Viewing our Special Collections: An Event for History of Art Students

Dante Alighieri. The Divine Comedy. Translated by T.G. Bergin. Illustrated by Leonard Baskin (New York: Grossman, 1969)

 

This blog post documents my experience as a Graduate Library Trainee assisting at the ‘Introduction to Bodleian Libraries Special Collections’ event, held for History of Art undergraduate and graduate students at the Taylor Institution Library in December 2021.

 

Setting up for the Bodleian Libraries Special Collections event held for History of Art students at the Taylor Institution Library, December 2021. In the foreground: Edgar Allan Poe. The Raven. Illustrated by Mario Prassinos. (Paris: P. Vorms, 1952)

 

Across the libraries, we hold a myriad of intriguing and unique items. Still, it may be difficult for readers to know how to find these, and where to start. It is here where the then Subject Librarian for Art & Architecture Librarian and Italian Literature & Language, Clare Hills-Nova, was able to draw upon her knowledge of the Bodleian Libraries’ collections to introduce History of Art students to a few of our less well-known holdings.

Since having arrived at the Sackler in September 2021, I have been fortunate to spend plenty of time around visual culture materials. I’ve arranged a Japanese photobook display (in support of the Ashmolean’s Tokyo! exhibition), relabelled items from the WJ Strachan collectionand processed new publications about architects and artists on a broad range of periods and geographic areas. This is a far cry from my undergraduate haunts of law statutes and case reports – albeit a very welcome change. When Clare asked me to support the event she was planning for the History of Art Department’s students, and subsequently attend it, I was more than happy.

Artist interpretations of Dante’s Divine Comedy (14th Century – 21st Century)

The event comprised two parts. The first, held in the Voltaire Room, expanded upon the Taylorian’s exhibition on Dante Alighieri and his Divine Comedy, which my fellow Trainee Malcolm Spencer has so wonderfully discussed. The exhibition’s curator, Professor Gervase Rosser led a presentation here – titled ‘Illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy – on artists’ interpretations of the themes expressed in the Comedy.

Voltaire Room
‘Illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy’. Exhibition installation: One of the display cases in the Voltaire Room, Taylor Institution Library, showcasing work inspired by Dante’s The Divine Comedy. (Artists represented: Federico Zuccari, Giovanni Stradano, John Flaxman and Leonard Baskin.) Credit: Malcolm Spencer

 

This incorporated a vast range of work and approaches, as Professor Rosser traced the fluctuating reception of Dante’s Divine Comedy through the centuries. The talk (and display) included: a facsimile of one of the earliest illustrated Dante manuscripts of the 1330s; an edition of Doré’s seminal engravings, through which he became considered a ‘master of the visually dramatic narrative’ (Angel, 2014) (see image below, line 2, tile 1);  and  American artist Leonard Baskin’s compelling illustrations (1969). Also on view were some of the many recent translations of the Divine Comedy — some of them with striking book covers and other illustrative material.

 

A selection of translations of and commentaries on Dante’s Divine Comedy, from 1544 to 2018, shown at the event.

 

 

Edouard Goerg. L’Enfer [Dante’s Hell] (Paris: J. Porson, 1950)

 

 

In advance of this, Malcolm and I gathered together items on artists’ engagement with Dante from our libraries.

Among these were a small publication illustrating Geoffrey MacEwan’s paintings, Edouard Goerg’s etchings for Dante’s L’Enfer (Hell), many new translations with images of the Divine Comedy, and the Uffizi’s recent exhibition catalogue, Dante: la visione dell’arte, documenting many of the countless works inspired by Dante and the rest of his literary oeuvre. Books additional to those already on view in the exhibition’s display cases were arranged carefully around the room, framing the exhibition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Athanasius Kircher’s L’Arca di Noë (Amsterdam, 1675)

Athanasius Kircher. L’Arca di Noë (Amsterdam, 1975)

 

The second part of the event took place in the Taylorian’s Room 2, and showcased other works from the Sackler, Taylorian and Weston Libraries’ Special Collections. These works ranged in date and publication location from 17th century Amsterdam to 1970s Tokyo, via 1960s Los Angeles. Here, the earliest work on display was Athanasius Kircher’s (1602-1680) L’Arca di Noë (Amsterdam, 1675). This publication includes, for example, as shown, Kircher’s illustrations of hieroglyphics. Kircher prolifically studied and attempted to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics – from his translations and commentaries, he became considered ‘one of the greatest polymaths in 17th-Century Europe’ (Klawitter, 2015).

The page on display at the event was a fold-out depiction of the interior of Noah’s Ark, showing Noah’s family members, barrels of food (or beer) and a menagerie of creatures. What struck me in this view was the measurements below the image, giving dimensions of the Ark itself. Beyond being a fascinating detail, this grounds the narrative in reality. For contemporaries, it made the Ark easier to conceive, and its magnificent nature – even including a pair of unicorns – that bit more believable.  

Athanasius Kircher. L’Arca di Noë (1675) [composite image of several photos, from a fold-out page in the book, pasted together]
Up close: beer barrels and unicorns; measurements of the Ark.

 

F.G. Haverfield Collection (18th century interpretations of Classical art)

Turning to 18th century England, students could also see examples from the Sackler’s F. J. Haverfield Archive — specifically,  from his collection of images of Romano-British pavement mosaics. On display was an illustration of the mosaic found at Littlecote Park, Wiltshire – the ‘Orpheus’ mosaic – alongside Joseph Bonomi’s (1739-1808) original carpet and ceiling designs (1785) for Bowood House, Wiltshire. Bonomi, like many of his contemporaries such as the Adam brothers – John (1721-1792), Robert (1728-1792), and James (1732- 1794) – for whom he worked at various points, was inspired by classical art and architecture. It is thought that Haverfield may have included the Bonomi designs in his image collection because one of their sources of inspiration could have been the mosaics discovered around this time. Indeed, the carpet bears some resemblance in shape and content to the mosaic (and is perhaps why Haverfield included it in his collection).  You can find more about these works in a blog post written by former Trainee, Chloe Bolsover. These parallels were instantly compelling. The students could see the physical copies displayed side-by-side, draw comparisons, and possibly gain an understanding of the thought processes underlying Haverfield’s collection.

 

Joseph Bonomi. Carpet and Centaur Ceiling designs for Bowood House, Wiltshire (1785); George Vertue. A Roman mosaic found at Littlecote Park (1730)

 

W.J. Strachan Collection (mid-20th Century)

In the weeks preceding the event, Clare and I had explored the Strachan Collection of mid-20th century artists’ books, made in France, for potential display items. The Strachan Collection comprises over 250 items – with, according to Strachan himself, ‘every ‘ism” from Cubism to neo-realism represented. Therefore, deciding which items to include for the event was a challenge.

William Shakespeare. La Tempête. Illustrated by Leonor Fini (Paris: Aux dépens d’un amateur1965)

 

Ultimately, we decided to focus primarily on women, non-French and other less well-known artists. Among the selection was Leonor Fini’s beautiful lithographs for Shakespeare’s La Tempête (The Tempest), and Chinese artist Zao Wou-ki’s lithographs illustrating André Malraux’s La Tentation de l’Occident. To me, Wou-ki’s work was especially well-suited for the ‘Show’ aspect of this event: his bright and gestural work seems to capture harsh emotions so succinctly: hard to miss.

Andre Malraux. La Tentation de l’Occident. Illustrated by Zao Wou-ki (Paris: Les Bibliophiles Comptois, 1962) [Lower left corner: Le livre d’artiste: A Catalogue of the W.J. Strachan gift to the Taylor Institution (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum & Taylor Institution, 1987)]

 

Hans Bellmer, a German artist, was also on display. Bellmer is best known for creating a series of life-sized dolls and photographing them. The Nazi Party labelled this work as ‘degenerate’, causing him to flee to France in 1938, where he remained for the rest of his life. His interest in dolls can be seen in his engravings for Les Marionettes, through the somewhat disjointed limbs he illustrated. These are coloured with a distinct blue and yellow. For me, this made Bellmer’s work  particularly effective for a Show-and-Tell: viewers can trace the lines of his drawings, and enjoy the unique colours against the brown paper.

Heinrich von Kleist. Les Marionettes. Illustrated by Hans Bellmer (Paris: G. Visat, 1970)

 

Alongside these artists from the Strachan collection was Wifredo Lam’s etchings for L’antichambre de la Nature.  Of Chinese and Afro-Cuban descent Lam became familiar with African spiritual rites. It was also at this point that he began to be influenced by Surrealism. In 1938, he moved to Paris and met members of the art and poetry scene. He began to work alongside Picasso and became more interested by Cubism. After the Nazis occupied Paris, Lam returned to Cuba. Here, he combined his multiple artistic influences with his cultural experiences to create works on Afro-Cuban identity. To me, these various influences make Lam’s work so unique and striking. His singular work was therefore very fitting for the event, both to look at and to appreciate the diversity of the 1930s Parisian art scene.

Alain Jouffroy. L’antichambre de la Nature. Illustrated by Wifredo Lam (Paris: O. Lazar-Vernet, 1960)

 

Ed Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966)

Edward Ruscha. Every Building on the Sunset Strip (Los Angeles, 1966)
Students viewing Edward Ruscha. Every Building on the Sunset Strip (Los Angeles, 1966)

We also showed Edward (Ed) Ruscha’s iconic Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966)Running through through West Hollywood, Ruscha pasted hundreds of his photographs of the Strip together to create an 8-metre linear image. He shot these photos from his pick-up truck, with a motorized Nikon camera positioned on top. Interestingly, Ruscha opted to set the lens to infinity, bringing everything in each image into equal focus. The result is remarkable, almost like a flattened montage. Every Building on the Sunset Strip arrived in a slim silver slipcase – deceptively, very small (18 cm.). As we unfolded it, we asked our building staff, again and again, to bring in another table to support the length of the ‘strip’. It ended up stretching almost the whole length of the Taylorian’s Room 2! In the images shown here, the viewer can grasp the extent of the Strip, as Ruscha perhaps intended it to be viewed (many museums display it in concertina format).

 

Edward Ruscha. Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966)

 

The Japanese Box (1960s-1970s)

The item I was personally most excited about was The Japanese Box, a facsimile edition (2001) of seminal photographic works produced in post-War Japan. Throughout this Michaelmas term 2021 at the Sackler Library, I worked with a lot of material on Japanese photography, particularly from the 1970s. I created a book display in conjunction with the Tokyo exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, and a corresponding blog post. Whilst researching for the post, I read a lot about Provoke, a 1960s-1970s avant-garde Japanese photography magazine, and its associated photographers. I developed a real love for the style and telos of this magazine. The photographers tasked themselves with reclaiming ‘documentation’ and they were keen to show life in 1970s Japan beyond the general perception of it as an economic powerhouse and post-war ideal. When Clare told me that the event for the History of Art students would include a box of recently-acquired facsimiles of the three issues of Provoke, alongside monographs by Provoke photographers, I was genuinely thrilled.

 

The Japanese Box: Provoke issues 1, 2 and 3; Takuma Nakahira. Kitarubeki kotoba no tame ni (For a language to come(1970); Nobuyoshi Araki. Senchimentaru na tabi (Sentimental journey) (1971); and Daido Moriyama. Shashin yo sayonara (A farewell to photography(1972)

 

The Japanese Box : Facsimile Reprint of Six Rare Photographic Publications of the Provoke Era. Designed by Karl Lagerfeld.(Limited ed. Paris, 2001)

As with much of Japanese publishing it was clear that a lot of thought had gone into the design and packaging of this facsimile set. Characteristically, the black box containing the publications was itself striking: it was designed by Karl Lagerfeld. Inside, ‘designer’ plastic bands, labelled ‘The Japanese Box’, carefully held the six publications together.  We spread them out on the table, ready for students to examine. Picking each volume up, we could see a rich array of photos of Japan and each artist’s personal experience of living there. This ranged from Nobuyoshi Araki’s photos of his honeymoon in Sentimental Journey (Senchimentaru na tabi), to student protests in Tokyo in Provoke. A few days ahead of the event, Clare asked me to introduce the event’s attendees to the box and its contents. Studying and presenting this set was a highlight of my traineeship. After my presentation several students asked to examine the Box’s contents further, and we discussed the Provoke movement while viewing our favourite images in the set. 

Concluding thoughts

At the event itself, the students appeared to be completely immersed in the works we showed. In the Voltaire Room, where Professor Gervase Rosser presented the Dante-inspired work, attendees asked questions about how different artists interpreted the themes of the Divine Comedy. In Room 2, the group lined up along the length of Every Building on the Sunset Strip, pointing at (for example) where pasted pictures cut up cars. L’Arca di Noë invited students to examine the interplay between imagination and reality, whilst others admired the various artists’ books and different mosaic patterns from the Haverfield collection. Although held on the last day of term, the event overran, with many attendees keen to continue examining and discussing the works on display. It was a huge success, and a tribute to the remarkable range of Special Collections held across the libraries. I cannot wait to explore them further.

Izzie Salter
Graduate Trainee, Sackler Library

References

Angel, Sara. “‘Too Many Illustrations, Not Enough Glory’: Known for his Art for Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ Gustave Dore Merited Wider Fame.” Maclean’s (Toronto) 127.23 (2014): 66. Web. (available publicly here)

Strachan, WJ. The Artist and the Book in France. The 20th Century Livre D’artiste. London: Owen, 1969. Print. (Sackler Library Shelfmark: 914.2 Str)

 

‘Illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy’ Through the Eyes of Final Year Italian Students

Introduction

By Dr Rebecca Bowen (Retained Lecturer in Italian, Pembroke College)

Dante bust and exhibition poster
Illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy. Exhibition view, Voltaire Room, Taylor Institution Library (October – December 2021)

2021 marked the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, Florentine poet, author of the Divine Comedy, and an icon of medieval European literature. The many celebrations held in his honour ranged from exhibitions, rare book displays and academic conferences to live readings of the poem and even Dante-themed ice-creams. This cultural eclecticism attests to the enduring impact of Dante’s works as well as the celebrity of his image, an image able to be absorbed into gastronomic promotions as much as lauded for its literary might. The distorting effects of fame were a preoccupation of Dante who, at the start of his philosophical treatise the Convivio, complains: ‘I have appeared before the eyes of many who, perhaps because of some report (fama), had imagined me in another light […since] the image generated by fame alone is always greater, whatever it may be, than the imagined thing in its true state’ (Convivio. I.iii.11).

Uncovering the ‘true state’ of Dante and his works is a primary aim of Dante Studies, an area of research that has thrived at Oxford since the late 19th century. The University’s museums and libraries have always played a crucial role in this path of discovery, preserving rich records of the poet’s reception and the ongoing vitality of his readerly appeal. The recent exhibition of items from the Sackler and Taylor Institution libraries, ‘Illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy’, was exemplary in this respect. Curated by Professor Gervase Rosser and Clare Hills-Nova with items from Bodleian Libraries collections (principally, Sackler Library and Taylor Institution Library), the display reflected the depth and eclecticism of the visual tradition held by the University, from the intricately illuminated pages of fourteenth-century manuscripts to the neo-expressionist lithographs produced by contemporary artist Mimmo Paladino of the recent centenary year.

Presided over by the Taylorian’s august bust of Dante, whose personal iconography is a topic of myth and debate, the exhibition showcased an array of colourful interpretations of the Comedy. What the poet himself might have made of this visual afterlife becomes an almost unavoidable area of speculation. In an apocryphal tale from the 1390s, the Florentine writer Franco Sacchetti imagines Dante vociferously defending his poem against misquotation by a blacksmith, exclaiming ‘I have no other craft, and you’re ruining it’ (Trecentonovelle, 114). As far as craft goes, the Comedy is very much a literary artefact, addressing its reader no less than fifteen times and frequently emphasising the ineffability of its own descriptions. What is a reader of Dante’s poem to make of visual renditions of his text?

Final year Italian Literature and Languages students from Pembroke, Merton and Wadham colleges turned their attention to this question, using their knowledge of Dante’s poem to examine the rich visual traditions on display in the Taylorian exhibition. Offering insights into the material history and visual details of some of the objects on display, Izzy, Joshua, Anna, Matt and Olivia explore the role of these illustrations as creative records of the poem’s reception, and offer reflections on why they are interested in reading Dante today.

Dante Exhibition Display Case
19th and 20th century illustrations showing works by John Flaxman (lower left), Giovanni Stradano (upper right), and Federico Zuccari (upper left)

Isobel Sanders (Merton College)

Milton Klonsky. Blake’s Dante: The Complete Illustrations to the Divine Comedy (New York: Harmony, 1980).

Klomsky presents Blake’s evocative set of drawings and engravings for Dante’s Comedy, commissioned by John Linnell who sought to provide inspiration for Blake’s creativity alongside some much-needed money towards the end of his life. Few are complete yet this doesn’t make the rest any less engaging. Rather, we are granted insight into Blake’s artistic process, imagining for ourselves what a ‘completed, coloured-in’ version might look like. The works hug the text closely, although Blake didn’t always agree with Dante’s politics, revealed through damning remarks to friends. Small deviations appear in his watercolours, too. The Angel at Purgatory’s entrance seems bored or miserable, his eyelids half-shut; in Blake’s representation of Inferno 14, fire burns upwards rather than falling downwards. Could this be an act of defiance against Dante’s choice of infernal punishment known as the contrapasso, whereby sinners experienced a form of retribution directly related to their sin, often in inverse form? Politics, theology, ideas about fortune and sexuality all add nuance to Blake’s paintings. For, after all, going from one art form to another can never enact an exact ‘translation’. Blake’s illustrations, while rooted in the Romantic era, conjure up the Renaissance – the faces have a touch of Botticelli, or perhaps da Vinci, about them. Imaginative, unsettling and profoundly beautiful, Blake’s drawings establish a dialogue not only with Dante but also with other illustrators, over borders and across centuries. A perusal of Klomsky’s book reveals just how re-presenting the work of another is itself an exegesis – an act of personal interpretation and subsequent production.

Joshua Lavorini (Pembroke College)

Dante Alighieri. Opere di Dante Alighieri: Dedicata alla sagra imperial maesta di Elisabetta Petrowna, imperatrice di tutte le Russie ec. ec. ec. dal conte Don Cristoforo Zapata de Cisneros. Illustrated by Francesco Fontebasso, Gaetano Zompini & others 1757)

This image shows Dante presenting his work to the doge of Venice. The regal stature of the doge may call to mind the exile Dante suffered during the last twenty years of his life, since he learned ‘the bitterness of foreign bread’ (‘come sa di sale / lo pane altrui,’ Par. XVII.58–59) and was always both privileged and humbled by the patronage of other courts. The position of the crown above the doge’s head may be significant: in Paradiso, Dante fantasises that one day ‘I will return a poet, and at the font where I was baptised I will take the crown’ (‘ritorneró poeta, e in sul fonte / del mio battesmo prenderó ‘l cappello,’ Par. XXV.8–9) but in this image, it is the doge, to whom the poet comes in humility, that wears the crown. The faces in the crowd also provoke some thought – why do those to the right seem to be looking upwards towards the sky? What are those on the left looking at? Only the doge seems to be looking directly at the Tuscan poet. The dedication of this edition to Elizabeth Petrovna, Empress of Russia from 1741 until her death in 1762, attests to the fact that that Dante’s presence in Russia grew in the eighteenth century. Boris Antonov tells us that Petrovna encouraged Ivan Shuvalov’s foundation of the Imperial Academy of Arts and financed the grandiose Baroque projects of her favourite architect, Bartolomeo Rastrelli, particularly in the Peterhof Palace. She was clearly very interested in the arts (she spoke French, Italian and German as well as Russian), so it should come as no surprise that she should be fond of Dante. Dante’s impact on Russian culture continued long after her death, leaving a mark on the nation’s poetic symbolism. One Russian writer who was deeply interested in Italy and, by extension, Dante, is Nikolai Gogol. His book Dead Souls, described by him as a poem (despite being written in prose form), was intended to be the first part, i.e., Inferno, (set in contemporary Russia) of his own Divine Comedy. Gogol died before finishing the trilogy, and in a Virgilian act of insanity, burned the second part of Dead Souls. As well as his imitation of classical precedents (he wanted to imitate the Odyssey and Homeric epics), Gogol shares with Dante the use of almost uncomfortable humour and criticism of corruption. Another Russian whose work includes reference to Dante is Tchaikovsky. His orchestral fantasia Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32 (1876) was inspired by an episode in Canto V of the Inferno. In his correspondence, Tchaikovsky frequently quoted lines from Inferno V ‘there is no greater sorrow than to recall moments of happiness in misery’ (‘Nessun maggior dolore / che ricordarsi del tempo felice / ne la miseria,’ Inf. V.121–23), drawing on the enduring pathos of Dante’s infernal lovers.

