What Was I Afraid Of? I Can Do Anything!

After Karen Schultz of Silver Spring, Maryland spent five hours at the Art Institute of Chicago, she was taken with the sheer breadth of everything she had seen. “What are you afraid of?,” she asked herself. “Look at what people have done,” the answer came back. “You can do anything.”

“I decided then and there to embrace the whole of myself, the poet and the skeptic,” she recalled. 

She created …and the Skeptic, a hand-dyed, machine-pieced, free-motion machine-made quilt made from cotton fabric, thread and yarn. She entered it in the 20th biennial international juried art quilt competition known as Quilt National 2017. And she won the Jurors’ Award for it.

Produced by the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio, Quilt National promotes the contemporary art quilt through visual presenting innovative trends in the medium of layered and stitched fabric. Three of its jurors selected over 30 quilts entered by over 30 artists in the most recent competition for an exhibition at the Riffe Gallery in downtown Columbus.

Artistic expression runs rampant in these striking pieces. Denise L. Roberts of Albright, West Virginia created Finding Connections #8 using just two curvilinear shapes of hand-dyed cotton fabric she joined together.  This is a detail of her work, which won the Quilts Japan Award.

When Al Krueger of Lake Villa, Illinois received an album filled with old family snapshots for his birthday one year, he marveled at how he looked in them. He decided to celebrate the awkward moments the photos captured through quilting. Self Portrait as a Young Dork resulted. He transferred the photos to pima cotton and linen, then embellished them with hand-embroidery using silk ribbon, cotton and silk embroidery floss and thread.

The endless number of colors in the leaves, grasses, tree trunks and mosses of the Brown County, Indiana landscape constantly inspires Daren Redman. Indiana Flowers is an example of the abstract quilted wall hangings she makes from silks and cottons she hand-dyes in her Nashville, Indiana studio.

Several events and programs were planned in conjunction with the exhibition, which runs through April 14. Kate Gorman, a Westerville, Ohio artist, gave a lunchtime talk in February about how her work as an illustrator-for-hire and her love of textiles led her to make contemporary narrative art quilts.

While family photos, travels and birds often provide material for her projects, she was attracted by the oscillating buzz of cicadas, then focused on their visually complex nature, to create A Chorus of Cicadas, the piece on display in the exhibition.

She dyed linen, drew and painted likenesses of actual cicadas on it with thickened dyes, hand-stitched them to suggest the filigree of their exoskeleton and wings, then sewed them onto industrial felt with embroidery thread. Using entomology pins, she mounted each individual piece on wool, pinning them in a cradled wood panel fashioned from plywood, nuts and bolts to reference scientific specimen cases. 

On March 8, Mrs. Gorman led a free two-hour visual storytelling workshop in which almost 20 participants experimented with fabric, paper collage and stitching to create narrative textiles. She encouraged those of us who love textiles, but aren’t talented illustrators, to use geometric shapes as our preferred form of expression. She shared examples of her work, like this, to illustrate what she meant:

Thinking about a sketch Mrs. Gorman shared from her visit to Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm, I set out to create my version of William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage. Using text from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and a variety of fabrics backed with “Wonder Under” Pellon 805, I cut dozens of geometric shapes and adhered them to a sheet of card stock. Here’s the result:

What was I afraid of? I can do anything!

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Posted in Art, Museums, Needlework | Leave a comment

First, Fly Spray And Herd Oil, Now Gin, Served Here

Heading for home after work, I pass this massive building on the northern edge of downtown Columbus. Topped by its distinctive water tower and emblazoned with seven-foot-tall white-painted letters spelling out, “The Smith Brothers Hardware Co.” on all but its north side, it’s become a familiar sight in our city.

For years, I’ve wondered what it looks like inside. Maybe you have too.

I wonder no more, thanks to Stacy Miller of Capitol Equities, the commercial real estate firm that redeveloped this historic property at 580 N. Fourth St. Just before Todd Kemmerer, the firm’s founding principal, talked about the building’s renovation and led a special tour of it for the Columbus Historical Society on February 21, I stopped by, hoping for a quick look-around, and Stacy gladly obliged. 

