Archive for November, 2008

Let us apply to Newton

“Let us apply to Newton. He will tell us; Don’t believe me; believe only your Eyes, and the Mathematicks: place yourself in a Room entirely darkened, into which the Light comes only thro’ an Hole exceedingly small; the Ray of Light falling upon Paper will give you the Colour White.”


A plate showing the two rainbows follows several leaves of advertisement at the end of the book, listing Barrow’s geometrical lectures, the Philosophical Transactions, a Builder’s Dictionary, and translation of Virgil, among others.


The Elements of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy. By M. Voltaire. Translated from the French. Revised and Corrected by John Hanna, M.A. Teacher of the Mathematicks. With Explication of some Words in Alphabetical Order. London: for Stephen Austin at the Angel and Bible in St. Paul’s Church-Yard, 1738. A recent acquisition.

Exercising Brachyographically

For the scientifically-inclined verb learner, instructions on the creation of linguistic tables, with directions for their use:


“Take a square sheet of paper of the size of a quarto or post paper; fold it length way into four equal parts, and then open it again; this will procure you 3 perpendicular principal lines. Divide afterwards with a pair of compasses, your page, thus marked with three perpendicular lines, so as to obtain 25 horizontal ones, or there about, which you will draw with a pencil and a rule according to the following directions. … The effect of this preparation will be such as is represented in the annexed Plate I.”


Jean-Nicolas Jouin de Sauseuil, The Brachygraphy of the French verbs … the whole reduced and framed upon the new and only true system of conjugating the French vergs; and accompanied with a copious List of them at the End, and a Key to facilitate the use and understanding of the work. London: by Edward and Charles Dilly in the Poultry; and sold by J. and J. Fletcher, at Oxford; and T. Merril, at Cambridge, 1772. A recent acquisition.

A physical treatise of cherishing natural memory


This volvelle, with its three concentric circles of nine categories, is one of several memory devices or machines from an early sixteenth-century edition of Ramon Lull’s Ars breuis … Raymundi Lull … In cuius castigatione attẽdat lector … Magister Bernardus de Lavinheta … insudarit. [Colophon: Impressum Lugduni : per magistrum Stephanu[?] Baland, Anno Domini. 1514. Die xv. mẽsis Decembris]. Beinecke call number: K8 L97 d51


John Willis (d. 1628) advocated the memory theatre, in which ideas were to be stored visually, as scenes created in great and conscious detail. Willis’s memory theatre is shown here in this English translation of his Mnemonica, or, The art of memory : drained out of the pure fountains of art & nature : digested into three books : also a physical treatise of cherishing natural memory : diligently collected out of divers learned mens writings. London : L. Sowersby, 1661. Beinecke call number: Krf3 618wg.

Aza! Mon cher Aza!


“Aza! mon cher Aza! les cris de ta tendre Zilia, tels qu’une vapeur du matin, s’exhalent & sont dissipes avant d’arriver jusqu’a toi; en vain je t’appelle a mon secours; en vain j’attens que tu viennes briser les …” From the “Lettre Premiere” of Madame de Graffigny, Lettres d’une peruvienne. Nouvelle edition augmentée de plusieurs lettres, et d’une introduction à l’histoire (Paris : Chez Duchesne Libraire …, 1752). Beinecke call number: 1998 1243.


The original break-out novel, Madame de Graffigny’s Lettres d’une peruvienne (1747) achieved almost immediate fame. Graffigny’s life to that point had not lacked interest: separated in 1718 from her husband, widowed in 1725 under mysterious circumstances, Graffigny left the court of the Duchy of Lorraine in 1736 after the Treaty of Vienna. She settled in Paris in 1739, after a two-month stay at the house of Voltaire and Madame du Chatelet which had ended in a falling-out. Her success with the Lettres d’une peruvienne was followed by the triumph of her play Cenie at the Comedie-Francaise.


For more on Madame de Graffigny, whose correspondence with her confidant of twenty five years, Francois-Antoine Devaux, is held in the Beinecke’s collections, see Beinecke Gen MSS 353, the Graffigny Papers.

Bowles’s Geographical Game of Europe


Bowles’s Geographical Game of Europe, In a New, complete, and elegant Tour through the different Kingdoms, States, Cities, &c. of Europe: Designed by Dr. NUGENT. London: Printed for the Proprietors, Bowles and Carver, No. 69, St. Paul’s Church-Yard, [1795]. Beinecke call number: Osborn pc259.   A later edition of one of the first geographical games, published by Bowles in 1759.


