Category Archives: Illustrated books

illustrated books

Expedition to the Dead Sea, Petra, and the Left Bank of the Jordan

Honore Theodore Paul Joseph D’Albert Duc de Luynes (1802-1867), Voyage d’exploration à la Mer Morte, à Petra, et sur la Rive Gauche du Jourdain [= Expedition to the Dead Sea, Petra, and the Left Bank of the Jordan] (Paris: Arthus Bertrand, n.d. [ca.1868-74]). Graphic Arts Off-Site Storage RECAP-33945831


Alphonse Poitevin (1819-1882) won both of the 1856 photographic competitions sponsored by the Société françoise de photographie to discover a way (in short) to stop photographic prints from fading. Poitevin’s prize money was donated by Honoré d’Albert duc de Luynes (1802-1867) but when the Duke needed someone to print the photographs from his 1864 expedition to the Dead Sea basin and interior of Jordan, he passed on Poitevin and chose Charles Nègre (1820-1880).

An amateur archaeologist, Luynes organized the expedition to examine the region’s ancient ruins and perform geological and scientific observations. He took with him scientists, historians, and Lieutenant Louis Vignes (1831-1896), who served as the expedition’s photographer after receiving extensive training from Nègre. Vignes made both paper and glass plate negatives, which were carefully transported back to Paris and printed in ink as photogravures for the atlas documenting the expedition. Voyage d’Exploration a la Mer Morte à Petra et sur la Rive Gauche du Jourdain.

“Nègre was to complete the work by January 1868 for the sum of 23,250 francs. The photographs, made by the Duke’s second in command, Lieutenant L. Vignes, are for the most part rather contrasty and lacking in detail in the shadow areas. It is remarkable how Nègre was able to open up the shadows and fill them with light, detail and space. But undoubtedly the main reason the Duke chose Nègre to perform this task lay in the quality of the prints Nègre was capable of producing. Quite possibly de Luynes had expected the artist to win the prize of the Société Francaise competition, for he had achieved a control over his process which resulted in prints of rich tones, fine detail, transparency and effect.” – Borcoman, Charles Negre, pp. 45-46 and plates 199 and 200.

Together with three volumes of text, the atlas volume presents 64 of the Nègre photogravures; plus 18 lithographs, 2 maps, and 1 chart. Rachel Stuhlman, George Eastman House, writes that Nègre produced “printing plates capable of reproducing the entire gradation of tones, from the white of the paper to the strongest black…” and that he “…transformed the dull photographs into evocative images of great poetry.”


Contents: t. 1. Relation du voyage.–t. 2. De Petra à Palmyre, par m. Vignes.–Voyage de Jérusalem à Karak et à Chaubak, par mm. Mauss et Sauvaire.–t. 3 Géologie, par m. L. Lartet.–Atlas.

Dictionnaire botanique or livre d’artiste, take your pick

J.J. Audubon spent his life tracking and painting all the birds in America. Edward Curtis spent the majority of his adult life photographing the Indians of North America. In this extraordinary set of four volumes, a Belgian natural history enthusiast or scientist or doctor spent “most of my life” writing and illustrating a study of transformism, or what we would call evolutionary theory. And if that weren’t enough, the elephant folio Étude sur la transformisme comes with a three volume Dictionnaire botanique, every page hand written and hand colored.

This massive and extraordinary gathering of knowledge addresses everything from air currents to the working of the inner ear; from geography to biology; from Charles Darwin to Victor Hugo. The books are illustrated throughout with thousands of the watercolor paintings. It has been dated from the early 20th century, although the truth is there is no date yet found in any of the volumes. We can only hope it will catch the interest of a future researcher, patient enough to read the small print and find out the truth about the books and their anonymous author.

Étude sur la transformisme holds approximately 150 leaves, many folded, all heavily illustrated in full color. The three volume Dictionnaire botanique offers more than 1200 with several thousand color diagrams, charts, and paintings.

