Blog—Source Material

The 5 Most-Requested Collection Items of 2022

Another year of humanities research at the Newberry is in the books. That means it’s time to review the five most popular Newberry collection items of 2022.

Saint Barbara

Saint Barbara appears in a book of hours created around 1455. Call number: Vault Case MS 35

Every year, researchers request thousands of items from the Newberry collection. These are the five items that were requested the most in 2022.

#5. America, being the latest, and most accurate description of the New World. John Ogilby, 1671

Cartographer John Ogilby’s “accurate description” doesn’t exactly live up to the claims it makes for itself. Drawing extensively from other sources (notably, Arnoldus Montanus's "De Nieuwe en onbekende weereld: of beschryving van American en 't zuid-land"), the book reproduces many errors about the Indigenous peoples, plants, and animals of the Americas. As a vestige of its time, it represents a stage in Europe’s evolving knowledge about the “New World.”

Catalog record
A 17th-century map of Virginia and Florida includes images representing Indigenous people.
Contrary to its title, John Ogilby’s “accurate description of the New World” had many inaccuracies. For the most part, Ogilby relied on existing sources that represented the Indigenous peoples of the “New World” in racist, stereotypical ways. Call number: Vault Ayer 135 .O3 1671

#4. Book of hours, use of Rouen, ca. 1470

This book of hours (with prayers to be consulted at different hours of the day) contains some pretty fantastic imaginary hybrid creatures in the margins of its beautifully illuminated pages.

Catalog record
An illuminated page from a medieval prayer book features an illustration of a funeral. In the margins are elaborate decorative flourishes as well as fanciful hybrid creatures.
Book of hours, use of Rouen. Call number: Vault Case MS 43
A creature with the body of a bird and the face of a man appears in the bottom margin of a medieval prayer book.
Detail of a hybrid creature: part bird, part human, part snake(?)

#3. Book of hours, use of Salisbury, ca. 1455

This prayer book was owned by one Thomas Mildmay during the reign of Henry VIII—a, shall we say, turbulent time for Christianity in England.

Catalog record
A soldier wearing medieval armor sits on a horse and stabs a dragon with a lance.
Illustration of Saint George killing the dragon. From a book of hours. Call number: Vault Case MS 35

#2. Shakespeare First Folio, 1623

Printed posthumously in 1623, the so-called Shakespeare First Folio is the first published collection of Shakespeare’s works. Without it, several plays—including Macbeth and The Tempest—might have been lost forever. The Newberry’s copy of the First Folio (to our knowledge) is the only one you’ll find in Chicago.

Catalog record
Shakespeare’s iconic portrait appears on a title page under the words “Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the True Originall Copies.”
Title page from the Shakespeare First Folio, published in 1623. Call number: Vault Case oversize YS .01
The words “Ann Park is” appear in handwriting in a page from the Shakespeare First Folio.
A former owner of the Newberry’s copy of the First Folio wrote “Ann Park is” above an excerpt from “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.” The inscription flows into the play’s text to read, “Ann Park is That I did love, for now my love is thaw’d...” (It seems that this former owner was coping with a breakup at the time.)

#1. Copy of the Popol Vuh, 1700 - 1715

The Popol Vuh is the creation account of the Mayan people. The text weaves together stories about cosmologies, origins, traditions, and spiritual history. (“Popol” can be translated as “woven mat” and “Vuh” [or “Vuj”] as “book.”)

The Newberry’s copy of the Popol Vuh was transcribed between 1700 and 1715 by a Dominican priest named Francisco Ximénez. Some scholars believe that Ximénez’s copy was derived from an earlier version, probably prepared in the 16th century by a native speaker who’d learned Latin characters.

Catalog record
A book is open. The page to the left is blank, the page to the right is the beginning of the Maya creation story. The text is in Spanish. The first few words are “Empiezan las historias del origen de los indios de esta provincia de Guatemala.”
The Newberry’s copy of the Popol Vuh was transcribed by a Dominican priest named Francisco Ximénez.

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