Current Memoirs

Parmigianino's Madonna of the Long Neck: A Grace Beyond the Reach of Art

Memoirs: Volume 269
Edward J. Olszewski
Paper, 400 pages (18 FM, 382 text; 16-page color insert)

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This study is the first to offer a comprehensive overview of Parmigianino’s enigmatic painting of The Madonna of the Long Neck in the Uffizi. It expands previous formalistic discussions to treat the subject in terms of iconography, semiotics, studio practice, and art theory.
It is argued that the painting is not merely an example of Mannerist extravagance, but that the Virgin in her extraordinary distension can be explained by a litany in Ecclesiasticus, with her enlargement read as a signifier of her mercy (Misericordia). Parmigianino’s panel is interpreted as an Immaculate Conception. Because the Magisterium had not fully defined the belief as dogma, the theological debate confused the artist and his contemporaries, but also gave them flexibility in their depictions of this abstract doctrine. The painting is situated with others of the subject from Leonardo and Giovanni Bellini to Federico Barocci and El Greco. The Madonna’s pose conforms with feminine decorum as dictated by contemporary treatises on dance and other writings. The subject’s genesis as a theological exercise is traced through the artist’s drawings.


Edward J. Olszewski is Professor Emeritus of Art History, Case Western Reserve University. He retired as Chair of the Department of Art History in December 2010. He has published a multi-volume corpus of drawings with Harvey Miller, a drawings catalogue (The Draftsman’s Eye, 1981), and numerous articles on Renaissance patronage, iconography, and art theory. Dr. Olszewski is the author of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (1667-1740) and the Vatican Tomb of Pope Alexander VIII, published by the American Philosophical Society in 2004. The book received the John Frederick Lewis, presented by the Society each year for the best book or manuscript by an American citizen published or accepted by the Society.

The Letters (1595-1608) of Rowland Whyte

Memoirs: Volume 268
Michael G Brennan, Noel J Kinnamon, Margaret P Hannay (Eds.)
Cloth, 664 pp. (16 FM, 648 text, 16-page illus. insert)

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The Letters (1595–1608) of Rowland Whyte provides the first complete edition (annotated and with modern spelling by editors Michael G. Brennan, Noel J. Kinnamon and Margaret P. Hannay) of important late-Elizabethan letters written by Whyte in his capacity as the personal agent and advisor at court of Robert Sidney, Viscount Lisle and first Earl of Leicester. The letters were written to keep Sydney fully briefed on court affairs and gossip, including news of Queen Elizabeth and the activities of her most prominent courtiers. The volume contains information comparable in range, stylistic fluency, and historical significance to the renowned Jacobean letters of John Chamberlain to Dudley Carleton (published by the APS as The Letters of John Chamberlain, edited with an introduction by Norman Egbert McClure in two volumes (Memoirs volume 12, 1939). Just as the two-volume monograph of the Chamberlain letters has been a major primary source for scholars interested in Jacobean court life for more the 60 years, this first complete edition of the letters of Rowland Whyte will provide a similarly useful resource for the last years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

Of Elephants & Roses: French Natural History 1790-1830

Memoirs: Volume 267
Sue Ann Prince (editor)
paper, 294 pages (26 front matter, 268 text); four color

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The American Philosophical Society Museum and the APS Publications Office are pleased to announce the publication of a new monograph, Of Elephants & Roses: French Natural History 1790–1830. The beautiful four-color volume serves as the catalogue for the popular APS Museum exhibition (Of Elephants & Roses: Encounters with French Natural History, 1790–1830), open from March 25 through December 31, 2011. The essays, commentaries, and discussions included constitute the proceedings of “Of Pictures & Specimens: Natural History in Post-Revolutionary and Restoration France,” a symposium held at the American Philosophical Society on December 1–3, 2011 in conjunction with the Of Elephants & Roses exhibition.   Editor and Museum Curator Sue Ann Prince masterfully put together the sumptuous exhibition about the science and art of French natural history from the 1789 Revolution to the July Monarchy of 1830—an era when Paris was the center of life sciences in the Western world, and Philadelphia, the center of science in North America. Objects on display included Empress Josephine’s famous black swans, a mastodon tooth sent by Thomas Jefferson to a naturalist in Paris, and original watercolors by Pierre Joseph Redouté, known as the “Raphael of Flowers.” As the exhibition was ending, a notable group of French and American scholars met in Philosophical Hall to take part in an enlightening symposium.

The House of Barnes: The Man, The Collection, The Controversy

Memoirs: Volume 266
Neil L. Rudenstine

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The House of Barnes: The Man, The Collection, The Controversy is a beautifully written study of the extraordinary art collector and volatile personality Albert C. Barnes.  The book places him in the context of his own era, shedding new light on the movements and ideas (about art collecting, education, and aesthetics) that shaped so much of his thinking.

The Barnes’ major holdings of post-impressionist and early modern art include more than 800 paintings, with a strong focus on Renoir (181 canvases), Cézanne (69), Matisse (59), and Picasso (46 paintings and drawings). In its entirety, it is the greatest single collection of such art that has remained intact.  

