Friday, March 24, 2023

Happy New Year's Eve?!

Quaker document page 1Tomorrow is New Year's Day! Well, at least, it would be here in the former English colonies if not for an Act of Parliament in 1750 that firmly established January 1 as the start of the "New" New Year. This was a necessary law because of the widening discrepancy between the dates of the Julian calendar, which was only still used by England, and the Gregorian calendar, which had been in use by the rest of Europe since 1582. Fiercely Protestant at the time, England had rejected the Pope's calendrical fiat and stuck with the Old Style system.

Well, at least, partially; March 25th remained the first day of the legal year (akin to July 1 being the start of the fiscal year for some institutions like Dartmouth), but everyone generally accepted January 1 to be the start of the real New Year because of the need to synch up important celebratory dates with the rest of Europe. So, often, English documents from 1582 until 1750 used a double-dating system to note both Julian and Gregorian systems.

Moreover, by the 1750s, the two calendars were more than ten days out of sync with each other because of their use of different strategies to account for their system's inability to perfectly match the actual orbital cycle of the earth around the sun. 

Whew. Are you still with me? It's okay if not; all that's important for this post is that the British powers-Quaker document page 3that-be called a halt to the madness by instituting a multi-step changeover to the Gregorian system that was finished in 1752. Despite previous Protestant pushback against the Pope's preferred program, at least one group of dissenters saw the change as a chance to remind its followers about what they viewed as textual idolatry. In a broadside addressed to "The Quarterly and Monthly Meetings of Friends in Great-Britain, Ireland, and America", the group's standing representative body encourages its members to embrace the use of numbers instead of names for months and days so that they would no longer give "honor to the idols of the heathen."  The document then spells out the sources for all of those names. Although you're probably familiar with some of these attributions, some of them may be new to you. One detail that I had never really considered, but that makes perfect sense, is that Sept-ember, Oct-ober, Nov-ember, and Dec-ember are named after their previous chronological place in the Julian system (since February was the twelfth month of the year, not December!).

To read the entire document denouncing pagan months and days, come to Special Collections and ask for Presses F854f.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Llull's "Ladder of Understanding"

Woodcut of Llull's "Ladder of Understanding"This striking woodcut is found in the 1512 edition of Ramon Llull’s Liber de ascensu et descensu intellectus (Book on the Ascent and Descent of Understanding, written ca. 1305) that was printed in Valencia. It represents the “Ladder of Understanding” (scala intellectus) that Llull elaborates in this work. The particulars of Llull’s system are abstruse, but behind them lies the assumption that humans can, using their senses and intellect, understand the links between the created world and divine reality (Note: A full transcription and translation of the words found in this woodcut can be found at the bottom of this post).

The extraordinary Ramon Llull (c. 1232 - c. 1315) was born in Majorca. By his own account, he lived as a licentious troubadour before a series of visions convinced him to abandon his worldly life to serve God. Llull was particularly inspired to convert Muslims. He learned Arabic and deepened his knowledge of philosophy and other branches of knowledge.

It was on a mountain, the story goes, that God once again inspired him to write a book that would convert non-believers. “[Llull] came down from the mountain and … began to plan and write the book in question, calling it at first the Ars major, and later on the Ars generalis. Within the framework of this Art he then wrote many books … in which at great length he explained general principles by applying them to more specific things.” (Ramon Lull, A Contemporary Life, ed. And trans. Anthony Bonner (Barcelona / Woodbrige 2010).

This little book is one of the many expressions of Llull’s Art (largely logical in nature) – he wrote over one hundred works, including novels to alchemical works. His logical works, however, have sometimes earned him the status of pioneer in computational theory.

Description of the Woodcut:

There are three ladders depicted in the woodcut. The professor (bottom left), with a banderole that reads “Combined understanding,” has one foot placed upon the bottom step of the first ladder, and points to it with his right hand. With his left hand, he holds up the second and third ladders (the two concentric circles).

The first ladder:

Stepping from the bottom to the top, our intellect ascends (in understanding) first through stone, then fire, the plants, then animals, then man, then the heavens, the angels and, finally, God. The hierarchy is clear: the stone is most simple, and God is most complex.

