Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Center’s collection has two copies of Alciati’s Emblematica, both printed in 1591 by the Leiden branch of the Plantin printing dynasty. Surprisingly, however, these two books are not actually the same edition. The publisher, it seems, printed two different versions of this emblem book during the same year, very likely targeting different audiences with each edition. The first copy of this text, recently gifted to the Center by Carol and Robert Kaske as part of a very large donation, is a quarto volume bound in what looks like seventeenth century mottled sheep with gilt stamped ornaments on the spine. The other volume is much smaller, a duodecimo edition bound in eighteenth century calf only just acquired by the Center at the New England Book Auction. Though very different editions, both Alciatis are historically significant. In fact Alciati’s Little Emblem Book was foundational to the emblem book craze that swept through Europe in the sixteenth century.

 Andrea Alciati, (1492-1550) was a celebrated legal scholar, humanist, and pedagogue, born in Alzata near Milan in 1492.  Recognized as a kind of prodigy from an early age, Alciati was only twenty-four years old when he received his doctorate in law from the University of Ferrara. His De Verborum Significatione (On the Signification of Words) was an important work which combined humanist philology with Alciati’s impressive knowledge of ancient law (Erasmus, Budé, along with many other important humanists, regarded this text with great admiration). His collected works in four volumes were published in Basel in 1549, and his commentaries and studies set the direction for the study of civil law during his lifetime and beyond. But it was another book that kept his reputation alive long after his work on Roman law ceased to be well known—the Emblematum liber, or  the Book of Emblems, which he apparently composed in his spare time between teaching and writing on law and philology. This work is a collection of 212 Latin emblem poems, each consisting of a motto (a proverb or other short enigmatic expression), a picture, and an epigrammatic text which invites the reader to decipher the poem/picture’s hidden meaning. Alciati's book was first published in 1531 and was expanded in various editions during the author's lifetime. Its publication began a fad for emblem poetry that lasted well into the late eighteenth century. Yet when the Emblemata was first published in 1531, it may have been unauthorized by Alciati. This first edition featured illustrations by Jorg Breu written for Alciati’s text, but the original idea of uniting poetry with images likely came from the publisher, Conrad Peutinger (1465-1547).

Not for you, for the God!


Alciati’s short verses probably began their lives as translations or variations on fables and poems from the Greek Anthology. What would become a book on emblems, then, originated as a kind of classical imitatio. The emblems may even have originally been intended to be epigrams, but they gradually became a kind of riddling, moral poem; though Alciati was certainly a visual thinker, it appears that his emblems were written first and only later connected to images. In fact, the later three part division of the emblem into motto, picture, and verse doesn’t really hold water in the case of the Emblematum liber, and most of the author’s verses can stand on their own unaccompanied by images: editions published in 1548, 1558, and 1582 feature no illustrations whatsoever. This does not imply that there is no connection between poem and image, however. Often the emblems actually describe pictures or works of art (in the ekphrastic tradition of the Greek Anthology), so that the visual image is in a sense generated by the text itself. Yet the relation of picture and text is never fixed: some emblems have text in tension with the picture, some have texts that may refer to the picture (that expand on it), and some have pictures that literally describe the text. There is, then, no stable relationship between motto, picture, and text, as can be found in later emblem books.

Many of the early images are comparatively easy to interpret and have simple morals. Emblem three, for example, features an elk raising its hooves with a Latin motto which translates into “never postpone anything.” 


The epigram relates the story of when Alexander was asked how he accomplished so much, he claimed it was because he never desired to delay. The Elk with the raised hooves was actually the sign of the Alciati family, and the moral of the epigram is clearly advising readers not to procrastinate. Other emblems are more complex, such as emblem two hundred and twelve, the two-colored popular tree. This emblem states, “Herculeos crines bicolor quod Populus ornet, Temporis alternat noxque diesque vices. Because Hercules wears the two colored poplar in his hair, both night and day alternate in time.” The suggestion seems to be that they who lose now are destined for victory later, and they who are victorious now will later lose. The wheel of fortune ever turns. But obviously this interpretation isn’t the only meaning possible, and the later images tend to be extraordinarily multivalent. Readers are invited by the text to discern hidden meanings that aren’t readily apparent.

