Thursday, October 29, 2020

Illustrating Bluebeard


Bluebeard's wife looks around as she begins to unlock the door.
Here’s a horror story for you: a French nobleman seeks a bride, but struggles due to his unsightly blue beard and a string of missing wives. Eventually, he is able to woo a young woman and bring her back to his estate as his new wife. After a month of marriage, he declares that he must go away on business, leaving her with a ring of keys and an interdiction. She can go wherever she likes and entertain to her heart’s content, but she must not use the littlest key on the ring. It opens a closet on the ground floor and nothing awaits her there but her husband’s “just anger and disappointment.” After some time, the young bride is overcome by her curiosity and unlocks the door, where she finds the bodies of her murdered predecessors. When her husband discovers that she has failed his test, she is only spared their fate by some stalling and the timely arrival of her brothers, who kill her husband in turn.
Bluebeard, a fairy tale first published in Charles Perrault’s 1697 Histoires du temps passé, ou, Les contes de ma Mère l'Oye, better known as Mother Goose, has been retold over and over again, deeply affecting the development of the gothic and horror genres. Its influence pervades classics like Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Fritz Lang’s The Secret Beyond the Door, as well as more recent texts, including Crimson Peak and Ex Machina.
A caricature of Bluebeard handing the keys to his wife.
Rauner Library’s collection of illustrated versions of Bluebeard also highlights a curious trend: how Bluebeard, a French fairy tale, became increasingly Orientalized over time. When the first literary version was published, the accompanying illustrations showed its characters in European dress. They were also largely unnamed, with the exception of the “Bluebeard” moniker and the new bride’s sister Anne. At some point in adaptation, however, the bride gains the Arabic name Fatima, and the story begins to take on an exoticized aspect. In an 1805 English language version, the entire story is relocated to an ambiguously Eastern setting. In others, like William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Awful History of Bluebeard (1924), Bluebeard himself is the focus of the change, while everything else remains fairly European. Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), one of the great artists of the Golden Age of Illustration, also had to have his two cents. His take on Bluebeard, featured in The Sleeping Beauty and Other Fairy Tales from the Old French, is located “in a city not far from Baghdad.” Even Arthur Rackham, whose work is overall less interested in the Orientalism of his peers, was apparently unable to resist the racist allure of imperiling a beautiful woman in an imagined East. 

Bluebeard brandishes a scimitar.
This translocation by tale-tellers and illustrators leaves a lot to be desired. The inconsistent mish-mash of European design sensibilities with an interest in and fear of the Orient is by no means exclusive to Bluebeard, but it is a specific and somewhat puzzling case study. The standard lineup of historical figures cited by folklorists as possible influences on the oral folktale, like Gilles de Rais and Henry VIII, is not exactly foreign. And while the story is gruesome enough that it could have made some uncomfortable to think of as so close to home, Bluebeard is no more horrific than many other fairy tales that didn’t receive the same treatment.What do you think? Check out some of the Rauner’s many illustrated variants, including Rare Book PQ1877 .C513 1785, Sine Illus D86sleb, Sine Illus C366fai, Illus R115 afb, 1926 Coll B587n 1805, and Sine Illus C527fai.




Monday, September 21, 2020

College in the time of COVID

Foldout record of the deaths from the front of Hodges's book
As the first full term of the pandemic begins here at Dartmouth College, we are taking the opportunity to reflect back on the somewhat morbid but always fascinating history of global pandemics that our collections harbor. In particular, we've been thinking about the London plague of 1665, the smallpox outbreak in the American colonies during the Revolutionary War, and the misnomered "Spanish" flu of 1918. Although the bubonic plague ravaged London a mere one hundred and three years before Dartmouth was founded, the smallpox and flu outbreaks are "recent" enough to have had an effect on student life in Hanover.

Our post today isn't so much original content as it is a looking back to previous blog entries about these diseases and a glance forward into the possibilities of the current term. Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year, while a fascinating read, also relied heavily upon the writing of Nathanial Hodges's Loimologia: or an Historical Account of the Plague in London in 1665. In addition to narrative accounts, we also have a gathering of weeklybroadsides that indicate the number of deaths per week and their causes during 1665, when the plague was at its height.

Prescription for a purgative in preparation for inoculation from the late 1700s
With regard to pandemic impact upon the Dartmouth campus, we have correspondence related to a group of students seeking inoculation from the virus, a risky venture given the possibility of actually succumbing to the terrible disease. More than a century later, Clifford Orr, a member of Dartmouth's class of 1918, would write home to his mother about how the flu was sweeping across campus. While thinking about these past virulent visits, we wondered about what sorts of experiences current students might document during this coming term, and whether any of those documents might make their way into the archives as well some day.

With that in mind, this post is also a bit of self-promotion. Today, September 21st, I'll join Sarah Smith, from the Book Arts Workshop, for a fascinating look at journals created during times of crisis and pandemic. First, I'll showcase some books from Rauner Library that recount the London plague, then follow with original manuscripts that Dartmouth students wrote during the colonial smallpox outbreak and the 1918 flu. Then, Sarah Smith will help students make their own journals using materials from around the house. Instructions for making a simple book are found online on the Book Arts Workshop’s resource guide here. Feel free to make your own journal using her advice and start writing down your own journal of a plague year.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

From νόστος / nostos to nostalgia

The Ulysses Etchings of Robert Motherwell
The Ulysses Etchings of Robert Motherwell
Motherwell, Robert, David. Hayman,
and James Joyce.
San Francisco: Arion Press, 1988.
 
"Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean."
(Excerpt from "Ithaka" / C.P. Cavafy ; trans. E. Keeley)
 
James Joyce Wavewords : from Ulysses
James Joyce Wavewords: from Ulysses.
Hellmann, Margery S., and James Joyce.
Seattle, Wash: Windowpane Press, 1996.

