Posts by Pablo Alvarez

Rare Books and the Bicentennial: Part I

Letter by U of M Alum Capt. William Wirt Wheeler of the 6th Michigan Volunteers to his former professor of Greek, James Robinson Boise. New Orleans, September 29 1862

I am frequently asked by students and faculty: where do our rare book collections come from? While we have purchased many extraordinary books since the early years of the University of Michigan, many of our treasures were bequeathed by grateful alums and faculty. The reasons why they donated these artifacts are often fascinating, revealing little-known stories that shed light not only on the history of our institution but on our country at large. The book featured in this post is a rare...


Quintus Serenus (fl. 2nd c. AD). Liber medicinalis. Southeast Germany (Bavaria) or Austria; ca. 1500. Mich. Ms. 291.

The Liber medicinalis (Book of Medicine) is a medical treatise of around 1,200 dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to the second-century Roman author, Quintus Serenus Sammonicus (d. beginning of 3rd c. AD). It contains sixty-four therapeutic recipes, divided into two sections: recipes for illnesses affecting individual organs listed from head to toe, and recipes for general ailments like injuries, fevers, fractures and dislocations, insomnia, toothache, and poisoning.

The Secret of Secrets and the History of Medicine

Pseudo-Aristotle. Secretum secretorum. Tr. Philip of Tripoli (fl. 2nd half of 13th c.) Italy, 14th c. Manuscript codex on vellum, 190 x 131mm.Latin. Mich. Ms. 202

Our featured book today is a fourteenth-century Latin manuscript of a medieval bestseller: the Secret of Secrets (Secretum secretorum). Wrongly attributed to Aristotle, and originally composed in Arabic in the eighth century, the content of this work has been gradually shaped, and changed, by scribes and translators throughout the centuries. From being conceived as a manual about kingship, it eventually became one of the most popular medical treatises in the Middle Ages.

500 Years of Erasmus's New Testament!

Title page of Novum Instrumentum omne, diligenter ab Erasmo Roterodamo recognitum & emendatum. Basel: Johann Froben, 1516

Around 1511, the Dutch Catholic humanist, Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536), began working on an edition and Latin translation of the Greek New Testament, for which he thoroughly compared the text of several Greek manuscripts with Jerome's fourth-century Latin translation of the Bible, the so-called Vulgate.

New Online Exhibit: Shakespeare on Page and Stage

Screen capture of the interface of the online exhibit: Shakespeare on Page and Stage: A Celebration

We are very pleased to announce a new online exhibit from the Special Collections Library: Shakespeare on Page and Stage: A Celebration. It is a virtual record of the physical exhibit that took place in the Audubon Room of the Hatcher Library from January 11 to April 27, 2016. As the title playfully suggests, the exhibit is a historical journey through different versions of Shakespeare’s plays as they were edited for publication or interpreted for the stage.

A New Treasure Trove Arrives At Special Collections!

Poster for the exhibit,  for A New Treasure Trove Arrives at the Special Collections Library

We are very pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibit at the Special Collections Library. The display showcases recent acquisitions that strengthen our extraordinary holdings in the areas of radical literature, transportation history, film, rare books, culinary history, Islamic manuscripts, children's literature, and Judaica.

2016: 400 Years of the Death of Cervantes

Portrait of Miguel de Cervantes by William Kent, copperplate engraving, in Vida y hechos del ingenioso don Quixote de la Mancha (Londres: J. y R. Tonson, 1738)

A day like today, on April 22 , Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra died in Madrid four hundred years ago. To commemorate this date, I have revisited our collection of early editions of Cervantes's works, selecting for this post the eighteenth-century edition of Don Quixote that played a major role to canonize Cervantes as a global literary figure.


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