The interaction of art and science in the Print Collection

Working at the University of Melbourne’s Print Collection as part of the 2016 International Museum and Collections Award was like entering a veritable Aladdin’s cave of riches for a recent Art History Graduate like me.  Although the shelves are stacked with plenty of treasures for me to feast my eyes on, I was particularly struck by The Reward of Cruelty which is part of a series of four engravings entitled ‘The Four Stages of Cruelty’ by William Hogarth and was published in 1751.

William Hogarth, The Reward of Cruelty, 1751, engraving, plate: 38.8 x 31.8 cm, Purchased, 1995, Baillieu Library Print Collection, the University of Melbourne.

I was familiar with both Hogarth’s Gin Lane and A Harlot’s Progress with their satire of English 18th century life and their motive to serve as a warning to the lower classes. Each image is clearly designed to emphasis morals (or the absence thereof) and demonstrates the downfall of those who spend their lives courting vice, whether through drinking, prostitution or gambling.
In one sense, The Reward of Cruelty can be seen in a similar vein, offering a deterrent to those who may choose a life of criminality by highlighting the consequences—ultimately, a public execution and a body which will be dissected and thus denied a Christian burial and place in the afterlife.

William Hogarth, Gin Lane, 1751, engraving, image: 35.3 x 30.2cm, Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959, Baillieu Library Print Collection, the University of Melbourne.

William Hogarth, Apprehended by a magistrate, (1732), engraving, plate: 22.7 x 37.9cm, Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959, Baillieu Library Print Collection, the University of Melbourne.

Yet this image is macabre and perhaps propagandistic to the extreme, suggesting not only an undignified end to those who submit to a life of crime but also demonstrating the then popular suspicion of surgeons and a distaste for this practice of anatomisation.

Here the dissectors at hand are portrayed as vultures surrounding a carcass, quick to begin their preparations despite the fact the hangman’s noose has not yet been removed from the body, thereby signalling that their subject may in fact still be alive. They are devoid of humanity or caring and the crowds suggest this public spectacle is one of entertainment rather than to further the pursuit of medical knowledge. Hogarth succeeds in not only creating a grim warning that plays upon the steadfast religious attitudes of the era but also an image which demonstrates public distrust of contemporary medical advancements.

This contrasts vividly with another print in the collection: that of Johannes Pieter de Frey’s etching after Rembrandt The anatomy lesson (1798). In this image the surgeons seem more focused upon the book in front of them rather than the cadaver; they appear scholarly and sensible, studying their text instead of launching into the dissection. The composition of the print draws parallels with the motif of the depiction of the lamentation of Christ and emphasises that although this body is also of a criminal denied a Christian burial, this sacrifice is necessary for the furthering of scientific knowledge.

Johannes Pieter de Frey after Rembrandt van Rijn, The anatomy lesson, (1789), etching, image: 28.1 x 36.2 cm, Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959, Baillieu Library Print Collection, the University of Melbourne.

It is this intersection between both art and science that can be traced throughout these prints and offers a different way of contemplating this collection.
These prints, alongside many other examples by artists such as Claude Lorrain, Francisco De Goya and Rembrandt, are available to study and view on request in the Baillieu Library Reading Room.

To learn more about the Museums and Collections Award please see:
Emily Robins – intern at University of Melbourne’s Collections
International Museums and Collections Award

For further reading please see:
Fiona Haslam, From Hogarth to Rowlandson: Medicine in Art in Eighteenth-century Britain. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1996

Emily Robins
International Museums and Collections Award Recipient 2016


Alkan in the afternoon: an unusual recital on Percy Grainger’s piano

erin-helyard-and-stephanie-mccallum-at-the-duo-art-pianoOn Sunday 28 August the galleries of the Grainger Museum rang with the sound of Charles-Valentin Alkan’s music played on Grainger’s Weber Duo-Art piano by Stephanie McCallum (Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney) and Erin Helyard (Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne). The rich textures of rarely-heard four-hand piano repertory were enjoyed by an appreciative and numerous audience, augmented by the attentive faces of the portraits hanging in the front gallery as part of the exhibition Water, marks and countenances: Works on paper from the Grainger Museum collection.

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Alkan’s 1850 arrangement of the Overture to Giacomo Meyerbeer’s opera Le Prophète provided a dramatic introduction to the recital—and to Grainger’s piano—entertaining with a range of styles and techniques, from impressive contrapuntal passages to the melodramatic power of tremolo octave writing. It was a treat to hear this work in the way that so many families experienced opera in the nineteenth century: unable to access or afford theatre tickets, they enjoyed the music at home, performed at the piano.

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The central work of the afternoon was a 1906 transcription of Alkan’s Nine Preludes for pédalier op.66 (1866) by José Vianna de Motta, which traced a stimulating and moving journey and showcased McCallum and Helyard’s full range as performers from sensitive to exuberant, even athletic, pianism. For the revival of this extraordinary—and largely forgotten—music we are indebted to McCallum’s advocacy.

The encore was taken from Fauré’s Masques et Bergamasques suite of 1919, a composition that preceded the piano’s manufacture date by just over a decade, and it was a delight to hear this engaging repertoire performed on an instrument of its time, its distinctive tonal qualities enhancing the colours of Fauré’s beautiful writing.

Congratulations and thanks to Dr Jennifer Hill and the Grainger Museum for hosting this event, which was a tribute to the creative interaction of research and performance.

Dr Elizabeth Kertesz, Honorary Fellow, Melbourne Conservatorium of Music


The eminently capable Mr Brown: Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and his magnificent tree moving machine

Library catalogue entry: http://cat.lib.unimelb.edu.au/record=b1817839

The Rare Books Collection contains vestiges of many intriguing characters from the worlds of history, science and literature.  Amongst the colourful cast can be included the landscape gardener Lancelot Brown (1716-1783), whose 300th birthday is being celebrated this year.  Both lauded and lampooned in his lifetime, Brown transformed 18th century English garden design, had an intense aversion to red brick (‘it puts the whole valley in a fever’), and invented an exceptionally effective tree moving machine.

