The Armory Show wasn’t the only big event in 1913 - it was also the year that suffragists marched on Washington to demand women’s right to vote. In light of that centennial anniversary, which is being celebrated this weekend, and the kickoff of Women’s History Month, it seemed like a good time to present you with this declaration from Nancy Spero.
Reblogging ourselves? Yes. But this succinct letter is worth reading every month.
It’s our 500th post, and we wanted to bring you something special, so how about the state of the art in medieval anti-book-theft devices: the chained binding. Manuscript books were expensive to make and difficult to replace, so naturally, it was important to have good security. In a chained library, an iron clasp was screwed into the wooden boards binding the book. A chain ran from that clasp to a bar along the shelf on which a number of books were housed, shelved with the fore-edges out (note the title written on this book’s fore-edge in the middle picture). Original chained bindings rarely survive today, but remarkably an entire chained library is preserved at Hereford Cathedral.
Cartagena, Alonso de, 1385?-1456. Lectura arboris genealogiae regum Hispaniae : & specialiter in recta linea Regum Castellae et Legiois : manuscript, 
Houghton Library, Harvard University
Congratulations on 500 posts!
Remarkable premodern bookmarks
These images show unusual bookmarks from medieval and early-modern times. They are made of stuff that was simply laying around: a leaf from a tree (now hardened), a pin used for fixing clothes, and a piece of straw picked up from the ground. I love these bookmarks for two reasons. One is that they are showing how practical readers half a millennium ago were. Need a little something to mark where you stopped reading? Just stretch out your arm and grab something - as we would today. The other reason why I love it when I encounter things like this in premodern books is the sheer contrast the make-shift bookmarks create: precious old books are not supposed to be filled with pieces of plant and metal! And yet they are. Even more so, while they are perhaps alien objects to our modern eyes, they have become historical: a dried leaf has turned into an object that needs to be catalogued simply because it is found stuck in between 500-year-old pages. Lucky bookmark.
Pics: the leaf I encountered in an incunable in Zutphen’s chained library called De Librije (pic my own); the pin I saw in a document kept in Maastricht, Regional Archives, Collection 18.A Box 834 (pic my own); the straw is from Auckland Libraries, MS G. 185 (pic from this blog).
Noam Sienna from YouTube requested this in the comments of our latest Staxpeditions episode-
i love this series!!! and i love your tumblr so much. thank you for your awesome work. it would be so amazing to see if you had anything in DS133-150, DS135 in particular!
or more broadly, judaica/hebraica in general. do you know if you have any hebrew manuscripts/books? i’d love to see some on your tumblr.
Ask and you shall receive! Although not in Hebrew, I couldn’t resist this binding!
Еврейский вестник ; : научно-литературиый сборник was written by Saul M. Ginsburg (1866-1940) and printed in 1928 in Leningrad. This book is in Russian; the title roughly translates to Jewish Gazette; Scientific Literature Collection. The binding is incredibly unique and a little worse for wear. You can see where the paper slip along the spine is pealing up and that ink from the paste paper cover has bled through the pasted down end sheet.
Ginsburg was active in the Russian Jewish press and founded the paper “Der Fraynd, the first Yiddish daily in the Russian Empire” (Yivo Encyclopedia). He left Der Fraynd in 1908 and dedicated most of his time to preserving Russian Jewish history publishing several books. Immediately before this book was printed, Ginsburg “occupied a professorship of Jewish history in the short-lived Institute for (Higher) Judaic Studies in Petrograd/Leningrad (1919-1925)” (YE). After leaving this position, he edited the “Russian Jewish publications devoted to Jewish literature and history, Evreiskaia Mysl’ (1926) and Evreiskii Vestnik (1928) [the book featured in this post],” through the Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia (YE).
Letter dated Oct 20, 1955: “The enclosed should help you. I don’t want it back. I am the one on the left; the one on the right is the Muse. This is a copy of a self-portrait I painted three years ago. Nobody admires my painting much but me. Of course this is not exactly the way I look but it’s the way I feel. It’s better looked at from a distance.”
Letter dated Oct 30, 1955: “I first sent Harper’s Bazaar my self portrait and can you imagine, they said: this is not exactly what we want, a little stiff, couldn’t you send us a snapshot? I also sent it to Harpercourt Brace to use on the jacket of my book. They said: this is a little odd, we don’t think it would increase the sale of the stories.”
Letter dated June 19, 1963: “In the self portrait that is not a peacock. That’s a pheasant cock. I used to raise pheasants but they got too much for me as they require attention and have to be caged. The peacocks take care of themselves. But I like very much the look of the pheasant cock. He has horns and a face like the devil. The self-portrait was made ten years ago, after a very acute siege of lupus. I was taking cortisone which gives you what they call a moon-face and my hair had fallen out to a large extent from the high fever, so I looked pretty much like the portrait. When I painted it I didn’t look either at myself in the mirror or at the bird. I knew what we both looked like.”
Today’s Miniature Monday features Timothy Dexter, 1747-1806: A true account of an American eccentric. This charming, hand-colored pop-up book was written and illustrated by Maryline Poole Adams of Poole Press. You may remember our previous post about another mini pop-up from Poole Press. Each section of the book is multiply-folded, glued, cut, and hand-colored. The book is bound with leather with a string closure. What could be more fun than a mini pop-up book? POP in and see it!