Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Exhibitions’ Category

Shakespeare’s Desk

Last spring, Professor Anston Bosman and I led a seminar on “Shakespeare and the History of Books.” Our seven intrepid Sophomores explored a wide range of readings and primary sources around that topic, much of which they documented in the course blog: https://blogs.ats.amherst.edu/colq-231-1314s/

Over the summer, several of our students worked on an exhibition that will be on display in the Archives & Special Collections for the whole of the fall semester. They took the title for their exhibition from an essay by Peter Stallybrass that we read for class: “Shakespeare’s Desk: Authorship as Material Practice.” This passage appears in the opening paragraph:

The plots of Shakespeare’s plays, like those of his fellow-dramatists, were drawn from his reading. It is extraordinary how little this simple fact seems to have impinged upon Shakespearean studies: Shakespeare’s writing developed out of his reading.

Although the Archives & Special Collections holds a respectable teaching collection of early modern printed books, including nearly 500 books and manuscripts created before Shakespeare’s death in 1616, the exhibition moves from a consideration of what Shakespeare might have read to explore how Shakespeare has been packaged for the desks of other readers over the past 400 years.

A fuller web-version of the exhibition is currently under construction, so I will use this post to highlight just a couple of items.

Illustrated editions of Shakespeare’s works are a fascinating topic, and this exhibition features two fine examples.

Caliban (detail) Boydell, 1852.

Caliban (detail) Boydell, 1852.

This detail of Caliban in “The Tempest” is taken from the large folio copy of The American Edition of Boydell’s Illustrations of the Dramatic works of Shakespeare by the Most Eminent Artists of Great Britain, which was published by Shearjashub Spooner in New York City in 1852.

A volume from our set of The Dramatic Works of Shakspeare (1791-1802), edited by George Steevens and published with illustrations that match those published as Boydell’s Graphic Illustrations of the dramatic works of Shakspeare. Here is the rendition of Caliban from that edition:

Caliban. Boydell, 1802.

Caliban. Boydell, 1802.

The complete history of John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery is a fascinating story. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC mounted an exhibition titled “Marketing Shakespeare: The Boydell Gallery (1789-1805) and Beyond” in late 2007. The online version of their exhibition contains images of some of the original paintings Boydell commissioned for his Gallery and explores the printmaking process, among other things.

These two illustrations were selected for a different reason that ties them into the theme of Shakespeare’s Desk. “The Tempest” is generally regarded as a response, in part, to European exploration of North and South America. One of the cases in our exhibition features books representative of the information Shakespeare might have encountered about the “New World.”

Frontispiece from Ogilby's America (1671).

Frontispiece from Ogilby’s America (1671).

Although our copy of John Ogilby’s book America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World (1671) was written long after Shakespeare’s death, it is the best example in our collections of an illustrated work of exploration. One goal of this exhibition is to suggest some ways that examining early books can open up new paths of research. Clearly, these three images suggest there may be something very interesting going on here. Deeper exploration of representations of Caliban as they relate to illustrations of “New World” inhabitants would require a visit to a library like the Folger.

Installation of this new exhibition will wrap up later this week. In addition to the works shown here, visitors will be able to see our copy of Shakespeare’s Second Folio, along with published books ranging from the sixteenth century to the present.

Read Full Post »

auto021

Here in the Reading Room of the Special Collections, we have on semi-permanent exhibit a 3 piece unique art collection comprised of a newspaper publication, a lead-encased book of posters, and a one-of-a-kind art installation.  The installation consists of 432 color slides permanently mounted in a sizable light box.  The slides show the creation and in situ installations of street art posters from Bullet Space’s “Your House is Mine” project. The light box itself is constructed from a frame originally used for the silkscreen printing of the posters.

shape004

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Archives and Special Collections staff regularly work with classes to show how rare books and manuscripts offer interesting perspectives on contemporary life, as well as shedding light on past events. As we approach the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States this September 17, even a quick survey of ongoing political debates reveals the continued relevance of this historical document. These clashes are not new.

The text of the new Constitution, printed in the Massachusetts Gazette, September 28, 1787. So that citizens would be able to read the Constitution, the text was printed in papers throughout the Republic. Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.

Debate over the substance and meaning of the Constitution is part of the document’s legacy. The text submitted to the states for ratification was itself  the product of great compromise by the representatives present at the Constitutional Convention. At the close of the convention, Benjamin Franklin said, “…when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

We are pleased to invite you to the Archives and Special Collections to see our new summer exhibition, the Poultry and Garden Show. The exhibition is a fun glimpse into old poultry, gardening and agricultural manuals from 1588 to 1911 along with a selection of agricultural posters from the John P. Cushing World War I Posters Collection, which is currently being organized. The exhibition is in the Archive and Special Collections main gallery on A level of Frost Library, Amherst College. Open Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm; the show will be up through late August. Come on down and get your county fair on!

(more…)

Read Full Post »