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown

Born on the estate of Kirkhale Hall, Northumberland to a yeoman father and house maid, Brown is better known by his nickname of ‘Capability’, for assuring his aristocratic clients of the great potential, or ‘capability’, for realising improvements to their landed estates.  Brown remodelled the spaces surrounding English stately homes into verdant sweeping landscapes, of a kind that could be appreciated from the ease of one’s carriage, or from vantage points picturesquely positioned in one’s grounds.

By account Brown was a swift worker and could assess and produce a plan within an hour of riding about an estate and soon found his services sought by the most fashionable and wealthy gentry of the day.  This success was in part due to his ability to envision and design expansive gardens, but was underpinned by a particular capacity to translate theory into practice.

Library catalogue entry: http://cat.lib.unimelb.edu.au/record=b1817839

Trees and tree planting

One of Brown’s signature devices was the deft positioning of trees and copses and other arboreal plants to create ‘naturalistic’ effects in the landscape.  Trees, however, take years to grow and planting is rarely the interest of younger generations.  If Brown’s gardens were to mature in their owners’ lifetimes, then mature plantings were needed – his wealthy clientele simply couldn’t, or wouldn’t, wait the 30 or more years needed for an oak tree to attain a lofty height, or for a picturesque woodland feature to mature.  One shortcut to achieving this instantaneous sylvan idyll was the technique of repositioning semi-mature and advanced trees in a new setting, as if they had grown there from seed.

Methods for transplanting large trees had been devised before but it was an expensive and labour intensive activity, based on a tradition of moving the plants in an upright aspect, using a cumbersome combination of chains and pulleys.  Brown was the first to understand the practical advantage of moving trees in a horizontal position and designed a simple but effective machine for this purpose.  The machine, which served him well for the length of his career, was not only faster but enabled transplanting of advanced trees of between 15-36 feet relatively easily.

The Transplanting Machine

Writing 40 years after Brown’s death, Sir Henry Steuart, the author of The Planter’s guide…(1828) describes Brown’s ‘Transplanting Machine’ as it was used at Allanton House, Lanarkshire, Scotland:

‘It consists of a strong Pole and two Wheels, with a smaller wheel occasionally used, which is fixed at the extremity of the pole, and turns on a pivot.  The pole operates both as a powerful lever, to bring down the Trees to the horizontal position, and in conjunction with the wheels, as a still more powerful conveyance, to remove them to their new situation’.

Library catalogue entry: http://cat.lib.unimelb.edu.au/record=b1817839

The roles of the various labourers involved in the transplanting operation were critical: the Machiner (who positioned the apparatus to receive the tree), the Steersman (who walked at the rear of the machine and managed the top of the tree), the Balancemen (two or more workers who scrambled on top of the horizontal tree and acted as movable counterweights), and the whole party supported by assistants who held ropes and walked at the side of the transplanting apparatus to help steady the moving specimen.

Occasionally things did not go to plan, such as when a tree unexpectedly took on the properties of a giant catapult:

‘In proceeding with the Machine down a gentle slope of some length, at an accelerated pace, on which occasion both the Balancemen had gained the top with their usual agility, it so fell out, that the cords, which secured the rack-pins of the root, unfortunately gave way.  This happened so suddenly, that the root at once struck the ground, with a force equal to the united weight of the mass, and the momentum of the movement, and pitched the Balancemen (now suddenly lifted to an elevation of nearly thirty feet), like two shuttle-cocks, to many yards’ distance, over the heads of the horses and the driver, who stood in amazement at their sudden and aerial flight!  Luckily for the men, there was no frost upon the ground, so that, instead of breaking their bones, they fell only on the soft turf of the park; from which soon getting up and shaking themselves, they heartily joined in the laughter of their companions, at the extraordinary length of the leap which they had taken’.

Apparently, despite the collective mirth, it ‘proved impossible’ to coerce the Balancemen ‘to resume their elevated functions, for many months after’…

Susan Thomas, Rare Books Curator

Library catalogue entry: http://cat.lib.unimelb.edu.au/record=b1817839Bibliography and further reading from the Rare Books Collection

All quotes and images are taken from Henry Stueart’s The Planters guide…(1828)

Cradock, Joseph.  Village memoirs: in a series of letters between a clergyman and his family in the country, and his son in town.  Dublin : Printed for P. Wilson, Skinner-Row; and M. Mills, Capel-Street, 1775.

Goldsmith, Oliver.  The traveller, The deserted village, and other poems.  London : Printed for John Sharpe…by C. Whittingham, 1819.

Hinde, Thomas.  Capability Brown: the story of a master gardener.  London : Hutchinson, 1986.

Neale, John Preston.  Views of the seats of noblemen and gentlemen, in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland / from drawings by J. P. Neale.  London : Published for W.H. Reid, 1818-1823.

Steuart, Henry.  The Planter’s guide: or, a practical essay on the best method of giving immediate effect to wood by the removal of large trees and underwood… 2nd edition.  Edinburgh : John Murray, 1828.

Walpole, Henry.  The history of the modern taste in gardening. New York : Ursus Press, c1995.


The 1886 school operetta, “Women at work”: a new acquisition for Rare Music

AAAWomen at work cover smallWomen at work, an 1886 operetta by Thomas Mee Pattison, with libretto by A.J. Foxwell, is a very rare and rather curious recent addition to the Rare Music collection. 1) It belongs to London publisher J. Curwen & Sons’ extensive series of “school operettas”, themselves evidence of the importance of vocal music in English schools at the time. The series includes short works intended for small children (Fairies of the Seasons, for example) through to extended works for senior students. Clearly one of the latter in its subject matter, Women at work is also one of the very longest, with an estimated duration of 2 ¼ hours.

