Reframing the Present: The Renaissance Architecture of Andrea Palladio

Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), as painted by El Greco in 1575. Palladio's writings represent the apogee of Renaissance architectural thought.

Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), as painted by El Greco in 1575. Palladio’s writings represent the apogee of Renaissance architectural thought.

In 1452, the Italian polymath Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) completed his De re aedificatoria, the first theoretical treatment of architecture since Vitruvius wrote his De architectura in 15 BC. This classical text served as the main inspiration for Alberti’s treatise, which in turn sparked a proliferation of architectural studies over the course of the Renaissance.

The apogee of these studies was Andrea Palladio’s I quattro libri dell’architettura (Four Books on Architecture). In 1570, Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) had been active as an architect in the north Italian Veneto for over three decades. It was then that he first published his treatise on architecture. The copy that belongs to the Burns Library is from a later edition of 1581, published in Venice by Bartholomeo Carampello. This volume is tall and wide but relatively thin. Its binding, which is in fair condition, possibly dates from the eighteenth century and combines a leather spine with composition board covers.

Palladio’s treatise built on the theories and practices that had been honed by classical Greeks and Romans. This body of knowledge was preserved only through Vitruvius, the only classical architect whose writings survived into the modern age. More recently, Vitruvius had been revived and championed by architects of the early Italian Renaissance, especially Leon Battista Alberti. This historical understanding helps situate I quattro libri in a discourse with thinkers from both the ancient and the more recent past, and it consequently allows for a better understanding of Palladio’s architectural achievements.

Title page to the fourth book of Palladio's I quattro libri dell’architettura.

Title page to the fourth book of Palladio’s I quattro libri dell’architettura, NA 2515 .P25 1581 General, John J. Burns Library, Boston College. Queen Virtue rules at the top, recalling a heroic Roman past.

I quattro libri thus joined a conversation that Renaissance architects had been sharing with the classical past for well over a century. In the dedication, Palladio relates, “I have seen with my own eyes and measured with my own hands the fragments of many ancient buildings [in Rome], which … provide, even as stupendous ruins, clear and powerful proof of the virtù and greatness of the Romans.” This concept of virtù that Palladio employs was, like his architecture, a revival of classical precedent. In this case, Palladio’s reference to the Latin virtus connotes the character traits—such as valor, excellence, and virility—which had been most valued in ancient Roman society.

By favoring a Roman style, Palladio rejected the Gothic architecture that had had a noticeable presence in the Veneto region where he worked. By doing so, he sought to contribute to Italy’s systematic purge of ostensibly foreign and barbarous influences—an effort that extended beyond the arts and into the realm of politics. Given that Palladio’s life coincided with the Italian Wars (1494-1559) and their aftermath, which saw the near complete subjugation of the peninsula by the foreign Habsburg dynasty, this tinge of xenophobia in his writing is perhaps understandable.

Column illustration from I quattro libri

Column illustration from I quattro libri. Palladio made the column his basic design element, using it to establish the proportions of exterior facades and interior rooms.

By couching his theories in the same philosophical musings that had so interested Vitruvius and other Renaissance architects, Palladio associated I quattro libri with the architecture of classical Rome and the early Italian Renaissance. He did not root his proportional guidelines, however, in the same grandiose abstractions that earlier theorists had borrowed from ideals of human anatomy or musical theory. Instead, he made the diameter of a building’s columns the heart of his design schemes. From this single measurement, he extrapolated ratios to govern a structure’s composition. Instead of regarding the column as merely an ornament whose properties derived from a building’s dimensions, as had been common practice throughout the Renaissance, Palladio flipped this formula on its head, making the totality of his structures derive from their columns’ dimensions.

I quattro libri - Villa Almerico Capra

Palladio included his design for the Villa Almerico Capra in I quattro libri. It’s plan hearkened back to classical motifs and rejected Gothic influence.

A strict reading of Palladio’s rules results in column diameter determining not only column height, the spacing of columns, and the size of the structures that the columns support, but also the placing of junctures between internal and external walls, which in turn determines the sizes of internal rooms. Thus by adapting a largely ignored principle from Vitruvius (using only small spaces between external columns) to a Renaissance-era practice of construction (aligning the placing of internal walls with the spacing of external columns), Palladio created an intricate system of relationships that dictated the forms that his buildings could take—all based on the size of a column’s diameter. Moreover, he applied these relationships rigorously. They may be seen, among other projects, in the Palazzo Chiericati (1550) and the villas Cornaro (1553), Badoer (1556), Foscari (1559), Emo (1564), and Almerico Capra (1567.)

Palladio's Villa Almerico Capra.

Palladio’s Villa Almerico Capra (also known as the Villa Rotunda) captures many of the revived classical elements that gave the Renaissance its name.

