Friday, January 15, 2021

Many Times Removed

Frontispiece of the Fourth Folio with an engraving of Shakespeare and the "To the Reader" poem by Ben JonsonAs just about everyone here at Dartmouth knows, we have a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, published in 1623 by friends and fellow troupe members of the playwright and poet. It's probably our most requested item, just after our first edition of the Book of Mormon. And, as we've blogged about before, we also have two Second Folios (1632), three Third Folios (1662), and two Fourth Folios (1685). Some of these folios are what we sometimes call "Frankenstein Folios," in that they've been pieced together from the remnants of multiple partially-destroyed originals. Others have had specific pages removed or severely damaged, to the extent that pen and ink facsimiles have been pasted in to fill the gap. They're all technically still originals, sorta, but maybe not in the eyes of bibliographic purists. In addition to those "complete" Folios, we also have a decent number of fragments from all four Folios, including a complete Timon of Athens from the First Folio and King Lear from the Second Folio. There's even a cleverly bound book titled The English Historical Plays of William Shakespeare, which is really just the "Histories" chunk of the Fourth Folio.

Title page of Timon of Athens from the First FolioTitle Page of King Lear from the Second Folio

To get a list of all of the Folios in all their various conditions so that you can come in and look at them, follow this link to a search query in the library catalog. There's a 20th-century spoiler in that list, but otherwise (I think!) the rest of the Folios are there.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Readying America for a Vaccine

Title page and inscribed flyleaf to A Prospect of Exterminating the Small Pox
Sometimes you stumble on something in the collections and you can't quite believe how timely it is. While doing some research on Smallpox, we came across the second part of Benjamin Waterhouse's Prospect of Exterminating the Small Pox (Cambridge, 1802). Waterhouse had the idea that he could take the vaccine recently developed by Edward Jenner and perform mass vaccinations in the United States to eradicate the disease. It is hard to overstate the impact of the epidemic in North America. It was doing irreparable damage to entire cultures and the death rate was staggering, so finding a way to curb its destructive force was imperative. Waterhouse, a flawed product of his time, started by vaccinating people with no agency: his own children and the enslaved people in his household (part of a long, and horrific legacy of medical experimentation inflicted on Blacks in America). Then he proposed a vaccination program on a grand scale, even trying to enlist the support of his former college roommate, President John Adams.

A public health initiative of that scale demanded public acceptance of the efficacy and safety of the vaccine. Waterhouse's book is a determined attempt to persuade a portion of the public--primarily doctors and the learned class--that this was an opportunity to change the nature of preventative medicine. Notably, our copy is a presentation copy to the Library of Dartmouth College by Waterhouse himself. You can just see him sending off copies to colleges and universities, especially those with medical schools, where his ideas would be well received. 

To see it, ask for Rare RM786.W32.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Charter Day: Celebrating Edward Mitchell

Student petition to admit Edward Mitchell
Charter Day is upon us marking the start of Dartmouth's 252nd year. It is a good occasion to take a look back at Dartmouth's history for other formative moments. This year, let's celebrate Edward Mitchell. In 1824, Mitchell applied to Dartmouth with all of the standard qualifications the College demanded at the time; he had all the necessary letters of recommendation; he passed his entrance exams; and he was even friends with the family of former Dartmouth President Francis Brown. The faculty, recognizing his merits, accepted him, but the Board of Trustees intervened and denied him admission: they balked because Mitchell was Black

Enter the students! As word spread of Mitchell's denial of admission, the students prepared a petition and submitted it to the Board of Trustees. The Board reversed its decision, and Mitchell became the first African American admitted to any of the institutions that would one day become the Ivy League. Mitchell graduated in 1828 and later became an ordained minister. For more of his story, listen to the "Opinions of Diversity" podcast episode written and narrated by Julia Logan. You can see the petition by asking for MS 824525.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Combating a Plague

Title page and frontispiece to Culpeper
You thought bleach was weird, check out this "cure" for the plague prescribed by the esteemed physician Nicholas Culpeper:

Take a Cock chicken, pull off the feather till the Rump be bare, then hold the bare fundament of the Chicken to a Plague Sore and it will attract the Venom to it from all parts of the body and dye; when he is dead, take another and use likewise; you may perceive when all the Venom is drawn out, for you shall see the Chicken no longer pant nor gape for breath; the party sick will instantly recover.

Got it--now we just need to find some chickens...

To see this cure and many others, as for Culpeper's School of Physick (London: Obadiah Blagrave, 1678), Rare R128.7 .C84 1678.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Illustrating Bluebeard