Although the sheer weight of the volume is pulling the paging from the binding, its impressive cover still holds the book together, offering four quotes to the reader:

La vie sans science est presque l’image de la morte, C. Volpi = Life without science is almost the image of the dead

Chercher. Comprendre. Vouloir. Pouvoir. Oser. Sentir. Méditer = Search. Understand. Want to. Power. Dare. Feel. Meditate

Naître, mourir et renaître sans cesse, telle est la loi, telle est lavie. V. Hugo = To be born, to die and to be reborn without ceasing, such is the law, such is the life.

Travailler pour être estimé. Etre estimé pour être aimé. Etre aimé pour être heureux = Work to be esteemed. To be esteemed in order to be loved. To be loved to be happy



There is the name Dumoulin, but we known absolutely nothing about him or her or them. It is unlikely this refers to the French artist Louis-Jules Dumoulin (1860–1924), who founded the Société Coloniale des Artistes Français in 1908. “Dumoulin is an Orientalist painter linked to the official artistic circles and a great traveler from the various missions that will be entrusted to him. He made his first major trip outside Europe in 1888 on the occasion of an official mission to Japan ordered by the Ministry of Education.”




Here is the description that comes with the set:

The large folio volume is really a huge collection of charts devoted to human anatomy, animal and plant biology, the fossil record and evolution (or transformisme). Botany makes up the largest proportion, but there are sections on insects, reptiles, birds, flying lizards, marsupials and mammals. Dumoulin also had an interest in Africa and there are sections on the Sahara and on the Belgian Congo. The focus is worldwide and is drawn from reference works rather than original research, but the arrangements are highly idiosyncratic. Several evolutionary charts are attempted, mentioning Linnaeus, Darwin, Lamarck and Jussieu.

The Dictionnaire botanique is a large 3 volume compilation mainly devoted to botanical classification, from the smallest mosses and seaweeds, to exotic flowering plants and forest trees. Like the larger folio volume, these volumes are illustrated throughout, with accompanying text in coloured inks and often containing emblematic figures of human figures appropriate to the origins of the plant: including Africans and Americans. They have apparently been bound from a large number of separate files (whose stiff paper cover with labels are preserved) each devoted to a different botanical family. The third volume contains additional materials at the end, including a study on Pasteur and germs, another on insects and another on bird classification. Like the preceding parts, these are also copiously illustrated in colour.

There is a note inserted that the author hoped his/her/their work would find its way into a university. Happily, the unusual set found a home in the Graphic Arts Collection at Princeton University. Please share the few facts presented here with colleagues and let us know if you have a theory about this massive undertaking.

The Books and Prints of Anaïs Nin and her Gemor Press

Please join us at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, September 25, 2020, for the fifth in our series of live webinars highlighting material in the Graphic Arts Collection at Princeton University Library. Recently we acquired most of the rare letterpress editions printed by Anaïs Nin (French-Cuban, 1903-1977). Best known for her diaries, Nin also wrote fiction with themes of history, feminism and multiculturalism. Together with Gonzalo More, one of her many lovers, Nin ran a private printing press in Greenwich Village where she taught herself to set type, stood for hours pumping a treadle press, and distributed her books with the help of Frances Steloff at Gotham Book Mart. Many were illustrated with original etchings by her husband, Hugh Parker Guiler, a banker who used the pseudonym Ian Hugo so his colleagues would not discover he was also an artist.

They called the imprint Gemor Press (pronounced G. More) after Gonzalo, although it was Anaïs who raised the money and did most of the physical work. Located first on MacDougal Street and later at 17 East 13th Street where the small building she rented still stands. After a close look at the books and prints, we are fortunate to be joined by Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, who will update us on their efforts to landmark this building, as well as other Village homes and studios of writers we all know and love.

This session is free and open to all. To register: click here

Here is the complete series of past and future webinars highlighting material in Princeton’s Graphic Arts Collection

New Theories on the Oldest American Woodcut. May 22, 2020
To celebrate the 350th anniversary of the oldest surviving print from Colonial America, we assembled all five extent copies of the portrait of the Reverend Richard Mather (1596-1669) by or after John Foster. Julie Mellby was joined by Caroline Duroselle-Melish, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints and Associate Librarian for Collection Care and Development, Folger Shakespeare Library.