Andrea Palladio’s I quattro libri dell’architettura arguably signaled the apogee of Renaissance architectural writing, the final and most sophisticated publication in a genre introduced by Alberti in the 1450s. As was the case with so many other intellectuals during the Renaissance, Palladio’s ideas did not interact solely with his near contemporaries but also with the thinkers of the classical world. Renaissance humanists like Palladio saw in the classical world a way of reframing their present reality according to a naturalism and rationale that contrasted sharply with the medieval era they desired to oppose. Such was Palladio’s aim in articulating his complex, highly refined style of architecture and basing it, at least in part, on Vitruvian principles.

If you would like to peruse this volume, visit the John J. Burns Library Reading Room. For more information, contact the Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.

  • John Sullivan, BC ’15 & Student in Professor Virginia Reinburg’s Fall 2014 Early Printed Books: History and Craft

This blog post comes from the Early Printed Books: History and Craft class, which was taught by BC History Professor Virginia Reinburg in Fall 2014.

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One Story Draws Another: Irish American History in Boston

 

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These selections from the Irish American manuscript collections at the Burns Library are loosely bound together by common threads of shared affiliation with the University and with the City of Boston – its business and its politics. To each of us working on this section, the starting place for selecting Irish American related material was evident: Boston. Our initial choices included seemingly unrelated items from University Archives and alumni papers, Boston historical collections, political papers, and business records; however, as we talked, ideas came together and connections emerged.

Among the first Boston College students was James O’Brien, son of successful newspaper editor and Boston’s first Irish-born mayor, Hugh O’Brien. Here begins a tradition of Boston College alumni associations with local business and politics. Many Boston-area politicians were Boston College alums, including John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, John F. O’Connell, and Tip O’Neill, not to mention Boston College Law School faculty member Robert F. Drinan, SJ. Within our collections, political legacies are intertwined with social and commercial relationships. “Honey Fitz” was, of course, John F. Kennedy’s grandfather; the Kennedys vacationed with the Donnellys, another prominent Irish Catholic family whose sons attended Boston College.  Scion of the family Edward C. Donnelly, Jr. married infamous Boston mayor James Michael Curley’s daughter, Mary. The connections don’t end there! Musician P. S. Gilmore, Irish nationalist George D. Cahill, and author and editor John Boyle O’Reilly all fit into the tale of Irish American history in Boston.

The efforts of Boston’s Catholics were realized when the Commonwealth granted a charter to the Society of Jesus to operate a school for young men in its South End neighborhood in 1863. The College’s earliest students were sons of artisans, tradesmen, merchants, widows, and laborers. Newspaperman Hugh O’Brien, who would later become the city’s first Irish-born mayor, was one such parent.

As Boston continued to grow in the years following the Civil War, the influence of Irish Americans upon the life of the city also grew.  Bandleader P.S. Gilmore’s National and World Peace Jubilees were massive musical concerts in Copley Square that Bostonians of all walks of life enjoyed. On a smaller scale, Gilmore also provided entertainment for social events like Boston’s Fenian Brotherhood’s Annual Ball.

Irish immigrant George Cahill of Quincy was active in both local and Irish politics. His papers offer glimpses of the Boston area activities of the Irish National Land League, Irish National League of America, and Boston’s Fenian Brotherhood, and include communications with Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa and John Boyle O’Reilly.

Convicted Fenian John Boyle O’Reilly came to Boston after escaping British prison in Fremantle Australia aboard a New Bedford whaler, the Gazelle. Poet, novelist, and editor of the Boston Pilot,  O’Reilly was one of the city’s most celebrated residents.

Political clout increased for Boston’s first generation Irish Americans.  Charismatic John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald and Joseph F. O’Connell both attended Boston College. Fitzgerald – who served as congressman, senator, and mayor – closely advised his grandson, John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president of the United States. Congressman O’Connell was a founder of the first Boston College football team and of a successful law practice.

Despite Tip O’Neill’s assertion that “all politics is local,” Boston’s Irish American political leaders have excelled on an international scale. Among the examples with ties to Boston College were repeated visitor John F. Kennedy, alumnus Tip O’Neill, and faculty
member Robert F. Drinan, SJ. Will Boston College alumnus Mayor of Boston Martin J. “Marty” Walsh continue this international trend?

The exhibit, One Story Draws Another: Staff Selections from the Irish Collections at the Burns Library, is on display at the Burns Library through May 8th, 2015 and is open during regular library hours.  The exhibit is divided into five sections:  Irish American History in Boston, Irish American Fine Press Books, Irish Traditional Music, Irish Literature, and  Researcher Stories.   To learn more about this exhibit, read the exhibit handout or view this slideshow.  If you have further questions, please contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.

  • Shelley Barber, Reference & Archives Specialist
  • Amy Braitsch, Head Archivist
  • Xaviera Flores, Archives Assistant
  • Adrienne Pruitt, Processing Archivist

Burns Library Archival Collections Consulted

Posted in Archives & Manuscripts, Archives Diary, B. C. History, Digital Projects, Exhibits & Events, Featured Collections & Books, Staff Posts, University Archives | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Story Draws Another: Researcher Stories

osda_exhibitpostertomay8The fifth and final section of  the Burns Library exhibit One Story Draws Another, featuring publications that draw on one or more Burns Library Irish collections, is now on display in the Ford Tower.   This Researcher Stories section joins the four  main sections of this exhibit, which focus on Irish American Fine Press Books, Irish Traditional Music, Irish American History in Boston, and Irish Literature as seen through the materials in the Burns Library’s Irish collections.  The entire exhibit is on display at the Burns Library through May 8th, 2015.

