Emily Mattern completed an MPhil in the History of Art at Trinity College Dublin in 2022. The following text is based on the research for her dissertation entitled Materiality, Meaning, and Metamorphosis: The Work of Maria Sibylla Merian in the Fagel Collection at Trinity College Dublin (2022).
First Encounter with the Fagel Metamorphosis
Although the works of natural history found within the Fagel Collection are limited in number, they are some of the collection’s most visually striking objects. As a multi-generational library amassed by high-ranking Dutch citizens, the Fagel Collection demonstrates an interest in various subjects. Even so, the men who amassed and maintained it routinely favored items which would prove beneficial in upholding their official duties as greffier of the States General. Because the Fagels prioritized practical texts, it is no surprise that natural history volumes comprise only about 2.6% of the collection (Fox 89). More remarkable is the exquisite ornamentation of these books, as exemplified by one second-edition copy of Maria Sibylla Merian’s Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (Fag.GG.2.10 no.1).
This year the world celebrates the 400th anniversary of the publication of the book now known as Shakespeare’s First Folio. Trinity College Dublin Library is proud to own the only copy known to remain in Ireland. While not exactly a rare book – slightly under a third of the print run of about 750 copies are still extant – it is not easy to come by, either. Very few remain in private hands and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC alone has collected over 80 copies! When it was printed, a copy cost about £1 – a great deal of money at the time. It was definitely a luxury item – in real terms costing about the equivalent of a high-end, brand new iPhone today. Even so, it had presumably sold out in under ten years as the “Second Folio” was printed in 1632, followed by a third in 1664 and a fourth in 1685.
Dr Emily Monty was the Fagel Collection Visiting Research Fellow in autumn 2022. She was hosted by the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts & Humanities Research Institute at Trinity College Dublin. You can view a conversation between Emily and Ann-Marie Hansen, Project Manager of Unlocking the Fagel Collection here.
The Fagel Collection holds important material history for the study of publishing and collecting in the Dutch Republic of the eighteenth-century. The map portfolios alone contain over 1600 sheets and represent an extraordinary collection of rare and unusually well-preserved materials. Such collections of loose print and manuscript images in their original portfolios rarely survive intact, making the Fagel examples all the more important from the perspective of material and cultural history.
During a three-month Visiting Research Fellowship at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), I came across a series of illustrations for an eighteenth-century travel narrative of the Caribbean in Portfolio XXII. These precious fragments of a larger illustration project reveal material evidence about practices in book publishing and collecting in The Hague, and give insight into the other discoveries that are waiting to be made as scholars continue to study the portfolio prints and related books held in the Fagel collection. In the following blog post, I describe my research methods and conclusions in hopes of promoting future research on the contents of these portfolios.
On the morning of 31st May 1622, exactly four hundred years ago, a terrible fire struck Cork city. It was sparked by an early summer thunderstorm. Many of the tightly packed dwellings within the city walls were built of timber or clay and had thatched roofs, and when lightning struck they quickly went up in flames. Between 11 o’clock and noon the fire tore through all parts of the city, leaving a trail of devastation.
One of the reasons we know about this fire is because it was the subject of a news pamphlet, A relation of the most lamentable burning of the cittie of Corke, in the west of Ireland, in the province of Monster, by thunder and lightning, which was printed in London on 20th June, barely three weeks later. It is a scarce work, with only three copies recorded in the English Short Title Catalogue. But a Dutch translation was printed in The Hague by Aert Meuris in 1622, and this translation is held in the Library of Trinity College Dublin among the 5,200 pamphlets in the Fagel Collection.
Dr Maria Elisa Navarro Morales is a professor in the Department of History of Art and Architecture. She and her students have this year been looking at the architecture titles in the Fagel Collection, although for obvious reasons they have not been able to see them in person. The students submitted blogposts, three of which will be published here. Although they included bibliographies in their essays, for brevity we have omittedthem. This post is by Olivia Bayne.
*SPLASH* without warning, followed by a roar of shrieks and laughter. There you were, innocently admiring the garden view from a gallery window when, suddenly, some strange figure hidden in the foliage threw a bucket of water in your face. Equal parts damp and mortified, you scurry out of the room; away from potential further drenching, away from the laughter of other guests soon to be met with similar ironic fates. Down the hall you come across a mirror. Stopping to rearrange your hair and wipe the water from your brow, you straighten up, smile, and *poof* another figure, this time hidden in the rafters, has emptied a sack of flour atop your head. You are now wettened and whitened – just in time for dinner. Your host must be a madman; surely this is nothing more than a madhouse.