Category: Rare Books

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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New Acquisition | Ars vitraria experimentalis oder Vollkommene Glaßmacher-Kunst (The Art of Perfect Glassmaking)

The Rare Books Collection in Special Collections and University Archives has received a fine addition of Ars vitraria experimentalis, one of three chief works by the German court alchemist, pharmacist, and glassmaker Johann Kunckel von Löwenstern (approx. 1630-1703).

Historical Background

Born sometime around 1630, Johann Kunckel was the son of a master glassmaker and learned the art and the chemistry of glassmaking from his father and other glassmakers. In 1670, Kunckel began his alchemical career in Dresden working on the problem of transmuting metals. In 1677, Kunckel left Saxony, having never been paid the salary promised by his employer, Elector Johann Georg II. The next phase of his career took place in Brandenburg, where he directed the laboratory and glassworks there as part of the country’s economic initiative to process domestic raw materials and export as many of the finished products as possible. Brandenburg had an effective ban on imported goods, and the Elector Friedrich Wilhelm stressed the importance of high-quality glass production. Kunckel succeeded in this area through his technical improvements to the process of making ruby (red glass) and his rigorous work Ars vitraria experimentalis, which included his translation and editing of the few previously available specialist works on glassmaking, as well as all of his own knowledge on the subject.

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Lecture | The Social Lives of the Ethiopian Psalter

The Social Lives of the Ethiopian Psalter

A lecture by Professor Steve Delamarter, George Fox University
Thursday, October 4th, 2018 • 4:00 p.m.
Knight Library, Special Collections & University Archives Kesey Classroom

Dr. Delamarter will discuss his efforts in quantitative codicology, looking at about 1,600 Ethiopian Psalters to identify chronological and geographic developments in book culture. He will also spend time assisting the Special Collections Department with cataloging its holdings of Ethiopian manuscripts.

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New Acquisition: A Sammelband of Four Works by Johann Joachim Becher, 1680

Special Collections and University Arvhives is pleased to announce the acquisition of a collection of works by the German polymath Johann Joachim Becher (1635-1682), including Experimentum Chymicum Novum: Quo Artificialis & Instantanea Metallorum Generatio Et Transmutatio, Nochmaliger Zusatz über die Unter-erdische Naturkündigung, Oedipus Chymicus oder Chymischer Rätseldeuter, and Trifolium.

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