The Smith Brothers Hardware Company was founded by brothers John H. and Thomas F. Smith in 1878 in Delaware, Ohio. In 1891, they incorporated their business and moved it to Columbus, where it was first located at 39-41 E. Spring St. As the supplier to small, independent hardware stores grew, it first moved to larger quarters at 48-50 W. Spring in 1896, then to W. Chestnut St. in 1905. Soon, it became the largest distributor of hardware products in the Midwest, with 50 salesmen serving customers in Ohio, as well as Indiana, West Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. In 1926, it arrived at a much bigger and finer location on the southeast corner of N. Fourth St. and Poplar Ave., with a frontage of 150 feet on N. Fourth St. and extending 493 feet to the Big Four Railroad. A 200,000-square-foot brick building was erected to house nails, tools and other hardware supplies. Constructed of poured concrete, steel and brick, the building was like a fortress, with 18-inch-thick walls and reinforced concrete floors.

The brothers died and a new owner took over the business in 1932, retaining the name. Subsequent owners sold the business in 1981, but held onto the property until it went bankrupt in 1983. The building sat abandoned and neglected.

Vandals and vagrants living inside the vacant building left their mark. Three-fourths of the windows were broken. Spray-painted graffiti and discarded spray paint cans made it an eyesore. Most sobering of all were the smoke scars from various fires there. The worst happened in December 1994, when four juveniles committed arson. The blaze gutted the top three floors, resulting in an estimated $300,000 in damage, but the building was still structurally sound.

At the time, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, along with the city and private developers, began cleaning up abandoned industrial sites, known as brownfields, years after the presence of poisonous chemicals and other hazardous wastes. Those rescued sites encouraged development in Downtown areas. The Smith Brothers Hardware building was particularly appealing, with its proximity to the expanded Port Columbus International Airport and the recently completed I-670, the freeway which takes thousands into Downtown daily.

Developers had great visions to rescue the decrepit old building. It was put on the market and considered for several uses, including a hotel with a restaurant on the top floor, a warehouse for the state of Ohio, a garage, a high-rise retail establishment, loft space for artists, condominiums, an apartment complex and an office building.

In 1997, Capitol Equities (then known as Ohio Equities Reality) oversaw the building’s renovation and redevelopment. To maintain the building’s structural integrity, Moody-Nolan architects designed its $16.1 million face lift, and Elford construction carried it out. At the completion of the project, the city of Columbus improved the surrounding streetscape by adding street lighting, trees and sidewalks with decorative pavers, as well as installing a traffic signal at Goodale Avenue and N. Fourth Street. The first tenant arrived in 1998, and the building has been fully occupied ever since.

Many of the building’s original features were retained, including the water tower, the exterior lettering, and rows of wooden shelving, once used to hold hardware fixtures, that escaped damage in the 1994 fire. These decisions led it to become a finalist for the Columbus Landmarks Foundation’s 1999 James B. Recchie Design Award, supporting preservation and high-quality urban design.

Massive concrete columns supporting thick slab floors built to hold tons of hardware remain as distinctive accents. Old elevator shafts were repurposed as ducts for heating, cooling, and electrical wiring and computer lines. An original wooden conveyor belt on wooden “bricks” completed the eight-inch flooring on the main level.

Original features abound. In the Capitol Equities office, large bound volumes of Smith Brothers Hardware catalogues are there for the browsing.

A spiral chute spanning all seven floors once conveyed crates of goods from the upper floors to the loading docks below.

Steps away from the entrance, there’s an original trestle table and a spring scale.

A large portion of the building’s annex was also preserved. The loading dock area became a courtyard for workers to enjoy.

There are also some distinctive new features to notice. Opposite an original boiler…

fish made from garbage can lids and stainless steel are suspended over common areas on two floors.

Elevator interiors feature pop art-inspired renditions of product images from Smith Brothers Hardware catalogues, such as Sohio fly spray and herd oil…

and Smith Brothers-branded charcoal.

Juniper, the new rooftop bar, restaurant and event space on the building’s seventh floor, has retractable walls and ceiling panels, along with glass walls along its entire west side. Mosaic tiles, a railroad-tie footrest at the bar, and Eero Saarinen-designed tables accent the spare interior of the establishment named to recall its specialty: Gin, which it offers in 46 different varieties.

