Books with Personality-Sneak Peek 3

Girolamo Mercuriale. De arte gymnastica…, 1577

This title loosely translates to “Of Jerome Mercvrialis the Art of gymnastics of book six: in which exercises of all kinds of ancient, places, modes, faculties. In short, whatever pertains to the exercises of the human body, carefully explained.”

Six books on the art of gymnastics is the oldest known book on physical culture and sports medicine. This particular book has survived 437 years and has a story to tell. Throughout the book there are many bookworm trails, brown foxing, tears, and a broken spine. By the looks of it, the life of the book seems to have been pretty rough, but useful. There are notes and underlining by a reader, possibly used as a study tool, but what is most interesting are the images. Classically inspired plates show images of men wrestling, fighting, bathing and exercising throughout the volume. It appears someone with access to the book took ink to paper, covering many of the male figures’ pelvic areas. We can only speculate why this was done. Could it be someone felt the images were not modest enough and were compelled to censor the images? Is the defacing akin to a more modern prank, such as drawing a mustache on a photograph? Was someone just plain bored? The reason may remain a mystery.

Posted by Karen Witt on Scripta Manent

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