|Gutenberg Bible: The Chinese beat us to moveable type by 400 years.|
|Our reputation preceded us: America is the naked|
lady holding the severed head in the foreground.
While not on the usual stations-of-the-cross rotation of the Art Institute, Museum of Modern Art, Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry, the Newberry still mounts some wonderful shows, if you recall our visits to "Creating Shakespeare" in 2016, "Religious Change in Print" in 2017, their marvelous Melville exhibit last year.
This new exhibit, Renaissance Invention: Stradanus's "Nova Reperta, based on a series of 16th century engravings about then cutting edge technology by Medici court artist Johannes Stradanus, is up there with the best of them.
In the first room is a framed page from a Gutenberg bible, and as I went up to admire it, I glanced at the explanatory card. I didn't jot the text down—must have been sapped by my morning of professional-quality historical research—but it basically said, "While Gutenberg is credited with inventing moveable type in the West, Asian cultures had been using it since the year 1000."
Oh. So now you tell me. I suppose we could hide behind the detail that Gutenberg's type was metal and the Chinese type porcelain, but really, what you make the type from isn't really the sticking point in the invention. Score one for the Chinese.
Much in the show was truly beautiful—Abraham Orteleus' colorful 1570 "Theater of the World," the first modern world atlas (above). Or the title page of Francis Bacon's Novum Organum.
|Galileo tried to hide his heresy by disguising it as a|
friendly argument among three philosophers.
The pope was not fooled
See? Treasure hunting is not all about gold doubloons and pieces of eight.
There might be more. I ran out of time before I ran out of exhibit, and could only leave knowing I'll soon be back at the Newberry, doing more research.
Of what I could take in, my favorite object has to be a copy of Galileo's Dialogo. I knew he had published something supporting the Copernican system and got in trouble with the pope. But I had never seen the actual book that sent him kneeling on a rail, nor imagined it was such a lavish volume.
The exhibit is free and open to the public. The gallery was utterly empty while I was there: one other patron in the 40 minutes or so I was exploring. So if you're looking for a safe, convenient, interesting diversion—interesting if you are of a certain mind, that is—well, now you have a place to go.