The second and third ladders:

To understand the properties each of the steps on the first ladder, the professor holds up the second and third ladders (the two concentric circles), each subdivided into “steps” with words. 

It is perhaps easiest to understand these words as forming a conceptual rubric through which one can classify the properties belonging to a created thing. A stone, for example, might be classified as “cold, inert, passive,” and so on.  Using the conceptual rubric of the second and third ladders, one can range up and down the first ladder. Without using the proper concepts, Llull says, the intellect is ineffective in understanding. 

If we use the Llull’s Ladder of Understanding, we can enjoy serene contemplation in the Mansion that Wisdom Built for Herself (Sapientia edificavit sibi domum).

Llull’s conception of a chain linking the simple to the complex is not unique to him. See Great Chain of Being. To see our copy of Llull's Liber, come to Special Collections and ask to see Rare Book PA8360.L93 D4 1512.

This post was written by Daniel Abosso, Research & Learning Librarian for Humanities.


Transcription and Translation for Woodcut:

Top banderole: Sapientia edificavit domum. Wisdom has built a home for herself. (Proverbs 9:1, paraphrased)

Bottom banderole (magister): Intellectus coniunctus. Complete understanding.

Scala i(n)tell(ectu)s — Ladder of understanding

Lap(is) - stone
Flam(m)a - fire
Planta - vegetable
Brutu(m) - animal
Homo - man
C[a]elum - heaven
Angelus - angel
Deus - god

Circular Diagram:

At center: Scal(a)e intellectus — Ladders of understanding

Outer circle (=second ladder), clockwise:

Ac(cide)ns - accident
S(ubs)t(an)tia - substance
Natura - nature
Actio - action
Passio - passivity (being acted upon)
Act(us) - actuality
Ens - being (existence)
Gen(us) - genus
Spe(cie)s - species
I(n)divi(duu)m - individual
(Com)positu(m) - compound
Simplex – simple

Inner circle (third ladder), clockwise:

Dubita(bi)le - Doubtable
Imagina(bi)le - capable of being apprehended by the mind
Sensibile - capable of being apprehended by the senses
Intellegi(bi)le - understandable
Credibile - believable

Friday, March 10, 2023

Call (Number for) the Midwife

Childbirth depicted in Ruff's De Conceptu
We have a lot of really amazing guides to midwifery in our collections. They are fascinating--all written by "expert" men for the use of women assisting other women in childbirth and tending to many of their other medical needs. There is a weird vibe to them: you always get the feeling the users of the books were better informed than the producers.

Reproductive system from Ruff's De Conceptu
Today we show off two of our favorites from the 16th century. The first is Jakob Rüff's De Conceptu et Generatione Homminis (Frankfurt, 1580). We love this one for the images. The reproductive system looks like a plant producing a fruit--that seems fitting with a lot of early metaphors for reproduction. But it also has a great image of a birth. You'll notice the mother is being attended by a midwife, and off to the side are two gentlemen studying the stars to determine the child's fate. Good thing it was nighttime!

Title page to Birth of Mankind
The second is one of those survivals that gives you tingles. It was owned by two different midwives. Susan Aylett laid claim to it on the title page, and Elizabeth Fiss used the back flyleaves of our copy of Thomas Raynalde's The Birth of Mankind (London, 1565) as a record of births. She has listed each in the name of the father not the mother, for example, "Thomas Lucas his wife of" followed by three hash marks. There is also a big fat inky thumbprint on in the margins of the "Prologue to the women readers." We're dying to know if that was just a sloppy mistake in the printing office or if Elizabeth or Susan or left more evidence of their lives behind in this book. 

Midwife's notes in back of Birth of Mankind

Thumbprint in Birth of Mankind
To see them, ask for Rare RG91 .R27 and Rare RG91 .R9.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Cymbal Scion

Photograph of Robert Zildjian examining a cymbalFour hundred years ago, in the city of Constantinople, an alchemist named Avedis discovered a revolutionary means of treating alloys. Avedis belonged to a family of metalsmiths and cymbal-makers, and his innovative process immediately became a closely-guarded secret that was passed down from father to son over the centuries. Today, the family business is thriving: it is the oldest manufacturer of musical instruments in the world, one of the oldest continuously operating global companies still in existence, and the largest cymbal and drumstick maker in the world. The organization is still family owned and operated, and does business under the surname originally bestowed upon Avedis by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire: Zildjian or, in Armenian, "Family of Cymbal Smiths". Numerous legendary 20th-century drummers use or have used Zildjian cymbals, including such musical luminaries as Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Neal Peart, Dave Grohl, and many others.

