Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Online Archive of Ornaments in Swedenborg's Theological Works

NewChurchHistory.org (read more about it here) has a blog called New Church History Fun Facts. Back in May they published a post titled "Ornaments in the Theological First Editions of Emanuel Swedenborg".

I finally got around to reading it and discovered that NewChurchHistory.org has an article by Jonathan Rose on it about the ornaments titled "The Ornaments in Swedenborg's Theological First Editions". He wrote the article in 1998 and, in addition to including lots of interesting original research, the article also includes good quality images of all of the ornaments used in Swedenborg's theological first editions. For example, here are all of the Title Page Ornaments. And don't be deceived by the display size of the images; if you click on them you can download nice big versions of them. (Note: the Fun Fact says that the images can be downloaded for educational purposes so don't go selling them for millions of dollars.)

I don't know, maybe this is only cool to me but I'm pretty excited about figuring out somewhere to use these cool images.

While we're on the topic of stuff from Swedenborg's first editions, I should mention that BaysideNewChurch.org, in addition to some other pretty cool resources, has scans of all of Swedenborg's first editions available for download. The files are mostly just dumped there so you have to hunt around to find a specific passage but it's a great resource to know about. (If you're lucky enough to have a copy of Kempton Project that's not too old and if you can get a copy of the first edition files on CD, then you might be able to use Kempton Project to jump directly to the relevant image for a specific passage.)

6 comments:

Nancy said...

Malcolm, I read the link regarding ornaments with great interest! I used to trade in 1500s manuscript pages and a few 1600s-1700s illustrations, my interest being primarily in woodcuts. I still have quite a few pages from old Bibles, psalters, and other early books (favorites are from Cosmosgraphia Universalis, natural histories, and a very early book about knightly horsemanship).

To my eye, most of these ornaments (tailpieces, line ornaments, asterisks, most headpieces) look very generic and typical. I wonder if there is any significant difference between them and other works produced by the same printers in Amsterdam and London? The most interesting are HPs 1 and 10, and the one which Rose speculates might be a self-portrait by Swedenborg. I am thinking an art historian focused upon publishing during that era could shed some light on the questions raised? (There may be a body of work by each printer to compare to?)

Anyway, thanks for posting those links. They were fascinating and raise some interesting questions. Because I love illustration so much, one question of interest to me is why some works are heavily illustrated (I think 75 in one work), while others had so few (lowest was 2, I believe). I'm thinking this is probably very much related to sales, but wonder if there are other reasons related to the direction of his intellectual life at various points, his health, his relationships, etc. ... (Or was it simply because some books needed more divisions and space-fillers :), or were printed by people who paid more attention to such things/had a good stock of pre-existing ornamentation on hand?) Lots of detective work still to be done...

Malcolm said...

Nancy, That's cool that you know something about this stuff.

You raise interesting questions. The difference in the amount of illustration in the works reflects (for me) the difference between the content and style of the different works. TCR is such a different work from AC and from DLW.

Like you said, lots of detective work still to be done. A project for retirement, perhaps? :)

Nancy said...

It really is intriguing, because it is such a personal question about who Swedenborg was...

Nancy said...

My memory is that Swedenborg experienced some discouragement when AC did not sell (??), and that may have something to do with the choices about adding ornamentation in later works?

Malcolm said...

It does seem likely that Swedenborg experienced some discouragement when the first volume of AC didn't sell well. He mentions this in Spiritual Experiences 4422. But, as you can see from the 5th page of the first edition of AC, the ornaments were there right from the beginning. In fact, someone from the time is quoted as saying that it was printed in a "grand and pompous manner."

Swedenborg did do other things to try to get more people to buy, though. For instance, he published volume 2 of AC chapter by chapter (presumably to give people something shorter to buy) and also had it translated into English. (You probably remember my post about that from a while ago.)

For more stuff on Swedenborg marketing the Writings I recommend a series of articles that Rev. Don Rose wrote in New Church Life. Go to HeavenlyDoctrines.org, select New_Church_Life and then search for "Swedenborg Marketing the Books", "Swedenborg Promoting the Books", "Swedenborg's Book Distribution Sabotaged", "Swedenborg Inviting People to Read the Writings", and "Uncovering a Conspiracy to Keep People from Reading the Writings". They're a lot of fun to read.

Nancy said...

Very helpful and interesting Malcolm!

On the sales front I was wondering if ornamentation fell off when sales didn't support extra cost...

Love your blog, it is one of the few places I can find different ways to engage with ideas about the Writings (I struggle not to glaze over sometimes with a big book in front of me, and the language being so difficult-- makes KJV look simple to understand!). :)