Dante Exhibition Display Case
Top Left: Landino’s and Vellutello’s combined commentary. Lower Right: Edition dedicated to Elisabetta Petrowna

Anna Zakonyi (Pembroke College)

Dante Alighieri, Cristoforo Landino, Alessandro Vellutello, La Comedia di Dante con l’espositione di Christoforo Landino, et di Alessandro Vellutello (Venice: Giovambattista Marchio Sessa et fratelli, 1564).

Landino and Vellutello’s combined commentary on Dante’s Divina Commedia was originally published in 1564 by the Venetian typographer Sessa, under the editorial supervision of Francesco Sansovino. Consisting of 28 introductory leaves and 392 leaves of commentary, this volume returns to the folio format of medieval tradition, incorporating woodcut illustrations from Marcolini’s Commedia (1544) and the two commentaries with citations of Dante’s poem. The illustrations, in contrast to previous iconographic tradition, act as a continuation of the commentaries, focusing particularly on the topography of Dante’s Afterlife. The combination of Landino and Vellutello’s commentaries on the Commedia (originally published in 1481 and 1544 respectively) is also novel, as it integrates two different approaches: Landino prioritises allegory whilst Vellutello focuses on meaning. Such innovation enjoyed public acclaim, and Sessa re-published the volume in 1578 and 1596 with minimal corrections. Of particular interest is the great authority given to Landino and Vellutello over Dante’s poem. Note, for example, how snippets of the Commedia are explained both by the ‘Argomento’ canto summary under the illustrations and by the double commentary which engulfs the terzine; this allows the commentators to guide the reader’s interpretation, reflecting medieval tradition whereby commentators largely assumed superiority over their subject texts. Considering Dante’s modern dominance within the Italian literary canon, such authority afforded to Landino and Vellutello intrigued me, with this hierarchical organisation – whereby the two commentators are, arguably, superior to the poet – what first drew me to the work. The combination of two commentaries, illustrations, and an extended introduction including a background on Dante’s Florence and his vocabulary, would have made this text an excellent guide to reading and understanding the poem. As a student of Italian myself, this insight into how Renaissance readers might have approached their study of Dante was what interested me most about the work.

Matthew Webb (Wadham College)

Lippmann, Friedrich. Zeichnungen von Sandro Botticelli zu Dante’s Goettlicher Komoedie: Nach den Originalen im K. Kupferstichkabinet zu Berlin (Berlin: G. Grote’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1887).

This facsimile of Botticelli’s original drawing from c. 1481–88 depicts the Terrace of Pride in canto X of Purgatorio. Botticelli’s drawings distinguished themselves from other fourteenth-century representations of Dante’s text in their presentation of a continuous narrative. Instead of focusing on a single incident in the canto, we are taken, like Dante, through the Terrace of Pride by Virgil, whose guiding arm indicates the chronology of the scene. First, we see Dante and Virgil emerging from a crevice in the bottom left. Then, having ascended onto the terrace itself, we see four separate scenes that move in a rightward direction. The first three of these, depicting Dante and Virgil gazing at marble engravings of biblical and pagan stories exemplifying humility, layer narratives within the main narrative of Dante and Virgil’s journey, mirroring the effect Dante creates in his text through ekphrastic descriptions of the engravings. In this way, Botticelli’s drawing captures the depth and complexity of Dante’s narrative, instead of presenting one static event. I find the astonishing level of detail intriguing, particularly the representation of marble engraving in the image, a virtuosic display of Botticelli’s own skill as a painter (and maybe also a sign of pride). The original was part of a wider collection of illustrations that were commissioned by the artist’s patron, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, which, when brought to sale in the late 19th century, were purchased by Friedrich Lippmann and placed in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin. This remarkably detailed set of facsimiles dates from around the time of the sale, an artefact in its own right.

Dante Exhibition Display Case
Left: MS. 8o It.3 (1395 ). Right: Dante’s ‘Terrace of Pride’ (Purgatorio X), as illustrated by Botticelli

Olivia Ganderton (Pembroke College)

Lippmann, Friedrich. Zeichnungen von Sandro Botticelli zu Dante’s Goettlicher Komoedie: Nach den Originalen im K. Kupferstichkabinet zu Berlin (Berlin: G. Grote’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1887).

Dante’s Purgatory I, as illustrated by Bottiicelli

Botticelli’s late fifteenth-century drawing for Purgatorio I, often thought to have been commissioned by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, piqued my interest specifically due to the challenge posed to the artist to portray both this particular canto and introduce the viewer to a whole new cantica, that of Purgatory. The drawing shows Dante and Virgil entering the realm of Purgatory, where they meet its guardian, Cato (the figure furthest right), who then advises Virgil to wash Dante clean of the filth from his journey through Hell. Moving right to left, the following elements of the canto are illustrated: Cato halts the poets and asks them their business; Virgil plucks grass to cleanse Dante; Virgil wraps reeds around Dante’s waist; a ship-full of new souls arrives on the shores of Purgatory. These events occur one after the other, yet Botticelli decides to include each moment simultaneously in his drawing, giving a sense of unity and circularity to this stage of the afterlife, whilst choosing to give each stage equal status. This continuity is further emphasised by his inclusion of the ship-full of souls furthest to the right that will be described in the second canto of Purgatory, offering a conceptual connection between the composition of the image and movement of the narrative in the text. 

 

 

 

Further Reading:

Antonov, Boris (2006). Russian Tsars. Saint Petersburg: Ivan Fiorodov Art Publishers.

Gombrich, E. H. (1979), ‘Giotto’s Portrait of Dante?’, The Burlington Magazine, 121.917: 471–483.

Parker, Deborah (2013), ‘Illuminating Botticelli’s Chart of Hell’, MLN, 128.1.

Ricci, Lucia Battaglia (2009), ‘Ai Margini del Testo: Considerazioni sulla Tradizione del “Dante illustrato”’, Italianistica, 38.2: 39–58.

Rosser, Geravse (2005), ‘Turning Tale into Vision: Time and the Image in the “Divina Commedia”’, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 48: 106–122.

Bringing Tokyo to the Sackler Library: Japanese Photobooks On Display

The Japanese Photobook and the Sackler Library Display

Above: Ninagawa Mika. Tokyo from Utsurundesu series (since 2018). Models: AMIAYA. (Exhibition poster for Tokyo: Art and Photography. Ashmolean Museum, 2021) Copyright Ninagawa Mika, courtesy the artist and Tomio Koyama Gallery

 

Accompanying the Ashmolean Museum’s exhibition Tokyo: Art & Photography (29 July 2021 – 3 January 2022) a book display at the Sackler Library presents Japanese photobooks, books on Japanese photography and related exhibition catalogues. Over the coming weeks some of the Japanese photobooks held by the Sackler are on display (in the Ground Floor rotunda) for readers to take a closer look.

Works in the Bodleian Libraries’ collections (in particular, the Sackler Library and the Bodleian Japanese Library, or BJL) range from the 1965 book Why Mother Why, which features iconic photographer Hosoe Eikoh’s works, to multi-media artist Tokyo Rumando’s exhibition booklet from 2020. In her first European museum solo show, Tokyo Rumando presented her self-portrait photographs and films.

 

Takano Ryudai photobooks on display at the Ashmolean Museum. Credit: Dr Lena Fritsch

Since the end of the Second World War, Japan has dominated the international camera industry through companies such as Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Sony or Pentax (previously Asahi). Supported by these companies, responsible for creating some of the best cameras, lenses and films in the world, photo galleries such as Fuji Salon or Canon Salon have hosted short-term exhibitions. Amateur photography clubs promote competitions, exhibitions and periodicals. Asahi Camera, founded in 1926 by the Asahi Newspaper Company, is the voice of the All-Japan Association of Photographic Societies (AJAPS, Zennihon Shashin Renmei) and is the country’s oldest photography magazine. It presents photographs, evaluations of equipment and exhibition reviews. Another popular magazine, Nippon Camera, has existed since 1951. The internet now provides access to images and texts, but until recently, photo magazines were a crucial source of information on photography, including works from overseas. Photography in Japan has developed into a web of camera companies, clubs, galleries, publishers, magazines and online platforms. More than an important industry, it also is a socio-cultural system based on countless photographers and camera fans, creating a vast number of high-quality images. This ‘photography world’ is a parallel system to the ‘art world’ in Japan, which has also produced important photographic works.

Range of Photobooks on display at the Tokyo exhibition. Credit: Dr Lena Fritsch

 

Moriyama Daidō’s photobooks (Record, edited by Mark Holburn; and Daido Moriyama: the World through my Eyes, edited by Filippo Maggia)

The photobook has become central to the development of Japanese photography, particularly since the post-war years. Considering Japan’s long tradition of making high-quality paper and books, as well as the lack of photography exhibition and storage space in densely populated Japanese cities, the popularity of the photobook is not surprising. Even today, for many photographers the photobook remains the ultimate format in which to present their works. Iconic photobooks by Fukase Masahisa, Araki Nobuyoshi or Kawada Kikuji continue to inspire younger artists worldwide. Over the last 30 years there has been a growing interest in Japanese photography, both within and outside of Japan, which has resulted in an increasing number of exhibitions. Japanese photobooks have also become sought-after internationally.

Tokyo has been a major motif in Japanese photography, ranging from Kimura Ihei’s post-war documentation to Moriyama Daidō’s dynamic snapshots of his Shinjuku neighbourhood, Araki Nobuyoshi’s diaristic Ginza photographs and Ninagawa Mika’s colourful images of her urban life. The number of photographs is endless, and Tokyo as a motif and shooting location is as varied as the city itself. While ‘truly copying’ the outside world (as the Japanese term for photography ‘shashin’ suggests), Japanese photography has developed from a ‘realist’ approach in the early post-war years to a free form of expression often intertwined with photographers’ lives and subjective experiences. Tokyo in photography has had many faces and no doubt it will continue to change, develop and re-imagine itself in the future. Perhaps the most engaging photographs of Tokyo, however, will continue to be linked to the photographers’ lives and inner visions.

Japanese Photobooks and photographs of Tokyo at the Ashmolean Museum. Credit: Dr Lena Fritsch

The Sackler Library’s book display seeks to provide a ‘taster’ of the diversity of Japanese photography, featuring well-known names, such as Araki and Moriyama, as well as younger female practitioners who are less well-known internationally, including Nagashima Yurie, Tonomura Hideka, and Tokyo Rumando. I hope that the display will inspire staff and students alike, reflecting both the quality of Japanese photography and the importance of the photobook as an artistic object in its own right. The work of many of these photographers has not yet been researched enough. The display runs during the course of Michaelmas term 2021, and beyond, and we invite you to take a closer look at the books!

Dr. Lena Fritsch
Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, Ashmolean Museum

Sackler books on show in the Ashmolean exhibition

The Sackler Library has lent three publications to the Ashmolean exhibition:

Kimura Ihei. Tokyo: Fall of 1945. Tokyo: Bunka-sha, 1946

Sohei Nishino. Tokyo. Tokyo: Amana, 2015 (A diorama photographic map Tokyo)

Tsuzuki Kyoichi. Satellite of Love: Vanishing Beauty of Japanese ‘Love hotels’ . Tokyo: Asupekuto, 2001

Preparing the Display: My Personal Perspective as a Graduate Library Trainee

Sackler Library poster for the Japanese Photobook display

 

When I was asked to put together this display, I – of course – jumped at the opportunity. Since opening up to more readers (post-Covid), and reinstating its New Books Display, the Sackler Library is gradually returning to the bustle of its pre-Covid years. The Ashmolean’s advertising for the Tokyo exhibition is hard to miss: visitors to and passers-by the museum can see Ninagawa Mika’s bright photograph of two young women bowing their pink fringes towards each another, one of them adorned by a dazzling ‘Gucci’ clip (see above). I pass the Ashmolean poster daily, on my walk to work, and it never fails to catch my eye. Welcoming new and returning readers to the Sackler Library with a connected display seemed perfect timing. This post is a small insight into the process of setting up my first book display, and all I learned along the way.

Tokyo photobook display, Sackler Library

I set about gathering the list of Tokyo photobooks held by the Sackler Library, compiled by the Ashmolean exhibition’s co-curator, Dr Lena Fritsch. Once all the books were assembled, I quickly learned that Japanese photography does not comprise only colour images of vibrant scenes of Tokyo’s nightlife as represented in the exhibition’s poster. Leafing through For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography, I found countless greyscale shots. Without colour, the pictures are still remarkably expressive.

Spread from Oh! Shinjuku from For a new world to come: experiments in Japanese art and photography, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

One of my preferred spreads from For a New World to Come is Shomei Tomatsu’s Oh! Shinjuku series (1969). These images show scenes of student protestors and railway passengers alongside moments from Tokyo nightlife. One of the most famous photos in the series, of a protestor clashing with the police, particularly stands out. Apparently, students had told Tomatsu about the protest (and the protestor’s) location, allowing the photographer to capture the moment. Through creating this display, I learned about the ‘are-bure-boke’ style: here, pictures are grainy or out-of-focus, just like Tomatsu’s shot. Its blurry look really captures the fast-moving pace of 1960s Tokyo: the student seems to glide through the air, showing you don’t always need bright colours to grasp the chaos of a place in time.

Looking at these images, you can see lots of parallels with other displayed books. We also have the works of Daidō Moriyama. In his introduction to Daido Moriyama (Tate, 2012) Simon Baker describes Moriyama as ‘one of Japan’s most important and influential photographers and photobook makers’, capturing the world since 1964. Inside, the book is undeniably varied – with a colour photography selection towards the end. Still, you cannot miss the familiar, blurred greyscale images throughout the book. In 1968, Moriyama joined a group called Provoke, and their eponymous magazine, where are-bure-boke was the trademark style. So, even by skimming photobooks, you can see a typical documentation style for 1960s Tokyo. As a staff member with no formal training in art history, there is something very satisfying about identifying themes and trends with a layman’s eye!

Cover of Daido Moriyama, edited by Simon Baker. 2012. Tate Publishing

When I was organising the display I came across more than 1960s photography. For example, Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows (2015) includes works 1976-2007; her work is fascinating, ranging from shots of apartments to close-up images of human hands and skin. I decided to group photobooks covering a longer span of time together, for readers who want to delve deeper into the world of Japanese photography and see how it has evolved over time. (These groupings have now merged, as readers view and rearrange the books on display.)

The display also includes books normally housed in our offsite facility. Readers familiar with the Bodleian Libraries’ collections will know that we hold many, many books. Despite the plethora of libraries around Oxford, we cannot keep all of them in our onsite collections and a vast number are stored offsite. Books returned temporarily to onsite include, for example, other publications on Moriyama, as well as other artists’ photobooks.

Once all the books had arrived safely at the Sackler, I began putting up the display. With the exception of giving a helping hand during my work experience at a primary school, this was almost entirely new territory. Fortunately, the photobooks contain beautiful, powerful and intriguing images, which guided me in arranging the display. After a period of adjusting the table arrangements, the display was good to go.

Nobuyoshi Araki: Tokyo Still Life. 2001

 

When I was deciding where to place the books, there were two especially important points for me. Firstly, I knew I wanted to have a spread of books open: the display is, after all, about photography! Choosing which spread to have open was more difficult: I turned page after page, looking for the most (to me) compelling images. I eventually chose two photos from Nobuyoshi Araki: Tokyo Still Life, which show four young boys in conversation, and a striking woman sitting back and staring the camera down. To me, her gaze almost invites you in to look further at the books. (That said, our readers have enjoyed looking at the display since it went on show, and one of them subsequently changed the pages to display a sleeping cat. This is, of course, entirely welcome in the library. Our books are for readers to handle.)

Tokyo Rumando. The Story of S, 2020

Secondly, although all our books are available pick up and consider, I wanted Tokyo Rumando’s 2020 exhibition booklet to be particularly accessible. This is the most recent work on display, and by lesser-known female artist. I particularly wanted to encourage display browsers to engage with newer artists, to bring home how the world of Japanese photography world has evolved to present day. If you flick through her booklet, her work is a captivating story of female empowerment: between shots of women of all ages, clothes, and poses, she emerges as one of my new favourite creators. I hope everyone considering the display finds it as insightful as I did.

Izzie Salter
Graduate Library Trainee, Sackler Library

 

 

 

 

References

Gyewon Kim. ‘Paper, photography, and a reflection on urban landscape in 1960s Japan’. Visual Resources 32:3-4 (2016): 230-246

Sarah Boxer ‘Japan Torqued, Melted, Reconfigured’. New York Times 12 September 2004

Reading List

Eikō Hosoe and Mark Holborn. Ordeal by Roses: Photographs of Yukio Mishima. New York: Aperture, 1985

Black Sun: the Eyes of Four: Roots and Innovation in Japanese Photography. Edited by Mark Holborn. New York: Aperture, 1986

Daido Moriyama: Record, edited by Mark Holborn. London: Thames and Hudson, 2017

Daido Moriyama, edited by Simon Baker. London: Tate, 2012

Daido Moriyama: Tales of Tono Translated by Lena Fritsch. London: Tate, 2012

For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography, 1968-1979. Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2015

Daido Moriyama: the World through my Eyes. Edited by Filippo Maggia. Milan/London: Skira/Thames and Hudson, 2010

Lena Fritsch. Ravens & Red Lipstick: Japanese Photography since 1945. London: Thames and Hudson, 2018.

Nobuyoshi Araki. Araki: Tokyo Lucky Hole. Cologne/London: Taschen, 1997

Nobuyoshi Araki: Tokyo Still Life. Birmingham: Icon Gallery, 2001

Emphatic and Uncompromising: Kitai Kazuo’s Photography. Tokyo: Yumiko Chiba Associates, 2019

Provoke: between Protest and Performance, Photography in Japan 1960/1975. Edited by Diane Dufour & Matthew S. Witkovsky. Gottingen: Steidl, 2016

Hiromi Tsuchida. Fukushima: 2011-2017, Tokyo: Misuzu Shobō, 2018

Shomei Tomatsu. Chewing Gum and Chocolate. Edited by Leo Rubinfien & John Junkerman, New York: Aperture, 2014

Naito Masatoshi: Another World Unveiled. Edited by Tetsurō Ishida & Satomi Fujimura. Tokyo: Tōkyō-to Shashin Bijutsukan, 2018

Sato Tokihiro: Presence or Absence. Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, 2014

Nagashima Yurie and a Pinch of Irony with a Hint of Love. Tokyo Museum of Photographic Art, 2017
Amanda Maddox and others. Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2015

Yutaka Takanashi. Toshi-e / Towards the City. New York: Errata, 2010

Hitomi Watanabe. Tōdai zenkyōtō 1968 1969.Tōkyō : Shinchōsha, 2007

The Founding and Development of Modern Photography in Japan. Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, 1995

Japan’s Modern Divide: the Photographs of Hiroshi Hamaya and Kansuke Yamamoto. Edited by Judith Keller and Amanda Maddox. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2013

Hiroshi Hamaya. Senzō zanzō: shashin taiken 60nen. Tokyo: Chikuma Shobō, 1991

TOP Collection: Tokyo Tokyo and TOKYO. Metropolitan Museum of Photography. Tokyo: Case Publishing, 2016

Emerging from Pandemic Purgatory: Illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy

Taylor Institution Library, View from St Giles’
Above: Taylor Institution Library, View from St Giles’

This post originally appeared on the Oxford Libraries Graduate Trainee Blog and is republished with permission of the author.