Interestingly enough, one of the scions of the house of Zildjian attended Dartmouth College before returning to the family business. Robert Zildjian was a member of the class of 1945, where he majored in History and Philosophy, was a member of Chi Phi fraternity, and participated in Le Cercle Francais. In 1981, after a dispute with his brother over the company, Robert left the Avedis Zildjian Company and founded Sabian Cymbal in New Brunswick, Canada. Sabian Cymbal is today considered one of a handful of dominant cymbal makers, alongside Zildjian, Meinl, and Paiste. To read more about Zildjian, both the company and the man, come to Rauner and ask to see the alumni file for Robert Zildjian '45.

Friday, February 24, 2023

A Tale of North and South

First page of George Whitcomb's letter to his brotherWhen the American Civil War began in April of 1861, a 23-year-old Boston man named George Francis Whitcomb joined the 5th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. According to census data, he was employed at the time as either a clerk or a printer. Whitcomb was not alone in enlisting: he had three older brothers, two of which also signed up for military service.

Here at Rauner, we have a letter that Whitcomb wrote to one of his brothers on July 19, 1861. At the time, Whitcomb is in Centreville, Virginia, and has a "great enthusiasm" about what lies ahead. Perhaps his enthusiasm was because he had yet to see battle, having spent the last couple of months with drills and preparation in a Massachusetts training facility. On July 14th, his regiment had finally decamped as part of an "advance guard of one of the most important columns consisting of about 20,000 troops…headed by its fifty pioneers, with their muskets slung upon their backs and carrying axes upon their shoulders."

As the regiment heads south towards the city of Alexandria, Virginia, Whitcomb describes the countryside he crosses, which sometimes is "uninteresting." They encounter no significant resistance but come across several individual Confederate soldiers and capture a "leading rebel named Holly, who was mounted and armed." Whitcomb's company is able to extract some information from him regarding Confederate troop movement after which "his horse was confiscated for the use of one of our officers, and he was allowed to depart."

Whitcomb continues his letter, providing more detail about his company movements, its encounters, and the sounds of skirmishes in the distance. The Union forces arrive at Manassas Junction on July 20th, a day before the the first major battle of the Civil War. Whitcomb presages this encounter by saying that "the rebels are constantly receiving reinforcement and a great battle may be expected in a few days."

However, despite the impending conflict, Whitcomb is not scared. He closes his letter by telling his brother: "It may be the last time I shall ever write to you. God grant me that it is not so but if it is so ordained do not mourn for me remember I die for my country’s sake for which I will freely give my last drop of blood."

As luck would have it, Whitcomb did not die at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861; in fact, only nine soldiers of the 5th Mass Regiment were killed during the fighting that day. After the battle concluded, Whitcomb continued serving in the Union Army for more than three more years, eventually becoming a captain in the 30th Massachusetts Infantry. However, despite his initial good fortune, he was killed in action on October 19, 1864. He was only 27 years old.

First page of a letter from Cecilia to her sonSometime after 1862 and before his death in 1864, Whitcomb took a blood-stained letter from the body of a dead Confederate soldier "for preservation", or so it says on the envelope. The letter is dated May 4th, 1862, and was written in New Orleans by a woman named Cecilia who then mailed it to her son in the field. Although we likely will never know the full identities of either correspondent, the content of the letter provides an unvarnished Southerner's perspective on the war. Writing shortly after the capture of New Orleans, Cecelia describes the devastation of her city and leaves no doubt about her anger towards the "traitors" who sold them out and the "leaders at Richmond":

"We are cut off from everything….The city looks deserted many have left their homes and nothing in the markets…All the cotton burned…All our Navy gone, burned or blown up by ourselves…. We must put ourselves in the hand of God and he will deliver us in time and we will be victorious. She closes her letter with “Good Bye God Bless you and keep you from harm.”

