Archive for the 'From the Reading Room' Category

Summer Graduate Fellows at the Beinecke

Each year, the Beinecke Library hosts a summer graduate research fellowship program for Yale graduate students in the humanities and professional schools whose work draws on the Library’s collections.   This summer, seven graduate fellows will be working on projects in the Beinecke’s Early and Early Modern collections.  Over the course of the summer, Beinecke Early Modern will introduce the graduate fellows and their research projects, giving a sense of the daily bustle of the Beinecke reading room and the tremendous breadth and scope of the Library’s early and early modern holdings.

I’m very happy to welcome the following five graduate fellows in the Early and Early Modern collections in June and July:

Julia Doe, a graduate student in Yale’s Department of Music, draws on the early modern opera and music collections for her project, “French Opera at the Italian Theater (1762-1793): Nationalism, Genre, and Opéra-Comique”.”

Justin DuRivage, a graduate student in Yale’s Department of History, has worked across the early modern British and American print and manuscript collections for his project, “Taxing Empire: American Revolution and Clash over Imperial Political Economy, 1748-1776.”

Hadi Jorati, a graduate student in Yale’s Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department, is working in the Beinecke’s Arabic manuscript collections for his project, “Medieval Arabic and Islamic Civilization: Intellectual history of the medieval Middle East.”

James Macdonald, a graduate student in Yale’s English Department and Renaissance Studies Program, draws on the early modern British manuscript collections for his project, “Popular Religion and Literature in Early Modern England.”

Ying Jia Tan, a graduate student in the Yale History of Medicine and Science Program, will be working in the early modern cartographic holdings for his project, “The History of Printing and the Map: European Composite Atlases between 1600-1800.”

From the Reading Room: The Text Font of the First Folio

Contributed to Early Modern at the Beinecke by Reed Reibstein, an undergraduate student in the Yale University History of Art Department and a student in Professor David Kastan’s Fall 2009 class, Materializing the Word: The Book as Object, Technology, Concept, and Event, 1500-1800.

From the Reading Room: This series of postings highlights the research of students, research fellows, and other scholars working in the Beinecke’s early modern collections.


As the compositors in William Jaggard’s print shop plucked countless sorts out of their cases, composing page after double-columned page from 1621 to 1623, they could not have suspected that they were handling a font that would be the object of more study than perhaps any other before or since. The font certainly would not have appeared remarkable in any way; it was cast on a pica body, the most common size of the era, and fonts made from the same punches had been owned by more than thirty printers since 1570. Moreover, the font was weathered, having been in use probably for well over a decade.

Surprisingly, it was precisely this battered condition that made it so fruitful for detailed analysis: the numerous visible defects in the sorts of the First Folio’s text font have proved the most powerful tool for reconstructing the book’s printing history. Charlton Hinman in The Printing and Proof-Reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare devoted 98 pages in his first volume and much of the second to an analysis of the Folio’s type, making the text font the subject of an extraordinary amount of research.

Despite an extensive analysis of its distinctive sorts, few Folio scholars (including Hinman) have examined the origins and characteristics of the font itself, and the limited information available in the literature to date is more a result of generalization than of detailed scrutiny. I measured the dimensions of the text font in the Beinecke’s First Folio (BEIN 1978 +83), finding twenty lines of type to measure 82.7 mm.

Visual and historical evidence have led me to suggest that the font is the second pica roman of Pierre Haultin (as described by H.D.L. Vervliet in The Palaeotypography of the French Renaissance), cast for Jaggard’s use probably around 1603 or 1608 by an unknown typefounder who likely inherited the matrices from Pierre’s nephew Jerome Haultin. The font was old and in poor condition when it was used to print the Folio, which supports the view that Jaggard and his pressmen did not see the Folio as an unusually important book.

If the results of this research are to be accepted, they will correct two particularly enduring statements made about the font by Horace Hart in 1902: The font appears to be of French origin, not Dutch, and it was not commissioned specifically for the printing of the Folio but rather had been in use for fifteen or twenty years by 1623.

Images drawn from Beinecke call number: 1978 +83. Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, histories, & tragedies. Published according to the true originall copies. London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed. Blount, 1623.

From the Reading Room: MS 128

Contributed to Early Modern at the Beinecke by Elena Pellus, a doctoral student in the Yale University Department of Spanish and Portugese. Elena works on colonial Latin American literature, and was a pre-prospectus graduate research fellow at the Beinecke Library in the summer of 2009.

From the Reading Room: This series of postings highlights the research of graduate students, research fellows, and other scholars working in the Beinecke’s early modern collections.

