Friday, May 17, 2019

Edwin Drood through the Spirit-Pen

Six original parts of Teh Mystery of Edwin DroodCharles Dickens was in the midst of writing The Mystery of Edwin Drood when he died suddenly on June 9th, 1870. The first three installments had already been published, the fourth and fifth were complete, and the sixth was partially finished. The problem was that it was to be a novel in 12 parts, so the book was only half finished... and it was a mystery!

Of course Dickens was writing the novel as he went and he didn't even leave notes behind for the rest of the story. The publishers decided to just cut it off and call it a fragment, leaving a public wondering "who done it?" Luckily for the world, Brattleboro, Vermont, publisher T. P. James heard a voice from beyond. About a year after his death, Dickens began to dictate the conclusion to The Mystery of Edwin Drood to James. Why Dickens chose a small publisher in Brattleboro is anyone's guess, but James followed Dickens's instructions and published The Mystery of Edwin Drood Complete in 1873. The completed novel advertised itself as:
Part Second of the Mystery of Edwin Drood by the spirit-pen of Charles Dickens, through a medium. Embracing, also, that part of the Work which was published prior to the termination of the Author's Earth-Life.
Attribution page for Edwin Drood Complete
There is a preface by the medium (none other than the publisher) with a strong defense of the second half of the work as well as an author's preface by Dickens. Both the author and the medium chide critics who doubted the veracity of authorship. Dickens also provides a glimpse of the afterlife, assuring the public that Hell does not exist and that the spirits of those we have lost are still among us, just occupying a different plane of existence. But, far more important than solving the mystery of the afterlife, The Mystery of Edwin Drood is also solved. We won't give that away--to find out come in and ask for Val 826 D55 T411. You can also see the original six parts by asking for Val 826 D55 T413.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Race for the Pole!

Box cover for The Race for the Pole
Throughout the 19th century and into the 20th, the North Pole was a place of imagination and fantasy. Who knew what would be there? An open polar sea? A huge magnetic mountain? An endless wasteland? A place of banishment (remember Frankenstein)? Lots of people wanted to find out, and the race was on. Even when it was "discovered" in 1909, nothing was really settled. The ensuing arguments between Frederick Cook and Robert Peary went on for decades.

Game board
We recently purchased a huge collection of Arctic ephemera that shows the incredible popularity of the North. Among the playbills, advertising trade cards, sheet music, photographs, and puzzles, there was a simple game called The Race for the Pole from 1905. Three colored balls had to weave up an obstacle laden hill to reach the North Pole--each ball represented a different country. Which would win? Little nails representing ice pack blocked the way, but eventually, with enough tilting and twirling, an intrepid explorer might make it.

Rules for game
To see it, ask for the Arctic Ephemera collection, MSS-288, Box 8.