To look at both letters, come to Rauner and ask to see Mss 861419.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Emma Illustrated

Frontispiece and title page from the 1833 Bentley edition of Emma
When Emma was first published in 1816, it was a simple production. The unadorned title page matter-of-factly stated that the book was "by the author of Pride and Prejudice." The publisher didn't offer anything else to persuade the bookstore browser to buy the book. Like the other early editions of Jane Austen's novels, Emma had modest sales, but nothing to indicate how popular it would become. That all changed in 1833, when the successful publisher, Richard Bentley decided to reissue all of Austen's novels in a matching set. He lured in potential buyers with a frontispiece image and a small vignette on the title page. The Bentley editions were a huge success and made Austen a household name.

Original art and reproduction in book of one of Hugh Thompson's images for Emma
By the end of the 19th century, publishers were churning out editions of Emma and Austen's other novels. They used different illustrators and fancy bindings to attract new readers and book collectors. We have many of these, as well as some original art by Hugh Thompson from the 1896 Macmillan Emma. Looking through them, you can see Austen's popularity soar.

Title page of 1816 first edition of Emma

Frontispiece and title page for C. E. Brock's illustrated edition of Emma

To see the first edition, ask for Rare PR4034 .E5 1816; the Bentley edition is Ticknor LE Au7e; The C. E. Brock edition is Sine B762nov; the Hugh Thompson edition is Sine T56emm; and the original art is MS-1447, box 59.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

‘Sex Kit Shocker’: Safer Sex and AIDS Prevention at Dartmouth College

“Cream for anal sex. Does that make you nervous?” The camera pans to the plastic baggie Phil Donahue holds. The audience laughs. This Ziploc bag, which the Dick’s House Health Education office termed the Safe Sex Kit (later amended to Safer Sex) began a campus-wide and national discourse about moral and medical issues in sexual education.

In the years prior to the kit’s release in 1987, Dick’s House had struggled to convey the importance of safer sex practices and the growing threat of AIDS to a largely heterosexual, largely indifferent student population. In response to increasingly urgent public health guidance put out by the American College Health Association (ACHA) and the Surgeon General, Beverlie Conant Sloane – director of Health Education – put together the Safe Sex Kit to make both information about safer sex as well as protection more accessible to students. The Health Services office reported that 200-300 students voluntarily picked up kits when they were made available during registration for the 1987 winter term.

The kits included:
-    A small green square of latex meant for use in protecting the user during oral sex1
-    A lubricated condom
-    A small grey tube of spermicidal lubricant
-    A pamphlet describing how to use the contents of the Safe Sex Kits
-    A pamphlet entitled “AIDS: Questions and Answers” written by the Health Service
-    An ACHA-produced pamphlet about safe sex, which categorized sexual practices as ‘safe’ ‘risky’ or ‘dangerous’ with respect to AIDS and STD transmission.

Only a few weeks after the kits were made available, the Dartmouth Review caught wind of the Health Education office’s effort. The front-page story of the January 21st, 1987 issue read “Dartmouth Wants Perversity in the Name of Diversity.” The article accused the administration and health service of “condoning bizarre sexual practices,” “subsidizing sex,” and “approving [a] sodomy manual.” In a memo from Jack Turco, then-director of Dick’s House, to Dean Ed Shanahan, Turco acknowledged the Review’s incendiary tactics and doubled down on the Health Education program: “In retrospect, if we had a chance to do it all over again, I honestly do not think I would suggest proceeding any differently… we are not talking about unimportant issues, kinky sex, or sexual preference. We are talking about deadly illnesses… I realize that this article was constructed to create controversy and to try to embarrass individuals at the College.”

Less than a month later, Gregory Fossedal (’80 and founder of the Review) based his February 7, 1987, editorial in the New York Post – “Dartmouth’s Sex Kit Shocker” – on the original Review article. “Shocker ” was nationally syndicated and reprinted. Within days Dartmouth found itself embroiled in a media controversy. Letters and phone calls from alumni, parents of students, and people with no affiliation to the College came pouring in. Some were thoughtful moral criticisms alluding to Biblical verses espousing the importance of abstinence and marital sex. Others were thoroughly venomous. One, addressed to Pres. McLaughlin, merely read: “$17,091 to go to Condom College. It’s hard to believe.”2  Part of this controversy was because Dartmouth was the first among its peer institutions to offer any kit of such kind. Many of the calls were simply curious or confused. No matter the query, Dean Shanahan and Jack Turco tactfully responded by reiterating that the kits were a “medical, not a moral statement.”

