In the Library: Deforming and Adorning with Annotations and Marginalia

March 3 – June 27, 2014

East Building, Ground Floor, Study Center

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    Early printed books did not have the design conventions we are familiar with today. An index or table of contents was only rarely included, and often the text was not divided into chapters or even set in paragraphs, as in this book describing the ancient ruins in Rome. To help navigate the page’s contents without needing to read the entire block of uninterrupted text, an early owner added annotations in the margins, noting references to particular buildings and sites. Marginalia like these probably influenced the development of page design.

    Biondo Flavio, 1392–1463Blondi Flavii Forliviensis in Roma instaurata prefatio incipitRome, before July 26, 1471
    National Gallery of Art Library, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

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    This chronicle of world history was owned by the painter Agnolo Bronzino (1503–1572). In addition to signing his name on the first leaf of text, Bronzino created a unique copy of the edition by marking annotations throughout and updating it on the last leaf with a description of the trial and execution of the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola, events which occurred after the book's publication.

    Jacobus Philippus, Bergomensis, born 1434Fratris Iacobi Philippi Bergomensis, Ordinis Fratru[m] Eremitarum Diui Augustini, In omnimoda historia nouissime congesta, Supplementum cronicaru[m] appellataVenice, December 15, 1486
    National Gallery of Art Library, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

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    The Library’s copy of the 1549 edition of Livy's Roman history contains marginal annotations in three hands. Most notable are the drawings that accompany the first 60 pages of text and enliven the dense, scholarly work. These small scenes in two colors of ink were likely sketched by Nicholas Udall (1505–1556), an English scholar, schoolmaster, and playwright known for his play Ralph Roister Doister, considered the first comedy in the English language.

    LivyT. Livii Patavini Latinae historiae principis Decades tres cum dimidiaeBasil, 1549
    National Gallery of Art Library, C. Wesley and Jacqueline Peebles Fund

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    Based on the drawings of Hans Vredeman de Vries (1527–c. 1606), this suite of fantastic architectural engravings was intended as a pattern book for artists (this particular copy did, in fact, belong to a family of artists). It is signed on the title page by Ioannes and Philips Vingboons, engravers active in Antwerp in the 17th century; the brothers used the margins and blank versos to sketch ideas (as well as to clean their brushes).

    Hieronymus Cock, born c. 1510Scenographiae, sive perspectivae . . .  pulcherrimae viginti selectissimarum fabricarumAntwerp, 1560
    National Gallery of Art Library, J. Paul Getty Fund in honor of Franklin Murphy

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    The remarks throughout this four-volume set reveal that this copy of an important 18th-century work on British paintings once belonged to Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792). His commentary illuminates his relationship with the author and his role as the head of the Royal Academy of Arts.

    Horace Walpole, 1717–1797Anecdotes of Painting in EnglandStrawberry Hill, 1762–1771
    National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Joseph E. Widener

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    In addition to the captions below each plate, now faded, this book of engravings of ancient Roman architecture and sculpture came to the Library with several pages of handwritten notes prepared by a previous owner. These notes provide details about the Flemish engraver who designed the plates.

    Giles Sadeler, 1570–1629Vestigi delle antichita di Roma, Tivoli, Pozzvolo et altri lvochiPrague, 1606
    National Gallery of Art Library, C. Wesley and Jacqueline Peebles Fund

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    This book of genealogy is annotated throughout with supplemental information about the Croy family, who were nobles in Belgium. A previous owner has also greatly enhanced the book by providing colors for many of the coats of arms. As the coloring is incomplete and inconsistently applied, it is likely unique to this individual copy.

    Jean ScohierGenealogie et descente, de la tres-illustre maison de Croy. Par m. Iean Scohier beaumontoisDouay, 1589
    National Gallery of Art Library, David K. E. Bruce Fund

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    The Library owns three copies of this important work on 19th-century American artists. Two contain significant additions to the standard version. The first is a special version containing 49 photographs of artists who were still alive in the 1860s, with 43 of them signed by the artists themselves. The second, shown here, is bound in two volumes with extra pages for mounting 30 autographed letters from the artists and 122 additional plates showing reproductions of the artists' works and engraved portraits.