*****

Sadly, for many of us, the last eighteen months have seen the cancellation, curtailment and delay of countless celebrations, including birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and achievements. At the very least, we’ve been forced to relocate those festivities online and connect with family and friends via laptops and phone screens in a kind of digital limbo.

Re-emerging into the real world from this pandemic-induced Purgatory, I recently returned to Oxford, a city that I’d previously called home for many years. My arrival overlapped with many of the restrictions of the last year and a half being (cautiously) rolled back. As the new Graduate Trainee at the Taylor Institution Library (known colloquially as the ‘Taylorian’), my first week saw the steady disappearance of one-way systems, sign-in slots and restricted access for readers to many of the library’s more intimate spaces.

Taylor Institution Library, Aerial View
Above: Taylor Institution Library, Aerial View (2008)

Like the Bodleian Libraries more broadly, many institutions and historical personages have also found their usual cycles of anniversaries and commemorations disrupted by lockdown measures and restrictions on large gatherings. Excitingly, the prospect of more freedom for staff and readers at the University of Oxford has coincided with another cause for celebration: the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), the great Italian poet and philosopher. As a result, the Taylor Institution Library, Weston Library and the Ashmolean Museum have prepared three exhibitions of works from among the libraries’ and museum’s many and varied holdings, which provide visions of, and insights into, the author’s most famous work, the Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia). Works from the Taylorian’s collections are included in the Ashmolean and Weston displays. The Taylorian exhibition, ‘Illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy’, meanwhile, also draws upon the collections of the Sackler Library, Oxford’s principal research location for the study of visual culture. Alongside my regular duties at the library (with which I’m slowly familiarising myself), I’ve been fortunate enough to join Clare Hills-Nova (Librarian in Charge, Sackler Library, and Subject Librarian for Italian Literature and Language at the Taylorian) and Professor Gervase Rosser, curatorial lead on all three Oxford Dante exhibitions, in their preparations for the display of prints, manuscripts and illustrated books spanning the seven hundred years since Dante’s passing.

Taylor Institution Library, University of Oxford
Above: Taylor Institution Library, University of Oxford (Architect C. R. Cockerell, 1841-45)

The photos provided here offer a window on the range of texts and images that were chosen for the Taylorian exhibition and the process that went into preparing them for public display. I came into that process after Clare and Gervase had agreed on the works to be included and their gathering from the Taylorian’s rare books and manuscript holdings and other library locations was complete. The exhibition handlist includes an introduction to the works on display as well as a list of works they considered for inclusion.

Together, Clare and I spent an afternoon preparing the exhibition space – among the already impressive holdings of the library’s Voltaire Room.

Taylor Institution Library, Voltaire Room
Above: Taylor Institution Library, Voltaire Room (ca. 2010)

A provisional placement of the exhibits according to the chronological layout agreed by Clare and Gervase gave us a sense of how the various prints, manuscripts and books would fit within the display cases.

Working with a number of old and rare editions – including some of the oldest books that I’ve had the opportunity to see first-hand during my time in Oxford – required careful handling and the use of foam rests and ‘snakes’ (long, cotton-wrapped metal ‘beads’ designed to hold open books). Clare has a background in conservation, so provided an experienced eye and guiding hand throughout the process.

Open exhibition display case pictured with box of foam rests
Above: Preparing the display cases

After this initial test-run of the display cases, I was tasked with assisting in the preparation of a bibliography to provide visitors to the exhibition with a comprehensive list of texts on display, and those consulted during the curation process. This not only gave me an excellent opportunity to re-familiarise myself with the Bodleian Libraries’ SOLO (‘Search Oxford Libraries Online’) catalogue, but required some further detective work to collect the full details of some of the more obscure texts included in the exhibition.

Although I’m familiar with this kind of work from my time researching and writing Russian history, and searching for texts catalogued in various forms of transliterated Cyrillic, the preparations for this exhibition included consideration of works in Italian, French and German too. Exploiting the automatic citation tool provided on the SOLO also exposed the potential drawback of relying on technology alone. Each of these languages inevitably has its own bibliographic conventions for the formatting of references (authors, titles, publishing info, etc.), not all of which are captured by auto-generation of citations. Obviously, I still have plenty to learn on that front being based in one of Oxford’s key research centres for modern languages and linguistics!

Open display case with selection of illustrated books
Above: Testing the layout of the exhibits within the display case

The whole process also brought home how inconsistent and incomplete some of the catalogue descriptions are within the Bodleian Libraries’ older collections and more unique items. This is quite the mountain to climb for those librarians faced with such a vast (and ever expanding) number of books, journals, periodicals and other ephemera in every language under the sun.

One particular exhibit of note is shown below:

Title page of Italian edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy dedicated to Empress Elizabeth Petrovna of Russia
Above: A copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy dedicated to Empress Elizabeth Petrovna of Russia (daughter of Peter the Great). Published in Venice, Italy in 1757

It was wonderful to find such a striking connection between the history of Imperial Russia and Dante’s life and work!

The second set of photos below provides a view of the final layout for each display case. Supporting information to be included alongside the works was still being prepared at the time of taking, but a sense of the diversity of images and lasting influence of Dante’s work on artists, writers, print-makers and publishers across the world is evident already.

 

Students, faculty and staff from across the University are welcome to visit the Taylorian’s exhibition during library opening hours, from the beginning of Michaelmas term through December 2021. The parallel exhibitions marking Dante’s centenary celebrations are on display for a similar period: Ashmolean Museum (17 September 2021 – 9 January 2022) and Weston Library (8 September 2021 – 14 November 2021), which will give everyone interested in the life, history and influence of Dante the opportunity to explore the wider collections of the University.

Further Oxford Dante events, ranging from concerts to film screenings, to lectures and (of course!) at least one book launch celebrating the 700th anniversary are planned for autumn 2021.

Having now had an insight into the complexities involved in preparing, curating and displaying materials from our impressive Dante collections, the chance to come face-to-face with these exhibits sounds like Paradiso itself!

If you want to know more about Dante-related holdings in Oxford, please check out the Taylorian’s earlier blog posts in this regard (linked below):

Listening to Dante: An Audio-visual Afterlife

The Image of Dante, the Divine Comedy and the Visual Arts, Part I

The Image of Dante, the Divine Comedy and the Visual Arts: Part II

Malcolm L. G. Spencer

Graduate Trainee, Taylor Institution Library

Sackler 101: Investigating the Haverfield Archive / Part III

 

In my previous post, I touched on some great discoveries in the Haverfield Archive. This collection consists of correspondence, coloured prints and drawings illustrating mosaic pavements, site plans and publication extracts – an assortment of archaeological paraphernalia, housed at the Sackler Library. I described the process of recording, illustrating and publishing the mosaics. This post considers the people who undertook these processes and how they approached Roman history.

Generally, the people who took an extraordinary interest in the classical past during the 18th and 19th centuries were called antiquarians. Antiquarians tended to be male, middle class or of the aristocracy, and well educated. Indeed, the discipline of archaeology in Britain started out as more or less the past-time of elite gentlemen who sought to build upon their collections of antiquities. For example, the 1st Marquess of Lansdowne (1737-1805) was an avid collector of works of art, including paintings and classical sculptures. Lansdowne employed the Adam Brothers, renowned architects, to redesign the principal rooms at Bowood House (a Grade I Georgian country house in Wiltshire), including a large drawing room. The Haverfield Archive holds two preparatory illustrations, by the architect Joseph Bonomi (1739-1808), of a carpet design for this room, dated 1785 (Inventory n. 1.1 and Inventory n. 1.2). In 1767, Bonomi was invited by the Adam Brothers to work as a draughtsman for them in their London Office. Bonomi left the Brothers’ employ in 1781 and established himself as an independent architect. He began to receive commissions from some of his patrons including Heneage Finch, fourth earl of Aylesford. Presumably, Bonomi was also commissioned to decorate the interior of Bowood House.

Joseph Bonomi. Carpet design for Bowood House (Inventory n. 1.1)

 

The design of the carpet is intriguing as it seems to be heavily influenced by Roman mosaic pavements. Bonomi was revered as a leader in the revival of Grecian architecture. The ‘Orpheus’ mosaic pavement found at Littlecote Park, Wiltshire (Inventory n. 1.5 A) is similar to Bonomi’s carpet design as both have a central panel for the eye to gravitate towards. Bonomi’s design features a centaur roundel (also detailed separately in Inventory n. 1.2), while the ‘Orpheus’ mosaic features its namesake with his lyre.

‘Orpheus’ mosaic discovered at Littlecote Park (Inventory n. 1.5 A)

 

Whilst Bonomi’s design certainly borrows stylistic aspects from Roman mosaics, it is ultimately neoclassical in approach and is simpler regarding its colour palette and detail. The design was undertaken with a rich connoisseur in mind such as the Marquess of Lansdowne. I have so far been unable to find a mention of this particular carpet in the literature, so it is unclear whether the design was ever realised. Eventually, the Marquess’s lavish spending on his properties caught up with him. With his estate declared bankrupt, it is possible that the carpet never physically existed.

Carpet derived from the Stonesfuled mosaic. Early 18thC (Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock)

Sometimes, reproductions of mosaic floors were created in textile format. It is unclear what the motivations were behind this. It may have been that some antiquarians wanted to decorate their properties with a reproduction of the mosaic that was found on their land. Upon the discovery of the ‘Orpheus’ mosaic, William George, steward to the owner of Littlecote House and Park, made coloured drawings of it. George died not long afterwards and from the drawings he made, his widow made a complete needlework reproduction in full colour, and the tapestry was hung in Littlecote House. The ‘Bacchus’ mosaic discovered at Stonesfield in 1712 (discussed in my previous post) was also recreated in textile form — as a large (3m, approx.) early 18th century needlework carpet, as described by Herefordshire antiquary, scholar and linguist William Brome (1664-1745) (see Draper, J, Freshwater, T, Henig, M, and Hinds, S. 2000). This carpet exerted a considerable influence on contemporary tastes. Due to the popular fascination for collecting antiquities, neoclassical styles were fashionable and in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, mosaic-style carpets were the height of interior design fashion. A by-product of this fashion was that embroidered tapestry and carpet reconstructions of mosaic pavements often became the only surviving records after the destruction of the mosaics themselves.

The problem with relying on reproductions is that they can reveal little about the actual state, as discovered, of the original mosaics. Most prints in the Haverfield Archive depict fully intact mosaics with bright, vivid colours. The reality of finding such an example in this condition is very unlikely. Pigments fade and mosaics were/are often discovered in fragments. Some publications like Henry Ecroyd Smith’s Reliquiae Isurianae (1852) described the mosaics’ state of preservation when originally excavated. Two of the plates listed in this volume and showing the state of the originals, as found, are not of mosaics but of painted wall plaster (Inventory n. 1.7 and Inventory n. 1.17 B). Smith describes these as ‘fragments’ of plaster, with ‘some found still adhering’ to a building’s original structure. Some damage was inflicted due to ‘atmospheric influences, crumbled away after the lapse of a couple of winters’. 

 

 

Presumably, the patron, Aldborough patron, Andrew Lawson, acted swiftly to preserve the existing fragments as they were brought into the museum established in the grounds of Aldborough Manor in 1863. Given the rich history underpinning Aldborough’s ‘Orpheus’ mosaic, questions have arisen regarding the accuracy of illustrations that were made. Original drawings of the mosaic have now been lost, while engravings made by George Vertue are thought to be somewhat inaccurate. A lack of a consistent discovery and preservation methodology at many sites – for example, Stonesfield – meant that records were not kept in a systematic order. As a result, errors in illustrations were inevitable. Although sites such Aldborough promoted a ‘drive’ among antiquarians to produce more detailed, archaeological records, prints of Roman mosaics were not intended to be scientifically accurate. Instead, they appeared to function as aesthetically pleasing ‘reproductions’ of Roman art.

Despite this, Sarah Scott (2013) has pointed out how the antiquarian and engraver Samuel Lysons (1763-1819) did not ‘repair’ flaws in his engravings of mosaics, clearly showing the state of the original. One example of Lysons’ work is the floor plan of an excavation site at Weldon, Northamptonshire (Inventory n. 1.3), and illustrates how Lysons decided to depict the mosaics in their fragmentary form.

Samuel Lysons. Excavation site plan, Weldon (Inventory 1.3)

 

This work was quite unusual for the time, as mosaics were typically drawn as complete, pristine works, the inferences made from partial remains. Amongst antiquarians there was a view that the accuracy of archaeological illustrations reflected the overall quality of the excavation. For example in 1916, J. Charles Cox compared the engravings of a mosaic found at Roxby, Lincolnshire. The earliest engraving was completed in 1799 by William Fowler (Inventory n. 2.15), followed much later by Cary Elwes in 1873. Focusing more on the archaeological properties of the engravings, Cox held that Elwes’s version was ‘more accurately engraved and coloured’ than Fowler’s. From a 21st century perspective, it can be safely said that the prints are definitely not scientific reconstructions. Yet it must be recognised that there were at least some efforts made by antiquarians to produce ‘accurate’ records.

William Fowler. Pavement mosaic, Roxby (Inventory n. 2.15)

Many of the excavations which took place in the 18th and 19th centuries can be viewed as methodologically crude by modern standards. Since that time, archaeological practices have changed in order to reduce the damage done when excavating. However, records which include prints of mosaics are vital as they are often all that remain from an antiquarian excavation. Rich discoveries stimulated further interest and subsequent research, thus helping to shape archaeology as the discipline we know today. The main reason for the growing interest in British archaeology was the Industrial Revolution, as infrastructural expansion revealed more archaeological discoveries. This helped fuel a desire to live up to European collecting and connoisseurship practices against the backdrop of a shared Classical heritage and growing nationalism. Excavations across Europe were busy, churning out discoveries at sites like Herculaneum and Pompeii, further intensifying national rivalries. At the foreground of the period was the European conflict, with the Napoleonic Wars resulting in restrictions on travel. In order to stay current and fashionable, the average Georgian gentleman had little choice but to focus his attention on British antiquities.

Members of the Society of Antiquaries had an interest in all things Roman Britain. They perceived Roman remains as a tangible link between the British and Roman Empires. In my previous post, I discussed how the Society was very much interested in mosaics, and at Cotterstock they commissioned George Vertue to produce an engraving based on William Bogdani’s drawing of it. This active interest demonstrated an acute attention to British archaeological discoveries when, in 1739, the Society made a decision to compile a list of all Roman mosaics discovered in Britain. Despite this enthusiasm, a collective approach to the study of archaeology was not yet fully realised. Britain did not pass any heritage protection legislation until the 1882 Ancient Monuments Protection Act. There was not even a gallery of national antiquities in the British Museum until the 1850s. Instead, antiquarians acted individually, developing the significance of their own sites, linking them to the glory of imperial Rome.

Antiquarians such as Andrew Lawson at Aldborough funded excavations and publications. In the Haverfield Archive, Lawson is cited as the patron on several prints of mosaics from Aldborough. Henry Ecroyd Smith’s Reliquiae Isurianae was dedicated to Lawson and he was credited with procuring most of the illustrations and keeping accurate records of recent discoveries. In an article in the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ (Nichols 1853), Lawson was considered to be in ‘high estimation among antiquaries’. It was reported by the magazine that when the Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland held their annual meeting at York in 1846, they were ‘entertained by Mr Lawson’ at Aldborough. Lawson was not alone in such activities. In 1807, Colonel Leigh of Combe Hay ordered a Roman mosaic to be uncovered at Wellow, in Somerset, purely for the amusement of his friends and those interested in antiquities. What made Lawson different from Colonel Leigh, however, was that his motivation for uncovering the mosaics at Aldborough was to preserve them and to provide systematic documentation.

Whilst there were rich, well-meaning antiquarians such as Lawson, there were also enterprising engravers like William Fowler (1761-1832). The print of Roxby’s pavement mosaic (Inventory n. 2.15) mentions one ‘Jas. Barber’ as its creator; in fact, it was engraved by Fowler, who, in 1799, published his print for sale at half a guinea. He was very much a business man in terms of producing plates, quickly realising that if he was to make any money out of publishing, he had to sell prints at a high price. As a result of Fowler’s entrepreneurship, he acquired supporters who subscribed to standing orders for every print he published, including the libraries of two Oxford colleges. Because prints were produced individually and were not published as part of a single large volume, Fowler announced his new prints by means of printed prospectuses. The Haverfield Archive includes a few excerpts from a similar prospectus by Henry Ecroyd Smith. The page details illustrations one could order from H. Ecroyd Smith’s Lithographs of Romano-British Tessellated Pavements (Inventory n. 2.9). Acquiring prints from such publication lists appealed to antiquarians who wished to showcase their interests to their like-minded, erudite friends.

Volumes discussing excavations with detailed illustrations of archaeological discoveries were produced, but they were costly undertakings, affordable only to the elite. Indeed, one of the subscribers to Ecroyd Smith’s Reliquiae Isurianae was listed as ‘HRH Prince Albert’, indicating that excavations at Aldborough were dependant on subscribers and patronage. Support from those who could afford it was highly valued as the cost of producing lavishly illustrated volumes was high. Due to the huge expense involved in production, publishers were also highly selective as to the volumes that they chose to support. Subscribers were willing to pay up to several guineas for a publication whose textual content they were not necessarily interested in reading so long as it was well illustrated with engravings. Mosaic pavements were attractive to Georgian and Victorian gentlemen because they served as a link to a Roman era of wealth and grandeur. Despite this (and doubtless due to their cost), such publications were not necessarily widely circulated. Thomas Hearne recorded that his volume on the Stonesfield mosaic consisted of only 120 copies, with successive editions issued in similarly small numbers. As a result, information about and images of the mosaic were only accessible to a privileged few.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, archaeology was still in its infancy as a discipline. Whilst there were keen antiquarians who were motivated to provide what they viewed as systematic and accurate records of archaeological sites, methodologies were still being developed. Some antiquarians were influenced purely by the fashion for collecting antiquities and lavishly decorating their properties with them, less so by historical-archaeological documentation. Efforts regarding the preservation of archaeological discoveries were undertaken by individuals, not groups. Publications were not widely circulated and appeared to be available only to rich, erudite individuals. It is clear, however, that many of the prints preserved in the Haverfield Archive provided the only surviving documentation of original mosaics. Following their discovery, many mosaic pavements were readily destroyed or reburied, with their exact sites lost from social memory. Although the illustrations are often inaccurate or have been exaggerated it is important that they be preserved for future study and research.

Next time, in the final post of this series, I will be looking at the man responsible for the archive, Francis Haverfield himself. I will examine why he and his associates decided to collect prints of Roman mosaics, and consider his motivations and the future projects he may have had in mind.

Chloe Bolsover, Graduate Trainee, Taylor Institution Library

References

Alexander, David. 2003. Antiquity at half a guinea. Country Life Archive Vol 197 (11) https://ezproxy-prd.bodleian.ox.ac.uk:2186/docview/1513164349?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo&imgSeq=1

Challands, A, Hall, J, Jackson, R, Peacock, D, Upex, S and Wild, FC. 2011. The Praetorium of Edmund Artis: A Summary of Excavations and Surveys of the Palatial Roman Structure at Castor, Cambridgeshire 1828-2010. Britannia, Vol 42, 23-112.

Cox, CJ. 1916. Lincolnshire. London: Methuen

Draper, J, Freshwater, T, Henig, M, and Hinds, S. 2000. From Stone to Textile: The Bacchus Mosaic at Stonesfield, Oxon, and the Stonesfield Embroidery. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 153:1, 1-29.

