Friday, December 30, 2011

...And a Polar New Year

George W. Rice sounded hopeful in his diary on January 1st, 1882. As photographer to the 1881-1884 Lady Franklin Bay Expedition lead by Adolphus Greely, he had just finished "an excellent New Year's dinner" of turkey. It had been a relaxing day. He noted that many of the party took "a siesta... as they were somewhat exhausted from marching the Old Year out and the New One in."  The 31st had been "a cool and pleasant day--the evening was given over to Bacchus and Terpsichore."  "Cool" is relative: he recorded the temperature at 34.1 to 46.2 degrees below zero.

Greely's Lady Franklin Bay Expedition is one of the most harrowing on record. Only seven members of the party survived after a series of disasters left them stranded in the arctic. Rice's daily diary continues until August 2nd, 1883. Later that week, Greely ordered the men to abandon all unnecessary items (including this diary) in an attempt to reach Littleton Island where rescue was more likely. Rice survived until April 1884, two months before a rescue party reached the seven survivors.

To see the diary and learn more about Rice, ask for Stef MS 186.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Arctic Christmas...

On Christmas Day, 1903, Anthony Fiala lifted a holiday toast to his crew at Camp Abruzzi on Crown Prince Rudolf Island. The expedition, funded by William Ziegler, had departed in June from Norway on an expedition to discover the North Pole. The crew was in good spirits this first Christmas in the Arctic, and they dined well on Creamed Alaska Salmon, Yankee Chicken Croquettes, and Danish Grouse. The meal ended with ice cream, served at "30 below."

Anton Vedoe record the evening's festivities in his diary:
The banquet itself was a great success and seldom has in the Arctic been seen a happier assemblage than at our prettily decorated table full of the most delicious eatables and all kinds of wine. Several essays by different members on different subjects relating to arctic research amongst Mr. Tafel and Mr. Porter attracted much amusement and interest. Poems and songs were delivered by Mr. Shorkley and Rilliet and some verses composed and sung by John caused much laugh. Toasts for Mr. Ziegler, Champ, Mr. Fiala, the Geographical Society etc were drank. Our commander gave a speech thanking us for the help and for the work we so far accomplished and although we lost the ship here and now had to deal with many difficulties, he still had hopes for the outcome and success of the expedition. It was 2 o'clock when we finally departed, everyone in the best of humor and I can safely say that a more successful Christmas banquet never was seen in the Arctic. The temperature was -20.
The dinner came at a time of uncertainty for the ill-fated expedition. Their ship, the America, had broken up in a storm the previous month and taken with it their coal and many of their provisions. A successful push to the pole was unlikely, though several attempts were made. To keep busy while they awaited rescue, they conducted extensive survey work. It was not until June of 1905 that the Terra Nova arrived to bring them out of the Arctic.

To learn more about the expedition ask for Anton Vedoe's papers, Stef MS 233.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Team Spirit

Even though the season has ended for the Dartmouth football team, it's not too late to indulge in some nostalgia over past victories.  Leaf through programs from the earliest days of sport in the 19th century through the present.  Not only can you catch up on your stats, but you can also watch the evolution of advertising and cover art design.

In addition to the programs, Rauner also has photographs, memorabilia, and the records of the Athletic Department.  Ask for D.C. History GV 957 .D3 D37 to see the programs and DA-169 for the records of the department.  There are also many football related photo files containing additional images.

1957, vs. Harvard

1911, vs. Harvard

1931, vs. Holy Cross
Come on in and show your team spirit.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Well-Tempered Synclavier

In the late 1970s, the New England Digital Corporation based in Norwich, VT, released the Synclavier. Primarily an FM synthesis based sound module, the original Synclavier did not come with a keyboard and was only programmable via a computer supplied with the system. The system evolved and in 1979 the Synclavier II (shown here with Jon Appleton) was released, complete with a keyboard and four simultaneous voices or synthesis channels. Later models introduced the first commercially available systems for sampling to disk and direct to disk recording and helped solidify the role of the now ubiquitous "tapeless" studio.

Early manual for the Synclavier.
Jon Appleton was a professor of Music at Dartmouth at the time and was influential in the development of the Synclavier, starting with the prototype called the Dartmouth Digital Synthesizer. Working together with Sydney Alonso and Cameron Jones ‘74, Appleton helped pioneer modern synthesis and electro-acoustic music. Included in his papers are business records and correspondence related to the Synclavier and N.E.D., as well as scores, recordings and information related to the Bregman Studio at Dartmouth which Appleton helped found.

