Friday, April 3, 2020

Ordinary Memorabilia

A poster for the 1937 Exposition Interntionale.The Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne was held in Paris in the spring and summer of 1937. The Peace Pavilion was to be the culminating point of the exhibition and was dedicated to the "support of propaganda in favour of Peace." However, the Peace Pavilion's impact was overshadowed by the physical juxtaposition of the Nazi and Soviet pavilions. Situated directly across from one another, the two pavilions displayed each country's respective views on nationalism and politics through architectural motifs and created a visual preview of the coming world conflict.

A printed "Carte de L├ęgitimation."
There is little mention of these issues in our small collection of materials on the Expo. Instead, we have Churhill Lathrop's Carte de L├ęgitimation and a handful of maps, pamphlets, postcards, and other ephemera. See the sights of Paris as featured on a folding guide to the Paris Metro. Dine on traditional British food at the British pavilion (though why one would when there were so many other options remains an open question). Travel to other parts of France on the "railway of the sea." All the usual things that the ordinary visitor would need during his or her visit to the continent.

An open, colorful pamphlet.An advertisement for the Buttery restaurant.

Interestingly enough, though Lathrop was an Art History professor at Dartmouth, no mention is made of Picasso's Guernica which was exhibited for the first time in the Spanish pavilion at the Exposition.

Ask for MS-1015. A guide to the collection is available.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

You Laugh

A poster for "You Laugh."We recently acquired a small collection of Dartmouth's more recent history related to the introduction of coeducation in 1972. Elizabeth Epstein Kadin entered Dartmouth College in 1973, during a time when the College had not yet come to terms with this monumental change, and a sexist and hostile environment pervaded the campus. In response, as part of a class project for a philosophy seminar entitled "Feminism and Revolution," Epstein and seven other women wrote and produced a play called You Laugh, in 1975. The play was a "35 minute series of skits designed to focus on feelings and perceptions of Dartmouth women." Even though the women disagreed as much as they agreed during the writing process, according to Melanie Graves '78, every woman could identify with some of the crude jokes, insults and sexual stereotypes they were confronted with on a daily basis.

Notes for a production of "You Laugh."
The play was first performed at Hopkins Center in front of a sympathetic crowd of only women. However, the next two performances at Rollins Chapel were opened up to the entire Dartmouth community and attracted a mixed crowd, stimulating lengthy discussions among those who attended.

Though it would take many more years, for women to be truly accepted at Dartmouth, the play exceeded the expectations for those who were involved and supported it. It remains a testament to all the women who fought and ultimately succeeded to break into this once all male bastion.

A photograph of a group of women.
To view the script of You Laugh as well as newspaper accounts and correspondence related to the play and coeducation, including letters of support from trustees as well as letters from a disgruntled alum ask for MS-1228, The papers of Elizabeth Kadin.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Early Readers

A primer with a page of text on a wooden frame.Until quite recently, one of the first texts that many children would have learned to read was the Lord's Prayer. A child learning to read in eighteenth-century England might have encountered the Lord's Prayer in a hornbook, a durable primer containing a single sheet of text backed with wood and covered with a thin, transparent sheet of animal horn or mica. This hornbook from our collection devotes nearly half its page to the text of the Lord's Prayer.

In the second quarter of the sixteenth century, a young girl in the French royal family also owned a pocket-sized copy of the Lord's Prayer. Her delicately illuminated book of hours has some unusual additions - the Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, and Credo are all copied out in a large, legible hand on the first three pages of the volume. Every adult would have memorized these fundamental texts long ago, but a young girl just learning to read and write would certainly have appreciated this (admittedly lavish) cheat-sheet.

An open book with illuminated details. A page containing the Lord's Prayer in Latin.
Ask for Val 028.5 H783 to see the hornbook.  The miniature book of hours is Codex 003197.