This multivaliancy likely contributed to the Emblem Book’s popularity, and although the first edition was likely not originally published with the author’s permission, the work sold well. Taking advantage of the works popularity, in 1534, Alciati prepared a more official, authorized version with the same publisher but with redesigned illustrations. The book kept selling throughout the 1530s and far beyond, and Alciati published a further sequence of illustrations in 1546 to meet the demand of his new readership. In fact, Alciati’s book proved so popular that between 1531 and the last edition of 1790, the Emblemata went through 130 editions printed by numerous printers located in a variety of different countries.

 For instance, both of the Center’s editions were printed by Franciscus Raphelengius (1539-1597), a Flemish-born Dutch scholar, printer, and bookseller. Raphelengius was based in Leiden and was the patriarch of the Raphelengius printing family as well as the son-in-law of the renowned printer, Christopher Plantin—from whom Ralphelengius had initially inherited his press. Christopher Plantin, of course, had originally established himself in Leiden after his previous office in Antwerp had been plundered in the so-called “Spanish Fury” of 1576 (the beleaguered printer had been forced to pay an immense ransom to the occupying Spanish forces in order to recover his tools and goods). When the political situation eventually calmed down, Plantin retuned to Antwerp, leaving his son-in-law to manage the Leiden office while he oversaw his company’s original headquarters. Both of the Center’s editions of Alciati reflect this turbulent history in important ways.
For instance, each of the Center’s Emblematicas are illustrated with the second set of woodcuts produced for Christopher Plantin’s 1577 version of Alciati’s text. It was common practice for publishers to quickly produce emblem books by reusing whatever images were on hand in the printing house, usually woodcuts or engravings left over from previous works. But that wasn’t what Plantin did for his edition. Instead of refurbishing previous illustrations, the 1577 Plantin Emblematica reproduced most of the original woodcuts from the texts overseen by Alciati. The only images significantly altered were the tree emblems found in the final third of the emblem book. The original tree illustrations were much more literal interpretations of Alciati’s verses—they depict whatever activity is referenced in the poem, and are thus effectively analogous to the riddling verbal icons written by the author. The Plantin tree illustrations, on the other hand, are just images of trees without any human elements being directly depicted. Thus, with the exception of the trees, both of the Center’s editions are relatively faithful to Alciati, but they also have their origins in editions initially printed by Raphelengius’ more famous father-in-law.




Yet beyond the illustrations, the two editions are actually quite dissimilar. Aside from being larger, the quarto edition’s woodcuts are surrounded by a number of detailed ornaments and frames which are entirely absent in the duodecimo volume. More importantly, while both editions feature the commentary of Claude Mignault, the quarto edition’s paratextual apparatuses are much more extensive. Both editions feature Mignault’s explications of Alciati’s text, but the smaller edition places the commentary after Alciati’s poems and their accompanying images, while the larger quarto provides the explication immediately after each woodcut and verse. Surrounded by a scholarly apparatus, the quarto’s language and images are much more explicitly mediated compared to the smaller book. Yet at the same time, this scholarly apparatus also lends the text a certain weight and authority; it frames these little poems as something worthy of scholarly attention and interpretation. The duodecimo volume is also missing the commentator’s “Letter to the Studious and Honest Reader.” In its place is a life of Alciati, written by Mignault, but not found in the quarto edition. These differences point to the likely reason why Raphelengius printed two separate editions of the same book in the same year: they are each aimed at different audiences. The smaller book seems directed toward a broader readership, one more interested in deciphering Alciati’s riddles then in the rhetorical theory underlying the pedagogical effectiveness of visual images. This is the same audience that would have appreciated the biography of the author in place of a letter explicitly directed at an audience defined by its learning and studious habits.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I’m going to devote this post to looking at a few examples of printing from the Aldine Press. Aldine editions of classical literature were both essential for the dissemination of ancient learning during the Renaissance and extremely innovative in terms of the changes they brought to typography and the physical form of the book. Besides the fact that many important classical texts initially saw print as one of his Aldines, Aldus Manutius (1449-1515) was the first printer to issue reliable Greek and Latin texts in the affordable octavo size, allowing learning to reach a much wider audience than previously possible. Even more famously, italic fonts were first invented and commissioned for these editions. There is no question that Renaissance humanism would not have had the same influence without the existence of these famous books, and, in a sense, all affordable editions of classical texts, whether Penguin Classics or from the Loeb Classical Library, are heirs to the tradition established by Manutius.



Printed in Venice from 1515-16 and edited by the Venetian humanist, poet, and diplomat, Andrea Navagero (1483-1529), this three volume set is the second Aldine edition of Ovid’s works. Unfortunately, it is bound in nineteenth-century black morocco with red leather doublures—a beautiful but not contemporaneous binding.