To see Appleton's papers, ask for MS-727. A finding aid is available.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

English 79: Writing for the Motion Pictures

In 1936 prominent and successful movie producer Walter Wanger '15 suggested to Dartmouth President Ernest Hopkins that Dartmouth could become a leader in the film industry by producing a new generation of writers. Hollywood's biggest problem was a dearth of quality screenplays, and Wanger theorized that an institution like Dartmouth was poised to improve the industry by teaching screen writing skills to English majors.

The English Department was game to take on the initiative, but only if they would be able to secure a large collection of screenplays for the students to critique. Wanger used his influence in Hollywood to convince each of the major studios to deposit copies of their scripts at Dartmouth. The scripts came right out of the Producers' Association notorious "Hays Office," the official censors for the film industry.

The English Department began offering a separate screen writing class in 1938. We do not have a record of how many people who took the class went on to pursue a career in the movies, but Dartmouth has maintained a long and close connection with the entertainment industry.

You can see a handful of the scripts from the collection in our current exhibition, "Literary Gentlemen and a Girl Like I," a look at screenwriter Anita Loos's 1925 best-selling novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The exhibit also features the Motion Picture Code as issued by the Hays Office. The exhibit will be up through February 2012 in the Class of 1965 Galleries here in Rauner.

A list of the plays can be obtained from the catalog by performing this curious keyword search: "branch:branchwscr".

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Southernmost Peoples

Charles Wellington Furlong was the first American to explore the interior of Tierra del Fuego. In 1907-08, during his first expedition in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, Furlong lived among the Onas and Yahgans, the southernmost peoples of the world. Though these tribes have long since disintegrated due to external stresses and their cultural identity is now almost completely vanished, the observations made by Furlong concerning their way of life makes for a unique record. Material here about the Fuegian tribes includes audio recordings of speech and song, dermatoglyphs (hand prints and foot prints), notes, published works, correspondence, and hundreds of photographs, including negatives and lantern slides, which describe in detail the natives and their societies. Shown here are Onas who accompanied and guided Furlong. The caption to the image reads: "Group of Two Ona Families and Dog, North of Eastern End of Lake Cami, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina 1908."

The description on the reverse continues:
These people were part of Furlong's expedition. Two Ona men were cousins. Man on left was Chalshoat and in the center Puppup. Two women on right, and older and younger one, are the two wives of Puppup. Those on the left are Chalshoat's wives. These two families usually traveled in company, except when guanaco were extremely scarce. The fine guanaco hound in front of Puppup was an inevitable companion. The daisy-like flowers may be noted in the grass which covers a boggy terrain.
In addition to the material related to the Fuegian peoples, the collection also contains correspondence, notes, and publications related to the controversy over whether Frederick A. Cook or Robert E. Peary reached the North Pole. As Furlong believed that Cook tried to take credit for the work done by Thomas Bridges in compiling his Yahgan-English dictionary, he was always a strong supporter of Peary's claim.

Ask for Stef Mss 197 to see the collection. A finding aid is available.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Seventy years ago, the weeks following December 7, 1941, were filled with a good deal of uncertainty and anxiety for the entire nation and the world, including members of the Dartmouth community.  On campus, discussion and debate continued between the interventionists and the pacifists and all of those in between. For Takanobu "Nobu" Mitsui, a member of the class of 1943, and the elder son of a prominent Japanese industrialist and Dartmouth alumnus, life was exceedingly more disquieting. Mr. Mitsui wanted to stay and complete his education at Dartmouth, following in his father’s footsteps and to be followed by his younger brother Mori '58.

History reveals that, thanks to the sponsorship and oversight of his family, several alumni, members of the administration and classmates, he was able to remain in Hanover, all the while under the watchful eye of President Hopkins and the State Department.

The archives contain multiple sources that give us glimpses of Mr. Mitsui's experiences here in the days following Pearl Harbor, as well as the care and concern shown by some members of the Dartmouth community. However, despite the safe harbor provided to him, Dartmouth was not immune to negative outside influences. Racist anti-Japanese sentiments filtered into Hanover and the campus, via the news media, propaganda and blackballing in fraternities.