Friday, March 13, 2020

A Patriotic Mystery: The Bird of Washington

Image of Falco WashingtoniiIn celebration of our new single-case exhibit on display in Rauner- Some Truly Odd Birds: Audubon’s Mysterious Aviary - we’d like to present one intriguing bird that we (literally) didn’t have space to display. As we mentioned in a previous post, among the 435 bird species drawn and painted by artist and ornithologist John James Audubon (1785-1851) for his monumental work, The Birds of America (printed between 1827-1838), a handful continue to puzzle ornithologists. Chief among these is an elusive gigantic eagle he named "The Bird of Washington" (Falco washingtonii) which he excitedly first documented in 1814 as it flew along the banks of the Mississippi River near the Great Lakes:

"It was in the month of February 1814 that I obtained the first sight of this noble bird, and never shall I forget the delight which it gave me. Not even Herschel, when he discovered the planet which bears his name, could have experienced more rapturous feelings (Audubon 999: 217)."

Audubon subsequently recorded four more observations of what he called "indisputably the noblest bird of its genus that has yet been discovered." Eventually he shot a male bird as it fed on the carcass of a dead horse, which served as the model for his regal painting. The "Bird of Washington" stood nearly four feet tall and glided on a towering 10-foot wingspan, making it larger than any other eagle species in the world. Due to its impressive stature, Audubon decided to name the new species after one of America’s most beloved military and political figures - George Washington:

"in the United States, I trust I shall be allowed to honour it with the name of one yet nobler; who was the saviour of his country. and whose name will ever be dear to it. To those who may be curious to know my reasons, can only say, that, as the new world gave me birth and liberty, the great man who ensured its independence is next to my heart. He had a nobility of mind, and a generosity of soul, such as are seldom possessed."

Audubon goes further in his explanation for the suitability of the new species’ name, drawing comparisons between our nation’s first president and the bird: " He was brave, so is the Eagle; like it, too, he was the terror of his foes; and his fame, extending from pole to pole, resembles the majestic soarings of the mightiest of the feathered tribe. If America has reason to be proud of her Washington, so has she to be proud of her great eagle. (Audubon 1999:220)"

Audubon even made sure his painting conveyed General Washington’s commanding presence as depicted in military paintings; the immense raptor was painted in profile, gazing off into the distance with an out-puffed chest.

Despite Audubon’s infatuation with what he presumed to be a new species, following his death in 1851, incredulity about the Washington eagle mounted to the point that a generation later it was said only "amateur ornithologists" still considered it to be a real species (Allen 1870). When asked to comment on the Washington eagle, the eminent Elliot Coues said, "I wonder how many times the 'Washington eagle' must be put down before it will stay down! As a species, it is a myth…" What's the consensus today? Now it’s universally presumed that the few Washington Eagles Audubon and others saw were not members of a previously unidentified eagle species but were rather a common bird long known to naturalists: the common bald eagle in its immature state of development.

Interested in learning more about the scientific mysteries gracing the pages of Audubon’s famous book? Be sure to stop by Rauner Library between now and April to explore our exhibit (Some Truly Odd Birds: Audubon’s Mysterious Aviary) on display in our lobby, and as always, come into our Reading Room to see our first edition of The Birds of America.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Context is (almost) Everything

Letter from Darwin addressed "Dear Sir"We have a pretty cool letter from Charles Darwin in the collection. It opens simply enough with "Dear Sir," but the name of the recipient is nowhere to be found. The letter came to us tucked into a first edition of On the Origin of Species that was donated by Perc Brown in 1956. In 1964, the undated letter came to the attention of an alumnus who was also a collector of Darwin materials. He dove into the letter and did some amazing detective work to figure out who the letter was written to: all he knew was content of the letter--it was sent to someone who had recently written a review of On the Origin of Species, and it counters some of the arguments made in the review. His research, that took months, included examining the watermark to determine when the letter was likely written, corresponding with a Darwin specialist at the University of Wisconsin, and working with two librarians at the American Museum of Natural History, all from his home in Cleveland, Ohio.

Half-title to On the Origin of Species with signatureBy piecing together all of the clues, our intrepid investigator figured it out. With some certainty, he declared that the letter was most likely sent to Andrew Murray who had published a review in the Edinburgh New Philosophical Review.  We read his paper and were impressed. Then we noticed something very interesting. On the half-title of the book that Perc Brown donated--the book that the letter was slipped into--is the signature of none other than Andrew Murray.