Ovid, of course, is best known for his Metamorphoses, a poem in fifteen books featuring narratives primarily drawn from classical legend in which characters undergo miraculous transformations and transfigurations. Yet Ovid also composed collections of sophisticated love elegies called the Amores, a collection of epistles in elegiac couplets in the voice of famous women called the Heroides, a manual on the arts of seduction called Ars Amatoria,  and a poetic account of the Roman religious calendar known as the Fasti. Like his contemporaries (or near contemporaries) Horace and Virgil, Ovid lived during the transformative reign of the first Emperor of Rome, Augustus. However, the licentiousness, eroticism, and rebellious nature of his work contrasts sharply with the high-minded seriousness characteristic of the Augustan period. At odds with the severe morality inculcated by the Emperor, Ovid fell out of favor and was banished to Tomis on the Black Sea where the famously cosmopolitan and urbane poet spent the reminder of his life in miserable exile.



The second item I want to show here is one the jewels of the Center’s collection. This Aldine 1503 Euripides is the first collected edition of the dramatist’s works, the editio princeps for many of the great tragedian’s works.




Among the most significant dramatists in classical antiquity, Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of ancient Athens, along with Sophocles and Aeschylus.Within classical tragedy, Euripides is famous for depicting female characters and other figures that were frequently marginalized by Athenian society. Because of this emphasis, he is often thought of as the classical tragedian that has the most to say to modern society. Euripides composed between ninety-two and ninety-five plays, of which eighteen or nineteen (the play Rhesus is contested) have survived, a transmission made possible in part because of this edition. The title page of this Aldine claims that it contains sixteen plays, but there are actually seventeen, with Hercules Furens added at the end of the second volume. Electra, one of the dramatist’s most important works, unfortunately isn’t included here (Electra’s editio princeps wouldn’t be printed until 1545). Like the Ovid shown above, this book is bound nineteenth-century black morocco with red leather doublures.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

We’ve had an extraordinarily busy February at the Renaissance Center, and I’ve been pressed for time to compose new posts. But things have finally slowed down here, and I am going to use this space to tell you about one of my favorite items in the Center’s collection, our 1609 edition of the works of John Jewel.  This is relatively common book, but its interesting marginalia has allowed me to trace some of its provenience back to the early seventeenth century.   

 John Jewel (1522-1571), the Bishop of Salisbury, was an influential theologian, famous for codifying and defending the doctrines of the Anglican Church. His most significant work, the 1562 Apology for the Church of England is both a statement of faith and a strong rebuttal to those who challenged the legitimacy of the Anglican Church. Jewel’s writings were first collected and published in a folio edition in 1609 when Richard Bancroft ordered his Apology to be placed in all Anglican churches. The Center’s copy of this edition (our collection actually holds multiple copies of this work in addition to the volume you see on this blog) is in contemporary calf with elaborate blind tooling on its cover. The volume’s title page is inscribed with, "This book belongs to ye parish of Reepham, Ita testor Sam. Gardiner rectr,” letting readers know that this copy was indeed at one time chained to a lectern.

Using this marginalia as a starting point, I looked through some of records available at the Center and discovered that the fifth volume of Edmund Farrer’s The Church Heraldry of Norfolk records a tombstone that reads, “Here lyth ye Body of Samuel Gardiner, Gent., late Rector of Reepham who departed this life the 16th day of May, aged 65.” This book clearly once belonged to one of the three historic churches of Reepham, Norfolk, institutions of worship that are still in use today.  This book’s marginalia, then, provides a glimpse at how it was used and read close to the date of its publication.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Ben Jonson Folios II: Constructing Authorship

In 1616, Ben Jonson, along with publisher William Stansby, produced the first folio of English plays, embarking on a bold act of self-promotion, establishing Jonson as a kind of authority figure over all his work—a status previously reserved in the Renaissance for classical and sacred authors. The folio format itself, a medium for works meant to endure such as bibles, is just one of many ways in which Jonson claims authority. It is not difficult to see why Jonson ventured down this daring path: Jonson was himself daring. In his early life, he apprenticed as a bricklayer, was eventually educated at Westminster School by the great classical scholar William Camden, served in the military in what is today Belgium, defeated a Spanish shoulder in mortal combat, killed a fellow actor in a duel, pleaded the clergy to escape execution, and was involved in numerous public disputes with fellow actors, writers, and censors. Jonson, indeed, had a ferocious temperament and weighty convictions. And it was these two characteristics, coupled with his fervent respect and admiration for classics such as Horace, Ovid, and Virgil, that manifested within Jonson the need to prove that all his work was just that, work, in line with the classical authors he admired so much. Framing plays in this way, as works, was a new, even radical, way of understanding English drama and those who created it.