 "I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name"

Excerpt from "Ulysses"
Alfred Tennyson.
Seven Poems and Two Translations
Hammersmith: Doves Press, 1902.

See also "Ulysses" Alfred Tennyson. Poems, London: E. Moxon, 1842

Circe from After Flaxman
The Odyssey of Homer
After Flaxman, John and William Blake
London: Longman, Hurst, Rees & Orme, 1805.

Ulyyses and  Diomedes are condemned to the Eigth Circle
Ulysses and Diomedes are condemned to the Eighth Circle.
Inspired from Dante Alighieri, Henry Francis Cary, and William Blake.
The Inferno from La Divina Commedia of Dante Alighieri
New York: Printed by Richard W. Ellis for Cheshire house, 1931.

Colophon to Vlyssea, 1524
Vlyssea
Homer. Batrachomyomachia. Hymni. XXXII.
Venetiis: [In aedibvs Aldi, et Andreae Asvlani soceri mense aprili], 1524

See also: Odysses


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Mise en Abyme: Zooming in on Visual Pleasure

You Are Not Alone drawing from Social Me by Sofia Szamosi
Szamosi, Sofia.
Social Me

"There is the satisfaction of being able to look at the image without flinching. There is the pleasure of flinching." (Regarding the pain of others / Sontag, Susan)



Social Me - cover

"My social media box set documents my various attempts over the last two years to understand my complicated relationship to social media and the hidden forces that drive it." (Szamosi, Sofia. Social Me : Sofia Szamosi's Social Media Box Set. New York, New York: Sofia Szamosi, 2018.)

Instagram drawing from Social Me
"Drawing instagram posts is a way for me to re-contextualize and digest images that intrigue or confuse me. I change the medium to give new light and space to these images and words, and unlock layers of meaning."

Food image from Social Me
"Many of the women featured in the Girls on Instagram series are friends who volunteered their posts. Many others are strangers who I found searching through hashtags."

"The word 'girl,' so often pejorative and infantilizing, I use purposefully - the women in my collections are performing girl-dom on a platform that validates their performance. I am interested in the many ways of being and performing 'girl' within the context of social media, how those performances are encouraged and propagated, and how they may be limiting, empowering, or something in between." 

Covers for Girls and Their Food, Girls and Their Bodies, and Girls Making Faces

See also: Szamosi, Sofia. #Metoo on Instagram : One Year Later.  New York, N.Y: Sofia Szamosi, 2018.

Image frm Snitch by Shan Agid
Agid, Shana. Snitch

"Snitch is a pop-up book about surveillance. More specifically, it is about the ways people talk about it and how. This continues even as many people resist some forms of surveillance. We help it operate every day. While the explosion of new surveillance in recent years is daunting, this book focuses on long-standing, common-sense ideas about what we should be afraid of, and how that helps sell the idea that expected forms of surveillance make us safer." (Booklyn website)

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Bad Boys & Girls: Neither Outsider Art nor Marginal Art

Image of Kim Kardashian with white overlay
Cancelled Kim

Tebbe, Felice and Kardashian, Kim. Not Once : I Am Selfish. New York: Booklyn, 2017. 

"This is about a theft of a book from an exhibition at a not-for-profit for book arts. This book was stolen. It was in an exhibition honoring its publisher. The question here is, who is the artist of Kim's selfish book? Is it the lady who belabored 509 pages? Or is it the surgeon who made the first & the latest cuts into Kim's skin? Or, was it her domineering mother/manager, or the magazine editors, a.k.a., Anna Wintour? Is she the cutter of Kim's skin? Or, is it Kim's own thirst for fame? Who is the true designer of her surgeries? Kim is a cutter of her own skin, she just hires surgeons to cut her." -- Felice Tebbe, 2017 (Booklyn website).

Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton and others with white overlays

.........

Images from Homoerotic Art of Pavel Tchelitchev

Tchelitchew, Pavel, and  Leddick,David. The Homoerotic Art of Pavel Tchelitchev, 1929-1939 . United States : Asphodel Editions, 2000.

"Certain acts dazzle us and light up blurred surfaces if our eyes are keen enough to see them in a flash, for the beauty of a living thing can be grasped only fleetingly. To pursue it during its changes leads us inevitably to the moment when it ceases, for it cannot last a lifetime. And to analyze it, that is, to pursue it in time with the sight and the imagination, is to view it in its decline, for after the thrilling moment in which it reveals itself it diminishes in intensity. I have lost that child's face." -- Genet, Miracle of the Rose.

.........

Let's Play!: Composite image with three pages - title page, A Creative Genius, Fun For Everyone

Duyck, Chip. Let’s Play! : Coloring and Activity Book, Based on the Life of Jean Genet . New York: Picture Books, 2005.

"An unlikely character for a coloring book, Jean Genet has never looked more friendly and approachable than he does in Let's Play!. Drawn in the simplified cartoon style of so many "educational" books for children, the robberies, prison stints, gambling tables, beggars, lice, and tattoos pictured on these pages teach children about a world beyond the reach of their scribbling scrabbling crayons." See also: Off coloring book.

.........

Title Page and first page of My Thieving

Duyck, Chip. M[y] Thieving [journal] : a Story of Jean Genet. New York: Picture Books, 2005.

"Jean Genet has spoken to me with surprising lucidity about life, love and morality. He saw beauty in the grotesque and elevated it to the status of a diamond. When I look through this diamond, I see life with a unique clarity and brilliance." -- Chip Duyck (Booklyn web site)

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Haptics: The Terrain Between Accessible Design and Universal Design

Atlas of the United States - title page

Image of title page from the Atlas of the United States : printed for the use of the blind by S.G. Howe. Rare Book G1200 .H7 1837



Map of New Hampshire in Boston Line Type

Image of a map of New Hampshire printed without ink in Boston Line Type. 

