Description by Brittany Joyce, Classical Studies and Italian Studies undergraduate student and Archives & Special Collections assistant.
Photographs by Roger Tory Peterson.
A closer look at items from the treasure trove of
the Robert D. Farber University Archives and Special Collections at Brandeis University
An anti-Fascist poster from the Spanish Civil War entitled ¡Jovenes! is a remarkable new addition to Brandeis University’s Archives & Special Collections. Donated by Gaillard T. Hunt, this poster is notable for its artistic and historical content. It has recently undergone significant conservation work by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC).
Depicting a naked man and woman holding aloft a globe, ¡Jovenes! (Youth!) proclaims the titular youth of Spain as the hope for that country’s future, and calls on them to join the Transport Workers’ Union. It is a stunning piece of graphic public art which includes many signs and symbols of the Republican faction (including the words “Liberty, Fraternity, Equality” and a black and red dove inscribed with the initials of two major anarchist and union organizations).
The poster joins roughly two hundred fifty other anti-Fascist Spanish Civil War posters (brought or sent to the United States by American volunteers in the War) held by Archives & Special Collections. While the poster’s text and imagery have lost no power, the physical item itself has suffered damage over the roughly eighty years since it was first printed (circa 1937). Posters are not created to last, and, as with most items of that type and age, it has yellowed and become fragile and brittle. Having been stored folded, it has torn and been abraded along the fold lines and it arrived at Brandeis in two large pieces. While a significant artistic and historical item, this piece was in no shape to be used by visitors and researchers. Additionally, the damage made it difficult to store the poster in such a way as to prevent further degradation and tearing. As such, the decision was made to have it repaired.
In the world of archives and special collections, conservation work is fairly unusual. This may seem odd – why not repair everything? In the first place, this work is expensive and time consuming. In the second, as a guiding rule, archivists attempt to present historical artifacts without commentary or bias, and this includes displaying items as they are, rather than through a filter of repair. It is understood that the damage an object has experienced is a part of its history, and to remove or disguise that damage would be untruthful to the story that object has to tell. That being said, archivists and special collections librarians are also strongly invested in providing free and open access to holdings, and if an item is too damaged to be handled, there can be no such access for our visitors. So, when conservation work is called for, it is almost always to restore the item, not to its prime, but to a stable state where it can be safely seen and used by visitors, researchers and staff, and where it can be stored without being in danger of any further damage. Equally important, all conservation work must always be reversible.
At the NEDCC the poster was analyzed and assessed for treatment and in consultation with our staff, including our preservationist, the extent of the conservation work was planned. Images were taken before, during and after the process, which included dry cleaning methods, a filtered water bath, and mending of tears and insertion of fragments with wheat starch paste. Finally, the poster was lined with toned Japanese paper and wheat starch paste, humidified, stretched dry and encapsulated.
Because of this conservation work ¡Jovenes! is now able to be an active part of our collections and can be safely seen and used by our patrons who wish to investigate the political, economic and artistic history it so splendidly represents.
One of the most important works in the history of music theory, Gioseffo Zarlino’s 1558 treatise Le Istitutioni Harmoniche sought to unite music theory with the craft of composition. In his text, Zarlino teaches composers to study music using both reason and the senses in order to make their compositions more perfect. It was not enough to merely write music with a pleasing sound; Zarlino believed that a composer should also understand the scientific principles determining traits which make music appealing. As part of the The Walter F. and Alice Gorham Collection of Early Music Imprints, Brandeis University’s Special Collections holds a unique copy of this groundbreaking treatise.
Although not an uncommon text to find in university libraries, this particular copy--a second printing--is made uniquely fascinating by the handwritten annotations found throughout the text. The margins of 96 of the volume’s 347 pages contain notes from the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century in at least two different hands. In some places, the writing has been crossed out using the same brown ink. These comments provide early responses to Zarlino’s theories. Unfortunately, the outer edges of these annotations have been lost. This particular copy of Le Istitutioni Harmoniche was originally held in the library of Gualfardo Bercanovich, an Italian composer of the late nineteenth century. Each book in Bercanovich’s library was identically bound. In the case of this Zarlino text, the trimming required for binding removed some of the commentary.
The text of Le Istitutioni Harmoniche is divided into four books. Book One reviews the “philosophical, cosmological, and mathematical basis of music” (1). Aside from summarizing traditional classifications of music, Zarlino’s main focus in this section is the proper handling of mathematical proportions in music. Book Two builds upon this foundation by establishing Zarlino’s preferred tuning system, syntonic diatonic tuning. This method was based on ratios proposed by Ptolemy and allowed for a greater number of in-tune consonances than the Pythagorean system also in use at the time. By dividing the string of a monochord into six parts instead of four, additional perfect consonances could be formed (2).
Arguably the most lasting portion of Zarlino’s treatise, Book Three presents rules for counterpoint that were passed down through generations of composers and are still in use today. In this section, Zarlino adapts existing contrapuntal methods to allow for more modern tuning. He divides the useable intervals into specific groupings based on degrees of perfection, and establishes rules for voice leading and the placement of specific types of intervals. These are not rules invented by Zarlino, but passed down to him from his teacher, Adrian Willaert. However, Zarlino was the first to clearly articulate these rules in writing (3).
In the final section, Book Four, Zarlino discusses his twelve-mode system. Again based on Willaert with significant influences from Glaurean, Zarlino expands the traditional Greek modal system from eight modes to twelve. He also strips the modes of their traditional Greek names, simply identifying them by number. He discusses each mode in detail before ending his treatise with a rare discussion of the finer points of composition, such as text expression and underlay.
Aside from his work as a theorist, Zarlino served as the maestro di capella of St. Marco’s Cathedral in Venice from 1565 until his death in 1590. He composed motets and madrigals and was the teacher of several important theorists, including Artusi, Merulo, and Galilei. Although the majority of Le Istitutioni Harmoniche would eventually become outdated as compositional styles and theories of harmony shifted, Zarlino’s rules for counterpoint are still relevant. His treatise laid the groundwork for the musical development to come.Click here to read the Spotlight on the entire Walter F. and Alice Gorham collection.