Launched? Check! Library’s New Digital Collections & Exhibits Website

By Robin Naughton, Head of Digital

VESALIUS_ICONES_SUITE_005_watermark

Content inventory complete? Check.

New and enhanced scans created?  Check.

Content migration complete? Check.

All collections uploaded to repository? Check.

All metadata confirmed? Check.

Backend infrastructure secured? Check.

Design complete?  Check.

Quality assurance complete? Check.

Sign-off? Check.

Then, we’re ready for take-off.

Let’s launch!

We are very excited to announce the launch of our new digital collections and exhibits website.

Starting in 2016, we began working with Islandora, an open-source framework that provides a robust infrastructure for digital collection development.  Our goal was to migrate old collections and develop new digital collections.  Islandora offered a solution that was extensible, easy to use, and built on a foundation that included a preservation-quality repository (Fedora), one of the most extensible content management systems (Drupal), and a fast search (Solr).   With this base, we set about designing the interface, migrating and developing collections, and working to build a digital collection website that would make it easy for the public to explore the amazing collections available at the Library.

You can find us at digitalcollections.nyam.org

The homepage of the website will be your guide to our collections.  There you will find a showcase of our treasures from rare medieval manuscripts to 19th century advertising cards.  From the homepage, you can access a collection by clicking on the image for that collection, search for particular terms using the search box on the right, and browse recently added collections just below the search.  As you explore a collection, you will find that some use the Internet Archive BookReader to provide the experience of turning the pages of a book, while others appear similar to image galleries.  Regardless of the collection design, you can learn more from the descriptive metadata below the object, zoom in on a specific area, and download a copy of the image.

William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards

The William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards was donated to the Library between 1986 and 1992 by Mr. Helfand, a leading collector of medical ephemera.  The collection includes approximately 300 colored cards produced in the United States and France in the mid-nineteenth century that advertised a variety of goods. For example, if you’d like a cure for your corns and bunions, then “Ask Your Druggist for Hanson’s Magic Corn Salve.”  Maybe you’d like a solution that will work for multiple ailments such as “Ayer’s Cathartic Pills: the Country Doctor.”   Whatever your ailment, chances are pretty good you will find something in this collection that offers a solution.

As part of the Library’s early digitization efforts and grant funding in the early 2000s, half of the collection was digitized.  This project digitized the rest of the collection.  For the first time, the complete collection, duplicates and all, is available to the public.  Researchers and the general public can explore these trade cards in new and novel ways to gain an understanding of the collection as a whole.

The majority of the metadata on the cards are hyperlinked so that users can easily find information.  For example, if you were interested in a particular manufacturer such as “D. Jayne and Son,” then you can click on that manufacturer’s name to find all the cards associated with that manufacturer.  Also, if you’re curious about all the cards with cats or dogs, then you can search the collection for “cats” to see how many cats appear on trade cards or “dogs” for the number of dogs in our collections.  Let us know how many cats or dogs you find!

Rare and Historical Collections

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The website includes a glimpse into our rare and historical collections material.   In one day, high-end photographer, Ardon Bar-Hama, courtesy of George Blumenthal, took photos of a subset of the Library’s treasures.  For example, if you’re interested in cookery, you can page through our Apicius manuscript with 500 Greek and Roman recipes from the 4th and 5th centuries.  Maybe you’re interested in Aristotle’s Masterpiece, or you just want to see the most beautiful anatomical images from Andreas Vesalius’s De Humani corporis Fabrica, or a skunk-cabbage (Symplocarpus Fœtida) hand-colored plate from William P. C. Barton’s Vegetable Materia Medica.  Whatever the interest, this collection offers a broad range of materials from the Library.

Launched? Check!

Cook like a Roman: The New York Academy of Medicine’s Apicius Manuscript

By Anne Garner, Curator, Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health

This is one of several posts leading up to our day-long Eating Through Time Festival on October 17, 2015, a celebration of food, cookery, and health. View the full program and register for the Festival.

Ancient sources document the culinary excellence of one Marcus Gavius Apicius, a Roman gourmet who flourished during Tiberius’ reign (1st century CE). It isn’t clear from textual evidence that this Apicius ever wrote a book of cookery.1 And yet, the gem of our Library’s cookery collection—a 9th-century manuscript collection of Greek and Roman recipes—bears his name.

9th-century manuscript De re culininaria (sometimes De re coquinaria), attributed to Apicius.

9th-century manuscript De re culininaria (sometimes De re coquinaria), attributed to Apicius. Click to enlarge.

