Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Quest

I am in the Berkshires at Melanie's again.  I took the train along the Hudson River to Albany and she picked me up there.
I love the train.
Three hours of this view:
And don't even get me started on the leg room! Ahhhhh....
So yes, here I am at Melanie and Doug's lovely home and I always show this view from the kitchen window: 
This time, I thought I'd show a few alternate views.
The back of the house from the back yard:
Melanie's parlsey, sage, rosemary and thyme garden: 
which also has an enormous patch of chives! And the blossoms are incredible. I'm going to pick a bunch, take them back home and make chive blossom vinegar. yum yum. 

My shadow, facing the south paddock.  

Horses in the south paddock:

And finally, Oscar, the resident fur-ball of chez Doug-n-Melanie.
He is very sweet. Lots of chirps and purreows (where they half purr and half meow).

Why am I here? Well - to visit of course! - but also to go to Harvard's rare book collection and look at a book.
Yes - A book. As in one book.
Remember this post?: Well, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to investigate the moveable parts of this book. I looked on WorldCat and found that Harvard was the closest place that had one in its collection. [As it turns out - there is also one in Washington DC, but it is affiliated with Harvard so it is a bit misleading - and that's a different blog entry I think. ] I contacted Harvard, and made arrangements and  took the opportunity to visit Melanie, who is recovering from surgery, seeing as how I was in the neighborhood anywayz. (It's a three hour drive from Melanie's to Harvard).  
I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to make special arrangements to view the book under the supervision of one of the conservators. LL was incredibly generous and obliging for my visit. She offered to give me a tour of the main conservation lab, which was mind boggling. I felt as though this was the Rolls Royce of conservation labs - meanwhile I'm in a Pinto. One of the conservators was working on some of Edward Lear's watercolors. [you know - The Owl and the Pussy cat went to sea   in a beautiful pea-green boat]  The water color was beautiful! I had no idea the man could draw as well as write poetry. I wasn't allowed to take pictures so you'll have to take my word for it. 

After the tour I spent two precious hours examining their copy of the Sundial Book under LL's supervision. What an amazing thing to be able to do. To look at a book that is almost 400 years old, almost 10 times as old as I am! Awe doesn't really describe the feeling. Luxury to live in a place that can preserve such pieces of cultural heritage is ... humbling. 

And as LL and I discussed - there is nothing like seeing a book in real life. Really. These images I am about to show, and the facsimile I've made - they are just not the real thing. And I do not know how to explain it.

Just to refresh your memory - this book was printed in 1624-26. It is all about how to set up sundials. The brother's who write the book were master garden designers - as in - they were masters of hydraulics and designed the royal gardens in England and France.

This original imprint still had it's moveable parts and they still worked!
The page that started it all - the sundail page.

Then another page that I couldn't make heads or tails of from online images.

And finally, the mind-blowing image:
and another view:
I can't wait to try to figure out how to make this! and I have no idea what it is illustrating. I'm just fascinated by these beautiful forms. The volume is in French, and I can't find a translation - and google translate is only semi-helpful.  I think there are some spelling differences as well as just some spelling mistakes in the type-setting of the original text - so that's not helping. It is a long and tedious process to try to figure it all out.  But I feel like I've hit a milestone in my Quest to figure out this book. I've seen almost all of the moveable parts. There is one, the volvelle, which is no longer in tact. There is a hole where there once was something. But now it is gone. There was a surprise on the same page - a piece which does not exist in the digitized version I have, shows up in the Harvard version. 
I want to visit the version in Washington DC and compare.  There is also a version at UCLA. Maybe when I visit in August I can make arrangements to look at that copy.
Right now, I just need to sit down in my studio and figure out how I can make all of them.

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