World Treasures of the Library of Congress - Beginnings

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So passed they naked on, nor shund the sight of God or Angel, for they thought no ill:
So hand in hand they passed, the lovliest pair that ever since in loves imbraces met,
ADAM the goodliest man of men since borne His Sons, the fairest of her Daughters EVE.

John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1667.

Mixtec Indians Creation

In this manuscript that predates the Spanish Conquest, the Mixtec Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico, illustrate how their gods created the world. According to their cosmology, the first humans were the Primordial Twins. One Deer, shown here with magic incense copal and ground tobacco, created the Mother and the Father of the Gods. Mother and Father then made four men and an entire constellation of spirits for crops, fire, smoke, forests, and other aspects of nature and the world.

Codex Vindobonensis Mexicanus I. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1992. Facsimile. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (35)

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Pangu Creates the World

According to Chinese mythology, a giant called Pangu used his own body to create the world. Before creation, Pangu was like an egg yolk inside an egg. After eighteen thousand years, the world began to open. The light air called "Yangqi" flew up and became sky, and the heavy and wet air called "Yinqi" sank down and became earth. When Pangu breathed, his breath became wind. When he cried, his tears became oceans and rivers. After many years, Pangu died, and his head, body, and limbs turned into five famous mountains in China.

Tian-gong Yuan. “Pangu Kaitian Pidi” (Pangu Creating the World) from Tui Bei Quan Tu, 1820, copied by Wu-Yi Chao Xie, circa 1900. Manuscript. Chinese Rare Book Collection, Asian Division, Library of Congress (33.1)

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Nüwo Creates a Perfect World

According to Chinese mythology, a giant called Pangu created the world, but left imperfections. Because the sky was tilted at the northwest corner, the sun, moon, and other celestial bodies were not in harmonious order. The earth was lopsided because Pangu did not fill the southeast corner, causing the oceans, lakes, and rivers to pour in one direction. Nüwo, the Goddess of Creation, fixed these mistakes and then used mud to make men and women. This image of Nüwo is from a tenth-century stone carving in the famous cave complex at Dunhuang in Chinese Central Asia. The work reflects the influence of Indian art, a result of cultural exchange along the "Silk Road," a trade route linking Japan with the Mediterranean.

Nüwo, the Goddess of Creation. Stone rubbing with color, ca. 900. From Dunhuang pi hua xuan. (A Collection of Dunhuang Wall Paintings). Beijing: 1952. Chinese Rare Book Collection, Asian Division, Library of Congress (33.3)

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Jwok (an androgynous god) had sons--first, an elephant; then, a buffalo, a lion, a crocodile, after that a little dog; and finally, man and woman. All this took place in a far country. The name of the first man was Otino. The name of the first woman was Akongo.

Sheikh Oterie of Dimma (a member of the Anuak tribe of Sudan), 1990.

German Renaissance Master

Artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) engraved this image of the biblical first humans whose creation and fall from God's favor are recounted in Genesis. Dürer's woodcuts and engravings were at the forefront of the information revolution that swept through Renaissance Europe, placing printed texts and images in the hands of an increasingly literate populace. The iconography here is loaded with meaning, including the rabbit, cat, ox, and elk symbolizing the four temperaments of humankind: sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic, and melancholic.

Albrecht Dürer. The Fall of Man (Adam and Eve). Engraving, 1504. Gardiner Greene Hubbard Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (27)

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Adam and Eve by Dürer

German artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) earned widespread fame during his own time and is one of the monumental figures in the history of Western printmaking. From his early twenties until his death at the age of fifty-seven, Dürer worked on at least six different versions of Christ's Passion--the story of Christ's suffering between the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. This image of Adam and Eve being driven out of Paradise at sword point is from his Small Passion, which contains thirty-six episodes from the Bible. Despite its small scale, the dynamic composition of the work gives it a powerful visual and narrative force.

Albrecht Dürer. The Expulsion from Paradise. Nuremberg?: 1510. Woodcut. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (27.2)

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German Renaissance Image of Biblical First Humans

Lucas Cranach, the Elder (1472-1553), created this woodcut image depicting the biblical first humans. The Reformation and humanist learning were key catalysts in the information revolution of sixteenth century Germany, and Cranach himself was a personal friend and advocate of Martin Luther.

Lucas Cranach, the Elder. Adam and Eve in Paradise, 1509. Woodcut. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (27.1)

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The Creation of Eve

This book represents the first American appearance of twenty-five woodcuts designed by the noted English artist Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1896). Originally commissioned by William Morris (1834-1896) for an edition of the Bible he planned to publish, these images capture for the modern reader the events during the creation of the world as described in the book of Genesis including the creation of the first woman, Eve. This work was printed by Daniel Berkeley Updike, founder of the Merrymount Press, in an edition of only 185 copies.

Edward Burne-Jones. “Eve Created from the Rib of Adam.” In the Dawn of the World. Page 2. Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed, 1903. Frederic Goudy Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (28)

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Woodcut Images of Creation

The Speculum humane salvationis contains illustrations of related scenes from the Old and New Testament. All the woodcut illustrations are in Dutch style. Approximately twenty pages of the text were printed from blocks; the remainder were set in movable type. The difference immediately strikes the eye, because the texts produced by woodblock are the traditional sepia and those printed from movable type are black. This traditional block book was printed using only one side of the paper.