Researchers are at the core of the work of the Burns Library. Scholars and writers spend many hours in the Burns Reading Room studying books, manuscripts, and archival holdings in the Burns Library’s Irish collections.  They then use this research to write books and articles on a variety of Irish subjects and topics.The stories these researchers tell explore the history, relationships, and accomplishments of Irish and Irish American subjects.  Whether they tell stories of peace or imprisonment, politics or physical space, these publications ask us to engage with the shared lineage of Ireland and how it informs and connects these various works to each other. We hope you enjoy these books and articles from researchers who have worked with our Irish collections and the stories they tell.

To learn more about these publications researched in the Burns Library’s Irish collections, click on the images below for a slideshow with commentary from the researchers themselves.  The One Story Draws Another exhibit is on display at the Burns Library through May 8th, 2015 and is open during regular library hours.  You can also view a selection of images from the other sections of the exhibit in this slideshow.  If you have further questions, please contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.

Posted in Archives & Manuscripts, B. C. History, Exhibits & Events, Featured Collections & Books, Researcher Posts, Staff Posts, University Archives | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Black Literature as American History: The Works of Phillis Wheatley, Countee Cullen, and Richard Wright

The <a href = "http://www.naacp.org/blog/entry/naacp-commemorates-black-history-month-2015">NAACP's</a> poster for Black History Month 2015.

The NAACP’s poster for Black History Month 2015.

Black History Month has been celebrated during the month of February since its precursor—Carter G. Woodson’s Negro History Week—was first observed in 1926. Black History Month provides an opportunity to commemorate the various contributions of black Americans to the history and culture of the United States, but this tribute should extend throughout the calendar year rather than be confined to a single twenty-eight day period.

Although the Burns Library is best known for its collections relating to Irish studies, Jesuitica, Catholic liturgy and life in America, and Boston history, the library’s expansive holdings include many materials outside of these topics. In efforts to extend the spirit of Black History Month, this post highlights a less prominent portion of the Burns collection: the works of black American writers such as Phillis Wheatley, Countee Cullen, and Richard Wright. These writers were essential contributors to the American literary canon and their texts help illuminate not just African American history, but American history more broadly from the antebellum period through the twentieth century.

Engraving of Phillis Wheatley from <a href = "http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&vid=bclib&onCampus=true&group=GUEST&loc=local,scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21371939730001021">Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley</a>, PS 866 .W5 1838, Boston Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Engraving of Phillis Wheatley from Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley, PS 866 .W5 1838, Boston Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

In 1761, Phillis Wheatley endured the Middle Passage of the transatlantic slave trade and arrived in colonial Massachusetts, where she was purchased by Boston merchant John Wheatley as a ladies maid for his wife. Phillis learned to read and write from the Wheatleys’ daughter Mary and soon demonstrated an “uncommon intelligence” and a proclivity for poetry. In 1773, with the publication of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, Phillis Wheatley became the first published African American woman.

Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley, a Native African and a Slave was originally published in Boston in 1834. In the Burns Library’s Boston Collection is a copy of this text’s third edition, published in 1838, which contains the full text of Wheatley’s 1773 anthology in addition to extensive biographical information provided by Margaretta Matilda Odell, “a collateral descendant of Mrs. Wheatley.” Odell’s account is the only comprehensive documentation of Wheatley’s life, continuing to serve as the primary source of biographical material for modern biographers of Wheatley. Odell chronicles the life of Wheatley, describing her girlhood in Boston, travels in London, emancipation, marriage, motherhood, decline into poverty, and ultimate death at the age of thirty-one.

Title page from <a href = "http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&vid=bclib&onCampus=true&group=GUEST&loc=local,scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21371939730001021">Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley</a>, PS 866 .W5 1838, Boston Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Title page from Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley, PS 866 .W5 1838, Boston Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

In response to tempered praise of Wheatley as talented, but “a solitary instance of African genius,” Odell insisted that other enslaved individuals would have undoubtedly demonstrated similar intelligence had they, like Phillis Wheatley, fallen into “generous and affectionate hands.” According to Odell, slavery fettered both the bodies and minds of the individuals in its grip. “How then can it be known,” Odell implored, “how often the light of genius is quenched in suffering and death?”

Interestingly, Odell’s anthology also contains the works of George Moses Horton, who became the first black poet published in the American South in 1829. His first book of poems, entitled The Hope of Liberty, was published while he was still a slave in Chatham County, North Carolina. In combining the work of Wheatley and Horton, Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley, a Native African and a Slave, represents two of the three black American authors (the third is Jupiter Hammon) who were published while still enslaved.

