Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Scorn Not the Sonnet

An image of a two-page spread of Wordsworth's 1838 first edition of "The Sonnets of William Wordsworth." On the left-hand side, a handwritten note by Wordsworth that reads, "The Lady Frederic Benti[nck?] from her friend William Wordsworth. On the right-hand page, "The Sonnets of William Wordsworth / Collected in one volume / with / a few additional ones, now first published / London: / Edward Moxon, Dover Street. / MDCCCXXXVIII"
 Every now and then, we stumble upon a oft-overlooked gem upon our shelves and marvel that, until that moment, we had not previously discovered it. One of our recent thrilling finds is the 1838 publication of The Sonnets of William Wordsworth. In this humble little first edition, the poet has inscribed a dedication to his friend, the Lady Frederic Benti[nck?], on the flyleaf. At the risk of sounding overly spoiled, a presentation copy of Wordsworth's poetry wasn't the real reason why this particular volume excited us.

A two-page spread of the inside back cover of the book of poetry. On the right-hand side, a list of various works published by Edward Moxon, Dover Street. On the right-hand side, Wordsworth's handwritten sonnets with notes as outlined in the actual blog post.In addition to his personal note to his friend, inside the back cover Wordsworth has written out two sonnets from his Memorials of a Tour in Italy 1837: "Under the Shadow of a Stately Pile" and "I Saw Afar Off the Dark Top of a Pine." After the first one, he has written "October 14, 1839" (presumably the date of the inscription). After the second sonnet, he includes the clarification that the pine in question stands upon Mount Mario, the highest hill in Rome. This is exciting stuff, but the little book has yet more secrets to reveal. On pages 34, 301, and 405, Wordsworth has made corrections by hand to three of his printed sonnets. One can almost imagine the revered poet turning slowly through the pages as he deliberately and carefully annotated this volume for a close friend.
A two-page spread of pp. 34-35 of the book of sonnets. Wordsworth's Sonnet XXX, "It Is A Beauteous Evening Calm And Free," is on the left-hand page. He has corrected the first line to read as the title, replacing the words "Air sleeps, from strife or stir the clouds are free;". The ninth and tenth lines are altered to read "Dear Child! Dear Girl! That walkest with me here, / If thou appear untouched solemn thought,". On the right-hand page is the sonnet "Composed at ____ Castle," that begins with the line, "Degenerate Douglas! oh, the unworthy Lord!"
To see this exciting book for yourself, which was a gift of John W. Little, class of 1940, come to Rauner and ask to hold Rare PR5866 .A1 1838.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Polarizing Debate

Image of dartmouth students protesting George Wallace's speech outside of Webster Hall. A student in the foreground holds a sign that reads "Free Men All."In 1967, here in Webster Hall, a group of Dartmouth students stood up during a speech by Alabama's segregationist governor, George Wallace, and vocally protested. They disrupted the speech and turned the campus on its head. A raging debate ensued over the nature of civil discourse and protest on a college campus. Emotions ran high, and the campus was polarized. It sounds kind of familiar....

Image of cover of the May 1967 Conservative Idea. The cover image shows five African American students standing up in the crowd.Last week we found two student-run magazines that give us a look into the debate. The Conservative Idea, which had been around for about a year, devoted it's May 1967 issue to the controversy. The cover dismissed the validity of the protests by quoting Napoleon: "Vanity made the revolution; liberty was only a pretext."
Cover of Balckout magazine showing memebrs of the Afro-American Society holding up signed that spell out BLACK POWER NOW. They are on the steps of a campus building.

The newly created Blackout, published by the Dartmouth Afro-American Society, countered with their Fall term, 1967 issue. The cover sports the members of the Afro-American Society holding signs spelling out "BLACK POWER NOW." Presumably, these are some of the same students who shouted down Wallace and are pictured on the Conservative Idea cover. The issue is devoted to discussions of civil rights and protest--it leads not with a quote by Napoleon, but by Thoreau: "A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight."

