July 18, 2016

The Races of Afghanistan

The Races of Afghanistan was written towards the end of, and shortly after, the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80) and published in London in 1880. The author, Henry Walter Bellew, was a surgeon and medical officer in the Indian Army who over the years had undertaken a number of political missions in Afghanistan and written several books on Indian and Afghan subjects. In explaining the purpose of his book, Bellew writes that the peoples of Afghanistan in his view soon would become subjects of the British Empire and that, “to know the history, interests, and aspirations of a people, is half the battle gained in converting them to loyal, contented, and peaceable subjects….” The book begins with an introduction, an overview chapter on the Afghans, and separate chapters on the history of the Afghans, British relations with Afghanistan, and Sher Ali (the emir of Afghanistan who reigned 1863–66 and 1868–79). These introductory chapters are followed by individual chapters on the following ethnic groups or tribes: Pathan (today usually seen as Pashtun or Paktun, Puktun, or Pushtun), Yusufzai, Afridi, Khattak, Dadicae, Ghilji (also seen today as Ghilzi and Khilji), Tajik, and Hazarah (Hazara in modern times). Bellew speculates on the pre-Islamic origins of the different Afghan peoples, discussing the tradition that the Afghans were descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, and referring to the writings of Herodotus, in which the Dadicae are mentioned as one of four Indian nations forming a satrapy on the extreme eastern frontier of the Persian Empire under the emperor, Darius I. Bellew’s book was used as a source by later writers, for example Percy Molesworth Sykes (1867–1945) in his A History of Persia (1921). Bellew was the author of other books on Afghanistan and neighboring countries, of grammars and dictionaries of several Afghan languages, and of studies of individual ethnic groups.

Among the Wild Tribes of the Afghan Frontier

Among the Wild Tribes of the Afghan Frontier is a first-hand account by Dr. Theodore Leighton Pennell of the 16 years that he spent as a medical missionary at the medical mission station at Bannu (in present-day Pakistan) on the Northwest Frontier of India. The book was first published in 1908; presented here is the fourth edition of 1927. Pennell begins with a chapter entitled “The Afghan Character,” which is followed by several chapters discussing Afghan traditions, the geography of the border region, and the prevalence of tribal feuds and conflicts. Other chapters include “Afghan Mullahs” and “Afghan Women.” Much of the work concerns Islamic customs and traditions, as practiced in Afghanistan and the Northwest Frontier Province. Pennell discusses his medical work, which included treating eye diseases (which “form more than a quarter of the whole”), consumption (tuberculosis), and flesh and bone wounds suffered during the numerous blood feuds in which the local tribes engaged. He also discusses traditional medical practices, which included the nearly universal use of charms and amulets, and two widely used treatments, dzan and dam. The former, employed mainly to treat fevers, involved killing a goat or sheep and wrapping the patient in the skin of the animal, “with the raw surface next to him and the wool outside,” a process said to cause profuse perspiration and a breaking of the fever. Dam involved burning into the flesh with a cloth steeped in oil and then set on fire. Purgatives and bloodletting were also widely used. The book is illustrated with photographs; it also contains a small map of the Northwest Frontier Province and a “Glossary of Words Not Generally Used Outside India.”

Latin Legends of Czech Saints: Vitus, Prokop and Wenceslas

Medieval Latin legends about major figures in Czech history form a significant part of the spiritual and cultural heritage of Europe. The cult of Saint Vitus (died 305), the Christian saint and martyr, was spread throughout Central Europe by the Premyslid prince Wenceslaus (907–35), patron saint the Czech lands, supporter of Christianity, and founder of the rotunda at Prague Castle. Wenceslaus was slain by his brother Boleslav I in 935. Soon thereafter, beginning as early as the 10th century, Wenceslaus began to be venerated as a saint. His remains were laid in Saint Vitus Cathedral within Prague Castle, which became the center of the Saint Wenceslas cult. His life and death became the topic of numerous legends, including the first Old Slavic legend from the 10th century; the Latin legend Crescente fide; the so-called Gumpold's legend; and Christian's legend. Presented here is a manuscript dating from the first half of the 15th century containing the legends of three saints, Vitus, Wenceslas, and Prokop. Also known as Procopius, Prokop was the first abbot of the Sázava Monastery (circa 980‒1053). The manuscript, in black and red ink by an unknown scribe, is of Czech provenance.

First Folio of Zainer’s German Bible

Presented here are the decorations for the first folio of the Augsburg edition of the German Bible printed by Günther Zainer (died 1478) in 1477. The illustrations are the work of an unknown illuminator from the workshop of Johann Bämler (1430–circa 1508). They consist of a colored and golden woodcut initial letter B, containing a scene showing a cardinal and church father, probably Saint Jerome (died 419 or 420), discussing a codex that most likely is Jerome’s translation of the Bible into Latin known as the Vulgate. The text is Jerome’s letter to Paulinus, bishop of Nola, Letter 53, written in 394, which begins: “[Our] Brother Ambrose along with your little gifts has delivered to me a most charming letter….” In the letter Saint Jerome extols Ambrose for his devotion to study of the scriptures and fear of God. The scene is constructed as a perspective view into the interior of a room, with the landscape behind the window topped by a blue sky. The frame of the letter B creates a golden area with stars or rosettes. The upper and internal margins are decorated with flowers and vines. Bämler was a scribe, calligrapher, illuminator, printer, and bookseller. Zainer was a painter and goldsmith who probably was also the first printer in Augsburg. The second image is a close-up of the illuminated capital B.

Calendar for the Years 1486 through 1504

This unique, single-leaf print is a rare fragment of the perpetual calendar in Latin for the years 1486 to 1504 issued by the Nuremberg printer Konrad, or Conrad, Zeninger in Venice in 1486. The page is printed with initials in red and black. It lists saints and their feast days. At the bottom is a table showing the predicted occurrence of different phases of the moon in different months and years. Fragments of pages from this work exist in two other libraries in Germany and Austria, but this page from the Slovak National Library is the best-preserved exemplar in the world. It is believed that the type for the calendar was created by Bernardino Giolito de’ Ferrari, known as Bernardino Stagnino, a printer from northern Italy who was active in Venice between 1483 and 1538, and who often cooperated with printers and booksellers on the northern side of the Alps.

Woodcut from Prüss’s Latin Bible

Presented here is a hand-colored devotional single-sheet woodcut inspired by one of the compositional schemes of the German engraver and painter Martin Schongauer (circa 1450‒91). The artist has not been identified. The theme is the Resurrection of Christ. The detail is a lively scene with large figural extras, dominated by the figure of Christ with a triumphant flag and a double cross in his left hand. In the front and on the left side by the tomb are soldiers with their weapons. On the right, behind Christ, is an angel removing the cover of the empty tomb. In the back is a group of figures entering the gate of the cemetery, led by the three Marys mentioned in Chapter 16 of the Gospel of Mark—Mary Salome, Mary mother of James, and Mary Magdalene—who are approaching the grave with containers of myrrh and balm. Further back is a symbolic landscape and the rising sun. The woodcut was probably imported separately from Nuremberg, Germany, and subsequently glued to the inside front cover of a copy of an incunabulum Latin Bible, printed by Johann Prüss (1447‒1510) in Strasbourg in 1489.