Front cover of <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&vid=bclib&onCampus=true&group=GUEST&loc=local,scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21379413330001021">Caroling Dusk</a>, PS 591 .N4 C8, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Front cover of Caroling Dusk, PS 591 .N4 C8, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Born in 1903, poet Countee Cullen was raised in Harlem, New York City. After attending high school in the Bronx, Cullen entered New York University, where his work enjoyed wide publication and received numerous awards. In 1925, Cullen matriculated at Harvard University to pursue a masters degree in English. In the same year, Cullen’s poetry was first anthologized in a collection entitled Color. Countee Cullen was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance—the 1920s cultural movement that produced an outpouring of African American art, literature, music, and cultural expression. His poetry was nationally known, he received more literary awards than any other black writer in the 1920s, and he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1928.

Title page featuring decorations by Aaron Douglas from <a href = "http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&vid=bclib&onCampus=true&group=GUEST&loc=local,scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21379413330001021">Caroling Dusk</a>, PS 591 .N4 C8, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Title page featuring decorations by Aaron Douglas from Caroling Dusk, PS 591 .N4 C8, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The Burns Library has a first edition copy of Countee Cullen’s Caroling Dusk: An Anthology of Verse by Negro Poets. Published in 1927 by Harper and Brothers, Caroling Dusk collectively presents the poetry of many prominent and lesser-known black poets of the Harlem Renaissance era, including Langston Hughes, Anne Spencer, Claude McKay, Gwendolyn Bennett, James Weldon Johnson, Mary Effie Lee Newsome, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and Countee Cullen himself. The book also includes decorations by black artist Aaron Douglas, another famous figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

The purpose of Caroling Dusk, as Cullen explained in the foreword, was to make more widely available the collected works of black poets gaining popularity during the Harlem Renaissance. Although Cullen was committed to publicizing the work of black poets, he was insistent that the art of poetry transcended racial difference. In the text’s foreword, Cullen explained his reasons for subtitling his anthology “An Anthology of Verse by Negro Poets” rather than “An Anthology of Negro Verse.” According to Cullen, skin color was the only factor distinguishing black poets from white poets in the early twentieth century. “This country’s Negro writers may here and there turn some singular facet toward the literary sun,” Cullen wrote, “but in the main, since theirs is also the heritage of the English language, their work will not present any serious aberration from the poetic tendencies of their times.” Cullen believed that black poets were fundamentally American poets and that any distinction between the two was “needless.”

Front cover  of <a href="(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21356194250001021">Native Son</a> with original dust jacket, 03-187, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Front cover of Native Son with original dust jacket, 03-187, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Richard Wright was one of the most widely acclaimed black writers of the twentieth century. Born in 1908 in Mississippi, Wright left the Jim Crow South for Chicago in 1927, where he joined the Communist Party and began developing his writing craft. In 1937, Wright moved to New York. Wright came to national attention after the publication of his short story collection Uncle Tom’s Children in 1938, which also earned him a 1939 Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1940, Wright published the novel Native Son, followed by Black Boy in 1945. In 1946, disillusioned by the racial climate of the United States, Wright moved to Paris and became a permanent American expatriate. He continued to write extensively until his death in 1960.

Title page of  <a href = "http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&vid=bclib&onCampus=true&group=GUEST&loc=local,scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21356194250001021 >Native Son</a>, 03-187, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Title page of Native Son, 03-187, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The Burns Library possesses a first edition of Wright’s Native Son. The book retains its original dust jacket and was originally owned—as evidenced by an extant bookplate—by Gertrude M. Dagnino of Wakefield, MA. The novel is illustrative of the themes of race, violence, and class that emerge throughout Richard Wright’s work. Native Son follows the character of Bigger Thomas, a black nineteen year old living in Chicago’s South Side who commits two murders and is put on trial for his life. In Native Son, Wright sought to demonstrate the systemic societal, economic, and political forces behind black crime and poverty. The novel was a best-seller, and was the first book written by a black American author selected by the Book of the Month Club. Despite its popularity, Native Son drew criticism—most notably from James Baldwin—for its stereotypical depiction of a brutish black male. The popularity and controversy surrounding Native Son is a testament to the novel’s significance within American history and the American literary canon.

In addition to possessing great literary merit, these three texts guide readers through several of the most significant moments in American history: slavery, the Harlem Renaissance, and the tense racial climate of mid-twentieth century US. The works of Phillis Wheatley, Countee Cullen, and Richard Wright therefore underscore the literary and historical significance of black writers to a broader understanding of American cultural history. Their work should be read, discussed, and appreciated throughout the year, not only in February.

If you would like to learn more about these books, contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.  For more information on African American Literature, read BC Librarian Brendan Rapple’s African American Literature Guide and the American Antiquarian Society’s African American History Resources page.

