Like @ SAC! From Reader to Staff Member

 

I started working at the Sackler Library in April 2019. However, I have been an intensive and daily reader at the Sackler since 2016.  Having used the Sackler as my main work space for more than two years, I had become keen to also contribute to its maintenance and functioning.

I am writing my D.Phil. thesis in the field of Assyriology at the University of Oxford. The Sackler is the main research library for any researcher in the field of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Oxford (at Wolfson College, the Library houses the Jeremy Black Collection in Near Eastern Studies, as well).

 

Excited to find the perfect book for my research!

The Sackler offers many amenities and services to the Assyriological researcher: it is a quiet and peaceful work space, and all the books and periodicals relevant for our field are conveniently accessible on the first floor.  Once you start working at one of the desks there, all the necessary materials you can dream of – as an Assyriologist – are just a few steps, or clicks, away.  The Ancient Near Eastern collection of books is comprehensive, and new accessions can be found in the new books and new journal display on the ground and first floors.  Interdisciplinary research is easily possible in the Sackler – sections covering our neighbouring disciplines — Egyptology, Classics and Archaeology — are also housed at the Sackler Library, and occasionally, you will need to make an “expedition” to the ground floor to find a volume in the Classics section, or a periodical in the Haverfield Room. Thus, one can quickly look up parallels and differences in a differing geographical region or period – and lose oneself in an interesting topic in a neighbouring field.

The Sackler is also very international in its readers.  Many visiting and permanent researchers from all around the world use the Sackler for their research, and you can easily make contact with a researcher from a neighbouring field on a staircase or in the lobby area.  I should mention that the Sackler is conveniently located adjacent the Ashmolean Museum, so that an inspiring break there is easily manageable.

 

 

When you have finished your research for the day, but would like to continue your work with the same books the next day, you can leave a stack of up to ten books at the reservation point (these can be found on every floor of the Library), using an overnight reservation slip. This prevents the books from being re-shelved the following morning and enables you to continue working exactly where you left off the night before.

Helping readers behind the issue desk.

Did I mention the library’s opening times?  The Sackler is open seven days a week: 9 am – 10 pm on weekdays, 11 am – 6 pm on Saturdays, and 12 – 6 pm on Sundays.  This means I have access to the research materials I need —  Assyriological books and periodicals (and new acquisitions) — on a daily basis (unless it is a major holiday).  Depending on your patron status – i.e. if you are a member of the University of Oxford – you can even borrow books which are not confined to the library to work with them after closing time.  If you have to meet impending deadlines, then the long and daily opening times and the option to borrow books can help a great deal.

Once you have finished using a book, you can put it on the respective trolley on each floor.  When I first became a reader at the Sackler I did not realise that there is a sign on each trolley which asks you to put books within a specific shelf mark range on it.  Assyriological books, for example, are mainly classified to what is known as ‘the 200s’ and there is trolley designated for these 200s books permanently located on the first floor.  Since I had not paid attention to the signs on the trolleys, I put my books on different trolleys at first, for example on the trolley for Egyptological books, which are classified to what is known as ‘the 300s’.  Now, that I have started working as a library assistant at the Sackler, and shelve books myself, I realise how much easier it is for the library assistants if readers return their research materials to the correct trolleys: the shelving gets done faster.  As a reader I find it a great luxury that library assistants shelve the books for me, and it ensures that the books are shelved in their proper place.

I have learned new things about the Sackler since I started working as a member of Reader Services staff.  Shelving is obviously a big part of my work, and I enjoy it, especially on the floors where I have not been a reader before, such as the second and third floors, which house the Western and Eastern art and architecture collections.  I am usually fascinated by the titles and artworks shown in these books as they show subject areas which, as a researcher using materials on the first floor, I had not encountered before.

I am very grateful for the introduction to my new job and for the support of my Sackler colleagues.  I have always felt at home as a reader and now also as a library assistant. I can only recommend to researchers that they make full use of the resources available to them in this amazing library.

Lynn-Salammbo Zimmerman
Library Assistant, Reader Services, Sackler Library
and D.Phil. candidate in Assyriology

 

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: Sunday Opening… Part II

 

“At 12:00 noon on 14 January 2018, the beginning of Hilary Term, the Sackler Library opened on a Sunday for the first time. Planned as a soft launch, and despite minimal advertising, by the time the Library closed at 18:00 the reader count had reached fifty-five and the Sackler [which had already established itself as the University library with the longest year-round, staffed opening hours, had increased this number to 78 hours per week]”:

M-F         09:00-22:00
Sat          11:00-18:00
Sun         12:00-18:00

This is how Sackler Operations Manager Frank Egerton opened last year’s blog post about the new Sunday opening hours at the Sackler Library. It was clear that both Saturdays and Sundays are very popular with readers. Over the last year, we have continued to gather reader counts for Saturdays and Sundays both via gate entry data and at set times during weekend shifts. We also still receive positive feedback from readers about our year round, 7 day a week opening hours.

Here are some fun facts about our Saturday and Sunday opening hours. We looked at our weekend reader numbers for Hilary Term 2018 and compared them with those for the same period in 2019. As you can see, the number of weekend readers has gone up in Hilary Term 2019.

Sunday opening is still a success after one year! Sunday opening was initially presented to readers as a two-year trial. Given its continuing success, it seems very unlikely that these extended hours will be discontinued after the trial period ends.

