Friday, January 23, 2015

Cuba by Boat!

The recent news about the possibility of increased travel between the United States and Cuba has coincided with a recent and relevant acquisition here at Rauner. A small booklet, titled Expedición y Desembarco del "Granma," documents the participants of an expeditionary journey that ultimately led to the implementation of travel restrictions between the two countries. In 1955, a small band of exiled revolutionaries including Fidel Castro regrouped in Mexico following a failed attack on a Cuban army facility in July of 1953. They named themselves the "26th of July Movement" in recognition of that first attempt at revolution and committed to returning to Cuba to finish what they had started.

Under cover of darkness on November 25, 1956, eighty-two of these guerrillas boarded a small yacht called the Granma and set out across the Gulf of Mexico towards Cuba. The trip was an unexpectedly long and dangerous one, given that the 12-person yacht was severely overloaded and nearly sank several times. Ten days later, the soldiers landed on the Playa Las Coloradas in eastern Cuba. Although they were almost immediately set upon and dispersed by army forces loyal to Batista, the survivors of the voyage would eventually regroup in the mountains and become the core leadership of a guerrilla army that would eventually participate in the overthrow of the Batista regime several years later, in 1959.


Rauner's small memento of that trip is a simple but fascinating document that both humanizes the participants in the journey and underscores the control over historical information exercised by those participants once they came to power in Cuba. Each page contains photographs of two of the revolutionaries, framed by explicit and violent drawings of guerrillas and loyalist soldiers engaged in both urban and rural warfare. The martyrs for The Movement appear first, followed immediately by Fidel and Raul Castro and other notables such as Che Guevara. Although there is no publication date on the booklet, the inclusion of Camilo Cienfuegos as the final martyr suggests that it was not produced until at least ten months after the Revolution had concluded.


Although this fascinating relic of Cuban Revolutionary history has not yet been cataloged, you can come to Rauner and ask to see it whenever we're open for business. While you're here, take a look at a complementary history of the Cuban Revolution that we've blogged about before. Ask for Rauner Rare Book F1781.5 .P535 1960 to see the earlier acquisition.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Philadelphia Census

We recently acquired a book that seems pretty boring when you first look at it, but gets more and more interesting as you delve into it. It is the somewhat poorly printed Census Directory for 1811 (Philadelphia: Jane Aitkin, 1811) rebound in a basic cloth binding.  A 19th-century Philadelphia census? Not so rare, huh...

But, this census has features that make it stand out. Appended to the main census is "A Separate Division being Allotted to Persons of Colour." Wow, that is something--the first published census of African Americans in the United States. It lists their jobs and home address.  Skimming through the section you get a good sense of the typical jobs offered to blacks in Philadelphia: labourer, barber, waiter, mariner, sweep master; laundress, shoemaker, cook, but also fiddler, teacher, cabinet maker, cheese monger, and Rector of St. Thomas' African Episcopal Church.

Then, there is the printer: Jane Aitken. Jane's father, Robert, printed the first English bible in the newly formed United States. When he died in 1802, Jane inherited the indebted printing house and carried on the family business until she was forced to sell off its assets in 1812. Things did not get better for her. In 1814 she was sent to debtor's prison.

To see it ask for Rare F158.18.P53 1811.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Beginning of the End

On January 16, 27 BC, the Roman Senate named Gauis Octavius, nephew of Julius Caesar, both Augustus and Princeps. The granting of these titles helped to cement Octavius's power in both the religious and political arenas of Rome and marked the beginning of the Roman Empire. But we don't want to talk about that. Instead, we'll move forward to 1776 and the publication of Gibbon's first volume of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (London: Printed for W. Strahan and T. Cadell in the Strand, 1776).

Gibbon's classic work attempted to chronicle the whole of the history of western civilization from 98 to 1590 AD, or roughly from the beginning of Trajan's imperium to late in Queen Elizabeth's reign. He discussed the decline of the Roman Empire in both the east and west and attributed the eventual fall to a gradual erosion of the will of the populace and a general malaise and antipathy toward current events. He argued that this led to the outsourcing of critical positions, most notably in the military, and to increased corruption in those same areas, all of which allowed for the eventual seizure of power by the German Odoacer in 476 - the first king of Italy.

