My father, when 20 years old, served in the Navy during World War II. Like many of that generation, he rarely spoke about the war and his experiences at the Pacific front. I learned only after his death that he participated in the assaults on Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
In High School, we were reading the new play, In the matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer. I mentioned to my father we had a heated discussion at school about the use of atomic bombs on civilian Japanese populations. To my great surprise, he told me that his ship (LST 481) had been sent to Nagasaki a few weeks after the bombing.
I asked for more details and he grudgingly spoke about seeing no trees or buildings standing, nothing but a gray ash covering everything; a ghostly silence lacking even the usual mewing of gulls; and an overpowering smell of death. On entering the harbor, he said, their ship had to turn off their cool water intake due to it being clogged by bodies. At this point, tears ran down his face and he got up and went outside. I had never before seen my father cry.
August 9, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki. To commemorate that event, Special Collections preserves a broadside poem by poet laureate, William Stafford, titled, A Memorial, from his book, Every War Has Two Losers. The poem was printed as a broadside in the winter of 2004 from handset Perpetua type on dampened black Stonehenge paper. The enso, the Zen circle of enlightenment, is by brush lettering artist Marilyn Reaves, and was printed from a polymer plate. The broadside was printed by fine press printer, Sandy Tilcock, using a Vandercook press.
Jean Toomer was a masterful historiographer and writer of black history and culture. His seminal publication, Cane, embodied his devotion to narrating the black experience and to applying a critical eye to past history of oppression and prejudice in order to preserve and crystallize history as it was, before its true reality is erased by the present. Essayist and contributor (afterword) to Cane, Prof. Leon Litwack (UC Berkeley) comments on Jean Toomer, Cane, and twentieth century racism, writing,
“In coming to grips with the present, Jean Toomer insisted on confronting the past and exploring the heritage of slavery to its very roots in ways that would avoid both condescension and romanticization. Looking about him, he sensed an agrarian folk culture deeply rooted in the slave experience. There was still time, he thought, to explore that culture, indeed the very soul and spirit of the black South, before urbanization and industrialization rendered it unrecognizable.”
The novel Cane received high praise and acclaim following its publishing, however such acclaim was not reflected in the number of books sold. Jean Toomer himself laid latent for some time after its publishing and only resurfaced years later as a burgeoning interest in black history and culture in the 1960’s emerged. Cane remains a work of unique and paramount stature and is elusive in its form, for it is many things – a novel, work of poetry, a drama, an illustrated work. It takes place in rural Georgia, urban Washington, D.C., among other places. The beauty of the work lies in its multifaceted nature, speaking to the reader in a variety of forms.
Cane is augmented by the work of Martin Puryear, a prominent American sculptor. Martin Puryear was enamored by Cane, read during his initial years residing in the South and teaching at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Puryear’s contributions to Cane include woodcuts as accompanying illustrations; there are seven larger images portraying women featured within the novel, and three smaller images resembling the enigmatic arcs Jean Toomer utilized to divide sections within the work in the first edition.
While this remains Jean Toomer’s most conspicuous work, it is important to note Toomer’s other literary endeavors, including autobiographies and other fiction, drama, poetry, and essays. He published one other work, Essentials, in 1931, a collection of aphorisms. The breadth of black history and culture portrayed in Cane begs examination and continued study today. The complementary pairing of Jean Toomer’s illuminative text and Martin Puryear’s woodcut illustrations creates for the reader an experience incomparable and truly distinctive.
The book was produced by The Arion Press, considered the nation’s leading publisher of fine-press books. Founded in San Francisco in 1974 by Andrew Hoyem, it has published 116 limited-edition books, most printed by letterpress, often illustrated with original prints by notable artists. This edition of Cane was limited to 400 numbered copies (ours is No. 343) with each copy signed by the artist, Martin Puryear. The text type is Times New Roman Bold with long descenders, composed in Monotype; the display type is Lucian Bold, composed by hand. The text paper is Biblio, mould-made in Germany; the print paper is Kitakata, handmade in Japan. The text was printed on a Miller TW cylinder press; the woodblocks were printed on a Vandercook Universal III proofing press. The book was designed by Andrew Hoyem and is the 59th publication of the Arion Press.