“Directions for Playing: Two or more Ladies or Gentlemen having agreed to make an elegant and instructing TOUR of EUROPE, are represented by Pillars, and play the Game according to the following Rules:…”


Publisher’s advertisements on the case and linen map promote Bowles’s Geographical Games of the World and England, as well as geographical cards of principal cities, ancient history, and optical cards, “to be regularly studied from the first to the last.”

Elizabeth in Pink Wrappers


Le Souterrain, ou Matilde, Par Miss Sophie Lee. Traduit de l’Anglois sur la deuxieme Edition. Paris: Theophile Barrois le jeune, 1788.  A recent acquisition.

A Gothic novel set in Elizabethan England, Sophia Lee’s 1785 The recess, or, A tale of other times / by the author of The chapter of accidents (Beinecke call no. Im L515 785R) was a wild success. This particular copy is the third edition of the first French translation. As the translator writes, “Le merveilleux des evenements qui ordinairement diminue la vraisemblance, semble ici la fortifier; car le regne d’Elisabeth fut le regne des aventures romanesques.”

For a scattering of letters by Sophia Lee (complaining about the postman, among others), see Osborn MSS File 17919 and Gen MSS Misc Group 2461 Item F-1. The London editions of Lee’s novels (Chapter of Accidents, Recess, Hermit’s Tale, etc.) were published by Thomas Cadell and, after his retirement and his son Thomas’s partnership with William Davies, by the firm Cadell & Davies. Alongside Lee’s books, the Beinecke holds an archive of business correspondence and accounts for the Cadell & Davies firm, 1793-1836.

Tropics of Misanthropy


This peculiar epistolary novel by the lawyer and philosopher Sylvain Maréchal (1750 – 1803) follows the vexed fortunes of its heroine Agatha, who falls in love with a Parisian priest at his first mass, a lapse of judgement leading–through the exigencies of many subsequent circumstances–to her being awakened in a cave by “Timon, ou le misantrope moderne.”


Timon, in the habit of taking his supper in the cave (“là, il s’abandonnait a ses noires méditations, tout à loisir, et sans craindre les importuns”), there confided to paper some poetical verses, his “Stances misantropiques.”


Upon finding Agatha, Timon engages her in a thirty-page philosophical dialogue.

Sylvain Maréchal, La femme abbé (Paris: Ledoux, 1801). A recent acquisition.

That Scrub Boswell

The indomitable Stephen Maturin on Johnson:

“‘It is a standing wonder to me that Johnson should have borne with that scrub Boswell, and that the scrub should have written such a capital book. I remember a passage where the Doctor grew outrageous about the revolting colonials and called them ‘a race of convicts, that ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging’, and another where he said ‘I am willing to love all mankind, except an American‘ [sic] and called them ‘Rascals–robbers–pirates’, exclaiming he’d ‘burn and destroy them’. But then the intrepid Miss Seward said ‘Sir, this is an instance that we are always the most violent against those whom we have injured.’ Perhaps the same violence is now in action against the Irish. Will you join me in a bowl of punch?”

Patrick O’Brian, The Nutmeg of Consolation (1991)

For more on the intrepid Miss Seward, see the Beinecke’s Osborn MSS Files, items 13341 – 13378, a small collection of her correspondence and verse. The papers of that scrub Boswell can be found in Beinecke’s Boswell Collection, Gen MSS 89.

What would Johnson do?


Samuel Johnson, by Edward Francesco Burney after Joshua Reynolds. N.p., n.d. From the James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection, Beinecke Library.

One of the Reynolds portraits of Johnson, on one of which Burney based this painting, was the subject of an attack at the National Portrait Gallery in 2007. As the story relates, there are no fewer than 36 portraits of Johnson in the Gallery’s collections, 26 by Reynolds.

From The History of a Book to ‘the history of the book’

Please join us on Monday, November 17, for a lecture by Dr. Leah Price in the Beinecke History of the Book lecture series: “From The History of a Book to ‘the history of the book’: readers and users in Victorian Britain.”

Leah Price, Professor of English and American Literature at Harvard University, works in the fields of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century culture. She is the author, among other works, of Compiling Authority: the anthology and the novel in modern Britain (1998) and the co-editor with Seth Lehrer of a special issue of PMLA entitled The History of the Book and the Idea of Literature (2006).

Please join us at 4PM in the Beinecke Library, rooms 38/39. For further information, please contact or visit the History of the Book Lecture Series web-site.