These are the first two pages of the only extant manuscript of the “History of the Invention of the Indies,” dated 1583, catalogued as “MS 128” in the Medieval and Renaissance collection of the Beinecke Library. Written by the Spaniard Hernán Pérez de Oliva (1494?-1531), it is one of the first interpretive accounts of the Columbian encounter with the New World, and it summarizes the moral questions that the Castilian discovery and conquests posed to Spain and Europe. The manuscript was written between 1525 and 1528, and presented by its author to the learned son of Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Columbus. The original of this work was forever lost, and only in 1943 was a later copy found in London and put up for sale at auction. This unique manuscript, which is a treasure in itself, was donated by Frank Altschul to the Beinecke Library in 1944.

The interest of the “History” lies in the fact that it was written during a crucial period, the years between the four voyages of Columbus and the explorations that would lead to the conquest of Peru. (The intervening years saw the colonial establishment of Hispaniola, the conquest of Cuba and, most significantly, the conquest of Mexico). Written in third person, it deals with the exploration and conquest of the Antilles under Christopher Columbus’ command during his first three voyages, from 1492 to 1496. The first narration tells the first voyage of the Admiral, the exploration of the islands and the settlement of the expedition members, and the communication with its native towns. From the fourth narration on, we learn about the indigenous and Spanish rebellions and other difficulties that the Columbus’ brothers face in their government, the dialogue interchange with the tayno caciques, and the description of their cultures siboney and tayno. At the end of narration eight, centered in the events in Hispaniola during the Admiral’s absence, the story ends. The ninth and last narration is a description of the religion and customs of the tayno culture.

It is possible that Pérez de Oliva had the intention of continuing the story with the fourth voyage of Columbus and the conquest of Mexico; the sudden ending and the title given to the copy suggest this idea: “History of the Invention of the Indies and of the Conquest of the New Spain that Master Pérez de Oliva, born in Cordoba, was writing.” Still partially unknown on the map of colonial Latin American Literature, Pérez de Oliva was a very learned man of the first half of 16th century. He studied in Paris and Rome (then centers of European culture), served two popes, and was close to the King Charles the Fifth. He held a professorship in Theology at the University of Salamanca, became the President of that university, and founded an institute of higher learning (colegio mayor). His works encompassed a broad range of subjects including history, philosophy, drama, mathematics, and poetry, and they are both an exploration in the Castilian language and a reflection of the consequences that the encounter of the New World had for Spain and for Europe in general. I consider the “History of the Invention of the Indies” the culmination of his works because in it Pérez de Oliva incorporates the three main aspects of his literary production: the exploration in the literary genres, the settlement of Castilian, and the account of the New World.

From the Reading Room: Amaranthes & the Frauenzimmer

Contributed to Early Modern at the Beinecke by Bryn Savage, a doctoral student in the Yale University Department of Germanic Languages & Literature.  Bryn was a pre-prospectus research fellow at the Beinecke Library in the summer of 2008, working on the development of literary criticism in Germany in the late eighteenth century.

From the Reading Room: This series of postings highlights the research of graduate students, research fellows, and other scholars working in the Beinecke’s early modern collections.

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Here we see the title page of the Nutzbares, galantes und curioeses Frauenzimmer-Lexicon or Useful, galant and curious Ladies’ Encyclopedia, first published in 1715. Using the pen name “Amaranthes,” Gottlieb Siegmund Corvinus (1677-1747), a lawyer, notary and poet in Leipzig, attempts to describe and explain all aspects of what he perceives to be the feminine world, from famous women and typical women’s professions, to the minutiae of housekeeping and fashion. Any everyday item that could be used by the eighteenth-century woman, such as a box to hold her writing materials [Schreibe-Kaestlein] or coffee beans [Caffee Bohnen], any recipe she might use or any place that she might visit in her daily life appears here in the 1,000 pages of the Ladies’ Encyclopedia. Corvinus creates no categorical chapters, but rather organizes all topics “in an orderly alphabetical fashion,” as he writes on the title page.

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The reader is reminded of the strange yet sublime experience of leafing through Walter Benjamin’s 800-page Arcades Project [Passagen-Werk], which follows a similarly meandering path through the Paris of the late nineteenth century.[1] The juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated topics, which vary wildly in conventionally perceived importance, is as jarring and as fascinating in the Ladies’ Encyclopedia as in Benjamin’s convolutes. An entry on cadence is sandwiched between a recipe for salted cod baked in pastry dough [Cabeliau in einer Pastete] and a biography of the Roman queen Tanaquil [also known as Caecilia Caja].

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Leafing further in the Ladies’ Encyclopedia, one discovers the biography of a learned sixteenth-century duchess named Renata between entries on the radish family [Rettig] and a legal term for the forgiveness of adultery [Remittiren].

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Part practical how-to, part fantastic entertainment, part serious history, the Ladies’ Encyclopedia offers a unique glimpse into the areas of knowledge considered appropriate to women. The contours of women’s knowledge become most obvious when one considers which topics have been left out. As Katherine Goodman notes, geography was not taught to women at the time and thus cities and landmasses are not included in the Ladies’ Encyclopedia (Goodman 18). At the same time, curious household items in use in foreign lands do find a home in Corvinus’ entries.

