Type Under Siege


In late 1544, Henry VIII’s forces were defending the English possession of Boulogne in a series of brutal battles against the French as part of the Italian War (1542-1546). They were aided by Giovacchino da Coniano, a sergeant-major in charge of the Italians fighting on the side of the English. The king had been present in France earlier in the conflict, but he later returned to England, leaving the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk to lead his troops in defending Boulogne. The two leaders disobeyed Henry’s orders, leaving several thousand men at Boulogne and withdrawing the remainder of the army to Calais. The French forces, however, were eventually beaten back from Boulogne, gaining victory for the English. Although an otherwise minor figure in military history, da Coniano left behind a manuscript containing diagrams of battle formations employed during his time in France which would eventually come in to the hands of Girolamo Maggi, who would publish a portion of it two decades later.


Maggi (circa 1523-1572) was born at Anghiari, near Arezzo in Tuscany. He studied at Perugia and Pisa, where he developed a keen interest in ancient languages and architecture, as well as Roman law. He was also a student of old sarcophagi and funerary monuments, and used his expertise to argue against the then-common belief that giants had once roamed the earth. His first work, a poem on the war being fought by the Italians in Flanders, was published in 1551. In the same year, he completed the manuscript of his Ingegni et invenzioni militari, a work on military engineering, and dedicated it to Cosimo de’ Medici. Maggi’s Della fortificatione delle città (On the fortification of cities), was printed by Rutilio Borgominiero in Venice in 1564. In reality a compendium of works on fortification and defense, the volume contains five works: (1) the eponymous treatise, actually a coproduction between Maggi and Jacopo Fusti Castriotto, a military engineer who had died in 1563; (2) a discourse by Maggi on fortifying barracks; (3) a work by Francesco Montemellino on the fortification of the Borgo district of Rome; (4) da Coniano’s treatise on military logistics and battle formations; (5) and a work by Castriotto on the fortresses of France. The Rare Book & Manuscript Library holds a later edition of the Della fortificatione in its Cavagna Collection, printed in Venice by Camillo Borgominiero, brother of Rutilio, in 1584.


Novel illustrations accompany Coniano’s text, made up of combinations of small woodcut elements, depicting cannons, standard-bearers, and other military figures, and individual letters, each representing a different kind of soldier: o stands for archibugieri (musketeers); a for archieri (archers); r for acabie or ronche (halberdiers); p for picchieri (pikemen); and C for cavalli (cavalry). These formations must have challenged the typesetter, as they sometimes involve oblique orientations, the tight packing of type, and the careful layout of various sections of “troops.” (Even more burdened by this system of notation is modern optical character recognition, or OCR, technology, whose limits are revealed in some online versions of the text.) Other portions of the compendium are also visually rich. Maggi and Castriotto’s treatise has scores of illustrations of fortification methods, many containing text within the “frame” of the woodcut itself.


A note to the reader appended by Maggi to the end of the work admits that the text is incomplete, but that he has been informed by a Venetian friend that the text in its entirety would cover such topics as defensive trenches, tunnels, bridges, and firearms. Maggi ends with an expression of hope that these lost passages could be recovered and shared with the world. As far as is known, the complete text remains lost to history.


Maggi’s life ended in a dramatic fashion. Around 1570, he became a military engineer to the Republic of Venice. Soon afterwards, he went to Cyprus, where he acted as a judge and advised on the defenses of Famagusta, which was held by Venice. After the Turks laid siege to the city, Maggi was captured, enslaved, and taken to Constantinople. He was made to work on a merchant ship and later wrote two further works while in prison, without the aid of a consulting library. These were the De tintinnabulis, on bells, and the De equuleo, on an instrument of torture similar to the rack. These works attracted the attention of the French and Italian ambassadors to the Ottoman Empire, who were impressed by Maggi and sought to have him released. As Maggi was being taken to the Italian ambassador, however, the prison captain ordered him to be brought back. Upon his return to the prison, Maggi was strangled to death; he left behind many manuscripts on literary and military topics, some of which were published posthumously, including his two works penned in prison. TAWB

Della fortificatione delle città / di M. Girolamo Maggi, e del capitan Iacomo Castriotto, ingegniero del christianiss. re di Francia ; libri III. Venice: Camillo Borgominiero, 1584. Q. 623.1 M272d.