Our manuscript, transmitting a 4th– or 5th-century compendium of culinary and medical recipes compiled from a number of 2nd-century Roman sources, packs a powerful wow factor. It contains 500 Greek and Roman recipes from the Mediterranean basin. A handful may date as early as the 4th century BCE. As such, our manuscript is sometimes referred to as the oldest extant cookbook in the West.

This collection of recipes was likely compiled from multiple sources. The 2nd-century satirical writer Juvenal indicated that the name “Apicius” was frequently used to describe a foodie, not a specific person. Other sources suggest that the name conjured luxury and excessive eating.2

These recipes appear to be written by and for cooks. While some recipes called for cuts of meat that might have been beyond the means of the average Roman citizen, many others, including a number of meat, vegetable, and legume dishes, were well within the reach of Rome’s tradespeople, builders, artists, and modest farmers. Some of the recipes may have reflected popular dishes served in local popinae (street bars).

A closer look at book one reveals a wide range of useful directives applicable for the Mediterranean home cook. Called Epimeles (careful, or attentive), book one includes recipes for a spiced wine surprise, honeyed wine, and Roman absinthe. Here too are tips for preserving pork and beef rind, fried fish, blackberries, and truffles.

The dishes reflect the polyglot culture of the Mediterranean basin. The dominance of Greek culinary tradition in the early empire makes it likely that the Apicius began as a Greek collection of recipes, though mainly written in Latin, and adapted for a Roman palate.3 The cookbook incorporates a number of Greek terms, like melizomum (honey sauce) and hypotrimma (here a mixture of cheese and herbs), despite the existence of Latin glosses. Other words are hybrids of Greek and Latin, like tractogalatae, combining the Latin tractum (thin sheet of pastry) and gala, Greek for milk.

The Apicius manuscript is the gem of the Academy’s Margaret Barclay Wilson Collection of Cookery, acquired in 1929. Conservators restored and rebound it in 2006.

Our manuscript was penned in several hands in a mix of Anglo-Saxon and Carolingian scripts at the monastery at Fulda (Germany) around 830 CE. It is one of two manuscripts (the other at the Vatican) presumed to have been copied from a now lost common source.4

The gilt and illuminated Vatican manuscript of De re culininaria, as replicated in a 2013 facsimile.

The gilt and illuminated Vatican manuscript of De re culininaria, as replicated in a 2013 facsimile. Click to enlarge.

Images from both 9th-century iterations illustrate the different approaches to the text. The image above shows the gilt and illuminated Vatican manuscript, as replicated in a 2013 facsimile. Below is the Academy’s text. The number of cross-outs and the plain, unadorned style of the manuscript suggest it may have been a teaching tool for scribes.

The Academy’s unadorned 9th-century manuscript of De re culininaria. Click to enlarge.

The Academy’s unadorned 9th-century manuscript of De re culininaria. Click to enlarge.

Apicius has been a bestseller since the beginning of the print era, published in multiple editions since the 15th century. The Academy library holds many print editions, including two of the earliest.

This title page is from the earliest dated edition of the text, published in Milan in 1498. Pictured below is the device of the printer, La Signerre, who later set up shop in Rouen. Our copy is annotated by an early reader who adds the titles of the text’s ten books, grouped by type of dish.

Title page from the earliest dated edition of the De re culininaria, published in Milan in 1498.

Title page from the earliest dated edition of the De re culininaria, published in Milan in 1498. Click to enlarge.

The second earliest dated edition, printed in Venice, offers one of the earliest examples of a title page in printing history. It too is heavily annotated by an early food-lover, fluent in Greek and Latin.

Marginalia in our 1503 printed Apicius offers Greek glosses on Latin terms.

Marginalia in our 1503 printed Apicius offers Greek glosses on Latin terms.

Enthusiasts will find many other print descendants of this extraordinary manuscript in the Academy’s library.

The Apicius manuscript and a number of print editions of the text will be on display in the Academy Library’s Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room during our October 17th festival, Eating through Time. A complete schedule of events can be found here.

References

1. Mayo, H. (2008). “New York Academy of Medicine MS1 and the textual tradition of Apicius”. In Coulson, F. T., & Grotans, A., eds., Classica et Beneventana: Essays Presented to Virginia Brown on the Occasion of her 65th Birthday. Turnhout: Brepols. pp. 111–135.

2. Christopher Grocock and Sally Grainger, eds. Apicius. A Critical Edition with an Introduction and an English Translation of the Latin Recipe Text Apicius. Devon: Prospect, 2006. p. 35.

3. Grockock and Grainger, p. 17-20.

4. Mayo, p. 112.