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Here we have an entry on hammocks [Hang-Matten], which, we are invited to learn, are a sort of woven bed “hung in the air between two trees or posts” and “very common in America and other warm places, where one desires to sleep undisturbed by vermin and other poisonous animals” (739). Certain things, which few women would travel far enough from Germany to see, were considered suitable food for the imagination, while more practical information, such as the location of the Americas, remained out of bounds.

In addition to information about the status of women, the Ladies’ Encyclopedia also offers a unique look into the mechanics of the everyday at the time. In few other sources can one find such detailed descriptions of life in early eighteenth-century Germany, such as common wedding customs and butter-making.

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It is likely that the consistent detail of Corvinus’s entries on even the most mundane of topics must have seemed curious, even mad, when it was published. Today, however, this detail makes the Ladies’ Encyclopedia one of the most important sources of information on the subject.

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Amaranthes, Nutzbares, galantes und curiöses Frauenzimmer-Lexicon. Worinnen nicht nur Der Frauenzimmer geistlich- und weltliche Orden, Aemter, Würden, Ehren-Stellen, Professionen und Gewerbe, Privilegia und Rechtliche Wohlthaten, Hochzeiten und Trauer-Solennitäten, Gerade und Erb-Stücken, Nahmen und Thaten der Göttinnen, Heroinen, gelehrter Weibes-Bilder, Künstlerinnen, Prophetinnen, Affter-Prophetinnen, Märtyrinnen, Poetinnen, Ketzerinnen, Quackerinnen, Schwärmerinnen … ; Sondern auch Ein vollkommenes und auf die allerneueste Art verfertigtes Koch- Torten- und Gebackens-Buch, Samt denen darzu gehörigen Rissen, Taffel-Auffsätzen und Küchen-Zettuln, Ordentlich nach dem Alphabet … abgefaßt … dem weiblichen Geschlechte insgesamt zu sonderbaren Nutzen, Nachricht und Ergötzlichkeit auff Begehren ausgestellet… Leipzig: Bey Joh. Friedrich Gleditsch und Sohn, 1715.

This recent addition to the Beinecke Collection of German Literature was once part of the well known ducal library of the Oettingen-Wallerstein family [Fürstlich Oettingen-Wallerstein’sche Bibliothek] in the Schwabian castle [Schloss] Seyfriedberg. Beinecke call number: Zg17 C811 715n

Further Reading:

Helga Brandes: Das “Frauenzimmer-Lexicon” von Amaranthes [d. i. Gottlieb Siegmund Corvinus (1677 – 1746)], in: Das achtzehnte Jahrhundert 22 (1998), Heft 1, S. 22-30.

Brokmann-Nooren, Christiane Weibliche Bildung im 18. Jahrhundert : »gelehrtes Frauenzimmer« und »gefällige Gattin«. – Oldenburg : Bibliotheks- und Informationssystem der Univ., 1994 [Diss. U. Oldenburg 1992]. http://docserver.bis.uni-oldenburg.de/__publikationen/bisverlag/browei94/kap3.pdf

Katherine Goodman: Amazons and apprentices: women and the German Parnassus in the early Enlightenment. Boydell & Brewer, 1999.

Manfred Lemmer: Nachwort zur Neuausgabe des Frauenzimmer-Lexicons. Insel, Leipzig 1980, S. 8-9


[1] Walter Benjamin, 1892-1940. Benjamin had still been at work on the Arcades Project at the time of his suicide while fleeing the Nazis on the Franco-Spanish border. The convolutes, or chapters, of the Arcades Project were not published until 1982.

Frauenzimmer Bibliotheckgen, or, Ladies’ Little Library

Frauen-Zimmer Bibliotheckgen oder Thuelicher Vorschlag / Wie und Auff was Ahrt / für ein Deutsches Frauen=Zimmer / mässigen Vermögens / unterschiedene / außerlesene / und recht nützliche Bücher / zu ihrem Vergnügen / zeitlichen und ewigen Wohlseyn / gar leicht und auff wenig Kosten / angeschaffet werden können. Mit einer kleinen Beylage: Als einem beweglichen Schreiben einer Mutter an ihren zum abgöttischen Pabstthum übergangenen Sohn; und etlichen sonderbahren Denck=Sprüchen / dadurch das Herz in dem Wandel für Gott zu befestigen. Güstrau: Zu finden im Rüdigerschen Buchhandlung, 1705.

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The Frauen-Zimmer Bibliotheckgen or Ladies’ Little Library is an instruction manual for ladies on book collecting and was published in 1705. The anonymous male author begins his advice on planning a personal library with a dressmaking analogy. He argues that personal libraries, like dresses, must suit their owners; before sewing, the seamstress examines, age, status, wealth, and temperament of the woman for whom it will be made – and the wise lady will do the same when creating a personal collection of books.