  • Grace West, Burns Library Reading Room Student Assistant & BC’15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crossroads of Culture: Cristobál de Morales’ Missarum Liber Primus and Early Music Printing in Europe

Title page of <a title="Cristobál de Morales, Missarum liber primus (1546)" href="http://bclib.bc.edu/libsearch/bc/keyword/ALMA-BC21325919040001021" target="_blank"><em>Missarum liber primus</em></a> by Cristobál de Morales, M 1490.M67 1546 Oversize, John J. Burns Library, Boston College. A <a title="Cristobál de Morales, Missarum liber primus (1546)" href="http://hdl.handle.net/2345/3146" target="_blank">digital copy</a> of this volume is also available via the <a href = "http://www.bc.edu//libraries/collections/collinfo/digitalcollections.html">Boston College Digital Collections</a>.

Title page of Missarum liber primus by Cristobál de Morales, M 1490.M67 1546 Oversize, John J. Burns Library, Boston College. A digital copy of this volume is also available via the Boston College Digital Collections.

A book of polyphony written by a Spanish composer who worked in Rome, printed by an Italian living in France, inscribed with the ownership markings of a Portuguese monastery, sits in an American university library. The Missarum liber primus (First Book of Masses), printed by Jacques Moderne (c.1500-1560) in 1546, contains eight settings of the Catholic mass in four-, five-, and six-voice polyphony. These settings were composed by Cristobál de Morales (c.1500-1553), who published them while working in the papal service. Still in its original binding, this volume is remarkable for its preservation, as well as for its contents.

Visually, the book is striking. Folio sized, it measures forty-three centimeters tall and is bound in fine morocco leather. Like most books in the sixteenth century, it would have been most likely sold as unbound sheets. The purchaser would have taken these pages to a binder and ordered a binding unique to the book, called a “bespoke” binding. A fine binding such as this would have been a large expenditure, indicating a wealthy purchaser who anticipated using and possibly displaying this large book of music. It was purchased with the intent that many people would use it, and it shows signs of that use.

Binding of the Missarum liber primus.

“Bespoke” (custom-ordered) binding of the Missarum liber primus. The blind tooling is complex – a patterned border runs around the board, connected by diagonal lines to a patterned rectangle in the middle of the board, with a medallion of leaves and flowers in the very center. The tooling is finely executed, and the same design is repeated on the front and the back of the volume, with additional decoration on the spine.

The front flyleaf bears inscriptions from the royal monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra, Portugal, which owned the book beginning in the sixteenth century onward and possibly well into the eighteenth or nineteenth century. It is assembled in “choirbook” format, with each part displayed on each page (for example, one voice part in each quadrant of the open book), which allows a group of singers to stand around the book and each see their own part.

The book shows further signs of use – folio 3, for instance, displays a large patch, as does folio 4, which has been patched using a piece of another musical manuscript. The repairs indicate that the book was used extensively, and their concentration at the beginning indicates that the first setting, the Missa de beata virgine (Mass of the Blessed Virgin), was used more frequently than the others. Perhaps the canons of Santa Cruz favored that setting on the many celebrations of Mary in the Catholic liturgical calendar.

Santa Cruz was one of the oldest monasteries in Portugal, and it is not surprising to find a book of liturgical music with their ownership markings. Indeed, between 1520 and 1570, Coimbra experienced a transformation as the medieval university grew and stimulated the importation of goods from other parts of Europe, particularly books. This volume reflects connections between the Iberian Peninsula and a wider European network of trade and intellectual exchange. But how did the Missarum liber primus, which first appeared in Rome in 1544, come to be republished in Lyon, and finally end up in the monastery in Coimbra?

Missa de Beata Virgine

Kyrie from the Missa de Beata Virgine for four voices. All four parts are visible at once in this choirbook layout.  The initial “K” of each voice part is emphasized with a woodcut illustration. Note also the repairs to the left-hand folio, which indicate that this particular mass setting was frequently used among the canons of Santa Cruz.

Situated on the road from Paris to Italy, Lyon was a center of Renaissance printing, thought, and, trade. Printing was an incredibly important part of the city economy, and many printers, including Jacques Moderne, who published the Missarum liber primus, were immigrants. Moderne, whose original name was Jacopo Moderno, was from Istria, a peninsula in the Adriatic then under the control of the Republic of Venice.

Cristobál de Morales (c.1500-1553).

Cristobál de Morales (c.1500-1553). For Renaissance composers like Morales, composition and publication were one means for securing patronage. But for printers like Jacques Moderne, pirating and publication were the means to secure an income.

Moderne initially printed a variety of texts, but possibly because of increasing competition from other printers, Moderne began to specialize in music. Though Moderne pirated much of the non-musical literature he published, most of his printed music (as much as 78 percent) appears nowhere else before his editions. The Missarum liber primus is a significant exception to this rule. It was copied directly from an earlier Roman edition of 1544, down to the dedications, woodcuts, and decorative borders on the pages.

