Friday, February 19, 2016

Light and Shadows in the Thirties

Boy Scouts crowd photographThe boys sit in rows, their knobby knees emerging from beneath their shorts as they wait further instructions. This photograph from the 1930s speaks to the power of youth organizations, and it comes from the 1939 brochure America's Answer. The Boy Scouts were America's Answer to fascist and communist youth organizations, instilling American boys with a correct sense of patriotism. However, the Americans weren't the only ones creating propagandistic photographic books.

The second photograph in this blog post comes from a series of pamphlets published by anti-fascists in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War (1946-1939). It's a rallying cry against fascist brutality, featuring two slain fighters. The image is a memento of its time, when both automobiles and horses cruised the streets of Barcelona. These are just two images from our latest exhibition, Light and Shadows in the Thirties, which presents the wide variety of photographic books during the 1930s.

Rocked by the economic crisis of the Great Depression, nations questioned previous orthodoxies and experimented with new systems, often selling their solutions or sentimentalizing their problems using the power of the photograph. Light and Shadows in the Thirties presents these photographic books as a vital medium in this turbulent and pivotal decade.

Spanish Civil War battle
The exhibit was curated by Bay Lauris ByrneSim and will be on display in the Class of 1965 Galleries from February 16 to March 30, 2016.

The books featured in this post are: America's Answer. New York: Boy Scouts of America, 1939.  Rare Book HS3313.B69 1939. Visions de guerra i de reraguarda, Serie A. Barcelona: Editorial Forja, 1937. Rare Book DP269.15 .V57  v.1-8 Ap.1937-Oct.1937.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Comic History of England

William the Conqueror Inspecting the VolunteersWhoever said history is a serious subject is a liar. Or, at least, that's probably what Gilbert à Beckett thought. He was the author of The Comic History of England, a three-volume 1840s text that pokes fun at Britain through the years, starting with the Druids and ending with the reign of King George II. To those who might feel offended at his humorous treatment of history, the author says in his introduction that "he has so much real respect for the great and good, that he is desirous of preventing the little and bad from continuing to claim admiration on false pretenses." Noble and funny -- sounds like this guy would have been a great dinner party guest!

The landing of William the ConquerorThe book is filled with illustrations reminiscent of political cartoons. Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising, given that à Beckett was a founding staff member at Punch magazine, which was the first publication to use the word "cartoon" in its modern sense. À Beckett pokes fun at uncouth druids and snooty nobles alike, skewering English class differences. Although, as you can see by his depiction of William the Conqueror, he's not above some good old-fashioned slapstick either!

Making A BeginnningNot an Anglophile? Never fear, à Beckett wrote more than just History of England -- Rauner has a copy of his The Comic History of Rome, too.

To see The Comic History of England, ask for Illus L516ac. For the The Comic History of Rome, Illus L516acr.

Posted for Emily Rutherford '16.