Of its two creators, a little is known about T. Mee Pattison (1845–1936), who was born in Warrington, Cheshire and became an organist–choirmaster in his home town, aged 24. In the mid-1880s he moved to London where he composed and published a substantial amount of music, both sacred and secular: cantatas, operettas, anthems, and works for organ and piano. He was successful enough a composer by 1890 for extended extracts from his lecture, “How to write complete musical works” to appear in the Musical World. 2) The identity of his equally prolific and versatile librettist, A.J. Foxwell, is less clear.

It is, however, the subject matter that makes this particular operetta interesting. Women at work is set in the office of a Mrs Guardem who is about to set up an employment agency exclusively for women. Surrounded by women and girls she asks them to tell her all they know about their occupations that she may help place others.Lyric sheet opening

The requirement for only a single stage set—an office with “desk, table, large registers, &c.,”—and the general absence of stage action makes Women at work more a secular cantata than an operetta. There are only a few stage directions that require on-stage movement, notably: “Ladies all surround the Man with exclamations and gestures of disapproval”. Otherwise the work is more a concert in costume, for “each performer should wear the ordinary working dress of the trade or profession she represents” (p. [iii]).

An unusual aspect of Women at work is the contrast between the light and often amusing tone of the lyrics of the twenty-three musical numbers and the relentless didacticism of much of the spoken dialogue that separates them. As an example, the humorous Trio, no. 4, “I’m a clerk”—sung by post-office employees: a clerk, a “sorter” and a “counterwoman”—is followed by a speech from each woman about prerequisites, salary and conditions: a mail sorter, for example, “must be 4ft. 10in. in height, without boots … and know especially the geography of the United Kingdom” (p. 23).

The incorporation of swathes of information may have been common in these senior school cantatas; The sons of toil, published the following year and also created by Pattison and Foxwell, was observed by the Musical World’s critic to have “long-winded” dialogue. 3) Here the reviewer evokes the spirit of “Mr Barlow”—the “instructive monomaniac” created by Charles Dickens around 1860—but goes on to concede that the cantata’s impulse to instruct may be appropriate in a school context.

The librettist had contemporaneous published sources to mine for information; a debt to Mercy Grogan’s How women may earn a living (1880; rev 1883) and the Guide to Female Employment in Government Offices (1884) are two of the sources acknowledged. There is an emphasis in Grogan and in the cantata on “suitable” employment for “genteel” women—the first group of women to sing, for example, are telegraphists (see illustration from 1870)—rather than the hardship of the factory floor. 4) F8F7R8 GPO TELEGRAPH OFFICE, London in 1870. This is the Metropolitan Gallery covering the London area.. Image shot 1870. Exact date unknown.

In Women at Work, the factory is not mentioned until we hear the Trio, “We are workers in a pottery” (p. 52) followed by short speeches from “Cotton-factory girl” and “Straw worker”. The cantata dates from the beginning of a period when “white collar” employment opportunities for women—clerical and retail work, for example—increased and their employment in manufacturing declined. 5) The typewriter, in use from around 1882, generated what was essentially a new occupation and it was women who took up these stenographer positions in business offices.

The single male character, “Man”, who enters in a “serio-comic style” towards the end of the work (p. 57), is used to change the focus to issues such as the effect on men’s employment prospects of women occupying traditionally male roles; and why women shouldn’t (or couldn’t) simply stay out of the workforce. All is resolved by the cantata’s end, mostly through repeated assertions of the value of hard work for all. And what of the music? Stylistically the music of Women at work often resembles that of the comic operas of his contemporary Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900), the composer from the “Gilbert and Sullivan” partnership.O yes we can afford to smile smaller crop

Looked at in the social and music-educational context of its time, Women at work is an interesting piece and one that would reward further study. And if a willing group of musicians could be assembled, sight reading it through could be both entertaining and instructive.

Jennifer Hill, Music curator

1) Two other copies only have been traced; both in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

2) Musical World, 18 October 1890: 829.

3) Musical World, 28 May 1887: 412.

4) Alison Kaye, The foundations of female entrepreneurship: Enterprise, home and household (New York: Routledge, 2009), p. 13–14.

5) Louise A. Tilly and Joan W. Scott, Women, work and family (New York: Routledge, 1978, rev. 1987), p. 156–57.


A gift of ten drawings by Allan Mitelman

Allan Mitelman (Polish/Australian bn. 1946) is a printmaker, draughtsman and painter who is also a major contributor to the history of abstraction in Australia. Ten works on paper by the artist have recently been gifted to the Baillieu Library Print Collection through the Cultural Gifts Program. This collection of ten drawings spans fourteen years of the artist’s career and is a window onto his life’s practice, one which has been concerned with reinventing the surface of paper.

The relationship between the artist, the paper and the layers of applied medium are vital in the production of these work of art and all of the gifted works are untitled, thereby inviting the viewer to respond to them free from constrains and conventions. Viewers may also be surprised by the small scale of these drawings which are no more than 20 centimetres in size.

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Allan Mitelman, “S.T.”  1971, lithograph, image: 37.7 x 55.5cm, Baillieu Library Collection, the University of Melbourne. © Allan Mitelman

The way in which media lies on the paper is likewise key to the meaning and interpretation of the Baillieu Library Print Collection. Previously there had only been one example by Allan Mitelman in the collection: a lithograph titled “S.T.” . Therefore this gift contextualises this single abstract print and adds depth to the range of techniques in the collection. Untitled (2000), for example, incorporates a monotype print (a unique impression) the surface of which has been reworked with drawing. This is the first example of a monotype method in the collection.

