Monday, February 11, 2008


Eagle motif in St. John’s Gospel:8th-century Northumbrian mss

Click through the picture to experience my disappointment in not finding a larger version of this wonderful image. Actually, to truly experience my disappointment you will need to (painlessly) register at the Parker Library site and then try searching several whichways to unsuccessfully hunt down the manuscript. Tease.

The eagle illustration represents St John and comes from an 8th century Northumbrian gospel manuscript. Although it does not appear to have been uploaded as yet, if you enjoy seeing illumination work from previously inaccessible and priceless manuscripts, this site is a worthy place to spend some time.

"A new website,, will eventually include high-resolution images of every page of Corpus Christi's Parker Library [Cambridge University]. The remarkable collection includes 538 manuscripts spanning the sixth to the 16th centuries. [..] The beta version currently online includes about a sixth of the total content that eventually will be available. The project is scheduled for completion in late 2009."

"The beta site will be fully and freely accessible at least through 2008. But once the site's development and content are complete, full access will be available through institutional subscriptions only."

George Catlin - Souvenir of the N. American Indians - 1850

George Catlin - Souvenir of the N. American Indians - 1850 - robes

The above two images are from a fantastic sketch album: 'Souvenir of the N. American Indians, as they were in the Nineteenth Century' by George Catlin, 1850 at NYPL. [See Wikipedia for further associated links]

Schall 8-part cosmological map - 1634

"Adam Schall was the first European ever to have been a member of the court bureaucracy in Peking. As part of his duties as head of the Office of Astronomy, he produced this large and truly spectacular six-part cosmological map, accompanied by pictures of astronomical instruments."

Although these Library of Congress images (from the Vatican) are fairly poor in quality, after splicing all the constituent parts together, the resulting image (which doesn't appear to be online in any cohesive form) looks ok at a slightly reduced size. [see polybiblio] Incidentally, Schall was the model for one of the memorable images seen in Kircher's 'China Monumentis' - 2nd last picture.

Jewish Childrens Book Covers

Jewish Childrens Book Covers

The Rogue Scholar reports that the Centre for Jewish History has/is digitised/ing forty Yiddish and Hebrew childrens books - these are complete books, not just the covers seen above. (They are also available from ICDL - International Childrens Digital Library)

Mundus Universus - Jesuits - 1683 - Poland

The Polish Digital Library consistently uploads so much material that I only ever get to randomly scan perhaps ten percent of it. This print caught my eye, although I really don't know too much about it. Titled 'Mundus Universus', it was produced by Aleksander Tarasowicz in 1683. It obviously relates to the Jesuits (although cursory searching didn't identify anything of particular import in Poland about them in that year). The centre of the circle is hell surrounded by purgatory, outside of which is (I presume) the globe map of the world, followed by the atmosphere, the comet layer and then the cosmos. I guess the outer circle depicts doors into heaven. And the Jesuits are sitting comfortably out there in the clouds of course. There seems to be a mention of Psalms 14:8 in one of the outer rings, which doesn't appear to exist!? A quick search showed it ends at verse seven. --- Jos comments: "this refers to Psalm 148, which includes 'Aqua omnes quae super caelos sunt laudent nomen Domini', or, in English, 'Let all the waters that are above the heavens praise the name of the Lord' ". Well, thank heavens for that.

Hokusai Manga
"Hokusai Manga is a series of sketchbooks by the Japanese artist Hokusai published in 1814-1878 in fifteen volumes. This is volume 12 (1834) [..and..] belongs to a large collection of books that Swedish explorer AE Nordenskiold brought back from his visit to Japan in 1879. [..] The Nordenskiold collection is housed in the library of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities and belongs to the Royal Library in Stockholm."
The image above is spliced together from screencaps. I have a fairly ambivalent attitude towards most of the 'turn the pages' web sites: I often find them altogether too gimmicky. But I received an unsolicited message recently about a new product display site (Touch and Turn) and I think it's worth sharing. It's shockwave driven of course but less resources intensive than normal and the pages are actually centred in the middle of the screen (as opposed to being jammed up against one side) and the enlargements are simple without using annoying overlay screens. In any event, the quality of the illustration work in the book itself is beyond question.

Yoshitsune - spirits

Yoshitsune - devils

Yoshitsune legend monsters

These three (detail) images are from the late Edo period (probably about 1850-1860). They come from a book hosted by the Akita Prefectural Library. From the shabby online translation it appears that the book belongs to a whole body of work relating to the legend of the 12th century Samurai warrior, Minamoto Yoshitsune.

