Friday, August 20, 2010

Bathing Bans and Birds' Eggs

This broadside was posted about 100 years ago by the town of Hanover to prohibit skinny dipping near the Ledyard Bridge. Different public safety issues exist currently, with the College prohibiting swimming, clad or otherwise, in the Connecticut River this summer.

A broadside is a single sheet, usually printed only on one side, and used to convey information, publish poetry, or make public announcements, protests and proclamations. While some broadsides contain a graphic element, the text usually predominates. Rauner's broadside collection is typical in the wide range of topics it documents: railroad schedules, the offerings of a dealer in birds' eggs, an announcement of a public appearance by Siamese twins, a warning to fugitive slaves... pretty much anything from the advantages of Dr. Richardson's pectoral balsam to a protest against the outrageous spending of the New Hampshire legislature on "a palace for prostitutes and criminals."

Unfortunately, not all items in the collection are cited in the online catalog, so please feel free to come in and ask if you need to know more about indelible golden friction for coating matches.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vasari on Vasari

Giorgio Vasari is famous for creating the first substantial work of art history, his Vite delle pui eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori (Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects), but he also wrote a shorter book describing one of his own works. Ragionamenti Sopra le inuentioni da lui dipinte in Firenze nel Palazzo di loro Altezze Serenissime (Florance: F. Giunta, 1588) is a written description of Vasari's three great cycles at the Palazzo Vecchio commissioned by Cosimo I de Medici. The narrative of the books carries the reader through the cycles, room by room, as Vasari lays open the references and meanings of the images in conversational dialogue with Francesco de Medici.

The book was written to give a wide audience to the cycles (which were in Cosimo's private residence) and share the Medici's glory more broadly. Oddly, there are is only one image in the book, a full-page woodcut of Vasari, but words substitute for images in the description of the art. There is an irony there--the art elevates and spreads the power of the Medici family, but the image is reserved to lift the artist. The book shows how the Renaissance was a time of patronage, but also a period where the individual artist gained prominence.

To see the book, and tour with the Medicis, ask for Rare ND2757.F5 V3 1588.