To read Mr. Mitsui's memoir, ask for Alumni M697a; to read the translations of Mr. Mitsui's memoir completed by Edward Rasmussen '42, ask for MS-1069; to see Rauner's collection of World War II ephemera, ask for MS-1198. Mr. Mitsui's alumni file is also available.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness...

While processing the poet Richard Eberhart's papers we came across this mimeo of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." It turns out to be the true first printing of "Howl" preceding Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights edition and produced in a run of only 25.  It was typed by poet Robert Creeley and run off by Kenneth Rexroth's wife (and Creeley's lover), Marthe.

This particular copy is, arguably, the most important printed copy of "Howl" ever produced. Why? It was sent to Eberhart on May 18, 1956, while Eberhart was teaching at Princeton and preparing an article for the New York Times to be called "West Coast Rhythms." The article was on the emerging poetry scene of the west coast and San Francisco in particular. Eberhart had recently visited San Francisco to complete research for his article. While there, he heard Ginsberg read "Howl" and discussed his impressions of it with the poet himself. He told Ginsberg he thought it was an angry poem – destructive and not offering any solutions.

A few weeks later, knowing Eberhart was preparing his New York Times article, Ginsberg sent him a 34-page handwritten letter explaining "Howl" which filled a notebook (sadly, Dartmouth holds the envelope in which the letter and mimeo were sent as well as supporting letters by Ginsberg, but the 34-page notebook itself is held by another institution. See Rauner Presses P364to for the published letter). In the letter, Ginsberg laid out his case for "Howl" and countered Eberhart's impression of the poem.

Accompanying the letter and buttressing Ginsberg's arguments was this mimeographed copy of "Howl" containing several small corrections in Ginsberg's hand. The copy provided Eberhart with the ability to read "Howl" while he was preparing his seminal article. The mimeo itself had been run off for students in a class he was guest teaching at San Francisco State. He also sent several copies to influential gatekeepers in the poetry establishment, as well as friends and fellow poets.

Ginsberg was successful in his lobbying efforts and on September 2, 1956, Eberhart wrote a favorable article on the San Francisco scene highlighting Ginsberg and "Howl" in the article.

In a December 20, 1956 follow-up letter sent to Eberhart, Ginsberg credits this article with "breaking the ice" in regard to getting what would become known as the "Beats" published. Eberhart's article, along with a federal censorship charge and trial against the City Lights edition of "Howl," would catapult Ginsberg and his fellow poets into the public consciousness. Riding this wave of publicity Viking Press, who had been dragging its feet with publishing Kerouac's On the Road, moved ahead with publication. The rest, as they say, is history.

Rauner also holds a remarkable first printing (with a run of 1000) of the City Light's edition of Howl in which Ginsberg heavily and creatively inscribes the title page to Eberhart. Ginsberg also fills in the expurgated words that were left out of the first edition to placate potential censors.

To see the mimeographed version of "Howl" or to see other items from the Papers of Richard Eberhart ask for MS-1082. To see the first City Lights edition of Howl ask for Eberhart PS3513.I74 H6.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Aires of History

The Dartmouth Aires were
originally an octet
formed as an offshoot
of the Glee Club.
Last night the Dartmouth Aires made it to the finale of "The Sing-Off" on NBC, finishing in second place. As great as it was to see them on national television over these past weeks, we've equally enjoyed seeing them perform on campus and even right here in Rauner (they loved Webster Hall's acoustics!). We're proud of the Aires and are pleased to hold their records -- in both senses of the word.

You can listen to their recordings and view their organizational records, which include musical scores, photos, correspondence, posters, songbooks, recordings of performances, and other miscellanea (ask for DO-75). We also have a vertical file and photo files, which give a sense of the evolution of the group. Initially an octet formed from the Dartmouth Glee Club in the 1940s, the Aires went on to perform around the world, record numerous albums, and delight fans everywhere. Congratulations, Aires -- our pride in you is, well, undying.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"In the May Flower"

Pictured here is a Geneva Bible once owned by one of the founders of Plymouth Colony. It resides in a custom box that proudly proclaims the bible was "brought to New England in the May Flower by John Alden 1620."  While it is probably true that it belonged to Alden (the family's genealogy is inserted in the bible), the book in question never could have made the trip on the Mayflower with him.

