Four hundred years ago, on December 5, 1623, Sir Edward Dering spent nearly £4.50 as he went about London throughout the day. The 25-year-old bought a number of household items, sent a letter to Cambridge, and saw a play. He also went to see a bookbinder, paying to have a group of printed plays from his collection bound together. He purchased some new books, too: two more playbooks, a Latin book of “considerations upon eternity,” the Workes of playwright and poet Ben Jonson, and two copies of William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. This last title, now best known as the First Folio, had just been published, probably less than a month earlier. At £1 each, the two Shakespeare volumes were, by a wide margin, Dering’s largest expenditures of the day. In second place was the set of knives he bought for a friend, and they ran only 12 shillings—just over half the cost of a single First Folio. Even the Jonson volume, a substantial book in its own right, was only 9 shillings. [Read more…] about The Long Lives of First Folios
Books + Manuscripts
Michael Gilmore’s tenure at the Ransom Center began in 1982, after a transfer from UT’s Perry-Castañeda Library on the advice of a friend. “That’s how I ended up over here with rare books and manuscripts,” he says. “It was just a delight.”
Through it all, he’s been a passionate advocate for the extraordinary objects in the collections. After eighteen years at the Center, Gilmore retired on June 16, 2023 from his role as Visual Materials Circulation Coordinator in the Reading and Viewing Room.
I asked Gilmore to show me his favorite item: a book from the collection of Ernest Hemingway, from a box of materials that was kept sealed until 25 years after his death. Gilmore was the one to catalog it.
Charting a Path
Sixty maps and other prints of South Asia and the surrounding region have recently arrived at the Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin in honor of former professor Susan G. Hadden. Generously donated by her husband, James Hadden, Jr., the newly acquired Susan G. Hadden Collection of Early Maps of India contains maps dating from 1540 to around 1880, and together they track developments in cartography and the rise of European trade, colonization, and ultimately empire in the region.
The Hadden collection’s earliest map is a two-page woodcut that was printed as part of Sebastian Münster’s Geographia (Basel, 1540), a Latin version of Ptolemy’s widely printed and adapted Geography. It is the first printed map dedicated to illustrating the Asian continent as a whole. In it, only four cities within India have been identified, all on the western coast, all sites of early Portuguese settlement and/or trade.