Close up of Andrew Murray's signature
Our poor investigator! Had he just looked into the context of the letter, rather than concentrating solely on its content, he would have had a smoking gun clue right from the start. Confirming that Murray had written a review would have been pretty quick and painless. But then, think of all of the fun he wold have missed out on!

To see the letter ask for MS 000566. To see the On the Origin of Species, ask for Rare QM365 .O2 1859.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Lousy with Literary Distinction & Poetry

Marked up title page and flyleaf
Oh goodness, we have once before blogged an instance of author Kenneth Roberts expressing his disdain for a bit of literature in his epic take down of one of Mark Twain's essays, but this week we learned of another moment of vitriol in the margins. This time it is directed at the best seller by Walter Edmonds, Drums Along the Mohawk. To say Roberts hated it is being too gentle.

Marked up Author's Statement
He had been asked by the Atlantic Monthly to review the book, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. Instead, he kept his comments private, within his copy of the book. To start, he re-titled his copy "Bums along the Mohawk," then he offered up a fake blurb by the popular critic and selector for the Book-of-the-Month Club,  Dorothy Canfield Fisher: "Lousy with literary distinction & poetry." As evidence he cites the sentence, "Large squashy flakes of snow, falling steadily, made it hard for him to see what the soldiers were hauling west from the fort into the woods."

Snide comment on misspelling of "rely"
But his dark sarcasm is best expressed in a note pointing out a small typo. In the "Author's Statement." After boasting of his deep research, Edmonds states "Naturally, for spaces of time, no data were available, and there I had to relie on my own knowledge of our climate." Roberts circled the misspelled "relie" then caustically added, "Not a bad way to spell it, under the circumstances."

To take a look come in and ask for Roberts Library PZ3 E242 Dr copy 3.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Hiding in Plain Sight

Anitphonal open to folio 29 verso, 30 recto
We have blogged a couple of times in the past about the giant Antiphonal we keep out in the reading room. It is one of those very impressive, and very sturdy, manuscripts that are perfect for people stopping by who just want to see something old and cool.

Close up from folio 29 verso showing Dartmouth motto
But last week a student who is working on a transcription project pointed out something we had never seen. In the upper right corner of the verso of folio 29 is a little box (for a solo, we think?) containing the famous Biblical reference to Isaiah that Eleazer Wheelock adopted as Dartmouth's motto: Vox clamantis in deserto.

We have always been partial to the pages of the Antiphonal with decorative initials, but now folio 29 might be our new favorite.  Come in and take a look!

Friday, February 28, 2020

Pozzo's Lasting Perspective

A diagram of a twisted vertical column
On Monday, students from Elizabeth Kassler-Taub's Early Modern Art History class made their second visit to Rauner. During their visit, they had the chance to look at a variety of early modern architectural treatises, including a sumptuous 1719 edition of Andrea Pozzo's Perspectiva Pictorum et Architectorum. Pozzo, who lived from 1642 until 1709, was the definition of a Renaissance man (although he technically operated within the Baroque period): Jesuit brother, architect, painter, and stage set designer were but a few of his identities. His Perspectiva is a stunning example of his skill with and comprehension of the visual arts. The manual was one of the first to provide instructions on how to accomplish realistic perspective in painting and satisfying proportions in architectural design. The book went on to be a huge success; it was printed in at least six languages and new editions continued to come out well into the 19th century.

A diagram of a structural dome

To explore the beautiful engravings on perspective that accompany Pozzo's writing, or to read it for yourself if you can, come to Special Collections and ask for Rare NC749 .P8 1719.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Real Character

Taxonomy of maggots
This book is something else. It is titled An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language, by John Wilkins of the Royal Society and printed in 1688. From the title, you would think it is about language and materiality, maybe with a bit of a metaphysical twist. But then you open it up and realize it is trying to do so much more. It seems to be an attempt to get the whole of creation tamed and under control in some sort of analytical system.

Taxonomy of discourseTaxonomy of herbs

Everything is broken down and sorted in cascading charts of creation. We are talking about EVERYTHING--comets, rainbows, garden cress, dog-fish, and even clauses and sentences.

As an added bonus, there is a fairly long analysis of Noah's Ark thrown in--makes sense, I guess, when you think of what the author was trying to do.