The Geneva Bible was the most important Protestant English translation of its era and was used by the early settlers of Plymouth. The popularity of the translation led to many reprints in protestant countries. This copy claims on the title page of the New Testament, that it was published in London in 1599. But the colophon at the end clearly indicates that the bible was printed in Amsterdam in 1633, 13 years after the Mayflower sailed.

You can see it by asking for Rare BS170 1633.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pictures of Hell

Very few people today would read Dante's Divine Comedy as literal truth, but Renaissance commentaries, especially those that emerged from Florence and Venice, often treated the poem as a divinely inspired work. A close reading of Dante could reveal the structure of the heavens and hell. The following images come from Alessandro Vellvtello's "Descriptione de lo Inferno" in Dante con l'espositioni di Christoforo Landino, et d'Alessandro Vellvtello (Venice: Appresso Giouamnattista, Marchio Sessa, et fratelli, 1578).





You can see the book by asking for Rare PQ4302.B78.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Romaunt of the Rose

This Thursday, November 17th, Stephen Nichols of the Johns Hopkins University will give a lecture, "Dartmouth's Rose Undying," on our 14th-century manuscript of the Roman de la Rose. We are pretty infatuated with this manuscript, and have blogged about it in the past. The lecture is free and open to the public and a reception will follow where you can see the manuscript in the flesh.

In addition to our manuscript copy, we have many editions of Chaucer's translation, The Romaunt of the Rose. We have several 16th-century editions, and this one from 1687 with an interesting commentary:
In this Book the Authour hath many glaunces at the Hypocrisie of the Clergy; whereby he got himself such hatred amongst them that Gerson, Chancellour of Paris, writeth thus of him: saith he, There was one called Johannes Meldinensis, who wrote a Book called, The Romaunt of the Rose; which Book if I only had, and that there were no more in the World, if I might have five hundred pound for the same, I would rather burn it than take the Money. He sayeth more, That if he thought the Authour thereof did not repent him for that Book before he dyed, he would vouchsafe to pray for him no more than he would for Judas that betrayed Christ.
To take a look, ask for Val 823 C39 I16.  The Manuscript is Codex MS 003206

Friday, November 11, 2011

For Gallant and Meritorious Service

On September 29, 1864, Samuel Augustus Duncan, Dartmouth '58, then a Lieutenant Colonel in command of the Color Troops of the 4th Brigade of the 3rd Division of the XVIII Corps, led his men on a heroic and tragic charge up New Market Heights.

New Market Heights is a hill about 8 miles south east of Richmond, Virginia. On that morning in 1864 the top of the hill was fortified and held by General John Gregg of the Confederate Army. Gregg’s 2,000 men were part of a set of strategic fortifications put in place by General Robert E. Lee to keep the Union Army from reaching Richmond. These fortifications had been frustrating attempts by General Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Potomac to push the confederates southward.

Colonel Duncan’s brigade in conjunction with the 6th Brigade, both under the command of General Paine, was to spearhead the attack. The African American soldiers were chosen for this task because General Butler, an advocate for the use of Colored Troops, wanted to prove to the world that they would and could fight.

The confederate forces were well aware of the, supposed, surprise attack on their stronghold. They waited until Duncan and his men, who had made their way to the hill over swampy ground in the dark, were well entangled in the abates (sharpened sticks driven into the ground as a defense) before opening fire. The officers and color bearers were quickly eliminated as they made easy targets. Duncan himself was wounded four times. His men suffered 452 casualties including 63 killed. After two days of fighting the Union troops finally drove the Confederate forces from the hill.

In a letter home to his mother from the hospital on October 6, 1864, Duncan describes his wounds and recovery. But he also speaks proudly of his men, "You will see that they all [the New York papers]—the Herald even—praise the Colored Troops of Genl. Paine’s command for what they did on the 29th."

Duncan was honored for "gallant and meritorious service." He went on to become a patent lawyer after the war. Samuel A. Duncan died in 1895 at the age of 69.

Ask for the Samuel Duncan papers, MS-541.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

W. W. Dewey and the "Old Dartmouth Cemetery"

In 1797, William Worthington Dewey, a local farmer, decided to begin an "accurate record" of all the "Deaths in the Vicinity of Dartmouth College." At the time the only records available were those kept by the churches, which seldom indicated the causes of death. Dewey was determined to change that. His record would not only reflect that information but would also benefit from his own observations and knowledge about the deceased.