Fielden, K. 2016. Bowood Revisited. Chippenham: CPI Antony Rowe

Hingley, Richard. The recovery of Roman Britain 1586-1906: a colony so fertile. 2008. Oxford. Oxford University Press

Hoare, R. 1821. IV. An Account of a Stone Barrow, in the Parish of Wellow, at Stoney Littleton in the County of Somerset, which was opened and investigated in the Month of May 1816. Archaeologia: or Miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity, 1770-1992. Society of Antiquarians of London. Vol 19, 43-55

Meadows, P. 2004. Bonomi Joseph [formerly Giuseppe] (1739-1808). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press 

Millett, M. 2015. Roman Britain since Haverfield. In M. Millett, L. Revell and A. Moore (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Roman Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Mitford, J. 1846. Antiquarian Researches. Chatto & Windus

Nichols, J. 1853. Andrew Lawson Esq. The Gentleman’s Magazine: and historical review, July 1856-May 1868, Jun 1853. 657-658

Scott, S. 2014. Britain in the classical world: Samuel Lysons the art of Roman Britain 1780-1820. Classical Receptions Journal. Vol 6, No 2, 294-337

Scott, S. 2013. Samuel Lysons and His Circle: Art, Science and the Remains of Roman Britain. Bulletin of the History of Archaeology, 23 (2)

Smith, Henry Ecroyd. 1852. Reliquiae Isurianae: the remains of the Roman Isurium (now Aldboroug, near Boroughbridge, Yorkshire). London. Sold by Russell I Smith. Printed by William Hilton, 3, Upper Wellington Street, Strand.

Sweet, R. 2001. Antiquaries and Antiquities in Eighteenth-Century England. Eighteenth Century Studies. Vol 34, No 2, 181-206

Toynbee, JMC. 1981. Apollo, Beasts and Seasons: Some Thoughts on the Littlecote Mosaic. Britannia. Vol. 12 1-5

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and/or Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Sackler 101: Investigating the Haverfield Archive / Part II

Part 1 of this series of blog posts introduced the Haverfield Archive, held at the Sackler Library. This collection consists of correspondence, coloured prints and drawings illustrating mosaic pavements, site plans and publication extracts – an assortment of archaeological paraphernalia associated with Francis Haverfield (1860-1919), Camden Professor of Ancient History at Oxford and seen as the chief expert on Roman Britain at the start of the 20th century. The image collection comprises largely prints and a few hand-drawn sketches of Roman floor mosaics discovered during the 18th and 19th centuries. I decided to take on the task of creating the first index to this material so that its research potential would become clear. In November last year, I began indexing material. With each new document came a new discovery. As a former archaeologist, I found working with the archive a cleaner but just as incredible experience as uncovering forgotten objects through excavation. In total, I recorded around 50 images and associated documents, only a small fraction of the collection.

For Part 2 of this series of blog posts, I will focus on three archaeological sites: Aldborough, Cotterstock, and Stonesfield. The reason why I will discuss these sites in particular is because the majority of documents which I have recorded so far depict mosaics discovered there. (Continuation of the cataloguing part of the project was affected by the Covid-19 lockdown, as physical access to materials was no longer possible.)

Aldborough

The first site is the village of Aldborough (Isurium Brigantum), North Yorkshire. One of the first mosaics to be discovered at the site was the so-called ‘Lion mosaic’ (Inventory n. 2.13). In 1832, the landlord of the Aldborough Arms decided to bury a dead calf at the end of his garden. The rest – as they say – is history. News of the discovery appears to have spread nationwide and in 1849 the Illustrated London News (20 January 1849) published a report. In his 1852 publication, Reliquiae Isurianae, Henry Ecroyd Smith recorded mosaics from Aldborough, including this mosaic. In the below image, damage to the central panel is shown. It is strongly suspected that the culprits were enthusiastic souvenir hunters as the Reliquiae Isurianae describes how the mosaic had become a local attraction. In response, the Duke of Newcastle erected a stucture over the mosaic as an attempt to preserve it. What is most interesting about the print from the Haverfield Archive, is that the mosaic is surrounded by further sketches of the Roman remains.

‘Lion mosaic’ (Inventory n. 213)
‘Star’ mosaic (Inventory n. 2.5)

 

 

Another mosaic, featuring a ‘star’ in the central panel, was discovered in 1846. This mosaic is deeply associated with Aldborough and its design is incorporated into the current Friends of Aldborough logo (have a look). Ecroyd Smith’s Reliquiae Isurianae attests that news of the discovery of the mosaic spread rapidly throughout the community, as volunteer excavators joined the efforts to remove the ‘mass of rubble’. Andrew Lawson, the local landowner, erected a covering structure for the mosaic. Despite this, the mosaic remained exposed to weathering and was damaged by mould growth from the cold and damp conditions. The print is depicted in full colour and in very good condition. The patron behind the print was landowner Lawson. Other funders may have included the amateur archaeologist, Charles Roach Smith (1807-1890) and the antiquarian Albert Way (1805-1874). Ecroyd Smith expresses his gratitude for the support of these three men in his preface to the Reliquiae Isurianae. Lawson himself spent much of his time preserving the remains of Roman Aldborough, as well as making the first systematic collection of local archaeological finds. Funding publications like the Reliquiae Insurianae was well within his range of interests.   

Romulus and Remus mosaic (Inventory n. 1.4)

 

 

 

 

The final Aldborough mosaic that I’ll discuss here is the well-known ‘Romulus and Remus’ mosaic. It was discovered in 1834, and subsequently dug up by a local mason and removed to his cottage garden in Boroughbridge, where it became a central piece to the floor of a summerhouse. Fortunately, the Museum of the Philosophical and Literary Society of Leeds, subsequently incorporated into the Leeds City Museum, purchased the mosaic in 1863 where it remains preserved today. Due to its complicated provenance, there has been some discussion regarding the authenticity of the mosaic and some think that it was subjected to heavy Victorian restoration. Interestingly, the mosaic was not included in Ecroyd Smith’s Reliquiae Isurianae.

Geometric mosaic (Inventory n. 1.6 A 3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castor

Next, I draw your attention to a range of sites from across Northamptonshire. Several prints of mosaics discovered in the county appear to be from the same publication, The Durobrivae of Antoninus, published in 1828 by artist Edmund Artis (1789-1847). Artis carried out large-scale excavations in the county in the early 1820s. These included an investigation of the alleged Castor Praetorium, a monumental Roman building on the site of Castor’s parish church. Artis coined the term ‘Praetorium’ to suggest that the building not only had an administrative function but also implied a luxurious residence. Artis completed sketches of his finds and one of these is possibly Inventory n. 1.6 A 3, whose accompanying text describes its discovery on the north side of the churchyard.

 

Cotterstock

The Haverfield Archive also highlights similarities between a print (Inventory n. 1.6 A 1) from the Durobrivae of Antoninus and another (Inventory n. 3.1 1) from J. Nichols’s Vetusta Monumenta, a collection of images published under the Society of Antiquaries’ auspices. The two prints appear to be of the same mosaic but differ stylistically through radically different colour palettes and borders. The mosaic itself was discovered in a field in Cotterstock, in 1736, after being partially damaged by a plough. Locals from a nearby residence in Southwick, notably father and son, the George Lynns, as well as the artist William Bogdani (1699-1771), drew the mosaic. In 1737, Bogdani presented his drawing to the Society of Antiquaries. The Society commissioned George Vertue (1684-1756) to make an engraving from the drawing. Vertue was considered one of the best reproductive engravers in the country at that time. He had a strong reputation as an antiquary as well, and was appointed Engraver to the Society of Antiquaries in 1717. Vertue completed his engraving of the mosaic in 1737 and presented it to the Society. Edmund Artis used this print as a basis when he published the mosaic in his Durobrivae.

 

Inventory n. 1.9

 

 

As at Aldborough, preservation tactics such as covering up the Cotterstock mosaic did not deter souvenir hunters. The fourth Earl of Cardigan removed a large chunk of the mosaic and took it back to his residence at Deene Park. The Earl set the fragment into a centrepiece for the floor of a summerhouse. Whilst his intention was to preserve the mosaic, it did not survive.

Another, smaller mosaic was discovered at Cotterstock in 1798. The first engraving of it was made by William Fowler in 1802 (Inventory n. 1.9). In 1828, Edmund Artis also republished the mosaic in his Durobrivae.

 

 

 

 

Stonesfield

Finally, I will focus on prints which appear to depict the same mosaic found at Stonesfield, a village in Oxfordshire. While the mosaic was first discovered in 1711, in one account, by John Pointer in 1713, it is claimed that the mosaic was accidentally uncovered by a tenant farmer in a field called Chesthill Acres. News of the discovery soon reached Oxford, rousing the interest of local antiquarians. The tenant farmer, George Handes, proved himself to be a savvy businessman and began charging both an admission fee to view the mosaic and a further charge for drawing it. As always, souvenir hunters were eager to grab a keepsake. One fragment was given to the diarist and antiquarian Thomas Hearne (1744-1817), who worked in the library of St Edmund Hall and also at the Bodleian. Fragments, alongside images and written records, formed part of the supporting materials for lengthy discussions among groups such as the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society.

In his A discourse concerning to the Stunsfield tessellated pavement (1712) Thomas Hearne included an illustrated print of the Stonesfield mosaic. Hearne frequently visited the pavement; on his sixth visit he brought along the Dutch illustrator, Michael Burghers (1647-1727) who, from 1676, engraved the plates for the Almanacks of the University and whose objective was to draw the pavement accurately. In 1723, the Society of Antiquaries again commissioned George Vertue to produce an engraving. The finished product was very popular and was still on sale in 1757, 34 years after Vertue’s death. This print is essentially an enlargement of Burgher’s work and remains very faithful to its detail. In the Haverfield Archive, both Hearne and Vertue are credited with reproducing Inventory n. 1.12 and n. 1.16.

Hearne expressed his fears regarding the condition of the Stonesfield mosaic, as it was suffering from exposure to the elements. In 1716, there were rumours that the pavement had been destroyed. The mosaic had suffered badly from damage caused by souvenir hunters and poor preservation management. Over time, George Handes and his landlord increasingly argued over how profits gained from admission fees for viewing the mosaic were to be shared. In one incident, an argument between the pair allegedly ended with the tenant tearing the mosaic to pieces.

In 1779 digging in the area led to the mosaic’s accidental rediscovery. Although the extent of the damage inflicted by George Handes is unclear, the fact that the mosaic was still recognisable suggests that it had somewhat survived. The ensuing excavations received the patronage of the Duke of Marlborough, whose Blenheim estates lay nearby. A report was presented to the Society of Antiquaries in 1784, with a set of engravings of the mosaic by William Lewington. This is particularly interesting as the illustration in the Haverfield Archive is attributed not to Lewington, but to the self-taught engraver William Fowler (1761-1832). Just as George Vertue reproduced Michael Burgher’s earlier version of the mosaic, Fowler based his work directly on Lewington’s own engraving. In 1802, Fowler had the ground opened, finding part of the pavement in good condition. Eventually, however, in 1806, the Stonesfield mosaic was divided among three landowners, with the removal and destruction of the in situ mosaic recorded a year later.

My next post in this series will discuss the people who made these prints: The antiquarians. These rich, erudite and privileged individuals helped shape archaeology as the discipline that it is today.

Chloe Bolsover, Graduate Trainee, Taylor Institution Library

References

Alexander, David. 2003. Antiquity at half a guinea. Country Life Archive Vol 197 (11) https://ezproxy-prd.bodleian.ox.ac.uk:2186/docview/1513164349?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo&imgSeq=1 (accessed June 2020)

Artis, E.T. 1828. The Durobrivae of Antoninus : identified and illustrated in a series of plates, exhibiting the excavated remains of that Roman station, in the vicinity of Castor, Northamptonshire : including the mosaic pavements, inscriptions, paintings in fresco, baths, iron and glass furnaces, potters’ kilns, implements for coining, and the manufacture of earthen vessels, war and other instruments in brass, iron, ivory, &c. London

Bignamini, I. 1996. Vertue, George. Grove Art Online https://ezproxy-prd.bodleian.ox.ac.uk:2995/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7000089087 (accessed March 2020)

Castor Praetorium. Peterborough Archaeology https://peterborougharchaeology.org/peterborough-archaeological-sites/castor-praetorium/ (accessed March 2020)

Challands, A, Hall, J, Jackson, R, Peacock, D, Upex, S and Wild, FC. 2011. The Praetorium of Edmund Artis: A Summary of Excavations and Surveys of the  Palatial Roman Structure at Castor, Cambridgeshire 1828-2010. Britannia, Vol 42, 23-112.

Draper, J, Freshwater, T, Henig, M, and Hinds, S. 2000. From Stone to Textile: The Bacchus Mosaic at Stonesfield, Oxon, and the Stonesfield Embroidery. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 153:1, 1-29.

Friends of Roman Aldborough http://romanaldborough.co.uk/ (accessed March 2020)

Hearne, T. A discourse concerning to the Stunsfield tessellated pavement. With some new observations about the Roman inscription that relates to the Bath Fabrica, and an account of the custom of the mannor of Woodstock. July 11. 1712.

Hingley, Richard. The recovery of Roman Britain 1586-1906: a colony so fertile. 2008. Oxford. Oxford University Press

Hornbeck, EJ. Plate 1.48: Roman Pavement Found at Cotterstock. Vetusta Monumenta: Ancient Monuments, A Digital Edition https://scalar.missouri.edu/vm/vol1plate48-roman-pavement-cotterstock (accessed March 2020)  

Levine, J. 1978. The Stonesfield Pavement: Archaeology in Augustan England. Eighteenth Century Studies, Vol 11, No. 3. 340-361

Nichols, J. 1747. Vetusta monumenta: quae ad rerum Britannicarum memoriam conservandam Societas Antiquariorum Londini sumptu suo edenda curavit. Volumen primum. [-septimum]. London: Society of Antiquaries

Pointer, J. 1713. An account of a Roman pavement, lately found at Stunsfield in Oxfordshire, prov’d to be 1400 years old. Leonard Lichfield: Oxford Sculpture in Yew and other letters. Country Life Archive, 1959 Vol 126 720 https://ezproxy-prd.bodleian.ox.ac.uk:2186/docview/1521510620?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo (accessed June 2020)

Smith, Henry Ecroyd. 1859. On a Romano-British Mosaic Pavement, representing Romulus and Remus, discovered at Aldborough (Isurium of the Romans). Proceedings of the Geological and Polytechnic Society of the West Riding of Yorkshire, 4, 593-604

Smith, Henry Ecroyd. 1852. Reliquiae Isurianae: the remains of the Roman Isurium (now Aldborough, near Boroughbridge, Yorkshire). London. Sold by Russell I Smith. Printed by William Hilton, 3, Upper Wellington Street, Strand

Upex, SG. 2001. The Roman Villa at Cotterstock, Northamptonshire. Britannia. Vol 32 57-91

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and/or Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Sackler 101: Investigating the Haverfield Archive / Part I

Cast your mind back to November 2019. Life seems relatively simple. The coronavirus is about to strike its first victim but it is Brexit that is on everyone’s minds. I was in my third month as a trainee at the Taylor Institution Library and was finishing my day at the Enquiry Desk. Clare Hills-Nova, Italian Literature and Language Librarian at the Taylorian and also Librarian-in-Charge at the Sackler Library, was beginning her evening desk duty and, in the last few minutes before I went home, we were having quite an interesting conversation. At one point in time, we had both worked in rescue archaeology and I was describing how my specialism while I was studying was Roman Britain. It was a lovely conversation as I adore talking about archaeology (to anyone who will listen) and, after wrapping it up, I did not think any more of it.

Setting the scene…(Enquiry Desk, Taylor Institution Library)

 

A few days later, I received an email from Clare about the possibility of doing my trainee project on the Haverfield Archive, housed at the Sackler Library. I responded saying that I was (of course!) interested and we arranged a meeting to view it.

For those of you who are not clued up on the archaeology of Roman Britain, you may have never heard of Francis Haverfield. Haverfield (1860-1919) was Camden Professor of Ancient History at Oxford and seen as the chief expert on Roman Britain at the start of the 20th century. He was instrumental in persuading the Society of Antiquaries to establish a research fund in support of research excavations focusing on Roman Britain. A pioneer in his field, Haverfield helped to establish archaeology as the discipline that it is today. Indeed, he championed the introduction of Archaeology as a degree subject at Oxford: he helped fund university training excavations; and aimed to improve the methodologies that were developed by antiquarian excavators.

In the world of archaeology, Haverfield has an enduring legacy with his theory of Romanization in Roman Britain. This theory was initially delivered as a lecture and then appeared as a small book in 1912 (Haverfield, F.1912. The Romanization of Roman Britain. Clarendon Press: Oxford). Haverfield sought to elucidate the incorporation of Britain into the Roman Empire, which he viewed as a cultural assimilation rather than enforced acceptance. In CE 43, the full, gradual conquest of Britain began under the Emperor Claudius, ending in CE 87. This certainly was not the first time that Britons had communicated with the Roman Empire, as Julius Caesar described his expeditions in Britain in his Gallic Wars between 55 and 54 BCE (Caesar, Gallic Wars. Translated by Peskett, AG. 2014. Digital Loeb Classical Library).  Haverfield was the first English academic to systematically consider the cultural consequences of the CE 43 Roman invasion through archaeological evidence. To Haverfield, this evidence suggested that Britain fully participated in Roman culture. His Romanization theory challenged previous views — which reflected British early 20th century colonial values — that it was through invasion and colonisation that Britons became more ‘civilised’ and ‘Romanized’. The term ‘Romanization’, therefore, itself indicated a more ongoing and active process.

 

The Haverfield Archive consists of correspondence, coloured prints, and drawings illustrating mosaic pavements, site plans, publication extracts — an assortment of archaeological paraphernalia! The archive reportedly holds only a tiny fraction of Haverfield’s papers. Haverfield bequeathed his papers and library to the university, and these were housed at the Ashmolean Museum. In 2001, the Archive was transferred to the newly-built Sackler Library. When viewing the archive itself with Clare and the Classics and Classical Archaeology Librarian, Charlotte Goodall, I was astounded by the richness of its content and its potential for future research projects.

 

The component of this archive of greatest interest to me is the collection of images illustrating mosaic pavements discovered (mostly) in Britain. Often grouped together and mounted on very large cardboard sheets, the collection is housed in approximately thirty extremely large, transparent hanging folders, each of which contains multiple mosaic pavement illustrations. Sifting through the folders, we were delighted with each new discovery of brilliantly coloured prints and drawings.

According to Clare and Charlotte, while readers occasionally consult Haverfield’s text-based papers the mosaic pavements collection had received little or no attention. The collection would be of great interest to researchers and students, but its sheer vastness and lack of organisational documentation — there is no catalogue detailing its contents — are serious impediments to in-depth research. Therefore, my task for the trainee year appeared to be relatively simple: create an index, recording each document in detail. So that, ultimately its research potential would become clear.

Our second task was highlighted by the large, tired looking, over-full and hence unwieldy hanging folders housing the collection. Some of the folders showed cracks and tears and there was also some concern regarding exposure to light. A new plan chest had been purchased, and it was decided that the sheets would be transferred to the drawers of the plan chest as they were catalogued. New archive-appropriate ‘Melinex’ folders, suitable for horizontal storage, would also be purchased to house each sheet individually. This improved storage solution would ensure the collection’s preservation for years to come!

This will be a series of blog posts. Next time, I will showcase some of the amazing mosaic prints that I came across when creating the index of the archive.