Thomas Eakins and the Making of Walt Whitman’s Death Mask. June 26, 2020
This program was chosen specifically for June, LGBTQ pride month and this year, the 50th anniversary of the first Gay Pride march. Both Walt Whitman and Thomas Eakins, in their own way, broke down barriers around sex, sexuality, and the celebration of the human body. Presented by Julie Mellby, Graphic Arts Curator, and Karl Kusserow, John Wilmerding Curator of American Art, Princeton University Art Museum.

Afrofuturism: The Graphics of Octavia E. Butler. July 31, 2020
This month focused on the speculative fiction, also called Afrofuturism, of author Octavia E. Butler. Julie Mellby was joined by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, the award winning team who produced the graphic novel adaptations of Parable of the Sower and Kindred.

Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage. August 26, 2020
The fourth in our series celebrated the centenary of the 19th amendment on Women’s Equality Day. Julie Mellby was joined by Lauren Santangelo, author of Suffrage and the City and lecturer in Princeton University’s Writing Program, along with Sara Howard, Librarian for Gender & Sexuality Studies and Student Engagement within Scholarly Collections and Research Services at Princeton University Library.

The Books and Prints of Anaïs Nin and her Gemor Press. September 25, 2020
For the fifth in our series we highlight the recently acquired letterpress editions printed by Anaïs Nin (French-Cuban, 1903-1977). Together with Gonzalo More, Nin ran a private printing press in Greenwich Village where she printed and published fine press books, distributed with the help of Frances Steloff at Gotham Book Mart. Julie Mellby will be joined by Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, who will talk about efforts to landmark the Gemor Press building and other Village homes and studios of writers we all know and love.


An affecting history of the captivity & sufferings of Mrs. Mary Velnet–Fiction or Non-Fiction?

The Sinclair Hamilton copy of Mary Velnet’s 19th-century slave narrative has been digitized and is available for download.

Mary Velnet (born 1774), An affecting history of the captivity & sufferings of Mrs. Mary Velnet, an Italian lady Who was seven years a slave in Tripoli, three of which she was confined in a dungeon, loaded with irons, and four times put to the most cruel tortures ever invented by man written by herself (Boston: Published for W. Crary [1800?]). Graphic Arts Collection Hamilton 185.

Woodcut frontispiece showing Mary in her dungeon loaded with irons. Inscribed in ink on first fly leaf: “John Bright Jun. property–Waltham,” and “John Bright Jun. Waltham 1810 July 15th” on last leaf.


The book tells the story of Mary Velnet, wife of Morn Henri Velnet, an East Indian trader. Mary left Italy on June 20, 1797, to join her husband in Canton and two months later, her ship was attacked by the Tripolitans in North Africa. She was captured, sold, and held in slavery for seven years.

Although Velnet is called an Italian lady, it has been suggested that this was an American story, commissioned by an American publisher for the extensive audience hungry for for slave narratives involving white women. Princeton owns the first American edition, one of at least six printings of this book.

Paul Baepler’s White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives, suggests that the popularity in the United States of these sensational narratives of white women captured and tortured in African and Indian countries led to many fictitious publications.

“We have no bibliographies of Barbary captivity narratives, and while this list doesn’t claim to be comprehensive, I hope it moves us toward a fuller understanding of the genre’s publication history. No doubt there are many more narratives among newspaper accounts, unpublished diaries, sermons, letters, travel narratives, captain’s logs, and miscellany. I have included the seemingly fictitious accounts that were printed in the United States—Vandike, Velnet, Martin, Nicolson, Bradley, and Laranda—and with the exception of the Nicholson narrative, all of these were reputedly written by non-American but published exclusively in the United States.”

What do you think?

See also James Gillray’s Sale of English Beauties:

This Hunger….

