Enfilade

New Title | ‘Icons of Longevity’

Posted in books by Editor on March 6, 2012

Icons of Longevity appeared at the end of 2010, but I learned of it only recently, at the book fair for the College Art Association conference in Los Angeles. The University Press of Southern Denmark wasn’t at the meeting, but this curious title was represented by The Scholar’s Choice, a company specializing in book displays at academic conferences (over 160 each year). During the past few years, I’ve gotten to know the company’s founder, Tom Prins, who usually attends CAA and often ASECS. It seems to me that at a time when academic publishing faces one new obstacle after another, The Scholar’s Choice provides a valuable service for the humanities. If you’re an author, you might consider having the company represent you when your publisher won’t be attending a conference (check with your publisher), and the next time you see The Scholar’s Choice table at a book fair, buy something! I was delighted to pick up a copy of Icons of Longevity. I told Tom I was buying it out of a spirit of wishful thinking. . . wishful thinking for myself and for the book business generally. -CH

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Lise-Lotte B. Petersen and Bernard Jeune, Icons of Longevity: Luxdorph’s Eighteenth Century Gallery of Long-Livers (University Press Of Southern Denmark, 2010), 330 pages, ISBN: 9788778387417, $65.

Bolle Willum Luxdorph, who lived from 1716-1788, was the first Dane known to have studied the phenomenon of old age. Luxdorph was a high-ranking Danish civil servant, a leader of the Danish Chancellery, as well as a scholar and poet. In the last years of his life, Luxdorph created an art collection of paintings of older people (“long-livers”). The exact date at which Luxdorph began taking an interest in the phenomenon of old age is not known, but it must have happened sometime in the late 1770s. At this point, Luxdorph began systematically collecting data concerning very old people (i.e. persons who had reached the age of 80 and over). This book examines Luxdorph’s collection, which has a triple-source value in terms of the history of art, the history of civilization, and the history of science. Both the reconstruction and the availability of the collection hold specific contemporary and general importance for: the illustration of very old men and women, the development of research on aging, and the associated socio-cultural topics. Moreover, the collection represents an encyclopedic interest, the passion to collect, and the origin of science-orientated collections, as they became characteristic in 18th-century Europe.

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Note (added 7 March): The Scholar’s Choice works directly with publishers to coordinate displays. While they’re happy to speak with individual authors, that’s not typically how decisions are made about what gets included at the table. So talk to your publisher!

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