Chloe Bolsover, Graduate Trainee, Taylor Institution Library

References:

Craster, HHE. 1920. Francis Haverfield. The English Historical Review, 63-70

Freeman, PWM. 2007. The Best Training-Ground for Archaeologists. Oxford: Oxbow Books

Millett, M. 2015. Roman Britain since Haverfield. In M. Millett, L. Revell and A. Moore (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Roman Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and/or Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Like@Sac! International Women’s Day – A Virtual Book Display – Women at Oxford 1920-2020

 

 

International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women and challenging stereotypes, has been observed on 8 March every year since its inception in 1911.  The organisers of International Women’s Day describe it as “a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.”[1]  The fight for women’s equality continues in the UK and around the world, and events like International Women’s Day show how important it is that women and girls are able to reach their full potential and contribute to all areas of our society. Each year, the organisers of International Women’s Day choose a theme as a banner under which everyone’s efforts can be channelled and unified. This year, the theme is I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights This theme aligns with UN Women’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights for an Equal Future, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls, everywhere.[2]

 

Image Credit: Katherine Hanlon, Unsplash
Image Credit: Katherine Hanlon, Unsplash

 

International Women’s Day 2020 also marks the start of the social media campaign #EachforEqual:

“An equal world is an enabled world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.  We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world. Let’s all be #EachforEqual.”[3]

Image Credit: Logan Isbell, Unsplash

2020 also marks the 100th anniversary of a historic victory for women at the University of Oxford: in 1920 Mary-Anne Henley was the first to collect her degree in the Sheldonian Theatre.  To mark this centenary and celebrate the contribution of women to Oxford, the University is launching Women Making History: 100 Years of Oxford degrees for women:

“The centenary provides an opportunity to take stock of our progress in promoting women’s education and advancing gender equality and diversity.”

As the website also notes:

“Women Making History will shine a spotlight on the diverse women who have contributed to the University of Oxford, as well as the women who are shaping its future today. In the coming months, we will explore stories of Oxford women as scholars, students, researchers, academics, clinicians, technicians, librarians, archivists, activists, artists and much more.  If you have a story about an Oxford woman that you think should be told, please join the conversation by using the hashtag #womenatoxford.”[4]

To celebrate International Women’s Day — and to mark the 100th anniversary of Oxford degrees for Women — members of the Sackler Reader Services team compiled a Virtual Book Display. (Sadly, visibility of the physical book display was curtailed by the Covid-19 lockdown.)  At the end of this blog post, you will find a list of links to various e-publications, available via SOLO, which focus on women’s accomplishments as they relate to Archaeology, Art, Architecture, Classics and Egyptology – some of the areas of collecting focus at the Sackler Library.

It is wrong to assume that amongst the most celebrated figures in Classics, hardly any women feature.  Of course, there is the Greek poet Sappho.  We have chosen to display Nancy Rabinowitz and Lisa Auanger’s Among Women, which focuses on Sappho’s poetic creativity and erotic themes.  We can never discuss key female figures in Classics without mentioning Hypatia of Alexandria, as discussed by Dora Russell.  The poems of Sulpicia are a rarity.  In comparison with works by other Roman women, Sulpicia’s work has survived intact, rather than existing in fragments.  Her six poems appear in the Augustan poet Tibullus’ corpus of poetry, a translation of which appears in our display.  For those interested in reception theory, James Donaldson’s Woman considers the position of women in Classical and Early Christian societies through the lens of a male academic in Edwardian Britain.

 

Pieere Olivier Joseph Coomans, Sappho at Mitylene, 1876 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

 

“We can also see the contributions of women in Ancient Egypt where, as many may be aware, it was not unknown for women to hold positions of power.  Mary Hamer’s Signs of Cleopatra and Dorothea Arnold’s Royal Women of Amarna discuss two of perhaps the most well-known female figureheads of Egypt: Cleopatra and Nefertiti.  However, another noteworthy addition is the fifth Pharaoh to rule Egypt during the Eighteenth Dynasty, as discussed in Catherine Roehrig et al.’s Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharoah.  Hatshepsut brought about religious infrastructure and trade reform during her 21-year reign, but all records relating to her activities were systematically destroyed by her successor, Thutmose III.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Beheading Holofernes, by Artemisia Gentileschi (Naples, Museo di Capodimonte), 1612-13 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

It is a pleasure when the female story is celebrated and represented well, as many in the art world have been striving for since gender inequality became part of their consciousness, and since feminist art historians such as Linda Nochlin (“Why there have been no great women artists”, 1971) and Griselda Pollock drew attention to the issue.  Art movements and artists have put visions into visuals, alongside providing the artwork to promote diversity and alternate views to the much discussed male gaze.  Fortunately, for art, there have been many female artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi (as discussed in Keith Christiansen’s Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi or at the now-postponed National Gallery exhibition, Artemisia, in London), who were as successful as their male counterparts during their lifetimes.  This allows us to witness alternative art histories and celebrate historical women artists who worked side-by-side with male artists.  We can also fight for them to be recognised in the archives and great libraries, worldwide, so that we are aware of women who came before us as well as those who are alive today, contributing to the modern art world as we know it — for example, Jenny Saville, whose first solo show in a UK public institution was held at Modern Art Oxford.  For those interested in further exploring the work of women artists during lockdown, Modern Art Oxford’s online exhibition archive is showcasing exhibitions by three artists: Invisible Strategies by Lubaina Himid, Wanderer by Kiki Smith, and Tools For Life by Johanna Unzueta.

The discussion of women’s contribution to the field of architecture is a more is a more complicated one.  Compared with the strides taken in the art world, architecture is much further behind in its recognition of its female figures.  There are few female architects within the pages of the architectural history books that are celebrated in the same way as their male counterparts, which begs the question: what historical examples do we have, if any, of women in the architectural world? Women’s presence in architecture was often suppressed, as was the case with Annie Albers, who was unable to study architecture at the Bauhaus (whose proponents considered that architecture was a men-only professions) and so turned to weaving instead. Her work is noted for its architectural qualities and the innovation she brought to weaving techniques, showing how her interest in architecture and space could not be erased.  (See, for example, her 2018-2019 exhibition at Tate Modern.)

Due to the past elusiveness of female figures in architecture, it is therefore difficult to celebrate qualities of architectural practice which are acknowledged as “feminine”.  Even though a variety of books have been written on the intersection between feminism and architecture, including key works which form much of the basis of gendered architectural theory such as Beatriz Colomina’s Sexuality and Space, women still struggle to identify feminist architecture, what it is, and how it should be practised. Women have often struggled to gain recognition in architecture, leading to the controversial problem of their preferring not to identify as “female architects” or “women architects”.  This is particularly true of high achieving female architects: they do not want their title of architect to be gendered.  This is discussed in Francesca Hughes’ The Architect: Reconstructing Her Practice, one of the few monographs which celebrates the work of women architects.  It is to be understood that women architects believed that if they left out any reference to their gender, then they would be seen and treated as equals.  However, as well meaning as this appears, this provides leverage for the erasure of the narrative of women and the dismissal of the problems and experiences women may have experienced due to gender discrimination within the profession.

Book cover: Maggie Toy, ed. The Architect: Women in Contemporary Architecture (2001)

This can also lead to questions of privilege held by the contributors for them to not have experienced any discrimination; and to the belief that other narratives do not exist or that gender is not a problem. The publication The Architect: Women in Contemporary Architecture, edited by Maggie Toy, is a key source on women in architecture, but the women in question objected to such potential titles for the book as “The Female Architect”.  The best they could do to give a nod towards the representation of women was the subtle adaptation of the Venus sign in the title on the book’s cover.

Venus symbol (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Despite the issues raised, it is important to recognise the accomplishments of the feminist movement in the fields collected by the Sackler Library.  We hope that the reading list at the end of this post will provide a small insight into what has already been achieved.

If you would like to learn more about women’s history and gender studies in February and March 2020 the Bodleian Libraries provided trial access to a wide range of related informational databases, arranged as part of Changing the Narrative: Championing Inclusive Collection Development, a project led by Helen Worrell, Bodleian Libraries’ Anthropology & Archaeology Subject Librarian. The following databases were available during the trials and, for one of them, we have temporary extended access.  A decision on whether to purchase any of these databases (based on reader feedback) is in the works.

We hope you will enjoy browsing this small selection of our collections, and we hope you will spend some time remembering Women at Oxford 1920-2020.

 

Chloe Bolsover, Graduate Library Trainee
Katherine Day, Library Assistant
Erin McNulty, Graduate Library Trainee
Caroline Walsh, Library Assistant

References

[1][3]https://www.internationalwomensday.com/2020Theme

[2]https://www.un.org/en/observances/womens-day

[4] www.ox.ac.uk/about/oxford-people/women-at-oxford 

Database trials

Women and Social Movements, International

Through the writings of women activists, their personal letters and diaries, and the proceedings of conferences at which pivotal decisions were made, this collection lets you see how women’s social movements shaped much of the events and attitudes that have defined modern life.  This digital archive includes 150,000 pages of conference proceedings, reports of international women’s organizations, publications and web pages of women’s non-governmental organizations, and letters, diaries, and memoirs of women active internationally since the mid-nineteenth century.  It also includes photographs and videos of major events and activists in the history of women’s international social movements.

Women’s Magazine Archive 1 & 2 TEMPORARY ACCESS EXTENDED

Women’s Magazine Archive 1 provides access to the complete archives of the foremost titles of this type, including Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal, which serve as canonical records of evolving assumptions about gender roles and cultural mores. Other titles here focus on narrower topics but deliver valuable source content for specific research areas. Parents, for example, is of particular relevance for research in the fields of children’s education, psychology, and health, as well as reflecting broader social historical trends.  Women’s Magazine Archive 2 features several of the most prominent, high-circulating, and long-running publications in this area, such as Woman’s Day and Town & Country. Collection 2 also, however, complements the first collection by including some titles focusing on more specific audiences and themes. Cosmopolitan and Seventeen, for example, are oriented towards a younger readership, while black women’s interests are represented by Essence. Women’s International Network News differs in being a more political, activist title, with an international dimension.  Topics covered these collections include family life, home economics, health, careers, fashion, culture, and many more; this material serves multiple research areas, from gender studies, social history, and the arts, through to education, politics, and marketing/media history.

Women’s Studies Archive

The Women’s Studies Archive: Issues and Identities will focus on the social, political, and professional achievements of women throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century. Along with providing a closer look at some of the pioneers of women’s movements, this collection offers scholars a deep dive into the issues that have affected women and the many contributions they have made to society.

International Women’s Day – Virtual Book Display: a selection of e-books at Oxford

Aceves Sepúlveda, G., 2019. Women made visible: feminist art and media in post-1968 Mexico City.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph021790974

Anderson, J. & Huneault, K., 2012. Rethinking professionalism: women and art in Canada, 1850-1970.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000924860

Arnold, D., Allen, J.P. & Green, L., 1996. The royal women of Amarna: images of beauty from ancient Egypt.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph020320492

Ashton, S.-A., 2008. Cleopatra and Egypt.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000517287

Battista, K., 2019. New York new wave: the legacy of feminist art in emerging practice.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001128694

Battista, K., 2019. Renegotiating the body: feminist art in 1970s London.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001129729

Betterton, R., 2019. Unframed: practices and politics of women’s contemporary painting.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001129730

Broude, N. & Garrard, M.D., 2018. The expanding discourse: feminism and art history.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021680728

Butler, J. 1999. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021627491

Christiansen, K. et al., 2001. Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph020320310

Dabakis, M., 2014. A sisterhood of sculptors: American artists in nineteenth-century Rome.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph020970150

Deffebach, N., 2015. María Izquierdo and Frida Kahlo: challenging visions in modern Mexican art.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph000852915

Dekel, T. 2013. Gendered: Art and Feminist Theory.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000814205

Dirgantoro, W., 2017. Feminisms and contemporary art in Indonesia: defining experiences.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph001110690

Dodson, A., 2009. Amarna sunset: Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb, and the Egyptian counter-reformation.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000530537

Donaldson, J., 1907. Woman; her position and influence in ancient Greece and Rome and among the early Christians.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph020705571

Fanghanel, A., 2019. Disrupting rape culture: public space, sexuality and revolt.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021733551

Grainger, J. Sulpicia & Tibullus, 1992. A poetical translation of the elegies of Tibullus; and of the poems of Sulpicia.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph020741566

Greene, E., 1996. Reading Sappho: contemporary approaches.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021293990

Hamer, M., 2014. Signs of Cleopatra: reading an icon historically.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph020148152

Heynen, H. & Baydar, G., 2005. Negotiating domesticity: spatial productions of gender in modern architecture.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000914883

Horne, V. & Perry, L., 2019. Feminism and art history now: radical critiques of theory and practice.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001127609

Iōannou, Kyriakidou & Christiansen, 2014. Female beauty in art: history, feminism, women artists.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000867093

Isaak, J.A., 1996. Feminism and contemporary art: the revolutionary power of women’s laughter.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000575626

Kelley, L., 2019. Bioart kitchen: art, feminism and technoscience.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001127602

Kleiner, D.E.E., 2005. Cleopatra and Rome.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000519061

Kokoli, A.M., 2016. The feminist uncanny in theory and art practice.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001127848

Liss, A., 2009. Feminist art and the maternal.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph000515481

Martin, B. & Sparke, P., 2003. Women’s places: architecture and design 1860-1960.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000913452

Meskimmon, M., 2003. Women making art: history, subjectivity, aesthetics.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000917653

Miles, M.M., 2011. Cleopatra: a sphinx revisited.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000546249

Murray, E. & Varnedoe, K., 1995. Elizabeth Murray, modern women: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, June 20-August 22, 1995.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph021140275

Nochlin, L., 2018. Women, art, and power: and other essays.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021284529

Pollock, G., 1999. Differencing the canon: feminist desire and the writing of art’s histories.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021274805

Pollock, G., 2003. Vision and difference: feminism, femininity and the histories of art.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph019861020

Rabinowitz, N.S. & Auanger, L., 2002. Among women: from the homosocial to the homoerotic in the ancient world.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph016911858

Rendell, J., Penner, B. & Borden, I., 2000. Gender space architecture: an interdisciplinary introduction.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000481765

Reynolds, L., 2019. Women artists, feminism and the moving image: contexts and practices.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001128859

Richlin, A. 2014. Arguments with Silence: Writing the History of Roman Women.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph000768250

Robinson, H. & Buszek, M.E., 2019. A companion to feminist art.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021790990

Roehrig, C. H., Dreyfus, R., and Keller, C. A. 2006. Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph020320021

Roller, D.W., 2010. Cleopatra: a biography.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000579312

Russell, D., 1976. Hypatia: or, Woman and knowledge.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph020705536

Sappho, Rayor, Diane J. & Lardinois, A. P. M. H., 2014. Sappho: a new translation of the complete works.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph020611304

Shonfield, K., 2000. Walls have feelings: architecture, film, and the city.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000484227

Skelly, J., 2020. Radical decadence: excess in contemporary feminist textiles and craft.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001130353

Solomon-Godeau, A. & Parsons, S., 2017. Photography after photography: gender, genre, and history.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021157235

Souter, G., 2015. Frida Kahlo: beneath the mirror.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001003107

Walsh, M. & Throp, M., 2019. Twenty years of MAKE magazine: back to the future of women’s art.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001125669

Wark, J., 2006. Radical gestures: feminism and performance art in North America.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph000584817

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Sackler 101: 25th ICOM General Conference and CIPEG Annual Meeting in Kyoto (Japan), 2019

 

One of the important ways of keeping up to date with developments in the fields of study that Bodleian Libraries subject librarians support is through international conference attendance, where they have the opportunity of finding out about current as well as new research beyond the ‘Oxford bubble’.

The 25th General Conference of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), an NGO with 44,600 members representing over 20,000 museums in c. 140 countries, took place 1-7 September 2019 in Kyoto, Japan. With 4,000+ participants, this was the best attended General Conference in the history of ICOM.

 

Entrance to the International Conference Center, Kyoto (Photo credit: Susanne Woodhouse)

 

Entitled “Museums as Cultural Hubs: the future of tradition”, the participants discussed the role of museums in the age of multiculturalism and disasters. In particular, four plenary sessions explored:

-How museums can support societies in their search for a sustainable future
-ICOM’s commission on a new definition of the word “Museum”
-Museum disaster management
-Asian art museums and collections

The main focus however was on the new museum definition which had sent ripples through the museum world prior to the conference for two reasons. Firstly it had been launched without consulting the organisation’s 119 National Committees; secondly its content and wording was deemed by members to be inappropriate or incorrect. The last day of the conference saw the decision of the General Assembly to postpone the vote on this new museum definition approved by 70.4% of the participants.

 

Main Hall of the International Conference Center: Plenary session on the definition of museums (Photo credit: Susanne Woodhouse)

 

ICOM’s 30 International Committees, representing specialisations across the museum sector, held their Annual Meetings throughout the week at the Conference Center and at satellite venues. As Subject Librarian for Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies I am a member of the Comité International pour l’Égyptologie (CIPEG). The Committee was in for a treat as our Japanese colleagues had arranged an extraordinary symposium about their conservation project in the Grand Egyptian Museum (Cairo). During the following three days CIPEG members presented 37 papers on all aspects of Ancient Egyptian and Sudanese collections world-wide.

My paper focused on the history of the former private library of the first Professor of Egyptology in Oxford, Francis Llewellyn Griffith (1862-1934), in its time the world’s most comprehensive private library for Ancient Near Eastern Studies (including Egyptology). Francis Griffith and his wife Nora left this library to the University of Oxford, together with a very considerable fortune, to build and endow a permanent centre for the teaching of and research in Ancient Near Eastern Studies (including Egyptology). The Griffith Institute opened in January 1939 and, as intended by F.L. Griffith, it was situated adjacent to the Ashmolean Museum. The Griffith Library formed part of the Griffith Institute, a Department with independent status by Statute within the Ashmolean Museum. In 1966 the Museum’s staffing structure underwent a review, resulting in the Brunt Report (named after the Chairman of the review committee, Professor P.A. Brunt) which amongst others highlighted the top-class libraries integral to the various Museum Departments. The recommended amalgamation of these departmental libraries under a principal librarian took place in 1969, resulting in the separately governed Ashmolean Library. The Ashmolean Library, from then on, administered the Griffith Institute Library, the collection of which continued to be housed in the Griffith Institute. With the Ashmolean Library and the Griffith Library bursting at their seams, however, a new accommodation had to be sought but it was not until 30 years later that their collections were finally transferred to their new home, the Sackler Library, which opened in 2001. The holdings of this library derive from a number of separately housed collections and are the embodiment of Griffith’s vision of a research tool promoting interdisciplinary research.

Some contemporary “witnesses” are irreplaceable and therefore housed in the Sackler’s Rare Books Room. They include as Griffith’s personal copy of the 1st edition of the Egyptian Grammar (1927), authored by his famous pupil Alan H Gardiner (1879–1963). This copy contains Gardiner’s little-known hieroglyphic dedication to his teacher, a testimony of “the humble servant’s” huge veneration for Griffith. The Griffith Institute agreed to include a facsimile of the dedication in this year’s reprint of Gardiner’s Egyptian Grammar.

 

Hieroglyphic dedication by A H Gardiner to F L Griffith (© Griffith Institute, University of Oxford)

 

In between plenary sessions, lectures and workshops participants took the opportunity to explore the stalls of the c. 150 exhibitors which made up the Museums Fair and Expo Forum. Amongst others there was a “shaky van” in which one could experience an earthquake with and without seismic isolation; the virtual reality stall was always busy; producers of replicas and facsimiles displayed their work carried out for museums and temples alike; publishers of exquisite art books attracted visitors with their dazzling reproduction of colours; and the publisher Routledge/Taylor & Francis showcased its publishing partnership with ICOM.

 

Having been asked to touch the replica of the National Treasure “Wind and Thunder God Screens” by Tawaraya Sotatsu (17th c, Kenninji Temple, now Kyoto National Museum), I could feel the joints of the gold leaves and the texture of the paint (Photo credit: Susanne Woodhouse)

 

Every evening delegates attended social events, ranging from a superb opening party which closed with a magnificent fireworks display, to a reception at Nijo Castle, the palace of which is a National Treasure from the early Edo period, and at the Kyoto National Museum. The organisation of this international conference ran like clockwork and the stakes are high indeed for the 26th General Conference, which will take place in 2022 in Prague.