Chantal van den Berg
Library Assistant
and
Frank Egerton
Operations Manager

 

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! Chronicles of a (fairly) new member of staff

 

I joined the Sackler library in March 2018 as part of the evening and weekend team, following the introduction of Sunday opening hours in January 2018. My duties involve lodge and issue desk cover, shelving, book cleaning and checking reading lists against the online catalogue.

For me, this was a complete change in working environment and hours. My previous job, which I held for more years than I care to think about, was basically Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Setting out for work at a time I was previously thinking about going home, took some getting used to but this change, as they say, is as good as a rest.

During the induction to the library a colleague and I were given a tour and we were shown the smallest and largest books held in the Rare Book Room. The smallest, an Italian book about Roman architecture, although quite deep, didn’t appear to be much bigger than a large postage stamp. The largest, an art catalogue of the Hermitage in St Petersburg, is not just coffee table size; it could actually be a coffee table!

 

 

Probably the most satisfying part of working at the issue desk is helping readers to find the item they are looking for. Sometimes this is simply directing them to the right floor or shelving area, if they already know the shelf mark. At other times it involves searching SOLO, confirming the library that holds the item and its shelf mark there.

 

A selection of the classification systems used in the Library. Photo by Chantal van den Berg.

 

When I first started working at the library I thought I would never find my way around the dizzying range of classification systems used (Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal being just two). However, with the help of my other favourite part of the job (although at times it is never ending), shelving, I soon started to become familiar with the layout. I have also revived my rather rusty and very basic knowledge of Roman Numerals. A major achievement was when I directed a reader to the right part of the library without having to use the helpful floor plans (still needed for a couple of floors though).

 

The many book sizes of the sackler. Photo by Frances Lear.

 

The other thing you do notice about shelving is the higher the floor, the bigger the books, which is to be expected when those higher floors contain Eastern and Western art, and architecture (and some Eastern archaeology) books. Luckily for me there are plenty of kick stools and steps around the library for those top shelves.

I have also acquired some new skills working in the library, one of them being the correct way to clean books. I have to confess my books at home simply have a duster flicked over them occasionally.

The range of library users is diverse, which of course means a wide variety of queries, some very simple, some technical. Handling these queries is a great way to learn, especially when I can call on my more experienced colleagues for help.

Finally, in my previous job, I was very used to customers saying they had to leave shortly to pick up their children or catch a bus but until I started at the Sackler I had never had anyone ask for my help because they needed to leave the library within 20 minutes to catch a plane to Paris.

All in all joining the Sackler has been a very good move for me and I hope to spend more time learning about its collection and resources.

 

Frances Lear
Library Assistant, evenings and weekends

 

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! “A Winckel in Time”; Winckelmann’s Histoire de l’art chez les anciens in the Sackler Library

 

With elaborate gilt-lettered red leather bindings and coarsely cut pages, the Histoire de l’art chez les anciens held in the Sackler Rare book room is the final in a series of five French translations of Johann Joachim Winckelmann‘s seminal work, Geschichte der kunst des Altertums, (History of the Art of Antiquity) published between 1766 and 1802.  The front cover of each of these volumes bears the bookplate of the connoisseur and fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford, Charles Drury Edward Fortnum (1820–1899), an avid collector of sculptures, bronzes, maiolica and rings, and described in his obituary as the ‘second founder’ of the Ashmolean Museum.[1]

 

 

A striking feature of this richly illustrated three-volume edition is the variety and quality of the images used throughout the work.  Found at the beginning and end of each chapter and in the appendices to each volume, these pictures include finely-rendered engravings of ancient coins, bas-reliefs, ancient sculptures, objets d’art, landscapes in the style of Piranesi, and detailed architectural plans.  Some of the statues depicted are instantly recognisable as the emblematic monuments of antique sculpture that Winckelmann described in the Historie.  Others are obtuse, bizarre, and even ugly objects, lightly sketched, or densely rendered.  Each item is meticulously described and annotated in an extensive appendix that makes up a substantial part of the third volume.

 

 

Beyond their immediate intellectual and historical significance, these volumes are sensually captivating for the bibliophile. Ephemera such as the carefully handwritten notes of past scholars, the uncut pages, the bookplates, the Ashmolean museum stamp, and the flimsy tissue paper that protects each of the plentiful illustrations, convey a sense of the book’s material presence.  These objects integrate the memory of past scholarship into the aesthetic experience of engaging with the Histoire, and provide a physical and visual testament to the continued fascination of Winckelmann’s work for nineteenth-century connoisseurs and collectors.

 

 

Winckelmann, born in 1717 in Stendhal, became one of the most celebrated figures in Europe through his writings on classical art, directing popular taste towards the Greek ideal and influencing not only Western painting and sculpture, but also literature and philosophy.  These volumes provide an insight into the complex and important history of Winckelmann’s publication in France.

