Friday, January 19, 2018

Shrink-Wrapped History

Battle scene described below captioned "Death of Colonel Finnis at Meerut"It is indeed shocking to see the three large boxes brought up from the depths of Rauner. Once opened, the volume of the content engages you. 78 matted and shrink-wrapped engravings stored tightly like files in their separate boxes invite you to pick one up, then the next. The first may be a dramatic battle scene with combatants on horseback being thrust into the air or dramatically slain in the center of the scene with a full-fledged, incredibly detailed war in action in the background. You look closer and are impressed with the curve and shadow on the horse’s neck, and the telling facial expression on the main subject’s face. This is due to the fine detailing of the steel engraving process. You can see the fear in his eyes and the concentration in his muscle movement.

Scene depicting bodies hanging from a tree captioned "Outlying Picket of the Hihland Brigade"The next engravings are wildly different; a house with many windows and four nicely nurtured trees evenly spaced outside the front. More show ‘the capture of the king of Delhi’, the ‘blowing up of the cashmere gate at Delhi’, ‘Miss. Wheeler defending herself against the Sepoys at Cawnpore’ and the ‘outlying picket of the highland brigade at Benares’- a chilling image of cannons, soldiers and animals in the foreground with seven naked bodies hung from a branch in the background. Other than these theatrical action scenes, there are also images of locations, portraits of important figures, and two colorful, beautifully drawn maps relevant to the Sepoy Rebellion.

These engravings are part of Charles Ball’s British jingoistic retelling of the Sepoy Rebellion. Ball – a 19th century acclaimed British historian – wrote a seven part history detailing the Rebellion. The parts were issued separately from the maps and engravings with the intention that buyers would purchase them all and bind them into two separate volumes. His ‘histories’ of the rebellion many times depict popular rumors as fact and endeavor to render Indians as inferior and savage and British as courageous and triumphant.

Battle scene captioned "Attack on the Mutineers before Cawnpore"
The engravings, maps and books are now collector’s items, sold from relatively high-end auction houses. Our set of engravings was given by Wayne Broehl in 1994, who also donated other material related to wars particularly in Japan and India. He was a member of the Tuck School faculty and he also wrote a book called The Crisis of the Raj on the Sepoy Rebellion, which is available in Dartmouth’s libraries today.

Ball’s engravings have been used in many retellings, articles, scholarly journals, books and essays as media supplement to text about the Rebellion and this time period in India. His recounting of these events were of the first colonialist interpretations of 1857, revealing much about British attitude towards the Sepoy Rebellion and racist sentiments of the time.

To see the engravings, ask for MS-790. The shrink wrap is not a good idea from an archival standpoint, so we will be removing it!

Posted for Sophia Linkas '21

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Phebe Ann Jacobs

First page of the Narrative of Phebe Ann Jacobs by Mrs T. C. UphamPreparing for a class this week, we dug into the life of Phebe Ann Jacobs, a slave once owned by the wife of Dartmouth President John Wheelock. We knew a little bit of the story from some student research a few years ago, but we got a little more serious and found a tantalizing story--naturally filled with gaps.

Phebe was born into slavery around 1785 in New Jersey. At the age of seven, she was given to John Wheelock's wife, Marie, to be a servant and help care for her daughter (also named Marie). Little Marie and Phebe grew up together, one as master, the other as servant. When Marie married William Allen, the president of Bowdoin, Phebe went with her as her slave. She was later emancipated, probably at the time of Marie's death, and continued to work, as a washerwoman for Bowdoin students. "Mrs. T. C. Upham" chronicled some of her life in an abolitionist pamphlet published by the American Tract Society that was subsequently used as source material by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

In William Allen's papers, we found a few casual mentions of Phebe. Both in letters from Marie to her husband when she was away. In each case she gives him instructions to impart to Phebe. If Upham's account is accurate, she appears to have been more than just a servant, and she remained close with Marie's children, though we know that Phebe moved away from the Allen family, and set up her own home after she was freed.

There is a bigger story to tell, and now that Phebe is on our radar, we hope to find other fragments of her life.  You can read more about her by asking for DC History E185.97 U76. To see the letters that mention her, ask for MS-916, Box 1, folder 11. There is also a letter written by John Wheelock recounting the trip to New Jersey when Phebe was given to Marie, but, tellingly, there is no mention of anything so insignificant as a slave girl.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Lost Their Marbles!

