Updating the story of Genesis with contemporary science.

The story of Genesis is a reasonable hypothesis of creation. However, we have learned much since the invention of the Printing Press. In the style of the 42-line Gutenberg Bible, 'Addendum' updates Genesis with contemporary scientific findings. This blog follows my pilgrimage to deliver 'Addendum' to the 49 remaining Gutenberg Bibles in the collections of some of the worlds greatest libraries (and meet their fantastic librarians).

Addendum x 3, now at the Morgan Library!

On February 9, 2016, I visited John McQuillen of Printed Books and Bindings at the Morgan Library.   IMG_1069

When I left NYPL, Kyle told me to tell the Morgan that Lenox brought the first Gutenberg to the New World.  Upon receiving the news, John shrugged his shoulders and said simply:  we have three.  Below is the ex-libris or bookplate on one of Pierpont’s Gutenberg Bibles.  Onward and Upward, indeed.

IMG_1087

As the Morgan owns three Gutenberg Bibles, I was there to gift edition 37, 38, & 39 of my Addendum.  When I asked which John would like to look at, he said, well, we’re on 37th St, so let’s look at Edition 37. Between the Morgan and the NYPL, NYC has the most Gutenberg Bibles of any city (and they are within 5 blocks of each other).

IMG_1119

Above is a paper copy (Hubay #44).  Below is the vellum copy (Hubay #37).

IMG_1072

The vellum copy has been repaired. See how the style of ornamentation above is different than on the page below.  Also notice the difference between the A and Q Initials of the page below.  It is thought that a well known facsimile maker from France, Adam Pilinski, detailed the revised ornamentation.  Regardless of who decorates and when, it’s a ton of work:  “A complete Gutenberg Bible contains 3,945 rubrics as well as 72 six-line initials, 3 five-line initials, 61 four-line initials, 11 three-line initials, 1,292 two-line initials, and 2,509 one-line initials.”

IMG_1079

John was really interested in the artists that decorated books in general.  While most historians have studied the different printing shops, his focus is on the artists that illustrated/decorated after the text block was printed! To note, the Morgan’s early printed books have a cataloging structure of date and printing shop.  So a Morgan B42 has the call number “chl-Gutenberg” (chl refers to ‘incunabula’ indicating the date of books printed before 1500).  Since book decoration is generally commissioned by the buyer (and independent of the print shop), this catalog system referencing the print shop is irrelevant to John; connecting books by illuminators becomes a treasure hunt of their shelves.

The image below shows the last row of letters cut off during repair of their vellum copy. You can see the outline of the text has been penciled back in.  It is unclear whether this was forgotten to be filled in with ink, or a choice to explicitly indicate that the book had been repaired.  IMG_1077

Someone had previously told me Gutenberg had 17 differently sized e’s (and other letters) in order to facilitate his perfect left and right justification.  I’ve seen many of these books (relatively speaking) by now, but I’m still stunned by the experience that it’s taken me this long to actually FOCUS on the text to see for myself – these alleged variations in e’s.

If you look at the beginning of the 3rd full line of text above, it starts with “re elt.”  You will notice the first e lacks a serif at its top left and bottom left, while the second e has a serif at the top and bottom left.

IMG_1198

My Addendum used a free online ‘copy‘ of Gutenberg’s blackletter.  Had I known then, I would have insisted on three different e’s for the Genesis of my title!

These details in prints are like a signature. Just as Gutenberg’s black ink is a signature (never having faded over 500 years) while forgery ink often fades.  John told me about a recent scholar at the Morgan, Nick Wilding.  Wilding tries to understand the art and science of early printing to determine if something is an original or a forgery.  You’ll see, how the p & i or the i & p sidle up, matters in the fun detective story of the Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius.  Turns out, the forgery is likely a polymer plate copy!

My favorite view of the vellum copy, was the edge:

IMG_1083

It is stunning to think how many animal skins made up this view.  “Bringing into the fold” originally meant collecting a flock of sheep.  In this case, that meaning is all bound up!