    Henry Theodore Tuckerman, 1813–1871Book of the Artists: American Artist Life

    New York, 1867
    National Gallery of Art Library, David K. E. Bruce Fund

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    This set of John Ruskin's Modern Painters, which belonged to the author himself, comprises volumes from various editions. Ruskin made notes throughout in preparation for a new edition, with several significant changes of both content and structure. Most compelling are his additions regarding the Pre-Raphaelites (a group of artists that included William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and John Everett Millais), who had not yet formed their famous brotherhood when the first volume of Ruskin's work appeared in 1846. Nonetheless, this work did influence them, and Ruskin became one of their most important supporters, devoting more and more space to promoting their ideals in subsequent editions.

    John Ruskin, 1819–1900Modern PaintersLondon, 1846–1860
    National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of Paul Mellon

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    The John Rewald collection is a veritable treasure trove for bibliophiles interested in marginalia. Rewald’s significant holdings came to the Library after his death. The art historian annotated many of the books in his collection quite heavily, and none more than his own. This is a personal copy of his doctoral dissertation, completed at the Sorbonne, which he had bound with extra pages for notes and correspondence. Rewald continued to work on the project throughout his life, never considering it complete; much of the extra material was never published.

    John Rewald, 1912–1994Cézanne et ZolaParis, 1936
    National Gallery of Art Library, David K. E. Bruce Fund

THIS EXHIBITION IS NO LONGER ON VIEW AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY.

This exhibition highlights a selection of rare books that are unique not because of their content or imprint, but because of the one-of-a-kind markings and additions that readers of the past made to the printed text. From their hand-written marginal commentary and sketches to custom bindings with extra pages and illustrations to editorial notes, each of these books has been transformed from a standard mass-printed volume into a uniquely personal object. They illuminate us with insights into the texts themselves, as well as the readers who read, enjoyed, and annotated them—and the relationships between the two.

The printing press was introduced in the West by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century. Prior to this, manuscripts were often copied by hand—a laborious process that was both expensive and prone to errors. In contrast, the printed page permitted the creation and distribution of exact copies of a book to a wide audience. This revolutionary technology changed the spread of knowledge forever.

Yet even a mass-printed volume has the potential to survive as a unique artifact: perhaps all other copies of a particular edition are destroyed; perhaps an individual copy gains notoriety through its provenance, having belonged to a figure of historical importance; or perhaps the book is bound in a peculiar way. In the hand-press period, variance in collation is common for a variety of reasons. Alterations to the text might be made during the print run; moreover, bookbinding was performed separately from the actual publishing process, which allowed for the possibility of pages being lost, added, trimmed, or bound in a different order.

In spite of all these variations, the specific focus of this exhibition is alterations made to the text by readers. The books on view all began as copies identical to hundreds or thousands of others, but each has been transformed by the addition of new information. Many include annotations ranging from navigational aids to detailed critiques of the text.

In the manuscript era, extra-large margins were sometimes provided for scholars to provide commentary, known as glosses. Many early printed books incorporated these earlier glosses along with the main text, and modern readers continued the tradition of adding their own thoughts in the margins. Benjamin Franklin was known to have penned entire debates with authors in the blank spaces of his books; other readers adorned the text with sketches and illustrations. Some readers had their books rebound and included extra material such as prints, notes, and correspondence. In several cases, the author has made editorial notes and revisions for the next edition of his book.

This exhibit is open Monday – Friday.

Image: Livy, T. Livii Patavini Latinae historiae principis Decades tres cum dimidiae, Basel, 1549. National Gallery of Art Library, C. Wesley and Jacqueline Peebles Fund