Friday, June 15, 2018

Death's Dominion

Listing for the week of August 29 to September 5, 1665.We were lucky enough to acquire a kind of miraculous survival of the Great Plague: ten of the weekly death tallies issued in London during 1665 as the plague ravaged the city. They list all deaths within the city and their causes. Turning from one week to the next, you can watch the classic epidemic curve play out in hard numbers as they were presented at the time.

The listing is harrowing--from 2,012 plague deaths the week of July 25th, to 6,978 death during the last week of August. When you factor in how many people lied to avoid quarantine, the total death toll is staggering. At the bottom of each weekly list, looking almost like an advertisement, there is a note on the price of bread dictated by the Lord Mayor. Imagine what the scene must have been as the epidemic spread and an increasingly proportion of the city's inhabitants fell ill or died. Basic services broke down. The Lord Mayor's assize of bread was an attempt to regulate the price of a basic human need that was becoming scare in nightmarish cityscape where price gouging threatened the already suffering populous. A penny bought a nine and a half ounce wheaten loaf; white loaves cost an additional half penny.
Close up showing assize for bread and weekly plague death total of 6,978
These broadsides give an immediacy to books like Defoe's Diary of a Plague Year published over fifty years later. To see them, ask for Rare HB1416.L8 D5.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Costumes of the East

The frontispiece of The Oriental Album by H. J. Van-Lennep
One of our favorite genres of book at Rauner is the costume book, which is usually a collection of images that display the various forms of dress that people wear from all over the world. Although the historical accuracy of these images can often be suspect, they are fascinating to explore, if only to get a sense of how American or European culture perceived other races and peoples over a hundred years ago. At Rauner, we have a beautiful first edition of The Oriental Album by Henry Van-Lennep, who was a missionary to Turkey and other parts of the Ottoman empire for twenty years (1840-1860). Although Van-Lennep was born to European merchants in Smyrna, he was educated in the United States, and so he returned here in 1861 to transform the many drawings that he had made of the Turkish people while abroad into a printed book.

The result was The Oriental Album, published in New York in 1862. There are twenty
A chromolithographic print of a Turkish woman without her veil and a young child
chromolithographic prints in this oversized album, each purporting to represent a different common figure or type of person in Turkish or Ottoman society. Each image is accompanied by paternalistic, moralizing, and sometimes incorrect descriptions of the individuals that are represented. For example, for the image of the "Turkish Woman (unveiled)," Van-Lennep says that "the custom of ages and the requirements of the Koran have produced in the female sex a strong sense of real shame, which does not allow them to let any part of their faces appear besides their eyes."

Despite the inaccuracies and questionable representations of the Ottoman Empire and its people, Van-Lennep's Oriental Album was one of the few large chromolithographic works created during the 1860s in America and is still considered by some to be the best American costume book created during the 19th century.

To flip through Van-Lennep's book of beautiful images, come to Rauner and ask to see Rare DR432 .V3 1862.

Friday, June 8, 2018

50 Years Ago...

Budd Schulberg and Jimmy Breslin among a crowd in the kitchen of the Ambasador HotelThe Class of 1968 is back on campus now to lead the class of 2018 into Commencement. Fifty years ago this week, they were deep in their final exams and preparing for Senior Week. But another Dartmouth alumnus, Budd Schulberg '36, was in Los Angeles following Robert Kennedy's run for the Democratic nomination for President. That week he witnessed the second earth shattering assassination of the year.

This photograph taken by Harry Benson, shows the chaos in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel on the night of June 5th, 1968. The distraught man in the center with the white hair is Schulberg. Off in the right hand corner is Jimmy Breslin, who had written the famous account of JFK's funeral that was centered on the grave digger.

Schulberg and others writers had just met with Bobby on the night of the California primary. They were standing nearby when he was shot and were among the first people to rush at Sirhan Sirhan. As you would imagine the event had a lasting effect on Schulberg and he wrote about it several times.

To see the photograph and read Schulberg's thoughts on Bobby Kennedy, ask for MS-978, Box 25.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Dartmouth Blues

A portrait photo of Hildreth, most likely as a college senior.
With commencement only a few days away, we happened to stumble upon some images of a past graduation ceremony inside an alum's personal photograph album. Charles L. Hildreth was a member of the class of 1901 who grew up in Westford, Massachusetts. After graduating from Dartmouth College, he attended Harvard Law School and became a practicing attorney in Lowell, Massachusetts, for many years before dying there at the age of eighty-eight.

What makes Hildreth's photographs truly remarkable is not merely the
A group of men and women standing near Bartlett Tower.crispness of the images, but also that they are all cyanotypes. A cyanotype is an image made by employing a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print; engineering blueprints are probably the most familiar example of the process. We have a few examples of these fascinating images here at Rauner, and Hildreth's are some of the best of them. The image of men and women wearing their turn-of-the-century finest while crowded near the stump of the Old Pine, for example, is a fascinating look into the fashion of the time. It's hard to believe that they were wearing so many layers at that time of year.

