“Piranesi and Romanticism: Architecture and the Literary Imagination.”

The University of South Carolina is one of six institutions worldwide to own a complete twenty-nine volume set of the works of the eighteenth-century architectural illustrator Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778). He is known for his meticulous and fanciful engravings of Roman architecture, ancient and modern, as well as his “imaginary prisons.” In his engravings, lush vines hang over classical ruins, eighteenth-century scholars cast light in the shadows of long-hidden family crypts, and faceless prisoners climb endless staircases past skulls and bones. Piranesi’s works reveal significant transitions in archaeology, aesthetics, architecture, engraving, and print, and they inspired many of the great names of nineteenth-century literature. In Spring 2017 I taught an honors college seminar that met in Rare Books and Special Collections called “Piranesi and Romanticism: Architecture and the Literary Imagination.”

Born in Venice, Piranesi made his professional and cultural home in Rome, where his works were sold individually and bound in publications including Antichità romane [Roman Antiquities] (1756), Vedute di Roma [Views of Rome] (1748), and Carceri d’invenzione [Imaginary Prisons] (1750). In this seminar, Piranesi’s visual meditations on the lost glories, shadowy corners, and persistent beauty of ancient Roman architecture served to introduce students to the literary and cultural period of Romanticism. Piranesi’s works straddle the boundary between neoclassicism’s emphasis on order and the classical ideal and Romanticism’s emphasis on the imagination and the individual.  The range of his artistic productions—from objective architectural plans to elaborate architectural fantasies, from urban scenes of eighteenth-century Rome to imaginary scenes of subterranean torture—demonstrate visually many of the thematic tensions that animate literary works of the following decades.

Opere, v. 8, image 70 (“Pianta di ampio magnifico Collegio” [plan of a large and magnificent college])

Opere, v. 2, image 4 (Antichità romane, frontispiece)

Opere, v. 16, image 58 (Vedute di Roma, “Veduta della Basilica di S. Paolo” [View of the Basilica of San Paolo])

Opere, v. 8, image 136 (Carceri, plate VII)

Piranesi’s works were frequently acquired and highly prized by wealthy British and Northern European travelers on the “grand tour,” and some writers describe their disappointment at seeing Rome itself after having first seen it through Piranesi’s vision. Students in this course also used Piranesi’s vision as an introduction—to poetry and prose of European Romanticism—and were challenged and encouraged, rather than disappointed, by having seen through Piranesi’s vision. His engravings present not only the literal views of Rome that were the subject of student presentations early in the semester but also more abstract perspectives on historical time, individual creativity, architectural space, and the power of nature that continued to guide our discussions about works by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Victor Hugo, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas De Quincey, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, John Keats, and Charles Baudelaire throughout the term.

Opere, v. 16, image 388 (Vedute di Roma, “Veduta della fonte e delle Spelonche d’Egeria” [View of the fountain and grotto of Egeria])

Opere, v. 16, image 376 (Vedute di Roma, “Veduta interna dell’antico Tempio di Bacco” [Interior view of the Temple of Bacchus])

Jeanne M. Britton
Curator, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections
University of South Carolina

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Highlights from the Ron Rash Archive now on display in the Irvin Department Gallery

The Irvin Department’s current exhibit, “More than a Southern Author: Influences and Impact in the Works of Ron Rash,” explores the newly acquired Ron Rash Archive by highlighting the author’s allusions and references to other literary classics within his works.  Drawing from the Irvin Department’s holdings, this exhibit pairs Rash’s manuscripts with works of other authors, from handwritten manuscript by Pat Conroy to Shakespeare’s 2nd Folio from 1632.

The Ron Rash Archive, the comprehensive collection of award-winning, internationally bestselling contemporary author Ron Rash, has found a home in the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.

