Museum Visit: Elaborately-Covered Books

For our April museum visit we headed to the Grolier Club, an exclusive club for antiquarian book dealers and collectors, for their exhibition “Judging a Book by Its Cover,” which includes a number of impressively-bound fifteenth-, sixteenth-, and seventeenth-century volumes as well as more-recent items.

It was interesting to be reminded of the historical separation between printing and binding, with many books being printed and sold without covers, which their owners then paid to have added by other specialists. There were also numerous examples on display of books which had been repeatedly rebound — for example, to replace attractive but less-durable cloth covers with harder-wearing leather panels, or to combine several small books by different authors into a single larger volume.

A French book published in 1548, with covers made in Geneva.
A French manuscript from the 12th century, rebound in England in the 1830s, using cover panels from France circa 1500.
A French book printed in 1642, custom-bound for its owner with his arms after 1668.

Before leaving, we stopped by their smaller exhibit on hieroglyphics, which also included a couple of very early printed books.

A 1594 reprint of a French book on hieroglyphics first published in 1556.

Museum Visit: Money and Morality

Our February museum visit was a trip to the Morgan Library for an exhibition on the intersection of money, merchants, and morality in medieval Europe.

It was interesting seeing evidence of the tension caused as the post-Roman and early-medieval way of life was disrupted by the reintroduction of coinage, long-distance trade, and a market economy that set the stage for the modern world.

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Museum Visit: Springtime Gardens

Our April museum outing was a return to the Met Cloisters to view the gardens in spring bloom. Our party of eight was mostly locals from Appleholm, joined by one of our friends from the other side of the city.

Although there were the usual array of art and artifacts on display, as well as a special exhibit of household furnishings, the highlight of the trip for me was the outdoor spaces of the gardens and surrounding cloisters. The combination of inside and outside space, both enclosed and open, provides a wonderful sense of in-betweenness that we rarely encounter in the modern city.

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Museum Visit: Bronze Age Balkans

Today we visited the “Ritual and Memory” exhibit at the
Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.

Although I’ve been summarizing the exhibit as focusing on the “Bronze Age Balkans,” the artifacts on display covered a wider range of time, from the Copper Age through the Iron Age, and of space, from the Balkan mountains to the Carpathian mountains. Continue reading Museum Visit: Bronze Age Balkans

Museum Visit: Pattern Books

Alienor and I ventured out today to see the “Threads of Power” exhibit at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery, exploring the development and social significance of lace, including examples of needle and bobbin lace from the sixteenth and early seventeenth century, courtesy of Switzerland’s Textilmuseum St. Gallen.

Although the fabric examples were impressive, the thing that particularly caught my attention were a few fifteenth- and sixteenth-century examples of “pattern books” — printed collections of designs to be used as source material by people working with fiber and fabric. Continue reading Museum Visit: Pattern Books

Samhain in Østgarðr

For Halloween this year, I composed a bit of doggerel entitled “The Ghastly Province, or Samhain in Østgarðr,” which owes an obvious debt to Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies.

Lady Zahra de Andaluzia did a lovely job of laying it out for inclusion in the Provincial newsletter, and Lady Kunigunde Wedemann was kind enough to contribute an original illustration which tied into the theme; I thank them both for making my silliness look presentable, and for allowing me to share the results here.