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Allan Mitelman, Untitled (2000), monotype and ink, sheet: 14.6 x 9.6cm, Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne. Gift of Matisse Mitelman. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2015. © Allan Mitelman

Other drawings such as Untitled (2012) combine watercolour and pencil and they are executed in such a manner that the viewer never tires of looking at them.

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Allan Mitelman, Untitled , 2012, pencil and watercolour, image: 15.5 x 9.1cm, Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne. Gift of Matisse Mitelman. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2015. © Allan Mitelman

These works on paper offer wide appeal to students of subjects such as printmaking, art history, curatorship, history and education. They exemplify contemporary working practices, ensure that the collection is alive and  relevant, and they carve a new path into its future growth.

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Allan Mitelman, Untitled, 1990, pencil and watercolour, sheet: 16.5 x 13.7cm, Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne. Gift of Matisse Mitelman. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2015. © Allan Mitelman

Reference

Allan Mitelman: works on paper 1967-2004 by Elizabeth Cross; with a contribution by Terence Maloon, Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2004.


Shakespeare in Steel: exploring links between Edward Dowden’s ‘Shakespeare Scenes & Characters’ and the ‘Gallerie Shakespeare’ portfolio of engravings. Part III.

 

On the 15th July 2016, the University of Melbourne’s highly anticipated After Shakespeare exhibition was officially opened, in the Noel Shaw Gallery of the Baillieu Library. Marking the 400th anniversary of the year of the Bard’s death, the exhibition plays host to a number of artefacts and ephemera that highlight Shakespeare’s lasting legacy throughout the centuries, with particular focus on his reception in Australia.

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Amongst the intriguing stories contained in the cases is a puzzling connection between an 1876 English book of Shakespearian commentaries and engravings, and a separately issued portfolio of 22 engravings with a French title. Helen Kesarios, a student volunteer in the Cultural Collections Projects Program, has been investigating possible connections between the two works, drawing on original correspondence located at the British Library.

Part I told the story of the Shakespearian scholar, Edward Dowden, and the publication of his exquisitely illustrated text, Shakespeare Scenes & Characters (London : Macmillan and Co, 1876). Part II explored the background to the German engravings which feature in Dowden’s text.

The third instalment in this three-part story continues here, investigating links with a separately issued French portfolio of the engravings

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Part III – The French portfolio of German engravings

Also in Case 6, and accompanying Dowden’s text is a selection of loose prints from Australian composer and pianist Percy Grainger’s “Gallerie Shakespeare”, a red folio of twenty-two steel engravings identical to those contained in Dowden’s text, but bearing no publisher’s imprint. It is unknown how they came to be in Grainger’s collection, but their existence therein is unsurprising, given the strong affinity Grainger had with literature from a young age, particularly Nordic literature. As John Bird notes in his biography:

‘From the time Percy was four or five years old a certain period each day was set aside for reading out loud. The writings of Hans Christian Andersen were the first pieces of literature which he thus encountered. Later came the Icelandic Sagas of Njal and ‘Grettir the Strong’ and he was determined that one day he would learn a Scandinavian language so that he could read the Sagas in their original form. From the Sagas he turned to early English history with a strong emphasis on that period when the Nordic influence was greatest due to the Viking invasions. By the age of ten he had devoured a huge array of literature which included such material as Freeman’s History of the Norman Conquest and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles’.[i]

Percy PortraitIn correspondence with Macmillan and Co., Dowden repeatedly makes reference to a “Shakespeare-Galerie” or “Shakespeare Gallery”, which provided the prints for use in his book. As exciting as it may be to assume that Grainger’s “Gallerie Shakespeare” is one and the same, such a conclusion is found to be highly unlikely. Upon returning to the Preface, we learn that in fact, the “Shakespeare-Galerie” Dowden refers to is Friedrich Pecht’s “Shakespeare-Galerie: Charakter und Scenen aus Shakespaere’s Dramen”, a publication containing the Dowden prints with accompanying text in German by Pecht, what Dowden refers to as ‘a pleasant and cultured little causerie on each of the plays illustrated by the designers’.[ii] In selecting the text for his own book, Dowden decided ultimately that the essays by Pecht, ‘though bright and genial, seemed more suitable to the German than to the English reader, and it was thought that their place could with some advantage be supplied by a select body of extracts from the best writers, English, American, French and German, who have contributed to the criticism of Shakespeare’.[iii]

Thus, there still remains no definitive answer for how Grainger’s loose prints in the “Gallerie Shakespeare” portfolio came into being, how they fell into his hands, and their exact publication relationship with Dowden’s Shakespeare Scenes & Characters. Throughout my research, I have heard numerous theories on the matter, for example, that the prints actually belonged to Ella Grainger (Percy Grainger’s wife), as they were found in her belongings. Alternatively, it has been suggested hat they may have been a gift to Percy from his father. While we may never know for certain their origin, both they and Dowden’s Shakespeare Scenes and Characters remain two wonderful pieces of Shakespeariana that are definitely worth viewing in person.

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Helen Kesarios, Research Assistant – After Shakespeare exhibition

[i] John Bird, Percy Grainger, Elek Books Ltd, London, 1976, p. 11.

[ii] Dowden, Shakespeare Scenes and Characters, p. viii.

[iii] ibid.


Mirror mirror on the wall, whose was the most influential encyclopaedia of them all: the story of Diderot’s radical Encylopédie of sciences, arts and technical crafts

Library catalogue entry: http://cat.lib.unimelb.edu.au/record=b4333563

The heroic task of bringing together and documenting the vast canon of human knowledge in written form, has been accomplished by a select number of individuals and publishing houses over time.  One of the most extraordinary of these achievements was the publication between 1751 and 1772 of 27 large folio-sized volumes of the Encyclopédie, ou: dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts  et des métiers, a complete edition of which is housed in the Baillieu Library’s Rare Books Collection.[i]

DiderotFinanced by subscription and issued in serial form (including 10 volumes of illustrated plates), this enormous compilation of more than 70,000 articles was at once a technical manual, a highly political and philosophical work, and an entrancing written and visual commentary on 18th century French society.  Such was its popularity and influence that by 1789, 25,000 copies were in circulation in several editions across Europe.