Speculum humane savationis. Utrecht: Printer of the Speculum, ca. 1470. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (28.1)

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Adam and Eve from Story of Salvation

These hand-colored drawings illustrate the Biblical account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In the middle ages, Speculum Humanae Salvationis (Mirror of human salvation), written anonymously around 1300, was a common religious book. Several hundred copies exist in the form of manuscripts, blockbooks, and early printed books, such as this one. The work is an illustrated Bible that links related episodes from the Old and New Testaments to show the Christian history of human salvation, with a focus on the roles played by Christ and the Virgin Mary.

Speculum Humanae Salvationis (Mirror of human salvation). Augsburg: Peter Berger, 1489. Rosenwald Collection. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (28.2)

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Medieval Adam & Eve

This Latin book of hours, printed on vellum with colored woodcuts, is an example of an extravagant genre of late medieval piety that flourished in prosperous lay circles. Elegant borders, both fanciful and naturalistic, are a trademark of such works, which were produced both as manuscripts and as printed books in late medieval and early modern times. The fine, detailed coloring, which appears throughout this volume, reflects the precious nature of this book and the wealthy class for which it was painted.

Heures a l'usaige de Rome (Book of Hours). Paris: Philippe Pigouchet, 1498. Rosenwald Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (29)

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Rare Armenian Religious Scroll

Adam and Eve are depicted in the upper left corner of this rare, published Armenian prayer scroll (hmayil), most likely printed in Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1725 and newly acquired by the Library of Congress. Between the late seventeenth and the early nineteenth centuries, Armenians began to produce religious works like this one for domestic use. Usually in manuscript form, prayer scrolls are always profusely illustrated at the beginning of chapters and throughout the text, which includes prayers, biblical narratives, lists and portraits of saints, religious poetry, and magical texts.

Hmayil (prayer scroll), Istanbul (?): 1725. Page 2. Page 3. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (29.2)

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Early Spiritual Influences

This life of Christ was immensely popular spiritual reading in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance periods. It was circulated in manuscript and print versions and translated into other languages from Latin. The Vita influenced many people, including Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. This Dutch version is notable for the originality of the woodcut designs and the quality and care with which the watercolor was applied as shown in this image of Adam and Eve.

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The Book of Adam

The Armenians were long fascinated with the biblical Adam and Eve and created an extensive literature on the pair, including apocryphal accounts, theological discussions, and magical compositions. The mono-rhythmic Adamagirk by the poet Aakel of Siwnik (1350-1422), was composed sometime between 1401 and 1403. This manuscript is a seventeenth-century copy. The poem is unique both for its length and its detail. A medieval Armenian biblical epic, it begins with the story of the fall of Lucifer and concludes with the resurrection of Christ, considered the new Adam.

Aakel of Siwnik. Adamagirk (Book of Adam). Page 2. Manuscript, copied 1653. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (31)

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Holbein's Adam and Eve

These images of Adam and Eve tasting the forbidden fruit and being expelled from the Garden of Eden as punishment are among the most significant graphic works of the noted German artist Hans Holbein (1497-1543), who designed ninety-four woodcuts depicting events described in the Old Testament. They were published in various editions with Latin, French, Spanish, and English texts and in complete editions of the Bible. The images are accompanied by citations of the relevant Biblical text along with short Latin explanatory notes.

Hans Holbein the Younger. The Images of the Old Testament. . . .. Image 2. Lyon: I. Frellon, 1549. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (31.1)

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Greek First Humans

This illustration for The Symposium by Plato (428–347 B.C.), depicts a first human as described by the playwright Aristophanes in the text: "The primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and four feet, one head with two faces. . . . He could walk upright as men now do." After these humans rebelled against the gods, as Zeus punished them by slicing them in two. Ever since, according to Aristophanes, humans have been driven by love into trying to reunite with their missing half to make a perfect whole.

Plato. Lysis, or, Friendship. The Symposium. Phaedrus. 1968. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Illustrated by Eugene Karlin. Mount Vernon, New York: Limited Editions Club, 1968. Courtesy of The Heritage Press. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (32)

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Prometheus Creates Man

The figures on the far left depict the creation of man as described in ancient Greek mythology. After Zeus assigned the titan (giant) brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus the task of creating man, Prometheus shaped man from mud, and the goddess Athena (Minerva to the Romans) breathed life into the clay figure. This plate is one of 1120 in a work by French scholar Bernard de Montfaucon (1665-1714) in which he reproduces images of ancient monuments that might be useful in the study of the religion, domestic customs, material life, military institutions, and funeral rites of ancient peoples.

Promethee qui forme l'homme avec Minerve, qui lui donne l'ame . . . (Prometheus who creates man with Minerva, who gives him a soul . . .). Plate 24 in Bernard de Montfaucon. L'Antiquitée et représentée en figures (Antiquity Explained and Represented in Figures). Vol. 1. Paris: F. Delaulne, 1719. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (32.1)

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