Diagram of Noah's Ark
Come take a look by asking for Rare P101 .W4 1668.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Alice's Adventures in Transatlantic Publishing

An image of Alice being attacked by a deck of cards
Last week a 19th-century English literature class came to visit us in Special Collections, and we had the chance to show them our first published English edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll). We say "first published," because the actual first edition had such flawed misprinting of the accompanying images that John Tenniel, the illustrator, insisted that they be recalled and the edition suppressed. Carroll retrieved the advance copies that he had distributed to friends and instead shipped them off to orphanages. Today, there are only twenty-three remaining copies of this flawed first edition and (spoiler!) we don't have one.

However, we do have something almost as good. The publishing house, Macmillan and Company, had already invested in the printing and binding of 2,000 copies of the first edition, flawed images and all. So, to attempt to recoup their losses, and with Lewis's permission, they disbound the remaining withdrawn editions and sent the text blocks to the United States, where the New York publishing house D. Appleton & Company rebound them and inserted a fresh title page. Apparently, what wasn't good enough for English audiences was more than adequate for American ones. Here in Special Collections, we have copies of both the "first" English and first American editions, which allows us to compare the illustrations to see if Tenniel was on to something or merely being fussy. We'll let you decide for yourselves (the flawed original printing is on the left):

Frontispiece for the first American edition (w/original textblock)Frontispiece for the first British edition

Another exciting little detail about one of our copies is that it was a presentation copy. Inside the flyleaf, there is a dedication to "Ethel Reid," dated November 18th, 1865, and signed with the monogram "C.L.D." Given the date of the dedication, it is likely that this was a replacement volume for one of the initial fifty copies that Dodgson had requested early in order to give to friends. A letter accompanying our presentation copy, written by by Carroll biographer Sidney H. Williams in 1925, speculates that Ethel may have been one of the numerous children with whom Carroll was acquainted.

To see our presentation copy of the first published English edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, come to Special Collections and ask to see Val 825 D66 O215. To look at the first American edition, ask for Rare PZ8.D666 A1c.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Front cover of Hood's Sarsaparilla Parlor Games book
The first-year medical students at the Geisel School of Medicine visited Special Collections last week as a part of their On Doctoring course that introduces medical students to essential clinical skills through small group learning experiences. The course focuses on patient interviewing, physical diagnosis, clinical reasoning, and communication skills in developing the doctor-patient relationship. Here in Special Collections, we put some of those skills to the test by asking them to apply their powers of observation, interpretation, critical thinking, and communicating to historical documents from the archives.

Back cover of Hood's Sarsaparilla Parlor Games bookOne grouping of materials that the med students explored focused on 19th-century drug ads, including those found in a small pamphlet titled Hood's Sarsparilla Book of Parlor Games. This sixteen-page publication, generated by C. I. Hood & Co. Apothecaries out of Lowell, Massachusetts, has the stated goal of being "for the public benefit, to promote social enjoyment and good morals, [and] to give good health and cure disease." It's chock-full of fun games for boys and girls to play, with the instructions often right next to or leading directly into testimonials about the healing power of sarsaparilla. For example, one game called "Copenhagen" is played as follows: "A long piece of rope is passed around the room, each of the company taking hold on the outside, except one, who is called 'the Dane,' and remains in the centre. He endeavors to slap the hands of those who have hold of the rope, and if he succeeds, the person whose hands are slapped takes the place of the 'Dane.' Hood's Sarsaparilla purifies the blood."

Non-sequiturs notwithstanding, this little book is a fascinating glimpse into health and recreation in New England in the late nineteenth century. To pick up some new party games for your next big event, or to learn more about how sarsaparilla can cure everything from boils to malaria, come to Special Collections and ask for a dose of Rare RM671.C5 H6.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Be Mine

1880s valentine showing a woman and cupid
Happy Valentine's Day! Rooting around in the collections we found an awesome batch of very frilly Valentine cards from the 1880s and 1890s that once belonged to Mary Fletcher of Hanover. They show the maturation of the genre--cheap color printing had come to America not long before these cards were produced, and that offered the opportunity to commodify the holiday. Wait, this isn't about commerce, this is about true love!

1880s valentine with excessive lacework1880s valentine showing young smiling boy

Come in and decide for yourself by asking for the Vertical file, "Christmas Cards and Greeting Cards: Valentines."

