Malta to Orléans

(Malta): A  Qur'an copied in Malta


A Qur'ān copied in Malta, 1654

This is a small, square copy of the Qurʾān made on Malta by an enslaved man. The date 16 Muḥarram 1065 A.H (November 26, 1654 CE), when this copy was finished, is during the time when Malta was ruled by the Order of the Knights of Saint John and captured Muslims were enslaved. The copyist gives his name as Muḥammad ibn ʻAbd al-Wāḥid ibn ʻAbd al-Qādir al-Fāsī, which suggests that he was originally from Fez, Morocco, before ending up on Malta. The copy is in a neat, maghribī script with some headings in blue, red, and gold, though the gold is now flaking off.

Qurʼān. قرآن., Ms. Codex 1904

(Mecca): Dalāʼil al-khayrāt wa shawāriq al-anwār fī dhikr al-ṣalāh ʻalá al-nabī al-mukhtār. دلائل الخيرات و شوارق الانوار في ذكر الصلوة على النبي المختار.

Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Dalāʼil al-khayrāt wa shawāriq al-anwār fī dhikr al-ṣalāh ʻalá al-nabī al-mukhtār. 1878 دلائل الخيرات و شوارق الانوار في ذكر الصلوة على النبي المختار

A copy of a popular prayer book written onto gold sprinkled paper. This work is sometimes illustrated because the text mentions Medina and the Prophet’s tomb, which led to illustrations of the Prophet’s mosque and tomb being added to the text, sometimes as facing page illustrations. Later, an illustration of Mecca and the Kaʿbah was also added to the prayer book making it so that the facing page illustrations were Mecca on the right and Medina on the left. This set up is common in later copies, such as this one from A.H. 1259 (1878 CE).

Ms. Codex 1910

(Mexico): Mexican Village


Mexican Village, by Josephina Niggli; designs by Marion Fitz-Simons. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1945

Books are always more fun to read when they contain maps. This charming volume does not disappoint. The map of San Nicolás Hidalgo in Josephina Niggli’s novel about the return to Mexico of a Mexican-born American brings her story to life. The book is made more enjoyable because we can see exactly where the Street of the Sad Young Poet is, and can also appreciate the convenient placement of the jail between the casino and an establishment called “Devil’s Laughter.” If that were not enough, there are delightful illustrations of laundry drying on a line and cacti.

Caroline F. Schimmel Collection of Women in the American Wilderness, Schimmel Fiction 3489

Naples pen and ink drawing

Naples, Italy

Naples pen and ink drawing, 1830

Antonio Senape’s sketchbook contains seventeen extraordinarily detailed illustrations of sites in and around Naples, Sorrento and Salerno. He may have created it to sell to tourists. Every drawing is stunning. We are particularly fond of the ones showing Mount Vesuvius smoldering away in the background.

Antonio Senape sketchbook, circa 1830, Ms. Coll. 827

(New York): Map of Lower Manhattan and the East River

New York, New York

Map of Lower Manhattan and the East River, 1744

This map of Lower Manhattan looks very different from today’s bustling Two Bridges neighborhood in the Lower East Side. In 1744, the land was open and was being surveyed for development. Brandt Schuyler (1717-1752) drew this map in the same year he was appointed city surveyor. It shows the Jewish cemetery to the North; southeast is the “gibbet where Hughson hung.” Hughson, his wife, a friend and several slaves were hanged in 1742 after being convicted of arson during the Conspiracy of 1741.

Arnold and Deanne Kaplan Collection of Early American Judaica, Kaplan Misc Mss Box 1 Folder 1

(Nome): Baldy of Nome

Nome, Alaska

Baldy of Nome, by Esther Birdsall Darling; decorations by Hattie Longstreet. Philadelphia: Penn Pub. Co., 1937

This is the story of Baldy, a sled dog, who saved the driver of his dog team during the 60-mile-long Solomon Derby, a race between Nome and Solomon along the coast of the Bering Sea. It is based on an actual event: during the journey, Scotty Allan, the driver, leaned over his sled to look at a broken runner and hit his head on an iron trail marker. He was knocked unconscious and fell off the sled. Once Baldy realized that Allan was no longer driving the team, Baldy turned the sled around, located the missing driver and stayed with him until Allan was able to continue the race. Amazingly, Allan’s dog team, led by the courageous Baldy, went on to win the race!

Caroline F. Schimmel Fiction Collection of Women in the American Wilderness, Schimmel Fiction 1289

Oberammergau and its passion play 1960 : official guide.

Oberammergau, Germany

Oberammergau and its passion play 1960 : official guide. Oberammergau: Community of Oberammergau, [1960]

The bubonic plague is the reason why this little volume exists today. In 1633, the inhabitants of Oberammergau vowed to stage a passion play every ten years if their city were spared from the plague then sweeping across Europe. The town was only minimally affected by the disease and, as a result, the play has been performed every decade (in years ending in zero) after its first performance in 1634. If you decide to attend in 2020, please use this charming guide which provides lots of interesting history about the town and the play, and also recommends a long, leisurely journey to Oberammergau to take in the many sights along the way.

Gotham Book Mart Collection, PN3235 O24 1960

(Odessa): Photographs of Odessa

Odessa, Ukraine

Photographs of Odessa, 1911

This album contains photographs by German photographer Richard Laengsdorff, who traveled through Transcaucasia by train and on to Odessa by boat across the Black Sea.  He recorded the culture of the towns he visited in photographs of local people going about their daily lives: at dinners, in schools and working.  Laengsdorff also captured the rugged landscapes and famous landmarks along his journey. This photograph is of the Odessa Opera House, which still appears to be one of the most photographed sites in the city!

Richard Laengsdorff photo album, Black Sea and Caucasus, May 1911, Ms. Coll. 338

(Orléans): sketches of Orléans

Orléans, France

Sketches of Orléans, circa 1839-1946

This charming sketchbook contains rough on-the-spot drawings by English artist and teacher Samuel Prout (1783-1852) created during his continental tour of France, Switzerland, and Italy between 1839 and 1846. These dynamic, working sketches convey the excitement of an artist soaking in the sights of history. They are full of life and contain architectural and personal notations, indicating that these impulsive drawings may have served as a source of inspiration for more finished drawings completed at a later time.

Samuel Prout sketchbook, circa 1839-1846, Ms. Coll. 819