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A Well-Traveled Atlas


Portrait of David Garrick by Thomas Gainsborough, 1770 (National Portrait Gallery, London).

As I was beginning to work on a two-volume atlas from the Cavagna Collection printed in Venice between 1740 and 1750, I noticed from the rather rudimentary catalog record that a second copy was listed as containing the bookplate of David Garrick (1717-1779), the most famous Shakespearean actor of the eighteenth-century, whose legacy is still very much present today – there are many Garrick Theatres in cities around the world, as well as the Garrick Club, founded in 1831 in London’s Covent Garden. This connection seemed almost too good to be true, so I set out in to the vault to inspect the item for myself. To my surprise, there had been no mistake; I opened the front cover of each volume to see Garrick’s bookplate, engraved by John Wood, complete with a bust of Shakespeare and other theatrical paraphernalia.


Garrick’s bookplate. The quotation underneath is from the French author Gilles Menage (1613-1692), and roughly translates as, “The first thing that you must do when you have borrowed a book is to read it so that you may soon be able to return it.”

Above Garrick’s ex-libris, however, was another, this time announcing the volumes as having belonged to “Joseph Smith, British consul at Venice.” Though this name did not ring a bell with me, a few minutes’ research revealed Joseph Smith (circa 1682-1770) to have been one of the most celebrated bibliophiles of his generation, responsible for contributing to what would become the King’s Library at the British Museum, now in today’s British Library. First travelling to Venice around 1700 as a merchant banker, Smith held the position of British consul to Venice from 1744 to 1760, and died in that city in 1770.


Smith’s bookplate, engraved by Antonio Visentini.

King George III had come to the throne in 1760, only to find the Royal Library more or less depleted, its contents, dating back to the reign of Henry VII, having been donated by his predecessor, George II, to the newly-founded British Museum. In 1762, the cash-strapped Smith sold the king his massive collection of important books, prints, and paintings, acquired over his many decades as a collector, although his urge to amass more did not stop there. In fact, upon his death ten years later, he had so many books in his possession that it took nearly two weeks to auction off that second library.


It seems that this copy of Atlante novissimo must have been a part of Smith’s second library, either at Venice or Mogliano, his summer house, though I have been unable to locate it in any of the catalogues of his collection assembled after the sale to the crown in 1762. Some time in the next few years it came in to Garrick’s possession, though he would not have had long to enjoy it, as he would die in 1779. Though best known as an actor and theater manager, Garrick was an avid book collector, amassing over 3000 volumes, and he is especially revered today as a collector and thus early preserver of many items relating to Shakespeare and his seventeenth- and eighteenth-century legacy. Oddly, our Atlante novissimo is not to listed in the 1823 sale catalogue of his library.

A third bookplate was placed above Smith’s in the first volume, and bears the following text: “The gift of her father to his daughter Eva, May 1, 1843.” The identity of Eva is a mystery, as Garrick had no children, and I was unable to locate any other book bearing this same bookplate anywhere online. (Any leads in this area would be greatly appreciated.) The University of Illinois acquired this copy in 1941.


We are excited to announce the rediscovery of this item’s extraordinary provenance, even more so as the tercentenary of Garrick’s birth was only last month. The Victoria and Albert Museum celebrated this occasion with an exhibition of its own, “David Garrick: Book Collector,” showing off a selection of the Garrick items owned by nineteenth-century Shakespeare scholar Alexander Dyce, and subsequently donated to the museum. TAWB


For more information about Smith’s collection, please see

Morrison, Stuart. “Records of a Bibliophile: The catalogues of consul Joseph Smith and some aspects of his collecting.” The Book Collector, 43:1 (Spring 1994), 27-58.

