Thursday, August 22, 2013

For the Bookish

Today would be a great day to find a shady seat and relax with a good book. Perhaps Alice Miner, after finishing her needle work, would have wandered from Heart's Delight Cottage toward a stately elm tree and cracked open a good book. It's clear she enjoyed reading - as evidenced by the large collection of her books here at The Alice. She read about many things - fiction, history, reference, biographies, travel journals... Much of her non-fiction collection deals with how things were made. Specifically, the books are about china, American furniture, English furniture, decorative arts, Japanese woodblock prints, porcelain maker's marks, silver, silver maker's marks - in other words, she read a lot about the objects she collected. These books are part of our reference library at the museum, as opposed to books that are part of the collection - Alice Miner gathered some amazing and sometimes rare books together to preserve in the museum collection.

Lately I have been revisiting some of the more extraordinary books Alice collected. Here I will tell you about six of them, organized by publication date from 1914 all the way back to 1498. They are just a few of the amazing tomes stored in my office and I love to occasionally take them down from the shelves and carefully wander through their pages. Right now you can see them exhibited on the first floor in the Weaving Room.

A Century of Fashions from Contemporary Magazines 1800 to 1900
 by M.J. Levey, 1914

Includes 100 hand-colored engraved costume plates representing a century of ladies fashions from magazines of the time. 

Atlas to Cruttwell's Gazetteer by Clement Cruttwell, 1808
A gazetteer is a geographical directory or reference for information about places and place names, population GDP, etc. - used in conjunction with an atlas or maps. Cruttwell's Gazetteer is an atlas of the known world including numerous maps. Clement Cruttwell was well-regarded in his time and even corresponded with George Washington - to whom he sent his own translation of the Holy Bible. Our copy of this book is inscribed "Levi Platt Esquire", indicating perhaps that Alice Miner purchased the book from descendants of the Platt family as she did numerous other pieces in the collection. Levi Platt (1782-1849) was a son of Zephaniah (1735-1807) and Mary Van Wyck Platt (1742-1809). 

Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767, 1768 by Jonathan Carver, 1781
The journal of Jonathan Carver's expedition into the interior of America. Carver (1710-1780) traveled further west than any British explorer before the Revolution. Illustrated with copper engravings. Carver was a captain in the Massachusetts colonial militia during the French and Indian war, enlisting in 1755. His expedition was sponsored by Major Robert Rogers (1731-1795 - of Roger's Rangers fame) with an aim to find a western water route to the Pacific Ocean. Despite the immense success of the book, Carver died a poor man in London in 1780.

The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director by Thomas Chippendale, 1754
A furniture pattern book illustrated with 161 engravings of Chippendale's own designs. He was the first furniture maker to publish a book of his own creations. The book includes furniture patterns in the Gothic, Chinese, and Rococo styles along with more plain domestic designs. The drawings established the fashion for furniture for the period and were used by many other cabinet makers. The term "Chippendale" is now regularly used to describe English Rococo furniture. This book sold well and helped to increase Chippendale's clientele. 

A Treaty with the Indians of the Six Nations compiled and edited by Benjamin Franklin, 1744
Also known as the Treaty of Lancaster between Virginia, Maryland and the Iroquois League. This is an original copy of the treaty published and sold by Ben Franklin from his printing office in Philadelphia. These treaty negotiations were held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania between June 25 and July 4, 1744. The Iroquois agreed to hand over their claims to the Shenandoah Valley in exchange for 200 pounds of gold. The demarcation lines were vague and not agreed upon by all parties, resulting in later treaties. Although the leather binding is a more recent addition, I like to think that perhaps Ben himself once held this book!

Enneades ab Urbe Condito ad Inclinationem Imperii Romani (History of the World) by Marcus Antonius (Coccius) Sabellicus (1436-1506), 1498
A history of the world from its inception to 1504. Published by Bernardinus and Mattheus de Vitalibus, commonly called Li Albanesoti, who were brothers. This is the only book they published together. They were active between 1494-1536 in Venice and Rome. Their printer's mark is shown below.

It is interesting that this history supposedly covers through the year 1504 when it was published in 1498. It is decorated with woodcut outline initials that have been hand colored, and printed in Latin. This wonderful book was purchased by Alice Miner from her friend and fellow collector, Frank Gunsaulus in 1919. 

Please come to see these amazing objects here at The Alice. Due to their delicate nature they will be on exhibit for only a short time and then carefully boxed and stowed away again in my office.

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