While their third copy was on display in the museum (Hubay #38), John also showed me their second copy (Hubay #44).  Full stop.  These books, printed in Mainz, Germany, over 500 years ago, have traveled all over the world.  How all three resisted becoming a pile of dust, is an extraordinary feat of human stewardship and power.  The first survey of remaining Gutenberg Bibles was done by Ilona Hubay (hence the Hubay number system). It appears the Hubay history of ownership of at least one of Morgan’s B42s is incorrect. Hubay had identified this vellum copy (#37, yellow capital letters and decorated in the Belgium style) as coming from Halberstadt, Germany.  The revised provenance indicates it moved between the hands of a Parisian dealer, an English Earl, via Spain, via the Spanish control of the Netherlands.  Apparently, Eric White of Princeton has been re-assessing the provenance of each Bible (can’t wait to meet you Eric when I deliver to the Scheide Library!) and we will have an update soon.

This second bible was discovered in a damp church and written up in a German newspaper.  The decoration style is that of the Fust Master. You will see the insect holes.  Morgan apparently purchased it from Theodore Irwin, an agribusiness millionaire of Oswego, NY.  IMG_1092

Morgan hired William Matthews, a Brooklyn binder (corner of Kent and Hewes) to refurbish this copy.  Matthews washed, beat, and pressed it – changing the character of the paper significantly. It is somewhat of an overwrought binding (in my opinion), but it indicates an ‘idea’ of the book ‘object’ – which I think is meaningful in a 500 year arc of stewardship.  I love the information in the image below. The blue mirror-image-A initial on the top right indicates the page was turned before the ink of the A on the opposite page had dried (patience is a struggle all through the ages!). IMG_1093

Here is the washed text block in its new binding.IMG_1086

To note, William Matthews wrote “Trusting the binding will give you satisfaction.”  All this, cost $294.25.

IMG_1095

To compare ornamentation styles, the following 2 photos are of the first page of Gutenberg’s Genesis text block from 2 different editions.  First image is from the vellum (Hubay #37) and the second image from the paper copy (Hubay #44).

IMG_1074

IMG_1096

(I hope you are beginning to understand how incredible it is that I could photograph 2 different editions of the first page of Gutenberg’s Genesis side-by-side)

We then looked at John’s ‘current’ favorite.  Augustine’s De civitate dei (City of God) printed at Benedictine abbey of Subiaco, Italy. It was operated by Arnold Pannartz and Konrad SweinheimIMG_1104

This printing illustrates a move away from blackletter and a move toward Roman style letters. Most fun, is to look at the faces drawn in by some Salzburg Austria artist. I believe adding a ‘face’ to an Initial makes it a ‘cadel’ (from the Dutch or French word “cadel,” “cadeau” for a little gift, something “extra”; it is used to refer to “extra” items, such as pen-drawn faces or grotesques, added to an initial letter). As compared to the ‘historiated initial’ I wrote about at my Bodleian delivery.

IMG_1105

IMG_1107

IMG_1108

IMG_1110

It was a wonderful visit John, Thank You.

Returning to NYPL, this time to addend!

On February 5, 2016, I donated Addendum, Edition 36 to the New York Public Library.

IMG_1019

But two years before (February 12, 2014), in preparation for crafting what was to become my Addendum, I visited Kyle Triplett of NYPL Rare Books Division to research the dimensions, text block, ink, and paper of the NYPL’s Gutenberg Bible. Frankly, I was amazed I was going to be able to obtain the dimensions, the how hadn’t quite hit me until I entered the space of the Schwarzman Building.

IMG_1022

To give some sense of how incredible our public library is, I’m going to travel back in time before we had public libraries.  Someone had to conceive of, design for, and fund public libraries (in fact, the site of the NYPL -formerly the Croton reservoir- fed the city water before it fed the city words.).

