Thursday, July 18, 2013

Scenes From the Sea

Augustus Alexander Warren was a warrant officer with the United States Navy in the mid-1800s. He was born to a French mother and an English father in Havre, France, in February of either 1826 or 1827. When a young man, Warren emigrated to Kittery, Maine, where he became a U.S. citizen in 1853 and received his commission as a sail-maker with the Navy the same year. Soon after, he set to sea on the USS Decatur to defend Seattle against "all the Indians occupying the Northern portion of the United States." Warren also sailed in support of the Charles Francis Hall Arctic expedition in 1871 and along the coast of South America in the 1880s.

The Warren Papers are a wonderful example of the wondrous variety that can be enclosed within a single-box collection and of the fascinating lives that can be explored through the breadth of documents found therein. Among other things, this box contains the original manuscripts of Warren's sea adventures, his official papers of citizenship and naval commission (the latter signed by Franklin Pierce), many of his letters home, and daguerreotypes of him and two other family members.

Despite these interesting items, what we found most striking are the numerous pencil drawings, some colored and others not, that are a significant part of the collection. As a sail-maker, Warren was by necessity an amateur draftsman; his logbook is filled with precise geometrical illustrations of the numerous types of sails required by navy ships at the time, complete with highly detailed measurements and instructions for constructing them aboard ship. These drawings are complemented by thrilling scenes of ships amid icebergs and touching images of an imagined reunion with his wife upon his eventual return home.

To explore the rich and fascinating depths of one ordinary man's life, humbly contained within a single box, ask at Rauner for MS-868 Box 1. A finding aid for the collection is available.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"A Seventeenth-Century Emblem Book"

Last week, Dick Hoefnagel, a longtime friend of the Dartmouth College Library, passed away. In his memory, today we blog one of his favorite books from the collection: one he admired, wrote about, and connected with personally. The book is an exquisitely executed seventeenth-century emblem book with hand-colored engravings and text in manuscript.

According to Hoefnagel's research published in the Library Bulletin 11/1 (November 1970), the engravings were signed by Jean Dolivar, a Spanish artist born in 1641, and the nephew of Jean Lepaute, one of the great masters of the Louis XIV style. Illustrated here is Emblem I described by Dick thusly:
This emblem contrasts the perishable felicities of life on earth with the eternal bliss of heaven. The symbolism is conventional and includes the ancient belief that laurel, usually representing virtue, is never struck by lightning. The choice of the number twelve in the crown of stars may have a biblical derivation (the tiara of the traveling woman of St. John, Revelation 12:1-6; the twelve patriarchs of Israel) or refer to the ultimate origin of such symbolisms, namely the astrological system of the twelve constellations of the Zodiac.
It is a beautiful book and worth your time. Come in and ask for Codex Manuscript 002066.