April 3, 2002 First of Three Companion Volumes to "World Treasures" Exhibition Is Published
Contact: Library of Congress Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022 | Antique Collectors' Club Contact: Karen Lunstead (800) 252-5231, ext. 104
World Treasures of the Library of Congress: Beginnings, the first in a series of three volumes, has been published by the Library of Congress in association with Third Millennium Publishing and in conjunction with the continuing "World Treasures" exhibition, which first opened in the summer of 2001.
"'World Treasures of the Library of Congress' puts on display for the first time the Library's unparalleled international collections, which began with the acquisition of Thomas Jefferson's library in 1815," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "Jefferson's belief that 'there is no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer' led him to collect books in many languages. Now in its third century, the Library is still guided by Jefferson's universal collecting policy, which is reflected in this exhibition and its first companion publication."
An artful combination of text, color illustrations, old world maps, and full-page quotations, Beginnings focuses on the first rotation in the "World Treasures" exhibition, which explores how some 60 world cultures have explained and depicted the creation of the universe, the heavens, and the earth. Underlying these complex issues are three key questions: Where does it -- the universe, the cosmos -- all come from? How do people explain and order the universe to better cope with it? How do cultures record the experience to create a shared memory of the past?
These themes are presented in the volume with more than 130 color images of items from the Library's collections, including a 12th-century Taoist scroll painting titled Ba Xian (The Eight Immortals) by Zhao Boju; Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus' 1543 work that set forth evidence that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun; and illustrations from creation tales, myths, and legends that have been passed down through the generations and remain popular themes in children's literature today. Illustrations from modern day children's books such as How Giraffe Got Such a Long Neck: A Tale from East Africa; Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears: A West African Tale, and those featuring Anansi the Spider, a popular trickster in Ghanaian folk literature, depict how different cultures have explained why various animals appear and behave as they do.
William Blake's renowned image of the creation, which appeared in Europe, A Prophecy (1794), adorns the cover of Beginnings. This relief etching depicts the monumental figure of the creator set within the framework of the blazing sun and engaged in measuring the material world below him with a set of calipers.
In addition to sections on "creating" and "explaining" the heavens and earth, Beginnings ends with a section that features examples of early writing and printing that have enabled world cultures to record the past. These include a cuneiform tablet dating from 2039 B.C. and metal movable type from 13th-century Korea.
Future rotations within the "World Treasures" exhibition, which will be accompanied by companion volumes such as Beginnings, will focus on encounters among cultures, and ceremonies and celebrations.
Beginnings -- a 207-page softcover book with more than 130 illustrations (mostly color) is distributed in the United States by the Antique Collectors' Club. This compact volume (sized 5 3/4 inches x 6 1/4 inches) is also available for $14.95 in major bookstores and in the Library's Sales Shop (credit card orders: 888-682-3557).