Published: November 8, 2011
The Morgan Library and Museum is showing more than 30 works from its extensive collections of printed books, music and literary, Americana, illuminated manuscripts and historical manuscripts at the recently restored McKim building. A rare first edition of the King James Bible and the only surviving complete manuscript of a Jane Austen novel are among the items on view through February 12.
This first edition of the King James Bible †now in its 400th anniversary year †displays the royal arms on its bindings and has manuscript notes by Laurence Chaderton (1536?‱640), one of the 47 Anglican and Puritan divines entrusted by King James to produce the translation. The Bibles ornate title page was engraved by Antwerp artist Cornelius Boel.
The exhibition features a number of literary treasures, including Jane Austen’s Lady Susan , the only surviving complete manuscript of an Austen novel. Austen also appears in Virginia Woolf’s notebook from 1931 that includes a heavily revised draft of “A Letter to a Young Poet,” first published in the Yale Review in 1932.
Two classic American melodies, “New Yankee Doodle,” 1798, and “The One Horse Open Sleigh,” 1857 †later, “Jingle Bells” †will be on view. “Jingle Bells” was written by Pierpont Morgan’s uncle, James Pierpont †his only song to have achieved lasting fame.
Some of the greatest composers of the Nineteenth Century are also represented, including Franz Liszt, composer of “Totentanz,” 1849, the manuscript of which is on display.
Among the Morgan’s more sobering pieces of Americana is Rebecka Eames’s petition from Salem prison to the governor of Massachusetts, Sir William Phips. Written on December 5, 1692, after four months of imprisonment for witchcraft, Eames repudiates her previous confession, claiming she had been “hurried out of my senses by ye afflicted person Abigall Hobs and Mary Lacye who both of them cryed out against me&spitting in my face saying they knew me to be an old witch.” Eames was subsequently pardoned.
When Galileo published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems , his obvious endorsement of Copernicus’s sun-centered cosmology did not go unnoticed by the church. The aged astronomer was pressured to recant his beliefs and remained under house arrest for the rest of his life. It took more than 350 years before the Vatican officially acknowledged its wrongful condemnation. On display will be Stefano della Bella’s engraved frontispiece, which depicts Copernicus conversing with Aristotle and Ptolemy.
The Morgan’s rich holdings of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts will be represented by a Thirteenth Century wedding gift: a richly illustrated Psalter and Book of Hours made for Ghuiluys de Boisleux on the occasion of her marriage to Jean de Neuville-Vitasse. Also on view is the Farnese Hours (1546), considered one of the most important Italian Renaissance manuscripts.
The Morgan Library and Museum is at 225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street. For information, 212-685-0008 or www.themorgan.org .
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