Currently located in the Center's Reading Room, Ovid: "Of Transmigrations, of the Change of things," traces editions of the poet's work from the sixteenth to the beginning of the eighteenth century. Ovid is best known for his Metamorphoses, a poem in fifteen books featuring narratives primarily drawn from classical legend in which characters undergo miraculous transformations and transfigurations.
Among other works, our display features the second edition of George Sandys' translation of the Metamorphosis and the final volume of Borchardus Cnippingius' three-volume set, often considered to be the best variorum Ovid of the seventeenth century. But the most interesting item in this display is a three volume collection of Ovid's works published from 1515-1516 by the famous Aldine Press.
Scientific and Mathematical Texts
The most recent Reading Room display is on modern science and mathematics and is called "Nature's Curious Workmanship": Natural Philosophy and Mathematics in the Renaissance. As the title suggests, this exhibit focuses as much on scientific curiosities, ideas that now seem strange because they were abandoned as science progressed as on significant texts in the history of natural philosophy. It features, for instance, Robert Boyle's Hydrostatical Paradoxes, a critique of Pascal's work on hydrostatics. What this text is most famous for, however, is Boyle's description of a hypothetical perpetual motion machine, a device we now know to be an impossibility due to the laws of thermodynamics. Also on display are Bartholinus' Anatomia -- an edition of what is arguably the finest anatomy book of the Renaissance -- and John Wilkins' Mathematical Magick—a popular work particularly notable for its discussion of "mechanical motions" such as flying machines, submarines, and "sailing-chariots."
This spring, to coincide with the Center's garden dedication and its place on the Amherst Historical Society garden tour, a special exhibit was prepared dealing with the subjects of gardening, agriculture, and botany. Included in the exhibit was a 1632 copy of Sir Francis Bacon's Essayes in which he describes gardens as "the Purest of Humane pleasures. It is the Greatest Refreshment to the Spirits of Man." Bacon also gives his opinions on the ideal size, layout and contents of a garden. The Center's 1633 copy of Gerarde's Herball contains descriptions and images of hundreds of plants, making it one of the most comprehensive books on plants from the Renaissance. Kalendarium Hortense, or, the Gardener's Alamanc, (1683) by John Evelyn very much resembles our modern farmers' almanac, describing the necessary steps that a gardener must take each month. Separate sections are given for the care of the garden and for the care of the orchard.