 

 

 

Winckelmann himself was responsible for the first translation of the Geschichte into French.  Keen to promote and disseminate the work around educated circles of Europe he arranged for the Histoire to be printed in France in 1766, only two years after its original publication in German in 1764.[2]  His impatience, however, resulted in a botched translation, and Winckelmann had to pull on his connections in Paris and their influence with the police to suppress and confiscate copies of the failed work.[3]

The sensational and grisly nature of Winckelmann’s murder in Trieste in 1768 along with the quality and comprehensive nature of the Histoire itself and its broader significance in laying down the intellectual framework for the disciplines of Art History and Archaeology, ensured that the work found a ready audience in the artistic and connoisseurial circles of Europe.  A second edition, with a translation by Michael Huber, was published in 1781, which was popular enough to justify the printing of a new edition and translation in 1786.  In 1786 Winckelmann’s Treatises on Taste, the Recueil de différentes pièces sur les arts, which included such essays as the Sentiment for the Beautiful in Art, and Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture were also translated and published.  These works include some of Winckelmann’s most famous rhetorical writings on classical statuary such as the Laocoön, the Apollo Belvedere and the Niobe.

 

 

Winckelmann’s influence in France is evident from the wide-ranging references to him in the art dictionaries and the costume dictionaries of late eighteenth-century France.  The popularity of his work was increased with the publication of a new version of the Histoire in 1794 at the height of the Terror, with this final edition being published in 1802-3.[4]  In this context it is interesting to note that there was no English translation of the Geschichte until the 1850s.

The 1794 and 1802 editions were produced by the Dutch bookseller, revolutionary and freemason Hendrik Jansen.  In 1799 Jansen also published Winckelmann’s Treatise on allegory in French as Essai sur l’allégorie, à l’usage des artistes. He was an important factor in the dissemination of Winckelmann’s work, and was among the first to recognise the significance of Winckelmann’s works being read in their entirety rather than in extract form.  Jansen’s activities as a publisher and translator also helped to bridge the gulf between art theory and every-day artistic practice by stressing the practical use of Winckelmann’s knowledge and expertise.

The quantity of editions produced of the Histoire de l’art in France demonstrates that there was an ongoing interest and continuing market for Winckelmann’s writings on Greek and Roman antiquities in France before, during and after the Revolution.  This was accounted in part by the passionate intensity of debates surrounding the nature of beauty during this period.  Even though the most pre-eminent artist of the time, Anton Raphael Mengs and others questioned the accuracy of some of Winckelmann’s attributions, the debate over the veracity of Winckelmann’s work demonstrates how seriously it was taken by the artistic establishment in France.  Winckelmann and the Histoire came to represent a detached and authoritative voice in the debate surrounding beauty to which contemporary theorists such as Mengs, the Italian archaeologist Carlo Fea,[5] the German writer and philosopher Gotthold Lessing,[6] and the German classical scholar and archaeologist Christian Heyne responded in these Sackler editions.  The lavish attention to the illustration and presentation of these volumes, the dedicated scholarship and densely printed essays written by these leading art theorists, provide a window into the art theoretical and antiquarian debates of late-eighteenth-century France, and the value they attached to Winckelmann’s monumental achievement in writing a trajectory of the history of ancient art.

 

Fiona Gatty, Research Fellow (DPhil, History of Art, 2015)

 

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.

 

[1] Timothy Wilson, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/9951

[2] This version was published  by Charles Saillant with a translation by Gottfried Sell.

[3] Despite this there is a copy of the 1766 version in the Bodleian Weston Library.

[4] Of these five translations the most widely circulated was the three-volume French translation by Michael Huber, published by Henrik Jansen in Paris in 1790-4. Potts.1994. 256. Ft.4

[5] Fea was responsible for a very popular translation of the  Geschichte into Italian, Storia delle Arti del disengo presso gli antichi, which was published  in Rome in 1783-4. ibid. 256. Ft 9.

[6] Lessing’s most significant art theoretical text was Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry.

Sackler 101: How to Get a Workout

Shelving at the Sackler Library

The Sackler is a busy lending library for several disciplines, and many books are borrowed and returned each day.  Our dedicated shelving team and other Reader Services staff members do an invaluable job at keeping on top of the stacks of books needing to be shelved every day.

During academic year 2017-2018, Sackler staff shelved over 175,000 books — more than half of the total number of books in the whole library.  This is a really impressive effort, and shows just how important shelving is to the successful operation of the library. Moreover, art/architecture/archaeology books are heavy.  Shelving 175,000 Sackler Library books entails a great deal of strenuous lifting.  Who needs a workout?

The pie chart (below) breaks down those 175,000 books.  Most books needing to be shelved were on the ground floor and 1st floor, followed by the lower ground floor, then the 2nd and 3rd floors.  The ground and 1st floors house monographs and journals on Classics and Classical Archaeology, Ancient History, Ancient Near Eastern Studies and Egyptology.  The 2nd and 3rd Floors house the Western and Eastern Art collections, supporting the research, study and teaching needs of a more wide-ranging readership, but fewer in numbers — hence the lower shelving figures.

As expected, we do more shelving during term time than during the vacation, and shelving has been more or less the same each term, with a slight reduction for Trinity term, when exams are held (and fewer books are needed for essay preparation, etc.).

Image created by Grace Brown

We asked Library Assistant Heidi Macaulay to comment on the past year’s changes in the Sackler Library’s shelving procedures:

“The past academic year at Sackler saw much restructuring, part of which resulted in an improvement in the library’s shelving situation.  New weekend opening hours resulted in more Library Assistants joining the Reader Services staff team, and most Library Assistants now have daily shelving responsibilities.  The net effect is that there are many more hours spent shelving each week.

Procedurally, shelving is now standardised across all floors as a system.  Book-trolleys for shelving, labelled with shelf marks, have also been standardised and on every floor they are located on the south side of each reading room.  (The exception is the ground floor, where they remain located near their respective stacks and keep exit routes clear in case of fire.) This standardisation makes it much easier for readers and staff to locate items which have been consulted in-house and are waiting to be shelved.

