Friday, September 18, 2009

Inauguration Day

In honor of Dr. Jim Kim's inauguration as the 17th president of Dartmouth College, we present three treasures from the College Archives central to the ceremonial life of the College.

THE DARTMOUTH CUP

The Dartmouth Cup was made in 1848 by Robert Garrard, proprietor of a London firm with a long history of creating fine silver for British monarchs. It was originally acquired by the fourth Earl of Dartmouth, becoming part of the family silver, until presented to Dartmouth College by the ninth Earl in 1969, at the College's bicentennial celebration.

Since 1983, the Dartmouth Cup has been carried by the College Usher, immediately following the head marshal who leads the academic procession. In this way, the College honors the connection between Dartmouth and the earldom, dating back to the 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, whose benefaction was acknowledged by the Rev. Eleazar Wheelock through the naming of his new college.

THE WENTWORTH BOWL

In August of 1771, Dartmouth College held its first Commencement exercises, graduating four students. New Hampshire's Royal Governor, John Wentworth, and his entourage of sixty, traveled to Hanover from Portsmouth to attend, much of the journey on rough roads and trails through wilderness.. To mark the significance of the occasion, Governor Wentworth presented a silver monteith to the Rev. Eleazar Wheelock and "to his Successors in that Office."

One of only three known Colonial American monteiths in silver, the Wentworth Bowl, created by Daniel Henchmen and engraved by Nathaniel Hurd, is the historic symbol of the Dartmouth presidency, and will be passed from President James Wright to President Jim Yong Kim at the inauguration ceremonies.

THE FLUDE MEDAL

During a trip to Europe in 1785 to solicit funds and acquire apparatus for the College, President John Wheelock received this gold and silver medallion from London broker and silversmith, John Flude. It carries the motto "Unanimity is the Strength of Society" on a relief depicting the Aesop fable of the old man and his three sons attempting to break a bundle of sticks, which could not be broken if held together, but could be broken alone.

When in academic attire, the President of the College wears the Flude Medal as a symbol of office.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

First Comic Book in America

We have just acquired what is believed to be the first comic book printed in the United States: The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck (1842). Originally published in French in 1837 as Les Amours de M. Vieux Bois, this work is considered by historians to be the first graphic novel.

In its original form, Swiss illustrator and author Rudolph Töppfer depicted the fictional Monsieur Vieux Bois in pursuit of an elusive "ladye love" through a series of sequential drawings with accompanying captions. Over 40 pages and 188 etchings, the hero's amorous adventures take him across land and sea through one mishap after another. He fails even in several comic attempts at ending his own life.  But by story's end, the hero has vanquished his rivals and overcome all obstacles. He appears in the final frame at the church altar with his betrothed beside him, "a happy denouement." The captions pre-date the word-balloons used in later comic book format but it is the images that guide the reader through M. Vieux Bois's travails not the text.

The publication history of the text is less straightforward. Töppfer created and printed the story originally in 1827 for friends in a small press run. Later in the 1830s, a Parisian publisher Aubert printed at least two versions using two sets of engravings inspired by Töppfer's originals. In 1841, a British version -- with English language text -- appeared.  New engravings appear in this edition, and the American version -- the one that Dartmouth holds -- reproduces those British printing blocks. The Anglo-American edition credited the work to a pseudonymous Timothy Crayon, the "gypsographer," that is, the creator of the images using a specially prepared gysum paper.

Adventures marks Oldbuck's only appearance in print. Unlike most serial comics today, there were no sequels.  He does re-appear in other domains. In one instance, Union Army colonel and Civil War chronicler Thomas Wentworth Higginson invokes Oldbuck in his war diaries.

Dartmouth's holdings also include the first comic book written by an American. The Special Collections Library also holds a copy of The Fortunes of Ferdinand, the first graphical novel written in the United States.

For more on the print history of the book, see: www.bugpowder.com/andy/e.toepffer-pirate-obadiah.html

Posted by Jay Satterfield for Mark Melchior