The N-Files

Nature Bound Exhibition Illustration Change

Many of the books in the Nature Bound: Illustrated Botanical Books exhibition feature very delicate, hand-colored illustrations that require an extra level of care. The pigments in the watercolor media used to color the images are very sensitive to light. Exposure to intense light or even lower light levels over a long duration can cause the colors to fade. Though we keep the light levels quite low in the gallery, the duration of the exhibition was long enough to require that we choose new illustrations about halfway through. Early last week we rotated the images on about twenty books. We found that this was not an easy task because it required that the new images continue to work with thematic and aesthetic relationships in the exhibition. In a few cases, it also meant that our art handlers had to create new plastic cradles in order to hold the book open to the new page. But the bonus for our viewers is that they now have the good fortune to see a fresh selection of images. Many of them are at least as, if not more, stunning than the last round. Please come by and take a look!

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Barton.jpg

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Nature Bound: Days 6 and 7

Yesterday we put the finishing touches on Nature Bound: Illustrated Botanical Books, including applying the vinyl title wall and well as tending to a myriad of other details. This morning the exhibition opened to the public, a few days ahead of its official opening date. Below you see one of the preparators working through the "sticky" process of placing the vinyl on the exhibition's title wall. FYI, I learned that this is the same vinyl that is used for car detailing. The next view shows a very special object in the exhibition: Romeyn Hough's American Woods. Hough spent the good part of his life on this project: he personally collected wood from over 400 species of trees growing in the U.S. to include in what finally came to be fourteen volumes of wood samples and accompanying information. We're showing eight of the wood sample cards in a custom-designed, backlit case, allowing a viewer to study the intricate pattern and color of the wood. The last image shows a section of the finished exhibition installation. All-in-all, I'm pleased. I think visitors will be surprised to find out that between the library collections at the Amon Carter and the Botanic Research Institute of Texas, we have in the cultural district some of the great achievements of botanic illustration.

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2011-01-26 Hough Case.jpg

2011-01-25 WOP View.jpg

Nature Bound: Day 5

Hi there,

Today we nearly finished the installation of Nature Bound: Illustrated Botanical Books. Each object on display has a number that connects it with the related object information and discussion that is printed on the large panels that float above each case. Below you see one of the museum's preparators organizing a "deck" of these numbers. Below that you see the installation of the cut vinyl that makes up the title wall. We're getting close!

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Nature Bound: Day 4

Yesterday we made a lot of progress toward installing Nature Bound: Illustrated Botanical Books. All the books are now mounted on their cradles and secured to the cases. All the large information panels are also in place. At the tail end of the day, we started setting the light levels in the space. Since this is an exhibition that includes delicate watercolored images, the lights have to be around 5 foot candles in order to preserve the color. In fact, at about half way through the show, we'll have to switch all the illustrations that have watercolor, so there will be an opportunity to see even more spectacular images. Yesterday we also placed the custom case that will show the fascinating samples of wood from Romeyn Hough's American Woods. The case has backlighting that will allow visitors to study the coloring and patterning of the wood. The case is pictured rather murkily in the bottom right hand corner of the image below.

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Nature Bound: Days 2 and 3

Hi there,

Work continues on the installation of Nature Bound: Illustrated Botanical Books. The exhibition features 41 objects, mainly books, and the museum's installation and preparation crew had to make custom acrylic cradles to display each book. As they installed each cradle, a lot of fine tuning is necessary to hold the pages open to an illustration without damaging the book. Also, each case has different dimensions, requiring that each cradle and book be placed appropriate to the case's size. It's a slow process. Still, I think they finished almost five cases by yesterday. At the tail end of the day, they also brought up the very large text panels in preparation for hanging them above the cases today. Stay tuned ... it's looking good!