Bluebeard's wife looks around as she begins to unlock the door.
Here’s a horror story for you: a French nobleman seeks a bride, but struggles due to his unsightly blue beard and a string of missing wives. Eventually, he is able to woo a young woman and bring her back to his estate as his new wife. After a month of marriage, he declares that he must go away on business, leaving her with a ring of keys and an interdiction. She can go wherever she likes and entertain to her heart’s content, but she must not use the littlest key on the ring. It opens a closet on the ground floor and nothing awaits her there but her husband’s “just anger and disappointment.” After some time, the young bride is overcome by her curiosity and unlocks the door, where she finds the bodies of her murdered predecessors. When her husband discovers that she has failed his test, she is only spared their fate by some stalling and the timely arrival of her brothers, who kill her husband in turn.
Bluebeard, a fairy tale first published in Charles Perrault’s 1697 Histoires du temps passé, ou, Les contes de ma Mère l'Oye, better known as Mother Goose, has been retold over and over again, deeply affecting the development of the gothic and horror genres. Its influence pervades classics like Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Fritz Lang’s The Secret Beyond the Door, as well as more recent texts, including Crimson Peak and Ex Machina.
A caricature of Bluebeard handing the keys to his wife.
Rauner Library’s collection of illustrated versions of Bluebeard also highlights a curious trend: how Bluebeard, a French fairy tale, became increasingly Orientalized over time. When the first literary version was published, the accompanying illustrations showed its characters in European dress. They were also largely unnamed, with the exception of the “Bluebeard” moniker and the new bride’s sister Anne. At some point in adaptation, however, the bride gains the Arabic name Fatima, and the story begins to take on an exoticized aspect. In an 1805 English language version, the entire story is relocated to an ambiguously Eastern setting. In others, like William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Awful History of Bluebeard (1924), Bluebeard himself is the focus of the change, while everything else remains fairly European. Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), one of the great artists of the Golden Age of Illustration, also had to have his two cents. His take on Bluebeard, featured in The Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairy Tales from the Old French, is located “in a city not far from Baghdad.” Even Arthur Rackham, whose work is overall less interested in the Orientalism of his peers, was apparently unable to resist the racist allure of imperiling a beautiful woman in an imagined East. 

Bluebeard brandishes a scimitar.
This translocation by tale-tellers and illustrators leaves a lot to be desired. The inconsistent mish-mash of European design sensibilities with an interest in and fear of the Orient is by no means exclusive to Bluebeard, but it is a specific and somewhat puzzling case study. The standard lineup of historical figures cited by folklorists as possible influences on the oral folktale, like Gilles de Rais and Henry VIII, is not exactly foreign. And while the story is gruesome enough that it could have made some uncomfortable to think of as so close to home, Bluebeard is no more horrific than many other fairy tales that didn’t receive the same treatment.What do you think? Check out some of the Rauner’s many illustrated variants, including Rare Book PQ1877 .C513 1785, Sine Illus D86sleb, Sine Illus C366fai, Illus R115 afb, 1926 Coll B587n 1805, and Sine Illus C527fai.

Monday, September 21, 2020

College in the time of COVID

Foldout record of the deaths from the front of Hodges's book
As the first full term of the pandemic begins here at Dartmouth College, we are taking the opportunity to reflect back on the somewhat morbid but always fascinating history of global pandemics that our collections harbor. In particular, we've been thinking about the London plague of 1665, the smallpox outbreak in the American colonies during the Revolutionary War, and the misnomered "Spanish" flu of 1918. Although the bubonic plague ravaged London a mere one hundred and three years before Dartmouth was founded, the smallpox and flu outbreaks are "recent" enough to have had an effect on student life in Hanover.

Our post today isn't so much original content as it is a looking back to previous blog entries about these diseases and a glance forward into the possibilities of the current term. Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year, while a fascinating read, also relied heavily upon the writing of Nathanial Hodges's Loimologia: or an Historical Account of the Plague in London in 1665. In addition to narrative accounts, we also have a gathering of weeklybroadsides that indicate the number of deaths per week and their causes during 1665, when the plague was at its height.

Prescription for a purgative in preparation for inoculation from the late 1700s
With regard to pandemic impact upon the Dartmouth campus, we have correspondence related to a group of students seeking inoculation from the virus, a risky venture given the possibility of actually succumbing to the terrible disease. More than a century later, Clifford Orr, a member of Dartmouth's class of 1918, would write home to his mother about how the flu was sweeping across campus. While thinking about these past virulent visits, we wondered about what sorts of experiences current students might document during this coming term, and whether any of those documents might make their way into the archives as well some day.

With that in mind, this post is also a bit of self-promotion. Today, September 21st, I'll join Sarah Smith, from the Book Arts Workshop, for a fascinating look at journals created during times of crisis and pandemic. First, I'll showcase some books from Rauner Library that recount the London plague, then follow with original manuscripts that Dartmouth students wrote during the colonial smallpox outbreak and the 1918 flu. Then, Sarah Smith will help students make their own journals using materials from around the house. Instructions for making a simple book are found online on the Book Arts Workshop’s resource guide here. Feel free to make your own journal using her advice and start writing down your own journal of a plague year.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

From νόστος / nostos to nostalgia

The Ulysses Etchings of Robert Motherwell
The Ulysses Etchings of Robert Motherwell
Motherwell, Robert, David. Hayman,
and James Joyce.
San Francisco: Arion Press, 1988.
"Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean."
(Excerpt from "Ithaka" / C.P. Cavafy ; trans. E. Keeley)
James Joyce Wavewords : from Ulysses
James Joyce Wavewords: from Ulysses.
Hellmann, Margery S., and James Joyce.
Seattle, Wash: Windowpane Press, 1996.

 "I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name"

Excerpt from "Ulysses"
Alfred Tennyson.
Seven Poems and Two Translations
Hammersmith: Doves Press, 1902.

See also "Ulysses" Alfred Tennyson. Poems, London: E. Moxon, 1842

Circe from After Flaxman
The Odyssey of Homer
After Flaxman, John and William Blake
London: Longman, Hurst, Rees & Orme, 1805.

Ulyyses and  Diomedes are condemned to the Eigth Circle
Ulysses and Diomedes are condemned to the Eighth Circle.
Inspired from Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and William Blake.
The Inferno from La Divina Commedia of Dante Alighieri
New York: Printed by Richard W. Ellis for Cheshire house, 1931.

Colophon to Vlyssea, 1524
Homer. Batrachomyomachia. Hymni. XXXII.
Venetiis: [In aedibvs Aldi, et Andreae Asvlani soceri mense aprili], 1524

See also: Odysses