Needlework - Sentiments

Image of needlework from a collection with text: "Sentiments, signed." Manuscript 001924 See also: Laura Bridgman hand work (doilies, carving): MS-1207. Hanover (N.H.) Historical Society records, folder 17, box 23.

Laura Bridgman

Image of Laura Bridgman. Laura Bridgman and S.G. Howe worked extensively together, including at the Perkins School for the Blind.

Consider: Touch This Page

'Perkins Archives partnered with Northeastern and Harvard Universities to create "Touch This Page! Making Sense of the Ways We Read," an exhibition about multisensory experiences of reading. The exhibit focuses on the work of Perkins founder Samuel Gridley Howe, who developed a tactile form of the print alphabet known as Boston Line Type. Included on the website are 3D printed copies of Perkins Archives artifacts that are available for download.'

Citation: Special Issue on Tactile Fluency. Future Reflections, volume 38, number 2 (2019). National Federation of the Blind. National Organization of Parents of Blind Children.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

I Like the Cut of Your Jib: Fathom & Fetish, Illustrated Editions of Moby Dick

Call Me Ishamel in Emojis
Pixelation & Material Textuality:
Prosumer and Peer Production.

Emoji Dick, or, The whale / by Herman Melville ; edited and compiled by Fred Benenson ; translation by Amazon Mechanical Turk.  "Emoji Dick is a crowd sourced and crowd funded translation of Herman Melville's Moby Dick into Japanese emoticons called emoji. Each of the book's approximately 10,000 sentences has been translated three times by an Amazon Mechanical Turk worker. These results have been voted upon by another set of workers and the most popular version of each sentence has been selected for inclusion in this book. In total, over eight hundred people spent approximately 3,795,980 seconds working to create this book. Each worker was paid five cents per translation and two cents per vote per translation. The funds to pay the Amazon Turk workers and print the initial run of this book were from eighty three people over the course of thirty days using the funding platform Kickstarter."--About this book.



What The White Whale Was to Ahab in Emojis
Poe’s Law or Digimodernism?

 

Seeing histories in the literary canon:

The first London edition, The whale (title-page) / The whale; or, Moby Dick (half-title page), published in three volumes by Richard Bentley in October of 1851 was not illustrated, except for a whale, stamped in gold, on the spine. The first American edition, Moby-Dick; or, The whale published in one volume in November of 1851 by Harper and Brothers was not illustrated.

Neither a sperm whale, nor white: The first sighting of Moby Dick?

Several decades later, in the late 19th and early 20th century, four black-and-white illustrations designed by A. Burnham Shute were used in several of the earliest illustrated editions. Soon after, another four black-and-white illustrations by I.W. Taber were published for a Scribner’s illustrated edition. Twelve paintings by Mead Schaeffer were used for one of the earliest color-illustrated editions, around 1923. [Rauner holds each of the items mentioned in Seeing histories for you to explore].

Kent Rockwell illustration from Moby Dick showing Moby Dick beneath rowboat.
Deeper meanings
and body texts.
Moby Dick as a symbol
Hardcovers: Binding and meaning.
See also (unbound):
Collection of proofs of illustrations
for the Lakeside Press edition of
Moby Dick.

“...the unspeakable unspoken may reveal those texts to have deeper meaning, deeper and other power, deeper and other significances. One such writer, in particular, who has been almost impossible to keep under lock and key is Herman Melville.”--Page 139-140. "Unspeakable Things Unspoken" / Toni Morrison.

Cover from Barry Moser's Moby Dick
Dust jackets:
skins and wrappers.

A different tack: unmoored, aloof 😊

See also (Rauner blogs and exhibits):

Reference: Images of Moby-Dick. Department of Special Collections. University of Kansas. 1995.

Consider: Elizabeth Schultz. "The new art of Moby-Dick." Leviathan. Volume 21, Number 1, March 2019.


Monday, August 3, 2020

Speculative Fiction & Contingency: Aubrey Beardsley, Toni Morrison and Edgar Allan Poe engaging in the archives

Cover design for Edgar Allen Poe’s Tales by Aubrey Beardsley (Unpublished)

Cover design for
Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales
by Aubrey Beardsley
(Unpublished)

A mystery: What would Poe's reactions be to the illustrated edition by Beardsley?

In this case, the illustrations to a particular text are removed from their context as illustrations and seen as stand-alone images, whether published or unpublished (Illustrations to Edgar Allan Poe from Drawings by Aubrey Beardsley. Indianapolis: Privately printed for the Aubrey Beardsley Club, 1925. Rauner Illus B38i). Some authors illustrate their own works, others identify the illustrator and also exercise editorial decisions concerning the illustrations (see variations: Alice's Adventures in Transatlantic Publishing) and other authors have no say in illustrated editions, though editors and publishers do.

A specific voice, placed and displaced in technology.

Cassette of Toni Morrison speaking. July 30, 1986. Reading excerpt from Beloved
Another type of mystery: The label would suggest one could hear Toni Morrison reading Beloved at Dartmouth in 1986. Given that Beloved was published in 1987, one wonders what version she would be reading or from what actual artifact, typescript or manuscript, etc. It is quite possible that this very specific version of Toni Morrison speaking at Dartmouth in 1986 has been unheard except for the original individuals attending the reading. [Dartmouth College, Provost records (DA-7). Montgomery Fellowship Recordings, 1980-1996. Audio cassette recording of lectures by Montgomery Fellows, 1983-1986.] (Note: We do need to create “use copies” from some media, such as magnetic-based recordings).

The works of Edgar Allan Poe (unpublished, incomplete).

A collection of correspondence and 12 volumes in various stages of development (illustrators, forewords, etc. uncertain), that was never published.

