Thursday, 19 November 2009

"Rome Reborn"

Some treasures from the Vatican Library:

- Henry VIII, letters to Anne Boleyn, in English and French, before 1533
The Library acquired these loving letters to Anne Boleyn, from the period, towards the end of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, when he had made Anne Boleyn pregnant and was trying unsuccessfully to obtain a divorce.

- Galileo Galilei, Sunspot observations, 1612
Galileo’s skills as an observer enabled him to create and use the first telescope. These drawings represent sunspots, whose existence proved that the sun wasn’t the perfect, unchanged body that traditional cosmology wanted it to be.

- Homer, Iliad, in Latin and Greek, 1477
These marvellous illustrations were made by a north Italian artist, who here represented Greek and Trojan heroes in ancient armour and costumes, while ships and tents were contemporary. Later images in this series are either merely sketched in or omitted entirely: perhaps funds or time ran out.

These images can be seen in the catalogue from the first of a series of exhibitions that the Library of Congress presented during the 90s about great libraries of the world. The series began with the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican Library), the prototypical research library of western culture. Founded by Pope Nicholas V in the 1450s, its collections are not primarily theological and acquisitions policy was focused upon the liberal arts and sciences. The most comprehensive areas are: history of the exact sciences, East Asian languages and literatures, and music history.
Three hundred and fifty years later, the Vatican Library remains the richest collection of western manuscripts and printed books in the world.
Renaissance intellectuals understood that an individual book- especially a manuscript could often be a historical as well as literary document. Especially when the author was a great scientist and writer, or ruler and statesman.
This book, rich in illustrations as it is, offers an amazing Roman experience to the NLS user: a journey through the Vatican Library collections, without leaving Edinburgh. It is also worth remembering that, even if you’re planning a visit to Rome, it is not normally possible to visit the Library as it is not open to the general public, with strict exceptions for researchers.
Read this book at NLS: shelfmark F1/LC.4/51

Monday, 16 November 2009

Saying sorry

Interesting to see that the Australian government will apologise to the thousands of migrants who were sent to that country as children, and that the British government will follow suit. It's a sad story, these kids were from workhouses and slums, sent by charities and other organisations to have a (hopefully) better life elsewhere. But their parents hadn't given permission for them to be taken away. In 1998, the House of Commons Health Committee made recommendations on this matter (including setting up a database and offering counselling services), which also tackled the issue of a formal apology. It states "[the committee] considers that these policies were misguided. To those and their families who see themselves as still deeply scarred it offers sincere regrets. To all it offers a sympathetic recognition of the special challenges they faced in building their lives". Eleven years later, it seems a formal apology is on the cards.

We featured this story in our blog a while back, about the "New Lives for Old" book published by the National Archives (Kew). It's full of heart-breaking first-hand accounts, pictures and letters and is a moving story about a practice which didn't end until the second world war.

You can read it here at the Library, shelfmark GRO.2008.4.1