During a recent visit with Ben, one of our rare book experts at the City of Books, he showed me the newest addition to the Rare Book Room
: framed prints. Soon he'll have a selection of maps, fashion plates, and botanical and natural history prints for sale.
Book dealers have been doing this for centuries; usually it's a way to make money from books that are damaged in some way, but contain nice prints. In the trade it's called breaking ? an appropriately violent term ? and the dealers that do this are known as breakers.
John James Audubon's double-elephant folio prints are perhaps the most famous of all prints ever broken from the bindings to be framed. So many of the books were broken for their prints that complete sets are now incredibly scarce. (The complete four-volume set is part of the John Wilson Special Collection at the central library here in Portland.)
The maps, prints and plates that we'll be selling were bought from another source: none of our books have been harmed in any way. Driven by his enthusiasm for beautiful maps, however, Ben did show me those in our 1810 printing of Pacata Hibernia; Or, A History of the Wars in Ireland. Here's a detail from one of the eighteen maps included in the set, showing bridges, keeps, and fortifications:
The maps are charming. The drawings reminded me of the work of Valenti Angelo. Musketeers are shown firing their guns, small figures can be seen falling from a crenellated tower, horses gambol in nearby fields.
First printed in 1633, Pacata Hibernia chronicles the wars in Ireland during the time of Queen Elizabeth I. She sent her favorite courtier Robert Devereux, the second Earl of Essex, to Ireland as her commander, where he signed a truce with the Irish and earned her displeasure. He possessed almost noble blood and more than noble arrogance; he was executed in 1601 as a traitor.
The May/December relationship (Elizabeth was 68 years old when Essex was executed) is played out in the 1939 release of The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex starring Bette Davis and Errol Flynn. Davis didn't like Flynn much, and the scene where she slaps him might contain more real emotion than acting on her part. (You can read about Flynn's experience playing against Davis in his biography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways. As he tells it, he gave as good as he got.)
Pacata Hibernia has been digitized by Google, but they didn't unfold the maps; the scans show some edges and tops of the maps only, and the blank verso. The folks at Villanova University have scanned the maps and made them part of their digital library.
If you love reading historical fiction and can't get enough of the Elizabethan age, I highly recommend Rosalind Miles's I, Elizabeth. After reading her prose and viewing Bette Davis as Elizabeth, you'll easily distinguish the Earl of Essex from the Earl of Leicester, and the text and maps of Pacata Hibernia will fall into their historical context.