Another mystery: How to include in a chronologically earlier “complete works” the unnamed, incomplete, and unfinished last story of Poe that is referred to as The light-house and what can artifacts of unpublished, perhaps unseen, versions of other works tell us? See Rauner manuscript MS 577.

Collaboration and engagement in the spaces of the archives: Toni Morrison engaging with the unnamed fragment by Poe. Poe and Beardsley reading and listening to Beloved. You now reading an edition of Beloved, illustrated by Beardsley with a foreword by Poe?

Navigating archives : Systemic structuring of spaces : Fragments & Lacunas.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Vanishing: Making of an Extinction Crisis

Poster from the exhibit featuring animals and scientists related to the issue of extinction
The last mass extinction, leading to the destruction of the dinosaurs, was caused by an asteroid colliding with earth around 66 million years ago. The blame for the next one lies much closer to home - with us. Soon, all that might be left of some of the planet’s 1 million species at risk of going extinct in the next century are specimens, photographs, and memories contained within archives and museum collections. As human actions lead to the extirpation of an increasing number of the world’s plants and animals, the burning question remains: what do we really lose when a species disappears, and is there anything we can do to slow or halt extinction in the age of the Anthropocene?

An online exhibit curated and designed by Alexander W. Cotnoir ’19, the 2019-2020 Edward Connery Lathem ’51 Special Collections Fellow, seeks to answer some of these complex questions, including how we arrived at where we are today using historical examples. Hopefully, by learning from the past we can change our direction in the future.

You can visit the exhibit online here: https://exhibits.library.dartmouth.edu/s/vanishingexhibit/page/intro

Friday, June 5, 2020

Protest: Through A Child's Eyes

Drawn by a 4th-grader, this map scene, drawn in pencil and crayon, may have had its inspiration from newspaper maps published at the time of the 1968 riots showing areas most damaged by fire. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” wrote Italian philosopher, poet, and essayist George Santayana (1863 - 1952). At Rauner Library, we often come across historical items and artifacts that speak to the reality behind Santayan’s words - demonstrating shocking parallels between current and historical events. This week, amid widespread protests, one such group of items captured our attention - John Matthew’s collection of political protest drawings and ephemera, which we previously highlighted on the Rauner blog back in 2015. Alongside political posters, student newspapers, flyers, banners, pamphlets and ephemera related to civil rights protests between 1968 and 1969, the collection also contains 23 original drawings depicting riots in Washington DC following Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in April of 1968. The drawings - created by Black school children ages 8 to 16 who lived in neighborhoods most affected by the protests - strike a particular cord given their similarity to recent events unfolding in Washington D.C. and cities across the U.S. like Minneapolis and Chicago, where protestors have mobilized following the death of George Floyd.

Norman W. Nickens, the assistant superintendent of D.C.’s Model School Division at the time of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, was the impetus for creating this unique record of the Washington protests as recounted through the eyes of schoolchildren. As President Lyndon B. Johnson quelled demonstrations and looting using federal troops, Nickens instructed his teachers to have the students use a variety of creative forms to express their feelings about the turmoil they’d experienced, including in-class discussions, compositions and finally - drawings.

Many of the drawings depict burning buildings, ruined storefronts, and imposing crowds of helmeted federal troops amid figures with comic-strip balloons crying “help me!” or “stop!” Although some drawings focus solely on police and federal troops confronting Black protesters and others depict store looting, they all convey a sense of fear and a feeling that the world was spinning out of control. As the author of one of our drawings - a 5th grader - said at the time, “I thought the world was coming to an end… I felt like a man in a house fire.”

Pencil drawing by an junior high school student depicting a Black protester hurling a rock through the front window of a store in front of an armed military personel.During what has since been called the “Holy Week Uprising” of 1968, crowds of as many as 20,000 overwhelmed Washington’s 3,100-member police force, and President Lyndon B. Johnson dispatched some 13,600 federal troops, including 1,750 federalized D.C. National Guard troops to patrol D.C.’s streets. By the time the city was considered “pacified” on Sunday, April 8, some 1,200 buildings had been burned, including over 900 stores. Across the country, over 40 protesters died and over 2,500 were injured.

As some of the children’s drawings show, Black store owners across Washington D.C. wrote “soul brother” or “soul sister” across their storefronts so that looters would spare their stores. What did the phrase mean? To some of the interviewed children, being a soul brother or soul sister meant “being proud of being Black”, but to others - including a 7th-grader who drew one of the protest drawings - “A soul brother is a person who treats his neighbor as he would want his neighbor to treat him.” One group of Black second-graders wrote “Soul Sister” across their white English teacher’s blackboard the day after Dr. King was assassinated, even “advising her to go home early because the streets were unsafe” according to a New York Times article written by education reporter John Mathews, who had access to some of the material that had been created by the children. As the teacher recounted, her young pupils were “unusually affectionate and protective” amid the violence, having recognized her as what we would call an “ally” today- someone who stands up for others, even when they feel scared, and acknowledges and transfers the benefits of their privilege to those who lack it. These, along with many other stories of shared humanity and kindness - comprise the largely untold narrative behind an overwhelmingly violent collection of illustrations.

Colorful crayon drawing, authored by an elementary student, depicts Black community members mourning the loss of their stores and a police vehicle with occupants labelled as "white men". Notice the tops of the storefronts, which read "soul sister" and "soul brother."

Despite the fact that inscribing “Soul Brother” generally provided insurance against damage, the children’s drawings also show that not all destruction was strategically planned. For instance, some of the drawings depict stores owned by white community members, engulfed in flames, with Black families living above them trapped and burned out of their own homes. Such illustrations depict the disproportionate impacts of the Holy Week Uprising felt by predominantly Black communities following the protests, despite the initial strategy of targeting white businesses.