NYPL_crotonreservoir

Libraries were mostly private collections.  So for example, Lenox brought the first copy of Gutenberg’s Bible to the US in 1847. According to the NYPL website, “Its arrival is the stuff of romantic national folklore. James Lenox’s European agent issued instructions for New York that the officers at the Customs House were to remove their hats on seeing it: the privilege of viewing a Gutenberg Bible is vouchsafed to few.”

The idea of a public library where everyone has the privilege of viewing a Gutenberg Bible was just beginning to be conceived.  Governor Samuel J. Tilden (1814-1886), donated $2.4 million — to “establish and maintain a free library and reading room in the city of New York.” By 1895, the Tilden, Lenox, and Astor efforts were combined to form the New York Public Library.

The two lions outside the main entrance were originally named Leo Lenox & Leo Astor.

IMG_1021 IMG_1020

In 2014, when I had an appointment to gather the dimensions of the B42 text block, Kyle let me experience a fragment of the Gutenberg that had also been donated to the library.  It came in this sweet folio, which informed my delivery folio.

IMG_2853 IMG_2856

Kyle had a fabric ruler I used to measure the text block and the distance between the 2 columns.  I felt the paper, looked at the ink, and saw this fragment backlit.

IMG_2855

It was an incredible experience.  I hadn’t created this blog yet, but am posting the comment I made on FB about my visit in 2014.

Today, I touched a leaf of the Gutenberg. I actually cried. Did you know, many people who worked on it were illiterate and were just crafting symbols. All reason that has followed, has followed because books gave general society access to a kind of memory so we didn’t have to re-invent the wheel. I know what is written can be contentious and rife with power dynamics (from access to position), but in creating and sharing an idea, the world breathes. Ideas are free. Once they are in your head, you own them. Today, I saw the light; it filtered through the windows of NYPL. Xx

IMG_1032

On February 5, 2016, I returned with my friend Ginger to donate the results of my research –Addendum, Edition 36.

IMG_1056

The Gutenberg (Hubay #42) is centrally located in the McGraw Rotunda, with murals painted by Edward Laning. The paintings were commissioned under the WPA, painted between 1938-1942, and tell the Story of the Recorded Word. The ceiling is painted with Prometheus Bringing the Gift of Fire, the mythological spark to human invention and knowledge.

IMG_1036

Then there are 4 large wall murals. The first is Moses with the Tablets of Law.

IMG_1048

The next is The Medieval Scribe, constructing hand-written manuscripts recording ideas in a time of destruction.

IMG_1046

The next is Gutenberg Showing a Proof, illustrating his methodology of printing with moveable type.

IMG_1055

And the final is The Linotype – illustrating Ottmar Mergenthaler at his linotype machine as Whitelaw Reid of the New York Tribute reviews a printed page of his newspaper.

IMG_1050

I am happy to report, in our era of internet word, my Addendum has been accepted.  I look forward to learning of its call number.  While I acknowledged Kyle in the colophon, I wish I had also acknowledged NYPL.

So NYPL, on this St. Valentine’s Day, please receive my digital valentine.  You Will Always Be Mine!  And more importantly, You Will Always Be Ours.

IMG_1129

Thank you!

Cambridge accepts Edition 35 and literally addends their Gutenberg!

  On August 18, I had an 11 am appointment with Jill Whitelock, Head of Special Collections at Cambridge University Library. I left London at 8:30 and arrived at a very wet and rainy Cambridge at 10:30.  
 I happily caught a cab to the library designed in the 30s with some kind of geometrical art nouveau – can I even say that with such a brut feel?  

    
    
 Jill said Cambridge acquired their copy of the Gutenberg in 1933 from Arthur William Young of Trinity College.     Their copy of the Gutenberg has been illuminated and rubricated so prettily.     Here is Genesis.   I love the little strawberry embellishment in the top left corner of Genesis! I am always so shocked by gestures of simple sweetness. I love that little berry traveling through time to feed my eyes.  Jill noted little marks at the edge of the text. These were discovered to be re-pagination marks from a subsequent edition.    (See the hashtag-like mark on the left margin of line 6. And the double slash between words two and three of that line.)

