Monday, July 11, 2011

Vertical Alchemy

Though I’m used to it by now, I’m always acutely aware of how incompatible the vertical scrolling of Blogger is with our tradition of horizontal viewing. It's a convention that applies to everything from turning the pages of a book to watching the landscape from a moving vehicle. Even in this age of air travel and skyscrapers, our metaphors for time remain horizontally sequential. Time marches on, not up. We look forward to vacation, and think back on our childhood.

Try as I might to embrace Blogger’s inherent verticality, I often find myself frustrated at how difficult it is to display images that relate on a continuum. Even for individual images, expansive width is problematic. Horizontal pictures can get great play when printed on the spread of a book or magazine, but for this blog’s format, the wider an image is, the smaller it must be overall to fit into the formatted column.

Vertical scrolling, however, has its virtues. In fact, it turns out to be the perfect format for—are you ready for this—a vertical scroll!

The Ripley Scroll of Emblematic Alchemy, here, is from Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and dates from circa 1570. I was curious to see what it looked like in its entirety, so I pieced together the full-length scroll from the 14 separate images provided. At the Beineke site, you can enlarge the images and study the glorious detail, but here is where, after 400 years, you can view this magnificent manuscript as it was originally intended—by scrolling vertically.

Note: There was a good deal of interpretive Photoshop work done to connect the pages that at one time were connected to form the scroll in the first place. Also, due to the image-height constraint of this platform, I had to break the full scroll into three long panels plus a small ender.

Embarrassing addendum, 7/12/11:
I awoke to find the first comment, below, from peacay of BibliOdyssey, directing me to a full-length, seamless version of the Ripley Scroll posted there in January of 2009. Truly embarrassing, because I can swear that I checked to see if the scroll had already been posted on that most likely of places.


  1. I'm not sure how to do this subtly, so here it is. If you look down the list, you'll find links to a full size version. And yes, I remember very well how difficult it was to align the parts. They were scanned at differing levels of magnification as I recall: it took ages of trial and error to get them right.

  2. I have a question about Lorenzo Homar's work and its value. I have a few of his pieces. Thanks.

  3. Dear peacay,

    A tragic and embarrassing case of 'Blind Spot,' to say the least. This manuscript is so thoroughly your territory that I'm quite sure that one of the first things I did before even considering a post on it, was check to see if you had done one already. In fact, I've been uneasy all along about not having seen this elsewhere and I could very well have started off my text with, "I am surprised that I have not seen this amazing scroll on BIbliOdyssey ..."

    Of course, one thing that might rival the size of my blind spot, is the scale of my memory loss, so perhaps I never really did check. But given my dread of this exact thing happening, I find it hard to believe that I didn't check. Either way--I did not check, or, more likely, I checked but missed it somehow--knowing that you have in fact posted the scroll in its seamless entirety is actually a relief. It means that in some way all is right with at least one corner of the world.

    Alas, if only I could be equipped with the blind-spot-correcting software now available in automobiles. Because with "All My Eyes," just think of all the blind spots waiting to trip me up.



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