His comments ran the gamut from the mundane to the unintentionally humorous. While there are descriptions pertaining to the status of the deceased, such as "consort of" or "a transient person," more often they are lengthy descriptions of the circumstances of the person's death. John Russell, for example, who died in 1795, was "gorged to death by an enraged bullock with which he was contending," while Frederick Weizer, a "native of Germany," was "one day dining very heartily [when] he swallowed a very large piece of meat which caught in his throat and caused almost instant death." Mr. Samuel Bingham, who died in 1804"
had been indisposed for three years and all the while was rather an enormous eater… He likewise grew very corpulent and unwieldy… He finally died suddenly… He then weighed over 300 pounds. To examine him internally after death it was necessary to cut over four inches through a clear fat substance. It took 6 men at each relief to support the bier while conveying him to the grave.
In the summer of 1807, Dewey's record was "purloined" and he abandoned the project for the next few years. "On the solicitation of some friends" he began again in 1810, using his own "recollection" and some "extraneous assistance" to reconstruct the register up to that date. He continued the record until 1859, two years before his death at the age of 84.

Since then Dewey's record has been used by many researchers including Professor Arthur H. Chivers who, in the 1950s, mapped and recorded in six volumes all of the grave marker descriptions in the Old Dartmouth Cemetery, verifying their authenticity through correspondence with the surviving families of the deceased.

List of Deaths in the Vicinity of Dartmouth College, including likewise the hamlet usually called Greensborough from AD 1769 to 1859 will be on display in the Rauner Reading Room through the month of November.

Professor Chivers records The Dartmouth Cemetery can be found in The Collection of New Hampshire and Vermont Cemeteries, DH-38, Box 2.

Friday, November 4, 2011

GOTO LINE 1

In 1964, John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz produced the first version of the programming language Dartmouth BASIC. As part of the Dartmouth Time-Sharing System, one of the goals of the project was to provide less-technically inclined users with a way to use a computer without having to learn as many of the specialized mathematical skills that had been necessary up until that time.

Based on earlier languages, especially FORTRAN II and ALGOL 60, Dartmouth BASIC was a more user-friendly language and made heavy use of English words for statements. In his oral history interview from 2002, Kurtz relates that "Kemeny had the idea that all statements in BASIC, not just most, but all of them should start with an English word" as this would be more intuitive and easily remembered by users. Kurtz goes on to say that "bringing computing to the people, having a simplified user interface that really was simple to use, using English words that were easy to remember" were all part of what made Dartmouth BASIC so useful and widespread.  Shown here are Kurtz and Kemeny with True BASIC, one of the successors to Dartmouth BASIC.

Rauner Library holds the papers of John Kemeny (MS-988) and Thomas Kurtz (MS-1144), as well as numerous other resources related to the development of BASIC.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Triple-Headed Monster

One of the more depressing Victorian novels you can read is George Gissing's New Grub Street. Set in London, it chronicles Victorian literary men and women struggling to make a living from their pens. New Grub Street came out in 1891 in the typical format of the day: a novel in three volumes. The "triple-decker" was designed to maximize profits for publishers and lending libraries. It allowed libraries to charge a greater fee to subscribers. Think of Netflix, you can pay one fee for a single DVD or a higher fee for three simultaneous DVDs. A library subscriber would need to shell out more for three volumes than one.

Gissing's anti-hero, the popular Jasper Milvain, discusses the tyranny of the format with Edwin Reardon, the novel's most tragic figure:
Milvain began to expatiate on that well-worn topic, the evils of the three-volume system.

"A triple-headed monster, sucking the blood of English novelists. One might design an allegorical cartoon for a comic literary paper...."

"For anyone in my position," said Reardon, "how is it possible to abandon the three volumes? It is a question of payment. An author of moderate repute may live on a yearly three-volume novel--I mean the man who is obliged to sell his book out and out, and who gets from one to two hundred pounds for it. But he would have to produce four one-volume novels to obtain the same income; and I doubt whether he could get so many published within twelve months. And here comes in the benefit of the libraries; from the commercial point of view the libraries are indispensable. Do you suppose the public would support the present number of novelists if each book had to be purchased? A sudden change to that system would throw three-fourths of the novelists out of work."