The Spanish-born composer, Cristobál de Morales, had been personally involved in publishing this first edition. Morales, like other musicians, depended on patronage and publication to make ends meet. But while Morales wrote for the papal choir between 1535 and 1545, the dedication of Missarum liber primus was to Cosimo de Medici, then-Duke of Florence. The connection between the two is blurry. While Cosimo certainly benefitted from this connection with the Pope through the papal singers, the benefit Morales received is unclear. In 1543, Morales signed a contract with Valerio Dorico, a printer in Rome, and two other publishers. Over the next year, he oversaw publication of the Missarum liber primus, which appeared on the market in 1544.

Dedication to Missarum liber primus.

Dedication to Cosimo de Medici, Duke of Florence (1389-1464). The reasons for this unexpected dedication remain obscure, but when Jacques Moderne published his pirated edition of the work, he reprinted the original dedication without change.

Moderne’s 1546 edition of Missarum liber primus was therefore neither the first edition nor a particularly original one. Moderne borrowed and re-used, saving money by not ordering new woodcuts in order to maximize his profits. Borrowing and even copying woodcuts from other printers was common practice, making it no trouble at all for Moderne to include very little original material in this book.

But the Missarum liber primus remains an important reminder of the complex world of music, publishing, and trade in the early sixteenth century ­– a reminder that cultural achievements cannot be separated from their social and economic contexts. Copying a recent edition of Morales’ Missarum liber primus was good business sense, not plagiarism. The book passed along the network of merchants connecting Lyons with the Iberian Peninsula, until it ended up at the monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra, Portugal, which was experiencing its own cultural renaissance. Far from being a dusty relic of the musical past, the 1546 Missarum liber primus demonstrates the complex intersections of music and print during the Renaissance.

If you would like to look at this volume, visit the John J. Burns Library Reading Room or view it online at http://hdl.handle.net/2345/3146.   For more information, contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.  For a different perspective on the Missarum liber primus, read this 2013 BC Libraries newsletter article about performing music using this volume.

  • Marie Pellissier, BC’15 & Student in Professor Virginia Reinburg’s Fall 2014 Early Printed Books: History and Craft

This blog post comes from the Early Printed Books:  History and Craft class, which was taught by BC History Professor Virginia Reinburg in Fall 2014. 

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Feeling the Cold?: Robert Boyle’s Experiments with Temperature

This <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Shannon_Portrait_of_the_Hon_Robert_Boyle.jpg">portrait</a> of Boyle by Johann Kerseboom is owned by the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, PA. Photo by Will Brown.

This portrait of Boyle by Johann Kerseboom is owned by the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, PA. Photo by Will Brown.

The seventeenth century was a crucial turning point for chemistry; it marked the beginning of the transition from alchemy to modern chemistry and the scientific method. Robert Boyle (1627–1691) is widely considered to be one of the period’s most influential chemists. Boyle made two important contributions to the field: he convincingly established chemistry as an important and distinct branch of natural philosophy, and he developed the experimental method as it relates to chemistry. He is best known for defining the inverse relationship between the pressure and volume of a gas—what is now known as Boyle’s Law. One of Boyle’s lesser known works is New Experiments and Observations Touching Cold, in which he attempts to deal with the nature of temperature.

Illustration from <a href =http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&vid=bclib&onCampus=true&group=GUEST&loc=local,scope:(BCL)&query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21343495500001021><i>New Experiments and Observations Touching Cold</i></a> by Robert Boyle, QC 271 .B69 1683, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Illustration from New Experiments and Observations Touching Cold by Robert Boyle, QC 271 .B69 1683, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The work was originally published in 1664 with the second edition issued in 1683. A copy of the second edition is held by the Burns Library. In New Experiments and Observations Touching Cold, part of Boyle’s challenge is to prove the difference between the subjective perception of one’s senses and the objective perception of a thermometer. He showed that if your hand was previously in cold water and then placed in water of ambient temperature, it would feel warm; conversely, if your hand was in hot water and then placed in water of ambient temperature, the water would feel cool when, in fact, it was the same temperature the whole time as the thermometer would corroborate. Boyle and his contemporaries saw heat and cold as separate entities. He observed that living organisms could regulate their temperatures: they can cool themselves in the heat and warm themselves in the cold. He interpreted these observations to mean that organisms produce heat and cold. Boyle concludes:

[W]hen a Body, wherein either [heat or cold] resides, happens to be surrounded by other Bodies, wherein the contrary Quality is predominant, the besieg’d Quality by retiring to the innermost parts of that which it possesses, and thereby recollecting its forces, and as it were animating itself to a vigorous defence, is intended or increased in its degree, and so becomes able to resist an adversary, that would otherwise easily destroy it.

Here, Boyle draws a number of false conclusions. He states that heat and cold can destroy each other if they are mixed together—a reasonable conclusion based on his assumption that heat and cold are separate entities. The heat or cold—whichever is being attacked—withdraws to within the body so as to defend itself against the opposing extreme. This explanation is now known to be false. Boyle’s biggest obstacle was seeing heat and cold as separate entities. According to modern thermodynamics, temperature is the measure of the average energy of a substance. The more energy a substance possesses, the higher the temperature and the hotter it feels. Cold is simply a lack of energy, a lack of heat. When two objects of different temperatures come in contact with one another, the object with more energy transfers some of its energy to the object with less energy until they reach equilibrium.

