Archive for March, 2015

IMG_3031We are fortunate indeed to own a fabulous resource for the study of native Mexican culture, which came to my attention (as many things do) when a professor “discovered” we had it and asked to bring in a class to see it. Professor Chris Couch brought his American Studies (870) class on artistic and linguistic traditions of Native Americans (primarily North- and Central America) to look at this and other sources in the Watkinson.

Antiquities of Mexico (London, 1831-1848, 9 volumes), compiled by Edward King, Viscount Kingsborough (1795-1837). Its publisher was Robert Havell (of Audubon fame).





img135This copy was donated to the Watkinson Library in the spring of 1910 by the Rev. Dr. Melancthon Williams Jacobus (1855-1937), and his wife, Clara May, whom he married in Hartford in 1896. Jacobus was a Pennsylvania-born graduate of Princeton (class of 1877), who studied at the Princeton Theological Seminary (1878-81) and abroad at Gottingen and Berlin. In 1884 he became pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Oxford, PA until 1891, when he  came to the Hartford Theological Seminary to take the position of Hosmer Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Criticism, retiring to emeritus in 1928. He was a Trustee of the Watkinson for 31 years, from 1906-37, was a generous donor of books and supplies, and served as Board President from 1924-35. In 1916 he was instrumental in founding the Kingswood academy (now Kingswood Oxford School) in West Hartford, donating 18 acres of land for the campus.


[The following is quoted in full from a London bookseller’s excellent description of a copy currently on the market]IMG_3032

The greatest illustrated work on Mexican antiquities. Supported by Sir Thomas Phillipps – many of whose manuscripts are described in the Antiquities – Edward King, Viscount Kingsborough (1795 – 1837), who first became fascinated by Mexican artifacts whilst studying at Oxford, employed the Italian painter Augustine Aglio to scour Europe’s greatest libraries and private collections for Mexican manuscripts. Aglio sketched and later lithographed these manuscripts for publication here in Kingsborough’s magnum opus. Although Kingsborough’s intention was to prove that the indigenous people of the Americas were a lost tribe of Israel, he inadvertently produced one of the most important books on the architecture and extant codices of Central America and Mexico ever produced. The cost of producing the work was enormous and Kingsborough reportedly spent more than £32,000, driving him into bankruptcy and debtor’s prison as well as litigation with Phillips. Kingsborough died of typhoid contracted while in prison for a debt to a paper manufacturer mere months before he inherited the estate, with an annual income of £40,000, of his father, the Duke of Kingston. This set is from the Havell issue: Aglio began publication of the first five volumes in 1830 but later, in 1831, transferred publication to Havell and Colnaghi who printed newer title pages. Besides Aglio’s reproductions of manuscripts in the Bodleian, the Vatican Library, the Imperial Library of Vienna, the Library of the Institute at Bologna, and the royal libraries of Berlin, Dresden, and Budapest, the work includes Dupaix’s ‘Monuments of New Spain’ (‘the first drawings of Maya architecture to be published’, Wauchope), taken from Castaneda’s original drawings, and descriptions of sculptures and artifacts from several private collections. The text, with sections in Spanish, English, French, and Italian, includes Sahagun’s ‘Historia General de la Nueva Espana’ and the chronicles of Tezozomoc and Ixtlilxochitl.

I’d like to notice two editions of John Gerard’s (1545-1612) famous herbal in the Watkinson:

Gerard0005The Herball; or, Generall Historie of Plantes (London, 1597), and The Herball, or General Historie of Plantes . . . very much enlarged and amended (London, 1636).

[The following description is quoted directly from the antiquarian firm Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts, which was describing another copy for sale]

The story is famous: John Norton, Queen’s printer, wished to bring out an English language version of Dodoen’s Pemptades of 1583 and hired a certain “Dr. Priest” to do so, but the translator died with the work only partially done. A copy of the manuscript translation made its way into John Gerard’s hands and he seized the opportunity, reorganizing the contents, obscuring the previous translator’s contribution, incorporating aspects of Rembert and Cruydenboeck’s works, and commandeering the result as his own.

Gerard abandoned Dodoen’s classification, opting for l’Obel’s instead, and, in a stroke of ambition and brilliance, illustrated the work with more than 2,500 woodcuts of plants. Many of these are large and all are attractive but more than a few were of plants he himself did not know, thus leading to considerable confusion between illustration and text in the earliest editions, this being third overall and the second with Thomas Johnson’s additions and amendments.

Gerard0004For both Johnson editions a large number of the woodcuts were obtained from the famous Leyden printing and publishing firm of Moretus, successors to the highly famous firm of Plantin. As Johnston notes: “Most of the cuts were those used in the botanicals published by Plantin, although a number of new woodcuts were added after drawings by Johnson and Goodyer” (Cleveland Herbal . . . Collections, #185). The large thick volume begins with a handsome engraved title-page by John Payne incorporating a bust of the author, urns with flowers and herbs, and full-length seated images of Dioscorides and Theophrastus and of Ceres and Pomona. Replacing the missing initial blank is a later leaf on which is mounted a large engraving of Gerard. The text is printed in italic, roman, and gothic type.

There is, to us, a surprising and very interesting section on grapes and wines. The first part of our caption delights partly in discovery that maize, the “corn” of the U.S., is here called “turkey wheat” — with further note that you can make bread of it, but that the result is pleasing only to “barbarous” tastes! The entry as a whole shows Gerard at his characteristic best, at once scientifically systematic and engagingly discursive.