Tag Archive for Gutenberg

Returning to NYPL, this time to addend!

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


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.


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.).


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.

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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.

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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.


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


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:  


Skunner=fed up.


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!

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!

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.  


Edition 24 left for Nicolas Ducimetiere of the Bodmer Foundation in Geneva

Yesterday, my final delivery for this trip was at the Bodmer Library in Geneva Switzerland.

My schedule didn’t allow me to deliver it to the Vice-Director on Tuesday so I left Addendum, Edition 24 with Ugo Rodriguez. And then I went through the truly astounding Musee Bodmer. Breath-taking display of the word! A museum founded less on the incredible content of its holdings and more on the tradition of writing as being fundamentally human and humanizing.

I left overwhelmed by tears. There were fragments of Pasteur. Darwin’s Origins. Handwriting long before letterpress, across cultures and topics. The insistence of the mark thru time. A place founded on the transgressive act of writing more than the specific story.

A carved peace treaty in a nail. Borges handwritten Tlon Uqbar. Beckett, Shakespeare, Galileo, Pythagoras, Aristotle …

And of course Gutenberg’s bible with Hubay #30. I left painfully humbled and in a stupor of inconceivable gratitude.

In 32 days I delivered 24 copies of Addendum to 21 institutions in 20 cities. 12 accepted. 12 pending review.

I am extremely tired and over saturated. But in an effort to keep myself steady, my mind keeps returning to Huizinga’s Homo Ludens. That humanity’s greatest virtue is to seriously play. And story telling is one serious way to play- to play out one view point in the context of another’s, so that both may arrive at a shifting sense of meaning. Xo




Delighted to leave Edition 11 in the good hands of Dr. Overgaauw, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

Yesterday, a wonderful conversation with Dr. Overgaauw, Head of Manuscripts at Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin with Gutenberg Bible Hubay #3.

We talked about all sorts of things. He apologized that he could not show me their deluxe parchment version (the temperature in the library was too high to bring out their Gutenberg) as it would distort in the changing climate (I must say that I so value the quantity of windmills and solar panels combined with the lack of air conditioning here in a Germany. Good decisions all round.). They don’t know how they came to own this copy but it has beautiful rubrication that may be damaged by the shift in temperature and humidity.

Playfully, I asked, How many after the first 49 of my Addenda should I save for currently unknown Gutenberg Bibles (so that they may be addended when they become public)? He asked how long I anticipated living and I said a long time. His answer, under those conditions, was 2. Edition 50&51 shall remain in reserve.

At my question on the history of the footnote, he suggested I read “The footnote: a curious history” by Anthony Grafton. Harvard University press 1997 (He is also an expert and disagrees with some points but overall a good read). Notably, the tradition of cross-referencing within the text and footnoting at the bottom and end of the text came long before the printing press. And then also he suggested The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt who will be coming to Berlin this fall to give a talk. My kind of materialism. Heads up Dr. Greenblatt, when I deliver Harvard’s copy of the Addendum, I will also knock on your door and inquire about your latest research on Genesis.

I forget so much of what we talked about. However, he was the first to acknowledge the nod in the Textura. Plus, when I asked where to catch the B41 bus, he corrected me — the Gutenberg Bible is referred to as the B42 (with an audible wink, he also added that perhaps the bus I needed was the M41). Language makes me so happy and I realize knowing German would make my blogging so much more interesting because I’m certain I am meeting some great librarians/researchers/experts. My apologies and gratitude.

And of course, I am also pleased that he accepted Addendum, Edition 11 into the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin holdings. Decision on how it will be catalogued is forthcoming.