The Encyclopédie was edited by the philosopher and writer Denis Diderot (1713-1784) and, for the first eight years of its conception, in collaboration with the mathematician Jean d’Alembert (1717-1783).  The two had been commissioned to translate the two-volume Chambers’ Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences (1728) into French but were greatly dissatisfied with the scope of the English compendium, and urged their publishers to embark upon a much improved and comprehensive French production.[ii]

Library catalogue entry: http://cat.lib.unimelb.edu.au/record=b4333563More than a mere factual encyclopaedia, the work was in itself an instrument of the Enlightenment, promoting in its text and pictures the power of reason and the individual over that of divine order and centralised control.  Diderot was motivated to share human knowledge and ideas freely with an emerging reading public, as a means for inspiring technological improvements, and to promote economic and political progress.[iii]

At first the French officials tolerated the sometimes radical views espoused in the text but as new volumes were released the Encyclopédie became increasingly controversial:  the publication licence was withdrawn in 1757, and the work was added to the Catholic Church’s list of banned books.  During this period the editors moved production over the border to Switzerland, focusing their outward attention on the engraved plates, whilst burying the more revolutionary opinions deep in the text or by using irony as a means for masking the censor’s eye.

Library catalogue entry: http://cat.lib.unimelb.edu.au/record=b4333563Mirror making

The Encyclopédie included a strong emphasis on the manual arts and technology, the processes and tools of many of which had been hitherto kept secret to protect individual cartels.  One such example was the craft of mirror making, the techniques of which are illustrated in Volume 8 of the plates in a series of charmingly rendered engravings.[iv]

Mirror making has a fascinating history and in late 17th century France mirrors had become a luxury import, with the vogue for reflecting hallways and rooms attaining craze proportions amongst the aristocracy.[v]  Mirror manufacture was the sole monopoly of the Venetian state, with the exact process remaining highly classified information, the release of which was punishable by death and the imprisonment of family.  By report mirror making was:

‘a law unto itself. It had its own rules and customs, and a separate language too, handed down not only from father to son but from master to apprentice…Theirs was a closed community, with every man, woman and child knowing his place within the walls’.[vi]

The French Finance Minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683), introduced extensive internal reforms to promote French manufacturing in many closed industries, and lured a few renegade Venetian mirror makers to Paris to divulge their secrets.   In response the Venetian authorities despatched emissaries who it is thought succeeded in poisoning some of the dissenters, though not before the French workers had obtained sufficient information to replicate the manufacturing process.

The_Lady_and_the_Unicorn_Sight_det4Using the newfound knowledge the French mirror making industry made further technical advances, and by the time of the publication of the Encyclopédie mirrors were ‘sparkling’ in a multiplicity of roles in fashionable society.  Mirrors were embroidered into clothes, worn as jewellery, incorporated in hair accessories and makeup, decorated furniture, and were used in mantelpieces and other architectural devices to lighten rooms.  The vogue for reflection demanded larger, full length mirrors, in which the viewer, dressed in the style of Madame de Pompadour (herself a subscriber to Diderot’s multi-volume work) could view her bouffant wig and dress in their entirety.

Mirrors, and their reflected realities, also appear in the world of books and literature, in the Brothers’ Grimm tale Snow White, Shakespeare’s Richard III, Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot, and Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, and feature in many paintings and artworks, such as the medieval The Lady & the Unicorn tapestries and Van Eyck’s the Arnofoldi Marriage[vii]Thanks to Diderot and the contributors to the Encyclopédie we also have a wonderfully evocative insight into the mirror making mind-set and manufacture of pre-Revolutionary France.

Arnolfi marriage

My thanks are extended to University of Melbourne lecturer Emeritus Professor Peter McPhee and history student, April Hamill, for their inspiration for this post.

Susan Thomas, Rare Books Curator

Endnotes

[i] Diderot, Denis. (ed) Encyclopédie, ou : dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts  et des métiers. 3rd ed.  Livourne: de l’Imprimerie des Éditeurs, 1770-1776.

[ii] Pannabecker, John. ‘Diderot, the Mechanical Arts, and the  Encyclopédie: In Search of the Heritage of Technology Education’, Journal of technology education,  Vol. 6, no. 1, 1994, http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JTE/jte-v6n1/pannabecker.jte-v6n1.html

[iii] Pannabecker, John, Ibid.

[iv] Diderot, Denis (ed).  Recueil de planches, sur les sciences, les arts libéraux, et les arts méchaniques, avec leur explication… 3rd ed.  Livourne: De l’imprimerie des éditeurs, 1771-1778.

[v] Prendergast, Mark. Mirror, mirror: a history of the human love affair with reflection.  New York: Basic Books, c2003, pp.148-149.

[vi] Prendergast, Mark, Ibid, p. 153

[vii] Mullen. John. ‘Ten of the best mirrors in literature’, The Guardian, 30 October 2010. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/oct/30/john-mullan-mirrors-literature-review

Bibliography and further reading

Bates, Brian with John Cleese.  The human face. London : BBC Worldwide, 2001.

Diderot, Denis and Jean d’Alembert (eds). Encyclopédie, ou : dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts  et des métiers. 3rd ed.  Livourne : de l’Imprimerie des Éditeurs, 1770-1776.

