October 27, 2016

Portolan Chart

The first maritime charts were produced at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. Their main purpose was to represent with the greatest possible accuracy coastlines and ports, for which reason they were called portolanos. When seafarers ventured out into the open sea, they entered their new discoveries on the charts. A Portuguese law stipulated that every ship had to carry two serviceable charts on board. The portolan chart shown here was copied by an Italian cartographer from a Portuguese original. It is an important document in the history of the discovery of America and is known as the Kunstmann II or Four Finger Map. Dating from the period circa 1502‒6, it already records the discoveries resulting from the voyages in 1501 of the Portuguese explorer Miguel Corte-Real (circa 1448‒circa 1502) and the Italian explorer and navigator Amerigo Vespucci (circa 1451/54‒1512). Corte-Real charted, in North America, Terra de Lavorador (parts of present-day Greenland) and Terra Corte Real (Newfoundland and Labrador). Vespucci’s discoveries in South America included the northern coast from De Lisleo (San Lorenzo, Lake Maracaibo) to the Rio de le Aues (the Orinoco River), and, after a gap between Cabo de São Roque and the Rio de Cananor, the eastern seaboard of the continent. On this map the southern coastal strip is designated “Terra Sanctae Crucis.” An inscription and an image at lower left report the prevalence of cannibalism in this region. Africa is shown foreshortened from north to south, and in the north as conspicuously broad from east to west. Madagascar, the island off the east coast of Africa discovered in 1506, is missing from the map, so it is certain that the chart was made before that date. Different names on the map appear in Latin, Portuguese, and Italian.

Fragment of "Moralia" in Job, Part Six

This eighth century manuscript is a prominent example of the Anglo-Saxon heritage of Bavaria and, more specifically, of Munich. It is an incomplete copy of Pope Gregory the Great’s allegorical exegesis of the Book of Job, part six. The manuscript of nearly 300 pages was written almost entirely by the Anglo-Saxon scribe Peregrinus (“Foreigner”), who tells us in an explanatory colophon (folio 146 verso) both his name and the fact that he worked in the scriptorium at Freising (Bavaria) under Bishop Arbeo, the founder of the cathedral library and bishop of Freising from 764 to 783. Other scribes from Freising contributed passages in early Carolingian minuscule only on a few pages. The front page (folio 1 verso) is decorated with an architectural border, constructed of four arcades that are supported by colored pillars with terraced capitals and bases, as they are commonly used in canon tables. In each of the spaces below the two left arcades an animal looking backwards can be seen. The text begins on leaf 2 recto with a large insular initial "S" (for sancti), decorated with interlace and terminating in animal heads. The Freising ex-libris in the upper margin, “Iste liber est sanctae Marie et sancti Corbiniani Frisinge” (This is the book of the holy Mary and of Saint Corbinian, Freising) dates from the 12th century. The book remained in the cathedral library in Freising for more than a millennium before it was transferred to the court library in Munich, the predecessor of the Bavarian State Library, in 1803.

Techniques for a Contemplative Way of Life

This edition is a compendium of five short texts intended for the religious edification of members of the clergy. The first work, with the title Ars et modus contemplativae vitae (Techniques for a contemplative way of life), deals with the most important articles of faith central to the contemplative way of life. The text is preceded by a series of captioned medallions containing images that illustrate the themes of the work. These illustrations were pictorial or schematic aids for meditation, as were two further plates depicting the names and attributes of God and scenes from the life of Jesus. The book also contains short treatises on meditation and the art of memorization, an excerpt from a handbook on preaching attributed to Saint Thomas Aquinas, and instructions on how to construct an arbor praedicandi (preaching tree), which concludes with a double-page woodcut illustration representing the rhetorical development of a sermon in the form of a tree. The edition was carefully planned to combine the method of printing using movable type with the use of xylographic prints. The woodcuts were printed on separate leaves and bound in at the beginning and end of the book. Using a muller (grinding stone), the woodcuts were transferred onto the dampened paper, which was rubbed onto the inked block with leather bundles. This technique damaged the reverse side of the print, which consequently was left blank. Often such prints were then pasted together to produce double-sided pages. By contrast, typographic printing in a press allowed both sides of the paper to be printed. The book shown here was produced in the workshop of Friedrich Creussner, a printer who was active in Nuremberg from the beginning of the 1470s to the end of the 15th century. Among his more than 140 printed editions, this is the only one to have survived in which he combined xylographic and typographic print methods. He may have already produced a Defensorium virginitatis Mariae (In defense of the virginity of Mary) in this manner in 1470, but that work has not survived.

