Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Florentine Sonnets, 1906

I am heading off to Ohio later this morning, to (among other things) give a presentation at the Eastern Region Meeting and Seminar of the Early American Pattern Glass Society, in Lancaster, Ohio, on Friday.

Florentine Sonnets (1906); vellum-covered
boards with hand-painted illumination
My talk will be only partly on the American glass industry of the nineteenth century; the rest of what I have to say (and there will be a connection, believe it or not), will be about a minor nineteenth-century American poet. I find this poet particularly interesting because he had a special fascination, it seems, with the middle ages, writing book-length poems about the Norman Conquest and the conversion of King Edwin of Deira, among other things. 

At the end of his  life, he lived in Florence, and wrote and photographically illustrated a couple of books for the English-speaking tourist trade. The one pictured here was--as I hope the illustration shows--available bound in vellum, and (for an extra fee, one supposes), available with a hand-painted illumination on the cover.

This copy has, in addition, a small gift dedication painted on at the bottom, matching the illumination. "From Aunt Laura," it reads.

All in all, such a book reminds us that one of the things tourism did (and does) is to make the past (and in European tourism, it is often the medieval past) consumable. And that book and manuscripts could be, and were, sometimes used for the same purpose. Many a manuscript or leaf, I think, was purchased as a souvenir on the Grand Tour.

The same poet's Roman Sonnets (1908), in
printed paper-covered boards.