Ukiyoe sketches of women

Nearly a year ago, I posted an entry - Ukioye Masterpieces I - expecting that by announcing it as the first, I would find the motivation to come up with the second and so on. It didn't quite work out that way but I did venture back into the 5-volume set ('Masterpieces Selected from The Ukiyoye School', 1906-1909), hosted by Posner Library) a long time ago and the results of that fishing expedition have been uploaded into this Webshots album. They all seem to be of women. Whether they were in fact the dominant theme or whether I just gravitated towards them, I really don't recall. (I have my suspicions)

18th century boats
'Histoire et Description Generale du Japan', 1736 by Pierre-Francois Giffart is online among the Otis Cary Collection at Doshisha University Academic Repository (Vol. I & Vol. II - thumnbail pages). I put a selection in this Webshots album. The books cover everything from housing styles, costumes, maps, tools, culture &c.

Illustrations of Japan 1822 -
Also from the Carey Collection at Doisha University: 'Illustrations of Japan' from 1822 by M Titsingh. Similar to above: presents all sorts of cultural illustrations of Japanese life. (another Webshots album selection)

Turtle anatomy engraving - 1687

The first ever book devoted to turtles, unsurprisingly perhaps, dealt with their anatomy. The plates are more notable for their historical ephemera value rather than being of any great scientific (or artistic for that matter) significance. I think there about a dozen (huge) illustrations from memory. The 2-volume work, online at SICD Universities of Strasbourg is called 'Osservazioni Anatomiche Intorno alle Tartarughe Marittime' by Giovanni Caldesi, 1687. Caldesi was the physician to the last Grand Duke of Tuscany and a pupil of Francesco Redi.

parterre designs by Olivier de Serres

Known as the 'Father of Agronomy' (agronomy being the application of soil and plant science to crop production and land management), Olivier de Serres dominated the 17th century approach to agriculture in France with the publication of his - I nearly wrote 'ground-breaking' - enormous 'Théâtre d'Agriculture et Mesnage des Champs' in 1600. It featured a series of parterre* illustrations of various royal residences by Claude Mollet. I've uploaded all the plates from the volumes to this Webshots album. The books are online at the Rare Books Digital Library of Brazil (Vol I & Vol II).

Unicorn snakes and dragons

Although they are fairly small, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to gank a couple of images from the Thomas Bartholin 1678 'treatise' on unicorns: 'De Unicornu Observationes Novae' [ebay]

Other things...


Jos said...

Re the Mundus Universalis: this refers to Psalm 148, which includes "Aqua omnes quae super caelos sunt laudent nomen Domini", or, in English, "Let all the waters that are above the heavens praise the name of the Lord".
Thanks for yet another wonderful image.

Jos Geluk.

TJBookarts said...

Thanks for mentioning my site and list of links!


lotusgreen said...

thanks for the connection to 'illustrations of japan' -- interesting... but i have to admit, a yiddisha kitty is difficult to beat

LA Nickers said...

Intriguing artwork here! I could spend hours browsing through the images . . . if I wasn't so busy blogging! ;-)


You have an extremely well maintained blog.

Stay on groovin' safari,

anthony said...

Thanks for the Parker link. They seem to be chipping away at it daily. Search "St. Francis" and you will get two great illuminations: one of him preaching to a group of birds, and one with a horrific depiction of the Seraph of the Stigmata.
Do you know what other directories have these great Medieval scans?

peacay said...

Anthony, I'm not altogether sure if I know what you're after or, if I guess, I'm not sure I could help you with specific St Francis mss images anyway.
I'm not even certain what to suggest - there are some mss repositories linked in the sidebar; but for specific religious iconography I might think about heading to a religious blog or contacting an academic who specialises in these things. You might perhaps have luck just playing around with something like google image search.

It might be useful to start with the digital scriptorium since I recall they have excellent metadata searching ability.

anthony said...

Thanks! I'm not looking for anything specifically-I just found Francis while looking through the Parker Library site, and was interested.

Lady Lavona said...

I love your blog and visit frequently! You have won the "You Make My Day Award"! Stop by and visit sometime! xo Lavona

Elatia Harris said...

What a gorgeous cosmology map -- naturally, you have a much better photo and presentation of it than I have seen elsewhere. I know someone writing a book on astronomy in China in the time of the Jesuits who needs to see this, will get him here right away! Thanks as always for beautiful things late at night...!

jek said...

your blog is amazing

Raquel DeGamonal said...


Tienes un premio virtual en mi blog y me encantaria que te pasaras a recojerlo.

Un saludo

Raquel DeGamonal said...

You have a virtual prize on my blog and I enjoy you happen to it

Unknown said...

Not a very clever comment to write, just a big "MERCI" for this great job, always a pleasure to visit and learn through pictures, links and texts. Thanks.

din said...

If I'm not mistaken, you might get to peek at the 8th century gospel at an exhibition in Melbourne:

No idea if they're showing the birdy...

peacay said...

Oh thanks din. That looks like a fairly reasonable excuse to take a 1000km trip south. I was thinking that the eagle image was very reminiscent of the Lindisfarne Gospel - I knew it was the same time frame at any rate. Can't be tooo many related manuscripts.

Unknown said...

post amazing

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