Juniper presents a terrific view of downtown Columbus, the Short North, and nearby neighborhoods.

Glance up for a closer look at the original water tower, the iconic structure…

that’s now depicted in the building’s logo, on everything from floor mats to elevator interiors.

Posted in Architecture, Columbus, Food/Restaurants, History | Leave a comment

The Next Time You Dodge Another Asphalt-Patched Pothole, Think Of George Bartholomew

Mark Twain may have learned about a man’s character from the adjectives he uses in conversation, but I ascertained one particular gentleman’s before I ever heard him say one word.

Worshiping week after week alongside his friendly wife and their family, he’s a reassuring reminder that people like that actually do exist in real life, and right here in Columbus at that.   

As I watched the February 15 episode of WOSU’s “Columbus Neighborhoods,” I suddenly recognized the man on the screen as the very same one who sits in the church pew ahead of me every Sunday morning.  I stopped what I was doing and listened to Mark Pardi talk about the first concrete street in America.  (You can see the segment here.)

Mr. Pardi, a professional field engineer with the Ohio chapter of the American Concrete Paving Association, was interviewed about George Bartholomew and the historic attraction he created in Bellefontaine, Ohio.  “Rustic” was the only memorable adjective I heard him use throughout the entire piece, but Mr. Pardi’s descriptive abilities convinced me to go see Bartholomew’s creation for myself.

In Bartholomew’s day, road conditions were very different. Dusty during dry spells and thick with mud when it rained, dirt streets were difficult for horses and carriages to navigate. Brick paver alternatives were expensive and could be noisy. Bartholomew came up with a better solution: Concrete.

The former drug store at 124 South Main Street, opposite Court Avenue, where Bartholomew developed his formula for durable paving concrete.

After learning about cement production in Germany and in Texas, Bartholomew discovered that the best pits of marl — a muddy mixture of clay, sand, limestone and shell fragments that is one of cement’s main ingredients — were right here in the middle section of Ohio, near Bellefontaine. After starting his own company, Buckeye Portland Cement Co. in 1887, he set up shop in the rear of a friend’s drug store and perfected a new process for making concrete that was both durable and affordable.

Bartholomew’s patented process to create Portland cement first pulverized and blended the marl to extract the limestone, then burned the resulting product at a high temperature in German kilns, and finally ground it into a fine dust using flint stones imported from Iceland.

Bartholomew encouraged Bellefontaine’s reluctant city council to try his “artificial stone.” In 1891, he was authorized to pave an eight-foot section near the center of town. He was required to post a $5,000 bond guaranteeing that his concrete street would last five years.

Its success allowed him to pave the square around the Logan County Courthouse. He laid out the pavement of Court Avenue in five-foot squares, about six inches thick and without any reinforcement. A grid indentation pattern provided traction for horses when it rained or snowed.

Bartholomew’s paving materials were exhibited at the Chicago International Exposition of 1893. He received a first-prize award for advancement in engineering technology. Later that year, hundreds of kilns around Ohio were producing nearly millions of concrete paving bricks a year to create smooth, durable streets.

Time proved Bartholomew right. Concrete pavement usually lasts 20 to 30 years without needing major repairs; asphalt needs to be resurfaced in just eight to 12 years. Over the years, Bartholomew’s first concrete street has been patched in several places, but original portions of it still exist today. To preserve it, it has been closed to vehicles.

The street was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1976. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Bartholomew’s achievement in 1991, the Concrete Industries of Ohio and the United States presented the citizens of Bellefontaine with a six-foot statue honoring Bartholomew and placed it near the original eight-foot section of road, now a pedestrian walkway.

There’s another street in Bellefontaine worth seeing, if you can find it. McKinley Street, said to be the shortest in the world, is a 30-foot-long street located at the intersection of Garfield and Columbus Avenues, just west of the railroad tracks downtown. I drove around the block several times, but I never did see it.

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From Reading Loft To Virtual Porthole, Check Out the View Along North High Street

The view of the sky straight over our heads is the only perfect view, A Room With A View’s Mr. Emerson believes, but the prospect afforded by the cantilevered reading loft at the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Northside Branch is definitely not the bungled copy of it that he says he sees on earth.

