‘Exceptional’ collection of books and prints form exhibition on the life of 17th century diarist John Evelyn

Posted by ap507 at Oct 26, 2015 12:25 PM |
University of Leicester Special Collections exhibition open until January 2016

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 26 October 2015

John Evelyn on Charles II: “He would doubtless have been an excellent Prince had he been less addicted to women"

Contact pressoffice@le.ac.uk to request images.

Selected quotes from John Evelyn’s writings, including on Charles II and the bubonic plague, are available in the Notes to Editors

A new exhibition at the University of Leicester highlights an ‘exceptional’ collection of rare books and prints from the life of 17th century diarist and writer John Evelyn, who lived and documented major events during his lifetime – including the last epidemic of the bubonic plague in Britain.

The exhibition features a vivid collection of engraved portraits and illustrations, books and pamphlets on the 17th century, assembled by Mr A.B.R. Fairclough.

In addition to engraved portraits of Evelyn himself - and of many of those people who were influential in his life - a 1706 copy of Evelyn’s most successful publication, Silva, is also on display.

The exhibition, which runs until January 2016 and is hosted in the University’s Special Collections in the David Wilson Library, is curated by Margaret Maclean, a library assistant at the University of Leicester.

She said: “Everybody seems to know about Samuel Pepys, but I was surprised to find how many people have never even heard of John Evelyn.  Because he came from a privileged background and lived close to the hub of political events, but most of all because of his enthusiastic and inexhaustible spirit of enquiry, Evelyn seems always to have been there in the background, observing the momentous events that unfolded during his 86 years, and to have known everyone who was anyone.”

Born into a prosperous family in the year 1620, John Evelyn was a prolific writer and scholar, a lover of books, a highly regarded horticulturalist and a dedicated public servant with a huge variety of interests and friends.

Evelyn was also a committed member of the Royal Society until his death in 1706.

Evelyn lived in turbulent times, through the English Civil Wars, the Restoration, the Great Fire of London, the Bubonic Plague and the Dutch Wars – and wrote about his experiences.

Other items on display in the exhibition include: an engraving of Evelyn’s Table of Veins and Nerves; a copy of Athanasius Kircher’s Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae from 1646; and a doctoral diploma from the University of Padua, where Evelyn studied medicine and anatomy.

Along with many of the other founding members of the Royal Society, Evelyn drew inspiration from the works of Francis Bacon, whose Sylva Sylvarum, or, A Naturall Historie and New Atlantis: a work unfinished published in 1635 can also be found at the exhibition.

Also on display as part of the exhibition is Jacob Hooper’s An Impartial History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England printed in 1738, which contains detailed engravings of many of the most important battles of the English Civil Wars.

Margaret added: “The exhibition aims to demonstrate the fascination of the diary and the appeal of the man through an exceptional collection of books and prints from the 17th and 18th centuries, exploring the staggering breadth of his interests and his enthusiastic quest for knowledge over the 86 years of his life. We hope many people come along to learn about the life of one of the period’s most intriguing personalities.”

The exhibition runs from 25 September 2015 until 29 January 2016 in the basement of the David Wilson Library at the University of Leicester.

Entry to the Library is free but security controlled. Ask for admission to the Special Collections exhibition at reception.

More information about the exhibition can be found here: http://www2.le.ac.uk/library/find/specialcollections/exhibitions

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

For more information please contact Margaret Maclean or Simon Dixon in the University of Leicester’s Special Collections. Email Simon on snd6@le.ac.uk, Margaret on mm219@le.ac.uk or specialcollections@le.ac.uk

Quotes taken from John Evelyn’s works:

On Charles II, “He was a Prince of many virtues and many great imperfections … He would doubtless have been an excellent Prince had he been less addicted to women”

On the plague, “Dangerous to see so many coffins exposed in the streets, now thin of people; the shops shut up and all in mournful silence, as not knowing whose turn might be next”

On his friend Christopher Wren, “that miracle of a youth, that prodigious young scholar”

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