A Manuscript Volume

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Title Page.
VF145 .I6 Rare O (Mariners’ Museum Library and Archives)

The call number is VF145.I6. The work is entitled Instruction d’artillerie, 1818-1839. The volume was first encountered as a partially cataloged item in the Museum Archives and encountered purely by happenstance. The 38 centimeter-tall bound manuscript’s text is hand lettered, done in a bold style with almost mechanical precision. 

The book’s decorative embellishments are folksy, yet almost modern in their whimsy. The drawings are superlative. Perhaps the work was copied from another source, but never allow that consideration to detract from its wonder.    Read more

Hail Caesars! (All Twelve of You)

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Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica Ac Hydrographica Tabula
Claes Jansz Visscher, cartographer
The Mariners’ Museum Collection: MSM 1—0400

My love for ancient Greek and Roman history dates back to my early teens. I loved the shows Hercules: The Legendary Journey and Xena: Warrior Princess. The historical and mythical characters in the shows made me curious about who they were, and what life was really like during that time. I began reading numerous books on ancient history, and my passion only grew from there. I even got my undergraduate minor in Classical Studies which covers languages, literature, history, art, and other cultural aspects of the ancient Mediterranean world. So anytime I come across items in our Collection related to the ancients, I completely nerd out and delve into researching them as much as possible. My most recent find is a 17th-century map titled Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica Ac Hydrographica Tabula. That’s the fancy Latin translation for “New Geographic and Hydrographic Map of the Whole Earth.” But this map also has another name which I will reveal momentarily.

Created in 1652 by Claes Jansz Visscher, this is one of four world maps with decorative panels issued by Visscher between 1614 and 1652. The map itself is fairly accurate for its time. Five out of the seven known continents are represented. (Australia and Antarctica would not be fully “discovered” until the late-18th and -19th centuries.) But it’s not the map itself I’m drawn to. It’s the upper and lower border illustrations. The right and left border scenes beautifully represent allegorical depictions of the known continents, various cultures, and several notable cities. But, my favorites are along the top and bottom — embellished scenes of the first 12 Roman emperors, atop horses, dressed in their battle armor. Thus, this piece is often called “Twelve Caesars Map.”

At the top are the first six Roman emperors (L-R): Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.

At the bottom (L-R) are: Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasianus (Vespasian), Titus, And Domitianus (Domitian).

The men who ruled the Roman Empire are always interesting to read about, and studying this map reinvigorated my fascination in them. Some were better rulers than others. Caligula and Nero, two of my personal favorites to read about, are quite probably among the worst leaders. Oh, and a quick side note: Julius Caesar was not technically Emperor. The Senate deemed him more of a tyrant and dictator, hence why they assassinated him. Nevertheless, his story ties into the eventual establishment of the Roman Empire, and the leaders who would eventually rule over it. The Roman Empire officially began in 27 BCE when Augustus Caesar became the first imperator (emperor) of Rome. It would become one of the greatest empires in human history, lasting until 476 CE when the Western Roman Empire collapsed. 

Using allegorical, historical, and mythical figures on 16th-, 17th-, and 18th-century maps was a common trend. Imperial portraits of this time period were regularly stylized after Classical themes, including being dressed in military garb, or shown on top of a horse, if not both. 

But why did Visscher include these 12 Roman figures on his map? Perhaps he was a fan of Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (ca. 69 CE – ca. 140 CE), better known simply as Suetonius. Suetonius was a historian and writer whose best known work is De vita Caesarum (Lives of the Caesars,) written in 121 CE. Similar to Visscher’s map, Suetonius’s book is also often called … (pause for dramatic effect) …“The Lives of the Twelve Caesars.” Why? Because this work contains biographies of the first 12 Caesars of the Roman Empire. I cannot say with certainty this was why Visscher included the emperors. But the map and book tie in nicely together, nevertheless. Or perhaps Visscher included the emperors as a nod to their status as leaders and important historical figures. They ruled one of the largest, most influential empires of the western world known to history. The legacy of Ancient Rome is still evidenced in western culture — in government, law, language, architecture, engineering, and religion. For better or worse, these men were, “in their time, masters of the destinies of a large portion of the human race.”1

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1.   Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, trans. Alexander Thomson and Thomas Forester (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1890), vi.