True, the construction occurring on the street below might not make the view as picturesque as the River Arno. However, the elevated view is just as sophisticated as what sought-after real estate in the neighborhood offers.

Situated between the University District and Short North neighborhoods, the library’s new 25,000-square-foot building at 1423 N. High St. opened on the site of its previous location last June. Nearly triple the size of its former home, which was demolished, the updated library is indicative of the changes for the better that are occurring all around it.

Curious to see the transformation, I accepted an invitation to join local Smith College alumnae there to discuss Naomi Alderman’s The Power. Gone is the winged Goddess of Books that topped the facade of the previous library, which opened in 1990. Gone, too, is the cramped, dim location I had visited just a few times. In its place is a sleek, glass-fronted community center designed to reflect the needs of the neighborhood it serves.

The Northside branch is part of Columbus Metropolitan Library’s 10-project aspirational building program, which is hoped to be completed by 2020. It is one of seven urban branches, two suburban locations and the Downtown main branch that are being transformed through significant upgrades and environmentally friendly elements like automatically adjusted lighting, natural light and self-shading to reduce energy costs.

Rather than expand outward, NBBJ’s award-winning design took the building upward. The ground floor of the two-story branch offers an interactive children’s area, where young readers can read, study, use computers and attend programs. Preschoolers can prepare for Kindergarten in a Ready for Kindergarten area. A Homework Help Center is available for students to receive free after-school assistance.

Upstairs, a comfortable area provides computers and study space for teenagers. A learning lab is outfitted with computers to assist customers in creating resumes and applying for jobs. Four study rooms are available for individuals or small groups to use. Comfortable seating lines the ramped pathways on which customers navigate the building.

Downstairs, a partially sunken “living room” — complete with a fireplace, a fish tank and locally inspired artwork — houses the library’s “robust” collection. Three rooms with movable walls can be reserved for meetings.

Annie Maude’s Cafe serves made-from-scratch snacks and sweet treats, as well as drinks from local roaster One Line Coffee. The cafe is operated by Freedom a la Cart, which helps train survivors of human trafficking to find meaningful employment. It is named for Annie Maude Battelle (1863-1925), the first woman to serve on the Columbus Public Library Trustee Board. Along with her son Gordon, she established and endowed the Battelle Memorial Institute, located near the branch.

The group’s next outing took us a few blocks north on High Street to the Gateway Theater, where we saw Walt Disney Studios adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. Afterwards, we discussed the Newbery Award-winning classic written by Madeleine L’Engle, herself a Smith College alumna, in the theater’s Torpedo Room.

The “subaquatic canteen” created by Elizabeth Lessner and the Columbus Food League, of Grass Skirt Tiki Room fame, serves locally sourced diner fare and Rambling House soda pop in an atmosphere inspired by Jules Verne’s science-fiction novels. Virtual fish swim past portholes in Steampunk-inspired walls while silent movies play. 

Posted in Architecture, Columbus, Food/Restaurants, Libraries | Leave a comment

Serve Seventy-Five Meals With One Empty Bowl

Once interminable January has finally finished and I’ve turned the calendar page to February, I start anticipating the arrival of the Little Black Book of six-minute prayer reflections, parish fish fries, and the Rice Bowl. This trio of tools for Lenten prayer, fasting and almsgiving deepen faith while helping serve those in need.

Besides being a marvelous feat of paper engineering, the cardboard Rice Bowl box Catholic Relief Services distributes for its Lenten faith-in-action program is a way for Christians to collect the money they donate to the poor during this season of religious renewal. Each bowl comes with a calendar of short reflections for each day of Lent, recipes for meatless meals, and stories of hope from families who benefit from those donations.

This year, I supplemented my cardboard box with something new and very delightful: Empty Bowls.

Empty Bowls is an international project providing financial support to food banks, soup kitchens and other hunger-fighting organizations. It began in 1990 when a high school art teacher in Michigan developed a class project to raise funds to support a local food drive. His students made ceramic bowls in which to serve a meal of soup and bread, then invited their guests to keep the empty bowls as a reminder of world hunger.