Written by Alexandra Mueller, Special Projects Archivist
Moses Alshekh, also known as Moshe Alshich, born in the early 1500’s in the city of Adrianople, gained immense influence and respect as a rabbi and scholar. In his service to the Jewish faith, R. Alshekh mastered the teachings of the Torah and delivered sermons incomparable and elevated (Miller, n.d.). In addition to his mastery of the Torah, R. Alshekh immersed himself in the study of the Talmud, the book of Jewish laws, and the study of principles of halakhah, the guide of “day-to-day” living for Jews (Posner, n.d.). As a youth, study in yeshivas under Rabbis Joseph (Yosef) Taitazik and Joseph (Yosef) Caro in the city of Salonika cultivated in R. Alshekh the wisdom and stature of a sage in the interpretation of halakhah and Jewish law (encyclopedia.com, 2020; Miller, n.d.).
As R. Alshekh entered his young adulthood, he transitioned to a life in Safed of Erez, Israel, where he began to solidify his presence in the Jewish faith as an authority of Jewish law and teachings. In addition to gaining prominence as a rabbi, skilled deliverer of sermons, and scholar of halakhah, R. Alshekh engaged in “exegesis” of the Bible, providing critical analysis and interpretation of biblical books. His work in exegesis of the Bible proved comprehensive and revered, becoming the subject of multiple publications, while alive and posthumously, as well as topics of numerous sermons by popular request (encyclopedia.com, 2020). R. Alshekh received official ordainment as a rabbi by the mentor of his youth, R. Joseph (Yosef) Caro, while in Safed. Years later, R. Alshekh had the bounty of ordaining his own fellow scholar of halakhah, Hayyim Vital, as rabbi, whom he had studied closely with for many years (encyclopedia.com, 2020).
During his time in Safed, R. Alshekh immersed himself in the affairs and vitality of the Jewish community of Safed and supported the interests of the community through means of outreach in travel and treatise. Following a long life of service to the Jewish faith, R. Alshekh passed away in 1593. R. Alshekh leaves a rich legacy to the understanding and interpretation of numerous biblical books, a subject of his critical attention, and also of scholarly devotion to halakhah. While R. Alshekh lived to see the publication of some of his work, his posthumous publications were largely overseen by his son Hayyim Alshekh (encyclopedia.com, 2020).
University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) acquired Sefer sh’elot u-teshuvot by R. Moses Alshekh, published in Venice posthumously in 1605. This form of rabbinical publication is comprised of “questions and answers,” a collection of responsa to inquiries of the Talmud, the Bible, the Mishnah, and other philosophical queries (Bacher & Lauterbach, n.d.). The publication may be accessed for use in the Library Catalog.
Alshekh, Moses. (2020). Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved July 21, 2020, from https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/alshekh-moses
Bacher, W., & Lauterbach, J. Z. (n.d.). She’elot u-teshubot (“questions and answers,” or interpellations and decisions”). JewishEncylopedia. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13525-she-elot-u-teshubot
Miller, M. (n.d.). Rabbi Moshe Alshich. Kabbalah Online. https://www.chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/380688/jewish/Rabbi-Moshe-Alshich.htm
Posner, M. (n.d.). What is halakhah (halachah)? Jewish law. Chabad.org. https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/4165687/jewish/What-Is-Halakhah-Halachah-Jewish-Law.htm
Written by Alexandra Mueller, Special Projects Archivist
Albrecht Dürer exemplified a mastery and uniqueness in his contribution to Italian art in the 15th and 16th centuries. Though Dürer excelled in varied mediums and forms of art, wood cutting emerged as his most deft and accomplished medium. Dürer’s proficiency in wood cutting flourished during his youth apprenticeship under artist Michael Wolgemut of Nuremberg, Germany. His carefully cultivated interest in art deviated from a long family lineage of working goldsmiths, though historically a deviation that proved largely influential in Italian art theory. Dürer’s most ingenious contributions were his keen analysis of the complexity of human proportions, and the application of mathematical and geometrical principles to reflect the human form in art. Inherent to Dürer’s artistic work of the human form was a philosophy of realism, starkly opposing the prevailing leaning towards idealism and perfection held by many of his contemporaries.
