In the spring of 2013, Sue Schwartz, a long-time Museum supporter and a member of the Museum’s Ennion Society, approached the Rakow Research Library with a wonderful request. Sue wanted to purchase a book in memory of David Whitehouse, Executive Director of the Corning Museum of Glass from 1992 – 2011. After enthusiastically agreeing with her request, we began to ponder the task at hand. Finding a book to dedicate to David, a distinguished classical scholar and a strong supporter of the Rakow Research Library, would be an honor, but also a challenge. The Library needed to find a book of appropriate historical importance, but also a book we didn’t already have in our collection. The solution to our dilemma was suggested by members of our Library staff and Publications Office who were preparing David’s forthcoming book on Roman cage cups. In their work, they had encountered citations to several rare works on ancient history and glass that the Rakow didn’t own: surely one of these books would be an appropriate addition to the Rakow’s collection? And so it was that in David’s research we found the perfect book.
Plinianae exercitationes in Caji Julii Solini Polyhistora, was published by Claudius Salmasius in 1629; the work is a commentary on Gaius Julius Solinus’ Polyhistory and is widely considered to be one of the finest surveys ever written about an ancient text. The focus of Salmasius’ work, Solinus’ Polyhistory, believed to date from A. D. 200-250, is a geographic survey of the world that examines the history, customs and products of different regions. The Polyhistory, which is best known for introducing the name “Mediterranean Sea,” is largely copied from Pliny’s Natural History (without crediting Pliny). This is where the connection to glass comes in as Pliny’s Natural History is one of the earliest and certainly the most complete contemporary account of glass making in the ancient world.
The Rakow’s edition of Plinianae exercitationes in Caji Julii Solini Polyhistora is the second edition. Published in Utrecht in 1689, this is widely considered the definitive edition of the work. The book is comprised of three volumes, bound together, and features double column text with a copper engraved vignette on the title page for each section.
This book, while a wonderful historical text, also has a distinguished provenance. In the late 19th century, the book was in the library of the well-known classical scholar Robinson Ellis, noted for his work on the Latin poet Catullus. Ellis signed his name on the frontispiece with the date 1895. In the later 20th century, the book was owned by G. P. Goold, also a renowned classical scholar. Goold taught at Harvard, University College, London and Yale. He was also Chief Editor of the Loeb Classical Library for 25 years and translated Manilius’ Astronomica and Propertius’ Elegies for the series.
The Rakow’s copy of Plinianae exercitationes in Caji Julii Solini Polyhistora evokes nearly a millennium of classical scholarship, beginning with Pliny’s Natural History, and reflects the continuum of the scholarly process to which David dedicated himself throughout his life. We are very happy to add this volume to our collection and we extend a big thank you to Sue Schwartz for her generosity and to all who helped us to honor David’s scholarship with this wonderful acquisition.
The Rakow Research Library is open to the public 9:00am-5:00pm Sunday-Saturday. We encourage everyone to explore our collections in person or online. If you have questions or need help with your research, use our Ask a Librarian service.