Civitates Orbis Terrarum
"I'm one of those people who get dizzy just being in a bookshop, so you can imagine what these rare books did to me."
Thus spake Barbara Ellis, aka Bellis, about how it felt to assist the head of Caltech's Archives and Special Collections in putting together an exhibit of rare maps and books. The "On the Map" exhibit, created by Shelley Erwin, explores the concept of mapping earth and sky, and includes such rarities as a copy of Ptolemy’s map of the world that was printed during his lifetime.*
He could have touched it himself.
I know, right??? AS IF!
The exhibit is small, filling a few display cases on the second floor of the Parsons-Gates Hall of Administration on the Caltech Campus. It's a wonderful opportunity because these books and maps literally rarely see the light of day. As it is, they're displayed in low light to protect them from UV rays.
I know! Elsinore! Where Shakespeare set Hamlet! Cool! Also cool, and factual as opposed to theatrical: Tycho Brahe's island observatory, Uraniborg on Hven, is pictured. It's the little island in the sound.
Most of the items were donated to Caltech by Earnest C. Watson, founder of the Watson Lecture Series, professor of physics and dean of the faculty at Caltech for many years. I'd love to know what else they've got in the archives. It must be an amazing place for the eyes, imagination, and white-gloved fingers to wander.
Bellis says, "I was very thrilled to be allowed to touch those books and look through them, though very sparingly and gently."
Read Barbara Ellis's excellent article about the On the Map exhibit in Caltech's Engineering and Science Magazine.
*Sooo wrong! See Bellis' comment.