Title page from <a href="http://bc-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlSearch.do?institution=BCL&amp;vid=bclib&amp;onCampus=true&amp;group=GUEST&amp;loc=local,scope:(BCL)&amp;query=any,contains,ALMA-BC21343495500001021"><i>New Experiments and Observations Touching Cold</i></a> by Robert Boyle, QC 271 .B69 1683, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Title page from New Experiments and Observations Touching Cold by Robert Boyle, QC 271 .B69 1683, General Collection, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

In regard to the provenance of this particular volume, I have some information. The Burns Library’s copy second edition, which was issued in 1683. Ownership for this copy is unknown until the Mathematical Society in the London parish of Spitalfields acquired it, but the Mathematical Society in Spitalfields was founded in 1717 and was therefore not the original owner. The boards are stamped, both front and back, with “MATHEML SOCIETY,” and there is a “Mathematical Society, Spitalfields” stamp on the title page and the penultimate page. In 1845, the society dissolved and transferred its 3000 volume library and remaining members to the Royal Astronomical Society. The title page has a “Royal Astronomical Society” stamp above which is written “sold by” and below which is written “1951 Aug. 3 / E.W.” After the Royal Astronomical Society sold the book-copy to an unknown party in 1951, ownership remains uncertain until Boston College acquired the volume from a rare books dealer in 2009.

If you would like to peruse this volume, visit the John J. Burns Library Reading Room.  For more information, contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or burnsref@bc.edu.  If you’d like to learn more about early scientific works in the Burns Library’s collections, read this blog post about a previous exhibit of scientific works at Burns.

  • Christopher Petroff, BC’15 & Student in Professor Virginia Reinburg’s Fall 2014 Early Printed Books: History and Craft

This blog post comes from the Early Printed Books: History and Craft class, which was taught by BC History Professor Virginia Reinburg in Fall 2014. 

 

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History in the Making

"Early Printed Books: History and Craft" students working in the Burns Conservation lab.

“Early Printed Books: History and Craft” students working in the Burns Conservation lab.

During the Fall 2014 semester, Professor Virginia Reinburg’s history class “Early Printed Books:  History and Craft” was enhanced by integrating books from the John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections into the curriculum, and by incorporating hands-on workshops in the conservation lab, as a part of the course. Professor Reinburg specifically requested that the workshops happen in the Burns conservation lab, thereby re-defining the lab as a “makerspace” within the library.

Mason Bratberg '17 using a nipping press.  Photograph by Associate Professor Karen Miller.

Mason Bratberg ’17 using a nipping press. Photograph by Associate Professor Karen Miller.

Makerspaces are becoming popular as university libraries focus on ways to facilitate professors’ need to assist students in learning new skills and creating tangible projects. Often this relates to new and innovative technologies, but at Boston College, University Librarian Thomas B. Wall approved the use of the conservation lab as a makerspace for students to learn historic skills and traditional technologies. I taught 5 workshops to students in this class. Professor Reinburg, as well as Associate Professor Karen Miller, attended the workshops along with the students. The course focused on the revolution in ideas, culture, and technology spurred by Johan Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press around 1450, through reading and hands-on practice. The history of the book prior to 1800 was specifically addressed in the workshops. Because the conservation lab is associated with the Burns Library, I began each of the workshops by showing the students rare books in the Burns collections which illustrated the materials and techniques to be covered during the hands-on sessions. The projects in the workshops were chosen to help the students learn more about the properties of materials used by pre-1800 bookbinders, and to give them the opportunity to interact with the tools and equipment typically in use at that time.

Conservation assistants Anna Whitham '15 (on left) and James Heffernan '15 help Emma Dwyer '16 install one of the class's exhibits in the O'Neill Reading Room. Photograph by Burns Conservator Barbara Adams Hebard.

Conservation assistants Anna Whitham ’15 (on left) and James Heffernan ’15 help Emma Dwyer ’16 install one of the class’s exhibits in the O’Neill Reading Room. Photograph by Burns Conservator Barbara Adams Hebard.

The students produced imaginative items during the workshops and these items were exhibited in the Reading Room at the Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Library. This proved to be an additional educational opportunity for the students. The class installed 5 exhibits in total, each curated by a particular student from the class. I guided the curators through the exhibit process. In the end, the students learned more about the history of the book prior to 1800 than would have been possible had they only experienced the books in a lecture setting. Additionally, they learned skills not generally taught in university history courses, through the hands-on workshops and exhibit curation, which will prove useful in their careers after graduation.

<a href="http://www.bc.edu/libraries/about/exhibits-new/ONReadingExhibits/puzzle.html">Puzzle purses</a> made and exhibited by students in "Early Printed Books: History and Craft."

Puzzle purses made and exhibited by students in “Early Printed Books: History and Craft.”