University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) recently acquired Della simmetria de i corpi humani, libri quattro by Albrecht Dürer and translated by Giovanni Paolo Gallucci. The work is subdivided into five parts, the first four of which are attributed to Dürer, and the fifth an addition by translator Gallucci, a collection of writings by Italian poets on topics related to human form in art. The first two books by Dürer portray technique for accurately representing the bodily proportions of humans in a variety of sizes, shapes, and ages. Dürer’s third book continues his exploration of mathematical principles and the direct relationship to human proportions. Building significantly on the mathematical principles and artistic explorations of books one, two, and three, Dürer’s fourth book invaluably links geometry and the human form in movement.
The copy of Della simmetria de i corpi humani, libri quattro by Albrecht Dürer and translated by Giovanni Paolo Gallucci acquired by SCUA is the Italian first edition and first issue published in 1591. The ownership of the book adds an interesting peculiarity and invaluableness to its condition; the specific copy, possessed by Giovanni Antonio Barca, contains annotations by the owner in his own preparation to publish on the subject. Barca drew from and manipulated the theories and work of Dürer, yet Barca did not include direct attribution to Dürer for intellectual contribution to his work. The influence, however, is undeniable.
-Written by Alexandra Mueller, Special Projects Archivist
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, burgeoning revolutionaries in book production, including William Morris, Sir Emery Walker, Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson, and C. H. St. John Hornby, perceived a degradation and lack of painstaking care and integrity in printing (Oxenbridge Press, n.d.). The sour taste of commercialistic practices led early visionary William Morris to implement bygone principles of veracity in the selection of materials and the application of quality techniques to produce beautiful books. William Morris set stone for a revitalization of book printing as one of the first prominent figures to emerge in the private press movement at the turn of the twentieth century. The private press allowed for detail and design to flourish, with an emphasis on typography, illumination, and binding practices, and several private presses responsible for producing distinguished historical typographies (Roylance, 1991).
William Morris’s Kelmscott Press of 1891 proved revolutionary; it served as a catalyst for the development of the prestigious related private presses of the Doves Press and the Ashendene Press (William Doyle Galleries, 2020). Morris and the Kelmscott Press prized the art of book printing, from procuring the finest materials, to creating intricate, decorative illuminations, to binding volumes precisely by hand (Roylance, 1991). The Kelmscott Press utilized the uniquely created Golden, Troy, and Chaucer typefaces in their publications. The Golden typeface was a Roman iteration, while Troy and Chaucer had roots in Gothic form (Peddie, 1915). Morris worked closely in partnership with Sir Emery Walker, a masterful typographer, in his creation of Golden. As the private press movement evolved, and Morris passed away, Walker joined forces with Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson to form the Doves Press. Cobden-Sanderson and Walker paired complementarily – Walker produced typefaces and other stylistic elements, and Cobden-Sanderson spearheaded the task of binding volumes. The Doves typeface appears with great notoriety in the printing of the Doves Bible, and whose form spawned from the Roman leanings of Nicolas Jenson, a shared influence to the Kelmscott Golden (Potter, 1938).
The Ashendene Press surfaced on the eve of the twentieth century, developed in 1894 by C. H. St. John Hornby who was a close follower and admirer of Morris (Roylance, 1991). Walker, once again a seemingly omnipresent and influential force in the purview of the private press, developed for Hornby a typeface so characteristic and inherent to the image of Ashendene that forever defined their publications. The Subiaco typeface stemmed from the Roman influences of Sweynheym and Pannartz, and is considered the shining element of the Ashendene Press’ folio printing of Dante. The Dante also claims elaborate illustrations collaboratively created by renowned artist C. M. Gere and woodcutter W. H. Hooper (Potter, 1938). Other remarkable folios produced by the Ashendene Press include Boccacio, Malory, Thucydides, and Spenser (William Doyle Galleries, 2020).
C. H. St. John Hornby operated the Ashendene Press for forty years, spanning from 1894 to 1935, with its home in Chelsea, England. Hornby and the Ashendene Press produced approximately sixty volumes during its tenure prior to the disbandment of the press after World War I (Roylance, 1991).