On exhibit at Penrose: rare books from the McFarlane Collection
Post written by Ben Murphy
Currently on display on the main floor of Penrose Library is a selection of rare books from the Vernon H. McFarlane Collection of Finely Illustrated Texts. McFarlane graduated from Whitman in 1927 and went on to earn his master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Washington in bacteriology. He worked for the US Department of Agriculture, supervising research and publishing on rice, sugarcane, and other fruits and vegetables. His publications include titles such as “Studies on the Germicidal Efficiency of Chlorine in Control of Microoorganisms in Starch” and “Microbiological Control in the Production of Spray-dried Whole Egg Powder.” According to the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, he was also “one of the early investigators in the development of frozen foods. In World War II he was a governmental troubleshooter on dried egg processing.”
His hobby was much different from his professional interests. He began collecting books because he was drawn to their illustrations. He started with atlases, but as the cost of atlases in the rare book market began to grow in the 1940s, he began collecting travelogues, and later bibles and religious texts. Over the course of his life he amassed a collection of over a hundred books published during the hand-press period of the 15th to 19th centuries. Most of the books were printed on handmade paper and have bindings of calf, vellum, or Morocco. Some have elaborately decorated covers and edges. The oldest item is a copy of the text known as the “Nuremberg Chronicle,” published in 1493. The collection includes atlases, bibles, travelogues, histories, mythographies, books of fables, and more. But what binds the collection is McFarlane’s passion for fine illustrations. The collection features many examples of different types of relief and intaglio prints, some colored by hand. McFarlane donated his collection to Penrose Library in 1974 and it remains one of our most cherished collections.
Now through mid-February, we are displaying a selection of atlases, geographies and cosmographies. Cosmography is not a well known discipline – or even word – today. But during the same period that production of the printed book was taking shape and exploding through Europe, cosmography developed as a discipline that blended elements of geography and mathematics with astrology and religion. According to John Rennie Short in his book Making Space: Revisioning the World, 1475-1600, cosmography was “a rich stew of rational measurement, religious meditation, and esoteric discourses.” Yet Short also argues that during this period when cosmography was being practiced, the modern notion of global space as we know it was being constructed:
Modern space – the space the modern world inhabits and “sees” – was created in Europe between 1475 and 1600. It was produced using a variety of means, including the grid to plot the word; the use of the cosmographical sphere as the starting point for the mathematically derived practices of navigation and surveying; the increasing use of maps; and the creation of a cartographic language for new mappings of the world, states, and cities. In this new spatial practice, the world was enmeshed in a grid, laced with compass lines and seen through the lens of the theodolite, back-staff and cross-staff.
The items on display here come after Short’s 1475-1600 timeframe, yet many of the same assumptions and practices are evident in these texts. Four of the of the texts are written in English, and they also reflect the development of an English identity in relation to the rest of the world. According to Peter Craft, Richard Heylyn’s Cosmography, for example, “reveals a good deal about the ways in which the English saw themselves in relation to the rest of the world and performs the cultural work of national identity formation which the more secular and fictionalized literary forms would increasingly share.” So while McFarlane’s interest was illustration and images, many of the works are excellent resources for the study of the European politics, art, science, religion, exploration and colonialism in the early modern period.
In mid-February, we will replace the atlases, geographies and cosmographies with a selection of illustrated bibles from the McFarlane Collection. We will update this blog post accordingly.
Items on display:Peter Heylyn. Cosmography in Four Books. Containing the Chorography and History of the Whole World: And All the Principal Kingdoms, Provinces, Seas, and Isles Thereof. London: Printed for E. Brewster, R. Chiswell, B. Tooke, T. Hodgkin and T. Bennet, 1703.
Gerhard Mercator. Historia Mundi, Or, Mercators Atlas: Containing His Cosmographicall Descriptions of the Fabricke and Figure of the World. 2nd edytion. London: Printed for Michaell Sparke, and are to be sowld in Greene Arboiure, 1637.
Herman Moll. Atlas Minor: Or a Set of Sixty-Two New and Correct Maps, of All Parts of the World. All Composed and Done by Herman Moll, Geographer … The 2nd ed. N.B. These are the maps which Mr. Templeman has so frequently recommended to the publick. London: Printed for Thomas Bowles, and John Bowles, 1732.
Arnoldus Montanus. De nieuwe en onbekende weereld….[English Title: The New and Unknown World: or Description of America and the Southland, Containing the Origin of the Americans and South-landers, remarkable voyages thither, Quality of the Shores, Islands, Cities, Fortresses, Towns, Temples, Mountains, Sources, Rivers, Houses, the nature of Beasts, Trees, Plants and foreign Crops, Religion and Manners, Miraculous Occurrences, Old and New Wars: Adorned with Illustrations drawn from the life in America, and described by Arnoldus Montanus.] T’ Amsterdam: By Jacob Meurs, 1671.
Edward Wells. A New Sett of Maps Both of Ancient and Present Geography … Together with a Geographical Treatise Particularly Adapted to the Use and Design of These Maps. London: Printed for J. and J. Bonwicke, S. Brit, T. Osborne, E. Wicksteed and T. Cooper, 1730.
Bibliography:Craft, Peter. “Peter Heylyn’s Seventeenth-Century English Worldview.” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 26, no. 11 (2014): xii, 325–344.
“Man donates rare books to Whitman.” Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. September 19, 1974.
Mayhew, Robert J. “‘Geography Is Twinned with Divinity’: The Laudian Geography of Peter Heylyn.” Geographical Review 90, no. 1 (2000): 18–34. doi:10.2307/216173.
Schmidt, Benjamin. “Mapping an Empire: Cartographic and Colonial Rivalry in Seventeenth-Century Dutch and English North America.” The William and Mary Quarterly 54, no. 3 (1997): 549–78. doi:10.2307/2953839.
Short, John R. Making Space: Revisioning the World, 1475-1600. 1st ed. Space, Place, and Society. Syracuse, N.Y: Syracuse University Press, 2004.