 

Reception at Kyoto National Museum: Diane Bergman (right) the previous Griffith Librarian at the Sackler Library, Dåg Bergman (Diane’s husband), and myself (Diane’s successor in the post) (Photo credit: Susanne Woodhouse)

 

As subject librarian for Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, part of my mandate is to support the curatorial research needs of Ashmolean Museum staff. This conference, therefore, enabled me to put my work into a wider context by providing information on current challenges in the museum world, on the latest trends such as the attempt to redefine what a museum should stand for in the 21st century, and on new technologies used to preserve or reproduce cultural heritage for future generations.

Attending the subject-specific CIPEG meeting was an opportunity to keep abreast with academic and publishing developments as well as to promote the Sackler Library (and the Bodleian Libraries) and its holdings to the international community. At the same time my presentation constituted a contribution to the international scholarly discourse of the history of collections within Egyptology.

I would like to thank the Bodleian Libraries for the generous support that enabled me to attend this hugely informative conference.

Susanne Woodhouse
Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies Librarian (Griffith Librarian)
Sackler Library

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Sackler 101: Keeping the University reading: How we are supporting Sackler readers’ research, study and teaching

The Bodleian Libraries’ (and the Sackler Library’s) approach is to prioritise the safety of our staff and readers, whilst working hard to make it possible to ‘Keep the University reading’.

Library buildings
All library sites and reading rooms are closed to readers until further notice.

Library services
Our physical services are suspended, whilst we both continue and expand our digital services.

  • eResources. The Bodleian Libraries provide access to over 118k eJournals, and over 1.4m eBooks. Our priority is to maintain access to these, and to add to the eResources that we provide for the Oxford community. All accessible via SOLO. More details here.

****Don’t forget Sackler reader relevant e-books and e-resources available via other platforms:

  • The Getty Research Portal  Multilingual and multicultural union catalogue providing FREE download capabilities for publications on art, architecture, archaeology, material culture, and related fields.
    • Currently at 143,954 (20/06/2020) digitised titles. The number of volumes on this site is growing on a near-daily basis.
    • Most publications on this site are copyright-free (and hence older), with more recent publications also included.
  • The National Art Library (at the V&A) has compiled a lengthy list of free art and design e-resources here.

 

 

 

  • Scan-and-deliver. This service provides scanned materials for readers from collections housed at the Book Storage Facility. Access via SOLO:  free for all Bodleian Libraries library card holders.
    A new service, ‘Scan-and-deliver+‘ (access here) provides scans of material in Oxford library locations. Please note: The Sackler Library is both short-staffed and also experiencing a high volume of such requests. We are doing our very best to deliver a good service ask for your patience and understanding during this rapidly-evolving situation.
  • Oxford Reading Lists Online (ORLO). The ORLO service provides students with online reading lists linked to library and open access resources and can be used in Canvas or through its own user interface. ORLO currently holds 1,000+ lists for the current academic year in support of 22+ departments from across the academic divisions. We are instigating a rapid roll-out to other courses. More details here.
  • Loans. All Bodleian Libraries books currently on loan are auto-renewed until 19 June 2020. Please hold on to books you have out; do not return them. Any fines will be waived.
  • Inter-Library-Loans (ILL). Electronic delivery will soon be available free of charge (access here). Physical ILL is suspended.
  • Oxford University Research Archive (ORA). The ORA service (access here) will continue in support of open access to Oxford research, and in support of REF 2021 [link: https://www.ref.ac.uk/].
  • eReference/enquiries. The expanded Live Chat service will be available 9am–7pm every day from Monday 23 March. Access routes here: website, LibGuides,  SOLO.  Remote assistance from expert library staff is available by emailing reader.services@bodleian.ox.ac.uk (staffed weekdays, 9am–5pm).

While we are working hard to ensure we can maintain our digital services, and expand them where possible, we will be able to do this only when it does not compromise the health and safety of our staff.

Note: Many digital services, like our catalogue SOLO or ORA are accessible to all, while some of the services and resources noted above are restricted to Bodleian Libraries card holders (Single Sign On required).

(Credit: Adapted from http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/archivesandmanuscripts/2020/03/20/keeping-the-university-reading/, by Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian.)

Sackler 101: Interactive Floorplans

Navigating the Sackler Library — and Finding the Books You Need!

As any reader at the Sackler Library can attest, the library presents some navigational challenges. Thanks to the combination of a confusing circular layout and the large number of different shelfmark schemes in use, it can often be difficult to find the book you’re looking for without spending an eternity wandering in circles – even for staff!

 

Image credit: Chantal van den Berg

 

In response to these navigational challenges, I began work on an interactive floor plan website in November 2018, which built upon the foundation of our existing paper floorplans – the Sackler is a five-floor library.  Through the combination of the existing (though much cleaned-up) SVG files for the paper floorplans, a hand-gathered file of shelf content information, and bit of JavaScript to weld the two together, version 1.0 was born. This early version, released for staff use in January 2019, allowed one to virtually browse the shelfmark ranges present on each shelf (and there was much rejoicing). However, as useful as this prototype was, it was clear from the very beginning that browsing alone was not enough: the floorplan had to be searchable.

This next part was rather more involved. To write a programme that could reliably identify SIX (!) different shelfmark schemes was one thing, but to account for every possible variation and error present in the library was quite another. After weeks of poring over spreadsheets of shelfmarks and endless tests of the pattern matching code, I created a system that could reliably identify any Sackler shelfmark entered and break it down into its constituent parts. This also allowed for the automatic identification of all the weird and incorrect shelfmarks hiding throughout the library, leading to hundreds of corrections. Bonus!

Now able to identify shelfmarks, the system needed to be able to locate them within the library. This actually took the most time to implement, firstly since every individual shelf had to have its shelfmark range recorded; and also because each shelfmark scheme needed to be handled differently (special prize for the shelfmarks that use Roman numerals). In summary: when a shelfmark is entered, it is broken down into elements (e.g. NA/680/.5/A45/PAL/2005), which are then compared against each shelfmark range (also broken down in the same way) recorded in the shelf content data file already created for version 1.0. When a matching range is found, the shelf associated with that range is highlighted on the map

 

 

Version 2.0 is very capable: the vast majority of Sackler Library material is searchable, including folios and pamphlets, allowing readers and staff to instantly find the exact location of any shelfmark within the library. After a period of internal use, the website was launched to readers back in Michaelmas term 2019: it can be found at floorplan.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/sackler and can be used on mobile devices. There are still refinements planned, so all feedback and suggestions for improvements are welcome.

Ben Gable,
Library Assistant
Sackler Library

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Like @ Sac! Book Display: Celebrating LBGT+ History Month at the Sackler Library

 

February marks LGBT+ History Month in the UK, which aims to educate people about and increase visibility of the accomplishments of LGBT+ identifying people, and the contributions they have made and continue to make to society. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and asexual people, as well as people of other gender, sexual and romantic minority groups, have been present in the arts, the sciences and daily life from ancient times to the modern day. The Sackler Library has chosen to celebrate the rich history and diversity of the LGBT+ community by means of a book display highlighting the contribution of LGBT+ people to the areas of study within the remit of the Sackler Library.

 

The display in place on the Ground Floor of the Sackler Library Image. Credit: Erin McNulty

 

In terms of Classical literature, our display highlights the work of Sappho, e.g. in Rayor and Lardinois’ Sappho: a new translation of the complete works (2014). Sappho was a prolific lyric poet from the Archaic Greek era[1]. Her poetry was well-known and greatly admired through much of antiquity, and she was among the canon of nine lyric poets most highly esteemed by scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria. She is also the subject of some scholarly debate, but it is generally thought amongst modern scholars that her work portrays evidence of love and desire between women[2]. Indeed, the modern use of the word ‘lesbian’ is derived from the name of her home island of Lesbos.

We can also see the contributions of LGBT+ people in the field of Egyptology, namely through Amelia Edwards’ A Thousand Miles up the Nile, a best-selling travelogue published in 1877. Edwards, born in 1831, was an English novelist, journal-writer, and traveller, and contributed greatly to Egyptological Studies, co-founding the Egypt Exploration Fund in 1882[4]. She was also the founder of the Edwards Chair of Egyptology at University College London. Edwards died in 1892 from influenza, and was buried alongside her partner, Ellen Drew Braysher. In 2016, her grave  in Bristol was designated as Grade II listed by Historic England, and is celebrated as a landmark of English LGBT+ history[5].

 

The cover, an illustration, and author’s signature from an 1877 edition of Edwards’ A Thousand Miles up the Nile (Sackler Library, Special Collections)
To view Special Collections materials, please enquire at the Sackler Issue Desk
Image(s) Credit: Erin McNulty

 

We have also highlighted the relevance of LGBT+ studies to the study of architecture by including Betsky’s Queer space: architecture and same-sex desire (1997). This work discusses how same-sex desire is creating an entirely new design process. Vincent’s LGBT people and the UK cultural sector: the response of libraries, museums, archives and heritage since 1950 (2014) also deals with LGBT+ influences in the library and heritage sector specifically.

Image Credit: Erin McNulty

Works on art also form a substantial part of the Sackler’s collections. Both of these disciplines benefit greatly from the contributions of the LGBT+ community. Davis’ Gay and lesbian studies in art history (1994) gives an overview of this. We have also chosen to showcase art books dealing with LGBTQ+ themes from earlier periods, such as Mills’ Seeing sodomy in the Middle Ages (2015), to the more modern, e.g. David Wojnarowicz: history keeps me awake at night and Robert Mapplethorpe: the Archive.

A library’s collections can tell the story of a community, such as the LGBT+ community, and it changes as new works are acquired. How the Sackler, as well as many other libraries across the Bodleian, tells these stories will be reviewed by the upcoming project Changing the Narrative: Championing Inclusive Collection Development. This project, led by Helen Worrell, “will champion diversifying our collection development across the Social Sciences and Humanities Libraries, with the aim of enhancing collections in areas such as LGBTIQ+ Studies, Disability Studies, Indigenous Studies, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Studies and the intersections between these identities. This will enable us to think critically about the collections we currently hold so that we are aware of the gaps and the narrative these collections tell.”[5] Keep an eye out on the Sackler blog for upcoming posts regarding this project, or head to the LibGuide for more information.

Our book display also ties in to the theme of 2020’s LGBT+ History Month, launched at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford: Poetry, Prose and Plays. We showcase works by all four featured authors: Dawn Langley Simmons’ Man into woman: a transsexual autobiography (1970), E. M. Forster’s Collected short stories (1947), Lorraine Hansberry’s A raisin in the sun (2011), and William Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1945 edition). We have also featured the work of ancient authors, such as Plutarch, Virgil, and Petronius, who are now thought by some scholars to have been LGBT+[6]. You can visit the LBGT+ History Month website for more information and resources.

An image of the display, showing Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20, which is thought to have been written about a man. Image Credit: Erin McNulty

We hope you enjoy browsing the books we have on offer on our display. However, these are only a small sample of the resources the Sackler, and the University of Oxford as a whole, has to offer for anyone interested in LGBT+ studies. For example, TORCH’s Queer Studies Network meets weekly for lectures, reading groups, seminars, workshops and events. The Bodleian Libraries are also currently trialling several informational databases, accessible through SOLO, e.g.:

Archives of Sexuality and Gender (Gale Cengage)

This resource spans the sixteenth to twentieth centuries and is the largest digital collection of historical primary source publications relating to the history and study of sex, sexuality, and gender research and gender studies research. Documentation covering disciplines such as social, political, health, and legal issues impacting LGBT communities around the world is included, as well as rare and unique books on sex and sexuality.

LGBT Magazine Archive (Proquest LLC)

Includes the archives of 26 leading but previously hard-to-find magazines, including many of the longest-running, most influential publications of this genre.  For example, the complete backfile of the US publication, The Advocate, one of the very few LGBT titles to pre-date the 1969 Stonewall riots, is made available digitally for the first time.  Other titles include the UK’s Gay News and its successor publication Gay Times.

LGBT Life Full Text (EBSCO)

Provides scholarly and popular LGBT+ publications in full text, plus historically important primary sources, including monographs, magazines and newspapers. It also includes a specialised LGBT+ thesaurus containing thousands of terms, 140+ full-text journals, approaching 160 full-text books and reference materials, 260+ abstracted and indexed journals and more than 350+ abstracted and indexed books and reference works.

Also, don’t miss other LGBT+ projects at the University of Oxford! For example, the Pitt Rivers Museum’s project, Beyond the Binary, due to launch this month, will work with local, national and international partners to explore the global diversity of sexual and gender identities. The project will challenge historical interpretations of the museum’s collections so that all visitors can understand humanity better. It will also include a community-focused acquisition programme for LGBT+ cultural and historical artefacts. Objects will be collected from British communities and across the globe that highlight traditions of gender non-conformity, bringing British LGBT+ heritage into conversation with global LGBT+ material culture.

We hope that you will join us in celebration of LGBT+ History Month, and that you have a fantastic February!

Erin McNulty,
Graduate Library Trainee

 

References

[1] Campbell, D. A. (ed.) (1982). Greek Lyric 1: Sappho and Alcaeus (Loeb Classical Library No. 142). Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass

[2] Rayor, Diane; Lardinois, André (2014). Sappho: A New Translation of the Complete Works. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[3] Rees, Joan (1998). Amelia Edwards: Traveller, Novelist and Egyptologist. London: Rubicon Press.

[4] Queer history’ landmarks celebrated by Historic England”. BBC News. 23 September 2016. Retrieved 24 September 2016.

[5] https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/changingthenarrative

[6] Claude J. Summers, ed., The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage: A Reader’s Companion to the Writers and Their Works, from Antiquity to the Present (New York: Henry Holt, 1995)

 

Book Display Bibliography

Benson, M., 1901. The soul of a cat, and other stories. London.

Betsky, A., 1997. Queer space: architecture and same-sex desire, New York.

Boehringer, S., 2007. L’homosexualité féminine dans l’antiquité grecque et romaine, Paris.

Breslin, D., Kiehl, D., & Wojnarowicz, D. (2018). David Wojnarowicz : History Keeps Me Awake at Night.

Cook, M. & Oram, A., 2017. Prejudice & pride: celebrating LGBTQ heritage, Warrington.

Davidson, J. N., 2007. The Greeks and Greek love: a radical reappraisal of homosexuality in ancient Greece, London

Davis, W., 1994. Gay and lesbian studies in art history, New York.

Dedichen, H. & Butin, H., 2013. Warhol’s queens. Ostfildern.

Dover, K. J., 1978. Greek homosexuality, London.

DuBois, P., 2015. Sappho. London; New York.

Edwards, A.B., 1982. A thousand miles up the Nile. London.

Forster, E.M., 1947. Collected short stories of E.M. Forster. London.

Hansberry, L., 2011. A raisin in the sun. London.

Horace & Bennett, Charles E, 1960. The Odes and Epodes. London.

Mapplethorpe, R., Martineau, P., & Salvesen, B., 2016. Robert Mapplethorpe: the photographs, Los Angeles.

Mapplethorpe, R., Terpak, F., Brunnick, M., Smith, P., & Weinberg, J., 2016. Robert Mapplethorpe: the archive, Los Angeles.

Meyer, R., 2003. Outlaw representation: censorship & homosexuality in twentieth-century American art, Boston.

Mills, R., 2015. Seeing sodomy in the Middle Ages, Chicago.

Parkinson, R. B., 2013. A little gay history: desire and diversity across the world, London.

Petronius Arbiter & Brown, Andrew, 2009. Satyricon. Richmond.

Plutarch, Romm, James S & Mensch, Pamela, 2012. Plutarch: lives that made Greek history. Indianapolis.

Sappho, Rayor, Diane J. & Lardinois, A. P. M. H., 2014. Sappho: a new translation of the complete works. Cambridge.

Rorato, L., 2014. Caravaggio in film and literature: popular culture’s appropriation of a baroque genius, London.

Rothbauer, P. Locating the library as place among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer patrons, in eds. Buschman, J., & Leckie, G. J., 2007. The library as place: history, community, and culture, Westport; London.

Shakespeare, W. & Bullen, A.H., 1945. The sonnets of William Shakespeare. Oxford.

Simmons, D.L., 1970. Man into woman: a transsexual autobiography. London.

Spike, J. T., Brown, D. A., Joannides, P., De Groft, A. H., Rogers, M., & Bisogniero, C., 2015. Leonardo da Vinci and the idea of beauty, Williamsburg, Virginia.

Vicinus, M., 2004. Intimate friends: women who loved women, 1778-1928. Chicago.

Vincent, J., 2014. LGBT people and the UK cultural sector: the response of libraries, museums, archives and heritage since 1950. Farnham.

Virgil, Dryden, John & Keener, Frederick M., 1997. Virgil’s Aeneid. London.

Warhol, A., Feldman, F., & Defendi, C., 2003. Andy Warhol prints: a catalogue raisonné: 1962-1987, New York.

Wasserman, N., 2016. Akkadian love literature of the third and second millennium BCE. Weisbaden.

Weinberg, J., 1993. Speaking for vice: homosexuality in the art of Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, and the first American avant-garde, New Haven; London.

Weinberg, J., 2004. Male desire: the homoerotic in American art, New York.

Williams, C. A., 1999. Roman homosexuality: ideologies of masculinity in classical antiquity, New York; Oxford.

Williamson, M., 1995. Sappho’s immortal daughters. Cambridge, Mass.; London

Wojnarowicz, D., 2018. The waterfront journals. London

 

 

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Sackler 101: The Trials and Tribulations of Cataloguing the Sackler’s Historic Sales Catalogues

 

 So the other night I was down at the library cataloguer bar (The Unauthorised Heading: you wouldn’t know it, it’s not in a part of town where nice people go) and because we hadn’t had a good scrap for yonks, I decided to mix things up by sounding off on sales documentation – meaning auction or sales catalogues – to get a rise out of some out-of-towners I didn’t like the look of.

I began in a loud voice, “Literally every art library in Britain holds a collection of sale catalogues, and…”

[A clamour of angry voices rose in disagreement: the mood became as fraught as that infamous night when the Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access announced that its mission was no longer to create “AACR3,” but rather something entirely new… and I scarcely need to remind you how that kicked off.]

I stared down the room. “You heard me! Every. Single. Art. Library in…”

[whoosh!] The red-bound house copy of Library of Congress Subject Headings (25th ed., 2002), v. 5 (the thick one, and yes, I mean “S-Z”), flew within a few millimetres of my left ear and [smash!] shattered twenty two- litre bottles containing 140 proof grain alcohol and splattering the motley assembly with cheap hooch.

While many of the assembled ruffians rushed to lap up the flowing spirits, spitting out those shards of jagged glass too large even for a hardened technical services specialist to swallow, a few voices rose clearly in challenge. “Alright, then. Let’s see the bibliographic records!”

I straightened my cardigan, wrapped a weighted book snake around one fist while tightening my grasp on a 45cm ruler in the other – “bibs.? I don’t have to show you any stinking bibs.” – and leapt in swinging.

*   *   *

 

Here’s the thing about sales documentation: while I admit that I cannot prove the truth of its postulated ubiquity, neither can I nor anyone else exactly disprove it. And this is because, while a very large number of historic libraries do in fact have extensive holdings of sales cats., very few of those libraries have ever committed the time and effort to catalogue them to the same standards as the rest of their textual resources. The library catalogues of many libraries show little or no meaningful presence of sales documentation.

It’s not difficult to explain this fact. Sales catalogues bring a whole lot of weirdness to the table.

For one thing, it’s the way that sales cats. enter library collections. Libraries have frequently acquired runs of sales catalogues on subscription or standing order, which gives the sense that they were essentially a periodical/serial/continuing resource, and that it’s a simple matter just to file each in the next space on the shelf and slowly back away. But while catalogues are issued in series, and obviously carry forward many fundamental details consistently from one to the next, it is the very differences between individual sales that are essential to record: What is the specific nature of the materials being sold? Whose collections were they? When and where does a sale occur?