A group of men and women listen to an orator on the lawn in front of Dartmouth Hall.
Another image, one of my favorites, shows a group of people gathered in front of Dartmouth Hall with Rollins Chapel in the background. On the steps of Dartmouth Hall, initially unremarkable, stands what appears to be a studio camera, complete with black hood for the photographer to hide behind. While two men fuss with the camera, the crowd listens to an orator perform. These are only two of the many remarkable cyanotypes from the album; there are also some fantastic images of the bonfire tower, both before and after being set ablaze. To turn the pages of Hildreth's book, come to Dartmouth and ask to see Iconography 1574.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Larger than Life

Photo of Augustus Saint-Gaudens looking into the camera and smoking a cigar
Recently, we had the opportunity to collaborate with the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire. They borrowed several documents from our Augustus Saint-Gaudens papers to round out an exhibit on the American sculptor--the first major display of his work in New England in over thirty years. When our materials came back to us after several months away, it provided an opportunity to reflect upon the accomplishments of one of the most important American artists of his generation.

Initial sketch of Standing Lincoln monument, including dimensionsSaint-Gaudens is perhaps best known for his bronze bas-relief on Boston Common, the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial. However, we were reminded today of another influential work that Shaw completed in 1887 at the age of thirty-nine: Abraham Lincoln: The Man. Often referred to as Standing Lincoln, Shaw's massive 12-
foot statue stands on a pedestal in Lincoln Park in Chicago. Saint-Gaudens was specially selected to cast the giant monument, a fitting choice in part because the artist held the late president in high esteem and had been at his inauguration. The initial sketches that Saint-Gaudens made of the monument evince his attention to detail, all the way down to the pedestal decorations.

initial sketch of small detail for monument pedestal base
The influence of Standing Lincoln on both the public and other artists was significant. Numerous replicas were made and now stand in places as far-flung as London and Mexico City. Smaller replicas were cast by Saint-Gaudens' widow, Augusta, after his death and now reside in art museums all over the country. The local significance of this statue is also worth mentioning: Standing Lincoln was the first monument completed by Saint-Gaudens in Cornish, New Hampshire, where one of his friends had lured him with the promise that the area had "many Lincoln-shaped men." Saint-Gaudens would become so enamored of Cornish that he decided to establish his studio there. Saint-Gaudens' presence attracted like-minded artists that included important figures like the painter Maxfield Parrish and the American novelist Winston Churchill. The regular but informal gathering of these artists every summer eventually morphed into an extended social network that would come to be called the Cornish Colony. Today, the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is the only national park system site in the state of New Hampshire (other than our portion of the Appalachian Trail).

To explore the Augustus Saint-Gaudens papers, come to Rauner and ask for boxes from ML-4.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The World in Your Hand

Title page showing globeI pulled this book off the shelf just because it was so cute: a book less than 4 1/2 inches tall boasting "Atlas" from 1601 on the spine. I expected a few fold out maps, but I found the whole world compressed between the pages. It is based on a pocket atlas issued by Plantin in 1590--it might even use the same plates. Each page opening gives you a short textual description on the verso and an engraved map on the recto.

Map of AfricaMost of Europe gets detailed treatment, but all of the Americas (North and South) are relegated to one map--the same is true for Africa. What is the purpose of an atlas like this? It can't get you anywhere, and it doesn't have enough information or detail to give you a good sense of any of the places depicted. Maybe it was some kind of power thing--a statement of ownership or dominance. Or, just a quick reference guide for the geographically confused.

Two-page spread showing text and map of Zelandia
To judge for yourself, ask for McGregor 131.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

In the Still Watches of the Night

Color pencil sketch of bowlYou wake up in the middle of the night with an inspiration--an idea that may be gold, or may just seem good when you are semi-conscious. Usually we just forget them, but can pretend in the morning that they were genius.

In 1935, Maxfield Parrish sketched out, both textually and literally, one of these moments in a letter to his son Max, who was trying to earn a little extra money as a carver:
I awoke in the still watches of the night and thought a body might turn an honest penny at some arts and crafts show by buying one of those big maple wood bowls at a hardware store and carve the rim and color it, somewhat like the scheme of color of the pohengles. And he might put on some kind of savagely ornamented handles too. I simply mention it. No, it needn't look anything like the object portrayed below.
At the bottom of the page, Parrish sketched a beautiful bowl in color pencil. Parrish worked the carriage of his typewriter to frame it in the left margin--an artist at work.

This is just one example of some the of materials we had out for a class earlier this week that had been studying Van Gogh's lavishly illustrated letters. The highlight was Andrew Wyeth's blueberries.

To see the Parrish sketch, ask for ML-62, Box 6, Folder 8.