“Wild Lives:” An Afternoon of Talks on October 16th, Guyot Hall Auditorium, Princeton University

COTSEN-SMALL-POSTER-for-EMAILCotsen Children’s Library, the Graphic Arts Collection, and the Friends of the Princeton University Library will be co-hosting:

 Wild Lives: Catesby, Audubon, Lear, and Ford

October 16th, 2016 from 2:00-4:30 PM
Guyot Hall Auditorium, Princeton University

Please join us then for an afternoon of talks discussing the distinguished natural history illustrations of Mark Catesby, John Audubon, Edward Lear, and Walton Ford.

Our four speakers and their presentations will be:

Robert M. Peck ’74, Curator of Art and Senior
Fellow at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel
University: The Remarkable Nature of Edward Lear

Aaron M. Bauer, the Gerald M. Lemole Professor of
Integrative Biology at Villanova University: Mark Catesby, Pioneering Zoologist of
the American Southeast

Neal Woodman, Research Zoologist with the USGS
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: Audubon’s Contributions to
Rafinesque’s Zoological Discoveries
in the American West

A talk by contemporary artist Walton Ford

No reservations are necessary, but you may call or email me for more information at: 609-258-1148 or idooley@princeton.edu.

Here’s a map of Guyot Hall: http://www.princeton.edu/pei/contact/guyot-map/

Closest parking is on Ivy Lane, lot no.14, open to everyone on Sunday afternoon.

parking

Cotsen’s Covert Collections: An 18th-century Illuminated Manuscript from Rajasthan

 

Full page spread, Cotsen 46721

Full page spread (second text), Cotsen 46721

For this edition of “Cotsen’s Covert Collections” I’d like to post about another item I know very little about: an 18th-century manuscript from Rajasthan, India. But the manuscript is such an unusual item that I thought it was definitely worth advertising!

Here’s what we do know: The manuscript was written in the Braj Bhasa language in Devanagari script probably around 1780 in the Mewar region of the Indian state of Rajasthan. It contains 3 distinct works: the text Avatara-carinthr, which describes the different reincarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu; the text Shri Ramcandra-carinthr manas, which describes the life of Rama and Sita (from the Ramayana epic); and the tenth book of Bhagavata Purana, which is the holiest book for worshipers of the Hindu god Vishnu. Though the middle text appears to be the bulk of the manuscript, it’s hard to designate the sections (for me anyway) because the manuscript is unpaginated.

Physically, the manuscript is really beautiful and honestly kind of daunting. The folio-sized manuscript, which measures about 16 inches high, is massive! It’s over 500 pages long and contains around 1600 illuminated and hand-painted miniatures. When talking about Western medieval manuscripts, “illuminated” means that gold (or silver) foil is used in the decoration of the artwork; and  “miniatures” are not necessarily minute in size, but is a specialized meaning of the term to denote those paintings within a manuscript.

yup

A page from the first text, the Avatara-carinthir.

another

A spread from the second text, Shri Ramacandra-carinthir.

fromlasttext

Miniatures from the last text, the Bhavata Purana, Book 10.

Another fascinating feature of this manuscript is the folded binding–a one-of-a-kind example in our collection.

Bottom edge of the book

Bottom edge of the book

This means that 24-inch-long sheets, painted and calligraphed on both sides, were pierced and folded over each other and then tied to the outer housing through the center of the fold (though our current housing is definitely later than the book). Since all the sheets were folded together we are left with a distinct peak in the center of the manuscript which recedes in a teardrop shape as the folded sheets increase in number. This is very different from familiar Western style binding where small groups or quires of sheets are folded together and then the ends of the full book block are cut for uniform edges.

The marroon folded housing

The maroon folded housing

Decorative centerfold with ties

Decorative centerfold with ties

As you can see above, while perusing the manuscript for interesting images, I came across another very surprising feature of the book. Many of the illuminated miniatures in the second section are unfinished.

proof proof2The incompleteness of the images affords us insight into the process of this manuscript’s creation.

I hope that showcasing this beautiful object will bring it to the attention of someone more knowledgeable than I, who can help us discover more about this wonderful (and under-described) manuscript.  Cotsen has such a diverse range of unusual or unexpected artifacts, books, and objects. As always, this blog series is supposed to inspire researchers to see what else they can find in our collection.

Tiger tailpiece!

Tiger tailpiece!