Such changes also make it much easier to determine where exactly any given Reading Room book is located:  On the correct shelf; waiting to be loaned to a borrower; held at a reservation point; forming part of the daily morning desk sweep for each floor (these books transfer immediately to the appropriate re-shelving book-trolleys for each floor); or on the book returns trolleys near the ground floor Help & Circulation Desk. 

Having additional Reader Services staff engaged in shelving also enables us to carry out more consistent work on book conservation/cleaning, missing book searches and shelf tidying and locating any missing books.  (If a book remains missing,  its status on SOLO will be updated to reflect this.)

As further added value, these changes bring an increased presence of Library Assistants to the Reading Rooms.  While there, they can help with readers’ queries (eg, finding books!) at point of need and also help ensure that the reading rooms remain calm working environments.  All the while shelving methodically on all  floors throughout the day.

All of these changes combine to further enhance readers’ experience in effectively locating and using the books they need.”

So the next time you wonder…

 

Chantal van den Berg, Grace Brown and Heidi Macaulay, Members of the Sackler Library’s Reader Services staff team

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! A Peaceable Kingdom

 

In June 2018, the Sackler Library put up a book display with our staff members’ favourite publiciations housed in the Sackler, with the aim to showcase different disciplines and areas of interest together in one place to spark interest and ideas in readers. This is Louise Calder’s account of her favourite item in our collection.

My favourite Sackler book is A Peaceable Kingdom : the Leo Mildenberg collection of ancient animals.  It’s a 2004, London Christie’s Auction Catalogue.  I first encountered it when Dr Henry Kim, then at the Ashmolean’s Heberden Coin Room, said, “You’ve got to look at this!”  He was right.  This was at the very, very beginning of my DPhil[1], and though it was definitely going to be about animals in ancient Greece, I hadn’t yet decided if they would be snakes, or pigs (Professor John Boardman’s idea), or perhaps exclusively pets.  At that point of indecision, and doubt about whether I was truly up to the job, this gorgeous catalogue gave me a bounce of delight that helped me into the next stage.

For 40 years Leo Mildenberg collected ancient Egyptian, Eastern, Greek and Roman animal representations.  Many were already published[2], but this substantial catalogue offers Christie’s exquisite, high quality images for some of the choicest in Mildenberg’s collection.  The pictures breathed fresh life into the objects, just before they disappeared again into secret, private, lucky hands.

 

 

 

During the writing of my thesis this ‘peaceable kingdom’ was a source of refreshment and supporting evidence, not only for study, but recreation too.  A prancing cheetah on an Apulian red-figure plate (Lot 80) inspired me to make an embroidered name tag (see pictures), and the Mesopotamian leopard in limestone (Lot 153) was my focus for an intensive ‘lost wax’ silversmithing project (see pictures).  Both leopard and cheetah exemplify a charm and cheer that pervade the collection.  They seem to reflect that of Mildenberg himself; delightfully pictured smiling throughout.

Back at the Sackler, my colleagues love these ancient beasts too, even down to the issues desk stationery.  Among our many novelty items, we have an eraser in the form of a faïence hippo that’s very like one of Mildenberg’s.  The eraser is actually after ‘William’, the Metropolitan Museum of Art example, but whenever I see it, I think ‘Mildenberg’, and, funnily enough, Mildenberg named his too:  ‘Hubert’ (Lot 111).

 

 

I periodically run across A Peaceable Kingdom in the Sackler.  It’s an old friend, and it gives me a sense of contentment and connection whenever I see it.

Louise Calder, 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.

 

[1] Calder, L. (2009), Cruelty and sentimentality : Greek attitudes to animals, 600-300 BC. Thesis (D.Phil.) – University of Oxford, 2009. v. 1: Bodleian Library, Offsite, MS. D.Phil. c.22973, Theses 605083196; v. 2: Bodleian Library, Offsite, MS. D.Phil. c.22974, Theses 605083197.  (Published as: Calder, L. (2011), Cruelty and sentimentality : Greek attitudes to animals, 600-300 BC. Oxford : Archaeopress, 2011.  Sackler Library LG Floor 622.1 Cal.

[2]
Kozloff, A. (1981), Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection. Sackler Library 1st Floor J.ii.213f.
Avida, U. (1986), Animals in Ancient Art. Sackler Library 1st Floor J.ii. pamph. [Mildenberg].
Kozloff, A. (1986), More Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection.  Sackler Library 1st Floor J.ii.213fb.
Walker, A. (1996), Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection: Part III.  Sackler Library 1st Floor J.ii.213fc.
Zahlhaas, G. (1997), Out Of Noah’s Ark: Animals In Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection. Sackler Library 1st Floor J.ii.213fe.
Biers, J. (2004), Animals In Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection Part VI : A Peaceable Kingdom.  Sackler Library 1st Floor J.ii.213ff.

Like @ SAC! Fragments and Footwear in the Costume Dictionaries of Late Eighteenth-century France

 

A dismembered torso sprawls down from the left hand side of the pediment with its right leg caught on the step (Figure 1).  Next to it, sporting an insouciant and spritely air, a pair of legs neatly crossed at the knee flaunt a set of elegant cross gaiters.  Underneath are other fragments and body parts; the bottom half of a torso without its feet, elegantly clad and protected in decorative armour. In the centre of the image a set of legs with their accompanying feet rest against some rocks.  Protecting the knees are the masks of bearded men, as if the head of their owner has somehow been repositioned.  Surrounded by other half legs and torsos the image resembles the aftermath of a grisly act of mutilation,  the dance macabre of a battlefield.

