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Maggie Gallup Kopp, Curator
Kristi Young, Curator
Robert Maxwell, Adjunct Curator

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From a Researcher’s Notebook: Uncovering the History of the Japanese Fire Brigade Scrolls

Today’s post was written by Dr. Jack Stoneman of BYU’s Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages. Dr. Stoneman and his student assistants have been researching the provenance of a collection of rare Japanese books and manuscripts assembled by collector Harry Bruning, which was acquired by the Lee Library around 1980. Today marks an anniversary for a very rare and valuable item in the collection, and Dr. Stoneman has uncovered some of its history.

Detail from Asakusa okura bōkatai gyōretsu zumaki scrolls, Call number: Vault Collection Folio 895.63 As12 1859. Photo courtesy Jack Stoneman.


On the 26th day of the 4th month of 1859, the Shogun assigned the Tsuyama domain lord Matsudaira Yoshitomo (who was to be the last lord of the Tsuyama domain, before the Meiji restoration and the abolishing of the domain system) the task of protecting the shogunal rice granaries in Asakusa (modern-day Tokyo) from fire. It was routine for domains to provide fire brigades in rotation for the shogun, and the Tsuyama domain (in modern-day Okayama prefecture) had for generations provided fire brigades. On this occasion in 1859, there was a procession of the brigade, and a set of scrolls depicting the procession were commissioned and presented to Matsudaira Yoshitomo. Who knows how, but those scrolls were eventually obtained by Charles Tuttle, who sold them to Harry Bruning in 1949 (for $35).

Firemen brigade parades still occur in Tokyo each year, and so I assumed that a tradition that long-lasting and still current would have a rich visual history to go along with it. Not so. I’ve found only a handful of examples of scrolls or prints depicting fire brigade processions. And, until recently, I had found none that looked like our scrolls.

Last year, when I first looked into our scrolls, I recognized the Matsudaira family crest throughout the scrolls, and eventually found sources indicating that the Matsudaira clan branch that ruled Tsuyama domain had traditionally been assigned to protect the Asakusa granaries, so I knew that much. As we’ve been wrapping up our survey of the whole collection recently, though, I was still irked that I didn’t know much else about the scrolls, but I knew that they must be important, so I began searching again. In the meantime, new information had appeared and was waiting for me on the internet.

Last fall, the Tsuyama City Museum held an exhibition of samurai procession scrolls. I was able to find a description of the exhibit, and, more importantly, an image of the cover of the exhibition catalog. The cover reproduced a scene which depicts the brigade commander, and the same scene is found in scroll #4 of our set (shown here). So, I hurried and contacted the Tsuyama Museum, and shared with them photos of all 5 of our scrolls along with the information I had gathered. They responded immediately and enthusiastically. They have only 3 scrolls. They are missing scroll #1 and scroll #5, which are the two scrolls that contain the most textual information, including the date of the procession and the names of all those involved. Needless to say, they are very grateful to now know a lot more about their scrolls as well. Their scrolls were donated to the museum by Matsudaira descendants. Interestingly, though, our scrolls have quite a bit more detail, more finely detailed painting, and depict the Matsudaira crest throughout, whereas the Tsuyama scrolls don’t have the crest. I’m not sure why this is, but I’ve begun a conversation with the curator at the Tsuyama Museum, who is also interested in studying the differences between the two sets.

Curious Remedies: Renaissance Surgery

Surgery is never a fun experience, but can you imagine what it would have been like before the advent of general anesthetic and other modern medical advances?

The current Harold B. Lee Library exhibit Curious Remedies: Medicine During the Renaissance provides a glimpse into the medical technology of the 16th and 17th centuries. On display are surgical textbooks by renowned 16th century military surgeons Paracelsus and Ambroise Paré, as well as books on human anatomy and dissection by Charles Estienne and Andreas Vesalius.

Besides the books on exhibit, other early books from Special Collections, like this illustrated surgical treatise by Johannes Scultetus (1595-1645), can be found by searching the library catalog with subject terms such as “surgery early works to 1800,” “human anatomy early works to 1800,” or “surgical instruments.”

Primary sources on Latin America

If you’re looking for early Latin American primary sources, this new resource compiled by Special Collections intern Tyler Broadhead lists Special Collections’ holdings of books, maps, and manuscripts about Latin America or produced in Latin America before 1800. The document also includes modern facsimiles of Mesoamerican codices like the one pictured here, as well as resources located in the library’s microfilm collection. For other resources, check out the Lee Library Latin American and Iberian Studies Research Guide.


Hogarth Press centennial

A century ago today, on March 23, 1917, Leonard and Virginia Woolf purchased a small hand press and some type from a shop in London. They set the equipment up on their dining room table and thus the Hogarth Press (named after their home, Hogarth House) was born.

Virginia had taken some bookbinding classes some years previously, and the printing press was meant to be a new hobby to combat her depression. Because the Woolfs chose to print experimental work which would not have been commercially viable to large publishers, the press also allowed Virginia the freedom to explore new avenues in her own work. The first book from the new press was issued in July of 1917.