I acquired my Empty Bowls in Springfield yesterday evening, when Wittenberg University’s Department of Art, in conjunction with Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio, hosted its 24th annual Empty Bowls fundraiser. Since 1994, Wittenberg has raised more than $450,000 for Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, Champaign and Logan Counties, the only food bank in these three Ohio counties. Last year’s event earned more than $42,400; the goal for this year was to raise $50,000.

Every dollar raised through the event provides five meals to hungry families in the community. The purchase of one bowl provides 75 meals.

Wittenberg starts preparing months before the event. Interested students, staff, faculty and area potters participate in 10 “Throwing Days” over the course of the year, usually on Saturdays. First, the clay bowls are thrown on the potter’s wheel. Once they are dry enough, the art program trims and tools the bowls to make the foot on the bottom. After more drying comes glazing. Then, they’re placed in a high-fire kiln to be fired up to about 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. Each Throwing Day yields 100 to 150 bowls. More than 1,000 bowls were created for this year’s event.

A Wittenberg alumna and an associate professor created promotional posters for the event; the alumna also designed a t-shirt to add to the earned income for the event.

As soon as I arrived at Wittenberg’s Benham-Pence Student Center, I knew this was going to be big. Before the event had even started, the line stretched from Post 95, the campus coffee shop, all the way up the stairs and down the hall to the Center Dining Room. The half-hour I spent waiting in line flew by. Students sold raffle tickets for several pieces of artwork, including painted bowls, a painted platter, and a beautiful example of a pysanka, or Ukrainian Easter egg. A pair of friendly Springfield locals standing before me in line excitedly prepped me on what was to come. It was well worth the wait.

We entered a room where two lines of long tables were filled with many different styles of bowls. After we chose our bowls and paid for them, we queued up to have our bowls washed by “Celebrity Bowl Washers.”

Scott Dooley, the professor of art behind Wittenberg’s Empty Bowls event, pointed out my next stop: the soup-serving station. Two buffet lines featured 14 different soups donated by local restaurants. Springfield-area independent establishments provided Mexican chicken vegetable; gumbo; steak and mushroom; chicken avgolemono; cheesy beer bisque; spinach, chickpea and garlic; tomato basil; tomato brie; and corn crab chowder. Chicken noodle and potato leek soups from Parkhurst Dining, which manages food service at Wittenberg; chili from Bob Evans; Zuppa Toscana from Olive Garden; and broccoli cheddar from Panera were the choices provided by chain establishments. Texas Roadhouse, Dominos and O’Charley’s provided the bread.

After enjoying the meal and the pleasant conversation that accompanied it, we stopped by the exit bowl wash station to have our bowls washed before we took them home.

I’ll be back next year.

Until then, I’ve marked my calendar for other Empty Bowls fundraisers taking place in Columbus later this year. Columbus Recreation and Parks, in partnership with local churches, businesses and sponsors, plans several lunchtime events in November and early December to benefit Mid-Ohio Foodbank. Their efforts have raised over $236,000 in the last 19 years. Click here for more information.

Posted in Art, Food/Restaurants, Miscellanea | Leave a comment

I Need To Turn That Golden Ring Three More Times

A perfect storm has been raging for so long that it’s hard to remember what smooth sailing is like. The backstory induces nightmares.

Everything seems to have fallen victim to this unfortunate series of events. Imagination may predominate over reason, but I feel like I’m a walking rendition of Melencolia I.

The hourglass showing time running out. The unbalanced scale. The despondent winged figure of genius. These details of the famous allegorical engraving by Albrecht Dürer perfectly capture my state of mind, especially between November 17, 2017 and February 11, 2018.

I missed Albrecht Dürer: The Age of Reformation and Renaissance, the Cincinnati Museum of Art’s recent tribute to the great German Renaissance printmaker and the impact of the Reformation. But I did my homework. And I’ve been to Dürer’s home in Nuremberg. Twice. So I’m going to write about him anyway, because I think he and his work are extraordinary.

Determined to raise northern European printmaking to the level of Italian art, Dürer (1471-1528) achieved fame that reached far beyond his native Nuremberg. To ensure that his work would be instantly recognized as his, he developed a distinctive monogram, signature and artistic style.

