Friday, December 14, 2018

A History of Hocus-Pocus

Page from Cornelius Agrippa's De Occulta Philosophia that shows the triangular version of the word "abracadabra."We've blogged before about Cornelius Agrippa's De Occulta Philosophia, and we've also blogged before about the word "abracadabra" within the context of Werner Pfeiffer's work. However, when Lebanon High School's AP English class visited us recently, we had a chance to revisit both. One of the high school students discovered in Agrippa's text a triangular diagram of "abracadabra," much like the one represented in Pfeiffer's book.

The front cover of the Agrippa book that shows the exterior luxury binding made by Sangorski & Sutcliffe.This makes sense; although the word was a synonym for nonsense in Pfeiffer's day, it has had an association with magic and healing since at least the third century AD. Roman physicians recommended that people inscribe the word in this triangular form on an amulet and wear it to ward off malaria. As late as the 1600s, people believed that the word had the power to fend off disease; Daniel Defoe, in his Journal of a Plague Year, notes derisively that Londoners were inscribing the word on their homes in the hopes that the Great Plague would pass them by.

Nowadays, it seems like the only appearances of the word, or variants of it, are in works of fiction; one series in particular, starring a bespectacled young wizard with a lightning scar on his forehead, comes to mind. However, our first edition of Agrippa's book still has some magic left in it, thanks primarily to the wizardry of the luxury binders Sangorski & Sutcliffe. To lay hands upon the work and be transported by its wonder, come to Special Collections and ask to see Rare BF1598.A3 O4 1533.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Arctic Mariner

Ugh, what to do when you are on the search for Sir John Franklin and stuck in the ice... for the entire arctic winter... waiting... getting hungry... very bored... kinda cold....

Let's write a song! Then we can print it with the Ship's printing press! Hey, let's print it on silk to make it really fancy!

We just acquired one of those remarkable survivals of polar exploration. This broadside was printed by Benjamin Young, the ice quartermaster on board the Intrepid. The Intrepid set off with the Resolute in 1850 to search for Sir John Franklin and, unsuccessful, returned in 1852. We are not sure who on board wrote it, but copies were probably printed on both silk and paper: paper for the crew, silk for the officers.

To sing along, and imagine life locked in the ice, ask for Stef M1978.S2 A738 1851.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Aura of the Original

Human body surrounded by glow of "Insensible Perspiration" In Special Collections, we sometimes get a bit obsessive about "aura,"that mystical energy that surrounds authentic historical artifacts. It is utterly context specific, and created solely from our cultural expectations, but it is still real. People get a tremendous rush from seeing the original and interacting with it. It opens people's minds to new ways of knowing, excites their imaginations, and, we think, makes them more likely to learn from their encounters. It is one of the reasons why active learning works so damn well in Special Collections.

So, we were delighted today to find a new term to express that "aura" from Ebenezer Sibly's A Key to Physic and the Occult Sciences (London: Printed for the Author, 1800?): "The Insensible Perspiration." It is just so much better than the sensible kind!

To learn more about it (with the original book, mind you!) ask for Rare RS81.C96.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Global Geography

three photos of farmsteads in Lebanon
While searching the stacks for materials related to regional agriculture, we discovered a University of Chicago PhD dissertation among the collections. The text, titled "The Evolution of Land Utilization in Lebanon, New Hampshire," was written by Edward Nathaniel "Nat" Torbert, a member of the Dartmouth class of 1925. The data in this tome, which is nearly three inches thick, explores the ins and outs of farming from 1800 up to the date of its composition.

three photographs of Lebanon including the train roundhouse in West LebanonAlthough Torbert's research is interesting, especially when discussing the move from rural to urban environments in the 1800s, we were most fascinated by the photographic prints that he pasted into the pages of his
dissertation. Images of White River Junction, West Lebanon, and Lebanon abound, and each one provides a captivating portal back to life in a small rural town in the 1920s. Perhaps the photos are so particularly compelling because Torbert went on to be an award-winning amateur photographer.

Torbert was evidently a man meant to be outdoors and in the field. He initially was a professor of geography at San Jose State College, but soon shifted into a more active role: he worked with the Tennessee Valley Authority for several years before moving into successive international positions that revolved around his specialty in economic geography. From 1950 to 1951, he worked on a reclamation program in Haiti. Soon after, Torbert headed to Afghanistan as the chief planning engineer for an irrigation project that was meant to bring water to 3.5 million acres of farmland.

three photographs of Lebanon including the Coburn Park areaHowever, after only a few months there, he contracted bulbar polio, a particularly nasty variant of the disease which attacks the brain stem. At first, he and Elise, his wife, assumed that he had the flu. Within two days, his arms and vocal cords were paralyzed. A week later, after being airlifted out of the country on board the US Ambassador's plane, Torbert passed away in the Seventh Day Adventist hospital in Karachi, Pakistan. In a letter home, his wife said that she was "not prepared for the rapid progress of the disease nor for its fatality," that Norbert never regained consciousness enough to realize he had polio, and that "he remained sweet, patient and cheerful until the very end." Soon after, the United States Department of the Interior awarded him its highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award. At the awards convocation, Douglas McKay, Secretary of the Interior, described Torbert as "broad in his thinking, considerate in his approach, firm in his beliefs, skillful in his operations, and unyielding in his devotion to purpose."

