15.00 on 25 October sees the opening of the National Library of Latvia (NLL) exhibition of valuable items in The Rare Book and Manuscript collection – Cimelia's Six-century Testimony in the NLL Rare Book and Manuscript Collection. The exhibition is in Room 534 (Level 5) and entrance is free. Exhibition will be open until 1 December 2019.
The exhibition features old and valuable articles and printed materials, maps and photographs, examples from rare collections, treasures and marvels. 18 showcases of exhibits include selected samples from more than 56 000 units in the major NLL Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, developing small stories from the history of European books and Latvian culture. Utilising books, manuscripts and maps, the exhibition conveys trends in published content, the development of printing and decorative traditions, reading habits from the 15th to the 20th century. Exhibition items have been selected according to the significance of their content, interesting or unusual binding materials and designs, and include the library’s smallest book and one of the largest folios.
The exhibition is a recurrently updated version of the permanent Cimelia exhibition. This time, the selection accents the discovery of the world and the expansion of spatial vision, consequently, several maps are on display, as are geography books and travel descriptions. In the 15th century, when the printing of books was still in its infancy (incunabula), the most popular reason for travel was making pilgrimages, and visitors to the Catholic Holy city of Rome found their way around with the help of guidebooks. In the 16th and 17th centuries, European mariners discovered new countries, the Dutch being among the first. An ethnographic monograph on Africa was also produced in Holland, but Russian Tsar Peter I ordered the Geographia Generalis by Bernhardus Varenius, founder of modern scientific geography, to be translated into Russian. The book was published by one of the most prominent European printing houses of the 16th century, Holland's Elzevir, who also published humanist essays, new discoveries by philosophers and naturalists, and small-format books for a wide range of readers.
The exhibition does not ignore books important in the everyday lives of people. A number of cookbooks provide insights into German culinary traditions, both those of the aristocracy and of ordinary citizens. The scrapbook and poetry album of a Baltic-German girl reflect the literary interests of young people in the 19th century, but the photograph albums of the Hovanski family reveal scenes from the lives of the highest circles. At the end of the 18th century, Latvian agriculture is progressing rapidly, new crops are being cultivated, the fight against infection and public-health issues emerge – books with practical content introduce this sphere.
The exhibition’s designers also highlight facts about publishing related to Latvia’s centenary. The abolition of serfdom 200 years ago directly created the preconditions for the idea of independence. A specially created commission actively publishes books to inform peasants about their new status. In its turn, 1918 – until 18 November – is a year of uncertainty and contradiction in Latvia. This can be judged from a document signed by the German Kaiser. The exhibition is completed by books from the exceptional library of Latvian President Kārlis Ulmanis.
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