Historic sales documentation, meanwhile, often reaches libraries through consolidation of collections within a larger organisation (as with sales catalogues that entered the Sackler from the Ashmolean, for example), or through donation. Gifts from donors interested in the arts or material culture frequently include sales catalogues among the rest of the resources. Such catalogues are often the last resources to receive a cataloguer’s attention, being as they are frequently very slight, or sometimes bundled, or even bound, together with other catalogues (or pamphlets or offprints or ephemera…). Sales catalogues are essential resources in the study of provenance, and yet their own provenance is frequently murky.

 

 

In addition, the titles of sales catalogues can simultaneously be very long, very convoluted, and very samey, one to another, and offer a test to the patience. Anyone for “Sale of a Collection of the choicest Engravings after the Masters of European Schools, as Flemish, French, Spanish, the cities of Italy, & c., assembled by a Known Dilettante in his Seat in Somersetshire, and now offered for sale by Messrs. Christie, Manson and Woods, at their Premises in St James’s?” How about twelve sales all titled: “Modern British pictures?” Without a conscious effort by the library cataloguer to be explicit – and to remain awake – a library catalogue record sometimes fails to make transparently evident the essential nature of the resource – a listing of material objects changing ownership, changing physical location – that it describes.

In general, then, suffice it to say that almost no cataloguer thinks, “Great! An auction catalogue!” when working their way through a stack of resources. To address sales catalogues individually can be labour-intensive.

Hence, obstacles to access to the national distributed collection of sales documentation are considerable because its management has not been, and continues not to be, a priority either for the auction houses themselves, or for individual libraries. Books are exciting! Books are substantial! Books are durable! Books are big enough that they reveal visible progress as they shift through the workflow! Books books books. It’s all about books. As a consequence of under-documentation, in contrast, the extent, scope and security of sales documentation is indeterminate, relative to other published materials, and potential risk of loss to significant intellectual content exists.

This has long concerned the library community. (You’re welcome.) A project initiated c. 2002 and based at the Courtauld Institute [‘HOGARTH’] encouraged retrospective cataloguing projects, but failed to address the issue significantly, and the HOGARTH portal has now disappeared. The most useful attempt by the profession to improve (international) bibliographic control of sales documentation has been the SCIPIO project.

 

 

 

SCIPIO (originally “Sales Catalog Index Project Input Online,” which seems a bit forced but maybe HANNIBAL was already taken) encourages and standardises library cataloguing, delineating an input standard that addresses the idiosyncrasies of the form. And one advantage of the continuity between sales catalogues is that they lend themselves to systematic cataloguing using templates incorporating SCIPIO.

I quite like cataloguing sales documentation. Would I want to do it all day, every day? Umm… well… that is certainly an interesting question (is the Boss listening?). But do I think it is important that sales catalogues be catalogued individually, in records that consistently record the same data in a consistent manner, and that both local and union catalogues need to become more reliable? Absolutely. At their most basic, sales catalogues offer a unique insight into material culture. And many historic sales catalogues display significant intellectual intervention from previous owners, for example in the recording the identity of buyers, prices realized, or both, often comprehensively. They are highly valuable resources.

 

Auction catalogues offer valuable information for research in material culture and social history

 

I began this blog post because the Sackler holds a small collection of approximately 700 under-catalogued historic sales catalogues in its Rare Book Room. We briefly examined a sample of these during my project looking at resources held in the RBR, and found that only about 6% were catalogued individually in Solo, while more than a third appeared to be unrecorded in Scipio or WorldCat. (I used the word “appeared” because the SCIPIO database includes many unenhanced and frankly obsolete records, with the result that the SCIPIO standard is not applied consistently even within the SCIPIO file, and duplicate records evidently abound.)  But what I didn’t realize at first is that this collection represents only a tiny proportion of sales documentation present in the Sackler and wider Bodleian collections. I found more and more records in Solo, some very good indeed. But it remains difficult to get a clear picture of what is held, and where it is.

And so I repeat: “Every art library in Britain holds a collection of sales catalogues. You have a problem with that?” Well, you’d be justified. The problem is trying to determine how much is recorded, and how much more is not?

To learn more about sales documentation held in the Bodleian Libraries (and especially the Sackler Library) and for highly useful guidance on locating the resources you need, please see the Art & Architecture Research Guide’s pages on Sales Catalogues: https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/art-architecture/auctions-sales

Joseph Ripp
Special Collections Cataloguing Consultant, Sackler Library

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Like @ Sac! Season’s Readings! A Festive Book Display at the Sackler Library

 

The Sackler staff are getting into the holiday spirit, so we decided to put up a book display in honour of the festivities. We drew on books from various areas in our collection to illustrate links between our ancient past and how we celebrate Christmas and other winter holidays today.

 

Pictured: The book display installed in the Sackler Library. Image Credit: Erin McNulty

 

Midwinter festivals have been celebrated in Western Europe and beyond since at least the Neolithic period. Archaeological sites in Britain and Ireland may show evidence of such festivities taking place, one of the most famous of these being Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, constructed from around 3000 BCE to 2000 BCE. Find out more about Stonehenge by reading Chippindale’s Stonehenge Complete (1983; 4th ed., 2012). There are many theories about why Stonehenge was constructed, but recent evidence hints that it was a gathering place for a festival held around the winter solstice (21st December). This is because the stones are aligned in such a way that the sun at dawn on the winter solstice is aligned with the central aisle, indicating that the site may have functioned partly as a timekeeping device for our ancient ancestors.

The same is true of other Neolithic sites, such as Maeshowe on Orkney, and Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange) in Ireland. The latter site is constructed so that the dawn sun on the first few minutes of the winter solstice illuminates a carved spiral on the very back wall of the chamber, the meaning of which remains a mystery. Prendergast’s Houses of the Gods (2017) explains more about the role of such sites in terms of archaeoastronomy.

 

Pictured: Dawn sun illuminating the passage tomb at Brú na Bóinne, Co. Meath on the Winter Solstice. Image Credit: Seán Doran

 

It seems that this time of year has been important to people for a long time. No wonder, then, that, after the Christianisation of the Roman Empire, many local traditions were incorporated into Christmas festivities, such as the British/Irish midwinter feast, or the German hanging decorations on the branches of a tree, traditions which we still celebrate to this day. Evans’ Christmas is Coming (2009) explores the origins of some of our wintertime festive traditions.

Although it incorporates ancient festivities, the midwinter celebration as an explicitly Christian festival, which would become known as Christmas, is a much newer tradition. People who follow a Christian faith believe that Jesus Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, with event celebrated on 25th December in many countries. Hence Bethlehem has been regarded as an important religious site since the founding of Christianity. However, it is also an important archaeological and historical site, with evidence of human habitation from as early as 2200 BCE. Studying such sites can give us clues as to how people in the Near and Middle East lived thousands of years ago. For more information about Bethlehem in ancient history, see Harvey’s The Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem (1910) and Kihlman’s The Star of Bethlehem and Babylonian Astrology (2017).

The subject of Christmas has been, and remains, a theme often covered in art. The traditional Christmas story has many iconic moments from which Western artists have drawn inspiration. According to the story, angels acted as messengers announcing the birth of the baby Jesus. Selby et al.’s The Angel Tree (2011) and Ward and Steed’s Angels: a Glorious Celebration of Angels in Art (2005) showcase representations of angels in art from ancient times to the modern day. Similarly, the arrival of the ‘Three Kings’ with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh has been reinterpreted by many artists, as detailed in Beer’s The Magi: Legend, Art and Cult (2014).

 

Pictured: Cover of Selby et al.’s The Angel Tree (2011). Image Credit: Erin McNulty

 

The theme of the Nativity is also often a subject in East European art. The Eastern Orthodox Church operates in some East European countries, Russia, and Greece, among others. People who follow Eastern Orthodox Christianity celebrate Christmas on 7th January, as their liturgical year follows the Julian calendar rather than the Western, Gregorian calendar. The Sackler has many books on art reflecting Eastern Orthodox traditions, some of which exemplify Christmas scenes. We have chosen to showcase books on the art of Byzantium and Greece, such as Bratziōtē et al.’s Icons Itinerant (1994), which shows art from Corfu, and Petsopoulos’ East Christian Art (1987).

Of course, Christmas is not the only religious festival to take place in December. In ancient Rome, Saturnalia was celebrated. As the name suggests, this festival honoured the Roman god Saturn, and took place on 17th – 23rd December. It involved gift-giving, partying, a public banquet, as well as a celebratory sacrifice. Saturnalia was also a time for the inversion of societal roles and social norms, with slaves being waited on by their masters over the festival period. Macrobius’ Saturnalia describes the festivities that took place at this time of year during the Roman era.

People of Jewish faith celebrate Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, around late November to late December. This festival commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire, during the reign of Antiochus in 175 BCE. According to the story, what little remaining oil there was in the sacked Temple miraculously kept the candles burning for eight days while the Temple was being restored. Viewed as a celebration of religious freedom, Jewish people mark this miracle by the gradual lighting of the Menorah. These religious artefacts can also have immense artistic value. Braunstein’s Luminous Art (2004) shows the collection of Menorahs in the Jewish Museum in New York.

 

Pictured: Cover of Braunstein’s Luminous Art (2004). Image Credit: Erin McNulty

 

More recently, Yuletide festivities have also included more secular forms of celebration, with the rise in popularity of figures such as Father Christmas, or the American Santa Claus, who is said to bring children gifts on the night before Christmas. Christmas celebrations around the world often include such a figure, such as the French Père Noël or the Dutch Sinterklaas. The name ‘Santa Claus’ is believed to have its origins in ‘St. Nicholas’, one of the figures who evolved over time into the jolly character we know today. St Nicholas was a 4th century bishop, and during the Middle Ages, children would receive gifts in his honour on the evening of 5th December, which may have contributed to our modern gift-giving traditions. Sinterklaas travels to the Netherlands each year from Spain via steam boat with his helpers, an event that is broadcast on national television. On the evening of 5th December, a sack of presents is delivered to well behaved children, and children are told that badly behaved children will be taken back to Spain in a sack. English’s The saint who would be Santa Claus (2012) discusses the contribution of stories about St. Nicholas to the origins of the modern Santa Claus figure.

Whatever you choose to celebrate, if anything, this December, we hope that you have a joyful and restful vacation, and return in the New Year with renewed vigour. Have fun browsing the book display, and Season’s Greetings from everyone here at the Sackler Library!

Erin McNulty
Graduate Library Trainee

 

References:

“Stonehenge”. Science. 133 (3460): 1216–22.

“Stonehenge druids ‘mark wrong solstice'”. The Daily Telegraph.

Jazombek, M. A Global History of Architecture. Cambridge, Mass., MIT. Online Lecture Series. Last consulted 28/11/19.

“Sí an Bhrú /Newgrange”. logainm.ie.

O’Kelly, M. J. (1982). Newgrange: Archaeology, Art and Legend. London: Thames and Hudson.

“Ancient Burial Ground with 100 Tombs Found Near Biblical Bethlehem”. LiveScience.

Miller, J. F. (2010). Roman Festivals. In “The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome”. Oxford: OUP.

“Santa Claus: The real man behind the myth”. NBC News.

 

Further reading:

Asmussen, H. (1955). Weihnachten; farbige Buchmalerei aus der Zeit der Ottonen. Hamburg: F. Wittig.

Bacci, M. (2017). The mystic cave: a history of the Nativity church at Bethlehem. Brno: Masaryk University; Roma: Viella

Beckwith, J. (1966). The adoration of the Magi in whalebone. London: H.M.Stationery Off.

Beckwith, J. (1970). Early Christian and Byzantine Art. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Beer, M. (2014). The Magi: legend, art and cult. Cologne: Museum Schnütgen.

Boucher, B. et al. (2012). Bartolo di Fredi: the Adoration of the Magi, a masterpiece reconstructed. Charlottesville, Va.: University of Virginia Art Museum.

Bratziōtē, P. et al. (1994). Icons Itinerant: Corfu, 14th-18th century: June-September 1994, Church of Saint George in the Old Fortress, Corfu. Athens: Ministry of Culture, Directorate of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Antiquities.

Braunstein, S.L. (2004). Luminous art: Hanukkah menorahs of the Jewish Museum. New York: Jewish Museum; New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

Braunstein, S. L. (2005). Five centuries of Hanukkah lamps from the Jewish Museum: a catalogue raisonné. New Haven, Conn.; London: Yale University Press.

Chippindale, C. (1983). Stonehenge Complete. London: Thames and Hudson.

Demus, O. (1970). Byzantine Art and the West. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson.

Ebon, M. (1975). Saint Nicholas: Life and Legend. New York: Harper & Row.

English, A. C. (2012). The saint who would be Santa Claus: the true life and trials of Nicholas of Myra. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press.

Evans, A. J. Christmas and ancestor worship in the Black Mountain.

Evans, M. (2009). Christmas is coming: the origins of our Christmas traditions and some of the stories and legends which surround them. Brighton: Pen Press.

Hamilton, R. W. (1939). A guide to Bethlehem. Jerusalem: Azriel Press.

Harvey, W. et al. (1910). The Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem. London: published on behalf of the Fund by B. T. Batsford.

Hodne, L. (2012). The virginity of the Virgin: a study in Marian iconography. Roma: Scienze e Lettere.

Kaster, R. A. (2011). Macrobius: Saturnalia. Cambridge, Mass.; London: Harvard University Press.

Kihlman, D. (2017). The star of Bethlehem and Babylonian Astrology: astronomy and revelation 12 reveal what the magi saw. Trollhättan, Sweden: Kihlman.

Lawson-Jones, M. (2011). Why was the partridge in the pear tree?: The history of Christmas carols. Stroud: History.

Johnson, A. (2008). Solving Stonehenge: the new key to an ancient enigma. London: Thames & Hudson.

Matthews, J. (1998). The winter solstice: the sacred traditions of Christmas. London: Thorsons.

Miles, C. A. (1912). Christmas in Ritual and Tradition: Christian and Pagan. London; Leipzig: T. Fisher Unwin.

Northrup, M. (1966). The Christmas story from the Gospels of Matthew & Luke. Greenwich, Conn.: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Petsopoulos, Y. (1987). East Christian Art. London: Axia.

Prendergast, K. (2017). Houses of the gods: neolithic monuments and astronomy at the Brú na Bóinne in Ireland and beyond. Saarbrücken: LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing.

Rice, D. T. (1959). The Art of Byzantium. London: Thames and Hudson.

Rockland, M. S. (1976). The Hanukkah Book. New York: Schocken Books.

Selby, L. H. et al. (2011). The angel tree: celebrating Christmas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: the Loretta Hines Howard collection of eighteenth-century Neapolitan crèche figures. New York, NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art: Abrams.

Scarre, C. (2007). The Megalithic Monuments of Britain and Ireland. London: Thames and Hudson.

Snyder, P. V. (1977). The Christmas tree book: the history of the Christmas tree and antique Christmas tree ornaments. Harmondsworth; New York: Penguin Books.

Tolkien, J. R. R. (2004). Letters from Father Christmas. London: HarperCollins.

Tyndale, W. (1996). A medieval Christmas. London: Frances Lincoln in association with the British Library.

Vasilakē, M. et al. (2000). Mother of God: representations of the Virgin in Byzantine art. Milano: Skira; New York: Distributed in North America and Latin America by Abbeville.

Verdon, T. and Ross, F. (2005). Mary in Western art. New York: in association with Hudson Mills Press.

Ward, L. and Steeds, W. (2005). Angels: a glorious celebration of angels in art. London: Carlton.

Vikan, G. (2003). Sacred Images and Sacred Power in Byzantium. Aldershot: Ashgate Variorum.

Ziadé, R. (2017). Chrétiens d’Orient: 2000 ans d’histoire. Paris: Gallimard.

 

 

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Like @ Sac! Disability History Month 2019

Sackler Library Book Display

The theme for the 2019 Disability History Month festivities in the United Kingdom is ‘Disability: Leadership, Resistance and Culture‘. To explore some important questions opened up by this focus, this reflection proposes three encouragements to further teaching and student research in disability history: displays of books held by the Bodleian Libraries at both the Sackler Library and the Continuing Education Library throughout Disability History Month (22 November to 22 December 2019); a presentation for the Disability History Workshop (Friday 22 November 2019, 9:00-13:00 in the History Faculty — all members of the University are welcome to attend the workshop and join us for lunch [please sign up here]); and an Oxford Reading Lists Online (‘ORLO’) site collating digital links to scholarship and media about how disability history is evidenced through design, visual cultures and historic environments.

Book Display, Sackler Library. Until 22 December 2019. (Image: Erin McNulty)

 

As a historian of nineteenth- to twenty-first century design, it would be hubristic to extend my suggestions for prospective researchers in disability history much beyond in this period. That said, it is important to celebrate, as the 2013 BBC podcast series ‘Disability: A New History’ by Peter White advised by Professor David Turner of Swansea University eloquently did, the burgeoning field of historians assessing the documentation of medieval and early modern charitable institutions through the lens of disability history. Isabel Holowaty, Bodleian History Librarian, is collaborating with History Faculty colleagues in these earlier periods to develop a Disability History research guide (‘LibGuide’) addressing a wider chronological scope. 

Enabling Histories of Design for Disability

Culture operates as both leadership and resistance. This discussion delves first into advocacy by disability activists witnessed in oral histories and archives. A brief stroll through some of the wealth of historical scholarship about designed objects and environments for disability ensues which hopes to facilitate new research.

Primary Sources: Advocacy

J. Robert Atkinson, founder of Universal Braille Press, holding two Braille books in Los Angeles, Calif., 1929. Los Angeles Times Photograph Collection, Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA

Three eighteenth- and nineteenth-century voices helped to identify the core thematics of this meditation: William Hay MP (1695-1755), Thérèse-Adèle Husson (1803-31) and Hyppolite van Landeghem (fl.1860s). Parliamentarian for Glyndebourne and Christ Church man, William Hay contested problematic Enlightenment equations of moral virtue with physical health and beauty in his 1754 essay ‘On Deformity’. Despite his use of the uncomfortable contemporary terminology of ‘deformity’, referencing an earlier essay by Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Hay embraced his own bodily difference as an ‘advantage’, as he perceived it, because his spinal condition and stature activated his aptitude for education and sensibility. Author of numerous children’s novels, Thérèse-Adèle Husson underlined the importance of attending to and capturing the perspectives of creative self-advocates. The hand-written manuscript of Husson’s extraordinary autobiography, Reflections: The Life and Writings of a Young Blind Woman in Post-Revolutionary France, was sent to the Director of the Quinze-Vingts Hospital for the Blind, Paris in 1825, remaining neglected until recuperated by Professor Zina Weygand of the Conservatoire Nationale des Arts et Métiers Paris in 2004 (Une jeune aveugle dans la France du XIXe siècle). Husson’s testimony of living with disability amidst a climate of social turmoil and resistance was translated by Weygand and Catherine Kudlick of San Francisco State University and is available as an e-book here. The polemical Victorian rhetoric of Hyppolite van Landeghem’s 1864 treatise on ‘Exile Schools’ has perhaps led to the neglect of the text’s evocation of the tensions between disempowering charity, isolation and community in designed environments for disability, a theme writ large in its ungainly title: Charity Mis-applied. When Restored to Society, after Having Been Immured for Several Years in Exile Schools, the Blind and the Deaf and Dumb Are Found to Be Incapable of Self-support. Why? The Question Considered and Answered.

These themes of advocacy, practice and representation also resonate in the archival traces of twentieth-century civil rights activists who played a vital role in securing the legislative requirements and commercial incentives that underpin design for disability. The commitment of Edward V Roberts (1939-95) to secure equity of intellectual and physical access to education and work was achieved through both civil disobedience and municipal council motions that implemented disabled-student university accommodation, ‘curb cuts’ throughout the road network and the formation of the first Center for Independent Living (Berkeley, California), all documented in the archives of the University of California at Berkeley. In the United Kingdom, Paddy Masefield OBE (1943-2012) is just one of many advocates documented in the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA) at Buckinghamshire New University. His energy in advising government and cultural institutions generated ground-breaking apprenticeship and employment initiatives, as well as the foundation of influential and remunerative annual prizes to promote creativity for disability. The Masefield Award promotes ‘outstanding communication through art by a disabled person’.