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Cave of the Dogs


Next time you’re in Naples, why not take a side trip to the Grotta del Cane (Cave of the Dog)? As you can see from this engraving from the 1652 edition of Giulio Cesare Capaccio’s La vera antichita di Pozzuolo, it looks like quite the tourist trap. The Cave of the Dog takes its name from the fact that in bizarre experiments, dogs were exposed to carbon dioxide fumes that rose up from below. The carbon dioxide was most concentrated near the ground, so dogs brought into the cave would soon pass out from breathing in the noxious gas. On the bottom left you can see a man dunking a dog into Lake Agnano to revive it. Another lifeless dog lies on the shore. Men are goading a horse to take its turn in the deadly cave. (Note Death sitting atop it about to cast his dart!) The building to the right of the cave is a sauna.


Capaccio describes similar caves, such as the “Mouth of Pluto” (or “Gate of Hell”) in Hierapolis, now in modern-day southwest Turkey, and quotes from the ancient Greek geographer Strabo, who had visited it: “Any animal that enters instantly dies. At any rate, bulls that are led inside collapse and are dragged outside dead; and I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last breath and fell” (Geography 13.4.14). Travelers on the Grand Tour, such as Joseph Addison and Goethe, wrote of their visits to the cave; Addison’s is the perhaps the most vivid (Remarks on Several Parts of Italy, 1705):

The Natural Curiosities about Naples are as numerous and extraordinary as the Artificial. I shall set them down, as I have done the other, without any regard to their Situation. The Grotto del Cani is famous for the poisonous Steams which float within a Foot of its Surface. The Sides of the Grotto are mark’d with Green, as high as the Malignity of the Vapour reaches. The common Experiments are as follow: A Dog, that has his Nose held in the Vapour, loses all Signs of Life in a very little time; but if carry’d into the open Air, or thrown into a Neighbouring Lake, he immediately recovers, if he is not quite gone. … I observ’d how long a Dog was in Expiring the first time, and after his Recovery, and found no sensible difference. A Viper bore it Nine Minutes the first time we put it in, and Ten the Second. When we brought it out after the first Trial, it took such a vast quantity of Air into its Lungs, that it swell’d almost twice as big as before; and it was perhaps on this Stock of Air that it liv’d a Minute longer the second time. Doctor Connor made a Discourse in one of the Academies at Rome upon the Subject of this.

To see what the cave looks like today, visit Napoli Underground’s page dedicated to the subject. DHA

Giulio Cesare Capaccio. La vera antichita di Pozzuolo (Roma: Appresso Filippo de’ Rossi, MDCLII [1652])

Joseph Addison. Remarks on Several Parts of Italy (London: J. Tonson, 1705)


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University of Illinois-Urbana Rare Book & Manuscript Library Invites Visiting Scholar Applications

The John “Bud” Velde Visiting Scholars Program
The Rare Book & Manuscript Library
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

CALL FOR APPLICATIONS: 2017-18 Program Cycle

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library annually awards two stipends of $3,000 to scholars and researchers (unaffiliated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) who would like to spend a month or more conducting research with our materials.

The holdings of The Rare Book & Manuscript Library are comprehensive and support studies in printing and printing history, Renaissance studies, Elizabethan and Stuart life and letters, John Milton and his age, emblem studies, economic history, Italian history, and works on early science and natural history.

The library also houses the papers of the modern literary figures Carl Sandburg, H.G. Wells, William Maxwell, W.S. Merwin, and the world’s single largest collection of Marcel Proust’s correspondence. In addition, it is anticipated that the papers of Gwendolyn Brooks will be open to the public for this latest program cycle.

For information about this program, how to apply, and to find out more about The Rare Book & Manuscript Library, please visit our Website at:


Please contact Dennis Sears with further questions about the program or The Rare Book & Manuscript Library:

Dennis Sears
The Rare Book & Manuscript Library
University of Illinois Library, Room 346
1408 West Gregory Drive
Urbana, IL 61801
(217) 333 7242 voice, (217) 244 1755 fax

Or email Dennis: dsears (at) illinois (dot) edu.

