Category: Rare Books

Isaac Newton’s Work on Calculus – De analysi (1711)

This is the first of a series of blog posts highlighting notable books from SCUA’s rare book collection brought to light during the preparation for an ongoing retrospective cataloging project, where card catalog records are converted to computerized records for materials held before computer cataloging began. The title described below was discovered in a sub-basement storage location being used as a temporary holding area. It is of interest to note that the item has a check-out sleeve pasted into the back cover indicating that it was at one time in the past part of the library’s circulating collection.

Special Collections and University Archives holds a copy of Isaac Newton’s Analysis per Quantitatum Series, Fluxiones, ac Differentias: cum Enumeratione Linearum Tertii Ordinis (London: Pearson, 1711), the first edition of the third of Newton’s major works on physics and mathematics, following Principia (1687) and Opticks (1704).

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Kelmscottiana: Books Owned and Published by William Morris

Special Collections and University Archives has recently enlarged its holdings of materials related to British designer William Morris (1834-1896), including the purchase of two printed leaves from Kelmscott Press’s The works of Geoffrey Chaucer and the cataloguing of a sixteenth century book printed by Wynken de Worde that was previously part of Morris’s personal library at Kelmscott House.

Ex libris: From the library of William Morris

Bookplate
[Bookplate on interior cover, Andrew Chertsey, The floure of the commaundementes of god (London: Wynken de Worde, 1510), BV4655 .F55 1510, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.]
During recent conservation work, staff noted the presence of William Morris’s bookplate in a copy of Andrew Chertsey’s translated Floure of the commandments of God (ESTC S117724). The notable printer Wynken de Worde (d. 1534) printed this book at his London print shop on Fleet Street on September 13, 1510. The text was translated from the French La fleur des commandements de Dieu (1496), and it recounts stories of disobedient behavior and terrible punishments, with the aim to frighten readers into virtuous living. The bookseller’s description is tipped in on the inside cover which states that, “every story almost, partakes of the marvellous to a greater or less extent, and as persuasives they should prove successful, provided of course the receptive mind had a little of the 15th century credulity in such matters.”

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New Acquisition: 1564 Spanish Antiphonary

Special Collections and University Archives has recently acquired a sixteenth-century Spanish antiphonary, a liturgical book containing the sung parts of the Divine Office. Chants include the antiphons sung with the psalms and canticles; the responsories of Matins and Vespers; and sometimes the hymns.

Page open to book of music.
[Readings for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, M2148 .L4 1564, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.]
The musical notation is in black nota quadrata on five line staves in red, with Latin text and rubrics. The book is printed on thick, imperfect parchment, bearing marks of stitched repairs and deep follicles. Illustrations include colored initials and decorative vignettes throughout. The book measures 51 x 34 cm. It is bound in embossed leather with intact bronze bosses (corner and center pieces) and clasps. The leather binding has been restored at the spine and foredges of the boards. A bookplate is pasted onto the interior of the back cover that reads, “Gabinetto di Restauro del Libro dell’Abbazia di Praglia,” which likely identifies the source of the restoration work. It is an imperfect copy, missing some leaves throughout.
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New Acquisition: Leaf Printed by William Caxton, 1482

Special Collections and University Archives is pleased to announce the recent acquisition of an incunabula leaf from the Polychronicon printed by William Caxton (c. 1422-1491), the English printer who notably brought the first printing press to England in 1476.

Printed leaf in Gothic face with initials and paragraphs added by hand in red ink.
[D17 .H6 1482, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.]
The Polychronicon was a popular work written by Ranulf Higden (c. 1280-1364), a Benedictine monk of Chester, which chronicled the history of the world and was primarily adapted from the Bible. This newly acquired leaf is from the first edition of this work printed by Caxton at his press in Westminster after July 2, 1482. John of Trevisa (1342-1402) first translated the Polychronicon from the original Latin into English in the late fourteenth century, a text that has been useful in the study of the English language and medieval access to Biblical ideas through the vernacular. Caxton printed Trevisa’s English translation, but he also updated the text and “somewhat changed the rude and old English” to account for linguistic changes that had occurred over the century.

This leaf contains text from chapter 12 of book 4 of the Polychronicon, which recounts history during the life of the Roman Emperor Domitian. The leaf measures 11 x 8.25” and the text is composed of 40 lines in Gothic type with red rubrics and paragraph flourishes. The leaf also includes marginal annotations in a contemporary hand. Caxton’s printed leaf supports research in the material history of the book and printing in the West and joins other examples of early printing available in the rare book collection.

New Acquisition: La Chymie Charitable et Facile en Faveur des Dames, 1687

Engraving showing a robed woman pulling back a curtain to show books and vessels.
[Frontispiece, QD14 .M48 1674, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.]
Special Collections and University Archives has recently acquired a copy of La Chymie Charitable et Facile en Faveur des Dames (Free and Easy Chemistry for Ladies), a treatise by French chemist and alchemist Marie Meurdrac (c. 1610-1680).
Meurdrac’s La Chymie is a notable work in the history of early modern science and is especially noteworthy as a contribution by a woman in the field. The text was first published in 1656 in Paris and subsequently published in five more French editions and translated into German and Italian. SCUA’s copy is one of the third edition printed in 1687, which is the first edition to contain an illustrated frontispiece depicting a Classically-robed woman theatrically pulling back a curtain to reveal books and vessels associated with chemical experimentation.

Classification of La Chymie’s genre has been actively debated and negotiated by twentieth-century scholars. The text addresses (1) principles and operations, vessels, lutes, furnaces, characteristics and weights, (2) medical herbs and medicines made from such plants, (3) animals, (4) metals, (5) making compound medicines, and (6) methods of preserving and increasing beauty for women. It primarily describes the language, equipment, recipes, and processes of alchemy, including a fold-out plate depicting a reference table of alchemical symbols (pictured below). These processes are also related to early modern chemistry, and recent interrogations of the boundaries of historical disciplines has allowed scholars to consider the work as an amalgamation of early modern genres including recipe or “receipt” books, medical cookery, alchemy, chemistry, and medicine (Feinstein, 2009).

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