As far back as the early 16th Century, horses served an important ceremonial role in the political and social life throughout Europe. In addition to satisfying the basic needs of transportation in civil and military life, the ability to ride became an essential mark of the nobility. So strong was the link, royal displays of horses and carriages in processional pageants became a staple of social life that can still be seen sometimes today.
These pageants were more than symbols of aristocratic power; they were a public spectacle and people of all stations flocked to view them.
Today’s highlight is a bound panorama that was printed to commemorate the coronation procession of Queen Victoria in 1838. The panorama was printed and folded into a booklet to give the impression of seeing the great procession.
Panoramas were made popular by the painter Robert Barker, who began producing them in the late 18th Century.
Barker eventually constructed a building to view panoramas in Leicester Square in London, and similar exhibitions spread throughout Europe through the 18th Century.
This volume folds the pages back and forth; the image is continuous from page to page. NSLM has several other similar panoramas in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, but they are all rolled into a scroll casing.
The grandeur of the horses and carriages, as well as the number of servants, guards, and attendants (all in matching livery), publicly showcased the power and grace of the English monarchy. We could only fit a few images here on the blog. Panoramas have been the subject of our weekly Gallery Talks, so if you have a chance please stop by the Library at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesdays to see the rest!
Happy World Book Day! In celebration, I’m going to share with you the books that make the biggest impression when I give tours: the fore-edge painting books. Fore-edge painting is the very old practice of painting tiny images on the edges of the pages.
The book block is angled and clamped while the tiny watercolor painting is made.
After drying, the clamp is released and a bookbinder applies marbling or gilt to the closed book. This makes the painting invisible when the book is closed, but it appears when the pages are fanned.
NSLM’s fore-edge painting collection is housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. We have about 30 of them, and they depict riding, hunting, or fishing scenes.
Most of them date from the middle of the 19th Century to the early 20th Century. Although fore-edge painting is rare, there are still some artists who produce fore-edge art today.
Do you have a hidden painting in your old books? Check your book collections and fan the pages. You never know what you might find!
Our recent Fellow, Collin McKinney, has left the NSLM and returned to Bucknell University. We asked Collin to share some of his experiences over the last two months in Middleburg and in our collections. Here’s what he had to share.
I arrived in Middleburg on a sunny day at the beginning in January. I think it might have been the only sunny day during my entire stay. Notwithstanding the snow and cold—and it sure was cold—I spent a fantastic two months working at the National Sporting Library. During my eight weeks in Middleburg I had a simple routine. I would wake up and go for a jog around town and out by the Salamander Resort. After breakfast I would work at the library, compiling notes and references from the books in the library’s collection. After lunch and an espresso at Common Grounds I would head back to the library and work until closing time. After dinner in the cottage I would review my notes for the day and plan my work for the next morning. That might not seem very exciting to most people, but for an academic to be able to escape department meetings, course prep, and household chores in order to focus on research, it was pure bliss.
My short stay was extremely productive. I am researching the link between masculinity, militarism, and sport in Spain. Although the library’s collection is especially rich in American and British sources, there are also some real treasures on Spain. I found books on bullfighting, jousting, fencing, dueling, and hunting. One of my favorite discoveries was a hunting manual attributed to the King Alfonso XI, Libro de la montería (the NSLM has an 1582 edition as well as a facsimile version from the nineteenth century).
Besides being a fascinating description of the hunting practices in medieval Spain, it confirms the link between hunting and martial success. King Alfonso tells his readers that: “a knight should always engage in anything to do with arms and chivalry, and if he cannot do so in war, he should do so in activities which resemble war. And the chase is most similar to war.” Over the centuries, as military activity became professionalized and Spain created a standing army, men no longer needed to hunt but continued to do so for pleasure.
While a cursory glance might suggest that modern sport is far removed from the battlefield, a more careful look will reveal the link between field sports, indeed all sport, and warfare. The next time you turn on a football game, notice the military rhetoric used by sportscasters, watch the strategies involved as teams attack and defend their terrain, and note the way spectators demonstrate their loyalties with flags, fight songs, and uniforms as they celebrate symbolic battles of controlled violence.
During the coming months I plan to write two articles. The first is titled “How to Be a Man in Nineteenth-Century Spain,” which will outline the tension between traditional, rough masculinity and modern, refined masculinity. This study will examine the rise of the bullfight as an example of the way that bellicose masculinity was socialized, codified, and relegated to the sporting arena by Spain’s middle class. The second article I plan to write deals with the sportification of warfare more generally, beginning with medieval field sports and continuing to present-day activities like soccer and tennis.
In the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, I came across a rare gem, tucked away in the John H. Daniels Manuscripts Collection. It’s a poem called “The Bonie Moorhen: A Hunting Song.” The manuscript is an autograph manuscript by Robert Burns (1759-1796), the foremost national poet of Scotland. Burns wrote poetry and composed songs, and he also collected Scottish folk songs for publication. Many Americans haven’t heard of Robert Burns, but still sing his song “Auld Lang Syne” at the end of each year.
At face value, the poem is a hunting song about the difficulty of capturing a grouse in the wild. A local manages to win away with the grouse where all others failed.
However, there’s intrigue and romance afoot in this poem: The poem serves as an allegory for Burns’ relationship with Nancy McLehose, who exchanged letters with Burns in the 1780s. Nancy was estranged from her husband, and urged Burns to refrain from publishing the transparent song.
Do you want to learn more about Robert Burns? If you’re in the region, you should check out the upcoming event, Hylton in the Highlands at the Hylton Performing Arts Center on GMU’s Prince William Campus. This year’s festival is next Saturday, January 24 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The day-long festival celebrates Scottish culture with music, interactive presentations, exhibits, and food tastings.
Further, the Hylton Center also hosts a Burns Supper to commemorate the life and works of Robert Burns. The event is complete with a special performance by the musical duo Alan Reid and Rob van Sante, a poetry reading, Scotch whisky tasting and the presentation of Scotland’s “National Dish,” haggis.
A short one today! Izaak Walton (1594 – 1683) is best known for writing the influential The Compleat Angler, a guide to the culture and spirit of fly fishing that grew and expanded over the course of Walton’s life. It’s considered a major classic in the fly fishing world, and NSLM is lucky enough to possess a wonderful collection of early editions of The Compleat Angler in the John H. Daniels Collection.
This book face measures 5 3/4″ tall by 3 3/8″ wide. This size is called duodecimo, the Italian for twelfth, because it’s one twelfth the size of a full folio. This size is often abbreviated 12mo. If you’ve ever seen that abbreviation around, now you know what it means. Use your new-found knowledge to impress your friends and family!
The NSLM manuscripts collection is in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, which houses the Library’s rare books collection as well as the John H. Daniels Collection. One of the manuscripts donated by John and Martha Daniels is a letter from Edith Somerville to Virginia sportsman Harry Worcester Smith in 1924. Somerville was a prominent author of sporting novels with her cousin “Martin Ross” (Violet Martin).
Today I get to share an item of which we’re very proud at NSLM. This is the original manuscript of “Riding to Hounds on Long Island,” an essay written by Theodore Roosevelt in July 1886 for the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. I’m always certain to bring this out for viewing when we have visitors on tour at the Library.