In the preceding post, Bronagh McShane discussed three early modern books from the Galway Dominican convent library, now preserved in the James Hardiman Library. This post discusses four additional books from the exhibition that we co-curated with Special Collections Librarian Marie Boran for the conference ‘Reception, Reputation and Circulation in the Early Modern World, 1500-1800’ (Moore Institute, NUI Galway, 22-25 March 2017; #recirc17). These four books are highly diverse, chosen to reflect the breadth of early modern holdings at the Hardiman Library and to appeal to a variety of interests: from religious, philosophical, and political history to the life cycles of plants and insects; from stunningly vivid hand-coloured etchings to the colourful lives of authors and artists; and from evidence of ownership and reading to intentional collecting and sustained attempts to define authorial reputations. Read on for details!
Thomas Fitzherbert, The first part of a treatise concerning policy, and religion… [Douai: P. Auroi], 1615.
Fitzherbert had much first-hand experience of politics and religion. In England, he associated with Edmund Campion and Robert Persons. In France in the 1580s, he defended the interests of Mary, Queen of Scots and also served Catherine de Medici. In Spain, he received the patronage of the duke of Feria and became Philip II’s English secretary in 1596. Fitzherbert was subsequently ordained as a priest in Rome in 1602. He represented the English secular clergy at Rome, then, as a novice in the Society of Jesus, he represented English Jesuits at Brussels. Fitzherbert took solemn vows in Louvain in 1618, and his final appointment was as rector of the English College in Rome until 1639, a year before his death.
In the course of his career, Fitzherbert wrote several works of controversy in English, defending the Catholic Church and his own integrity. The Treatise concerning policy and religion is in part a confutation of Machiavelli. Parts 1 and 2 were published separately in three editions each and together in a further three editions during the seventeenth century.
This is a copy of the second edition of the first part. Several individuals have written their names in this copy. Arthur Lynch and William Kirwan were members of prominent families (or ‘tribes’) in early modern Galway. Names on subsequent pages include ‘William. Kirwan Fitz Andrew his Booke’, ‘Neell Lynch’ (struck through by a later owner), ‘Matthew Lynch London’, ‘James’, ‘Ocam. Morris’ and one woman, ‘Mary’. Two other names have been partially trimmed away and are now illegible. This book seems to have passed through the hands of successive members of the Lynch family, amongst others, before it entered the collection of St Anthony’s College, Galway, and ultimately the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway.
Thomas Aquinas, In tres libros de anima Aristotelis expositio… Venetiis: Apud Hieronymum Scotum, 1550 (An explanation of Aristotle’s On the soul, in three books).
Aquinas’s commentary on Aristotle’s Περὶ Ψυχῆς (On the Soul) is a work of scholastic philosophy. In print, the Expositio by Aquinas is accompanied by the fifteenth-century Byzantine humanist Johannes Argyropoulos’s Latin translation (De anima) of Aristotle’s work, so Latin-literate readers can consult text and commentary together. Seven editions of the Expositio were published in Venice between 1535 and 1597, with slight variations in the title.
As you can see, many people got their hands on this book! On the flyleaf and title page, they recorded their names and ownership, noted events and the volume’s changing shelfmarks, doodled, and transcribed an entire cypher key which could be used to write and read secret messages.
Despite the diversity of hands and uses visible here, this volume is annotated throughout by one early modern reader who was clearly interested in the book’s ideas. These notes consist entirely of abbreviated cross-references to other philosophical works, especially the printed works of the Italian philosopher Arcangelo Mercenari, referred to as ‘Mercenarius’.
William Camden, Annals: or, The historie of the most renowned and victorious princesse Elizabeth, late Queen of England, containing all the important passages of state both at home and abroad, during her long and prosperous reign. London: Printed by Thomas Harper, for Benjamin Fisher… 1635.
Camden’s Annals is a year-by-year chronicle of the reign of Elizabeth I, written in Latin between 1608 and 1617, during the reign of her successor, James VI and I. Parts 1-3 were published in 1615 as Annales rerum Anglicarum, et Hibernicarum, regnante Elizabetha, ad annum salutis M.D.LXXXIX. However, because of the recent and sensitive subject matter, Camden insisted that part 4 and English translations not be published until after his death. This translation is by Robert Norton, a gunner, engineer, mathematician, and author of original works on these subjects. First published in 1630, Norton’s was one of at least three separate translations of Camden’s Annales into English (one of them via French) published in the seventeenth century.
As reflected in its differing Latin and English titles, the work covers political developments ‘at home’, in Ireland (dropped from the English title), and ‘abroad’, as they related to the affairs of Elizabethan England.
Maria Sibylla Merian, Erucarum ortus, alimentum et paradoxa metamorphosis. Amstelaedami: Apud Joannem Oosterwyk, [1717 or 1718] (The origin, nourishment, and wondrous transformation of caterpillars).
Maria Sibylla Merian was born in Frankfurt in 1647. Her father published several influential natural history texts, and her step-father, an illustrator, trained her in miniature flower painting along with his male pupils. At the age of 18, Merian married one of these pupils, Johann Andreas Graff.
Raised in the milieu of professional art and publishing, and interested in ecology from an early age (beginning with the silkworms raised for the local silk industry), Merian went on to produce several books of illustrated natural history. Her two daughters, Johanna Helena and Dorothea Maria, also became natural history writers and illustrators. In 1686, Merian, her daughters and her mother joined a Labadist (Pietist) community near Amsterdam, leaving Graff behind. In 1699, Merian and Dorothea Maria went on an expedition, sponsored by the city of Amsterdam, to the Dutch colony of Suriname, to investigate, document, and illustrate the life cycles of many plants and insects in the jungles. They returned in 1701 to escape malaria.
Between 1679 and her death in Amsterdam in 1717, Merian wrote and illustrated an array of natural history books. Her original watercolours were the basis for black and white etchings that were then hand-coloured by Merian and others in the printed books. Her illustrations are unusual for the time in that they depict with scientific precision conflict, decay, and the symbiotic relationships between plant and insect species – not simply beautiful flowers, which it was fashionable for well-to-do women to paint.
The Erucarum ortus is a Latin translation by Dorothea Maria of her mother’s Raupen wunderbare Verwandelung und sonderbare Blumen-Nahrung, first published in 1679. This work on the origin and transformation of caterpillars into butterflies helped dispel the myth of spontaneous generation of insects. The translation was published shortly after Merian’s death, her two daughters seeing the project through to completion. Merian’s reputation and impact on entomology and art were sustained through further posthumous publications, her daughters’ works, and the sale of Merian’s original watercolours to Tsar Peter the Great. Some of Merian’s illustrated books in the British monarchy’s Royal Collection are currently on display in the Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland.
For more information on early modern and other rare books in the Hardiman Library, see library.nuigalway.ie/collections/specialcollections.
*I am grateful to Bronagh McShane and Marie Boran for their assistance with curating the exhibition, to David Brandt of Brandt Studios for taking photographs of the exhibition, and to the Special Collections department at the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway for permission to include photographs of these books in their care.