panoramic photo of White River Junction, VT, looking eastward to West Lebanon

To see Nat Torbert's dissertation, including some amazing views of early 20th-century Lebanon, ask for Alumni T63e.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Telegraphing the Play

Telegram from start of gameOn November 7th, 1908, Dartmouth squared off against Princeton at the famed Polo Grounds for "the only big football game that New Yorkers [could] witness" that year. Obviously, most Dartmouth students couldn't make the trip down to New York for the game, but they were anxious about the fate of their team. So a telegraph machine was set up in the gymnasium and a telegraph operator, "Miss Rodey," received 114 telegrams sent directly from the game that detailed every play.

The D from November 10, 1908, sets the scene pretty well:
A large crowd gathered in the Gym last Saturday afternoon to hear the reports from the game in New York. These came by direct wire from the Polo Grounds, and were by far the most complete and accurate received this year. Each play was carefully transmitted, and the location of the ball was always stated at the end of each scrimmage. This enabled the following of the game on the diagram board with unusual precision.
Telegram from middle of game
Get this... Someone saved all of those telegrams and had them beautifully bound and presented to the Library in 1916. You can come in and relive the game, play by play, by flipping through the series of transmissions. The internet has nothing on Dartmouth in 1908.

Telegram from end of game: Darmouth 10, Princeton 6
Ask for DC History GV957.D3D3 1908.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

From the Library of...

Rudyard Kipling's bookplate
Just recently, our processing specialist undertook the daunting task of reprocessing the Bookplates Collection at Rauner Library. The collection contains more than twenty thousand bookplates, a few bookplate sale catalogs, brochures, leaflets, and Harold Goddard Rugg's correspondence with dealers and collectors. The collection began in 1928 when Josiah Minot Fowler, a member of Dartmouth College's class of 1900, donated the F. J. Libbie collection of bookplates to Dartmouth College. He also commissioned two brass plates dedicating his gift to the memory of his parents George R. Fowler and Isabel Minot Fowler. Fowler’s gift contained about 3,900 early American plates, 3,000 modern American plates, 250 American proofs, 300 Canadian plates and about 7,500 English and foreign plates. Each plate was mounted on white cards, arranged alphabetically and stamped with Fowler's name.

Victor Hugo's bookplateCharles Dickens's bookplate

In 1945, Arthur F. Gray and Arthur H. Gray 1911, donated Theodore Dreiser's bookplatetheir collection of bookplates which contained about 8,000 plates. That donation was facilitated by Bremer Whidden Pond, a member of the class of 1906. Each of the plates were mounted on gray cards, stamped "Gray," and interfiled with the existing Fowler collection. Since 1945, other bookplates have been added to the collection, including donations by Dr. Mary Adams in 1969, and by Harold G. Rugg, who also solicited additional bookplates from donors and bought many from dealers. Some of the more notable bookplates are shown here and include Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens, William Butler Yeats, and Robert Frost. Other notable bookplates in the collection once belonged to Charlie Chaplin, most of the Founding Fathers (including Hamilton and Washington), and FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Robert Frost's bookplateW. B. Yeats's bookplate

The finding aid for the collection isn't public-facing yet. Until it is, you can look through the bookplates of notable figures by coming to Special Collections and asking to see MS-1137, Box 42.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Dartmouth's Vermont Thanksgiving

Full-page view of ProclamationIt was the middle of the American Revolution. Thomas Chittenden, "Governor and Commander in Chief" of the recently formed "State of Vermont" (really more a republic, separate from the thirteen colonies, but fighting alongside them in the Revolution), issued a proclamation of Thanksgiving. It directed the people of Vermont to lay down all labor on Thursday, November 26, 1778, and embrace a day of thanksgiving for all the good that had arisen "amid the many private and public Distresses of a temporal Nature."

Chittenden issued the proclamation in Windsor, Vermont, but it was printed here at Dartmouth by Alden Spooner, during the brief period when Hanover flipped its allegiance to Vermont and called itself "Dresden, Vermont." Spooner made an egregious typo working in his dark quarters in Dartmouth Hall: Chittenden sprouted an extra T in his name.

Close-up of "Chitttenden" with three ts
Even now, when the Christian god is still routinely evoked in political discourse, the utter disregard of anything resembling a separation of church and state is a bit shocking. Of course there wasn't the Constitution yet, and the governor was comfortable ordering the citizens of the state to pause from their regular duties to "pay their vows to the LORD," and give thanks for "God's gracious Presence with the General Assembly of the United States of America.... That this once howling Wilderness may, in a spiritual Sense, bud and blossom like the Rose."

Close-up of "Dartmouth College" docketing
Come in and take a look at our copy, docketed Dartmouth College, by asking for Broadside 778568.