"But there is no reason why the libraries shouldn't circulate novels in one volume."

"Profits would be less, I suppose. People would take the minimum subscription."
In the first volume of New Grub Street, Reardon finds himself destroying his health and his family trying to stretch a thin story over three-volumes: "Reardon's story was in itself weak, and this second volume had to consist almost entirely of padding." The Victorian reader, first encountering the book in its triple-decker format, must have dreaded picking up the second volume of New Grub Street after that warning.

Come see the book in all three volumes by asking for Val 826 G44 T641.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Dissertation Concerning Vampires

One of the earliest works on vampires and how to deal with them is Dom Augustin Calmet's Dissertations Upon the Apparitions of Angels, Daemons, and Ghosts, and Concerning the Vampires of Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia (London, M. Cooper, 1759). In his lengthy treatise, first published in France in 1746, Calmet examines many different occurrences and types of vampirism, which he claims is a new phenomenon not known in ancient times. Calmet writes that "It is common... to see men, who have been dead several years... come again, walk about, infest villages, torment men and cattle, suck the blood of their relations... and, at last, occasion their death."

Fortunately, Calmet also presents the only sure method of defeating such a creature. According to Calmet, "digging them out of their graves, impaling them, cutting of their heads, taking out their hearts, and burning their bodies" is necessary to prevent further calamity.

Oddly enough, Calmet himself seems to be of two minds about the whole subject. In his preface, he writes that those who believe in vampires will "accuse me of rashness and presumption... for denying their [vampires] existence" while others will "blame me for throwing away my time in writing upon this subject, which is... frivolous and trifling." Calmet ultimately sidesteps the whole issue by concluding that whether or not vampires are real, he has done humanity a service by either debunking the myth or presenting people with a means to deal with such creatures.

Ask for Oliver 6 to read the whole treatise.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Two Poets

One of the many delights of working with Special Collections is finding the occasional – and quite unexpected – connection between two figures whose works are represented in Rauner. Vita Sackville-West and Robert Frost are both poets, and their dates are very close (1892 – 1962 for Sackville-West and 1874 – 1963 for Frost). But beyond that . . . two very different characters indeed. So imagine our surprise when a short handwritten letter from Sackville-West to Frost turned up recently in Frost's voluminous correspondence. She wrote to him on January 22, 1933, during a lecture tour in America, promising to send him a copy of her poem, The Land, and expressing great admiration for his work. Further investigation reveals that she met him and dined with him in Northampton, Massachusetts, on March 17, 1933, and described him as "a handsome man who goes in for good conversation."

Sackville-West's grandson, English writer Adam Nicolson, continues his family's tradition of lecturing to American audiences, and spoke here at Dartmouth this month on the King James Version of the Bible in this, the 400th anniversary year of that translation. He published a study of that enterprise in 2003, entitled God’s Secretaries: the Making of the King James Bible.


To mark his visit to Dartmouth, two special exhibits have been mounted in Rauner Special Collections Library. See last week's blog entry for a description of the historic Bibles (including one leaf from the 1611 KJV) drawn from Special Collections' holdings and now exhibited in the Class of 1965 Galleries. Additionally, a small, single-case exhibit is now on display in the Special Collections Reading Room. Included are works by (and one about) his grandmother, Vita Sackville-West, and father, Nigel Nicolson. The dedications of many of these works are of special interest, and many are signed.

Both exhibits remain on view through the first week of November. To see the Sackville-West letter, ask for Frost manuscript 906129.

Friday, October 21, 2011

115 Laps

This Fall, the freshman class will run 115 laps around Dartmouth’s 116th Homecoming bonfire (however it is also acceptable just to run 15 laps, although upperclassmen refrain from telling freshmen this fact).

Before the bonfire became an annual event, Dartmouth students were fond of celebrating great victories with large fires on the Green. In 1888, after defeating Manchester at a contended baseball game, the bonfire "disturbed the slumbers of a peaceful town, destroyed some property, made the boys feel that they were men, and, in fact, did no one any good", according to The Dartmouth.

However the bonfire did not become an official event until 1895, when President Tucker instituted "Dartmouth Night" - a celebration to promote a sense of community at Dartmouth and welcome the new freshman class.