The last chapters of the book address the controversial events surrounding the Barnes Foundation’s move to Philadelphia, including vehement opposition—as well as strong support. There is an analysis of the Foundation’s financial plight, a review of the major court cases over the decades, and a characterization of the fervent reactions following the court’s decision to allow the move to take place.

The monograph is recommended for a broad audience, especially those interested in art and art collecting; the role of art in education; and the development of cultural institutions.

With bold clarity, in a manner which can only be described as magisterial, Dr. Rudenstine has written a history of Dr. Albert Barnes, particularly as it relates to the thoughts and actions which shaped his Foundation. The depth of research and wisdom brought to its interpretation surpasses all other publications on the subject.

The book sets a new standard of highly informed and sophisticated insight into the complexity of Barnes as a man, his legacy, and how this played out with other elements which have governed the fate of his Foundation.

Joseph J. Rishel

Senior Curator of European Painting before 1900

Philadelphia Museum of Art

This text provides the first scholarly foray into the historical and aesthetic context in which Barnes sought to intervene, and it goes very far toward explaining why he made certain decisions, including some of his most irrational ones. Barnes is neither eulogized nor demonized.

The scholarship is superb, the research highly original, and the author’s patience with his subject, astounding. This book is entirely free of jargon; even those who lack legal or financial competence could follow all its intricacies; and it is beautifully written.

Yve-Alain Bois

Professor of Art History

 Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

Neil Rudenstine is President Emeritus of Harvard University (1991-2001). He is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of ARTstor and the New York Public Library.  He is a Member of the American Philosophical Society, Class 5 (1992).

Astronomy in the Maya Codices

Memoirs: Volume 265
Harvey M. Bricker
Victoria R. Bricker

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The Precolumbian Maya were closely attuned to the movements of the Sun and Moon, the stars and planets. Their rituals and daily tasks were performed according to a timetable established by these celestial bodies, based on a highly comples calendar system. Agriculture provided the foundation for their civilization, and the skies served as a kind of farmer’s almanac for when to plant and when to harvest. In this remarkable volume, noted Maya scholars Harvey Bricker and Victoria Bricker offer invaluable insight into the complex world of the Precolumbian Maya, and in particular the amazing achievements of Maya astronomy, as revealed in the Maya codices, the indigenous hieroglyphic books written before the Spanish Conquest. This far-reaching study confirms that, independent of the Old World traditions that gave rise to modern Western astronomy, the Precolumbian Maya achieved a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy based on observations recorded over centuries.
Astronomy in the Maya Codices is the first thorough treatise on the codices since Thompson's A Commentary on the Dresden Codex four decades ago. The Brickers' work is special in that it gives a complete account of the historical background of scholarly inquiries into each of the instruments they deal with. The Brickers attempt to place each codical instrument in real time, an approach they uniquely develop and fully justify. This work will remain the "last word" on the role of astronomy in the codices and in Maya thought for a long time to come.
     Anthony F. Aveni
     Russell Colgate Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy and
          Anthropology and Native American Studies
     Colgate University
Astronomy in the Maya Codices represents a compilation of almost three decades of scholarly research conducted by the Brickers, reflecting a unique collaboration that combines their respective areas of expertise in linguistics, epigraphy, and astronomy. Their book is the most comprehensive treatment of the Maya codices to date, and is likely to remain a classic for years to come.
     Susan Milbrath
     Curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology
     Florida Museum of Natural History
Astronomy in the Maya Codices is simply a tour de force. The breadth and depth of Harvey and Victoria Bricker’s research on the Maya codices and the accessibility of their writing style make this important book a “must read” for a host of constituencies, from scholars of the Maya to astronomers to the interested general public.
     Jeremy A. Sabloff
     President, Santa Fe Institute

VISUAL MECHANIC KNOWLEDGE: The Workshop Drawings of Isaac Ebenezer Markham (1795-1825), New England Textile Mechanic

Memoirs: Volume 263
David J. Jeremy
Polly C. Darnell

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Markham’s sixty or so drawings are the earliest-known set of textile machine maker’s workshop drawings in the U.S.A., prepared primarily for cotton carding, spinning, and weaving machinery but also for wool carding and spinning equipment. Nothing similar has survived from the antebellum decades. Prepared between 1814 and 1825, a collection of such significance requires an examination of its provenance, a biography of the draftsman, and an analysis of the historical contexts shaping both draftsman and drawings. David Jeremy and Polly Darnell fulfill all of these goals in this marvelous book.
            As comparisons with contemporary European machine drawings reveal, Markham’s drawings are evidence of the transition from preindustrial to industrial forms of technical knowledge, and of a much wider knowledge revolution in the United States.
David J. Jeremy is Emeritus Professor of Business History at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, where he has taught since 1987. He has researched in the areas of business history and the history of technology, and has written a number of articles and books, including Transatlantic Industrial Revolution: The Diffusion of Textile Technologies Between Britain and America, 1790–1830s (Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press and the Merrimack Valley Textile Museum, 1981 and Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1981) and Artisans, Entrepreneurs, and Machines: Essays on the Early Anglo-American Textile Industries, 1770–1840s (Alershot: Ashgate, 1998).
Polly C. Darnell currently is the Archivist and Librarian at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont. Between 1980 and 1995, she ran the Research Center of the Sheldon Museum in Middlebury, Vermont. She has taught and written about archives and community history and been active in regional and national archival organizations. She has a B.A. in American History from Goddard College and an M.L.S. from the University at Albany, State University of New York.