A fuller description of the workshops may help readers to better understand this approach to teaching a history course. The first workshop of the semester, puzzle purse construction, involved folding a 12” x 12” sheet of paper to form its own envelope. This project instructed students on the grain of paper, folding paper using a bone folder, and creating an interesting design. They chose images from Burns Library books as the decorative element or drew on the paper using their imagination. Historic books were shown for inspiration and the students browsed through the BC Libraries Digital Collections for ideas as well.

Taylor Delaney '15 smiles as she holds a bone folder.  Photograph by Associate Professor Karen Miller.

Taylor Delaney ’15 smiles as she holds a bone folder. Photograph by Associate Professor Karen Miller.

The second project, the St. Gall Book, gave the students the opportunity to learn how to make a simple booklet (no sewing, no adhesives) based on a book made by a monk using one leaf of vellum (for the workshop, paper was used in the interest of cost.)  The monk used the verso of an architectural drawing of the St. Gall Abbey as the material for his book. He folded the large piece of vellum to form 14 rectangles and then wrote The Life of St. Martin on it. The students used this model and once again working with bone folders, recreated it with their own personal stories. In preparing their books, the students had to think about and then plan their design to work within the pagination of the St. Gall Book.  They were shown vellum covered books and books with vellum pages to learn the properties of that material and see how it was used in bookbinding.

A pamphlet binding workshop followed. This project was more complex because it required a series of steps and additional equipment to complete. The workshop began with making paste paper, which is a technique using pigment in paste applied with brushes to decorate the paper which we used for the book covers. While the decorated covers dried, the class was shown sewing in the 17th century pamphlet-style. The next step was to fold the decorated covers over folded text blocks, followed by using a press to form a tight crease. The 19th century presses that the students used in the lab are essentially the same format as earlier presses.  Once the books were pressed, the class used newly acquired sewing skills to sew their books. The final step was to trim the sewn books using a 19th century board shear, which is a large cutting device which resembles a giant paper cutter. Historic examples of paste paper decorated covers and end sheets were shown to the class during this workshop.

<a href = "http://www.bc.edu/libraries/about/exhibits-new/ONReadingExhibits/portablereads.html">Girdle books</a> made by Professor Reinburg and students on exhibit in the O'Neill Library Reading Room.

Girdle books made by Professor Reinburg and students on exhibit in the O’Neill Library Reading Room.

Because all the students mastered the pamphlet sewing technique, the next workshop offered more sewing. They were challenged to create a chemise girdle book, in this case, a fabric covering to fit over a paperback book. Popular circa 1300 to 1600 girdle books were small books with bindings that extended beyond the book in a tail with a knot at the end.  The knot was tucked into a person’s girdle (belt) from which the book would then hang. The books were meant to hang upside down, so that they could be easily read when swung up from the belt. Images of historic models were available for the students to view on-line. Although no girdle books are in The Burns Library collections, surviving examples most commonly feature devotional texts. Comparable small-scaled devotional books from the Jesuitica collection were shown during the workshop. All the students in the class made a chemise-style covering for the book What Are We? This publication is distributed to incoming Boston College freshmen. Special thanks to the Center for Ignatian Spirituality for generously donating copies to the class.

Students working in the Burns Conservation Lab -  from left to right: Barbara Adams Hebard, Christopher Petroff ’15 blind tooling, Kelli Farrington graduate student, Marie Pellissier ’15.

Students working in the Burns Conservation Lab – from left to right: Barbara Adams Hebard, Christopher Petroff ’15 blind tooling, Kelli Farrington graduate student, Marie Pellissier ’15.

Blind tooling was the final workshop for this class. Tooling is part of the finishing process, defined by Etherington and Roberts in Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books as “A method of decorating a book in which impressions are made in the covering material, usually leather or tawed skin, by means of heated tools, pallets, rolls, fillets, or combinations of one or more of these.” After I demonstrated blind tooling techniques, and showed the students how to heat the tools on a stove, they blind tooled small leather plaquettes both to experience the use of finishing tools and to learn to design patterns on leather. Tools regularly used in the conservation lab to recreate historic bookbinding styles were put into use by the class. Period books with tooled patterns on the covers were available for the students to see before they planned their own patterns.

John Sullivan '15 curator of the <a href="http://www.bc.edu/libraries/about/exhibits-new/ONReadingExhibits/leatherplaquettes.html">plaquette exhibit</a> for "Early Printed Books: History and Craft."

John Sullivan ’15 curator of the plaquette exhibit for “Early Printed Books: History and Craft.”

The conservation lab, as a makerspace for students to learn historic skills and traditional technologies, proved worthwhile.  Through the series of workshops, the students learned more about book production prior to 1800 than would have been possible only in a lecture setting. The workshops I planned explored book structure beginning with the interior of the book and ending with the exterior. The students experienced using tools and equipment traditionally used by the artisans who made the very books that they were introduced to during the course lectures given by Professor Reinburg.

Barbara Adams Hebard, Burns Library Conservator.

Barbara Adams Hebard, Conservator, John J. Burns Library

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