Friday, July 27, 2012

Cartesian Diver

We just acquired a very curious little book. Die Glasschmelzkunst (Vienna: Schultz, 1769) is a manual for 18th-century do-it-yourself chemists. It provides detailed instruction for manufacturing thermometers, hydrometers, barometers and even glass eyes. But it was figure 15 in the illustration here that caught our attention.

At first we wondered if it was some kind of little science faun to consult when things went terribly wrong, but then we dug out our German dictionary and read the text. It is a model of a Cartesian Diver, a figure with a hollow tube inside with an opening on one end.  If you place the Diver in a closed container of water (a two-liter water bottle would work great, but not in the 18th century), it will float. When you squeeze the bottle, the pressure will drive water up into the tube and compress the air. The Diver's overall water displacement will change, and he will slowly dive to the bottom of the bottle (or quickly, if you squeeze really hard). It is a great way to measure pressure.

You can come in and see it now by asking for Rauner Rare TP 859.2 .B11 1769.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nelson Brown Doodles

This week we finished re-processing the papers of Nelson Pierce Brown, Dartmouth class of 1899. The papers document Brown's career as a judge on the Massachusetts Supreme Court and his lifelong relationship with Dartmouth, including a few diaries and photo albums of his four-years as a student. After Dartmouth, Judge Brown went on to marry Margaret Tucker, daughter of President Tucker in 1903 and graduated Harvard Law. After being appointed as the Middlesex Co. District Attorney in 1912 and Assistant to Attorney General Henry C. Attwill in 1915, Brown was appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1918. He served for 29 years.

But, here at Rauner, our favorite thing about this collection (besides Brown's enthusiastic desire to keep incredibly detailed and organized documentation of his life) was his budding interest in court sketching. One of Brown's self-bound trial notebooks contains a letter from a comic artist from the Boston Post, which appears to be in response to an earlier inquiry from Brown regarding mail-order drawing instruction. The artist suggests to Brown that practice is a sure-fire way to develop his skills and signs off with a little sketch of his own.


Well, apparently Judge Brown took the advice and the results are found all over the margins of Brown's trial books. They are filled with small drawings and sketches of various members in the courtroom. From lawyers to witness, no one was exempt from the artistic study of Judge Brown, it seems. Many of his sketches come complete with witty captions and quotations. And some are even treated to a full shading. We invite you to stop by to check out these cool doodles and perhaps they might inspire some work of your own!


Just ask for manuscript collection MS-189! A finding aid for the collection is available.