Anaïs Nin (born Neuilly, France, 1903-1977), This Hunger (New York: Gemor Press, 1945). No. 28 of 50 with 5 color woodcuts by Ian Hugo (Hugh Parker Guiler, born Puerto Rico, 1898-1985). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2020- in process.

When Nin’s 1944 book, Under a Glass Bell sold out in three weeks, she and her lover Gonzalo More moved their printing press to a new home on East 13th Street, calling it Gemor Press after More’s initials. She wrote in her diary,

“As Gonzalo wanted the press to seem more businesslike, more impersonal, less like a private press run by writers, we had to find an appropriate place. The Villager had just moved out of 17 East Thirteenth Street. It was a small, two-story house. The ground level with a cement floor was suitable for the printing press. A narrow, curved iron staircase led to the second floor, which would be perfect for the engraving press. The house rented for sixty-five dollars a month, almost twice as much as the old studio on Macdougal Street.”


Their first book at the new location was This Hunger…., later expanded and incorporated into Ladders to Fire, She completed it in September 1945, noting in her diary that she “printed the one hundred and eighty-fourth page, the last of the de luxe edition of This Hunger” and went home exhausted. Although More wanted the business, Nin did the majority of the work, printing at least eight hours a day. The move was expensive and she owed money to everyone, saved in part by Henry Miller, another lover, who gave her $1,000, ”the first large amount he ever earned, which helped me pay off debts; with the rest he bought a cottage in Big Sur.”


According to volume 4 of The Diary of Anaïs Nin 1944-1947, in the mid-1940s Nin also had a relationship with Edmund Wilson (1895-1972). In reviewing This Hunger in The New Yorker November 10, 1945, he wrote:

“There is not much expert craftsmanship in This Hunger by Anaïs Nin but it is a more important book than either Marquand or Isherwood because it explores a new realm of material. Even Isherwood can do little more than add to an already long series another lucid and well-turned irony of the bourgeois world on the eve of war. But Anaïs Nin is one of those women writers who have lately been trying to put into words a new feminine point of view, who deal with the conflicts created for women by living half in a man-controlled world against which they cannot help rebelling, half in a world which they have made from themselves but which they cannot find completely satisfactory.”

He ends “I feel sure that Anaïs Nin has still hardly begun to get out of her intelligence and talent the writing that they ought to produce. This new book, like the one before it, has been published by Anaïs Nin herself. Anaïs Nin is at present a special cult, when she ought to have a general public.”

He sent her flowers and a set of Jane Austen. “He was hoping,” Nin wrote, “I would learn how to write a novel from reading her!”


Artists of “Opportunity”

The artists of Opportunity, the monthly publication of the National Urban League edited by Charles S. Johnson, were always identified in the table of contents but almost never given further biographical details in magazine’s “Who’s Who” or other text. Here are some of the leading graphic artists from the late 1920s, before photography took over. Perhaps not surprisingly, some were Black and some White. Covers are printed on a tan stock that photographed grey here.


Winold Reiss, “Langston Hughes,” Opportunity 5, no. 3 (March 1927).
Winold Reiss (1886–1953) No information is provided by Opportunity, even in “Who’s Who.” A White German American artist, Winold Reiss arrived in New York City in 1913, where he soon began creating sensitive representations of African Americans and Native Americans. “Reiss’s depictions avoided the racist stereotypes common at the time.” Along with his student Aaron Douglas, Reiss illustrated The New Negro: An Interpretation, a collection of Harlem literary works by Alain Leroy Locke, the first African American Rhodes scholar.—Details from National Portrait Gallery.



Aaron Douglas, [Untitled], Opportunity 5, no. 5 (May 1927).
Aaron Douglas (1899-1979). “Douglas arrived in Harlem shortly after the publication of what was immediately recognized as a landmark publication: the March 1925 issue of Survey Graphic titled, “Harlem: Mecca for the New Negro” [later published in The New Negro]. … [In New York, he studied] with German émigré artist Fritz Winold Reiss… and Du Bois, who gave him a job in the mail room of The Crisis. In 1927 … Douglas to join the staff of The Crisis as their art critic… and …illustrated God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse by James Weldon Johnson. Douglas became chairman of the art department at Fisk University while also remaining active in Harlem.—”Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist,” ed. Susan Earle (2007).



