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Rare Natural History Books from the 16th- 18th Centurieson Display in the Clark Library

For Immediate Release

September 13, 2002

A group of rare illustrated books from the 16th to the 18th centuries is on public display in the library of the Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute through January 24. "Early Natural History Publications from the Julius S. Held Collection of Rare Books" features books on aquatic life, birds, gemstones, and insects. The volumes have been selected from the important collection of Julius S. Held of Bennington, VT. The Clark acquired the noted art historian's library earlier this year.

The detailed illustrations in the encyclopedic natural history treatises go beyond decoration to a level of scientific description that is integral to the books. The works on view include the 1558 book De piscium et aquatilium animatium natura (On the nature of fish and aquatic life) by Konrad Gesner, and a volume of Ornithologiae, hoc est de avibus historiae (Ornithologies, that is a description of birds), circa 1599-1603, by Ulisse Aldrovandi.

Acquired by the Clark in May, the Held Collection of Rare Books comprises more than 200 volumes ranging in date from the 1500s to the 1700s. While Held, a distinguished scholar of Rubens and Rembrandt, was primarily interested in Dutch and Flemish books, he also collected examples from France, Italy, and Germany. In addition to natural history, the collection includes classical texts on art and art theory, history, travel, religion, social customs, and mythology. The collection is currently being catalogued and will be available in the Clark's rare book room.

The Held collection enhances the Clark's art history research library, one of the nation's premier resources for the study of European and American art. Its resources include more than 200,000 printed books, bound periodicals, and auction sales catalogues. The library, one of the few such libraries that is open to the public as well as to scholars, supports the Institute's role as an international center for research and discussion on art, its history, criticism, and the institutions that shape and support the field. The library is home to offices for recipients of Clark Fellowships-one to ten month research fellowships awarded to about 20 museum, university, and independent scholars annually-and supports the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art, a leading masters degree program jointly operated by the Clark and Williams College.

The library is free and open the public Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Further information is available on the Clark website at www.clarkart.edu/library.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free through May.  For more information call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.

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