Diderot, Denis (ed).  Recueil de planches, sur les sciences, les arts libéraux, et les arts méchaniques, avec leur explication… 3rd ed.  Livourne : De l’Imprimerie des Éditeurs, 1771-1778.

Donato, Clorinda and Robert M. Maniquis (eds).  The Encyclopédie and the Age of Revolution. Boston : G.K. Hall, 1992.

‘Encyclopédie’, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclop%C3%A9die.  Accessed 5 August 2016.

Miller, Jonathan. On reflection. London : National Gallery Publications, 1998.

Mullen. John. ‘Ten of the best mirrors in literature’, The Guardian, 30 October 2010. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/oct/30/john-mullan-mirrors-literature-review. Accessed 5 August 2016.

Pannabecker, John. ‘Diderot, the Mechanical Arts, and the  Encyclopédie : In Search of the Heritage of Technology Education’, Journal of technology education,  Vol. 6, no. 1, 1994, http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JTE/jte-v6n1/pannabecker.jte-v6n1.html.  Accessed 5 August 2016.

Prendergast, Mark. Mirror, mirror: a history of the human love affair with reflection.  New York : Basic Books, c2003.

Select essays from the Encyclopedy : being the most curious,  entertaining, and instructive parts of that very extensive work, written by Mallet, Diderot, d’Alembert, and others.  London : Samuel Leacroft, 1772.


Shakespeare in Steel: exploring links between Edward Dowden’s ‘Shakespeare Scenes & Characters’ and the ‘Gallerie Shakespeare’ portfolio of engravings. Part II.

 

2016029-Thomas-SpecColl-40436On the 15th July 2016, the University of Melbourne’s highly anticipated After Shakespeare exhibition was officially opened, in the Noel Shaw Gallery of the Baillieu Library. Marking the 400th anniversary of the year of the Bard’s death, the exhibition plays host to a number of artefacts and ephemera that highlight Shakespeare’s lasting legacy throughout the centuries, with particular focus on his reception in Australia.

Amongst the intriguing stories contained in the cases is a puzzling connection between an 1876 English book of Shakespearian commentaries and engravings, and a separately issued portfolio of 22 engravings with a French title. Helen Kesarios, a student volunteer in the Cultural Collections Projects Program, has been investigating possible connections between the two works, drawing on original correspondence located at the British Library.

Part I told the story of the Shakespearian scholar, Edward Dowden, and the publication of his exquisitely illustrated text, Shakespeare Scenes & Characters (London : Macmillan and Co, 1876).

The second instalment in this three-part story continues here

Part II – The German engravings: Shakespeare Scenes & Characters selected and arranged by Edward Dowden

Despite Dowden’s intentions that the criticism and images be appreciated as a whole, the interest of readers often focuses on the latter. As Kathryn R. Ludwigson notes:

‘The book is unusually interesting not so much for Dowden’s presentations of Shakespearean criticism, which are, after all, available more fully elsewhere, as for the collection of German engravings, which are governed by concepts of art that contrast with those of the English of the era’.[i]

2016029-Thomas-SpecColl-40436

Given that steel engraving was already a well-established art form in Great Britain, it is important to consider some of the factors which might have influenced Dowden to choose German artists and engravers over English ones for his book. Perhaps the most striking piece of evidence is contained in the opening to the Preface, where Dowden pays homage to ‘Germany, which has so largely contributed to the scholarly study of Shakespeare, [and which] has also made some remarkable contributions to the pictorial illustration of his plays’.[ii] Dowden was no stranger to German criticism of Shakespeare having, after all, included German criticism in the text, (the works of Friedrich Pecht in particular). He also notes his studying endeavours in a letter to Aubrey de Vere on March 6th, 1875:

‘These miscellaneous little activities of mine are: (1) An article for the Fortnightly Review, to be by-and-by written on “Wordsworth’s Prose Works.” (2) The Quarterly Review on “German Shakespeare Literature”…’[iii]

Dowden engraving

It is also worth noting that the relationship between Germany and Shakespeare is an historic one, and its significance is embodied in the sentiments of German romantic writers such as Goethe (of whom Dowden was particularly fond), who saw in Shakespeare a revolutionary mascot of the times:

‘These authors rebelled against the bureaucracy and despotism of the German states, particularly Prussia; and against the passivity and optimistic contentment of the earlier generation…these “intellectuals”, members of the professional class, applied themselves to an intellectual revolution, a war of liberation of the senses, feeling, imagination. Shakespeare became their most challenging and inspiring slogan…on reading Shakespeare [Goethe] feels his “Existenz erweitert”; Shakespeare, he says, illustrates always the struggle between our presumed freedom of will and the necessary process of the world. For all these writers Shakespeare offered a world of vast activity and experience, in which they felt themselves transported beyond the barriers and restrictions of contemporary German life’.[iv]

Letter 21071875

In terms of the prints’ aesthetic value, Dowden writes in a letter to Macmillan and Co. on July 21st, 1875, that ‘the illustrations are in part interesting to me as a German art-comment on, or interpretation of Shakespeare, and each has made me feel something new about the play to which it belongs’. They were generally well received by the public, with critics noting the skill employed by the German artists and engravers in executing each design:

‘As a whole the series of pictorial illustrations of Shakespearean scenes is strikingly good. Some of the designs are too Teutonic in character, perhaps, but commonly the artist has been successful in the interpretation of character and incident… “The Merry Wives of Windsor”…is one of the best in the series, the artist having caught the individuality of the actors and the spirit of the incident with decided success…Taken as a whole, as we have said, it is an excellent Shakespearean gallery, and shows that German artists are not inferior to German scholars in Shakespearean lore’.[v]

If the reader wishes to know more about each featured artist, Dowden provides a brief ‘curriculum vitae’ in the Preface.