Recent Scholarship: Histories of Design for Disability

‘Accessible Icon’ re-designed with self-advocates by Tim Fergusson Sauder, Brian Glenney and Sara Hendren 2009-11 http://accessibleicon.org/

Famous designers and powerful cultural institutions have engaged with design for disability in multiple ways. A vodcast of the keynote lecture for the Annual Design History Conference convened at the Department for Continuing Education in 2014, ‘How Disabled Design Changed the History of Modernismby Professor David Serlin of the University of San Diego, captures perspectives and case studies from disability history which remain rarely considered within most University curricula. How often does Kenneth and Phyllis Laurent’s 1948 commission for an accessible Usonian-hemicycle house from Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) figure in modern architectural histories?

Objects and Exhibitions

Displays of collections of work by disabled practitioners have promoted both empowerment and stigma. Art produced by mental health patients collected by the art historian and psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn (1886-1933) at the University of Heidelberg was both admired in Surrealist circles and denigrated in the 1938 Nazi Degenerate Art exhibition. In her Learning from madness: Brazilian modernism and global contemporary art, Kaira M. Cabañas of the University of Florida has revealed how in this interwar period the psychiatrists Osório César (1895-1979) and Nise da Silveira (1905-99) and the art critic Mário Pedrosa (1900-81) also championed the generative relationships between their disciplines collaborating and exhibiting the artwork of mental health patients in Brazil. The exhibition ‘Design for Independent Living’ at the Museum of Modern Art in 1988 brought innovative design for disability emerging in Scandinavia, the United States and the United Kingdom to a wider audience. The MoMA 2012 exhibition ‘Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000’ celebrated pedagogic toys at the heart of the special education systems devised by Friedrich Fröebel (1782-1952) and Maria Montessori (1870-1952). As the researchers and Royal College of Art student participants interviewed by Chris Ledgard for his 2015 BBC podcast ‘The Art of Walking Into Doors’ suggested, the complex relationships between dyslexia, dyspraxia and acuity in three-dimensional design are only just revealing themselves. In 2018, ‘Access + Ability’ organized by Cara McCarty and Rochelle Steiner and then ‘The Senses: Design Beyond Vision’ organized by Ellen Lupton and Andrea Lipps at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York demonstrated these innovative design strategies and debates have now entered the digital age.

The Sackler Library book display also includes exhibition catalogues which show the vibrant presence of makers and museum audiences with disabilitity across the globe. The braille-embossed cover of the bi-lingual catalogue for the 1969 Sculpture for the Blind exhibition held at the South African National Gallery, Cape Town and the 1983 Please touch: animal sculpture exhibition at the British Museum exemplify how curatorial and museum interpretation teams have been engaging with under-represented communities for many years. The affirmation of the word ‘Unlimited’ used in the title of exhibitions both at the Edinburgh City Art Centre in 1981 and at the Southbank Centre in 2012 signals institutional activism. Richard Sandell’s, Jocelyn Dodd’s and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s thoughtful 2010 anthology, Re-presenting disability: activism and agency in the museum, considers strategies for enhancing such cultural leadership through museum interpretation strategies and collections. The quiet activism of the 2018 ‘Museum Benches’ project devised by the designer Shannon Finnegan critiques the limited accessibility actually afforded in cultural institutions, reminding us much still remains to be done. Digital app projects such as ‘LOLA’, conceived by Seth Truman and the non-profit technology firm Tech Kids Unlimited, engage with and for autistic children. In the ‘House of Memories, National Museums Liverpool are raising awareness and creating collaborative networks between people living with dementia, care professionals and museums, demonstrating the direct social impact of culture so easily under-recognized and under-funded in the ongoing age of austerity.

As a canon of histories of design for disability emerges, scholarly research has constellated around the themes of symbolic representation, universal design and sensorial history. In her Designing disability: symbols, space and society, Elizabeth Guffey of Purchase College, State University of New York has examined the graphic design and historical agency of the ‘International Symbol of Access’. Aimi Hamraie of Vanderbilt University in Nashville assessed the theoretical and practical complexities of attempting to build according to ‘Universal Design’ principles (Building access: Universal Design and the politics of disability). Graham Pullin of the University of Dundee (Design meets disability) explored a set of design case studies for sensoriality, mobility and communication. In their Culture – theory – disability, Anne Waldschmidt, Hanjo Berressem and Moritz Ingwersen of the University of Cologne brought together the methodological challenge of calibrating social and cultural models of disability across the senses. Bess Williamson of the Art Institute of Chicago focused on how innovation in everyday industrial design was spurred on by accessibility activism in post-war America (Accessible America: a history of disability and design). Further book chapters and journal articles linked into my ORLO list afford thought-provoking case studies of design typologies from invalid and wheel chairs, hearing aids, ‘talking book’ shellac record discs, ‘disabled’ GI Joe and Barbie dolls and therapeutic amateur craft.

Visual Culture and Representation

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90). Garden, St Paul Hospital, December 1889. Oil on canvas: 71.5 x 90.5 cm. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

A vast spectrum of representational positions from empathetic portraiture to horror film stereotyping or graphic-novel fantasy can be investigated through visual culture. Art History has delved deep into the analysis of the portraits of court ‘jesters’ by Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velazquez (1599-1660) and mental health by Théodore Géricault (1791-1824). The pathetic fallacy expressed by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90) in his nature studies undertaken whilst a patient at the St Paul Asylum in Saint Rémy have become part of our cultural mythology. The perceived porous boundary between creativity and physical-cognitive diversity has dominated the choice of subjects for biographical films about artists, from iconic subjects such as Van Gogh, Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Camille Claudel (1865-1943) and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901) to the ‘discovery’ of Séraphine Louis of Senlis (1864-1942) and Christy Brown (1932-81). The intersectionality of design and film histories has enhanced the analysis of the 1932 film ‘Freaks’ directed by Tod Browning (1880-1962). Banned by the British Board of Film Certification ‘because it exploited for commercial reasons the [sic] deformed people that it claimed to dignify’ the film, as been argued by Angela Smith, can be read as enacting resistant counter-narratives within the interwar eugenicist context of its production.

Spaces: Isolation/Community  

Disability history inhabits a plethora of historic environments. In her Medicine by design: the architect and the modern hospital Annemarie Adams of McGill University argued for the agency of hospitals’ architectural design in shaping modern medical treatments, sociability and technologies. Clare Hickman (Therapeutic landscapes) of the University of Chester established landscape design as a historical therapeutic practice within medical institutions. Leslie Topp of Birkbeck College University of London demonstrated the foundational place of Viennese sanatoria in histories of design for cognitive diversity (Freedom and the cage: modern architecture and psychiatry in Central Europe, 1890-1914). Robin Jackson’s Discovering Camphill focussed on how the special needs educational environments of the transnational Camphill Movement originated in Aberdeen in the 1930s. Claire Edington (Beyond the asylum) of UC San Diego opened up colonial and global perspectives in her analysis of mental illness in French Colonial Vietnam. Design cultures of place impacts upon well-being, often subjugating and isolating, at times creating a sense of belonging and community.  

Disabled soldiers making toys at General Hospital Number 3, Colonia, New Jersey in 1917-8. US National Archives and Records Administration 45498513

 

Postgraduate research: MSt in the History of Design Dissertations and Conference Papers

Sustaining the leitmotif of design for disability across the syllabus for the MSt in the History of Design has facilitated exciting postgraduate research. Student essays have uncovered business histories of glass-eye manufacture in Germany (Liz Dotzauer MSt HoD 2013) and prosthetics in Britain (Richard Hefford-Hobbs MSt HoD 2019) during the First World War as well as the identity politics of visual cultures around running blades and Paralympians in the twenty-first century (Bry Leighton MSt HoD 2017). The Design History Society awarded Karen Price (MSt HoD 2017) a student grant to research her dissertation, which investigated archives and collections in the Orkney and Shetland Islands to assess the mental health amidst conflict evidenced through exhibitions of Second World War Servicemen’s toy craft [https://www.designhistorysociety.org/blog/view/report-dhs-student-travel-award-by-karen-price]. This project (and all MSt in the History of Design dissertations) are available in the Continuing Education Bodleian Library. Karen presented this research at an academic conference at University of Edinburgh in 2017. Whither next?….

 Our abilities, physical and cognitive, are infinitely diverse and variable across our lifetimes. In attending to how the design of the material world and its cultural representation activates or hinders the expression of these abilities, these meditations have hoped to engage more scholars in continuing to forge the history of design for disability.

My thanks to Bodleian Libraries colleagues, Angela Carritt, Grace Brown, Clare Hills-Nova, Erin McNulty and Chantal van den Berg for their help in orchestrating both physical and virtual resources and to Jeannie Scott in the History Faculty for inviting me to join the Disability History Work Group.

Claire O’Mahony, PhD
Associate Professor in the History of Art and Design
Course Director of the MSt in the History of Design
Chair of the Design History Society

Further resources (textual, visual, audio)

History of Disability, Oxford Reading Lists Online (Please note: E-texts referenced in this blog and in the 'ORLO' reading list may be accessed by members of the University only. Hard copy versions of texts may also be found by searching SOLO.)

Extended Reading List

Introductions to Disability History and Modern Visual/Material/Spatial Cultures

Boys, J., (ed.) (2017). Disability, Space, Architecture: A Reader. London: Routledge.

Boys, J., (2014). Doing Disability Differently: An alternative handbook on architecture, disability and designing for everyday life. London: Routledge.

Fraser, B., 2018. Cognitive disability aesthetics : visual culture, disability representations, and the (in)visibility of cognitive difference.

Guffey, E., (2017). Designing disability: Symbols, space and society. London: Bloomsbury.

Hamraie, A. (2017). Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability. University of Minnesota Press.

Humphries, S.; Gordon, P., (eds.) (1992). Out of Sight: The Experience of Disability 1900-1950. Northcote House.

Kitchin, R., (2000). Disability, space and society, Sheffield: Geographical Association.

Kuppers, P., (2019). Disability Arts and Culture : methods and approaches. Bristol: Intellect.

Kuppers, P., (2014). Studying disability arts and culture : an introduction. Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan.

Masefield, P., 2006. Strength : broadsides from disability on the arts, Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books.

Pullin, G., (2011). Design meets Disability. MIT Press.

Siebers, T., 2010. Disability aesthetics. Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press.

Waldschmidt, A., Berressem, H. & Ingwersen, M., 2017. Culture - theory - disability : encounters between disability studies and cultural studies, Bielefeld.

Sensory-specific histories

Kleege, G., (2018). More than meets the eye : what blindness brings to art. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lindgren, K.A.; DeLuca, D.; Napoli, D.J., (2008). Signs and voices : deaf culture, identity, language, and arts. Washington, D.C. : Gallaudet University Press.

Mirzoeff, N., (1995). Silent poetry: deafness, sign, and visual culture in modern France. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.

Shaw, C.L., (2017). Deaf in the USSR : marginality, community, and Soviet identity, 1917-1991, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Designed Environments for Disability

Adams, A., (2008). Medicine by design : the architect and the modern hospital, 1893-1943, Minneapolis ; London: University of Minnesota Press.

Barlett, P.; Weight, D., (eds.). Outside the walls of the asylum: The history of care in the community 1750-2000. Athlone Press.

Cook, G.C., (2004). Victorian incurables : a history of the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, Putney, Spennymoor: Memoir Club.

Dale, P.; Melling, J., (2006). Mental illness and learning disability since 1850 : finding a place for mental disorder in the United Kingdom. London : Routledge.

Edington, C., (2019). Beyond the Asylum: Mental Illness in French Colonial Vietnam. New York: Cornell University Press.

Hickman, C., (2013). Therapeutic landscapes : a history of English hospital gardens since 1800, Manchester ; New York: Manchester University Press.

Jackson, R., (ed.) (2011). Discovering Camphill: new perspectives, research and developments. Floris Books.

Melling, J.; Forsythe, B., (1999). Insanity, institutions, and society, 1800-1914 : a social history of madness in comparative perspective, London: Routledge.

Topp, L.; Moran, J.; Andrews, J., (eds.) (2006). Madness, Architecture and the Built Environment: Psychiatric Spaces in Historical Context. London: Routledge.

Tupling, K. ; De Lange, A., 2018. Worship and disability : a kingdom for all. Cambridge: Grove Books.

Disability and Exhibitions

Anon, 2012. Unlimited : extraordinary new work by deaf and disabled artists, London: Southbank Centre.

Biggs, B. & Williamson, A., (2014). Art of the lived experiment. Liverpool: The Bluecoat.

Bordin, G. ; Polo D'Ambrosio, L. ; Hyams, J., (2010). Medicine in art, Los Angeles: J P Getty Museum.

Borensztein, L. & MacGregor, J.M., (2004). One is Adam, one is Superman : the outsider artists of Creative Growth. Published in conjunction with the exhibition "Leon Borensztein and his friends: portraits of artists with disabilities," organized by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Brown, C., (1954). My left foot. London: Secker & Warburg.

Coles, P., (1984). Please touch : an evaluation of the 'Please touch' exhibition at the British Museum 31st March to 8th May 1983, Dunfermline: Committee of Inquiry into the Arts and Disabled People.

Crawshaw, G., 2016. Shoddy : disability rights, textiles, recycling, history and fightback, Leeds: Gill Crawshaw.

Delin, A., Wright, S. & Prest, M., 2001. Adorn, equip : a national touring exhibition originated by The City Gallery, Leicester. Leicester: The City Gallery.

Eccles, T. & Jenkins, B., 1991. Attitude : [a project ability exhibition]. Glasgow: Project Ability.

Edinburgh City Art Centre, (1981). Artists unlimited : selected works by disabled artists & craftsmen. Edinburgh: City Art Centre.

Hayward Gallery, (1996). Beyond reason : art and psychosis : works from the Prinzhorn Collection, London: Hayward Gallery.

Jones, S. & Ritchie, E., 2007. The Studio Project : opening art practice. published in conjunction with the Different spaces exhibition, Studio Voltaire, London 22nd June - 8th July 2007 London : Intoart Projects.

McCarty, C., (1988). Designs for independent living : the Museum of Modern Art, New York, April 16-June 7, 1988., New York: The Museum.

Nolan, G., (1997). Designing exhibitions to include people with disabilities : a practical guide, Edinburgh: NMS Publishing.

Pearson, A. & Hughes, K., (1983). Please touch : animal sculpture ; catalogue of an exhibition at the British Museum, 31 March - 8 May 1983, London: British Museum.

Sandell, R., Dodd, J. & Garland-Thomson, R., 2010. Re-presenting disability : activism and agency in the museum, London: Routledge.

Shea, J., (1993). Defiance : art confronting disability, Stoke-on-Trent: City Museum & Art Gallery.

South African National Gallery, (1969). Sculpture for the blind, 1969 = Beeldhoukuns vir Blindes, Cape Town: s.n.

Live Arts

Goodley, D. & Moore, M., (2002). Disability arts against exclusion : people with learning difficulties and their performing arts, Kidderminster: BILD.

Keidan, L., Mitchell, C.J. & Vason, M., 2012. Access all areas : live art and disability. London: Live Art Development Agency.

Kuppers, P., (2003). Disability and contemporary performance : bodies on edge, New York ; London: Routledge.

Kuppers, P., (2013). Disability culture and community performance : find a strange and twisted shape. Basingstoke, Hampshire : Palgrave Macmillan.

Graphic Cultures

Alaniz, J. & Halverson, P.D., 2014. Death, disability, and the superhero : the silver age and beyond. Jackson, Mississippi : University Press of Mississippi.

Ellis, K., (2015). Disability and popular culture : focusing passion, creating community and expressing defiance, Burlington.

Foss, C.; Gray, J.W.; Whalen, Z., (2016). Disability in comic books and graphic narratives, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire.

Raabe-Webber, T.; Plant, A., (2016). The incorrigibles : perspectives on disability visual arts in the 20th and 21st centuries, Birmingham: mac Birmingham.

Visual Culture and Cognitive/Mental Health

Blackshaw, G. & Topp, L., 2009. Madness and modernity : mental illness and the visual arts in Vienna 1900, Farnham: Lund Humphries.

Cabañas, K.M., (2019). Learning from madness : Brazilian modernism and global contemporary art, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Cross, S., 2010. Mediating madness : mental distress and cultural representation. Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan.

Davies, F. & González, L., (2013). Madness, women and the power of art. Oxford : Inter-Disciplinary Press.

Groom, G.L., 2016. Van Gogh's Bedrooms. Chicago : Art Institute of Chicago.

Lapper, A. & Feldman, G., (2006). My life in my hands, London: Pocket.

MacGregor, J.M., (1989). The discovery of the art of the insane, Princeton ; Guildford: Princeton University Press.

Miller, E., (2008). The girl who spoke with pictures : autism through art, London: Jessica Kingsley.

Mullins, E. & Gogh, V. van, 2015. Van Gogh : the asylum year, London: Unicorn Press.

Nuss, P. et al., 2005. Journey into the heart of bipolarity : an artistic point of view. Montrouge, France : John Libbey Eurotext Publishing.

Prinzhorn, H.; Black, C., (2011). The art of insanity : an analysis of ten schizophrenic artists, Washington, D.C.?: Solar.

Schildkraut, J.J. & Otero, A., 1996. Depression and the spiritual in modern art : homage to Miró. Chichester: John Wiley.

Shoham, S.G., (2002). Art, crime, & madness : Gesualdo, Caravaggio, Genet, Van Gogh, Artaud, Brighton: Sussex Academic Press.

Snell, R., (2017). Portraits of the insane : Théodore Géricault and the subject of psychotherapy, London: Karnac.

Tromans, N., 2011. Richard Dadd : the artist and the asylum, London: Tate Publishing.

Film

Bodammer, E. & Schillmeier, M.W.J., (2010). Disability in German literature, film, and theater, Rochester, NY: Camden House.

Fraser, B., (2016). Cultures of representation: disability in world cinema contexts. E-book

Fraser, B., (2013). Disability Studies and Spanish Culture: Films, Novels, the Comic and the Public Exhibition, Liverpool University Press.

Kaes, A., (2009). Shell shock cinema: Weimar culture and the wounds of war. New York, NY.: Princeton University Press

Siddique, S.; Raphael, R., (2016). Transnational horror cinema : bodies of excess and the global grotesque.

Smith, A.M., (2011). Hideous progeny : disability, eugenics, and classic horror cinema, New York: Columbia University Press.

 Sculpture

Niestorowicz, E.A., (2017). The world in the mind and sculpture of deafblind people, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Disability after Conflict

Alberti, S.J.M.M;, Tonks, H.; Midgley, J., (2014). War, art and surgery: the work of Henry Tonks & Julia Midgley. London : Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Anderson J., (2011). War, disability and rehabilitation in Britain: Soul of a Nation. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Bourke, J., (1996). Dismembering the male: men's bodies, Britain and the Great War. Chicago, IL.: University of Chicago Press.

Hutchinson, R., (2011). The silent weaver : the extraordinary life and work of Angus MacPhee, Edinburgh: Birlinn.

Ott, K., (ed.). (2002). Artificial Parts, Practical Lives: Modern Histories of Prosthetics. London: New York University Press.

Reznick, J., (2004). Healing the nation: soldiers and the culture of caregiving in Britain during the Great War. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Serlin, D., (2004). Replaceable You: Engineering the Body in Postwar America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Scruton, J., (1998). Stoke Mandeville Road to the Paralympics: fifty years of history. Brill: Peterhouse.

Taliaferro, W., (ed.). (1944). Medicine and the war. Chicago, Ill.: The University of Chicago Press.

Wheatcroft, S., (2013). Worth saving : disabled children during the Second World War. Manchester : Manchester University Press.

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and/or Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.