To emphasize this message, the College sent representatives to both the Today Show and Donahue in late February 1987 to clarify the intent behind the kit and highlight the need for comprehensive sex education. Jack Turco and Cuong Do ’88, an intern at Dick’s House and head of the Nathan Smith Society (a pre-health professions student organization) represented the Health Education office. Debbie Stone ’87, editor-in-chief of the Review represented the conservative perspective.

On Donahue, a fierce debate ensued. Stone accused the College of neglecting moral education in the Safe Sex materials. Her particular grievance was with the photographs depicted in the ACHA brochure. She argued, “This isn’t a medical brochure. This is a slick advertisement to engage in perverse activities.” Despite her qualms, most of the show’s audience seemed to agree with Do and Dr. Turco. Addressing Stone, one audience member pointed out, “If you don’t know morality by when you go to college, the pamphlet can’t help you.”

Public opinion shifted for the Safe Sex kit after Donahue aired. Do and Dr. Turco’s impassioned and well-informed arguments about the medical need for sex education, combined with Stone’s poor performance and inflammatory claims, prompted a flood of positive press. In the weeks after the show, Dick’s House fielded dozens of calls per day. Some were critical, but most were coming from parents, educators, and health professionals who were excited and wanted to know more about the kits. Just as many audience members on Donahue had expressed, the kits were effective as a form of education and protection against the growing AIDS epidemic.

Similarly, the Safe Sex Kits were widely appreciated by the Dartmouth student body. In an analysis about Dartmouth’s AIDS education effort, Conant Sloane later remarked that the media controversy had changed the campus climate from apathetic to engaged. Following an on-campus panel entitled “AIDS and Safer Sex: An Open Forum,” students largely praised Turco and Do’s performance on Donahue. One student wrote, “I think it is an impressive step taken by the college to address a very serious issue which threatens our society… I’m pleased that Dartmouth has chosen to educate the community, all facets of the community.” Another asked if the kits could be made available for employees in addition to students. Though the controversy around the kits created negative press coverage for Dartmouth, the media firestorm caught the attention of students and galvanized the largely heterosexual, largely blithe community into caring about safer sex and the threat of AIDS.

Looking back on this material has made me realize how much of Dartmouth’s sexual wellness resources I have taken for granted. As a first-year student, I would laugh when my UGA knocked on my door offering candy and condoms. Only now do I realize how hard-fought those condoms were! Beverlie Conant Sloane and Jack Turco recognized the severe threat that AIDS posed to students of all sexualities at Dartmouth and worked hard to provide resources against a crusade of moral righteousness from conservatives both on and off campus. On Donahue, Turco remarked, “There’s no doubt that there is going to be another sexual revolution.” Because of him and the work of the Health Education office, Dartmouth students were equipped to handle it.

To see correspondence and news clippings related to the Safe Sex Kits, ask for the Dean’s subject files in DA-8 Box 7482 and folders “Health Education – Safe Sex Kits” and “Health Education 86-87”. To watch the full Donahue Show tape, ask for the Jones Media Center records (DL-36) Box 11701. To see the Safer Sex Kit itself, ask for Realia 145.

1 Jeffrey Hart, faculty advisor for the Dartmouth Review, wrote an article in The National Review criticizing the Safe Sex Kits for promoting vulgarity and immoral behavior. His observation on the dental dam? “The one before me is colored green, perhaps because this is Dartmouth… I wonder whether Princeton is providing rubber dams with orange and black stripes.”

2 If only I paid just $17,000 to attend this so-called Condom College. How inflation changes things!

Posted for Leeza Petrov ’22, recipient of a Historical Accountability Student Research Fellowship for the 2023 winter term. The Historical Accountability Student Research Program provides funding for Dartmouth students to conduct research with primary sources on a topic related to issues of inclusivity and diversity in the college's past. For more information, visit the program's website.