Ron Rash, 2016

Rash is a triple threat– writing and publishing poetry, short stories and novels. Rash’s intensely regional works reveal deep universal truths.  Among his numerous awards, three of his novels have been New York Times Best Sellers, he was twice nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award in 2010 and this year Rash was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for Fiction.  Rash’s recent popular success comes as no surprise to those familiar with his decades long career. Rash has written seven novels, four poetry compilations and six short story anthologies beginning with The Night the New Jesus Fell to Earth in 1994. His most recent work of fiction, The Risen, was published in late 2016. His first published work, a short story titled “Turtle Meat” was published in 1978.

Born in Chester, South Carolina and raised in western North Carolina, Rash’s works are grounded in the American South and are informed by his family’s history and the history of the region. His grandparents moved to Buncombe County, North Carolina to work at Eureka Cotton Mill and his mother and father met while employed at the mill. Rash would title his first book of poetry, Eureka Mill.

 However, Rash is much more than a southern author. Rash admires and is often compared to William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor but his works also show his connection to the works of a myriad of authors from Fyodor Dostoevsky to Walt Whitman. Works from all of these authors and others are included in this exhibit, drawing direct parallels between the works and Rash’s personal history and influences using archival material from the Ron Rash Archive.

Ron Rash tours the exhibit at the announcement of the acquisition of his archive by USC with his wife Ann and Irvin Department Archivist Jessica Crouch

The exhibit is on display in the Brittain Gallery and the Irvin Department Gallery in The Hollings Special Collections Library until July 31.  An audio tour is available as a compliment to the exhibit at the Reading Room desk. 

Rash (middle) with Dean of USC Libraries Tom McNally (left) and South Carolina Historian Walter Edgar (right) at the announcement of the acquisition of the Ron Rash Archive, April 27, 2017

Jessica Crouch, Archivist

Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections

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Call for Entries: Student Book Collecting Contest, 2014

 Call for Entries:

University Libraries Student Book Collecting Contest, 2014

Submission deadline: May 1, 2014

 

Entries are invited from students currently enrolled at the University of South Carolina (all campuses) for the University Libraries Student Book Collecting Award, carrying a first prize of $250. The award is sponsored by the Thomas Cooper Society, which initiated it in 1993 to encourage beginning book collectors. A list of previous winners and the topics of their collections is available at: 
http://www.sc.edu/library/spcoll/bookcoll/winners.html.

A selection of items on display from Robert Smith's 2012 winning historical radio book collection

A selection of items on display from Robert Smith’s 2012 winning historical radio book collection

Student book collections may be in any field or may emphasize some particular area of interest within a subject. Collections may illustrate a certain bibliographical feature such as edition, illustration, typography, binding, &tc. Books and printed documents in all formats are acceptable for submission.
 Materials submitted by entrants must be owned and have been collected primarily by them. Entries should be submitted by May 1, 2014, and should include the following:

a) A brief essay (2-3 pages, double-spaced) describing how and why the collection was assembled, including plans for future growth and development.

b) An annotated bibliography of selected titles (about 25-40) from the collection.

c) A cover sheet listing the entrant’s name, address, phone and email contacts.

N.B.: The entrant’s name should not appear anywhere on the entry except on the cover sheet. If submitting electronically, please try to send as PDF files. Entrants may wish to look over a previous successful entry to get ideas on arranging their material: a folder of winning entries is on reserve in the Smith Reading Room in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library.

A panel of judges will evaluate each anonymous entry. Each entrant’s essay and bibliography will be evaluated on how well they illustrate the concept of the collection. The winner will also be invited to exhibit selected items from their collection in the Hollings Library during Commencement Weekend and the month of May. The winning entry will also be submitted to the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, co-sponsored by the Library of Congress, the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, and the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies. The university’s 2007 winner was a runner-up in the national contest.

Entries should be submitted by midnight on Thursday, May 1, 2014, to:
 Jeffrey Makala, 
Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections,
 Hollings Special Collections Library,
 Columbia, SC 29208.
 (803) 777-0296. Or to: makalaj@mailbox.sc.edu.

