Archive for October, 2008

Hill Memorial Library closed on November 8th

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Hill Memorial Library will be closed on Saturday, November 8, due to the early kickoff time of the LSU-Alabama football game. The last day of the exhibition “After Katrina” will be moved up to Friday, November 7.

The Tower of Babel

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Athanasius Kircher, Turris Babel (1679)

Like Leonardo da Vinci, the German scholar Athanasius Kircher (ca. 1601-1680) was a true “Renaissance man.” Interested in both the arts and sciences, he wrote several dozen books on everything from medicine and geology to Egypt, cryptography, Noah’s Ark, and musical harmony. Kircher was especially interested in the history of languages, and just a year before his death, he published Turris Babel, a history of the Tower of Babel.

LSU Special Collections recently acquired a copy of this important work for the library’s Rare Book Collection.

According to the Bible, the people of Babylon attempted to build a huge tower that would reach all the way to heaven. After learning that they were constructing the tower for their own glory rather than His, however, God punished the Babylonians by making them all speak different languages. No longer able to communicate with each other, they stopped work on the tower, left Babylon, and went their separate ways. The tower not only became a symbol for human pride, but also helped explain the origin of languages.

In Turris Babel, Kircher suggested that rather than creating hundreds of languages at one stroke, God preserved Hebrew, which continued to be spoken by the descendants of Noah’s son Shem, and then created four new languages, which he assigned to the descendants of Noah’s other sons. These languages subsequently split apart even further over time, resulting in all the languages that are spoken today. Kircher singled out a few languages for special attention in the second half of his book. Considered the father of Egyptology, he was especially interested in Egyptian hieroglyphics, and he expands on one of his earlier works on this subject here.

Also of interest are several large engravings depicting the Tower of Babel, the hanging gardens of Babylon, the labyrinth of the Minotaur at Knossos, and other mythical sites. Visitors are welcome to use this book in the special collections reading room during the library’s regular hours.

– Michael Taylor, Assistant Curator of Books

Dr. Moon’s Alphabet for the Blind

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

Dr. Moon's Alphabet for the Blind

When most people think of printing for the blind, Braille is the first thing that comes to mind. Few are aware that another system was developed almost at the same time.

In 1845, William Moon, a young man who had lost his sight after being stricken with scarlet fever, developed a system of embossed (raised) printing that would make it possible for the blind to read with their fingers. In comparison to the French inventor Louis Braille’s system, Moon’s letters (which were based on Roman letterforms) were easier for individuals who had not been born blind to learn to read. Thanks to the financial support of his blind patron, Sir Charles Lowther, Dr. Moon’s name soon became known around the world. A complete English Bible, in sixty volumes, was produced, as well as other materials in over 400 languages. When the Duchess of Gloucester, daughter of the late King George III, visited Moon’s home, she supposedly wept — her father, a dedicated reader, had spent the last years of his life in misery, partly due to blindness. A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Moon also pioneered the production of maps for the blind, such as the one of the British Isles seen here.

Apart from Braille, the Moon alphabet is the only system of writing for the blind that is still taught today.

LSU Special Collections recently acquired a copy of In Memoriam, a privately printed book published in 1873 by William Moon’s wife, Anna Maria Moon. The volume contains memorials to several members of her family as well as three specimens of Moon printing, including one with a portion of the Lord’s Prayer in twelve different languages.

– Michael Taylor, Assistant Curator of Books

New Orleans photographer Donn Young to give presentation

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Sunrise over the Ninth Ward, New Orleans, by photographer Donn Young

In the weeks and months after Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, photographer Donn Young worked to document the disaster and its effect on the people of New Orleans. Young will show and talk about his work on Thursday, October 16, at 4:30 p.m. in the Lecture Hall of Hill Memorial Library.

Young’s multi-media presentation shows the aftermath of the storm: a once vibrant city shrouded in darkness, the 9th Ward and the Lakeview neighborhood where he lived transformed into ghost towns. He introduces us to the hard-working, home-owning Americans who abruptly had no place to call home. He documents the effects on social structures – religion, health care, social services – as well as the civil liberties and civil rights of New Orleanians trying to return and rebuild. He will discuss the role and responsibility of the photographer as journalist and artist in the midst of the disaster and attempts to recover. Young’s post-Katrina work, as well as materials salvaged from the ruins of his Lakeview home and studio, are on display in Hill in the exhibition “After Katrina” through November 8.

A reception and exhibition viewing will follow Young’s presentation. This event is free and open to the public.

Special Collections acquires rare 16th-century editions of Vergil and Calvin

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

Vergil and Calvin

In 1513, Gavin Douglas, a son of the fifth Earl of Angus, completed his translation of the Aeneid, Vergil’s epic account of the founding of Rome, into Scots, a dialect of English spoken in the area around Edinburgh and Glasgow. Written in heroic couplets, this work was the first metrical translation of a classical work to appear in English and was much acclaimed in its time. At the end of the poem, Douglas tacked on his translation of the so-called “Thirteenth Book” of the Aeneid, a continuation of Vergil’s poem written by Maffeo Vegio in the 15th century.

After circulating in manuscript for many years, Douglas’ poem was finally published in 1553 as The XIII Bukes of Eneados of the Famose Poete Vergill Translatet out of Latyne Verses into Scottish Metir. LSU Libraries’ Special Collections recently acquired a copy of this important work. Of particular interest in this copy are the numerous marginal notes in several early hands, as well as a page of handwritten notes pasted in at the end of the book which appear to pertain to word choices and spelling.

Another new acquisition is a rare 1548 edition of the philosopher and Protestant reformer John Calvin’s The Mynde of the Godly and Excellent Lerned Man M. Ihon Caluyne. First published in Geneva in 1543, this is Calvin’s scathing attack on French Protestants who avoided persecution by outwardly conforming to the Roman Catholic Church. It was the second of Calvin’s works to appear in English and is one of only nine surviving books to have been printed at Ipswich by John Oswen, whom King Edward VI had authorized to print religious texts, including works by reformers like Calvin.

With the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth coming up in 2009, Special Collections is pleased to announce its acquisition of this exceptionally rare book.

– Michael Taylor, Assistant Curator of Books

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