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Good Lord, Alfred

Frontispiece showing Tennyson
Good Lord, Tennyson! We were just looking up a poem from Tennyson published in 1851, and stumbled on this frontispiece for the American edition of Poems published by Ticknor and Fields. Such a daring and romantic gentleman--the flowing locks, the aristocratic nose, the handsome, brooding look. I say, "now that's a poet if I ever saw one!"

Frontispiece showing Whitman
It is fun to contrast it with the famous frontispiece for Walt Whitman's 1855 Leaves of Grass. The worker, man of the people, looking you in the eye daring you to read his poems. The democratic ideal with his open shirt front versus Queen Victoria's poet Laureate sporting his gentleman's collar.

Come read the poems--the differences are more than skin deep. You can see the Tennyson by asking for Ticknor LE T25p, and the Whitman by requesting Val 816 W59 S8.

Friday, February 7, 2020

A Sea Serpent Near Boston?

Diagram of the head and serpentine body of the supposed Gloucester sea serpent.
Diagram of the supposed
Gloucester Sea Serpent.
You’ve likely heard of Scotland’s famous aquatic cryptid who lives in Loch Ness, but what about the Gloucester sea serpent, which was said to have frequented the coast of Massachusetts a mere 30 miles north of Boston? The massive creature was supposedly sighted by multitudes of fishermen and townspeople in August of 1817, leading to a scientific investigation by the Linnaean Society of New England which sought to determine the “existence and appearance” of the beast. Here at Rauner, we house the official report which was produced after a committee questioned 11 witnesses regarding the Gloucester sea serpent’s size, coloring, and behavior.

In honor of this year’s Winter Carnival theme - "A Blizzard of Unbelievable Beasts" Rauner is hosting an interactive exhibit featuring books from the Renaissance through the 19th-century which document the many fantastic beasts - from unicorns to griffons to sea serpents - which were thought to roam the less-explored lands and oceans around the globe.  One of our favorite items which will be on display this afternoon for our “Unbelievable Beasts” exhibit is the aforementioned Gloucester sea serpent report, titled “Report of a Committee of the Linnaean Society of New England Relative to a Large Marine Animal, Supposed to be a Serpent, seen near Cape Ann, Massachusetts in August 1817.”

The Linnaean Society of New England (1814–1822) was established in Massachusetts, to promote the study of natural history. The Society ran a science museum, arranged lectures on topics ranging from mineralogy to ornithology, and excursions for its members. Before it became a central figure in the so-called “Gloucester sea serpent debate”, in the summer of 1816, society members travelled through Hanover on their way to explore New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Whilst in New Hampshire, the group surveyed Mount Monadnock and Ascutney among others, studying their mineral composition and searching for new species (they documented 4 new species of plants).

On August 18th, 1817, the Linnaean Society convened to investigate reports of an extraordinary “sea serpent” which had been making waves (pun intended) around Gloucester and Cape Ann, Massachusetts. The group formed an investigative committee which created systematic questionnaires, each containing 25 targeted questions meant to ascertain the nature of the sea serpent, including “How many distinct portions were out of the water at one time?” and “Had it gills and breathing holes, and where?” Within a few days after the initial sightings had been reported, the three committee members and the “Honorable Lonson Nash of Glouchester” met with 11 locals who professed actually to have seen the animal in question, first asking them to explain everything they remembered from the sea serpent encounter, and then recorded their responses to targeted questions. In order to keep the report as ‘scientific’ as possible, the examinations were done separately, and “the matter testified by any witness (was) not to be communicated until the whole evidence was taken.”

Title page of the Gloucester sea serpent report. According to eyewitnesses, the serpent was between “eighty and ninety feet in length and about the size of a half barrel, apparently having joints from its head to its tail.” Contrary to the typical renditions of glistening green sea serpents, the majority of the accounts describe the creature as a dull dark brown without any spots. The creature was capable of moving at extraordinary speeds, as according to one testimonial it could “travel a mile or two in three minutes” and even faster underwater. Although the serpent was observed during midday in most cases, it’s rather shy nature and quick movements made it difficult for any of the observers to get a good look at its facial features. Despite a general consensus on it’s large size, scaly skin, and fast undulating movements, it’s face looked “much like the head of a sea turtle” to one observer, yet “formed something like the head of the rattlesnake, but nearly as large as the head of a horse” to another fishermen who observed it the same day. The committee members asked witnesses whether they’d possibly mistaken other natural phenomena for a serpent, including “a number of porpoises following each other in a train”, but the answer was always a resounding “no.” As one witness responded, “I was in a boat, and within thirty feet of him… I could see his scales.” To those who testified, there was apparently no doubt that they had encountered a large serpentine beast.