Aaron Douglas, [Untitled], Opportunity 5, no. 7 (July 1927).



Charles Cullen, “A Copper Sun,” Opportunity 5, no. 9 (September 1927).
Charles Cullen (born 1887). A White Irish American artist, influenced by Aubrey Beardsley, Cullen illustrated many of Countee Cullen’s early poetry books. These designs are often repeated in the magazines or advertisements of the period. “Countee Cullen tells an interesting tale about how the father of Charles Cullen is always interested in anyone whose name is Cullen…it was in this way that he came to buy Color, Countee Cullen’s first book, the which he sent to his son Charles…it later developed that Charles was an artist… hence these very beautiful drawings which he did for Countee Cullen’s book…and truly they are lovely to behold!” Opportunity September 1927, p. 277.



Charles Cullen, [Untitled], Opportunity 6, no. 2 (February 1928).



James L. Wells, [Untitled], Opportunity 6, no. 4 (April 1928).
James Lesesne Wells (1902-1993). Described in Opportunity as a “Young Negro artist living in Buffalo.” Wells studied in New York City at Teachers College and the National Academy of Design, where the owner of the New Art Circle Gallery, J.B. Neumann, saw his work and included him in the “International Modernists” exhibition in 1929. Wells became a crafts instructor at Howard University, teaching block printing, ceramics, clay modeling, and sculpture. He also developed professional and personal relationships with Alain Locke, historian Carter G. Woodson, and later, Stanley Hayter, while further developing his printmaking skills at Hayter’s Atelier 17.



Albert A. Smith, “Ethiopia–A Fantasy,” Opportunity 6, no. 6 (June 1928).
Albert Alexander Smith (1896-1940), Listed in Opportunity as “A young Negro artist now on a visit in this country from Paris where he has resided for the past seven years.” Smith was the first African American to win a scholarship to the High School of Ethical Culture and the first African American to study at the National Academy of Design. In 1920 his work was published in Crisis, shortly before he left the United States to live permanently in Europe. Often sending work back to the States, he continued to publish in Opportunity and elsewhere but died suddenly in France only forty-four years old.



James Lesesne Wells, [Untitled], Opportunity 6, no. 7 (July 1928).



Lois Jones, [Untitled], Opportunity 6, no. 8 (August 1928).
Lois Jones (1905-1998). Opportunity described her as “A promising young artist living in Boston.” In 1928 Jones formed and chaired the art department at the Palmer Memorial Institute in North Carolina, and two years later was recruited to teach at Howard University in Washington, D.C., [where she] taught design and watercolor painting for the next forty-seven years…. In 1937 Jones received a year-long fellowship that took her to Paris to live and work. This was a defining moment for the young black artist who experienced—for the first time in her life—the complete freedom to live as she wished without the indignities of segregation that she felt in the United States.”—Phillips Collection.
“In 1941, Jones entered her painting “Indian Shops Gay Head, Massachusetts” into the Corcoran Gallery’s annual competition. At the time, the Corcoran Gallery prohibited African-American artists from entering their artworks themselves. Jones had [a White artist] Céline Marie Tabary enter her painting to circumvent the rule. Jones ended up winning the Robert Woods Bliss Award for this work of art, yet she could not pick up the award herself. Tabary had to mail the award to Jones. …In 1994, the Corcoran Gallery of Art gave a public apology to Jones at the opening of the exhibition The World of Lois Mailou Jones, 50 years after Jones hid her identity.” –Karla Araujo, “Against All Odds,” Martha’s Vineyard Magazine.



D. Edouard Freeman, [Untitled], Opportunity 6, no. 9 (September 1928).
The artist is listed in Opportunity as an “Instructor in drawing at Tuskegee.” Nothing else is known.



