Tulips, Chocolate & Silk
Celebrating 65 Years of the James Ford Bell Library
In celebration of its 65th anniversary in 2018, the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota opened its vault to rare book photographer Natasha D’Schommer. The result is an amazing and unique collection of photographs of rare books, maps, and manuscripts that celebrate this library, which documents the history and impact of trade and cultural exchange prior to ca. 1800 CE.
Curator Marguerite Ragnow worked with D’Schommer to develop the final theme of the volume: perspective. Her text frames the photographs, which challenge the viewer to consider different points of view. The volume is a “flip” book: readers must flip it over to read the other half. Side A reflects on the traditional image of the Bell Library as a repository of rare books and maps dealing with trade and European territorial expansion in the 15th-17th centuries, while side B addresses topics that many may be surprised to find in the Bell collection: women, cultural encounter, and views of the natural world.
While the photographs are undoubtedly beautiful, this is more than a picture book. It underscores the notion that everyone has a different perspective on the world, a different point-of-view drawn from their personal experience.