The Gerson incunabulum

The University of Melbourne’s Rare Book Collection holds around 30 incunabula, or early printed books and these are all digitised. ‘Incunabula’ is a term given to books produced in the cradle days of book printing, generally pre-1500, and they are distinct from manuscripts, which are hand-written. One of the University’s incunabula was published in 1489 and was authored by Jean (Johannes) Charlier de Gerson (1363-1429), a French scholar devoted to the study of the Catholic Church, who published extensively throughout his life. The title Opera means ‘Work’, and the book appears to be one of three volumes comprising a treatise on the Catholic Church. This first volume is subtitled Prima pars operii Johannes Gerson, meaning ‘The first part of the works of Johannes Gerson’.

Gerson sample page
Sample page from Jean Gerson, ‘Opera’, Nuremburg: Georg Stuchs, 1489, Rare Books Collection

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Percy Grainger performing the museum

I visited the Grainger Museum on Tuesday 21 August. As the 2018 recipient of the IMAC award, I have been keen to explore the many collections based on campus at the University of Melbourne. The only knowledge I had of Percy Grainger was that he composed that song about the English country garden, which my friends and I used to sing when we were younger in the playground. Besides this, I had no idea about the sheer extent of Grainger’s extraordinary character. I had anticipated that the museum would provide me with a showcase of important, historical objects relating to this figure in Melbourne. To describe the collection as a showcase is an understatement. I was overwhelmed by the diversity of the objects, and I couldn’t help but feel like I was in an alternative, historic version of Instagram within a museum context. It seems that Grainger was well ahead of the times; he had taken a concept and amplified it, by constructing his life in a way that only he would want it to be seen by the public eye, like his very own beautifully refined and curated Instagram account. Even now, in the days after Grainger’s death, the museum feels very true to his original intention and ethics.

So I began to collect manuscripts, musical sketches, letters, articles, mementos, portraits, photographs, etc., by and of those English-speaking Scandinavian composers that seemed to me the most gifted and progressive – always with the intention of someday putting this collection on permanent display in Melbourne. [1.]

Percy Grainger by Dover Street Studios
Percy Grainger, Dover Street Studios, c.1904-1906, Sepia-toned silver gelatin print mounted on card

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Ukiyo-e under the microscope: Conserving nine Japanese woodblocks from the Baillieu Library Print Collection

Over the past three months conservators at the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (GCCMC) have been treating nine Japanese woodblock prints from the Baillieu Library Print Collection. This selection of colourful prints from the Edo period are to be used for teaching at the University of Melbourne in semester two, 2018. Conservation treatment therefore focused on improving the stability and visual appearance of the works for safe handling and display.

Utagawa Kunisada, [Kabuki actors], woodcut
Utagawa Kunisada III, [Kabuki actors], (1891), woodcut, Gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton 1959.
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