July 20, 2012

Verses by Jami

This calligraphic fragment includes verses composed by the Persian poet Jami (died 1492 [897 AH]), whose full name, Mawlana 'Abd al-Rahman Jami, is noted in the topmost panel. In larger script appears a ghazal (lyric poem) in which a lover sighs about the lack of news from his beloved. The central text frames are bordered on the right and left by illuminated panels and contain a ruba'i (iambic pentameter quatrain) written in smaller script. The quatrain encourages true and eternal love of God rather than passing infatuations: "Every beautiful face that manifested itself to you/Quickly the heavens will remove it from your eyes/Go and give your heart to the person in the bounds of existence/Who has always been with you, and always will." The text is executed in black nasta'liq script on blue paper sprinkled with gold flecks. Every verse is framed by a gold line and separated by a gutter or border illuminated with panels in gold, pink, and orange. The text panel is pasted onto a larger sheet of orange paper backed by cardboard. In the lowest panel appears the calligrapher's signature, “Written by the servant Mahmud b. Mawlana Khwajah.” Little is known about this calligrapher, but the hues and decorative motifs suggest that he worked in Central Asia (perhaps in Shaybanid Bukhara or Samarqand) in the 16th century.

Ghana, One Year Old: a First Independence Anniversary Review

This pamphlet recaptures the main events of the first year of Ghana’s history as an independent country. It features texts on politics by the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, a political year in review, and greetings from foreign leaders. Also included are articles on the arts, sports, education, science, and agriculture of the country, as well as stories about Ghana’s role in the world and its plans for the future. Moses Danquah, a long-time columnist for the Daily Graphic and one of Ghana’s most famous journalists, wrote several of these articles as well as compiled and edited the pamphlet. Danquah went on to become an important chronicler of Ghana’s early history. The pamphlet includes advertisements from international companies established in Ghana, such as Mobil Oil, Philips Engineering, Singer Sewing Machines, and even a local Pontiac (General Motors) automobile dealership.

The Days of Mutiny

Ayām-i Ghadr (The days of mutiny) is a historical account of events related to the Indian Mutiny of 1857, an uprising of native soldiers (sepoys) against the army of the British East India Company, which marked an important step in India’s struggle for independence and freedom from British rule. The manuscript is a rare unpublished source on Indian history, and particularly on the Mutiny of 1857. It contains two paintings, at page 108 and page 175, which depict events described in the text.

The Starry Messenger Showing Forth Great and Truly Wonderful Sights, as Well as Suggesting to Everyone, but Especially to Philosophers, Things to be Pondered

Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) was an Italian astronomer, mathematician, physicist, philosopher, and inventor. He revolutionized the sciences in the Western world by using mathematics and experimental evidence in the study of natural phenomena. Born in Pisa, Galileo studied in Pisa and Florence and in 1589 was appointed to the chair of mathematics at the University of Pisa. In 1591 he moved to the University of Padua, where he completed much of his most important scientific work. In late 1609, Galileo perfected a telescope of 30x magnification, with which he quickly made a number of startling astronomical discoveries. Galileo’s instrument revealed that the surface of the moon is mountainous, that the Milky Way is composed of separate stars, and that Jupiter is orbited by four satellites, which Galileo called the “Medicean Planets.” Galileo recounted these discoveries in his celebrated work Sidereus nuncius (Starry messenger), published in Venice in March 1610. The work was dedicated to Cosimo de Medici, grand duke of Tuscany, who later that year invited Galileo to come to Florence as court mathematician and philosopher. This appointment freed Galileo from the obligation to teach, but it also removed him from the relative freedom guaranteed by the government of Venice, making him more vulnerable to the proceedings of the Inquisition. Galileo’s support of the theories of Copernicus, which placed the sun rather than the Earth at the center of the universe, was viewed as heretical, and despite being forced to recant, he spent most of his last decade confined to his villa in Tuscany.

Atlas of the Physical and Political History of Chile [Plates, Volume 2]

Claudio Gay was born in Provence, southern France, in 1800. In childhood he developed a deep fascination with the natural sciences. In his youth, he traveled extensively in parts of Europe under the direction of the Italian botanist Juan Bautista Balbis, visiting the French Alps, northern Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, and several Mediterranean islands. In 1828 the adventurer Pedro Chapuis invited him to come to Chile to teach geography. Gay accepted the offer, and lived in Chile until 1842, working as a teacher and participating in scientific expeditions. Under a contract with the Chilean government, he embarked on a 3 1/2-year expedition to build a registry of the country’s natural resources. Later he agreed to write a political history of Chile. The success of this work, which he completed in 1841, earned him honorary citizenship. Returning to France, Gay published the first volume of his Atlas de la historia fisica y politica de Chile in 1842. By 1871, this monumental work had grown to 30 volumes, covering history (eight volumes), botany (eight volumes), zoology (eight volumes), agriculture (two volumes), historic documents (two volumes), and two volumes of maps and illustrations. Gay’s work earned him fame as a versatile scientist and a talented artist whose etchings captured images of native Indians, landscapes, popular characters, and previously unknown botanical species.

Photograph of Richard M. Nixon and Elvis Presley at the White House

This photograph shows Elvis Presley meeting with President Richard M. Nixon at the White House on December 21, 1970. That morning, Presley personally delivered a hand-written note to the security guard at the northwest gate of the White House, saying that he wanted to meet Nixon to present him with the gift of a World War II-era pistol and ask for credentials as an agent in the national war on drugs. Convinced that Presley was sincere and believing that he could be an asset in the fight against drug use by young people, Nixon and his staff arranged for a meeting that afternoon.