Three part crayon drawing by an elementary student depicting what the student's block looked like before, and after the riots broke out across Washington D.C., and what the students thought their neighborhood would look like in the future. In the future, the street looks largely the same, save for all the stores are brimming with goods.In addition to reflecting upon their past experiences during the four days of unrest, the  younger children were asked to draw pictures of their neighborhoods on Friday  - the day after MLK’s assassination; on Monday - after the largest riots had occurred - and visions of what they believed it could look like in the future. The Friday scenes usually show fires, looting, and skirmishes with police, whereas the post- riot illustrations show shells of smoldering buildings, shattered windows, and militarized occupation by federal troops. Although these pre and post-riot illustrations are interesting, it is perhaps the children’s’ depictions of the future that are most illuminating… Many of these drawings depict city blocks completely transformed into a pastoral suburbia of single-family homes, with beautiful trees, families walking together, and blooming flowers.

Other pictures show the same city block, but with all the stores opened and the shelves brimming with food and supplies. These images speak to the shared hopes each of these children held for the future even amid experiencing some of the worst civil unrest during the Civil Rights movement - the desire for safety - a loving family-like community, and plentiful food and shelter. Today, although protests have taken different forms, these same desires inspire activists. The same hopes and dreams that brought thousands to the streets in 1968 still pulse in the hearts and minds of protesters today.

To view these striking snapshots of history through the eyes of the children who were living it, I encourage all those who are interested to request “MS-1335” the next time you visit Rauner Library.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Not to Worry

Five-page letter from Maurer to his mother
In 1922, Viljahlmur Stefansson had the idea to send a small group of explorers to settle Wrangel Island. Wrangel was uninhabited, and strategically located to control an important swath of the Arctic Sea above the Bering Strait. Years earlier, the survivors of the Karluk stayed there awaiting rescue after the ship was crushed by ice. There was plenty of wildlife, so Stefansson thought it could be inhabited. It fit perfectly with his ideal of the "Friendly Arctic."

So he sent four young men and Ada Blackjack, an Inupiat seamstress from Nome, to claim Wrangel Island for Canada. A year later, only Ada remained alive. It is a horrible story of Anglo-American hubris being shattered by ice and the harsh reality of the Arctic climate.

Detail of letter text about "Vic" the cat
We have all of the correspondence related to planning the Wrangel Island Expedition. It is full of optimism so it is difficult reading when you know the end result. But the worst is a letter we found from Frederick Maurer to his mother written just days before he left Alaska for Wrangel. He tells of finding "Vic," the kitten they brought along, his recent hastily arranged marriage, and his hopes for the expedition ahead and the rewards to be reaped with its success. Like a good son, he first reassured his mother not to worry:
I could not be very comfortable feeling that you were at home worrying over my safety when it is so unnecessary. You know that we are well equipped and although we are going to Wrangel Island, we are going to be living in comfort compared to the last experience up here.
Then he prophetically ties his success to Stefansson's reputation:
My going North is not for adventurous reasons as it was before, instead we are planning on commercializing the resources of the island along with exploration. It is possible that its developments may prove well worth while and as far as my investment is concerned it is as safe as Stefansson's reputation.

Fredrick Maurer on Wrangel Island
The resulting catastrophe took Maurer's life and seriously damaged Stefansson's reputation. His mother had every reason to worry.

To see the letter, ask for Stef MS-98, box 9, folder 7.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Cromwell's Bible

There is nothing better for social distancing then a really good book. If you are like a lot of us, you are knee deep in Hilary Mantel's final installment of the Wolf Hall series, The Mirror & the Light. It lives up to the previous two novels in the series following Thomas Cromwell's rise and fall in the court of Henry VIII.

Throughout the third novel, Cromwell is overseeing the production of what came to be know as The Great Bible--a full English translation fit for the evolving Church of England. The book was being printed in Paris because they wanted the best quality work Europe had to offer, but political difficulties kept rearing up (a Protestant bible in France... not cool with the Inquisition). When it was nearly finished, Cromwell had all of the type and printed sheets brought to England to complete the printing.

Our copy is particularly nice because when it was bound someone put "Lord Crumwel" on the spine--you get the feeling, based on the various pronunciations of Cromwell's name in Wolf Hall, that it was a native French speaker--though I doubt it was a member of the Boleyn family!

The title page, probably designed by Hans Holbein, is amazing. The word comes from God, but Henry doles it out to the people--on his right to the head of the church to distribute to the clergy, and on this left, to Cromwell to send out to the laity.

Cromwell didn't last much longer after the publication was finished, but the book is alive and well in our collections. To see it, ask for Rare BS155 1539.

Friday, May 8, 2020

He Walked the Walk

Photograph of Dean Warner Traynham
"In each of the spring and fall terms of 1975, a letter appeared in the editorial pages of the D from a gay person, asking for understanding. There were no responses… It was like watching a pebble fall into a pond and produce no ripples. To mix metaphors, the silence screamed." – Dean Warner Traynham, 1978

Starting a conversation about a topic that was once taboo often requires a few brave voices to break the silence before the more hesitant ones join in. I was surprised to find that in the 1970s and 80s, gay Dartmouth students had a prominent voice on their side: Dean of the Tucker Foundation, Warner Traynham.

Throughout 1978 and 1979, Dean Traynham published several broadsides about issues that were
"Sexuality and Homosexuality" broadsiderelevant at the time. One, entitled "Sexuality and Homosexuality: Some Thoughts," makes a thorough, four-page case that gay people should not be condemned on a religious, legal, or scientific basis. Traynham points out that "condemnation of male homosexuality and the subordination of women go hand in hand in patriarchal societies," and that "[t]here is no clear evidence that there is anything about a sexual orientation toward a person of the same gender that impedes the healthy development of an individual or endangers society." He concludes that "for those who know they are gay and accept it, no apologies are necessary." This sentiment was an incredible display of support for the time, and even more meaningful coming from a religious leader.