He produced at least a dozen self-portraits, many with a striking similarity to Jesus Christ. He wrote theoretical treatises on the artistic applications of geometry; building fortifications; symmetry and the proportions of the human body; and an unpublished one on art. He was so venerated that the German Federal Bank reproduced his work on Deutschmark bank notes until the 1990s.

At first, Dürer followed in his father’s footsteps, training as a goldsmith. Learning how to handle the tools of that trade prepared him for printmaking, since he could use the same techniques to engrave on a copper plate as for ornamenting precious metals. Then, he apprenticed with Michael Wolgemut, a Nuremberg artist who created the frontispiece for the Nuremberg Chronicle, the history of the world famous for its unprecedented number of woodcut illustrations that was published by Anton Koberger, Dürer’s godfather.

The young Dürer spent his Wanderjahre in Italy. He recorded his journey through the Alps in a series of watercolors, important because they are considered to be the earliest landscape studies in the history of western art. He made costume studies in Venice. He also traveled through the Netherlands and the Alsace, where he visited the celebrated painter Martin Schongauer. He stopped in Basel, Switzerland, where he executed woodcuts for The Ship of Fools, the famous German satirical allegory.

When Dürer returned to Nuremberg, he opened his workshop and started selling prints from woodcuts that were beautifully executed, with intricate details, subtle gradations of light and shade through cross-hatchings, and contrasts in texture so stunning and dramatic that they were far superior to anything else.

Albrecht Dürer’s portrait of German reformer Philip Melanchthon

He concentrated on subjects with popular appeal, such as a series of costume studies depicting Nuremberg women dressed for staying at home, going to church and going to a dance. Many of his works reached iconic status, like his study for the praying hands of an Apostle, as well as his depictions of St. Jerome in his study, the Passion, the Prodigal Son, the life of the Virgin Mary, and the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. His famous nature works are of a young hare and of a rhinoceros, inspired by a description he read of the exotic animal.

During his career, Dürer produced over 1,100 drawings, over 30 watercolors, over 100 copperplate engravings and etchings, almost 200 paintings, and still more woodcuts. His work was so admired that it was collected, copied by engravers, and imitated by other artists, including Lucas Cranach the Elder, the German painter and printmaker who was a close friend of Martin Luther’s.

Dürer became as legendary as his home city. In Dürer’s day, Nuremberg was one of the largest, most prosperous cities in Europe. Situated on the river Pegnitz, and protected by a castle and a circle of walls, the capital of the Franconian region of Germany was a major center for art, culture, publishing and trade. Bombs heavily damaged the city during World War II, but many of its main Gothic attractions still stand.

For example, the St. Lorenzkirche (Church of St. Lorenz) is famous for its spectacular Annunciation, a sculpture Viet Stoss completed in 1519 that is suspended from the ceiling above the altar in the main nave of the church.

The Heilig-Geist-Spital (The Hospital of the Holy Spirit), founded in 1332, stands on the banks of the Pegnitz in the center of town. Once, it housed lepers; now, it’s a restaurant where I ordered Schnitzel.

The Hauptmarkt is the home of the Christkindlesmarkt, Nuremberg’s famous Christmas market. Here, I sampled the city’s famous wursts, Lebkuchen gingerbread and Glühwein.

The Hauptmarkt’s Schöner Brunnen (Beautiful Fountain), an octagonal pool with a 62-feet-high spire carved with statues of city and religious heroes standing at its center, is surrounded by a Renaissance-era iron grille with a famous golden ring. It’s said that if you turn the ring three times, your wishes will come true.

But it is the Albrecht-Dürer-Haus that has become as recognizable as its owner’s works. Engravings, etchings and lithographs of it helped it become a pilgrimage destination. Today, it is a public museum with a particular interest in the history of Dürer veneration.

Dürer purchased the large timber-framed dwelling on the Tiergärtnertor, in the Zistelgasse, in 1509. He and his wife, Agnes Frey, lived there for the rest of their lives. The home is situated so close to Nuremberg’s castle that Dürer included it in the background of several works, rendering its details so precisely that they have aided research on the castle architecture.

There, on a printing press dating from Dürer’s time, I made a print from St. Sebald on the Column, a circa-1501 woodcut Dürer designed for a broadside that featured an ode to the patron saint of Nuremberg written by the poet Konrad Celtis on the saint’s feast day, August 19. In his left hand, St. Sebald holds a model of the church dedicated to him in Nuremberg, where his relics are enshrined — and where Dürer was baptized.