A favorite example of beautiful marbling Paper marbling is a beautiful and tricky art form that is often used to create endpapers for book binding. The marbled design is made by floating paint on the surface of water and running a comb or other tool run through it to create the specific pattern. Some marbling is even made by blowing through a straw to manipulate the paint! A sheet of paper or fabric is then laid across the top of the water to absorb the colors.

Coming in a wide range of colors and designs, marbled endpapers are a great surprise treasure to find in a book. And the addition of a marbled paper makes a book more unique; like tie-dying a shirt, no two endpapers will come out exactly the same, even if they are made using the same colors and pattern.

A less impressive example of paper marbling from "The world's worst marbled papers."We have one book in our collection that includes several marbled papers, but not as part of its binding; this is a book about marbled papers, titled The world's worst marbled papers : being a collection of ten contemporary San Serriffean marbled papers showing the lowest level of technique, the worst combinations of colors, and the most inferior execution known since the dawn of the art of marbling. Containing only 10 marbled papers, the book also includes a lengthy introduction about the art of marbling, as well as the author’s alleged journey through San Serriffe in search of marbled beauty. The book is definitely intended to be satire – San Serriffe isn’t even a real place, after all. But it does provide a backward account of the elements of marbling that make it so popular; the combinations of colors and the intricate designs are not only aesthetically appealing, but also a marvel of artistic creation.

Actually, many of the endpapers in this book aren’t entirely unattractive, even if they are maybe a little less impressive than many of the more complex or skillfully executed works of marbling. Some, though, really are terrible color combinations and abysmal technique, resulting in some ugly endpapers. To see some marbling that actually captures the height of the art, check out our Instagram account @raunerlibrary on #marbledmondays! To see The world's worst marbled papers ask for Presses B532mow.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

In Flew Enza

Hand-drawn map of campusOn September 22, 1918, young Clifford Orr wrote home to his mother about the first weeks of his Freshman year at Dartmouth. In his four-page letter, he complains of the lack of a writing desk, invites her for a visit to watch the "Fresh-Soph" rush (a fairly brutal hazing ritual), and talks about how his math class is going to be "fierce!" He even includes a hand-drawn map of campus. It is a lovely letter from a clever, chatty son to his mother.

Orr mentions that some students are worried they might be coming down with the Spanish Influenza. The epidemic that started one-hundred years ago this March killed between fifty and one-hundred million people worldwide and was particularly devastating for people in their early twenties, so this was a serious matter. Orr appeared undaunted, unless he was using humor to hide his fear, or perhaps just trying to keep his mother from worrying. Making light of it, he scribbled out a little verse for his dear mother's enjoyment:
I had a little bird and his name was Enza,
I opened the cage and Influenza.
Verse quoted above
Orr actually became sick with the Spanish flu later that year, but survived. He went on to have a successful career as a writer for the New Yorker. His letters home are a treat. You can see them all by asking for MS-532, Box 1.

Friday, January 5, 2018

"A Sailor's Life for Me"

Skectch of naked sailor being hauled on board ship with a shark leaping out of the waterIn 1840, a fourteen-year-old boy from Kent County, England, went to sea on the whaler Sussex, which sailed from London on January 20, for the South Seas Fisheries under command of Capt. Hammer. Twenty-five years later the sailor sat down to write “his yarn” as a means of “guiding” his children through “many a shoal and quicksand.” In his account, he describes the voyage with all the trials and tribulations such a journey entailed. There were the islands of Trinidad and Galapagos and Honolulu, the description of hunting and catching a whale, encountering natives, and the storms the Sussex had to endure. He peppers his story with ink and watercolor sketches of some of these events. For example, there is the time that he was almost eaten by a shark.

We had been boiling out blubber which generally attracts them [the sharks] about the Ship. At 4 pm I left the helm and being rather dirty I thought I would jump overboard and the Cook (who on a previous occasion had saved my life) out of fun hauled my rope in so that I could not get back on board, when suddenly the cry from aloft was a Shark is coming! I swam for the rope immediately, and finding it hauled in I screamed with fear, as the shark was drawing very close to me. … The mate seeing the monster and knowing that I was overboard threw a rope which was very greasy so that I could not pull myself up, and they hauled in the rope still slipping through my fingers, when providently there was a knot in the rope which enabled me to hold on while they hauled me up, the shark following me out of the water.
Page from the diary with sketch of native people
To read more of his story ask for Codex 003385, “The Reminiscences of a Sailor's Life.” It will be in the catalog soon!