Letter from Dean Traynham to Wayne April discussing the lack of a gay group on Dartmouth campus
However, Dean Traynham did not limit this public support to writing his own views on gay rights. The Tucker Foundation hosted several open conversations about gay issues while they were still largely controversial. In the summer of 1976, the Tucker Foundation held a panel on "sexual values on college campuses." Traynham intentionally included a gay speaker on the three-person panel, noting that while the others would be professional ethicists, "there are relatively few professional ethicists to represent the perspective of gay people." He also notes that at the time, Dartmouth was the only Ivy League college that had not yet formed a gay student group, and that he hoped the panel would "provide a context for addressing it."

It was not long before Dartmouth did have its own Gay Student Support Group (GSSG), but it is unclear how much Dean Traynham and the Tucker Foundation directly supported the GSSG. The first time the organization is listed in a Council on Student Organizations (COSO) report is for the 1978-79 academic year (after it had already changed its name to the Gay Students Association), and it may have received funding from the Tucker Foundation in the meantime; an article in The Dartmouth about the group’s beginnings names the Tucker Foundation as the only alternative to COSO for funding. In any case, Stuart Lewan, who organized the GSSG, called the Tucker Foundation the group’s "administrative home." Clearly, the Tucker Foundation was a place where gay students felt comfortable.

I have personal experience advocating for the trans community at present-day Dartmouth, and trans students are usually alone in raising issues that affect us. Because we’re such a small population and so few of us are able and willing to speak out, it is hard to be heard in a campus culture that, for the most part, is ignorant of trans people’s needs. I took an interest in Dean Traynham and the Tucker Foundation’s support for gay rights not only because they supported gay rights, but because the way Traynham showed that support was remarkable. He not only publicly expressed his views, but intentionally created spaces where gay people could speak for themselves. In the words of Lewan, "he walked the walk," and his efforts succeeded in amplifying the conversations about gay issues beginning at Dartmouth.

To read "Sexuality and Homosexuality: Some Thoughts," ask for D.C. History HN51.D37. For access to Dean Traynham’s chronological correspondence, request DA-114, Box 3703.

Posted for Valen Werner ’20, recipient of a Historical Accountability Student Research Fellowship for the 2020 Spring term. The Historical Accountability Student Research Fellowships provide full funding for a current Dartmouth student to conduct research with primary sources during an off-term on a topic related to issues of inclusivity and diversity in the college’s past. For more information, visit the fellowship’s website.

***

All References:
•  Broadsides: DC Hist HN51.D37
•  Panel: DA-114 Box 3703, Chronological files 1976
•  Stuart Lewan’s SpeakOut interview
•  DA-8 Box 2626, COSO 1979-80
•  The Dartmouth January 31, 1978; page 7

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Earth Day 2020: Reflections from Special Collections

Photo of the cover of Rauner Library's first edition of Silent Spring.
Cover of the first edition of Silent Spring
On April 22nd, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Since 1970, Earth Day has increased awareness of the incredible planet we live on and encouraged people to learn more about pollution, habitat destruction, the plight of endangered species, and many other environmental issues. What began as a demonstration spearheaded primarily by college-aged anti-war protesters amid the Vietnam War, has since grown into the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion participants every year as a day of action to change human behavior and provoke policy changes for the collective good of our planet. Since its inception in 1970, Earth Day has given a voice to an emerging public consciousness about the state of the natural world, epitomized today in a new generation of environmental leaders, such as global climate activist Greta Thunberg or Jasilyn Charger of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, whose One Mind Youth Movement sparked national protests against the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline. In honor of this milestone, and in anticipation of an upcoming digital exhibit supported by Dartmouth’s Rauner Special Collections Library titled Vanishing: Making of an Extinction Crisis, today we are highlighting an unassuming, but incredibly important book that not only helped ignite the modern Environmental Movement, but holds timely lessons for how we should interact with the environment today.

The book in question - the first edition of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, published in 1962, was revolutionary in how it translated complex chemical and ecological relationships into easily comprehensible arguments, its popularity, and its appeal to the general public. Due to a combination of these factors, Carson’s investigation of the potentially adverse impacts of widespread synthetic pesticide use - in agriculture and by the U.S. government in pest eradication programs - led to widespread concern about environmental and human health impacts, environmental policy change, and the emergence of the modern Environmental Movement. Today, Silent Spring continues to provide a valuable lesson about how we should interact with our fragile planet: proceed cautiously and think long-term

Prior to the publication of Silent Spring in late 1957, Rachel Carson was a distinguished marine biologist, author of the widely acclaimed novel The Sea Around Us, and the second woman hired by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries (later the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service). Through her friendships with fellow biologists, Carson closely followed a rising number of federal proposals for widespread pesticide spraying; including the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) plans to eradicate fire ants, gypsy moths, and other insects using chlorinated hydrocarbons and organophosphates. After nearly ten years of investigation and research, Carson published Silent Spring to raise environmental consciousness among the American public about what she saw as potentially dangerous synthetic pesticides, including the notorious substance known as DDT (Dichloro Diphenyl Trichloroethane). In the course of 250 pages, Carson translated ten years of ecological and chemical research into a narrative detailing how America’s addiction to pesticides would severely harm human health, the environment, and future generations’ ability to control increasingly resistant insect pests.

