Friday, August 17, 2018

The Winds of War

Front cover of Gone with the Wind dust jacket, 1st edition
On this day in history, nearly seventy years ago, Margaret Mitchell died after being hit by a car in Atlanta on her way to see a movie. Mitchell's best-selling novel, Gone with the Wind, had first been published thirteen years previous, in 1936, and had made her a household name. For her efforts, she received the National Book Award for Most Distinguished Novel of 1936 and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937. More recently, Gone with the Wind has come under criticism for its promotion of "plantation values," its use of the N-word, and its perpetuation of myths about the Reconstruction era. The movie adaptation of the novel was similarly criticized upon its release, with one dramatist equating the film with Birth of a Nation. Despite its questionable representations of both the South and African-American people, the novel went on to sell over 30 million copies. A 2014 poll ranked it as one of the favorite books of American readers, second only to the Bible.

box cover of 1952 Japanese edition of Gone with the Wind that includes a photo from the movie of Clark Gable and Vivien LeighHere at Rauner, we have several editions of Mitchell's novel. One of the most interesting, at least to me, is a deluxe Japanese edition printed in 1952. This edition was bound in sheepskin, limited to a print run of one thousand, and meant to capitalize on the publicity surrounding the arrival of the movie adaptation in Japanese theaters that same year. The book is housed in a cardboard box that has a reproduction of a still from the movie pasted onto its cover. In addition to the deluxe copy, other cheaper editions were sold in Japan leading up to the screening of the film. In the box with our edition, there are facsimiles of correspondence written by representatives of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Tokyo; the letters indicate that, as of October 1952, more than three million copies of the novel had been sold and that people were waiting in long lines to get advance tickets to the show. In a nod to the challenges of translation across cultures, a postscript notes that the Japanese version interprets Rhett Butler's mention of a nightcap as referencing an actual sleeping hat and not a stiff drink.

Initially, it seems a bit strange that Japan would be so interested in a movie about the American Civil War. However, as journalist Tony Horowitz notes in his 1998 book Confederates in the Attic, both ninteenth-century Georgians and twentieth-century Japan had to rebuild themselves after being "ravaged by war."

To see the autographed first edition of Gone with the Wind, come to Rauner and ask for Val 817 M694 R21 copy 2. To see the 1952 Japanese deluxe edition, ask for Val 817 M694 R211. To see the MGM screenplay of the movie adaptation, ask for Scripts 21.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Dorm Beautiful

Photograph of the expensively decorated dorm room of Gail Borden '26
Long before the Dartmouth Plan created a sense of general chaos for student housing, dorm rooms could be a multi-year commitment. If you really wanted to, you could move into a room and stay for several years. Since rooms were only marginally furnished, students could adorn them with any furniture they could afford. For some students with the ways and means, customizing their rooms became an obsession that denoted their class status. These were gentlemen in the making!

A photo of an article in House Beautiful showing the decor of a Dartmouth student dorm room.Case in point, young Gail Borden ‘26, moved into a new room his sophomore year and didn’t leave until he graduated. Heir to the fortune of Borden Dairy, he opted for one of the most expensive spaces on campus. 20 Massachusetts Hall was a corner room with a separate bedroom and its own sink and toilet. But it was a mere shell before Borden started decorating: leather-bound furniture, book shelves with rare and finely printed books, an overhead lantern, what looks like a kind of wet bar (it was the ‘20s though…), and a Navaho rug on the wall. It was such a stunner of a room that the popular House Beautiful featured it in an article about the fine decorating tastes of several Dartmouth students. Under Borden’s care, 20 Mass became “the fitting room of a connoisseur of fine books and a very well-read student of literature.” The maple desk is 100 years old and the mahogany drop leaf table was picked up at a local antique shop. The hanging lantern is a Paul Revere. For you book lovers who read our blog (we know who you are), he has a 17th-century Holinshed on his shelves as well as his personal copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer! Don’t we all?

To see pictures of Borden’s room as well as hundreds of others, ask for Iconography 851. To see the issue of House Beautiful, ask for DC History NK2117.B4 W348.