Deadline for application: *17 February 2017*.

Thank you!

Dennis Sears

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Opulent Almanacs

It’s been a wonderfully colorful week here at the Illinois RBML: after Joan Friedman’s illuminating lecture on Owen Jones and color printing on Wednesday, we came across these exquisite chromolithographed title pages from Goffredo di Crollalanza’s series of almanacs: the “Almanach Héraldique et Drôlatique”, from 1883-1885. Almanacs were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, evolving from practical workaday listings of moon cycles and weather predictions to elaborate calendars including horoscopes, holy days, city directories, and serialized novellas that were designed to draw readers in year after year.

These almanacs are an extreme example of that trend, including not just the highly colored frontispieces above, but a genealogy of the noble houses of Europe, and several different serialized comic adventures following the remarkably named “Baroness Mina de Pfartzhaussentreppe”, pictured on the cover. Although the almanacs are in French, they were published both in Paris and Pisa, and detailed the adventures of a German lady. This pan-European setting emphasizes the high-class sophistication and worldliness these books were meant to emulate for their readers.

The in-text decorations range from the folksy to the futuristic: quaintly romantic country scenes and medieval knights share space with fashion plates and hot air balloons. The calendars in the front of each issue are themed, with 1885 assigning a rustic object like a fruit, bird, color, or animal (and its attendant personality trait) to each day of the year, as Napoleon’s Republican Calendar did in the years before. 1884, on the other hand, assigns each day a town or noble family, complete with heraldic description, associated with that day’s saint.*

It’s easy to see why almanacs were so popular, even ones not as brightly and intricately decorated as these. Unfortunately, as some of you may have noticed, the 1886 volume is considerably smaller, without any of the colored text, much less a frontispiece. The author explains this in his introduction:

Because there are some unfortunate people, you, for example, who weren’t able to procure for themselves the splendid volume of 111,111 pages … the author has asked me to summarize the articles from the large volume and serve them up to you hot off the presses in a volume of reasonable dimensions. Fortified by this authorization, I armed myself with a good pair of scissors and began cutting everything that seemed to me to be superfluous, useless, infantile, boring, flat, sensational, erroneous, immoral, or otherwise pernicious to the health of the reader… and I cut, cut, cut, until I had nothing more than this modest and inoffensive pamphlet… which I have the honor of presenting to you.**

Goffredo di Crollalanza was the son of a successful almanac publisher, but this run petered out after only three years of publication, perhaps due to the prohibitive cost of the beautiful illustrations in the first two volumes. The Illinois RBML is extremely fortunate to have such a complete and beautiful set of items in our Cavagna collection of rare Italian imprints, and we invite you to come explore (and discover your own late-Victorian almanac horoscope!). – KEB


di Crollalanza, Goffredo. Almanach Héraldique et Drôlatique. Paris: E. Plon, Nourrit et c.ie, 1883-1885.

Cavagna 18924


*The author’s birthday makes her an apple tree symbolizing “dangerous beauty” (according to 1885), and a member of the town of Eugenj (according to 1884) with a gold lion crest.

**Any errors in translation are the fault of the author.

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Germania Rediviva


Goths, Angles, Saxons, Jutes—these are the tribes of ancient Germania, the so-called barbarians who migrated during late Antiquity, building the kingdoms that displaced Rome. The spate of museum exhibits and television shows is only the most recent expression our fascination with ancient Germania. Earlier historical periods likewise came under their spell. In this exhibit, we focus on the rediscovery of the Goths and the Anglo-Saxons in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries.

Tacitus’s account, Germania (98 AD), is the earliest record of the existence of these groups. He gives us the image of war-bands who excelled at feasting, drinking, and raiding. Aside from runic inscriptions, their own records had to wait until their conversion to Christianity, when bilingual missionaries created scripts based on the Latin and Greek alphabets, supplemented by runic characters. In the case of the Goths, this occurred in the fourth century, with the Anglo-Saxons, in the late sixth.

