A Modern Depiction of Ireland, One of the British Isles

Abraham Ortelius (1527-98) was a Flemish engraver and businessman who traveled widely to pursue his commercial interests. In 1560 he became interested in scientific geography during a voyage with Gerardus Mercator. Ortelius’s major work, Theatrum orbis terrarum (Theater of the world), was published in Antwerp in 1570, at the threshold of the golden age of Dutch cartography. Theatrum presented the world in its component parts and reflected an age of exploration, broadened commercial connections, and scientific inquiry. Now considered the world’s first atlas, the original Theatrum was enhanced by frequent updates and reprintings to incorporate the latest scientific and geographical information. Ortelius’s map of Ireland shown here exemplifies the most modern mapmaking techniques of the period: precise geographic detail, beautifully rendered topographical symbols, and an abundance of place names. Significant landholdings are represented by renderings of estate buildings.

His Excellency: George Washington Esq: L.L.D. Late Commander in Chief of the Armies of the U.S. of America and President of the Convention of 1787

In 1787, the confederation of the 13 American states was descending into disarray. The coffers were empty, New York and New Jersey were in a dispute over duties charged on goods crossing state lines, farmers in Massachusetts were rebelling, and Spain and Britain were encroaching on American territories in the west. The Federal Convention was called to address the problems of governing the young republic under the existing Articles of Confederation. The convention responded by framing the document that became the United States Constitution. The convention delegates elected George Washington, the hero of the Revolutionary War, to be the convention's president. The artist Charles Willson Peale decided to use the convention to sell printed engravings of a new portrait of the general as part of his portrait series of the authors of the Revolution. Peale’s previous attempts to sell prints of the nation’s leaders had proved disappointing and this one fared no better. Although it was not a commercial success, this portrait is considered historically important. Depicting the leader of a nation in crisis, it is one of the few portraits of Washington that bears no trace of a smile.

Imperial Calendar in the Third Year of Emperor Jia Jing’s Reign in the Ming Dynasty

The Da Ming Jiajing san nian datong li (Imperial calendar, or great universal system of calculating astronomy) is based upon the system of calendrical astronomy developed by the astronomer Guo Shoujin during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). It was officially adapted by the Ming Bureau of Astronomy in 1384. It specified the phases of the moon and contained predictions of when lunar and solar eclipses would occur. The great Chinese navigator Zheng He used Guo Shoujing's methods to determine latitude and longitude on his voyages to the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Interview with Fountain Hughes, Baltimore, Maryland, June 11, 1949

Approximately 4 million slaves were freed at the conclusion of the American Civil War. The stories of a few thousand have been passed on to future generations through word of mouth, diaries, letters, records, or written transcripts of interviews. Only 26 audio-recorded interviews of ex-slaves have been found, 23 of which are in the collections of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. In this interview, 101-year-old Fountain Hughes recalls his boyhood as a slave, the Civil War, and life in the United States as an African American from the 1860s to the 1940s. About slavery, he tells the interviewer: "You wasn't no more than a dog to some of them in them days. You wasn't treated as good as they treat dogs now. But still I didn't like to talk about it. Because it makes, makes people feel bad you know. Uh, I, I could say a whole lot I don't like to say. And I won't say a whole lot more."

The Oztoticpac Lands Map

Dated at approximately 1540, this map, a Mexican pictorial document with writing in Spanish and Nahuatl, relates to a lawsuit concerning the estate of Don Carlos Ometochtli Chichimecatecotl, an Aztec lord and one of the many sons of Nezahualpilli, ruler of Texcoco. Don Carlos was charged with heresy and publicly executed by the Spanish authorities on November 30, 1539. Litigation began on December 31, 1540, when a man identified as Pedro de Vergara petitioned the Inquisition to return to him certain fruit trees taken from the property of Don Carlos that Vergara claimed were his under a contract that had been concluded with Don Carlos several years earlier. Other individuals contended that the lands occupied by Don Carlos did not belong to him personally but to the family—the lords of Texcoco—as a whole. This map most likely was commissioned by Antonio Pimentel Tlahuilotzin, governor of Texcoco, to buttress these claims. Further complicating the case were claims by another set of petitioners that the Texcocan lands had been partitioned by the Spanish authorities and that lands held by Don Carlos during his lifetime were now the property of commoners. The outcome of the litigation is not known. The map reflects the pre-European, Mesoamerican tradition of using glyphs and indigenously produced paper (amatl) to make maps. Drawings done with red and black inks indicate land plots with indigenous measurements and place glyphs. Near the upper left is a plan of several houses within a precinct; on the right are maps showing more than 75 identified plots, an inventory of landed properties once owned by Don Carlos. In the lower left is a gloss of European fruit trees and grape vines grafted onto indigenous tree stock, the only such image of this agricultural technique known to exist in any Mexican indigenous pictorial document. The map provides details about the grafting of peach, apricot, pear, and other fruit trees imported from Spain onto apple and cherry trees indigenous to Mexico.

The Great Ming Gazetteer of Xinghua Prefecture

This manuscript edition of the gazetteer of Xinghua Prefecture, Fujian Province, is in 54 juan in 12 volumes. It was compiled jointly by Zhou Ying (1430–1518) and Huang Zhongzhao (1435–1508), both from Fujian. Xinghua became a prefecture in the second year (1369) of the reign of the first Ming emperor, Hongwu. The town with its seaport was important for the local economy and overseas trade. Both Zhou Ying and Huang Zhongzhao received the prestigious jin shi (doctoral degree). A follower of Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucianism, Zhou Ying held various official positions for many years, including serving as magistrate of several prefectures and as provincial administrative commissioner of Sichuan. Huang Zhongzhao was the author of literary works, a member of the imperial Hanlin Academy, and was known as a writer of local histories. In 1501, Huang Zhongzhao was invited by Chen Xiao, the then-magistrate of Xinghua Prefecture, to join Zhou Ying in compiling this gazetteer, but Huang died soon after completing the part on local personalities. The work was organized in six parts, following the six government administrative divisions of civil office, revenue, rites, military, justice, and public works. The original edition no longer exists; it is believed to have been destroyed in a fire not long after its issuance. Thus the words chong xiu (new edition) were added to this Tian yi ge (Tianyi Pavilion Library) manuscript edition. It included the names of the two original editors, Zhang Yuanshen and Hong Yongshao, and of the two printers, Zhang Hao and Liu Chengqing. The two prefaces were written by Zhou Ying and by Chen Xiao, the magistrate of the prefecture. A postscript is dated 1503. As a gazetteer, it provides in-depth information on the history, geography, local economy, culture, language and dialects, biographies of notable people, and the administration of the prefecture as well as of Fujian Province.