Friday, March 1, 2013

Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates

An illustration of a pirate in a long red coat, standing on the deck of a tossing ship.From Peter Pan's Captain Hook to Pirates of the Caribbean's Captain Jack Sparrow, pirates are established and identified though their dress. The credit for the classic pirate costume (coat, boots, sash, and tricorne) could easily be given to Disney, but Disney had a source from which to draw inspiration: Howard Pyle.

Raised in the Brandywine Valley, Pyle spent his childhood in the picturesque town of Wilmington, Deleware; there, stories such as Grimm's Fairy Tales, The Arabian Nights, Robinson Crusoe, and The Tanglewood Tales fostered Pyle's imagination and creativity. After studying art under F. A. Van der Weilen, Pyle became an author/illustrator for Harpers Magazine. His first illustrated pirate tale, "Buccaneers and Marooners of the Spanish Main," was published here in the August/September 1887 issue. Pyle continued to produce pirate tales, even as he gained recognition for The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown, in Nottinghamshire and his King Arthur tales.

A lushly colored illustration of a rowboat of figures behind a large ship.Howard Pyle spent his summers near the ocean in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, with his family; many pirates were painted during these summers. Though many of the buccaneering characters of his tales hailed from New York, Virginia, and Delaware, Pyle's pirates stuck to a dress code influenced by sixteenth century sailors and Spanish Gypsies. These clothes would have been impractical for a true pirate, but the task of the buccaneer on the page is not to climb rigging or wash the deck—Pyle's pirates job is to look distinct, exotic, and dangerous.

Pyle's pirates became iconic, changing the world's perception of what makes a pirate. Harper & Brothers was able to capitalize on Pyle's pirates' popularity by publishing his pirate tales as a collection in 1921, ten years after his death. Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates is not a complete tribute to "Father of Illustration," but does highlight his genius in creating the modern pirate.

A page of text from "Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates."
Ask for Illus P993howp

Posted for Laura Vang '15

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sound Sampler

A photograph of a pile of wax cylinders.
Edison Wax Cylinders
Charles Furlong Papers (Stef Mss 197)

Sound recordings, whether spoken word, music or field recordings have always been part of the aural landscape (well at least as long as sound recording equipment has been around). There's a natural impulse to create some lasting impression of an event or artistic achievement.

As with any medium, the method of capturing sound has evolved over time. The earliest methods (called phonautographs) recorded sound as visual lines on paper. These were replaced by Edison's wax cylinder phonograph and the gramophone.  Both used a stylus to impress a continuous groove in some malleable material  - typically wax, lead, or tin foil. The "records" that are still in use today are a direct descendant of these early formats.
A blue-violet flexography and the case for an LP.
Great Issues (DA-12)
Standard 33 1/3 LP
Rauner Phonodisc 5
Magnetic recording technology was the next major evolution in the history of sound reproduction. Instead of capturing the vibrations as physical changes, an electrical analog of the sound was used to drive a recording head whose magnetic field varied according to the frequency and amplitude of the sound being recorded. Those magnetic imprints were then read back through a complimentary signal path. Wire recordings, reel to reel tapes and cassette tapes are all part of this format family.
A reel.A recording spool.
10" reel to reel
WDCR tapes (uncatalogued)
Wire Recording spool
Great Issues (DA-12)
The current age of digital recording employs DACs (digital to analog converters) and ADCs (analog to digital converters) to map the analog sound waves to a stream of ones and zeros and back again. Once in the digital realm, these files are typically distributed in magnetic (hard drives) or optical (CDs) form factors - a potentially ironic nod to their ancestor formats.

Rauner holds numerous sound recordings in many different formats.  We present a limited sample of those found in various collections.