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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, 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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Larry McMurtry’s personal collection of H. G. Wells

We’ve recently finished processing Items from the Larry McMurtry collection of H.G. Wells. The items in this collection formed a part of Larry McMurtry’s personal collection of H. G. Wells and includes some of H. G. Wells personal correspondence, publishers’ correspondence and records, items related to the production and marketing of the film Things to Come, and drawings, advertisement material, and signed books by and related to H. G. Wells.  Larry McMurtry is perhaps best known for his novel Lonesome Dove (1985), for which he won a Pulitzer Prize, and for his Academy Award-winning screenplay for Brokeback Mountain (2005).
Herbert George Wells (1866-1946) was an English novelist, essayist, journalist, screenwriter, and political figure, who revolutionized modern science fiction with works such as The Time MachineThe Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds
Try your hand at deciphering Wells’ handwriting in this photo depicting some of his letters to Naomi Mitchison, Scottish novelist and poet. 
In addition to Wells’ personal correspondence, this collection also contains around ninety letters, contracts, and financial records detailing the particulars of publishing his work. These letters provide fascinating insights into the relationships between the author and his publishers as well as between British and American publishers. 
For example, the correspondence traces a misunderstanding over the royalty payment for the inclusion of The Island of Dr. Moreau in Seven Famous Novels.  The situation got rather tense, as when Dodd, Mead and Company wrote the following to A.S. Watt of A.P. Watt & Son on July 13, 1934:
“We are sufficiently old friends so that I feel that I can tell you quietly [sic] frankly that I was considerably annoyed and genuinely surprised that we were not consulted concerning the inclusion of THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU [sic] in the Knopf anthology. …Is not the original fault yours in not having cleared up the matter at the start, rather than leaving it to us to make a claim for our rights when the book was on the verge of publication? I see no alternative but to deduct the 10% commission from the author’s share of the earnings and hold it here for the present until you have straightened out the situation….”
Another letter, written on May 29, 1947 from Bennett A. Cerf, of Random House, to Howard Lewis, of Dodd, Mead & Company, reluctantly withdraws Random House’s objection to Collins publishing Tono Bungay in Canada.  As seen in the below quote, Random House’s frustration is clear.
“I see that the course of the Tono Bungay proceedings is taking its pre-determined and completely predictable way.  By this time, I guess we all ought to be used to the situation, but somehow it still astonishes me to see how blandly English publishers can ask American publishers to waive foreign or subsidiary rights and, in almost the same breath, threaten dire legal proceedings if we ship a handful of copies of a book on which they control the rights into India or South Africa:
However, none of us here wishes to be disagreeable about the Tono Bungay business, particularly since the English publisher is Collins, one of the nicest.” LV

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Student Designs for a new Rare Book & Manuscript Library!

Chang_Page_1.jpgGraduate Architecture Students in Professor Vidar Lerum‘s studio course took on the challenge of designing a new home for the magnificent collections of the University of Illinois’ Rare Book & Manuscript Library. With librarians and curators servings as their “clients,” and adhering strictly to their stated needs for special spaces to house, research, care for, and celebrate the collections, the students came up with 16 innovative and creative solutions to the pressing need to create a worthy space for these world-class collections. The designs are all environmentally-friendly and all make good use of available space. Now, if only we could get Oprah Winfrey or another amazing philanthropist to realize that the opportunity of a lifetime awaits to put one’s name on one of the greatest rare book and manuscript collections in the country. Enjoy the creativity of our students—and think seriously about the very real need to house these collections more appropriately.

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