Lois Jones, [Untitled], Opportunity 6, no. 10 (October 1928).



Also included: Cornelius Marion Battey (1873-1927). Many of the early cover designs for Opportunity were created by photographer C.M. Battey, who, in his last years of life, turned to pen and brush. A short obituary is printed in Opportunity, May 1927, p. 126. Battey moved from Cleveland to New York City “where for six years he was superintendent of the Bradley Photographic Studio on Fifth Avenue. He went to work at the city’s most famous photographic company, Underwood and Underwood, where he was put in charge of the retouching department. Battey finally got the opportunity to work on his own. With a partner he opened the Battey and Warren Studio in New York. …Battey was one of the best pictorialists in New York City.

His work led him into a valuable friendship with black author and educator W. E. B. DuBois, one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). DuBois was also editor of the NAACP’s official magazine, The Crisis. Soon Battey’s portraits of well-known black leaders were appearing regularly on the covers of The Crisis. In 1916, Battey was invited to take over the photography department of the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama [where] Battey not only taught photography but also chronicled in pictures the life of the campus.” – Black Artists in Photography (1840-1940) by George Sullivan.

Charles Cullen

Born on December 19, 1887, in LeRoy, New York (southwest of Rochester), surprisingly little is known about the American artist Charles Cullen. Here are a few more details. His father, Matthew Cullen, was born in Ireland in 1854 and moved to New York where he married a Canadian-born girl named Ellen. As the sixth of seven children, Charles was nearly 5-years-old when the family moved to Adelphi Street in Brooklyn so his father could take a job as an engineer. “Tall and blond with blue eyes” was what his WWI draft card said, excusing him from service due to poor eye sight. By 1917, he was living on East 31st Street, working as an artist at 1441 Broadway, possibly making designs the Hartford Textile Company in that building.

Around this time, Charles Cullen met the African American writer, performer, artist Bruce Nugent (1906-1987), who worked as a bellhop at the Martha Washington Hotel near Charles’ apartment. Bruce was gregarious and openly gay, while Charles was much more conservative with his sexuality (Bruce later called him insipid) but the two hit it off since they were both aspiring painters. It was certainly through Bruce that Charles began to make contact with members of the Harlem Renaissance. They collaborate several times, most notably with Aaron Douglas on the illustrations for Ebony and Topaz, A Collectanea (1927), an anthology of prose and poetry published by Opportunity magazine.

According to Gwendolyn Bennett (Opportunity September 1927), it was Matthew Cullen who gave his son a poetry book by Countee Cullen (1903-1946) entitled Color (1925). Written while still in school, Countee finished his master’s degree at Harvard and then, moved back to New York City. Charles arranged an introduction to the young Black poet, who strangely had the same family name, and showed him some drawings he had made styled after Aubrey Beardsley’s erotic black and white designs. Enticed, Countee arranged to have Charles illustrate his next book, Copper Sun (1927), followed by The Ballad of the Brown Girl (1927), an illustrated second edition of Color (1928), and The Black Christ and Other Poems (1929).

At this point, Charles and Countee end their literary partnership. This may have had something to do with the artist’s next project, privately printed for Rarity Press, which was Dialogues of the Courtesans, an illustrated collection of erotic texts by Lucian of Samosata, with chapters that include “The Pleasure of Being Beaten,” “The Terror of Marriage,” and “The Lesbians,” among others. Another overtly sexual volume appeared in 1933, when Charles selected and illustrated sections of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, with an introduction by Sherwood Anderson. Charles received only one more commission, illustrating Contemporary American Men Poets in 1937 and then work dried up.

Three years later, when Charles filled out the 1940 census form, he had been without work for 156 weeks, living with a young social worker named Torlyn Perstholdt. Little else is known about Charles Cullen’s later years. A small illustrated “Life of Christ” published out of Nashville, Tennessee, must have helped pay the rent. When he died, there was no obituary.