Helen Kesarios

Research Assistant, After Shakespeare exhibition

Cultural Collections Project Program, University of Melbourne

 

HELEN KESARIOS WILL CONCLUDE THE STORY OF THE ENGRAVINGS CONTAINED WITHIN THE DOWDEN VOLUME IN HER FINAL INSTALMENT NEXT WEEK.

WATCH THIS SPACE FOR PART III – The French portfolio of German engravings

 

Shakespeare Scenes & Characters cover

[i] Kathryn R. Ludwigson, Edward Dowden, Twayne Publishers, New York, 1973, p. 28.

[ii] Dowden, Shakespeare Scenes and Characters, p. v.

[iii] Dowden, Letters of Edward Dowden and his Correspondents, p. 72.

[iv] R. Pascal, Shakespeare in Germany: 1740-1815, Cambridge University Press, London, 1937, p. 12.

[v] Brooklyn Museum, ‘Recent Art Publications’, The Art Journal 1875-1887), vol. 3, 1877, p. 31.

 


Percy’s tobacco-box contraption: an ingenious experiment for recording musical notation using repurposed materials

GM_Tobacco Box_Front_Open_w contents

This contraption, ostensibly a small wooden tobacco box, is actually an experiment in musical notation hand-made by Percy Grainger.  Mounted through the lid of the box is a small cotton reel, around which is wound a long strip of paper ruled with 5 musical stave lines to make a continuous blank ‘score’.  This strip of musical score is fed through a slit in the side of the box, then under a cotton “now-line” string nailed to the side of the box.

GM_Tobacco Box_Front_ClosedPresumably, the paper strip is to be pulled past the string at a steady speed, while the composer jots down musical pitches on the score paper in real-time, marking each as the paper passes the string.  In much the same way as a pianola roll records the action of piano keys as temporal events on a strip of paper, here the composer is able to do away with traditional temporal nomenclature, such as bar-lines and time signatures, instead arranging the pitch markings in a kind of graph.  For a musician with a keen ear like Grainger, this would be a much more effective system of notating the highly irregular rhythms of birdsong or the whimsical nuances of folk singers’ performances.

Grainger frequently tested the limitations of conventional notation when trying to capture such irregular rhythms, as is evident in his almost comical use of constantly changing time signatures in some of his scores, such as the 5th movement of the Lincolnshire Posy (where at times he abandons time signature designations entirely).  This contraption illustrates beautifully his frustration with established musical conventions, but also his determination and ingenuity in taking readily available materials and creatively transforming them into forward-thinking (if not entirely practical) solutions to such problems.

Tobacco-box notation experiment. Probably London, c.1900-1901′ (taken from cataloguing notes prepared by Ella Grainger)

Jon Drews (Exhibitions Officer) – Grainger Museum

 

 


Another Tale of Peter Rabbit: celebrating the 150th birthday of Beatrix Potter with some lesser known stories of a remarkable artist and writer

83px-Beatrix_Potter_as_a_child

On 28th July 2016 we celebrate 150 years since the birth of the gifted children’s illustrator and writer, Helen Beatrix Potter in 1866. She was known to the world as Beatrix, and ‘B’ to her family, to distinguish her from her mother, with whom she shared the same first name.  From a young age Beatrix exhibited the exceptional observational skills and artistic talents that were to later find expression in the series of delightful hand-sized children’s books which are treasured by adults and children alike.

A young woman of many and diverse talents

Beatrix was an extraordinary individual, attaining stature in a wide range of endeavours, including as sheep breeder, naturalist and conservationist. From her mid-teens to age 30 she kept hidden diaries written in code, and her journal of 3 March 1883 records her resolve to: ‘do something’ with her life beyond the confined expectations of the English upper classes.[i]  With a rare talent for recall, Beatrix challenged herself as a teenager to remember long extracts from the Bible, and to recite entire Shakespearian plays, memorising six of the latter in her 28th year.[ii] She was also an acute observer of the natural world, with a special interest in fungi and lichen, and her paper ‘On the germination of the spores of the agaricineae’ was read by proxy to the Linnean Society of London in 1897.[iii]

PeterRabbit22Beatrix’s artistic talents were evident from a young age, and her ability to portray animals was refined during many holidays spent in the countryside. She and her younger brother often brought back animals to London that they had made pets of, some of which did not survive their transplantation to the city: ‘those who died or were found already dead were usually sketched and occasionally skinned, boiled down, and reconstructed in skeletal form’.[iv]

The reverse was also true, and a selection from the menagerie of small animals which shared their upstairs nursery, travelled with the young Potters in specially crafted baskets.  As well as rabbits, these included mice, snails, rats, birds, lizards named Judy and Toby, a dormouse Xarifa (who was reputedly stroked by the artist John Millais, a family friend), bats, terrapins, frogs and a snake.[v]

1901_First_Edition_of_Peter_Rabbit

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Whilst Beatrix’s favourite of her own books was The Tailor of Gloucester, she is best remembered for creating the mischievously endearing character, Peter Rabbit, though there were several twists and turns before publication of his ‘tale’ was realised.  After at least six rejections, including one from the eventual publishers, Frederick Warne & Co, Beatrix progressed arrangements to have the book privately printed.  Peter_Rabbit_first_edition_1902a (1)This edition was first issued on 16th December 1901 in a run of 250 copies distributed mostly to family and friends.  A second printing followed shortly after in February 1902, such was the demand, priced at one shilling and two pence.

