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