Who could recreate Gutenberg’s insane Textura letter collection anyway?  They say he had a rediculous number of E’s (and every other letter with incremental fattening & squashing) so he could perfect his word spacing AND left and right justification! He really was a genius of integrative concept and implementing detail. 

I asked Jill to share her favorites in the collection.  Her first response was a first edition of Dante. She loved it for the quality of the printing, irregularity of spacing between letters, and the beautiful illumination. She noted the evolving cycle of illustrations depicting heaven and hell. Her favorite was a simple depiction of Dante and Beatrice floating on a background of stars

Another favorite was a bible she liked showing people for a particularly tactile experience. I misheard her say it quivered (she said something else neither of could recall correctly but she liked the use of the word). It is a 16th c. book of sermons bound for Elizabeth I. It is bound in crimson velvet and silver thread with an impressed and gilded edge. She loves showing it to people because when they pick it up, they immediately connect with it as an object -they feel the contrast of the hard silver thread restraining the red velvet. She likes how it connects people today with an experience of others in history in a very immediate way. 

Perhaps that is also why Jill let me addend their Gutenberg, physically!  For a photo op only, but a picture tells all my words in this case! Left is the end of the chapter of Genesis in the Cambridge copy of the Gutenberg Bible with Hubay #22. On the right is my Addendum, Edition 35.

Thank you Jill for a spectacular ending to this suite of deliveries. One might say my neurons quiver. 

Etymology of quiver:  “to tremble,” late 15c., perhaps imitative, or possibly an alteration of quaveren (see quaver), or from Old English cwifer- (in cwiferlice “zealously”), which is perhaps related to cwic “alive” (see quick). 

As of September 9, 35 Addendum delivered, 27 formally accepted, 2 rejected, and 6 pending review!

National Library of Scotland accepts Ed. 34 AND stores it with their Incunabula!

On the evening of August 13, I left Manchester and arrived late in Edinburgh during the fringe festival – a nearly obscene event schedule of dance, theater, comedy, music, and film. The streets were packed with viewers moving between venues and cafés and bars (they do this all day for three weeks?!?).
 My room was just a few blocks away from the library so I explored the city in the morning before my 3pm appointment.    Walking up their stairwell covered in plates of information, I learned that William Smellie edited the first copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica in Edinburgh – Edinburgh has a historical hive of thinkers. 

There I met with Anette Hagan (Rare Books and Music curator) and Andrew Martin (Literature and the Arts curator).  They, being curators, had selected some of their oldest and newest acquisitions. 

I saw the first Scottish printed Bible called the Bassandyne Bible.   The dedication to James VI is my favorite:  “thir daies of light quhen almaist in everie private house the buike of Gods lawe is red and understand in our vulgaire language”.    This book was designed for Self Teaching, with notes, chapter guides, maps, and other illustrations.   I am reminded of a book recommended to me by a mentor I acquired by self-imposition. Perhaps understanding my insecurity as a scientist pursuing art with no art degree, he suggested the The Ignorant Schoolmaster – five lessons in intellectual emancipation by Jacques Ranciere.  “There is no language of reason. There is only a control of reason over the intention to speak. Poetic language that knows itself as such doesn’t contradict reason. On the contrary, it reminds each speaking subject not to take the narrative of its minds adventure for the voice of truth.”

May we all be poets. 

Perhaps this digression comes from my hosts combination of presenting me with historical printing promoting personal study in 16th century Scotland and the free expression of contemporary Scottish books. 

Perhaps I say this now because my trip is over and I’m awash in the general experience of what a library really holds (I should be telling you about the first Scottish Encyclopedia by Hector Boece devoted solely to the history of Scotland – but in the notes Anette gave me it says “[it]… is basically a glorification of the Scottish nation based on legendary sources. It is more interesting as romance than as history. The plot of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is ultimately traceable to it.”  

 

This was later translated into Scots by John Bellenden as the Croniklis of Scotland.  I would like to point out that the unicorn is the National Animal of Scotland.) 

