Friday, August 23, 2013

By Bread Alone

For those of you who have ever struggled with the rise on your sourdough or battled with making the perfect baguette, a study of Sylvester Graham's Treatise on Bread and Bread-making (Boston: Light & Stearns, 1837) may be in order. Published in 1837, Graham's treatise was the first book of its kind solely focused on the subject of bread and bread making. Graham, though best known for being the inventor of the Graham cracker, advocates strongly for the consumption of bread in the daily diet. "There are probably few people in civilized life," he writes, "who…would not say that they consider bread one of the most, if not the most important article of diet which enters into the food of man."

Split into eight parts, the treatise covers topics such as bread's long history, its properties, varieties, fermentation, and of course, the fine art of preparation. Because Graham believed strongly that the best bread makers were wives and mothers, his treatise was so controversial that heated bakers threatened to riot whenever he spoke. During a time in Britain where most recipes were passed down through word of mouth, Graham's Treatise on Bread and Bread-making takes the reader through a journey of the entire bread making process; from harvesting the wheat, to developing a strong yeast, and the first real technical instructions as to how to craft the best tasting breads. Want a sweeter, richer bread? Use fresh ground meal. A wholesome daily bread? Forgo the barley and prepare coarsely ground rye mixed with Indian meal. Though in age of pre-packaged baked goods and fast acting yeasts some of Graham's ideas may indeed seem obsolete, much can be learned from his precise history and attention to detail.

Come and take a look at the 1837 publication and view other tips Graham has for bread makers by asking for Rare Book TX 769 .G68.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Child's Garden of Drafts

Our manuscript collections are full of first tries. Drafts of novels, stories and poems abound. Many never got beyond the initial draft, others seem to have been born fully decked out and ready for the publisher. Here are two very different examples. The first is a short story from Frances Hodgson Burnett, an inspired writer if there ever was one. Her draft of "The Plain Miss Burnie" from 1911 almost matches the final published version in Munsey's Magazine. There was no need to leave space for changes because revision would be almost unnecessary.

On the other end of the spectrum is Robert Louis Stevenson's draft of the poem "Historical Associations" which appeared in A Child's Garden of Verses. It is written out on paper that he reused. Whole stanzas are crossed out, and the ordering changes within the draft then again in publication.

Come see the contrasting styles by asking for Codex Ms 003180 and Codex MS 002473.

For other interesting drafts see Aldous Huxley's introduction for Edna St. Vincent Millay and Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad.