Friday, October 28, 2011

A Dissertation Concerning Vampires

A photograph of the title page for "Dissertations," dated 1759. One of the earliest works on vampires and how to deal with them is Dom Augustin Calmet's Dissertations Upon the Apparitions of Angels, Daemons, and Ghosts, and Concerning the Vampires of Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia (London, M. Cooper, 1759). In his lengthy treatise, first published in France in 1746, Calmet examines many different occurrences and types of vampirism, which he claims is a new phenomenon not known in ancient times. Calmet writes that "It is common... to see men, who have been dead several years... come again, walk about, infest villages, torment men and cattle, suck the blood of their relations... and, at last, occasion their death."

Fortunately, Calmet also presents the only sure method of defeating such a creature. According to Calmet, "digging them out of their graves, impaling them, cutting of their heads, taking out their hearts, and burning their bodies" is necessary to prevent further calamity.

Oddly enough, Calmet himself seems to be of two minds about the whole subject. In his preface, he writes that those who believe in vampires will "accuse me of rashness and presumption... for denying their [vampires] existence" while others will "blame me for throwing away my time in writing upon this subject, which is... frivolous and trifling." Calmet ultimately sidesteps the whole issue by concluding that whether or not vampires are real, he has done humanity a service by either debunking the myth or presenting people with a means to deal with such creatures.

Ask for Oliver 6 to read the whole treatise.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Two Poets

One of the many delights of working with Special Collections is finding the occasional – and quite unexpected – connection between two figures whose works are represented in Rauner. Vita Sackville-West and Robert Frost are both poets, and their dates are very close (1892 – 1962 for Sackville-West and 1874 – 1963 for Frost). But beyond that . . . two very different characters indeed. So imagine our surprise when a short handwritten letter from Sackville-West to Frost turned up recently in Frost's voluminous correspondence. She wrote to him on January 22, 1933, during a lecture tour in America, promising to send him a copy of her poem, The Land, and expressing great admiration for his work. Further investigation reveals that she met him and dined with him in Northampton, Massachusetts, on March 17, 1933, and described him as "a handsome man who goes in for good conversation."

Sackville-West's grandson, English writer Adam Nicolson, continues his family's tradition of lecturing to American audiences, and spoke here at Dartmouth this month on the King James Version of the Bible in this, the 400th anniversary year of that translation. He published a study of that enterprise in 2003, entitled God’s Secretaries: the Making of the King James Bible.

A page of printed verse.

To mark his visit to Dartmouth, two special exhibits have been mounted in Rauner Special Collections Library. See last week's blog entry for a description of the historic Bibles (including one leaf from the 1611 KJV) drawn from Special Collections' holdings and now exhibited in the Class of 1965 Galleries. Additionally, a small, single-case exhibit is now on display in the Special Collections Reading Room. Included are works by (and one about) his grandmother, Vita Sackville-West, and father, Nigel Nicolson. The dedications of many of these works are of special interest, and many are signed.

Both exhibits remain on view through the first week of November. To see the Sackville-West letter, ask for Frost manuscript 906129.