Sadly, I did not take notes of the authors of the contemporary books. But here are some images of books by Scottish artists or referencing Scotland in some way. 

An embossed alphabet book of ecological plight.    
A beautifully etched accordion book – I loved at the different grasses featured in the landscape. 


  A poem on gorgeous handmade paper.
  
  What I haven’t yet mentioned was my favorite experience during this visit: hearing Andrew recite a poem in Scots (about two crows!). I tried recording it with my phone but the quality doesn’t merit posting. English and Scots are sister languages derived from Anglosaxon (Anglosaxon and Gaelic are two distinct languages).  

In the 2011 census, a website was created to help citizens listen to different dialects and determine if they spoke Scots (in addition to speaking English- one can see how one sister language is absorbed by the other) . They shared some words:  

Kenspeckle=noteworthy. 

Skunner=fed up.

Blether=chatting

Storum=a storm that happens at the wrong time of year. 

There were more, but my notes are too slow for the wonderful litany of sound they shared. But I have just ordered a book Andrew suggested by James Robertson:  Smoky Smirr O Rain- a Scots anthology. 

Needless to say, they accepted Edition 34 on the spot with Andrew’s delicious ink and hand.Subsequent to my visit I received the best email message from Anette, indicating that the NLS has given Edition 34 my favorite shelf mark for the Addendum at an institution thus far: “Inc.Suppl15”

That is, my Addendum will be stored with the incunabula -Inc-(first printed books published between 1455 and 1500). Very satisfying position!

John Rylands library received Addendum, Edition 33.

   
 After leaving the British Library, it was a short walk to the Euston train station to catch a ride to Manchester to visit the John Rylands Library. Dr. Julianne Simpson was on holiday so I arranged to meet with Rebekah Lunt of Reader services.   

On arrival, I foolishly decided to walk to “see” the town on route.  

 I got lost and called a cab at a coffee house. The cab took me to an university library, not John Rylands. So I hustled to a Main Street and tried hailing NYC style. One civilian car went by shaking his head, suggesting I’d never find a cab ( or something so I grinned and remained hopeful). But one finally picked me up and I made it to the Proper library by 4:30. I had a charming but brief conversation with Rebekah. She will share it with Julianne Simpson when she returns.   I regret losing time. Rylands had an exhibit of Exploring the Gothic.  Look at the kind of stuff I missed!?!

 

British Library received Edition 31 & 32

The British Library is on Euston, so on the morning of August 13, I caught the 168 bus down from Val Oriens charming garden flat. I had a 20 minute appointment with Phil Hatfield of the British library.   He works in the US, Caribbean and Canadian collections department. One can begin to see how my nationality begins to structure where my Addendum to the Gutenberg Bible fits in their catalog. Phil was able to tell me briefly about the founders.    Behind Phil, Left to right are: Robert Cotton, Joseph Banks, Thomas Grenville, and Hans Sloan. 

Banks went on voyages with Cook and was a great botanical collector. Greenville was in Parliment and collected rare books of North America. Hans Sloan was a doctor that inherited a plantation in Latin America. There he had chocolate for the first time -thought it tasted horrible but had medicinal properties. So he brought some back to England, added milk and sugar and sold the recipe to a company that would later become Cadbury’s.  He also had some fine 16th and 17th century maps of the new world. 

Phil’s favorite item this week is the King George copy of Von Humbolts Scientific expeditions to South America. He printed 20 volumes with color plates and it bankrupted him.  Of note, were plates of Aztec hyroglyphs of deep red, green, and gold leaf. Due to weather and time, Phil thought the actual hyroglyphs probably look very different now. 

Phil is changing roles, but I will follow up with him to see where the Addendum lands if the British Library accepts both copies. 

Russian State Library accepts Edition 30!

I was unable to identify an appropriate contact on the English version of the Russian State Library website, so I had no advance appointment. 

I asked the guy at the hotel to translate a simple note, stating I was an artist, I was here to donate a piece of art to their Special Collections. Could (the reader) please direct me to an appropriate person, or someone who speaks English. 