Louis XIV Performs Apollo



Giacomo Torelli (1608-1678), Scene e machine preparate alle Nozze di Teti, balletto reale representato nella sala del piccolo Borbone (Paris, 1654). Bound with: Giacomo Torelli (1608-1678) and Giulio Strozzi (1583-1652), Feste theatrali per la Finta Pazza drama del Sig. Giulio Strozzi. Rappresentate nel piccolo Borbone in Parigi quest’anno 1645 (Paris, 1645). Text in French and Italian. Provenance: From the library of the late-eighteenth-century Milanese engineer Giacomo Antonio Besana. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2020- in process

Together with the Marquand Art and Archaeology Library, the Graphic Arts Collection acquired a first edition of this royal ballet, staged for Cardinal Mazzarino (1602-1661) with the participation of Louis XIV (1638-1715, King of France 1643-1715). Detailed plans for the inventive staging are by Giacomo Torelli (1608-1678), one of the most talented Baroque theater designers. This variant B edition in an early vellum binding retains two additional leaves with Torelli’s verses “Per la ricreazione e fuoco di Gioia,” engraved title page, plus the five folding double plates. Many pages are uncut.



Copying the dealer’s note in full:

In 1645, Torelli arrived in Paris and directed the refurbishment of the Palais Royal, the theatre built by Cardinal Richelieu. There he staged several appreciated performances, winning over not only the title of “Grand Sorcier”, but also the patronage of Cardinal Mazzarino. This famous “Noces de Pèlee et de Thétis” were staged by Torrelli in 1645, at the Petit Bourbon, with King Louis XIV dancing the role of Apollo. The libretto was composed by Francesco Buti, the music by Carlo Caproli and the ballets by Isaac de Benserade. The lavish scenographic apparati are thoroughly documented in this book, which contains the preparatory plans attributed directly to Torelli by Bjustrom. The opening verses and the following eight descriptions were penned by the Friuli librettist Giovanni Battista Amalteo, active in Vienna. The remarkably neat engravings were made by Silvestre Israël (1621-1691) after François Francart (1622-1672).

The acclaimed performance remained memorable as one of the first in Paris to exploit such complex machinery, insomuch that this edition was commissioned to eternalise this very aspect of the play. The copy also retains Torrelli’s large and inventive plates related to Finta Pazza, another work staged at the Petit Bourbon in 1645. The play had already been hailed as a great success at the premiere in Venice on 14 February 1641, with music composed by Francesco Sacrati. One can find here the title-page and the plates of the first edition of Finta Pazza, which circulated independently from the libretto, as was the case of the copies recorded by Vinet. Likewise, Gourary’s copy is with no text and intriguingly bound together with the Nozze di Teti, also without text, and other 13 suites of French and Italian theatrical, architectural and garden ornament.

This acquisition can be studied in the Firestone Library Special Collections reading room, when it reopens.


Portrait of the author, Increase Mather

Robert White (1645-1703) after Jan van der Spriet (active 1690-1700), Crescentius Matherus [Portrait of Increase Mather], 1688. Engraving. Bound in: Increase Mather (1639-1723), The Life and Death of That Reverend Man of God, Mr. Richard Mather, Teacher of the Church in Dorchester in New-England : [seven lines of quotations] (Cambridge [Mass.]: Printed by S.G. and M.J. [i.e., Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson], 1670. William H. Scheide Library, 101.19


A few months ago, a live webinar was held to investigate the woodcut portrait of Richard Mather (1596-1669) by John Foster (1648-1681), recognized as the first cut printed on a European press in Colonial  America. The print is assumed to have been created in honor of Mather’s death around 1670. While Princeton University Library holds a copy of that print, in William Scheide’s copy of The Life and Death of That Reverend Man of God, Mr. Richard Mather someone has inserted an engraved portrait of the author, Increase Mather, rather than the woodcut.

Thanks to our digital studio, we now have a complete surrogate copy of the volume along with the engraving to study at home.