Gibbon was fanatical about his source material and always preferred to use primary sources when possible, even when these sources contradicted history as promulgated by the Catholic Church. One notable example of this was Gibbon's claim that the number of Christians who suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Romans was much less than advertised. He cites writings by Origen and Dionysius of Alexandria, both of whom indicated that "the number of martyrs was very inconsiderable." Gibbon's further assertion that much of the decline was due to the rise of Christianity made for widespread criticism at the time.

To read Gibbon for yourself, ask for Val 874.42 G35ab.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Stumbled upon Maps

Wandering through various 1850’s documents held at Rauner, I came upon a small gathering of maps and drawings by students of the Brimmer School. According to Arthur W. Bayley's School and Schoolboys of Old Boston, "the Brimmer School for boys was established in 1843, to accommodate the surplus from the Adams, Winthrop, and Franklin Schools." The school was named to honor Martin Brimmer, mayor of Boston, 1843-1844.

The drawings date from an interesting period, particularly for the maps: 1859, just predating significant changes in the regions they depict, particularly the United States just prior to the Civil War. The map of Virginia includes territory that would break away from confederate Virginia in 1861 as the state of West Virginia, joining the Union in 1863, and becoming a pivotal border state during the Civil War.

The map of California does not show Nevada and Arizona, but rather the Utah and New Mexico territories bordering the state to the east.  In 1861, the Confederate Territory of Arizona was created when southern New Mexico seceded from the Union. The state was recognized by Jefferson Davis in 1863, the first official use of the name Arizona. Formerly administered as part of the Utah territory, Nevada was separated from the territory in 1861, perhaps because of a population boom when silver was discovered in 1859, and, in 1864, became the second new state added to the Union during the war.

M. J. Byrne’s map of South America includes territories called New Granada and Buenos Ayres which by the middle of the 1860’s, would appear on maps as Columbia and the Argentine Republic. Also noted is Bolivia’s seacoast region with the port of Cobija, lost to Chile in the War of the Pacific, and making Bolivia a land-locked nation.

I assume these maps were drawn using existing published maps of the time.  However, this brings us to the map of Massachusetts.  One wonders what cartographer would decide to include totally-unrelated-to-Massachusetts vignettes of a volcano and the Ganges River.

To see the maps, ask for Rauner Ms 859900.5.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Memories of Blake '08, Part II

At a point in 1904 or 1905, Francis Gilman Blake pasted the “Dartmouth Students’ Hand-Book 1904–1905” into his Memorabilia from College Days scrapbook. The Handbook, an object within a larger object, provides a glimpse into both Francis Blake’s life, and life at Dartmouth College between 1904 and 1908. Blake’s Handbook, an object physically “presented” to him at the beginning of his freshman year provides evidence for advice available to him at the College and the choices he made given such advice.

As a physical object, the “Dartmouth Students’ Hand-Book” is a small, attractive, dark green leather book with gold imprinted lettering and gold page lining. The Handbook’s size, physical appearance and contents suggest frequent interaction with its owner. The Handbook begins with a map of the Dartmouth campus attached to the inside cover. The presence of a foldout map suggests Dartmouth’s unfamiliarity to the reader therefore implying that the Handbooks intended readers are those unacquainted with the college—freshmen. The authors further clarify the primarily first year student audience in the “Greeting” section by saying “The Young Men’s Christian Association of Dartmouth College extends a cordial welcome to all the students of the College and especially to those who come here for the first time. To the latter, in particular, we present this hand-book containing useful information concerning Dartmouth College.”

The Handbook holds a lot of recruitment information for the YMCA at Dartmouth, showing how prevalent Christianity was at the turn of the century at Dartmouth, and it is interesting to compare with today to notice how Dartmouth has changed. By juxtaposing an intention to recruit members to the YMCA by overwhelming the Handbook with information about the YMCA with advice targeted towards first year students, this Handbook presents an image of Dartmouth in the 1900’s tinged with religion which ultimately fades from Francis Blake’s Memorabilia book, illustrating that the YMCA did not hold clout over all of campus. Not only does the Handbook itself overwhelm the reader with information about the YMCA, the College also appears to have been overwhelmed with Handbooks. In the “Student Publications” the authors write: “The Student’s Hand-Book, published annually by the Dartmouth Young Men’s Christian Association, is distributed free to all new students at the beginning of the College year.” To continue the trend, the authors provide explicit recruitment tactics. A direct example of the YMCA pursuing new members from new students occurs in the section “To New Students.” After discussing how new students should commence “Registration and Matriculation,” this section continues by addressing the cost of board and “Text-Books.” A seemingly unrelated sentence follows: “Join the College Y. M. C. A. during your first days in College.” Following a formulaic instruction manual about how to behave at matriculation, this statement emphasizes the YMCA’s underlying intention to coerce possible new members into joining. However, instead of utilizing the Handbook and much of its information, Blake pasted the Handbook into his Memorabilia book and appears to have disengaged from the YMCA.