=&1=&Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus. The Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Translated by Alexander Thomson and Thomas Forester. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1890.   Read more

May flowers bring … Pilgrims???

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Model of Mayflower
Mariners’ Museum model of the merchant vessel Mayflower (1606-1624)

The rainy weather this last week of April caused me to make an idle remark to my husband about April showers bringing May flowers. With a sly look on his face, he asked me what May flowers bring.

Now I am the youngest child of 2 youngest children and have no children of my own. I had absolutely no clue he was talking about the groan-worthy second grade joke about Mayflowers bringing Pilgrims. I can see you now, gentle reader, wincing at the memory.

But beyond the famous Pilgrim-carrying ship of the early-17th century, there were lots of ships named Mayflower, some with storied pasts, and other just beautiful to behold.    Read more

Rum, Buggery and the Lash

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For Pride Month, I wanted to think about the countless hundreds of unnamed gay and lesbian sailors who lived and worked on board Navy ships in the days before our rights were broadly recognized and respected. I owe them so much as an out and proud American citizen! Their honorable service and their refusal to stay silent anymore contributed heavily to the ultimate court decision that gave us our rights.

Most of us are familiar with the story of Winston Churchill’s quip that British Royal Navy tradition consisted of nothing but “Rum, buggery and the lash”! It appears that Sir Winston himself denied he ever said it, saying when asked about it that “I wish I had said it!” It also appears that the origins of the expression itself are lost in the annals of naval lore.

Drunkenness and sodomy were indeed often greeted by the lash in Royal Navy ships from the 1660s onward. Sodomy, i.e. same-sex acts, was specifically the subject of Article 29 of the Articles of War. The prescribed punishment for an Article 29 violation was death, and indeed sailors of Royal Navy ships were executed for these violations up until the 1820s. The 1749 version of the British Articles of War states: “If any person in the fleet shall commit the unnatural and detestable sin of buggery and sodomy with man or beast, he shall be punished with death by sentence of a court martial.” (See the book by N.A.M. Rodger).

Not so in the American Navy. John Adams drew up the equivalent of the British Articles of War, known as the American Articles of War of 1775. According to “The Background of the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” prepared by the Judge Advocate’s General’s School of the US Army, these American Articles were based on the British Articles of 1765 and on the Massachusetts Articles. John Adams, it seems, had a horror of matters regarding sexual practice and chose not to include any mention of any homoerotic acts. Captains were left to deal with alleged incidents on their own. Indeed, there are vanishingly few cases in which captains or other officers chose to bring cases like this to any trial. Usually they preferred to just let it drop, or send the accused home, or punish them for some other charge. (B.R. Burg, “Sodomy, Masturbation, and Courts-Martial in the Antebellum American Navy,” Journal of the History of Sexuality, vol. 23, no. 1).

The kind of official quiet on homoerotic love among shipmates, a sort of Victorian version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” comes to an end in the early 20th century. From then until the Defense of Marriage Act was found unconstitutional in 2013, gay and lesbian sailors and officers were hounded out, given “blue” or dishonorable discharges, allowed to serve only to have pensions and their GI Bill benefits revoked, physically and verbally assaulted, outed to their friends and relatives, investigated by the FBI, and far worse. This Gay Pride Month, we in the GLBTQ community celebrate the remarkable changes since 2013 that have made our lives, and particularly those of many of our serving personnel, so much better. Battles remain to be fought for true equality within the Armed Forces and without, but we already stand on the backs of heroes! Happy Pride!!!!!

Jamestown 1907 Exhibition

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Edward Hungerford Collection, 02506 and 02514

The year 1907 marked the 300th anniversary of the founding of the settlement at Jamestown and a grand exhibition was hosted in Norfolk to mark the occasion. Globe-trotting journalist Edward Hungerford was one of those in attendance and The Mariners’ Museum Library has recently digitized some of his works in our possession about the event.

The Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition ran from April 26 – November 30, 1907. This impressive model city was built at Norfolk’s Pine Beach with the idea to capitalize on the craze in American popular culture at the time for pageantry and have something like a World’s Fair for Hampton Roads. Today Pine Beach is part of Norfolk Naval Base and some of the grounds have since given way to a golf course and other functions for the base. However some original buildings still remain having been re-purposed into the officers’ club and admiral’s quarters.

In the image below two negatives have been used to create a composite panorama of the Exposition’s main square.