The Hogarth Press printed works by the Woolfs and the writers in their circle, as well as important emerging authors, and often feature the artistry of modern designers and illustrators, including Virginia’s sister Vanessa Bell. As their printing efforts expanded, the Press became a major force in the development and promotion of the modernist movement in literature, publishing works from writers as varied as E. M. Forster, T.S. Eliot, and Sigmund Freud. The Hogarth Press would issue over 500 titles before the imprint was sold to British commercial publisher Chatto and Windus in 1946.

Special Collections owns about 30 pre-1946 Hogarth Press imprints, the earliest of which date from 1920-21 and are shown in this post.

Women’s Book History for Women’s History Month

If you visit the “Curious Remedies” exhibit this month, be on the lookout for a small, nondescript book of medicine by Nicholas Culpeper. This item was published in 1684 by Hannah Sawbridge.

Hannah was the widow of George Sawbridge, one of the most successful London printers and booksellers of the 17th century. Sawbridge’s firm printed royal Patents and published and sold a variety of books, including popular medical works like Culpeper’s. Sawbridge also held major leadership posts in the Stationer’s Company of London, the trade organization for printers and booksellers.

After George died in 1681, Hannah carried on the family business until 1686. In 17th century England, it was common for the widows of printers and publishers to own and operate businesses in the book trades (sometimes in cooperation with their children). More women participated in the book trades as booksellers than as printers or publishers. The names of many of these women appear in the archives of the Stationers’ Company — around 8% of recorded names in the 16th and 17th centuries are women.

Researchers interested in sources for women’s participation in this period print history can consult a microfilm copy of the Stationer’s Company archives here in Special Collections or can consult Henry Plomer’s multivolume Dictionary of the booksellers and printers who were at work in England, Scotland and Ireland at the Humanities Reference area on level 5 of the library.



Curious Remedies: The Making of Early Modern Medicine

The Lee Library’s current exhibit, “Curious Remedies: Medicine During the Renaissance,” highlights medical knowledge of the Renaissance and Early Modern period with books from Special Collections. Before chemical engineering or even the discovery of penicillin, physicians relied on plants, minerals, and animals to concoct medicines for their patients. Botanical encyclopedias called herbals helped scientists identify plants and their medicinal properties, and physicians and apothecaries circulated recipes for medicinal compounds in books and manuscripts called pharmacopoeias. Recipes for home remedies were also commonly found in books on cookery and household management!

To find examples of early herbals and pharmacopoeias, search the library catalog with the subject terms “Materia medica–Early works to 1800;” “Botany–Early works to 1800;” or “Pharmacy–Early works to 1800.”  Shown here is a page from a 1670 English pharmacopoeia, The Pharmacopoeian Physician’s Repository by Everard Maynwaringe.


Limited Editions Club: Highlights for Black History Month

Special Collections has a complete set of books issued by the Limited Editions Club, a publishing venture founded in 1929 to issue selected literary works in finely printed and illustrated editions. Many famous authors, illustrators, and designers of the 20th century worked on producing these books.

Some of the most spectacular of the Limited Editions club books published in the last 30 years feature the work of African-American writers like Richard Wright, Maya Angelou, and Langston Hughes. Here is a sampling of the illustration from these books.



The Complutensian Bible

One of the most famous early printed Bibles is known as the “Complutensian Polyglot,” a multi-language Bible published at the Complutense University in the early 1500s (the University is now the University of Madrid, but in the 15th and 16th centuries the university was located in Alcalá de Henares, which was called Complutum in Latin). This Bible was the first of its kind, containing the text of the Bible in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, with a separate volume of dictionaries and study aids. Scholars, under the direction of Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, began preparing the text in 1502. Their work culminated with the printing of the New Testament volumes in 1514 and the Old Testament volumes in 1520. The Complutensian Bible, and later polyglot Bibles inspired by it, ushered in a new era of Biblical scholarship in the Renaissance by allowing theologians to compare the Biblical texts in multiple early versions.

complutensian-tpThe original Complutensian Bible is extremely rare! A Spanish publisher produced a facsimile of the Bible in the 1980s, but even those are not widely distributed, with only a handful of copies in North American libraries. Special Collections recently acquired a copy of this facsimile (along with a leaf from the original Complutensian Bible) and it is now available to consult in our reading room. The call number is Vault Collection Quarto BS 1 1514z — the title page of the fourth volume is pictured here.

Geoffroy de Tory illustrates the Christmas Story

Enjoy these woodcut images of the Christmas story, as found in the Book of Hours printed by Simon de Colines in 1543. Three of the woodcut illustrations are signed by Geoffroy de Tory, and the kneeling figure in the scene of the Adoration of the Magi is thought to be a portrait of French king Francois I.

Sneak Preview: Curious Remedies

estienne_la-dissectioneIf you’ve walked past the exhibit space on the main floor of the library, you may have gotten a peek at the latest exhibit being installed. “Curious Remedies” will display the history of medicine in the Renaissance and features a variety of scientific books from Special Collections. This blog will highlight a few of those books during 2017. Enjoy this preview from the French-language edition of Charles’ Estienne’s 1543 anatomy book, De Dissectione!



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