Friday, November 18, 2016

Arctic Nights

Color frontispiece of sketch of "Gus" Masik in his cabin in Alaska. He is playing an accordian wearing hih boots with a big smile on his face. The cabin has a wood pile and a stove and Masik's modest belongng.The nights are getting really long as we approach winter. One of the nice things about having a huge polar research collection, is that whenever our northern climate starts to wear on you, there are plenty of harrowing stories in the collection about places much colder and much darker through the winter. Today we stumbled on a northern version of A Thousand and One Nights. But in the polar regions, one month-long night will do the job for a pretty long story.

Arctic Nights' Entertainments (London: Blackie and Sons, 1935) recounts the life and adventures of August Masik as told by him to Isobel Hutchinson over 25 days of darkness. Born in Estonia, "Gus" took to the seas as a young man. His travels took him into the arctic regions where he decided to stay, but he never settled. His life is full of harrowing journeys across the ice. A colorful storyteller, it is tough to judge when he is dead serious and when he is exaggerating for effect. But, if the Hanover winter gets to you, come into Rauner: Masik's tales will warm you up.

You can see the book by asking for Stefansson Alcove F 909 .M38.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Looking Ahead - A.D. 2001

A black and white cover of the Collier's Weekly Magazine. The word "Collier's" is written in big letters across on the very top of the page. Both sides of the title are decorated with illustrations of different farming tools and studying utensils. In smaller fonts, "weekly journal of current events"are written right below. The majority of the cover page is a black and white illustration with a caption that reads "captured Chinese flags." In the illustration, an endless row of soldiers are marching with flags of various designs, most of them depicting imaginary animals like dragon. In the front of the illustration stand people looking at the military parade. Norwich Public Library's book club visited Rauner for a session in September to take a look at materials on the development of science fiction as a literary genre. Many of Jack London's works were brought out for this session as his novels employ similar schemes that one can find in current science fiction stories, and thus are considered the predecessors of the science fiction genre. One of these works is a short story titled Relic of Pilocene, which was first published in Collier's Weekly Journal of Current Events in 1901. Though the story does not explicitly employ scientific inventions and technology, it does reference paleontology and its spirit of the wilderness adventure works in a similar way to the Star Wars movie series, imaginatively exploring the unknown world. In fact, Relic of Pilocene goes well with this volume of Collier's Weekly in that this volume was dedicated to recapitulating technological developments of the 19th century. The articles in this volume demonstrate technological developments in many areas such as transportation and communication from 1801 to 1901.

The most remarkable page in this volume was this imaginary illustration of what the technology in 2001 would look like. Frederick Strothmann, an American illustrator known for his World War I propaganda poster "Beat back the Hun with Liberty Bonds," drew this image with a caption that says "Broadway, New York, as it may appear a hundred years hence, when modern inventions have been carried to their highest point of development." In his drawing, Strothmann includes many subtle and not-so-subtle clues about what he thinks will be commonplace at start of the 21st century.

Page 29 of volume 26 of Collier's Weekly. It's a black and white entire-page illustration. In the background of the illustration loom tall, grey sky scrapers which completely covered the sky. The two buildings in the front of the illustration are connected with wires which holds floating capsule-looking trams. Some people are mail materials are floating in the bottom and middle of the illustration on hot air balloons. Large crowds are waiting for the floating capsule train on platforms protruding from the building on the left side of the illustration. The lower platform sign reads "Wall St" and the higher platform sign reads "Manhattan Air Lines." Different signs hung on the side of the buildings. On the very top left corner of the illustration, the sign reads "Youth Restored by Electricity While You Wait. 199th Floor." On the very left bottom corner the sign reads "To Europe, 6 Hours by Submarine Line." On the right bottom side of the illustration are two signs. One of them reads "Wireless telephone, local and Europe," and the other one in the bottom reads "Quick Lunch: Compressable Food Tablet."In some ways, it seems like our technology has reached its highest point. We do have skyscrapers that loom over the skyline, and wireless telephones do allow people from across the world to stay in touch. Though not exactly identical to Strothmann's vision, floating trams do exist in underground or above-ground versions in big cities across the world. The United States doesn't have submarine lines to Europe but underwater tunnels do exist in parts of the world, like that between the United Kingdom and France. Though not by hot air balloon, people, and mail, were able to travel by air well before 2001.

At the same time, some other projections are far from accurate and, in fact, we still believe that a few of these will be realized in the future. Some people still fancy the idea of compressable food tablets that provide all the nutrition we need without having to have a full meal, and some do argue that it could be possible in the near future. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if we will ever be able to restore youth by electricity, though it sounds very tempting!

Take a look at other cool illustrations printed in this volume by asking for London PS 3523 .O46 R45 1901.