Thursday, June 23, 2005

Sélestat (again) 

Now that my wife is back home, I can travel the way I like. I try to see everything in one day, without stopping for food until it's 9 pm. She calls this slave driving, and refuses to travel this way. But now I can do what I want!

On Saturday I went to three places: Sélestat, Dambach-la-ville, and Obernai. The weekend rail pass within the department is less than 8 euros for one day, so I figure I would see as much as I could.

First, I went back to Sélestat for one reason: to see the Bibliothèque Humaniste. The first time the library was closed, and it was high on my list of things to see.

The library's collection mostly came from Beatus Rhenanus, a native humanist who studied and taught in Paris. The town kept the collection in tact, making the library the premiere place to study humanist literature. Consequentially, Selestat became a mini-intellectual center.

Much of the reading room was roped off. A number of books were placed into five long glass cases. Wiithin them were numerous examples from the collection: books from the early Middle Ages, works on religion, Latin grammar and rhetoricm, etc.

The best works, of course, came from the 15th and 16th centuries: works by Geiler von Kaysersberg and Jacob Wimpheling (who advocated rigorous German for Alsatian students); Beatus Rhenanus' own works; works from the Protestant and Reform communities (including Bucer) .

The fifth case contained a special collection concerning maps of the "New World". The library helped to give birth to a few cartographers. One map, oriented with West on top, depicted Europe as a woman. Perhaps the most cherished work connected Amerigo Vespucci with the New World.

As small as the exhibition was, I was happy that I took the special trip to see it.

Next: the wine of Dambach-la-ville.
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