As the author of his own Memorabilia book, compared to the authors of the Handbook, Blake selected the advice he found useful and appears to have avoided much of the YMCA’s advice. Placing this Handbook as an artifact of his own memory changed the nature of advice from one facet of campus, the YMCA, into his own narrative within his Memorabilia book, thus establishing the Handbook as only a small part of his memory of Dartmouth. Although the views of Young Christians at Dartmouth maintained significance for a time for Francis Blake, by deserting the collective views of the YMCA found in the Handbook, Francis Blake effectively established himself as a unique Dartmouth student maintaining only a memory of the influence of the YMCA’s advice. Francis Blake’s Memorabilia From College Days provides insight into how Dartmouth functioned years ago, and looking individually at objects within the book tells us a lot about similarities and differences between students then and now.

Posted for Margot Littlefield '16

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Memories of Blake '08, Part I

Tucked into the pages of his cumbersome and crumbling “mem book,” which now resides in the Rauner Special Collections Library, lies Francis Gilman Blake’s hand-drawn map of an expedition through the New Hampshire wilderness, annotated with the details of each day’s travel and a branch plucked from the slopes of Mt. Washington. While the practice of scrap-booking at Dartmouth has since been replaced by other hobbies and interests, the Rauner Library has preserved some of the books created by students from the early twentieth century.

Although simplistic in their detail, Blake’s illustrations of the mountains prove stunningly accurate in their physical relationship to each other. The mountains are carefully spaced and aligned, yet they are not drawn from a bird’s-eye view like a traditional map, but from a perspective on the horizon, evoking a deeply personal recollection of the landscape. In terms of geographic orientation however, Blake only offers his audience a single winding line through a series of mountains and towns. But to someone familiar with the mountains, trails, and roads of the region, Blake’s map tells an incredibly vivid and personal story of adventure. The map therefore serves not as a geographical tool, but as an experiential guide. In terms of absolute place and geography it is meaningless, but as a relative measure of place within a shared context, it tells a story more detailed and intimate than any cartographer could draft.

While miles and locations ordinarily serve as measures of distance and place, juxtaposed in this context they convey a measurement of relative time. Blake’s itinerary provides a list of the mountains and mileage that tells not only of where he went, but also of the fast pace and strenuous nature of the hike, allowing those familiar with these steep slopes an intimate perspective on the passing of the journey. Over one hundred years later, these chronological clues prove much more valuable than the dates that accompany them. Notions of absolute time have become lost over the decades, but Blake has preserved these episodes by grounding them in a relative context that survives today.

Blake’s book ends at over one hundred pages, weighs as much as a large dictionary, and holds various large objects between its pages including entire flowers, small books, and notably a 108 year-old pretzel. These characteristics suggest that Blake never intended this book to travel, or even to be opened on a regular basis. Without a title page, cohesive structure, or labels for many of the photographs, Blake’s intended audience likely comprises a small group of those quite familiar to him and his experiences.  This conclusion, drawn from the physical nature of the book, is supported by his uses of time and place within a shared context. Perhaps the chief member of Blake’s audience is his future self, the individual best equipped to unravel the relative contexts of his maps. Blake’s audience is limited only by a reader’s willingness and ability to engage these objects outside of their absolute geographical and chronological contexts, the depth of the connection determined by the extent of the shared experience.

Posted for Edward Harvey '15

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

And an Even More Colorful New Year!

These covers are just too good. We couldn't resist a follow up to the Christmas posting. Pears' Soap issued it's own holiday annual to compete with the London Illustrated News called Pears' Annual.  The front cover was always a stunning holiday image and the back cover a suitably themed advertisement for Pears' Soap. In this case, the cover shows an infant 1894 ringing in the New Year and bidding the old 1893 farewell. A dead boar and fowl evoke the feasting of the season and the holly references Christmas.

The back cover shows the wonders of Pears' Soap with an image of an old man (could it be the same old man representing 1893 on the front?) invigorated and and pleased by his cleanly shaven chin. "Shaving a Luxury!" exclaims the headline.

Ask for Sine Serials AP4.349 and have a great 2015!