To see how the debate played out in these two partisan magazines ask for DC History LH1 .B55 for Blackout, and DC History LH1 .D3C6 for the Conservative Idea. They are practically right next to each other on the shelf. Have they found peace by being so close together for the past 50 years?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Book out of Time

The most striking feature of Daniel Kelm's Neo Emblemata Nova is, without doubt, its structure. The book comes enclosed in a cloth covered, red and black, cube-shaped box that gives little indication to the contents, save a cryptic, ancient-looking Latin inscription on the lid. Opening the box reveals a tightly packed set of tile like cards which, when removed, reveal themselves to be linked at the edges such that the form a stiff, unwieldy Mobius strip. The tiles are printed with black and white images, some of them accompanied by Latin text, which were taken from a 16th century “emblem book” – a popular book form containing cryptic imagery meant to convey religious, political, or moral messages that had to be decoded by the reader. Neo Emblemata Nova, like its 16th and 17th century precursors, resists decryption.

Shows the book being opened to form a Mobius Strip.

Going beyond the content – which is as intriguing yet esoteric, if not more so, than it would have been hundreds of years ago – the book itself is physically difficult to read. The stiffly hinged ring of panels is difficult to lay flat, or page, or arrange in any other recognizable position. Even once it is spread out, there is no indication as to the beginning, end, front, or back – and mathematically speaking, the work has none of these familiar qualities, as the Mobius Strip is a surface with one, continuous side that feeds back into itself infinitely. The juxtaposition of ancient content and avant-garde binding makes it difficult even to place the work within the continuum of history. The work feels infinite, both in time and space. The messages conveyed by the imagery, though they can arguably be pinned to specific religious or moral imperatives, are largely left to the reader’s interpretation. It is a work that challenges the reader, physically and mentally, from the moment they open the box to the moment when (likely after much frustration) they manage to fold it back into its original configuration. I would argue that Neo Emblemata Nova is a commentary on the book’s ability to teach us more than the physical contents would suggest – that by reading, handling, and analyzing it we can generate ideas beyond those of the author. It is a book beholden to no time or place, without beginning or end, that must be unpacked (both physically and mentally) by the reader.

Come play with it by asking for Presses W538kene.

Posted for Tucker Lancaster '18

Friday, January 6, 2017

Deliberate Designs

A scrapbook page with two roughly cut pieces of paper. The bottom piece is a calendar for the month of January 1908 and the top piece is a quotation that reads "All the great human forces become the servants of the man who carries in himself the powers of righteousness with God." All of the letters are fancily calligraphic, with the first initial of the quotation enlarged and stylized like a medieval manuscript initial with blue and red ink. The word "January" above the calendar is in red. All other text is in black.
As a new year begins, we celebrate by displaying a January calendar page, among other creations, that was designed by the man who coined the term 'graphic designer' in 1922. William A. Dwiggins was an illustrator, calligrapher, and type and book designer who produced most of his influential works during the first half of the 20th century.

A woodcut image of three musicians standing back to back in a rough circle. The background  is a chalky orange color while the foremost musician, playing a long flute or horn, is dressed in a red shirt, green hat, and bright orange pants. To his right is a bagpipe player wearing a green tunic. To his left, a violin player with a yellow broad-brimmed hat.Dwiggins had a monumental impact on book design improvements during the 1920s and 1930s and created numerous fonts such as Caledonia which are still in use today. Dwiggins's criticism of the low standard of book design in the 1910s led to a collaboration with the Alfred A. Knopf publishing house in later decades. Like Knopf, Dwiggins was committed to high-quality book design and publication and brought his aesthetic to both his commercial advertising commissions as well as his own personal projects.

We have a small collection of Dwiggins-related materials here at Rauner thanks to the papers of Dartmouth professor Ray Nash, a graphic-arts historian who ran the Graphic Arts Workshop at Dartmouth from 1937 until 1970. Along with many other fascinating example of printing, Nash left us four scrapbooks containing work related to Dwiggins. To see them, come to Rauner and ask for the Ray Nash papers (MS-1076), boxes 52 and 53.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Deepest Ties that Can Bind

During the early 20th century it was common for Dartmouth students to create scrap books, commonly called “Membooks” books. The student would then, over the course of his college career, use the book to collect various artifacts and memories. These include ticket stubs, report cards, and photos. Presumably, most of these students thought of the books as a fun way to save memories of Dartmouth.