Amid the turmoil of the 1960s, USDA officials, farmers, and chemical-producing companies applauded the efficacy and safety of synthetic pesticides at killing insect pests. At a time when air, water, and soil pollution were mere afterthoughts in the minds of many industry leaders, Carson’s Silent Spring made two bold assertions; first, that synthetic pesticides like DDT could be carcinogenic and thus harmful to humans, and second, that chemicals like DDT can have huge negative environmental impacts, accumulating in the food chain until they interfere with biological processes and ecosystem functioning. In chapter 3 - famously titled “Elixirs of Death” - Carson presented considerable evidence for the toxicity of a wide array of synthetic pesticides, noting that “for the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals... they occur virtually everywhere.” Although the chapter reads more like a gripping detective crime novel, Carson based her findings on research completed by National Cancer Institute researcher and environmental cancer section founding director Wilhelm Hueper, who had begun to classify many pesticides as carcinogenic - or cancer causing - for both animals and humans. With the help of her research assistant Jeanee David and NIH librarian Dorothy Algire, Carson found evidence to support the pesticide-cancer connection, much to the chagrin of chemical companies and many peers from the scientific community who reviewed Silent Spring. This finding was in sharp contrast to the general perception of chemicals like DDT at the time, which was sprayed readily across parks, beaches, and lawns to control mosquitoes, oftentimes while people were present. Later, in chapters titled “And No Birds Sing” and “Needless Havoc,” Carson reported that many synthetic pesticides readily accumulated in the environment, exponentially increasing in potency as animals lower in the food chain (i.e. fish) were consumed by animals higher in the food chain (i.e. eagles). Carson reported that this process - known as bioaccumulation - had significant negative impacts on many animals, most famously on birds. Carson discovered that birds ingesting DDT tended to lay thin-shelled eggs that would break prematurely, resulting in population declines of more than 80 percent. With continued use of synthetic pesticides like DDT, Carson predicted a grim future where birdsong would be largely absent - hence the title of her book.
Photograph of the opening chapter page from chapter seven titled "Needless Havoc". The illustration depicts a group of woodland animals to emphasize the chapter's focus on chemical accumulation in natural food webs.
Illustration from the opening page of chapter seven, highlighting the harmful impacts of chemical accumulation in food webs.
Given Silent Spring’s radical claims, the book caught the eye of agrochemical companies, industry leaders, and government officials; many of whom stood in favor of liberal synthetic pesticide use either due to their effectiveness at destroying insect pests or because they hoped to safeguard their own economic interests. As with most revolutionaries who have prompted society to question established institutions, industries, or ways of thinking, Carson received considerable criticism from the aforementioned groups following the release of her book. American biochemist Robert White-Stevens and former chemist Thomas Jukes were among Silent Spring’s most aggressive critics, especially of Carson's analysis of DDT. According to White-Stevens, "If man were to follow the teachings of Miss Carson, we would return to the Dark Ages, and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the earth." Others went further, even attacking Carson's scientific credentials, arguing that her training in marine biology rather than biochemistry left her inept to discuss synthetic pesticides. White-Stevens labeled her "a fanatic defender of the cult of the balance of nature,” while former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson, in a letter to former President Eisenhower, reportedly concluded that because she was unmarried despite being physically attractive, she was "probably a Communist.” Soon, even large agricultural and chemical companies joined in protest, trying to discredit the validity of Carson’s science while warning the public about the dangers of “questioning pesticides.” For example, agro-chemical giant Monsanto published 5,000 copies of a Silent Spring parody called "The Desolate Year" (1962) which projected a world of famine and disease caused by banning pesticides. Although critics repeatedly asserted that Carson was calling for the elimination of all pesticides, Silent Spring does not call for a complete ban of pesticides, but rather a cautious and careful approach to pest management and agricultural production; an approach considering all the environmental and human-health impacts of man’s actions prior to pursuing a “one size fits all” strategy. As evidenced by the slew of protests, Silent Spring was revolutionary in its critical examination of America’s love of pesticides.

Despite all the criticism, a growing body of scientific evidence has since supported Carson’s assertions. For example, in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified DDT as a “probable carcinogen to humans”, with exposure leading to higher rates of both pancreatic and skin cancer. In addition, according to the EPA, “a relationship between DDT exposure and reproductive effects in humans is suspected.” Meanwhile, the detrimental impact of DDT on wildlife has also become evident through rebounding populations of previously endangered aquatic and avian species that Carson believed were negatively impacted by DDT. According to recent estimates, a ban on DDT and other pesticide reductions have allowed for the comeback of the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, brown pelican, and many other species once facing extinction in the contiguous United States. As a New York Times science article published on March 11th, 1982, described:
Since the ban (on DDT), the brown pelican, one of the most threatened species, has increased to an estimated 5,000 pairs along the Atlantic Coast, up from a low of about 1,100 to 1,200 breeding pairs in the 1960's. Ospreys, or fish hawks, had fallen to about 100 breeding pairs from 1,000 on the coastline between New York and Boston. Biologists are now hopeful the species will return to higher levels by the end of the century.
As a growing body of evidence has since proven Carson’s premonitions, her call to proceed with caution in environmental matters, echoed throughout Silent Spring, becomes increasingly poignant. Carson encouraged Americans to question the logic of broadcasting potentially dangerous chemicals into the environment with little prior investigation of their environmental and health effects - but her powerful message, to question the indirect consequences of our actions on other organisms and future generations, extends well beyond pesticides. Were Carson alive today, she’d likely encourage us to approach practices in our everyday lives that we’ve accepted as “normal” - from industrial-scale cattle farming to ordering copious amounts of Amazon products - with a similar dose of caution and criticism. Silent Spring reminds us that only by proceeding cautiously and thinking about future generations, can we enact positive environmental change.
Opening illustration to Chapter 10 of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, depicting an airplane spraying DDT over a suburb.
Opening illustration to Chapter 10 of Silent Spring.
Despite its “radical-ness” as one reviewer called it, the first edition of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is a rather unassuming book. Beautiful pencil illustrations resembling playful images in children’s books about woodland animals or planes accompany the opening to each chapter, whereas Carson’s prose reads more like a poetic nonfiction crime novel than a scientific call-to-action. Looking at these features, it’s hard to believe that Silent Spring lit the match that ignited that fire that helped fuel the modern Environmental Movement. Yet these features help explain why Silent Spring appealed to such a broad audience, and therefore elucidate how it left such an enormous impact on public opinion. Thanks to Carson’s blend of carefully crafted data and moral-based arguments, in addition to her approachable writing style, the book became an enormous success. Silent Spring was named America’s “Book of the Month” following its release, landed a spot on the New York Times bestseller list (not an easy feat for a scientific work authored by a woman to achieve at the time), and sold more than 520,000 copies in 24 countries.