Dance of Death

The Middle Rhenish Totentanz (Dance of death) originated around 1450 in Mainz. It derived from the Paris Danse de macabré, but its immediate model was a German version in the form of illustrated broadsheets. In its choice of characters, it is oriented towards the townsman; in the face of the threat of plague of epidemic proportions, it is Franciscan in its pious devotion to God’s mercy. It combines texts in character (each in eight lines of verse, consisting of the accusation of Death and the confession of his surprised victim) with pictures, each of which shows a Death figure and a living person who is emblematic of and criticized as the representative of a particular social class. This edition published in Heidelberg by Heinrich Knoblochtzer (1445‒1500) is the first appearance of this version of the Dance of the Death in printed book form. The motif of the forced dance is accentuated in the woodcuts by the eccentric gestures of the Death figures, their musical instruments (which vary from picture to picture), and the introductory illustration, which shows a four-piece band playing for dead dancers in a dance hall. The decorative initials of this first printing, of which only four copies are known to exist, come from the defunct printing shop of Johann Zainer, the first printer in Ulm. In the 18th century this copy was owned by J.N. Weislinger, a priest of Capell. It was then in the court library of the Elector Karl Theodor in Mannheim, before it came to Munich in the early 19th century.

Adab, Volume 2, Number 1, June 1954

Adab was the literary magazine of the Pohanżay-i Adabīyāt va ʻUlūm-i Basharī (Faculty of Letters and Humanities) at Kabul University. It began publishing in May of 1953 as a quarterly publication. The word “adab” denotes both culture and literature in Arabic, Persian (Dari), and Pushto; and the magazine consists primarily of articles on literature and history, with a focus on the literature and cultural history of Afghanistan. The majority of the articles were written in Persian, though many were written in Pushto as well, and some were in English. A typical issue included articles on aesthetics and literary criticism, biographies, essays on major literary works, and submissions of original poetry and prose in traditional style. The inception of Adab followed the founding of the Faculty of Letters and Humanities, inaugurated in the autumn of 1944, by roughly a decade. Kabul University itself was founded in 1932. The Faculty of Letters and Humanities was the fourth faculty established in the university, following the Faculty of Medicine (1932), Faculty of Law and Political Sciences (1938), and Faculty of Science (1942).

Adab, Volume 2, Number 2, September 1954

Adab was the literary magazine of the Pohanżay-i Adabīyāt va ʻUlūm-i Basharī (Faculty of Letters and Humanities) at Kabul University. It began publishing in May of 1953 as a quarterly publication. The word “adab” denotes both culture and literature in Arabic, Persian (Dari), and Pushto; and the magazine consists primarily of articles on literature and history, with a focus on the literature and cultural history of Afghanistan. The majority of the articles were written in Persian, though many were written in Pushto as well, and some were in English. A typical issue included articles on aesthetics and literary criticism, biographies, essays on major literary works, and submissions of original poetry and prose in traditional style. The inception of Adab followed the founding of the Faculty of Letters and Humanities, inaugurated in the autumn of 1944, by roughly a decade. Kabul University itself was founded in 1932. The Faculty of Letters and Humanities was the fourth faculty established in the university, following the Faculty of Medicine (1932), Faculty of Law and Political Sciences (1938), and Faculty of Science (1942).