Friday, February 15, 2013

A Nobleman's Entertainment

What to do, what to do? How does a nobleman spend his time in 1611?  We just acquired George Turbervile's The Book of Falconrie or Hawking for the Onely Delight and Pleasure of All Noblemen and Gentlemen (London: Thomas Purfoot, 1611) to answer just that question. The book provides detailed descriptions of the birds of prey suitable for the sport and methods for training and caring for them.

The hawking party depicted here shows the wealth and opulence associated with the sport. Falconry had been popular throughout Europe and Mesopotamia for centuries and its practice spread with the Norman conquest. Henry the VIII's enthusiasm made it all the rage with those who could afford it.

We couldn't help notice the fashion statement in these images. The blooming pants seem to evoke the feathered legs of birds of prey and the patterns a bird's plumage. Despite the probable lack of a causal relationship, the dual patterns of feathered finery are striking.

Our copy is bound with The Noble Art of Venerie or Hunting (London: Thomas Purfoot, 1611) also clearly intended for an elite audience.  To see them ask for Rare SK321.T8 1611.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Great Unknown

One of our favorite maps in the collection is woefully incomplete. "The General Chart Showing the Track of H. M. Ships Hecla & Griper," from William Parry's Journal of a Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage (London: John Murray, 1821) has huge blank spaces. There are no sea monsters or interesting decorative elements to fill in the Great Unknown, just empty space with an imposed grid of latitude and longitude.

The map demonstrates how little was known of the polar regions at the time. Some theorized they would find an open Polar sea while others anticipated ice filled channels leading to the Bering Straits.  Competing theories advanced the idea that land would block the way through.

Seeing this map makes the perilous journeys seeking a Northwest Passage all the more real. Not only were the explorers headed into ice with wooden hulled sailing vessels, they also had no idea what to expect as they charted the unknown.

To see the map, ask for Stef G650 1819 P151.