About this time, Beatrix’s friend Canon Rawnsley re-approached Frederick Warne, suggesting that the story be published in 42 paragraphs of his own verse, accompanied by Beatrix’s illustrations:

‘There were four little bunnies

-no bunnies were sweeter

Mopsy and Cotton-tail,

Flopsy and Peter…’[vi]

Frederick Warne & Co editions and ‘pirated’ American imitations

Fortunately Warne rejected this offer, and at last offered to publish Beatrix’s original manuscript in modified form, including omission of the original picture of Mrs McGregor holding a pie containing Peter’s father because the company did not like her face.  Although a woman in her mid-30s, Beatrix expressed concern at the prospect of her father, a trained barrister, accompanying her to witness the signing of the publishing agreement: ‘if my father happens to insist on going with me to see the agreement, would you please not mind him very much, if he is very fidgety about things…’[vii]

Other adjustments debated included whether Peter should face one way or the other on the cover, the finer points of the rendering of Mr McGregor‘s nose and ears (Beatrix lamented that she had ‘never learnt to draw figures’), and whether the white on the wheelbarrow should be ‘wiped off’.[viii] On 8 May 1902, not long before the Warne edition went to print she reflected

‘I wish that the drawings had been better; I dare say they may look better when reduced; but I am becoming so tired of them, I begin to think that they are positively bad’. [ix]

Perhaps the saddest revelation was that her pet, the original ‘Peter Piper’ rabbit and model, had died on 26th January 1901 (four days after Queen Victoria), at the age of nine, just before the drawings for the Warne edition commenced.  Beatrix wrote ‘now when they are finished I have got another rabbit, and the drawings look wrong’.[x]  Peter was actually her second rabbit, the first being Mr Benjamin Bouncer who enjoyed eating peppermints.

None of these changes affected the success of the Warne print runs: the first 8000 copies were sold before publication, and another 20,000 sold before the end of 1902.  Two years later 86,000 copies were in circulation.  Minor adjustments were made with each new edition, some driven by technical demands such as wear to the printing blocks, necessitating re-cutting of the picture plates.

But cLibrary catalogue entry: http://cat.lib.unimelb.edu.au/record=b5194377halleLibrary catalogue entry: http://cat.lib.unimelb.edu.au/record=b5194377nges confronted the book post-publication, including the failure of Warne to have claimed copyright protection in the United States for the first American edition.  This oversight spawned a succession of ‘pirated’ imitations, variously retaining, modifying or completely rewriting Beatrix’s words and copying, far less successfully, her illustrations.  These versions included The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Henry Altemus & Co, 1904) and Louise A. Field’s Peter Rabbit and his Pa (Saalfield Publishing, 1908).

What happened to Peter and his sisters?

The fate of Peter beyond the Beatrix Potter books remains unrecorded in her letters or papers, though he seems to have evaded the pie dish, making minor returns in the tales of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, the Flopsy BunniesGinger and Pickles, and Mr Tod, and on the last page of Pigling Bland.  Of his sisters, Mopsy does not reappear in later books, but Flopsy married Benjamin Bunny, producing several children, and Cottontail was courted by a black rabbit who left carrots outside her burrow, and raised a family of four or five children on a hill.

Given that The Tale of Peter Rabbit had its genesis whilst Beatrix holidayed in Perthshire in 1893, it is perhaps fitting to end with the first sentences from the Scottish translation, The Tale O Peter Kinnen, first published in 2004:

‘Aince upon a time there wis fower wee Kinnen, an their nems wis – Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-bun an Peter. They bid wi their Mither in a san-baunk, aneath the ruit o a muckle fir-tree…’[xi]

I am grateful to my colleague, Susan Millard, Special Collections Librarian, for her assistance with this post.

Susan Thomas, Rare Books Curator

 

Library catalogue entry: http://cat.lib.unimelb.edu.au/record=b5846639 Library catalogue entry: http://cat.lib.unimelb.edu.au/record=b5846639

Endnotes

[i]  MacDonald, Ruth. Beatrix Potter. Boston : Twayne Publishers, c1986, p. 7

[ii] MacDonald, pp. 8-9

[iii] MacDonald, p. 13

[iv] MacDonald, p. 2

[v]  Taylor, Judy.  Beatrix Potter: artist, storyteller and countrywoman. Harmondsworth: Frederick Warne, 1986, p.47

[vi] Linder, Leslie. A history of the writings of Beatrix Potter, including unpublished work. London : Frederick Warne, c1971, pp. 93-94

[vii] Taylor, Judy.  That naughty rabbit: Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit.  Harmondsworth: Frederick Warne, 1987, p.21.

[viii] Linder, Leslie, p. 106

[ix] Hallinan, Camilla. The ultimate Peter Rabbit: a visual guide to the world of Beatrix Potter. London : Dorling Kindersley, 2002, p. 31

[x] Grinstein, Alexander. The remarkable Beatrix Potter.  Madison, Connecticut: International Universities Press, c1995, p. 52

[xi] McGeachie, Lynne.  Beatrix Potter’s Scotland: her Perthshire inspiration. Edinburgh : Louath Press, 2010, p. 132

Bibliography

Grinstein, Alexander. The remarkable Beatrix Potter.  Madison, Connecticut: International Universities Press, c1995.

Hallinan, Camilla. The ultimate Peter Rabbit: a visual guide to the world of Beatrix Potter. London : Dorling Kindersley, 2002.

The history of The tale of Peter Rabbit. London : Frederick Warne & Co, c1976.

Linder, Leslie. A history of the writings of Beatrix Potter, including unpublished work. London : Frederick Warne, c1971.

MacDonald, Ruth. Beatrix Potter. Boston : Twayne Publishers, c1986.

McGeachie, Lynne.  Beatrix Potter’s Scotland: her Perthshire inspiration. Edinburgh : Louath Press, 2010.

McGeachie, Lynne. The Tale O Peter Kinnen. Edinburgh Luath Press, 2004

Taylor, Judy.  Beatrix Potter: artist, storyteller and countrywoman. Harmondsworth: Frederick Warne, 1986.

Taylor, Judy.  That naughty rabbit: Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit.  Harmondsworth: Frederick Warne, 1987.

 


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