Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Two more oddball items.

Shakespeare on Poker, 1906.
Writing up these little blog posts about new acquisitions is, I have to admit, a fun part of my week. Each time, there is some little thing that I've learned or learned about, and I always love to share. Or is it that I love to show off? I think, if truth be told, there's a bit of both.

This week, I'll show off two things I picked up during the last few months of 2016. The first is a copy of Shakespeare on Poker, copyrighted (and presumably illustrated and published) by Martha C Ballard, a scarce little book of brief Shakespearean quotations, accompanied by illustrated poker hands that offer a kind of commentary upon them. More than one is presented as a Shakespearean curse suitable for a bad hand of cards. 
One of the pages from Shakespeare on Poker.

This particular copy, as shown is in embossed and printed card covers; a suede binding was apparently also available. 

I am no poker player myself, but this book's use of juxtaposition to generate meanings from texts and images brought together might encourage us to see it as a kind of comics production. In that sense, it's something I could barely resist. 

My second oddball item today is a manuscript, a single sheet that is apparently unrelated to a batch of other things I purchased from a seller in Sicily. One side is taken up by some notes upon the use of the gerund, with some examples in Latin and others labeled "Volgare." The sheet has been folded to put the gerund material on the inside; on the front of what remains are what we call "pen trials," where a writer either having just cut a new tip on a quill pen or merely testing out a new pen, engages in a test of the pen. If there were any doubt that at least some of what is written here were pen trials, the words "prova" and "Prova di penna" seem to make the case clearly enough. 

But written on the rear side is a draft of a short poem in Latin, perhaps a schoolboy's exercise? It is titled "Elegia" and I've had a bit of fun trying to work it out: there are words written sloppily, phrases and lines crossed out, and probably at least two stints of composition, marked by two shades of ink. I'd guess the date is late eighteenth or nineteenth century. The first three words of the poem proper give a sense of the contents "Horribilem Ortigia Urbanam": it seems to be a kind of ironic praise poem to the Sicilian island of Ortigia, here figured as a terrible place.

I could be wrong, though: Latin hexameters are not really my cup of tea, when it comes to verse. And in fact, my knowledge of Latin versification is such that I'm even a little hesitant to describe this as hexameters. But if any of my few readers out there can solve the problems of this little poem, I'd love to hear about it.


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