In addition to Carson’s engaging and approachable writing style and the sheer number of copies sold, Silent Spring was especially impactful due to the composition of the audience it reached. Silent Spring was particularly well-received by middle-class readers in addition to scientists and political elites, many of whom weren’t from traditional scientific backgrounds. As Carson said following the nomination of her work as the book-of-the-month, she hoped to "carry (Silent Spring) to farms and hamlets all over that country that don't know what a bookstore looks like—much less The New Yorker." Indeed, the book achieved something rare at the time; for a narrative based on ecological, chemical, and oncological research, it was read ravenously by farmers, small business owners, and Americans from various educational backgrounds across the U.S.

By prompting readers to confront their reliance on chemicals and by presenting them with the reality that their everyday habits might have unexpected consequences for future generations, organisms aside from pests, and their own health, Carson in turn provided a launchpad for Americans to be more critical of how they interacted with the environment on a daily basis. Silent Spring bolstered growing frustrations that young Americans felt toward governments and industries amid the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and environmental catastrophes such as the massive 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, and channeled those feelings toward a mechanism for change (i.e. environmental policy). In doing so, Carson inadvertently fanned the flames for environmental action to spread like wildfire in areas beyond synthetic pesticides. Today, the founders of Earth Day recognize the large role that Silent Spring played in the establishment of their own environmental movement. As EarthDay.org notes, “the stage was set for change with the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962. The book represented a watershed moment as it raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and the inextricable links between pollution and public health.”

Chapter 3 "Elixirs of Death" opening page, with an illustration of a cluster of chemical bonds.
The paradigm shift in environmental thought started by the publication of Silent Spring had an enormous and measurable impact upon the environment and human health beginning in the 1960s. As readers began to concern themselves with the accumulation of potentially hazardous chemicals in the environment and in turn their own bodies, increasing pressure was placed on legislators, agrochemical companies, and landowners to enact change. The positive impacts of Silent Spring are perhaps best observed in the significant decline in the use of DDT-based pesticides in the United States following the book’s publication. As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes in their Brief History and Status of DTT publication:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal agency with responsibility for regulating pesticides before the formation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, began regulatory actions in the 1960s to prohibit many of DDT's uses because of mounting evidence of the pesticide's declining benefits and environmental and toxicological effects. The publication in 1962 of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring stimulated widespread public concern over the dangers of improper pesticide use and the need for better pesticide controls.
Indeed, Carson’s challenge - to not only consider the efficacy of pesticides in ridding of pests, but to critically examine the long-term and indirect impacts of chemicals before building agricultural systems reliant upon these substances -  led to the establishment of the EPA and a subsequent ban on DDT’s agricultural use across the United States in 1972. After President John F. Kennedy read her book, Carson was called to testify before his Science Advisory Committee, which was in turn summoned to critically investigate DDT and other synthetic pesticides’ potential negative impacts.
Rachel Carson testifying before the Senate Government Operations subcommittee studying pesticide spraying on June  4th, 1963.
Carson testifying before the Senate subcommittee.
The committee issued its final report largely backing Carson's scientific claims on May 15, 1963, leading to a landslide of pro-environmental legislation echoing Carson’s call for caution in matters of the environment. In the 30 years prior to being banned in 1972, a total of 1,350,000,000 pounds of DDT had been sprayed across agricultural lands in the United States. In the 30 years since 1972, this number was cut to essentially zero. And the most amazing part? Agricultural production did not collapse with stricter regulation of synthetic pesticides as companies that had heavily opposed Silent Spring’s publication originally predicted.

In conclusion, despite fierce opposition from chemical companies, Silent Spring inspired a generation to stand up for the health of the environment and helped ignite the modern Environmental Movement which continues today in the process. Following Silent Spring, those inspired by the text reversed federal pesticide policy, enacted a nationwide ban on DDT in agriculture, established the Environmental Protection Agency, and founded Earth Day. Silent Spring was revolutionary for condeming short-sighted tampering with the environment that was pervasive during the Cold War, challenging farmers, companies, consumers, and the U.S. government to consider the long-term side effects of their actions. Aside from Carson’s radical message, Silent Spring is a remarkable testament to the power of translating science in an engaging manner to diverse audiences, particularly those from non-scientific backgrounds. Without Silent Spring, and hence the ban on DDT and ensuing protections on many species, bald eagles and dozens of other bird species would have likely disappeared from the continental U.S., and humans would be facing higher rates of cancer and other adverse health effects.

Were Carson alive today (she passed in 1964), she’d be happy to learn about efforts that have been made to safeguard our waterways and species diversity, but she would also challenge us to go further. Today, Carson would reiterate Silent Spring’s timely lesson about how humans should interact with our fragile planet: we must proceed cautiously and think about long-term resilience. In an age where we’ve become increasingly aware of the myriad of ways in which chemical, biological, and sociocultural systems are interconnected, we must devote an adequate amount of time to science before committing ourselves to a single course of action, in order to understand the ramifications before it’s too late. In addition to proceeding with caution, we must be continually critical of established practices, in order to identify unintended consequences whose impacts couldn’t previously be measured. Just as Carson used animal trials and long-term observation to examine the true cost of our insatiable appetite for pesticides, we need to think of potential indirect effects and future impacts before committing ourselves to a singular course.

To read the first edition of Silent Spring for yourself, request "Depository SB959 .C3" the next time we're open!