 

 

 

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Medieval Manuscripts in North Carolina

This is a guest post by Maggie Johnson,
a student in “Reading the Medieval Book”
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On 14-15 November undergraduates in Dr. Scott Gwara’s course “Reading the Medieval Book” encountered more than forty medieval manuscripts at UNC’s Wilson Library and Ackland Art Museum, and at the Rubenstein Library on the Duke campus. Freshman Maggie Johnson wrote the following synopsis of the excursion.
South Carolina Honors College Students Arrive at their "sister" school, UNC

South Carolina Honors College Students Arrive at their “sister” school, UNC

Our class trip to UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University gave fascinating insight into the types of medieval manuscripts. Although the collection here at USC is informative, seeing unique books both sacred and secular introduced a new dimension to medieval literature.
USC Students Examining a Wycliffite New Testament in Middle English

USC Students Examining a Wycliffite New Testament in Middle English (MS 529)

UNC Chapel Hill has manuscripts in two locations: the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library and the Ackland Art Museum. The librarians of the Wilson Library were welcoming and are very much interested in the preservation of their collection, which includes a truly minuscule Middle English bible—perhaps three inches wide and four inches tall at the very most.
USC Undergraduate Neil Sauter Examines Fragments of a Tours Bible, ca. 825

USC Undergraduate Neil Sauter Examines Fragments of a Tours Bible, ca. 825 (MS 526)

Host Dr. Emily Kader Shows USC Undergraduate Kirkland Gray an Illuminated Psalter from St. Denis, ca. 1216

Host Dr. Emily Kader Shows USC Undergraduate Kirkland Gray an Illuminated
Psalter from St. Denis, ca. 1216 (MS 11)

Illumination of Jonah and the Whale from the St. Denis Psalter, ca. 1216

Illumination of Jonah and the Whale from the St. Denis Psalter, ca. 1216 (MS 11)

Also notable in the Wilson Library collection is a tome of monastic vows, beginning in the Middle Ages and spanning hundreds of years up to and beyond the Revolutionary War.
A Profession Dated 1777 from the Profession Book of Toussaints, Angers

A Profession Dated 1777 from the Profession Book of Toussaints, Angers (MS 534)

More focused on artwork than books themselves, the Ackland Art Museum has a collection of illuminations taken from various sources.
Examining Manuscripts in the Prints Room at the Ackland Art Museum, UNC

Examining Manuscripts in the Prints Room at the Ackland Art Museum, UNC

Although there were several beautifully painted manuscripts, the most elaborate and interesting was a leaf taken from a gradual (a large medieval book of music for the Mass). The music itself would be beautiful to translate and perform, but the illuminations along the borders are far more attention-grabbing. They show three scenes from the Adoration of the Magi: two of travel and one of the Adoration itself. The border contains intricate featherwork in yellow and blue, with small creatures hidden amongst the swirls.
The Magi Travel on Camels...

The Magi Travel on Camels…

...and on Elephants

…and on Elephants

Also in the Ackland Museum are two leaves from different manuscripts depicting David in Penance, a popular illumination from the “Seven Penitential Psalms” section of medieval books of hours.
David in Penance from the Chester Beatty Hours

David in Penance from the Chester Beatty Hours

Although the pieces from Chapel Hill were themselves beautiful, a more varied collection waited in Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The library itself is closed for renovations, but the collection was still available for viewing. Among the most notable of the manuscripts at Duke were an incomplete leaf from an Atlantic Bible (the largest type of Bible produced) and a seventeenth-century notebook containing information both mathematical and astronomical.

A Mid-Twelfth Century Atlantic Bible from Florence

A Mid-Twelfth Century Atlantic Bible from Florence

The notebook was perhaps the most interesting piece from the weekend, since it was a secular work as opposed to the sacred texts on display. It was a deeply personal book: whoever penned it may well have been a university student; he was clearly interested in the three theories of the solar system’s layout as well as different forms of geometry. It may have also been one of the more informative books available to the class, as it gave a new look into the secular side of medieval scholasticism.
Heliocentric vs. Geocentric Models of the Solar System

Heliocentric vs. Geocentric Models of the Solar System

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