For more on Albrecht Dürer. read Albrecht Dürer and His Legacy: The Graphic Work of a Renaissance Artist, by Giulia Bartrum; The Early Dürer, edited by Daniel Hess and Thomas Eser; Albrecht Dürer: The Genius of the German Renaissance, by Norbert Wolf; and Dürer: Master Draftsman of the Renaissance – His Life in Paintings, by Stefano Zuffi. The Relic Master, a novel by Christopher Buckley about a relics dealer whose best friend was Dürer, was one of the books the Cincinnati Art Museum’s “See the Story” bimonthly book club read in connection with the Dürer exhibition.

Posted in Art, Germany, History, Travel | Leave a comment

A Flying Writing On How The Crude Woodsman Spread His Words

Follow the Golden Rule. Love your neighbor. Show more empathy. Secure more funding for the humanities. Listen to more opera.

These are some of the answers people gave when asked what change they would make to society today. The question was posed in Publish or Perish: The Impact of Printing on the Protestant Reformation, a recent exhibition at the Ohio State University’s Thompson Library.

The exhibition commemorated the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 theses attacking the selling of indulgences, a practice in which sinners bought forgiveness. Luther intended to inspire debate among his Wittenberg neighbors on his notion of sola scriptura (Christian salvation was “by scripture alone”), but his action had greater consequences. It set the Protestant Reformation in motion.

Medieval and early Reformation-era printed works from the collection of Ohio State’s Rare Books & Manuscripts Library showed how printing and publishing helped Luther, his supporters and their opponents share their thoughts on these society-changing ideas. They couldn’t have done it without the help of the recently invented printing press with movable type. During the first three years of the Reformation, book production in Germany quadrupled.

Since just 10 percent of Germans were literate, sermons were effective ways to present points of view in convincing ways. After the sermons were orally delivered, they were published so they could be spread to an even wider audience. More than 100,000 copies of Luther’s famous “House Postils” sermons were published for families to read and reflect upon at home.

As public demand for Luther’s words grew, ideas were disseminated as fast as possible. Debaters on both sides of the issue relied on Flugschriften (literally, “flying writings”) to set forth their positions, respond to opposition, and appeal to all classes of society and levels of literacy. Written in the vernacular, these simple, direct pamphlets were easy to produce and afford. Many of these ephemeral documents were grouped together by theme or author, then bound together in a book called a Sammelband, which protected and preserved them.

Engaged readers often added notes, underlined text and drew attention to passages, as this annotated copy of Luther’s commentary on the Lord’s Prayer shows.

Philip Melanchthon, the man whom Luther considered his primary, indispensable partner, wrote hundreds of treatises, including the Loci communes, or Theological Commonplaces, which so epitomized Lutheran thought and belief that Luther said, “Next to Holy Scripture, there is no better book.”

“I am the crude woodsman who has to clear and make the path,” Luther said. “But Master Philip comes after me meticulously and quietly, builds and plants, sows and waters happily, according to the talents God has richly given him.”

Others did not hold Luther in similar esteem. Johannes Cochlaeus, a Catholic priest and university professor, pointed out Luther’s inconsistencies in The Seven-Headed Luther. Contradictory passages from Luther’s own texts led Cochlaeus to conclude that Luther simultaneously embodied a professor, a monk, a Turk, a preacher, a fanatic, a church visitor and a criminal, all quarreling over Christian doctrine and religious practice.

Both Catholics and Protestants died for their beliefs. This 1592 work by Richard Verstegan, chronicles the torture and murder of Catholics like this Englishwoman being pressed to death by weights.

Acts and Monuments, John Foxe’s famous collection of Christian martyrs’ lives, was so popular that it was abridged numerous times. This rare unfolded half-sheet paraphrase of Foxe’s work was formatted to allow printers to assemble 64 pages of text on one sheet of paper. It reduced the massive work to a portable, simple series of memorable rhymes chronicling the torture and death of Protestant English martyrs.

Posted in Germany, History, Ohio State University, Special Collections | Leave a comment