I left the day, August 7, entirely open to winging my delivery to this library. I am persistent if nothing else.  

  In minutes, I was there! An imposing building.     That’s a really poor photo of a statue of Lenin out front.  I entered the first door and handed my paper to the guard. He directed me to a little room with two women. They directed me with fingers to door number 3 and told me to go to the 4th floor.   Inside door #3, I met three guards and re-presented my note while holding up 4 fingers. They let me in. On the 4 th floor (a beautiful museum dedicated to all the crafts of the book – how to make etchings/lithographs and examples, quills vs letterpress, little books vs big books, bindings, tooling, etc. I was not allowed to photograph the examples but they were wonderful and diverse.), I was met by two women.  I presented my note again and one woman called her English speaking husband to assist. The situation was clarified when a third woman arrived and asked did I want my Addendum actually placed at the back of their Gutenberg. 

I smiled widely, shook my head knowingly No, (relief spread across their faces) so I quickly changed my eyes to mischief and enquired  if there was the remotest possibility of Actually inserting it in The book, and we all chuckled. Ah, the simple joy of connecting. I am addicted. 

I had asked for a catalog number and they said the museum couldn’t do that, so they called another woman, Svetlana Artamonova from the Art Prints Department to join us. Svetlana (right in photo below) had fantastic English and we enjoyed each other immediately. 

She called another Svetlana (Petrunina, left in photo below) from acquisitions and it was formally accepted!     Svetlana A then asked me if I would like a tour of the library. Of course!

The main entrance.    
   
Some reading rooms.   

   
The founder of the library- Count Rumiantsev.     When I asked her about some of her favorite pieces, she asked me if I’d like to see some Russian Avante Garde. Of course! Currently, They have a lovely show of ~1920’s film posters. They were bold and colorful and full of affect.  

    
  This last image, is a reprint used for a film series curated in 1989 in England. She gave me a copy and I will hang it in my apartment. Pola Negri in Bella Donna.   We hugged and I left!

Thanks all that helped me get there! A serious group effort!

Austrian National library accepts Edition 2; Bibliotheque national de France rejects Edition 17 & 18!

So, 

This is old news from this spring but I haven’t formally posted it- 

BnF rejected both Addendum from their collection, with the following email:

Madame

L’on m’a bien transmis les deux dossiers objet de votre don . Ainsi que je le fais habituellement , je les ai transmis aux deux départements concernés qui les ont refusés et me les ont retourné. Ils sont donc à votre disposition . A quelle adresse voudriez-vous que j’en fasse l’envoi ? 

                                                                   Tout en vous remerciant , je vous prie, Madame, d’agréer mes sincères salutations.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Michel Fani

But 

I received the contract from Monika Kiegler-Griensteidl, Deputy Director of Acquisitions at Osterreichische National Bibliothek. Edition 2 of the Addendum formally joined Gutenberg Bible with Hubay # 27 as of April. 

  

Moscow State Library Accepts Addendum, Edition 29

 On August 6, I landed in Moscow at 1pm and Anna Pantza, deputy director of the Moscow State University Science Library, had agreed to meet me before 5pm. After a long wait through customs, a quick realization that English would not be useful, and the initiation to the taxi network that befriended me by directing me to the ATM, their request for service was agreed to for 3000 rubles – to get me to my hotel room in central Moscow.   My taxi driver was a charming Turkish man named Jesus (pronounced e-sus). He taught me basic words: Spah-si-bah=thank you (my language progress is slow and I am resigned to the indifferent shrugs that no smile can fix).  Besides a marriage proposal, we stopped briefly at this blue beauty.     

    
 And as we hit traffic, I asked (it took 10 minutes – I’ll never buy Fodors again- it gives elaborate dessert vocab but not basic words like Time or Tickets or Cash or Could you please drive…) if he could change plans and take me directly to the University Library, because it was now 3:30 and there would be no way I’d make the 5pm.     We arrived at the library at 4!   This library was built in 2005 and is mammoth. Marble and gold glass. Sergey, my most gracious translator (he works on audio histories, for example, cataloging and transcribing Russians telling where they were when  Stalin died in 1953) met me and brought me to Anna. We then met with Larisa Drukarova of the acquisitions department where it was accepted after a brief description.   