William Camden: Jonson's teacher
(Engraving taken from the Center's collection)

This dedication to Camden serves the dual purpose of thanking Jonson's teacher while also advertising the author's learnedness
Jonson was deeply implicated in the commercial theater of London, but was also uncomfortable with the ramifications of his involvement.This separation and connection to the theater of the English Renaissance, as well as Jonson’s claim that he is a poet of worth, is highlighted immediately in the magnificent, dignified, and elaborate portrait of Jonson in the frontispiece of all three folios.  Looking at even the last posthumous edition of Jonson’s works (1692), a clear link exists between Jonson and the classics he venerates. Surrounding his portrait, written in Latin, are the printed words, “Vera Effigies Doctissimi Poetarvm Anglorvm Ben: Iohnsoni,” translating to, “The True Image of the Learned English Poet Ben Jonson.” The addition of the learned language Latin, as well as the prestigious claim to be a “learned English poet,” illustrates Jonson’s own understanding of himself as an artist, more than a mere playwright, worthy of the same respect and admiration Renaissance culture gave to authors like Virgil. In the portrait, Jonson is resplendent in outstanding, expensive clothes, and crowned with a laurel, which in ancient Greece was awarded to the winner of weighty poetry competitions, a vibrant sign of status. The laurel and its link to classical authors, the magnificent clothes, and the Latin are by no means accidental additions, but rather judiciously planned elements creating within the engraving an image of importance, a perception Jonson hopes his readers will also accept. Jonson and his publishers present the author as a historical presence, attaining a status high above his bricklaying background, a figure transcending the culturally accepted characteristics of the early modern literary world. 
Frontispiece of 1692 folio
The 1616 folio’s title page specifically excludes the theaters of contemporary London while aligning the author with the concept of theater itself. To the left of the book’s title is the word “PLAVSTRM”- carved with an image of Thepis driving a pageant wagon, and on the right, labeled “VISORIVM,” a Greek chorus in a round auditorium is depicted. Directly above the page is a Roman theater, marked ‘THEATRVM.” London’s contemporary theaters of the Blackfrairs, Globe, or Fortune are not to be seen. Contemporary theaters do, however, show up later within the Folio. At the end of selected plays, Jonson lists the acting groups who first performed the plays in question. Listing the theaters of London was an unusual technique in the Renaissance, especially for Jonson, and particularly in a folio, but it illustrates a very important point: by listing these groups Jonson subscribes to no single theater group; instead, Jonson is an employer of actors as opposed to an employee. 
A play quarto compared to a folio
The folios are much more than a random collection of material; rather, they are entities unto themselves. Jonson, in the editing process, was diligent and judicious in his actions, including within his plays’ dedications, arguments, character lists, and extensive scene breaks. Alongside Stansby, Jonson edited and corrected the majority of proofs in the printing house, constantly making minor changes to spelling and punctuation, elements printers of the period often ignored. This was of extraordinary importance to Jonson and Stansby; they were assiduous even in their use of italics and capitalization to achieve the highest degree of consistency possible. For instance, headers are capitalized and character names in plays are italicized. During the lengthy printing process, over 2,500 changes were made to the folio. Jonson’s interest in these changes went far beyond simple grammatical correction; rather, for Jonson, the spelling and preciseness of his words were essential for the overall meaning of his plays, the aspect Jonson considered most important in his work. 
From the second edition of Jonson's folio
After over a year of toil, Jonson’s folio, containing an extensive 1,015 pages, 9 plays, 2 works of non-dramatic poetry, 13 masques, and 6 entertainments, was published in 1616. Posthumous editions followed the example Jonson established, as Richard Bishop and Richard Meighan, the printers of the 1640-1 texts, and Thomas Hodgkin, the printer of the 1692 folio, attempt to stay as close both conceptually and aesthetically as possible to his 1616 folio. This is evident in not only the style of the folios, the careful preciseness of words, headers, italics, and capitalization, but also in the inclusion of dedications for Bartholomew Fair, The Devil is an Ass, and The Staple of News, that Jonson wrote before he died. Jonson’s involvement in the editing process of this lengthy folio further illustrates his belief in the substantial merit of his work.
The table of contents of the 1692 folio
The folios were a success, selling well, and establishing what Jonson wanted most, a historical legacy. In the same year his first folio was published, Jonson became Poet Laureate, receiving a royal pension. The success of the Jonson folio also established a market for folio texts of English dramas, paving the way for Shakespeare’s 1623 posthumous first folio. Because of this success, Jonson’s fate is irrevocably involved with the consumerism he despised; however, by using print, he gained the patronage he desired. It is in his folio, and authorial possession of his plays, that he also takes possession of all his work, molding it from ephemera to intellectual property. As Joseph Lowenstein describes in his book Ben Jonson and Possessive Authorship, “Jonson imagines (constructs, yearns toward) nothing less than what modern law recognizes (constructs, imagines) as the moral right of authorship.” Jonson’s folios clearly contribute to how he and his society constructed authorship, and possibly more importantly, the way in which Jonson constructed authorship plays a noteworthy historical role in our contemporary construction of the concept of authorial authority.
The title page of the Center's 1692 folio




