This past Spring, I had the opportunity to attend the New York Antiquarian Book Fair on behalf of the Burns Library. I purchased several wonderful books, with topics from anatomy to history, astronomy to social commentary. These volumes are part of the collections at Burns and are now available for your use in the Burns Library Reading Room. The first book I would like to mention is Opera Omnia Anatomica & Chirurgica by Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564). Vesalius taught at the University of Padua. This two volume folio is vellum bound and an extra-illustrated 1725 version. It is one of the two most important books in the history of medicine. Vesalius revolutionized anatomy for all time and ushered in the scientific era of medicine that we now all enjoy. The anatomical drawings of this work are classics that are still used for examples in anatomical drawing classes. The original engravings, by Jan van Calcar, a pupil of Titian, were commissioned by Vesalius to allow visualization of the inner workings of our bodies. Prior to this book proscriptions on vivisection prevented accurate diagnosis.
Next, we have two histories of Florence, Italy, bound together in stiff 18th century vellum: Historie Fiorentine by Leonardo Bruni (1369-1444) and Historia Florentina by Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459), both published in 1492. The first title in the bound-with is by the man considered to be the father of modern historiography. Bruni was the first to divide time into the “Ancient, Medieval and Modern” categories and also to secularize history. At the head of the first leaf of text is the signature of the father of Giovanni Verrazzano, the discoverer of the East Coast of what would become the United States, including both the New York and Narragansett harbors. Giovanni’s hand is also present on the half-title page. The Verrazzano coat of arms is drawn in sepia ink on the spine and on the first leaf. Bracciolini, the author of the second volume of this bound-with discovered the lost manuscript (De rerum natura) of the Roman epicurean Lucretius. This volume was included in the Verrazzano family’s copy because it took Bruni’s account and brought it forward in time.
The third work featured in this post is Cosmographia de Pedro Apiano (1548). Petrus Apianus (1495-1552) (the Latinized form of Peter Bienewitz; Biene = Bee in German) was quite simply the most famous astronomer of the 16th century; universities competed with each other for his services. This book, one of at least 30 reprints in 14 languages (our current Spanish copy being one of the rarer editions), was the best-known work of astronomy and navigation in the 16th century. Apianus’ publications, like those of Erhard Ratdolt, were famous for their lavish use of illustrations. Apianus was famous for his calculating mechanisms (“volvelles”), and this publication features four such working illustrations still intact and working after almost 500 years!
Finally we have The Miseries of Human Life, or, The Groans of Samuel Sensitive and Timothy Testy (1806). An octavo, two volume set of English satire written by James Beresford in the Jane Austen period, with wonderful pull-out cartoons by George Cruikshank, one in full hand-tinted color. This book is still in print (albeit in an abridged version); you can get a copy on Amazon. The book combines the sardonic humor of an Ambrose Bierce with the elegant prose of a Charles Dickens. Designed to go into the fine print room with our other early 18th century volumes illustrated by Cruikshank.
- David Richtmyer, Rare Books Librarian & Senior Cataloger, Burns Library