However, when I was looking through Charles Shaw Batchelder’s book I found something much different. The book contains some of the usual staples of Membooks, including ticket stubs, and invitations. However, on the front page, there is an unusual inscription that is unique to Batchelder’s book. The note reads, “If this book should chance to roam will the one who finds it think of the deepest ties that can bind men and earthly things together; and thinking this please return it to me.” While certainly an interesting opening to the book, it seems out of place. The rest of the Membook is filled with sarcastic inscriptions and memorabilia from dance parties and sports games. It is certainly odd that anybody would be so concerned about losing a book filled with jokes and tickets to college performances.

However, after reading through the entirety of the Membook, I have a much better sense of the original note. This was a place where a college student could explore without the prying eyes of administrators or parents. The book allowed Batchelder to reveal an inner, private part of his personality. He could give obnoxious nicknames to college presidents, or mock his fraternity brothers. Batchelder wrote the first note because he was afraid of losing the book, and exposing his true inner self, that the book had allowed him to create. A close reading of the inscription further reinforces this idea. Batchelder focused on “the deepest ties that can bind men and earthly things together,” not on ties that bind men together. Meaning that Batchelder’s private relationship with this book was more important than his relationships with other people. Presumably, this is because the book witnessed and created his private self, while other people only saw the fa├žade that he presents.

Currently, college students no longer have scrap books. Instead we post photos on Facebook for the world to see. I think that in a way we lose something that the membooks gave to Batchelder’s generation. We lose the ability to create separate identities away from others. Instead Facebook feeds are littered with pictures and posts that people have filtered out, concerned about the world’s perception.

Posted for Alexander Leibowitz ‘19

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Make it the Best Year Ever!

The Progressive Farmer in January 1942 urged farmers to make 1942 "The Best Year Ever." Considering what had happened only a few weeks earlier on December 7th, 1941, it seems to be an oddly placed show of enthusiasm. 1942 promised to be pretty bad for pretty much everyone, but The Progressive Farmer was ready to rally the farmers to the war effort.

The cover art, "The New Day and the New Year," is a reproduction of J. J. Lankes's painting "New Dawn." It depicts Robert Frost's farm in South Shaftsbury, another odd choice for the magazine. Frost may have been the most successful American poet of his generation, but he was never a very adept farmer. Lankes frequently worked with Robert Frost. He illustrated several of Frost's books and helped Frost create many of his famous Christmas cards.

"Vermont Dawn," silkscreen by J. J. Lankes
Whatever you thought of the past year, maybe it is best to take the advice of The Progressive Farmer and plan to make the next one the best year ever.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Rollo the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Handwritten list of possible names for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Rudolph an Reginald are circled, and Rollo has an arrow pointing to itOne of our favorite Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer related items in the collection is the list of possible names for Rudolph that Robert May '26 made while he was writing the story. It is a bit tough to imagine Reginald the Red-Nosed Reindeer (which was a finalist) now that Rudolph is so ingrained in our psyche. A lot of us have always been partial to the other near-miss, Rollo. That has a nice ring: Rollo the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Title page to Rodolphus depicting a vignette of a boy climing on a fence in a rustic sceneSo, it was a bit of a shock when searching our collections for materials related to Franconia Notch we turned up Jacob Abbot's Rodolphus: A Franconia Story, "by the Author of the Rollo Books." The Rollo series was still very popular at the turn of the century, and it is hard to believe that young Robert May didn't encounter any of them as a child. Did he also read Rodolphus? Did the two names stick in his head just enough to make it onto his list and both reach the final choices? It is a stretch, but there is a chance. More likely it is just an odd coincidence. Still, it is fun to think that this book may have inspired, at least in name, May's legendary Rudolph.

To see May's list of names, ask for MS 630, Box 1. For Rodolphus, ask for Rare PS1000.A8 R54 1880. And here's another post about Rudolph!