Friday, July 22, 2016

Arctic Regions

One of the most glorious books in our collections is William Bradford's Arctic Regions (London: Low, Marston, Low and Seale, 1873). It is a photographic tour de force assembled by an artist better known for his landscape paintings. Bradford traveled up into Baffin Bay and toured Greenland with two photographers in tow. Rather than seeing the north as a forbidding landscape, Bradford saw, and his photographers captured, a scenic land. In their hands ice formations were not obstacles to shipping and navigation, but wondrous works of nature--at times beautiful, and other times sublime. It is a unique view of the north for its time: when explorers from around the world were trying to conquer the north and find a Northwest Passage for commerce, it pauses to ponder the beauty of a foreign world.

As Bradford put it, "This volume is a result of an expedition to the Arctic Regions, made solely for the purposes of art." His text both waxes poetic and weighs down the images with the kinds of copious detail only a landscape painter would see. 

The book is also a technical wonder. All of the images (over 140) are actual photographic prints pasted into the book. There were around 300 copies printed, so you can imagine the darkroom work involved in producing the edition.

You can see it in all of its glory by asking for Stef G610.B79.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

18th Century Justice

Letter concerning Woodworth case
MS-1310, 747217
Sarah Woodworth, wife of Ichabod Woodworth of Lebanon, North Parish, was called to the meeting house for a public admonition on March 17, 1747. She was accused of stealing wool from Esther [Villanee? Wallace?] -- which Esther might have unlawfully taken from her own father -- but Sarah was also accused of "Profane & Sinfull Language" and "impertinence" in the face of the community's "Long Patience" with her. For this, Sarah faced a public admonition. This sentence was given by Eleazar Wheelock, founder of Dartmouth College, during his days as a pastor in Lebanon, Connecticut. This incident reveals a few things about 18th century justice.

Letter concerning Woodworth case
MS-1310, 746368
The saga of Sarah Woodworth began the year before, in June 1746, with a meeting of the Pastor (i.e, Wheelock) and the Council. After a Mrs. Stephen Tilldin plead on Sarah's behalf, "Mrs. Woodworth Comes in and Says She Chuse to have a hearing." The Council decided to see if Mrs. Woodworth had "any new Light to offer." This seems fair enough.

Then comes the public admonition -- not a verdict handed down by the current US judicial system. We don't have any surviving documentation, but we can presume that the accusations in MS-1310, 747217 were read out in the meeting house. (We imagine a deep, ringing voice, with something like thunder in it.)

However, in 1750, Wheelock wrote a letter noting that Sarah had "many Symptoms of a Delirium," she was admonished and the case against her dismissed (MS-1310, 750330). But this admonition should not be so great, Wheelock writes, that it would be "her Ruin."

So, what is this a case of? Was she truly ill (and delirious) in 1747, or in 1750? Was she aging poorly? Was she an outspoken woman in a society that did not approve of such "impertinence"? From these documents, we may never know. Research paper, Dartmouth students?