Archive for May, 2010

Thank you!

May 26, 2010

A big thank you to all of the guests who attended our opening reception on Monday night for “The Invisible World Revealed!”  The Clark staff (and Hannah) had a great time, and we hope you did as well.

The show's curators, Derek Quezada and Brynn Burke

Hannah enjoying the party

(photos by Jennifer Bastian)

Item of the Week: Vue de la bataille

May 24, 2010

Earlier this month, volunteer extraordinaire Ashley Johnston re-discovered this gem of a piece while inventorying the library’s art collection, most of which has languished in a storage room since our renovation several years ago. A gift of bookseller and friend-of-the-Clark Ken Karmiole, this hand-colored 18th-century engraving of a naval battle mounted on heavy board is transformed into a much more dynamic work known as a vue d’optique when lit from behind.  Portions of the original engraving and its mount have been cut away in several strategic areas and pieces of hand-painted semi-translucent paper inserted in those spots.  It appears that the original engraving was not produced for this purpose, but was hand-colored and altered by its owner.  The original title, “Vue de la Bataille Navale des Flottes Russes et Turques pres de Scio ou le Vaisseau de L’Admiral fut brulée le 5 Juillet 1770,” was cut from the bottom of the engraving and pasted on its back.

Our photographs don’t really do the piece justice — the fact that it is framed behind glass adds a tricky element of reflection — but you are always welcome to visit and see for yourself!

Vue d'optique lit from behind in a normally lit room

Vue d'optique lit from behind in a very very dark room

Clark Library: Baby Possum Rescue Center?

May 22, 2010

The Clark’s reading room and a couple of its offices have deep window wells, open to the basement level from the ground floor.  They regularly trap small mammals who fall into them unawares, perhaps when being chased by a large bird or even by one of the Clark cats (ahem).  In the last month, the reading room window wells have been frequented by two baby possums (or maybe one, who made the same mistake twice).  Luckily for us, Eric Gill Project Archivist Jennifer Bastian has been there to save the day both times.  This latest baby possum visited us on Friday afternoon, right at the end of the day.

The Invisible World Revealed: A New Exhibit at the Clark

May 11, 2010

Please join us for the opening reception for our most recent exhibit, The Invisible World Revealed on May 24th from 5-7pm!  More information on the exhibition, which will run until June 30th.

The Invisible World Revealed: Selected Works of the Occult from the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library

Exhibition by Brynn Burke and Derek Christian Quezada

From its origin in Latin meaning hidden or concealed, the occult as it is understood today ranges widely in its signification and meaning.

Astrology, Alchemy, Magic, Mysticism, Ghosts, and Devils are all considered to fall underneath its umbrella and yet each should be understood as the product of a unique set of historical, cultural, religious and aesthetic conditions that have and continue to change in their definition over time.

What unifies them however as the occult is the ardent belief that just outside human perception there is an invisible world that exists, with its own secret laws that influence and even govern our everyday existence. While guarded, this world is sought by the wise or initiated, and stumbled upon by the unfortunate or damned.

This exhibition represents only a small percent of the occult works held at the Clark. Although there is no single dedicated collection, the items exhibited have all been carefully selected in order to give an impression of the range and breadth that exists across the collections as a whole. Particular emphasis has been placed upon the 17th and 18th centuries, though the presence of the occult is acknowledged even in the Clark’s extensive holdings of fine press books.

Interestingly, many of the figures associated with these volumes, as either authors or subjects, have played prominent roles outside the realm of the occult. This is especially true in regards to the development of math and science as the distinctions between chemistry and alchemy, for example, were almost non-existent. While there is a tendency to dismiss the occult as simply the product of faulty inquiry, it should be remembered that their shared origin is not without significance. If anything these works demonstrate the transformation of methodology and the importance of curiosity and the imagination in the pursuit of knowledge.

The occult then is not merely the artifact of a new empirical consciousness but the inevitable outcome of symbolic thought. It represents the simple but powerful idea that there is always something hidden just beyond the veil of the ordinary.

Item of the week: La Belle “Bonne Chanson”

May 7, 2010

Thanks to the Adam Wechsler Fund, the Clark Library was the successful bidder at a recent book auction. The prize? A copy of Paul Verlaine’s La Bonne Chanson with pochoir illustrations by Paul Guignebault. This book of poems was published in 1914 in two limited editions, one of 50 copies printed on japan paper containing a suite of separate illustrations and the other, of 450 copies, printed on Vélin. Our copy is not numbered, but is labeled as a “Unique” copy and is signed by the binder on the limitation page.


Robbie Ross collection

May 5, 2010

The Clark’s collection of material related to Robert Baldwin Ross is described in a new finding aid now available via the Online Archive of California.  The large majority of the material cataloged in this finding aid is not new — it has been described in the Clark’s finding aids to the Oscar Wilde and his Literary Circle collection for some time — though it does also include some previously uncataloged Ross material.  This new finding aid is not intended to replace the Wilde finding aids, but as a supplementary guide that may be much easier to navigate for researchers interested more specifically in Ross.  Both the Ross finding aid and the Wilde collection finding aids will continue to be updated to reflect any new acquisitions.

Robert Baldwin Ross was born in Tours, France in 1869. He studied at Cambridge, then moved to Edinburgh as an apprentice journalist. He met Oscar Wilde in 1886 and remained his friend while Wilde was imprisoned from 1895-1897.  He was also present when Wilde died in November 1900.  He was made Wilde’s literary executor and later published a 14 volume set of his collected works.  Ross was pursued by some scandal and by lawsuits throughout his life, in part because of his own open homosexuality, and because of his loyalty to Wilde.  Such hardships are seen as contributing to his sudden death in 1918 at the age of 49.  In 1950, his ashes were placed in Oscar Wilde’s tomb at Le Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.