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Nature Bound: Day 1

Hi library fans,

Yesterday was the first installation day for Nature Bound: Illustrated Botanical Books, an exhibition featuring a who's who list of great illustrated botanical works from the collections of the Amon Carter and the Botanical Research Institute of Texas research libraries. You all have probably learned from reading the various Amon Carter blogs that exhibition planning starts months, even years, before an exhibition opens to the public, so yesterday's install of the first book/case was reason for cheering. I must say, as co-curator for the exhibition, I feel like this is going to be a handsome and informative one, so mark your calendars for opening day, January 29. Here are a few behind-the-scenes shots of the day's activities. Forgive the quality of these, but it's best I could do with my mobile phone.

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New Books for August and Making KODAK Film Book

Hi readers,

Today the library added the newest "new" book report to the site. This report details everything the library cataloged in August 2010. Find the report here:

http://www.cartermuseum.org/library/new-books

I want to call your attention to a standout title:

TR283 .S53 (Main Stacks)
Shanebrook, Robert L.
Making KODAK film : the illustrated story of state-of-the-art photographic film manufacturing / Robert L. Shanebrook.
Rochester, NY : R.L. Shanebrook, Robert Shanebrook Photography, c2010.

MakingKODAKFilm.jpg

As the preface states, "this book documents how Eastman Kodak Company made film during time period 2007-2010 when the technology had reached its height." Mr. Shanebrook lifts the "silver curtain," an appropriate term which refers to the shroud of secrecy protecting Kodak "silver-based" technologies, to take us on a rare and fascinating behind-the-scenes journey into the technical film manufacturing and research environment at Kodak. The author also provides us with a useful primer on how traditional film photography works. As the imaging industry continues to speed toward digital photography, it's a great time to learn about the important contributions that Kodak has made to film-based photography.

As of today, WorldCat.org reports that the Amon Carter and George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, hold the only institutional copies of this book.

Photo of the Week: The Real Deal

If you’re reading this blog, then there is no doubt you’ve also heard about the recent Ansel Adams attribution "scandal". Not surprisingly, the evidence is piling up against the California man who bought the negatives in question at a garage sale.

We at the Carter are lucky to have over 60 authentic Ansel Adams prints in the permanent collection, many of which are on view in the exhibition Ansel Adams: Eloquent Light through November 7.

Our Photo of the Week is comes from this exhibition. It’s one of Adams’s images of my favorite place in Texas, Big Bend National Park.
Ansel Adams, Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park, Texas, 1947, gelatin silver print, 1975
Ansel Adams (1902-1984), Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park, Texas, 1947, printed 1975, gelatin silver print, ©2010 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Diderot's Encyclopédie

Sam Duncan, the library director at the Carter, recently asked me to tackle cataloging one of the libraryʼs hidden gems: the thirty-five volume Encyclopédie, edited mostly by Denis Diderot. Cataloging a work of this magnitude requires some bibliographical research, and I would like to share with you the interesting knowledge I gained about this wonderful publication. The full title is Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une société de gens de lettres, mis en ordre par M. Diderot de l'Académie des Sciences et Belles-Lettres de Prusse, et quant à la partie mathématique, par M. d'Alembert de l'Académie royale des Sciences de Paris, de celle de Prusse et de la Société royale de Loners, but it is commonly referred to as the Encyclopédie. The Encyclopédie is truly a marvel to behold, for many reasons. Most impressive is the great condition of the Carterʼs example - all thirty-five volumes are in exceptional condition, as they were published between 1751 and 1772, making the most recent volume approximately 238 years old. The illustrations are absolutely stunning in both their quality, as well as their variety. Finally, the impact of the publication itself is fascinating. The Carter library's copy also includes a copy of the original bill of sale, a rarity itself.