The Scheide volume has a dedication signed: Increase Mather. Boston N.E. Septemb. 6. 1670. The pasted in engraving holds the inscription: Crescentius Matherus. Aetatis Suae 49. 1688. Vanderspirit pinxit. R. White Sculp. Londini. This tells us that it was engraved by Robert White (1645-1703) after a drawing by Jan van der Spriet (active 1690-1700),

The portrait shows Increase Mather, aged 49, with long hair, wearing skull-cap and bands. According to Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society (1894), “Mather’s portrait was painted in 1688 [see below], during his visit to England, where, as an agent of the Massachusetts Colony, he had gone in the spring of that year. The artist was John vander Spriett, a Dutch mezzotint engraver of little note, who had studied under Verkolie at Amsterdam, where he had painted a few portraits. He afterward went to London, and died there about the year 1700.”

Presumably Dr. Mather, on his return home in the spring of 1692, brought back to Boston this painting of himself. Inasmuch as his eldest child, Dr. Cotton Mather, inherited the larger part of his estate, it is very likely that the picture passed into that son’s possession, and thence into the hands of his grandson Samuel. Within a few months after Dr. Mather’s portrait was painted in London, it was engraved by Robert White, an English artist of some note (born 1645, died 1704), who had made many other likenesses of distinguished persons.

It is a small copperplate engraving, about six inches by four in size, representing the bust in an oval frame, and the whole resting on a pedestal, and bears the legend “Crescentius Matherus. AEtatis Suae 49. 1688.” In the two lower corners, below the pedestal, are the following words, in small script: “Vanderspirit pinxit. R. White Sculp. Londini.” It is of excellent workmanship, the hatching is soft and delicate, and the handling of the hair graceful. While the engraver has taken some liberties in his production and has slightly changed the pose of the figure, it is evident that he followed this identical portrait.

According to White’s biography written for the British Museum, the artist was the “foremost pupil of [David Loggan, 1634–1692], and inherited his position as the leading line-engraver for the print trade. His earliest print was made in 1666, and his last in 1702. His output was huge, and has never been fully catalogued. [George Vertue, 1684-1756]‘s list, reproduced by Walpole, has several hundred plates. Vertue got some information from White’s son, George: ‘Robert White Engraver did not only learn of Mr Loggan but from his infancy had an inclination to drawing & made essays in engraving and etching before he knew Loggan. He drew many buildings for Loggan & engrav’d, besides he imploy’d much of his time in drawing from the life black led upon vellum’”.

While most of White’s portraits are found as frontispieces, “A small number he published himself at his house in Bloomsbury Market …. He is said to have charged about £4 for a small plate, but up to £30 for a large one.”


Afrofuturism: The Graphics of Octavia E. Butler

Please join us for the latest in our series of live webinars highlighting Special Collections at Princeton University Library. This month focuses on speculative fiction, also called Afrofuturism, of Octavia E. Butler.

January 2020 brought the release of the much anticipated Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia E. Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy and illustrator John Jennings, the follow-up to the no.1 New York Times bestseller Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by the same award-winning team. Butler’s groundbreaking dystopian novel offers a searing vision of America’s future. Set in the year 2024, Parable presents a country marred by unattended environmental and economic crises that lead to social chaos. Residents shelter indoors, warned against venturing outside into a world eerily similar to our contemporary COVID-19 existence.

Adapting Parable and Kindred to a graphic novel format is an astounding achievement and we are fortunate to have both Damian Duffy and John Jennings with us to discuss how they accomplished it. Their adaptations capture the energy and raw emotion of Butler’s prose with visual acrobatics and succinct verbal interchanges. Join this lively discussion with Graphic Arts Curator Julie Mellby, focusing on their graphic adaptations of classic literature, along with a look at their future projects.


Date: Friday, July 31, 2020
Time: 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EDT
Location: Virtual


Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) was a renowned African-American author who was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Grant and PEN West Lifetime Achievement Award for her body of work.

Damian Duffy is a cartoonist, scholar, writer, and teacher. He holds a MS and PhD in library and information sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is on faculty.

John Jennings is the newly appointed director of Megascope, Abrams ComicArt’s graphic imprint as well as a professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside.