February 12, 2013


Etymologiae (Etymology) is the best known work by Saint Isidore of Seville (circa 560–636), a scholar and theologian considered the last of the great Latin Church Fathers. It takes its name from a method of teaching that proceeds by explaining the origins and meaning of each word related to a topic. Saint Isidore drew on many different sources in his attempt to summarize all ancient knowledge and save it for posterity. The fame of the work led to it being widely copied and disseminated, and its popularity lasted even into the Renaissance. To medieval scholars, Etymologiae was an unequaled compendium of information. This important manuscript in Gothic minuscule writing in the style of the Toledo–Seville school came originally from the cathedral of Toledo. It includes notes and Arabic equivalents for some Latin words. Several sheets are made from parchment cuts, crudely drawn. The manuscript also contains a world map with Arabic writing (at 116v), and geometric figures in color, with titles, captions, initials, and capitals in red and green.

Playing with Fire: Operetta in Three Acts

Francisco Asenjo Barbieri (1823–94) is one of the best known figures in the history of Spanish music. He was a composer, musicologist, director, and bibliophile. The core music holdings of the National Library of Spain consist of Barbieri’s own library, which he bequeathed to the institution in his will. Barbieri’s bequest is one of the most important sources for the history of Spanish music. The national library also acquired, in 1999, Barbieri’s personal archive, which includes autographed scores. The relationship between Barbieri and the national library began with the ceremonial laying of the first stone for the building, for which he wrote, in 1866, a triumphal march. The zarzuela (Spanish comic operetta) Jugar con fuego (Playing with fire) premiered on October 6, 1851, in the Teatro del Circo in Madrid and had great success over the course of 17 evenings. From the time of its premiere until 1860, it was the zarzuela with most performances in Spain. The work set the standards for the genre and the beginning of the zarzuela grande (a zarzuela with more than one act). A great number of adaptations were made of Jugar con fuego, as well as arrangements and transcriptions of the complete work or of its most popular sections, for piano or voice and piano, but also for guitar and even some for chamber ensembles. Presented here, from the same year, is the work in two formats: the full manuscript score, which includes a dedication, in Barbieri’s handwriting, to the duke of Osuna, and a Madrid edition for voice and piano of the 12th number of the zarzuela. This is the baritone aria and chorus: “Quien mé socorre!” Included with the 1851 edition is the libretto by Ventura de la Vega, playwright, literature teacher of Queen Isabella II, and director of the Madrid Conservatory. The transcription for voice and piano of Jugar con fuego was the object of a legal battle between Barbieri and one of the most important music editors of the time, Casimiro Martín, who published a copy of it without the author’s permission. Barbieri could not defend his rights because he had not registered the work in this format in the Intellectual Property Register.

Seven-Part Code

This illuminated manuscript of the Siete partidas (Seven-part code), on parchment in Gothic script, dates from the 13th–15th centuries. The codex is important for several reasons. It was written in one scriptorium (except for Partida I, which was added in the 15th century) and it includes the complete Partidas with their ornamentation, and bibliographic clues that shed light on their origins. This body of law, commissioned and begun by Alfonso X and supplemented by later reforms, constitutes the most widely known legal system that governed Spain from the Middle Ages to the modern era and influenced the law of some of its former colonies. Its implementation took place from the reign of Alfonso XI and the Cortes of Alcalá de Henares of 1348, in which the Partidas are mentioned as a body of law. The manuscript is divided in seven parts, one for each Partida. Included are a general index (not well done for Partida II) and a table of contents at the beginning of each Partida with the titles of its laws; those for Partidas V and VII are missing. Partida I deals with canon law; II with peerage law, including the rights of kings and grandees; III with procedural law and the administration of justice; IV with civil law, especially marriage law and human relations; V with commercial law; VI with succession and estate law; and VII with criminal law. In its entirety, the body of law regulates all social relations. The manuscript is illuminated with ornamented corners and miniatures at the beginning of each Partida, illustrating the topic treated. For example, at the beginning of  Partida I, the pope introduces the king to the Savior (folio 106 r.); in III, the king, on his throne, administers justice (folio 191 r.); in IV, there is a scene of the baptism of Jesus Christ (folio 294 r.); in IV, the king, as the supreme representative of justice, signs a contract with several people (folio 331 r.);  in VI, a dying man dictates his testament (folio 379 r.); and in VII there is a representation of a tournament (folio 415 r.). Some capital letters are decorated in burnished gold and various colors, with blue and red being predominant, and some of them have elegant flourishes. Red is used in the titles and captions. The manuscript originally belonged to Alvaro de Zúñiga, first duke of Arévalo, chief justice of the kingdom, who was married to Leonor Pimentel. This provenance is reflected in the coats of arms that adorn the front page and in its binding. The manuscript later was part of the library of the Catholic kings, as can be seen by its rich velvet case. The binding is in Moorish-gothic style, in embossed leather on wood. Inside the covers is the Zúñiga–Pimentel coat of arms. This richly decorated cover was later protected by the royal house with a blue velvet case, adorned in Morisco enamel set in silver. The floral and heraldic motifs predominate in the four clasps and in the two royal initials “Y” (Isabel) and “F” (Ferdinand) and in the two bundles of arrows.