 Had I only thought about it a bit more, I would have prepared a book list:  my latest fascination with Mendeleev and his brilliant progress in understanding an order of the elements and of course my beloved Winogradsky’s research on microbes. Anna glowed when I mentioned bacteria, told me they just had a show featuring bacteria from contemporary researchers. And get this, she exclaimed how beautiful they are.  We are in complete agreement Anna, you have no idea!

When I asked Anna her favorite item in the collection, she said they all were her favorite, like children. Considering their science holdings have more than 10 million, that is quite a responsability! And now, she has 1 more object – mine! Thank you.  

 As a beautiful gift, they gave me a book documenting one of their most precious objects.  

    
While the pages are gorgeous, what I most like about this book (which is a book about another book), is detailing the restoration process. Authorship has many stewards. 

    
 Unrelated but beautiful are these sculptures at Ploshad Revolyutsy metro station. While the station has farmers, mechanics, military, I thought it would be nice to bookend this post with the readers. 
 (There is a book on his knee)

Lambeth Palace likely to accept Addendum, Edition 28

 
So, I’m terribly behind in reporting, but  on Wednesday morning, August 5th, I walked to Lambeth Palace. Luckily the tube strike didn’t complicate my plans.   

 
I met with the endearing Naomi Percival and Hugh Cahill.   
Their library was founded as a “public library” but the definition then was perhaps different. Its collections began by the archbishops donating their collections – the first was Archbishop Bancroft. 

Theirs is a collection of early printed books with notable provenance. For example comments by Henry VIII, noting his disagreement with the texts.   Their Gutenberg Bible was mis-described as a manuscript in their 19th century catalog. It was recognized as a Gutenberg in the 20th century. What is special about this copy is it was likely commissioned for someone in England as this copy is decorated in 15th century South England style. 

Naomi told me about her current project to catalog the papers from the Mothers Union. A church group founded in the late 19th century intended for “social improvement”. They published guides and sent out missions to encourage families to educate girls, discourage child marriage, and develop health clinics for children. 

Naomi showed me books others were currently cataloging. One was a gold tooled edge (my first!) stating:  the fear of God keeps his commandments.  

   
 She showed me a room with translations of the bible into seemingly every language. Including Eskimo, which was created using the syllabic system used for the African system. Here is Genesis, in Swahili.     
And she even had a copy of the bible in Cockney: that nasty piece of work-satan! 

   
 One of my favorite things was to see a fig tree that had been stewarded since the 16th century. The original tree was brought from Italy to England by Cardinal Pole. The tree I saw was planted from a slip in the 19th century. And just recently when the current archbishop visited pope Francis, a slip traveled with him and so the tree returns to its original soil. It’s not just the ideas in books that are being tended.  

 We visited a building built in the 1490s. There I met Ian Watson, a conservator. I asked his favorite book he worked on. He said Captain Blys diary of the 18th c. Apparently, his crew set him free (they say he was unpleasant) in a boat. But the mutineers allowed him a journal and as a result, his was a diary of maps discovering islands around East Timor. 

Recently, the conservators are working on over 600 volumes of stolen books. These are of course politely referred to as “returned books” — ah librarians, it redefines period of loan. What was so effective about this “borrower” was he took the catalog cards when he took the volume, effectively erasing any record.  

Perhaps in a moment of paranoia, the seal of ownership, was rather Ungracefully removed from the cover.  So the conservators have made a zinc plate to amend what is lost, though will do it in simple black rather than the traditional gold to indicate something went awry In the history of the “returned” volumes.    

 
The last room they showed me was just lovely. It had a gorgeous and complicated table and huge catalogues of historic marriage licenses.  Naomi opened one catalog, and by chance, opened to a license accounted on August 5, 1818.  So we called it a day of good fortune and parted ways.