The University Record, April 5, 1999

Eclectic mix of favorites includes cartoons, Bible

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services
'More [students] are going for a four-year degree and immediately into the workforce,' Lynn Rivers told the audience during a panel discussion at the Jerome B. Weisner Symposium last week. Photos by Bob Kalmbach

There aren't any "whiskers on kittens" or "warm woolen mittens" among Arlene Shy's favorite things at the Clements Library, but there is an eclectic mix of prints in what she has chosen from the Library's vast holdings to include in an exhibit now under way.

"My Favorite Things: Treasures of Graphic Art in the Clements Library" offers a brief glimpse across five centuries of materials, beginning with Psalms 64 and 65 in The Gutenberg Bible (c. 1455), considered "the first printed book." "Gutenberg's epochal achievement, just decades before Columbus' voyages, made possible the rapid dissemination of information about America that would revolutionize European civilization," says Shy, head of reader services and the Library's first print curator.

Fine woodcuts illustrate the Nuremburg Chronicle's depiction of biblical scenes, sacred genealogies, medieval legends of sub-human monsters, contemporary views of European cities, a Ptolemaic world map and maps of Europe.

The illustrations, from accounts of the New World--cataloguing and describing varieties of plants, animals, minerals and people--to Sebastian Brant's 1497 The Ship of Fools carry the viewer through various explorations. Marco Polo's 1496 Description of the World is an account of his travels from the Mongol capital Karakorum to China and southeastern Asia. "If Marco Polo did not travel to all the places he described," says Shy, "and even if he told some fantastic tales, his travels remain invaluable."

Some of the finest elements of manuscript illumination are displayed in the 17th century document by which King James I raised Sir Edward Rich to the peerage. Rich's family were among the early investors in the Virginia Company. And John Smith's The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles is the first attempt to write a history of the English in America with a title page featuring an engraved fanciful map of the Atlantic coast from modern North Carolina to Maine's Castine Peninsula.

Caricatures, cartoons and political satire became popular with the public. But it was Paul Revere's 1770 engraving of the Boston Massacre depicting Captain Thomas Preston and seven British Redcoats firing rifles into a small group of innocent, unarmed Boston citizens, three fallen to the ground, blood pouring from their mortal wounds, that was, according to Shy, "dynamite."

The exhibit does include the only known copy of an engraving from the 1830s depicting President Andrew Jackson as the "Great Father."

The last and most colorful item in the exhibit is E.E. Rice's "Surprise Party," a theater poster as colorful as the burlesque it promoted.

"My Favorite Things" is available for viewing 1-4:45 p.m. Mon.-Fri. at the Clements Library, or by appointment 764-2347 through June 30. Admission is free.