Anthology of Ḥakīm Ruknā Masīḥ

This diwan (a collection of poems in Arabic or Persian, usually by a single author) of Persian poems by physician and poet Ḥakīm Ruknā Masīḥ dates from 1638. “Ḥakīm” is an honorific for a wise man or physician. “Masīḥ” (the Christian), which appears elsewhere in the manuscript, was a pen name of the author. It is believed that the poems were dictated by the author to his calligrapher. The manuscript is in four sections, containing qasidas (odes), ghazals (lyric poems), rubaiyat (quatrains), and muqatta't (poetic fragments). The first two pages of each section show a gold field with a pattern of white clouds containing the verses. Each section opens with an illumination of a colored flower composition, with the titles written in white letters on a gold background, and text divided into two parts by a vertical band with а colored ornamentation. Each page is framed by a gold band with a blue outer rim. The colophon states that the manuscript was finalized on the 18th of the month of Shawal (Shaval) in the year 1047 AH at Dar al-Muminin of Kashan, in the Shikastah calligraphic style. The volume is bound in black leather, with red leather lining the inside covers. An imprint depicting cranes is embossed on the outsides and an imprint with a blue and gold ornament appears on the insides. The manuscript was given to the library of the University of Kharkov in 1904 by B.G. Filonov, a former student in the law school of the university, the first chairman of the executive board of the Kharkov Public Library (present-day Korolenko Kharkov State Scientific Library), a famous collector and patron of the arts in Kharkov.

February 19, 2013

Al-Iraq, Number 1, June 1, 1920

Al-Iraq was a daily newspaper focusing on politics, literature, and the economy, first published in Baghdad on June 1, 1920. Owned by Razzuq Dawood Ghannam, the paper showed an independent editorial streak from its first few issues. Throughout its existence, it recorded the political, social, and economic history of Iraq and was considered the first and last source for news on national issues and causes. The paper did not represent the rising nationalistic, anticolonial elite, but it was pan-Iraqist in orientation and counted among its staff a number of young, nationalistic, and liberal writers for whom the paper was the only platform where they could express themselves. Some of the paper’s early writers included Shukri al-Fadhli, Hassan Ghussaiba, Ata Amin, Rafael Butti, and Muhammad Abd al-Hussein. Because of the scarcity of modern printing means at the time, the paper was published in four small pages, with supplements at various times. Its editorials were simple, and its world news reports were largely reprints from the Reuters news agency, but it also covered domestic news. Some historians have contended that Al-Iraq began as an instrument of the British and was in effect a colonial substitute for Al-Arab, which was issued by the British authorities in Baghdad circa 1917–20. The new paper was printed at the same press as Al-Arab, and Al-Arab announced in its last issue that "the first issue of Al-Iraq newspaper will be published tomorrow” and that “the editorial policy of Al-Iraq will be an extension of that of Al-Arab."
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February 20, 2013

Isabel, Brazilian Princess

The Thereza Christina Maria Collection consists of 21,742 photographs assembled by Emperor Pedro II and left by him to the National Library of Brazil. The collection covers a vast range of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and the Brazilian people in the 19th century, as well as includes many photographs from Europe, Africa, and North America. This photograph shows Princess Isabel, the daughter of Pedro II and, until the abolition of the monarchy in 1889, the heir to the Brazilian throne. It was taken by Joaquim José Insley Pacheco (1830-1912), one of the most celebrated Brazilian portrait photographers of the day. Pacheco was born in Portugal and immigrated to Brazil as a young man. Between 1849 and 1851, he worked in New York, where he studied with photographers Jeremiah Gurney and Mathew Brady. Returning to Brazil, he opened a studio in Rio de Janeiro. In 1855 he received the title of Photographer to the Imperial House. His best known subjects included members of the royal family, political personalities, and members of the Brazilian aristocracy. He was also a painter and draftsman, and made technical contributions to the development of photography.