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Distributed October 27, 2003
Contact Mary Jo Curtis

Through January 31, 2004
John Carter Brown Library hosts exhibition of new acquisitions

The John Carter Brown Library is presenting In JCB: Acquisition Highlights of the 21st Century, an exhibition featuring some of the most recent additions to the library’s unique collection, through Jan. 31, 2004. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The John Carter Brown Library will share with the public some of the finest recent additions to its collection in a new exhibition titled In JCB: Acquisition Highlights of the 21st Century, through Jan. 31, 2004.


Notes on culinary history
This detail from the engraved allegorical frontispiece to Francesco Maria Brancaccio’s De chocolatis potu diatribe (Rome, 1664) depicts the transfer of chocolate from the New World to Europe.

The exhibit, curated by reference and acquisitions librarian Richard Ring, features 70 items selected from more than 1,400 works purchased by or donated to the library in the last three years. Each has enhanced the library’s unique collection of primary sources in its specialty, the history of North and South America from the arrival of Columbus in 1492 to the death of Simón Bolívar in 1830.

“The new exhibition is full of startling diversity. It reveals the continued vitality of the library's collection-building in its specialized field, even after more than a century and a half of buying books,” said Norman Fiering, the library’s director.

The exhibition features several distinct sections, including one that deals with trade, war, politics and diplomacy in an era when the major European empires in the Western Hemisphere constantly vied with each other for power and advantage. Another focuses on language and literature, the cultural products created and consumed by European societies at home and in their colonies.

A section on religion and belief includes a broadside in the Aztec language of Nahuatl, while other portions feature natural history and medicine, voyages, maritime history and the science of navigation. The last segment consists of newspapers, manuscripts, prints and maps.

Several pieces on display are extremely rare, including a foundational book of Brazilian history, Cultura e opulencia do Brasil, published in Lisbon in 1711. That work provided so much information about the gold mines of the Brazilian colony that the Portuguese government tried to destroy all copies of the book. Among the other items displayed:

  • a first American edition of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (Philadelphia, 1786) by Phillis Wheatley, a Massachusetts slave;
  • books on the New World production of chocolate and its exploitation as both a commodity and a medicine;
  • mid-18th-century illustrated plans for a pile-driving machine used in building log forts on the French frontier in Ohio;
  • an Italian edition of the U. S. Constitution, printed in 1797, probably in Milan;
  • a bibliographical curiosity known as the “Thumb Bible,” about the size of matchbook;
  • a complete bound set of the first four years of the Spanish-American newspaper Gazeta de Colombia, printed in Cúcuta and Bogotá between 1821 and 1824.

The John Carter Brown Library, located at Brown University since 1901, is an independently funded and administered center for advanced research in history and the humanities. To encourage the use of its outstanding collection of primary printed and manuscript materials concerning the Americas from 1493 to ca. 1825, the library offers fellowships, sponsors lectures and conferences, and regularly mounts exhibitions for the public. The library also publishes catalogues, bibliographies, facsimiles and other works that interpret its holdings.

The exhibition is free and open to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. For more information, call (401) 863-2725.


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