Ben Jonson Folios

In the next few posts, I explore Jonson’s folio publications, showing that this audacious act of self-promotion is an attempt by Jonson to claim authority over all his work. Also, I argue that the 1616 folio, and by extension the folios of 1640-1 and 1692, are in one sense separated from the world of the public theater and yet inevitably connected to it. The folios produced posthumously, and the additions they published for the first time, add to this duel sense of connection to and separation from the public theater of the Renaissance. Although Jonson died years before the 1640 folio was produced, an examination of the folios of 1616, 1640-1, and 1692 illustrate that his agency remains fairly intact due to the publisher's use of the 1616 folio as a model for both posthumous editions.  

The Renaissance Center's collection contains two Jonson folios printed in the seventeenth century: one from 1640 and another from 1692


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Quarto Play: The First Edition of The Old Law, or A New Way to Please You

The Renaissance Center contains a large collection of items related to the commercial theater of sixteenth and seventeenth century London.  The book displayed here, for instance, is the first edition of The Old Law, or A New Way to Please You, a tragicomedy attributed to Thomas Middleton, William Rowley, and Philip Massinger on the book's title page. Though this quarto was initially published “for Edward Archer, at the signe of the Adam and Eve, in Little Britaine, 1656,” textual scholars have dated the play’s composition back about four decades before this publication. The exact nature of Massinger’s involvement has been disputed, and the play may have been written by Middleton and Rowley between 1614-18, and only later revised by Massinger for a different performance by the King’s Men.



Aside from the historical and literary significance of the play itself, this volume is famous for  containing "An exact and perfect catalogue of all the plaies that were ever printed,” a listing thought to be one of the earliest attempts to catalog the works of the English Renaissance theater (unfortunately, this catalog is missing from our copy, though it has been supplied in facsimile).  Another notable detail about this publication is how carelessly it was printed. The copy errors on page 64, for example, are easy to spot. 


Plays were important enough to catalog, it seems, but the carelessness of this edition may also point to the fact that the cultural space inhabited by commercial theater was still in flux during the time of this volume’s publication.  

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The post following this will continue to showcase our collection of works related to London’s commercial theater. Alex Bloom, an intern at the Center and a student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, will discuss a selection of Ben Jonson’s folios, detailing how these publications relate and contribute to the early modern construction of authorship. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Welcome to the official blog for the Massachusetts Center for Renaissance Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  The Renaissance Center is a locus for the study of the culture and achievements of the Renaissance period, one that contributes to the field of Renaissance studies through research, teaching, and outreach to the University of Massachusetts campus, the Five College community of the Pioneer Valley, and beyond. This blog will be concerned with our collection, a teaching library which includes 25,000 books and monographs related to the English and Continental Renaissance, including nearly a 1,000 hand pressed books printed between 1400-1700. Our library and special collections draw a diverse assortment of scholars and students, ranging from academics with international reputations researching projects to undergraduates from the Five College Community simply looking for an opportunity to handle early modern printed books.  It is my hope that this blog will be an informal and democratic space in which these students and scholars can discuss how objects in our collection relate to their research, explain which books in our collection interest them and why, or even just a place where people connected to the Center can write about topics and questions our library has helped them pursue. Just as importantly, I want this blog to demonstrate to readers the kinds of resources available at the Center, making them feel welcome into our vibrant scholarly community.

--David Katz

Curator at the Massachusetts Center for Renaissance Studies, Umass Amherst