 

 

The source of this unsettling image of ornamented body parts is the Sackler Library’s copy of Michel François Dandré-Bardon’s Costume des Anciens Peuples[1] (Figure 2), printed posthumously between 1784-6, and one of a number of costume dictionaries published in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century France.  The Sackler Library’s copy is interesting because even though it was it was printed in memoriam for its author, whose portrait appears in the frontispiece with a short epitaph (Figure 3), it was deliberately produced without the luxurious bindings typical of other costume dictionaries held in the Bodleian Libraries collection in Oxford so that it would remain affordable for artists and the general public.

Dandré-Bardon was himself an accomplished history painter and one of the  leading figures of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris as well as the founder of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Marseilles.  He was from Aix-en-Provence, and studied painting under the Rococo masters Jean-Baptiste van Loo and Jean Francois de Troy.  After winning second prize in the Prix de Rome he went to study in Rome for six years.  On his return to France he went back  to the Académie as a professor, and by the end of his career headed up history painting at the school.  This was significant because history and allegorical painting along with sculpture was the most prestigious sector of artistic production, and the only genre in which works of art could aspire to the beau idéal.

 

 

In their Dictionnaire des arts de peinture, sculpture et gravure, the art theorists Claude-Henri Watelet and Pierre-Charles Lévesque had engaged with and systemised the structure, styles, purpose and aesthetic effect of ancient costume.  To supplement this theoretical engagement costume dictionaries were produced in Europe, and particularly in France, to illustrate and describe in more practical detail the different items of clothing, varieties of hairstyles, ornaments and accessories that made up the ancient way of life (Figure 4).  Particular attention was given to the clothing of the Greeks and Romans, aligning each item of clothing to its historical period, way of life, customs, and habits.

Many art critics and theorists believed that the representation of accurate clothing in works of art promoted the status of French art, erasing the shame felt by many for the licentious nature of  mid to late-eighteenth century Rococo painting.  According to Watelet, as early as the 1760s this desire for a new morality found expression in artistic circles through the inspiration of  the leading portraitist of the day, Anton Raphael Mengs[2], and was signalled in the work of Joseph-Marie Vien and his famous pupil Jacques-Louis David by the adoption of classical dress and subject matter in the genre of history and allegorical painting.  Significant attention was paid in the art criticism to the accurate representation of clothing as it became representative of the new morality, and later a growing sense of national pride.  An example of the way in which artists such as David used these dictionaries as a resource is illustrated by comparing David’s painting L’Intervention des Sabines with the detailed studies by Dandré-Bardon of Phrygian hats (Figures 5 & 6).

 

 

The style and structure of these dictionaries was varied, and each came with its own particular characteristics and idiosyncrasies.  Some of the compendiums were more practical than others in their illustration of antique clothing and household goods.  Others used contemporary or ancient art as exemplars.  Many of the dictionaries had essays or comments in the text on general philosophical issues surrounding the nature of art, ideal beauty or the status of French painting.  Others, like these volumes by Dandré-Bardon, focused more on an object-based analysis.

The resources for these dictionaries were varied.  Some authors engaged directly with the work of ancient scholars such as Pliny and Herodotus, and the works of more modern antiquarians such as the Comte de Caylus and Bernard de Montfaucon.  Most dictionaries, however, drew much of their inspiration and knowledge from the work of the art historian and archaeologist, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, whose influential  L’Histoire de l’art chez les anciens was translated and published five times in France between 1766 and 1802.

Dandré-Bardon’s analysis and images of ancient costume and accessories was unique amongst the other dictionaries in that he did not cite either Winckelmann or any ancient or modern  sources for his compendium, nor did he attribute any broader philosophic or nationalistic purpose for the work.  Yet the structure of the two volumes, starting first with the religious, civil and domestic dress of the Greeks and Romans followed by their military costume, and then systematically tracing the clothing and heritage of other ancient peoples such as  the Israelites, the Egyptians, Amazonians , Parthians, Scythes, Daces, Sarmatians, Ancient Germans and Persians, strongly echoes the interest expressed in Winckelmann’s Histoire on the clothing of ancient peoples and particularly those of the Greeks and Romans. Instead Dandré-Bardon took his accounts of garment and accessory types directly from the ancient monuments themselves.  His starting point of analysis was therefore a description of the individual garments and accessories, followed by an extensive and meticulous interrogation of the context in which they were worn.

 

 

In the text accompanying  this image of Greek and Roman sandals (Figure 8), for example, Dandré-Bardon first described how Greeks and Romans ordinarily walked barefoot except when they were travelling, hunting or in battle.  He itemised each of the shoes illustrated A to G, and then described the variety of ways in which they were secured to the foot with either ribbons, bandages or leather straps. He then demonstrated the social significance of different styles and shoes.  Patricians and senators, for example, were distinguished with a special gold, silver or ivory lunelle, which replaced the customary loop to secure the straps. He then also described and illustrated how ancients used shoes studded with iron spikes or nail heads to walk on ice or in slippery places.

