its little song when only a few feet distant.

Its nest is one of those which the Cow Bunting (Icterus pecoris) selects, in which to deposit one of its eggs, to be hatched by the owners, that bird being similar in this respect to the European Cuckoo.  The nest, which is placed on the ground, and partly sunk in it, is now and then covered over in the form of an oven, from which circumstance children name this warbler the Oven-bird . . . it does not chase insects by flying after them, but secures them by surprise.  Caterpillars and spiders form its principal food.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 121.