The visit of the Sixth Earl of Dartmouth in 1904 marked the beginning of the tradition of running around the fire. Not content with only a bonfire, students wanted to impress the Earl by parading around the fire in their pajamas. The Earl soon joined the parade of men in night-clothes and proudly led them around the flames. Today, students traditionally wear green Dartmouth shirts with their class year.


Part of the rite of passage that occurs every Homecoming is the yelling of two phrases: "Worst class ever!" and "Touch the fire!". Although upperclassmen will generally refer to the freshman class as the “best class ever” throughout the year, the night of the bonfire is the one night when the upperclassmen are not as cordial. The tradition of touching the fire is for only the boldest of freshmen, as law enforcement officers from Hanover surround the fire in order to prevent any one from getting too close. For Dartmouth students, that is a challenge that is too good to pass up. Every year, save the class of 2013 (worst class ever), after the fire burns down a couple brave souls will run past the police to touch the dying coals (In 2008, this practice resulted in two students being severely burned).


Recent bonfires have used 6x6 timbers and other sheets of wood, but it was not always so. Railroad ties were often used and in 1918 The Dartmouth reported that "those too zealous in their efforts laid violent hands upon sundry front door steps and backdoor steps, and likewise fences, not to mention numerous hen houses carried en masse to the scene of the celebration." Although today the Thayer School of Engineering designs the bonfire so that it can only collapse inwards, the bonfire has been built by the freshman class since 1907.

Posted for Thea Stutsman, '13

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The King's English

Four hundred years ago, King James I of England commissioned a new translation of the Bible, hoping to create a single, authoritative text that would mediate between the divergent religious views of Puritans and Anglicans.

Each edition of the King James Bible published since its first printing in 1611 reflects something about the lives of the individuals who produced and used it.  For example, a pocket-sized copy printed in the mid-17th century was clearly treasured by its owner, who delicately embroidered the binding with portraits, probably of herself and her husband, on the front and back covers.

Come visit this and many other editions of the King James Bible at Rauner’s current exhibit, The King’s English, on display in the Class of 1965 Galleries through the end of October.


The exhibit is timed to coincide with a lecture by Adam Nicolson, author of God's Secretaries: The Making Of The King James Bible.  Scheduled for October 19, 2011, the lecture will be followed by a reception at Rauner. For more information, see the Department of Religion's website.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Reading in Parts

Imagine starting to read a novel and not finishing it for 19 months. We are not slow readers, but we have tried the enlightening exercise of reading a mid 19th-century novel in its original parts. Pictured here are the 20 issues (in 19 parts) of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield. The first issue came out in May 1849, and the parts continued to come out monthly until November 1850.

That is a very different kind of reading than we do today. Most people read David Copperfield for class--so, very quickly--devouring the novel in a week or so. Others might be more leisurely, dipping into it nightly over a month or so to savor the Victorian melodrama. Few people would dole the book out in 30-page segments over a year and a half. When read this way the book becomes a part of the yearly cycle and fodder for conversation with your friends. Like a popular television series, everyone is at the same place at the same time.


Serialization explains a lot about Victorian literature--the frequent cliff hangers, the repetition of characters' key traits, the tangential forays that fill an issue--and the advertisements within the parts reveal the intended audience. Our David Copperfield hawks mattresses, needles, children's clothing, Punch, and Locock's Female Pills.

To see the parts (all at once!) ask for Val 826D55 P51.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Picturing the Civil War

Most of us have, at some point or another, encountered the stunning and terrible images of Civil War battlefields created by Mathew Brady. While visually arresting, these images are almost devoid of humans, other than the rows and piles of dead bodies. Brady made some portraits and posed groups, but no candid imagery. This is because the collodion wet plate process used by photographers at the time demanded long exposures, sometimes several minutes long, even on a bright day. Thus anyone moving about would become at best a blur and at worse invisible. Because of this we must turn to other sources for visual documentation of the last war fought on American soil.

One source of visual documentation in Rauner's collection, is the diary of Newton T. Hartshorn. Hartshorn enlisted as a private in U.S. Engineer Corps in 1861. His dairy provides a wonderful written account of his life in the services, but also includes a number of sketches depicting the daily life of a soldier. His sketches include camp life, scenic views, patriotic imagery and the advance to Bull Run.

Hartshorn was eventually promoted to Captain in the War Department Rifles where he was assigned to the White House, as part of president Lincoln's guard.



Ask for MS-19 the Hartshorn Family papers, box 1