Friday, October 31, 2014

More Cowbells

A painting from a book of hours, showing a skeleton riding a bull while hurling a giant arrow at a woman.
Book of Hours Codex MS 001598
A detailed, color illustration of a crowned skeleton, slumped in a seated position on a globe.
Thomas Rowlandson, Illus R796ce
Shooting for that authentic look for your grim reaper costume this Halloween?

Try these images from our collections on for size. You'll need to drop the cloak... and your skin as well.
A narrow woodcut showing a skeleton escorting a richly dressed man.A woodcut of a skeleton pointing an arrow at a swaddled baby in a cradle.
Book of Christian Prayers, Rare BV245.D35 1581

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Brahe and Blaeu

A aerial illustration of the observatory within a walled-in courtyard.We have talked before about our luxurious hand-colored copy of the eleven-volume Blaeu Atlas, Geographia (Amsterdam, 1662), but never delved into a curious digression in the first volume. As you move along through maps of northern Europe in a fairly predictable pattern, you suddenly find yourself zeroing in on unexpected details on the island of Hvæna. There, the atlas takes the reader on a tour of Tycho Brahe's observatory with fourteen full-page or double-page engraved illustrations.

An illustration of the interior, filled with people engaged in various activities.
Why this obsession?  It is likely that Joan Blaeu was giving a nod to his father Willem Blaeu who started the family mapmaking business. Willem had been a student under Brahe at Hvæna, and it was during his time with Brahe that he developed his skills constructing globes.  It is also a gesture to Joan Blaeu's own qualifications. The attention given to Brahe's measurement instruments suggests a certain level of technical expertise, thus elevating the already grand atlas through association.

Another image of the observatory from above.
To enjoy a walk through Brahe's observatory at Hvæna, ask for volume 1 of Rare G1015.B48 1662.