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The anonymous author gives some universal advice – in his opinion, it is important to take care of both intellectual and spiritual needs (“Gemuth und die Seele” – 7). At the least, one ought to own a Bible and several devotional texts. Beyond this, a lady might acquire books on history, and housekeeping. He discourages the purchase of “böse Bücher” or “bad books,” such as romances, books on etiquette or the occult. In addition, the author explains the care of books and suggests women share their books with friends and family. Perhaps most interesting is the author’s suggestion that women create, save and pass down their own manuscript materials.

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On the frontispiece of the Frauen-Zimmer Bibliotheckgen, we see a young lady in her study, which opens out onto a spacious French garden. In addition to her collection of books, her study also contains an elegant, cloth-draped desk with a notebook, quill and ink set and what appears to be a bookstand at the ready. Her books are arranged by size in a grand, curtained bookcase – there are large folios on the bottom shelf and smaller books above. The young lady herself appears contented and proud; clutching a sheaf of papers in one hand, she gestures confidently toward her books with the other.

Although this engraving shows quite an imposing library for an 18th-century woman, the author took an egalitarian view to book collecting, writing that almost anyone could own at least the essentials and that every woman ought to buy as many good books as she can afford.

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Before the advent of publisher’s bindings, it was common for customers to have several books bound together in a single binding. This small volume contains three slim books.

Contributed to Early Modern at the Beinecke by Bryn Savage, a doctoral student in the Yale University Department of Germanic Languages & Literature.  Bryn was a pre-prospectus research fellow at the Beinecke Library in the summer of 2008, working on the development of literary criticism in Germany in the late eighteenth century.

From the Reading Room: This series of postings highlights the research of graduate students, research fellows, and other scholars working in the Beinecke’s early modern collections.

From the Reading Room: Who’s Who of Early Modern France

Contributed by Jessica DeVos, one of the Beinecke’s summer graduate fellows and a Ph.D. candidate in the Yale University French Department.

Premier volume de la bibliothèque du Sieur de La Croix-du Maine

In his preface, La Croix du Maine states that he is cataloging 500 years of great French writers in order to honor France and her King. His finished product, however, focuses almost exclusively on 16th century writers and resembles a “Who’s Who” of Early Modern France. Each entry contains the author’s full name, their region or city of residence, and place of birth (if it differs from where they are currently residing). La Croix du Maine lists each writer’s publications, their publishers, and often the year of publication as well. He includes dates of activity and, when applicable, year of death. While many of the entries remain relatively straightforward and factual, the author occasionally includes asides or comments that can be both revealing and amusing.

I have found this 16th century text to be far more useful for my research than many modern search engines. I am interested in Early Modern French women writers, many of whose work was never published and only circulated in manuscript form. By working “backwards,” starting with contemporary catalogs, I have discovered authors who have long been forgotten and works overlooked by modern scholars.

Jessica DeVos was a Beinecke Graduate Fellow this summer, and is a Ph.D. candidate in the Yale University French Department.  Her project is entitled “Autobiography, Authorship, and Artifice: The French Verse of Mary, Queen of Scots and the Reception of Renaissance Women Poets.”


From the Reading Room: Jack the Giant-Killer

John Newbery’s A Little Pretty Pocket-Book (1744), is one of the first books published in English explicitly for the diversion and moral education of children. Of particular interest to my dissertation research at the Beinecke are the textual and material innovations devised by early children’s book publishers to instruct their impressionable readers.

As one example, the publisher sold “A Ball and Pincushion; The Use of which will infallibly make Tommy a good Boy, and Polly a good Girl” along with the Pocket-Book for an additional two pence. The directions for use of the toy, laid out in a letter from the fictional “Jack the Giant-Killer,” are simple: one side of the ball or pincushion is red and the other is black, the ball/pincushion is to be displayed in a highly visible location, and ten pins are to be inserted into it based on the child’s behavior (for “every good Action…a Pin shall be stuck on the Red Side, and for every bad Action a Pin shall be stuck on the Black Side”). Thus, each pin becomes both a remembrance of a past good or wicked action and a unit of measurement in the calculation of the child’s character. Far from mere child’s play, this book and others found in the Betsy Beinecke Shirley Collection are animated by contemporary empirical thought.

Pictured here is the first American edition of A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, published by Isaiah Thomas in Worcester, Massachusetts [1787].  Beinecke Call Number: Shirley 4242.

Heather Klemann is a graduate student in Yale’s Comparative Literature department, and was a Graduate Student Fellow in the Beinecke Library this summer.  Her project is entitled “Literary Souvenirs: Didactic Materialism in Late 18th- and Early 19th-Century Fiction.”