The disquieting image of headless trunks, floating legs and random torsos was therefore part of a broader ethnographic drive to not only chart the details of ancient life and habits, but to provide an important bridge between antiquarian knowledge and artistic practice.  It was not sufficient for the artist who used dictionaries such as these to know the correct item of clothing to use in his work of art, he also needed to understand the context of it so that the overall harmony of the painting would not be disturbed, and the knowledgeable art critic and member of the public would be satisfied.  These dictionaries, which have been overlooked in recent times, are therefore an essential resource to understanding the significance of clothing in Neoclassical painting.

Fiona Gatty, Research Fellow (DPhil, History of Art, 2015)

[1] Watelet and Lévesque, Dictionnaire des arts de peinture, sculpture et gravure. 5 vols. (Paris: L.F. Prault), 4.636-637.638. Sackler Library: #A.Ref.1/Wat.

[2]Michel Dandré-Bardon and Charles Nicolas Cochin, Costume des anciens peuples, à l’usage des artistes, Nouvelle ed., by M. Cochin. 4 vols. in 2. (Paris Alexandre Jombert jeune, 1784-1786). Sackler Library: #KK:DAN vols. 1-2.

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! – Black History Month Book Display

 

Black History Month has its origins in ‘Negro History Week’, established by historian Carter G. Woodson in the US in February 1926.  It steadily grew in popularity in the decades to come before becoming Black History Month as we know it in 1970.  It finally crossed The Pond in 1987 with its establishment in the UK by Ghanaian analyst Akyaaba Addai-Sebo.  The aim of the month is to commemorate important figures and events in the African Diaspora.

To celebrate Black History Month, we’ve set up a book display in the foyer of the Sackler.  The books featured in the display cover topics ranging from the work of black artists in 20th Century Britain, to the representation of race in art; and from the influence of Africa upon Western culture in antiquity, to the existence – or absence – of racism in the ancient world.

First of all, the display features a number of books on the art of eminent black artists. Yinka Shonibare – a British-Nigerian artist known for his work with brightly-coloured Dutch wax fabric ­– is particularly prominent (Yinka Shonibare MBE, Yinka Shonibare: Double Dutch).  Wifredo Lam (Wifredo Lam: Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work), a Cuban painter who melded Afro-Cuban culture with the radical artistic styles of the 20th Century, also features.  Finally, Black Artists in British Art: A History since the 1950s provides an overview of the contributions of black artists to the modern British art scene.

Inverting the focus, the display also includes a number of books on black people in art.  Readers looking to explore representations of Blackness in art over time need look no further than The Image of the Black in Western Art, a 10-volume series (of which 3 feature in our display) that exhaustively documents 5000 years of black people in art.  A more geographically-specific take on artistic representations of race can be found in Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico, a beautifully illustrated analysis of paintings of racial mixing among Africans, members of the indigenous population and Spaniards in colonial Mexico and the racial dynamics showcased in these images.

Moving out of art and into antiquity, the display includes books representative of two thorny debates within classical scholarship.   The first of these is the infamous Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization.  In it, Martin Bernal makes the claim that ancient Greece was colonized by Egyptians and Phoenicians, and that from the 18th Century this influence was systematically obscured by Western academia.  Also included in the display is Black Athena Revisited, a collection of critical essays written in response to Bernal’s claims – a small sample of the scholarly firestorm that erupted following the publication of Bernal’s first volume in 1987.  Finally, African Athena is a more recent edited collection that seeks to re-open the debate while simultaneously moving beyond it, shifting its terms to focus on the intersections between the Greco-Roman world and Africa and the Middle East, and implications of those intersections.  The second debate featured in the display is the question of whether racism as we conceive of it today existed in classical antiquity.  In Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks, Frank Snowden contends that African blacks, far from being looked down upon, were in fact respected by Mediterranean Caucasians for their martial and mercantile prowess.  Representing the other side of the debate is The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity, in which Benjamin Isaac seeks to refute the view that the prejudice of ancient Greeks and Romans was merely cultural, not racial.

We hope that this display serves to highlight both the achievements of individual black artists and the influence of the African diaspora on Western culture more widely.  Furthermore, we hope that it illuminates some of the ways in which race plays a part in the subject areas covered by the Sackler’s collections.  The display will run until the end of the month, but the bibliography will remain accessible on this blog post.

Ben Gable, Graduate Trainee, Sackler Library

We welcome suggestions for future book displays.  Please speak to a Reader Services staff member if you are interested.

Bibliography

Bernal, Martin. 1987. Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. London: Free Association Books.

Bindman, David, Henry Louis Gates, and Karen C. C. Dalton. 2010. The Image of the Black in Western Art. New ed. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Chambers, Eddie. 2014. Black Artists in British Art: A History since the 1950s. London: I.B. Tauris.

Isaac, Benjamin H. 2004. The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Katzew, Ilona. 2004. Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico. New Haven, Conn.; London: Yale University Press.

Kent, Rachel, Robert Carleton Hobbs, Anthony Downey, and Yinka Shonibare. 2014. Yinka Shonibare MBE. Revised and updated ed. London: Prestel.

Lam, Wifredo, Lou Laurin-Lam, and Eskil Lam. 1996. Wifredo Lam: Catalogue Raisonné of the Painted Work. Lausanne: Acatos.

Lefkowitz, Mary R. and Guy MacLean Rogers. 1996. Black Athena Revisited. Chapel Hill; London: University of North Carolina Press.