Patriot-Improvers: Biographical Sketches of Members of the American Philosophical Society, Volume Three (1767-1768)

Memoirs: volume 228
Whitfield J. Bell, Charles B. Greifenstein
Case. 696 pp. (24 front matter; 672 text)

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The long-anticipated third volume of Patriot-Improvers brings to an end the important work of Dr. Whit Bell, who started in 1997 to put together “biographical sketches of members of the American Philosophical Society elected between 1743, when Franklin proposed it, and 1769, when it was established on its present foundation by the union of several earlier institutions” (Patriot-Improvers, Volume One, p. xiii). Work on this third volume was completed by APS Librarian Charles Greifenstein after the death of Dr. Bell in early 2009. The three-volume set is a worthy testament to a much loved member of the APS and a handsome addition to bookshelves.
Patriot-Improvers, Volume One (Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, volume 226, 1997) -- $40
Patriot-Improvers, Volume Two (Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, volume 227, 1999) -- $40
Patriot-Improvers, Volume Three (Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, volume 228, 2009) -- $60
Patriot-Improvers, three-volume set (Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, volumes 226, 227, and 228) -- $125 

The Library of Benjamin Franklin

Memoirs: Volume 257
Edwin Wolf 2nd and

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(Joint publication with the American Philosophical Society and The Library Company of Philadelphia)

Beginning in the late 1950s, Edwin Wolf 2nd embarked on a bibliographic odyssey to reconstruct the "lost" library of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin's library, the largest and best private library at the time of his death in 1790, was sold by his grandson in the late eighteenth century to Robert Morris Jr., who subsequently sold it in the early nineteenth century. None of the catalogues of the collection survive, and the contents of the library were virtually unknown until 1956, when Wolf discovered the unique shelfmarks Franklin used to identify his books. Wolf's work to reconstruct a catalogue of the library continued for the next thirty years but was unfinished at the time of his death. As the tercentenary of Franklin's birth approached, Kevin J. Hayes took up the work and has continued to discover titles that were part of the library. Everything found to date, close to 4,000 entries, has been compiled here.

The Temple of Night at Schönau: Architecture, Music, and Theater in a Late Eighteenth Century Viennese Garden

Memoirs: Volume 258
John A. Rice

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Between 1796 and 1800 Baron Peter von Braun, a rich businessman and manager of Vienna's court theaters, transformed his estate at Schönau into an English-style landscape park. Among several buildings with which he embellished his garden, the most remarkable and celebrated was the Temple of Night, a domed rotunda accessible only through a meandering rockwork grotto that led visitors to believe that their destination lay somewhere deep underground. A life-size statue of the goddess Night on a chariot pulled by two horses presided over the Temple, while from the dome, which depicted the night sky, came the sounds of a mechanical musical instrument that visitors likened to music of the spheres.

Only the ruins of the Temple of Night survive, and it has received little scholarly attention. This book brings it back to life by assembling the many descriptions of it by early nineteenth-century eyewitnesses. Placing the Temple within the context of the eighteenth-century English landscape park and of Viennese culture in the fascinating period of transition between Enlightenment and Biedermeier, Rice's book will appeal to anyone interested in the history of garden design, architecture, theater, and music.

John A. Rice, an independent scholar who lives in Rochester, Minnesota, studied music history at the University of California, Berkeley [Ph.D., 1987]. He has written many articles on eighteenth-century music and three books: W. A. Mozart: La Clemenza di Tito [1991], Antonio Salieri and Viennese Opera [1997], and Empress Marie Therese and Music at the Viennese Court, 1792-1807.

Renaissance Vision from Spectacles to Telescopes

Memoirs: Volume 259
Vincent Ilardi

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Renaissance Vision from Spectacles to Telescopes deals with the history of eyeglasses from their invention in Italy ca. 1286 to the appearance of the telescope three centuries later. "By the end of the sixteenth century eyeglasses were as common in western and central Europe as desktop computers are in western developed countries today." Eyeglasses served an important technological function at both the intellectual and practical level, not only easing the textual studies of scholars but also easing the work of craftsmen/small businessmen.

An important subthesis of this book is that Florence, rather than Venice, seems to have dominated the commercial market for eyeglasses during the fifteenth century, when two crucial developments occurred: the ability to grind convex lenses for various levels of presbyopia and the ability to grind concave lenses for the correction of myopia. As a result, eyeglasses could be made almost to prescription by the early seventeenth century.

Vincent Ilardi is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and through the years has been a prolific speaker and author on the fifteenth century. Papers presented include "Diplomatic History as 'Total' History? A Fifteenth-Century Perspective" (International Congress on the Fifteenth Century, University of Perpignan, France, 1990); books include Studies in Italian Renaissance Diplomatic History (London, Variorum Reprints, 1986).