Encyclopedie Spines

Bill of Sale

The Encyclopédie, as I mentioned above, is comprised of thirty-five volumes. These thirty-five volumes are broken down into seventeen textual volumes, eleven volumes of plates, four supplemental volumes, two index volumes, and a final supplemental volume of plates. These volumes, all told, hold seventy-five thousand entries, made up of twenty million words, the collaborative work of 150 authors. It is humbling to think of all the effort that went into the production of these large, leather-bound volumes. Many scholars believe the Encyclopédie to be significant because it was one of the best representations of the ideas and rhetoric of the enlightenment, as well as being the first general encyclopedia to pay special attention to the mechanical arts. The enlightenment ideas are well represented in the classification of human knowledge presented in the Encyclopédieʼs table: theology is placed under theology, and the knowledge of God is only a few points above black magic. As one can imagine, this caused a great deal of criticism in 18th century Catholic France, so much so that in 1759, the king suspended the publication rights for the work. However, work continued in secret - and the Carterʼs Encyclopédie represents this, as the later volumes state that they were published in Amsterdam. Scholars also highlight that the publication of the Encyclopédie was a catalyst for the French Revolution, and a prime example of the democratization and popularization of knowledge associated with the enlightenment. Indeed, M. Diderot himself acknowledged this in the entry for “Encyclopédie,” stating that the purpose of the publication was “to change the way people think.” This publication truly had a significant impact on the development of modern Western Civilization.

The classification scheme I mentioned above is of specific interest to me as a librarian. The table represents an earlier effort to classify knowledge - which is one of the specialties of our profession. The scheme of the Encyclopédie was inspired by Francis Baconʼs Advancement of Knowledge, and classified all knowledge into three major categories: memory, reason, and imagination. Of course, todayʼs schemes take the form of Library of Congress Classification Numbers, and Dewey Decimal Classification numbers, and have changed in size, but the purpose remains the same - to classify knowledge, or their containers - books, music, et cetera.

As a library dedicated to the study, scholarship, and preservation of art, the volumes of plates are of particular interest. They cover a wide variety of topics, but focus especially on the mechanical and manual arts--how to create and make “things.” It was these very illustrations that provided the impetus for the Carter to acquire this publication, as they were to support study for a series of planned exhibitions about the mechanical arts. The exhibitions never came to fruition. The engravings themselves are copper engravings, and seem nearly to be as crisp as the day they were printed, nearly three hundred years ago. As a matter of fact, Sam blogged about another publication with beautiful engravings in it, The Feel of Steel. (http://www.cartermuseum.org/blog/the-n-files/the-feel-of-steel)

Encyclopedie Open

For me, cataloging the Encyclopédie represents many of the reasons I chose librarianship as a career. The technical work and research that precedes the final catalog record is both challenging and fascinating. Having an opportunity to interact with, and deepen my appreciation for significant cultural artifacts is exhilarating. Finally, on behalf of the library staff, I would like to invite you to the library reading room to enjoy these wonderful volumes of the Encyclopédie for yourself, as it is truly a beautiful and awesome thing to behold.

Source for information: Wikipedia entries for the Encyclopédie, Francis Bacon, and Denis Diderot.

Guest blogger: Jason Dean, Library Volunteer

New Books!

Last month the library cataloged (as always) an interesting array of material. Note that there are several early imprints that have come to the collection that are early painting and watercolor technical manuals and other titles on color theory. As I scan the list, I want to draw attention to several titles that captured my attention:

  • Diffusion -- a new periodical in the collection that focuses on alternative photographic processes
  • Fort Worth's Fairmount District -- new book, with lots of photographs, on the Fort Worth neighborhood from library friend Mike McDermott (Mike did some of his research here in the library)
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: 75 Years of Looking Forward -- ravishing publication observing SFMOMA's 75th year (thanks to the SFMOMA library for sending us a copy)
  • For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights -- catalog of the exhibition currently at ICP New York
  • Planting the World's Garden -- CD-ROM publication providing a fascinating look at early farm implement advertising in the U.S.
  • Poplar Forest -- sensitive and beautiful limited edition photobook looking at Jefferson's country retreat

And so much more!

Full Report
http://www.cartermuseum.org/library/new-books