Mosaka, Tumelo, Annie Paul, and Nicollette Ramirez. 2007. Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art. New York: Brooklyn Museum in association with Philip Wilson Publishers.

Orrells, Daniel, Gurminder K. Bhambra, and Tessa Roynon. 2011. African Athena: New Agendas. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pinder, Kymberly N. 2002. Race-ing Art History: Critical Readings in Race and Art History. London: Routledge.

Shonibare, Yinka, Jaap Guldemond, Gabriele Mackert, and Barbera van Kooij. 2004. Yinka Shonibare: Double Dutch. Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Snowden, Frank M. 1983. Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Like @ SAC! Livres d’artistes / French Artists’ Books and the Avant Garde

 

 

 

On 1st March 2016, we welcomed Dr Camille Mathieu (History of Art Department, 2014-2015) back to Oxford, and to the Taylor Institution, where she presented the Taylor Institution Library’s livres d’artiste collection. This collection includes texts by French and foreign authors; with illustrations by well-known 20th century artists such as Braque, Kandinsky, Matisse and Picasso, as well as many others. (Largely for reasons of conservation and space to accommodate it, this collection is now on long-term deposit with the Sackler Library and hence — with Dr. Mathieu’s permission — we are republishing this post on the Sackler Library’s blog.)

 

 

Dr Mathieu’s presentation was accompanied by a display, in the Taylorian’s Voltaire Room, of related items in the artists’ books collection. The following is her summary of her talk.

As far as objets d’arts go, the artist’s book is a rather hybrid form. It turns a story or a poem into an object; it lends the weight of materiality to the metaphorical weight of narrative. It is necessarily a collaborative effort: author, artist-illustrator, typesetter, printer, editor, publisher—all of these people have a hand in producing the final product. It can be presented materially—as a bound book where only one page can be opened at a time—or immaterially, as a series of leaves and pages that feed into one another. 
It was its hybridity as a medium that drew Walter Strachan to the artist’s book; his impressive collection of sheets from these books was given to the Taylorian during Giles Barber’s tenure as Taylor Librarian (1970-1996).

A teacher of modern languages at Bishop’s Stortford College, Walter Strachan became interested in the genre of the artist’s book (or, in its French translation, livre d’artiste) in parallel with translations he was 
executing of the works of poets who inhabited Paris during the first decades of the twentieth century – Tzara, Eluard, and Apollinaire, for example, whose texts ultimately featured in Strachan’s collection.

Tristan Tzara, Juste présente (Paris: Galerie Louise Leiris, 1961). Illustrated by Sonia Delaunay

 

Amassed in repeated visits to Parisian collectors, printers, and book artists and sometimes offered to the collector as gifts over several decades, the Strachan Collection is extremely diverse both in terms of the artists and the authors it represents.  It contains two of the most important works for the history and development of the genre, both of whose process of publication was spearheaded and supervised by the legendary post-impressionist art dealer (his “stable” included Cézanne, Renoir, Gauguin, Van Gogh) and book editeur Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939).

The collection includes two Vollard items — see below images: (1) What is arguably the first artist’s book ever produced in the avant-garde, early twentieth-century sense of the genre that Strachan devoted his scholarship to: Verlaine’s Parallèlement, illustrated by Pierre Bonnard (1900); and (2) Balzac’s Le Chef d’Oeuvre Inconnu, illustrated by Pablo Picasso (1931).

 

Each artist takes a different approach to the concept of illustrating the book. Bonnard’s work is arguably the more innovatively designed of the two, for his illustrations encircle the text, as opposed to providing separate, squared-off vignettes of illustration to the text, as is the case in Picasso’s work.  The rose-colored, frenetic drawing style exhibited by Bonnard in Parallèlement lends the entire production the feeling of being illustrated with sanguine chalk—a feature frequently associated in the late-nineteenth century with the Rococo drawings of Fragonard or Watteau.  This drawing style claims for the art book the purview of the luxury product.

Both Bonnard’s and Picasso’s drawings are more or less illustrative of the actual texts, providing images that generally coincide with the development of the narratives provided. In the case of the 1931 Chef d’Oeuvre Inconnu, the first artist’s book ever to be commissioned from Picasso—an artist who would go on to be prolific in the genre—the illustrations go one step further and take the power of mimesis and the pull of abstraction as their subjects; these are both underlying concepts in Balzac’s narrative as well as powerful motivators for the work of Picasso in the 1930s.  For the man who had invented Cubism (along with Braque) and whose art was currently in a broadly neoclassical phase, the importance of reconciling the live model with a kind of abstracted ideal retained all of the force with which Balzac presents it.  Picasso’s illustrations include both the more traditionally representative (the painter drawing his model) and abstract (the set of line-dot drawings that dominate the “introduction” he provides for the reader [not part of the Taylorian’ sheets from this book).

Pierre Reversy. Le chant des morts. Illustrated by Pablo Picasso (Paris: Tériade, 1948)

The successful marriage of disparate parts and influences that is represented by the genre of the artist’s book— edited, authored, illustrated, printed, etched/engraved/lithographed, and published by a litany of different people with disparate ideas—ironically finds its fullest and arguably most famous expression in this particular livre, whose text and illustrations both insist on the inability of the painter to successfully bind together the real and the ideal.