With the exception of the Crimean Goths, who retained their own language and culture until the eighteenth century, these groups ceased to exist as independent linguistic groups by the eleventh century. Nonetheless their languages were revived in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries within specific ideological contexts. Though Wulfila (ca. 311-83) translated most of the Bible into Gothic (all but the Book of Kings, which he feared would rekindle their war-like tendencies), his work only survives in a single, fragmentary manuscript. The rediscovery of this manuscript in the seventeenth century coincided with a time when many philologists were devoting themselves to the search for the “original language.” This scholarship often dovetailed with nationalist fervor as philologists vied with one another to prove that their national language was the oldest, and therefore the most “perfect.”

A larger corpus of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts survives. The rediscovery of these manuscripts coincided with the Reformation, when England sought an alternative lineage to Rome. When Anglo-Saxon manuscripts surfaced containing sermons and the Bible in the vernacular instead of Latin, ecclesiastic officials believed they had found the precedent for their own fledgling church, forging continuity, rather than rupture, with the past. -JC

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Have I Got to Cook That?

The Frederick Joseph Wells Collection consists of letters written by the science-fiction author H.G. Wells to his family members, photographs of H.G. Wells, drawings by H.G. Wells, and other documents related to H.G. Wells. The collection was compiled by H.G. Wells’s older brother, Frederick Joseph Wells. The majority of the letters in the collection are from H.G. to Frederick, and they range from short wishes for a Merry Christmas to more substantive poetic and philosophic passages about deaths in the family as well as descriptions of the destruction and the horrors of World War II.  

In one such letter, dated July 21 1887, H.G. informs Frederick of the death of their cousin Lillie from the horrors of consumption:

 “I am sorry to have to tell you that Aunt Hannah has just suffered another severe loss.  Lillie died last Saturday morning of … rapid destruction of lung tissue by tuberculosis. It is scarcely a fortnight since Gracie was buried, and the shock of this loss is therefore doubly intensified. I can hardly image what that house will be like now those girls have gone. It is an awful thing, this consumption.  There is no haste, no pause, no pity.  It hunts down the family that is cursed with it and one by one, inevitably, they pass away. People shudder at the conception of Frankenstein but here is a demon raised by our sins unspeakably more dreadful.”


It is well known that H.G. Wells predicted the atomic bomb in his 1914 novel The World Set Free, three decades before the atomic bombs were dropped. In this note from H.G. to Frederick on October 27, 1945, he describes his frustration at being inaccurately portrayed as not having predicted the bomb. (He often addressed his brother Frederick as “Fezzer,” “Fuzz,” or “Fezz” and often signed his letters to his family as “Busswhacker” or “Bertie.”)

“Dearest Old Fezzer,

I’m all right & everything misses me.  I explained the inevitableness of the atomic bomb half a century ago & it is rather infuriating to have all these journalistic halfwits explaining that here’s something Mr. Wells did not foresee. It’s a strange rightful phase this poor little planet is passing through[.] I have always been a stoic but I would be glad to see the run of mankind behaving more like stoics & less like smart Alecs than they seem to be doing.  Blessings on your fraternal // Fizz Fuzz.

H.G. Wells

The one & only



It is not uncommon to find little drawings, or “picshuas,” as H.G. Wells called them, in the margins of his letters. He used these picshuas to emphasize a point, add humor to his letters, or poke fun at himself or others. For example, a letter from H.G. Wells to his mother Sara Neal Wells, on October 31, 1882, discusses his upcoming birthday and his upcoming wedding to his first wife, Isabel Neal. At the top of the letter he has drawn a pischua, depicted below, joking about the birthday present he hopes to receive from his mother. LV


If you are interested in reading more about H.G. Wells’s picshuas, please see Gene K. Rinkel and Margaret E. Rinkel, The Picshuas of H. G. Wells, available here.

Click here or contact the Rare Book & Manuscript Library for more information.

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