Dr. Camille Mathieu, Lecturer in Art History and Visual Culture, University of Exeter

Photo credits: Nick Hearn & Clare Hills-Nova (Taylor Institution Library)

 

 

 

 

Further reading

Le livre d’artiste: a catalogue of the W.J. Strachan gift to the Taylor Institution: exhibited at the Ashmolean Museum, Ox, 1987 (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum and Taylor Institution, 1987).

W.J. Strachan. The artist and the book in France: the 20th century livre d’artiste (London: Owen, 1969)

Like @ Sac! My year as Graduate Trainee Librarian (2017-18)

 

Every year, the Bodleian Libraries takes on around 10 graduates as part of its Library Graduate Trainee Scheme. The scheme provides training and work experience in an academic library setting for those considering a career in libraries or the information-related sector, often with a view to studying a relevant postgraduate qualification. Each trainee is based in one of the Bodleian Libraries for day-to-day work, and attends a weekly training session with the other trainees. The training sessions vary from specific job-related training courses, career talks, or visits to other Bodleian departments or Oxford libraries. There is even a day-trip to London to expand our horizons and escape the Oxford bubble.

The Sackler Library is one of the Bodleian Libraries that hosts a trainee every year, and for the academic year 2017-18, I was lucky enough to be that person! Now that my time here is coming to an end, I wanted to reflect on my year and how the role of the trainee fits into the wider work of the library.

Graduate Trainee Emily Pulsford on shift at the Help Desk scanning in a returned book

 

Right from the start, I have been part of the Reader Services team, gradually becoming fully integrated into this important aspect of Sackler work and life. This has meant spending at least a couple of hours every day helping readers to: borrow and return books; locate books in the library; use other library services such as the PCs and scanners; and generally answer any queries. Desk work also involves processing daily deliveries from the offsite storage facility, and sending back books that are due to be returned there. This setup has been an extremely useful way for me to gain essential library experience. Through it, I have come to understand what it is that Oxford library users want and need, and the challenges of trying to meet varying needs, all of which is useful food for thought for future job roles. As desk duty is always done in pairs, it has also proved an invaluable opportunity to learn from supportive, experienced colleagues.

Over the course of the year, I have helped develop the trainee role (read: be a guinea pig) by shaping regular trainee responsibilities — such as co-ordinating reading list checking and inter-library loans. These tasks have solidified the trainee role by adding to the long-standing trainee task of dealing with the many books, auction catalogues and exhibition catalogues donated via Ashmolean Museum curatorial staff so they can be added to the collections. Even after nearly a year of weekly collections, I still feel a little thrill when going through the Sackler-Ashmolean ‘magic portal’ door to the museum!

One major part of the trainee scheme is the chance to work on a project and present it at the end of the year to the other trainees, supervisors and any other curious Bodleian well-wishers. The trainee project exemplifies how a successful traineeship is mutually beneficial in that the project work is useful to the trainee in terms of gaining experience and skills, and useful to the library in terms of making progress on projects and schemes that haven’t quite made it to fruition in the past.

My trainee project involved re-establishing the Sackler Library’s social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, and setting up a blog for the library.  I have been working on the blog steadily from partway through Michaelmas Term 2017, and we launched with two posts marking LGBT History month (to read, click here and here).  It was a fantastic way for me to get to grips with the fascinating collections in the library and to think about how libraries communicate with their users about new services and important behind-the-scenes work, such as processing new books and conservation.

Graduate Trainee Emily Pulsford and Senior Library Assistant Grace Brown in an image used for the Bodleian Twitter Takeover

 

 

During the year, there have been several new service innovations to promote on the blog and social media, such as Sunday opening hours, the New Books Display, a self-issue machine and height-adjustable desks, all of which make a big difference to readers’ experience of the library.  It has also been great for me to see change first-hand and understand the importance of updating library services to reflect changing reader needs.

The blog also generated unexpected side projects such as book displays in the library.  I have enjoyed the process of selecting books on a broad topic, such as International Women’s Day, arranging the physical display, designing the poster and writing a blog post to act as ‘exhibition notes’ as well as a more permanent record of the display (which was itself temporary). Earlier in the summer, we used the display format as an opportunity to bring together staff member’s favourite publications from the Sackler’s collections.  The response was even more personal and eye-opening than I had hoped, and the display piqued the interest of staff and readers alike.

 

 

 

 

The book display for International Women’s Day
A 360 degree image of the Sackler Library lobby

 

Producing content for the social media accounts also drew on my creativity and previous experience with photography. I used the Radcliffe Science Library’s borrowable 360 degrees camera and VR equipment to take more interesting shots of the library, which was a very enjoyable part of my overall project work.

Another highlight came in July 2018, when the Sackler welcomed A-level students on the University’s Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies UNIQ outreach programme’s summer school. The taster academic sessions were run by colleagues in the Griffith Institute, but I had the chance to run a session introducing the Sackler Library and showing off our extensive Special Collections for these subject areas.

All in all, I have had a wonderful year where I have learned a lot (there’s always something new and exciting to uncover in the Sackler’s collections), worked with a great team and I hope set up projects and tasks that will carry on in the future.  There will always be plenty for new trainees to get involved with and shape their roles, and I wish the incoming trainee good luck as he embarks on his year at the Sackler.

 

 

The next step for me is an MA in Librarianship, which I am looking forward to starting this autumn.  I’ll miss working at the Sackler and I want to thank everybody who has helped make my time here special.

Emily Pulsford
Graduate Trainee Librarian (2017-18), Sackler Library