Although most of the Gloucester sea serpent encounters documented in our committee report were rather uneventful - often involving the animal swimming by and occasionally stopping at the surface of the water to apparently rest and survey its surroundings - the seventh witness, Matthew Gaffney, had a rather frightening experience. Gaffney, a ship carpenter from Gloucester, recalled that on August 14th, 1817, he saw the sea serpent between 4 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon when he was out in the harbor sailing his personal vessel with his brother Daniel and friend Augustin Webber. As Gaffney explains it, “I was within thirty feet of him. His head appeared full as large as a four-gallon keg; his body as large as a barrel, and his length that I saw, I should judge forty feet, at least…. I fired at him, when he was nearest to me. I had a good gun, and took good aim. I aimed at his head, and think I must have hit him. He turned towards us immediately after I had fired...he was coming at us.” The scene didn’t end with an epic Jaws-worthy fight however, for as soon as the creature was hit it “sunk down and went directly under our boat, and made his appearance at about one hundred yards from where he sunk… (he) continued playing as before.” Gaffney was incredulous that he was unable to kill or otherwise wound the animal, making sure to highlight his marksmanship skills in the interview, stating, “My gun carries a ball of eighteen to the pound; and I suppose there is no person in town, more accustomed to shooting, than I am.”

So, what precisely did the Committee of the Linnaean Society conclude about the sea serpent? They don’t state a definite “yes” or “no” answer, however if the report were a Magic 8-ball it would read “All signs point to yes.” For example, the report includes illustrations of a smaller Cape Ann sea animal actually examined and dissected, which the authors likened to "a remarkable serpent, supposed to be the progeny of the great serpent." The small serpent, which had unusual bumps along its back, was taken as concrete evidence that a larger sea serpent must exist. Additionally, to accommodate their ‘discovery’, the Linnaean Society established a new genus - Scoliophis Atlanticus - and included a diagram of what the adult animal must look like at the front of their report. As the reporters remarked following their interview sessions, “the deponents were interrogated separately, no one knowing what the others had testified, and though they differ in some few particulars, still, for the most part, they agree.”
Diagrams drawn from dissecting the supposed baby Gloucester sea serpent, which was actually a deformed black snake.
So what happened to the Gloucester sea serpent, and what about the supposed baby serpent collected in Cape Ann? At first the reports led to impassioned debates on both sides about the creatures' existence. An editor of the Philadelphia newspaper at the time wrote an editorial stating. “The evidence of the existence of the Sea-Monster is conclusive and irresistible.” Perhaps it was too irresistible though, as a French naturalist that acquired the supposed baby sea serpent soon concluded what had been thought to be a new species was in fact a common black snake (Coluber contrictor) whose spine undulated due to a skeletal disease. As the news broke, scholars questioned the validity of the Society’s report, and when the group disbanded in 1822 nobody followed up with further inquiries. Perhaps local residents of Gloucester really did see a remarkable marine animal in the summer and fall of 1817, but we’ll likely never know for sure.
To read this sea serpent story for yourself, stop by Rauner Library today and ask to see Rare QL 89.2.S4 L56 1817.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

It's Just Business

Portrait of Blake from The Grave
We have blogged before about the rivalry between William Blake and Thomas Stothard over their competing images of the Canterbury Pilgrims. We have both engravings in our collection and they are very cool when set side by side. Their interpretation of Chaucer, while very similar in composition, is wildly different in style.

Stothard's Canterbury Pilgrims
But what got us interested in this again was something we found in Blake's illustrated edition of Robert Blair's The Grave. While flipping though The Grave the other day, we were a little more than shocked to find a three-age prospectus for for Stothard's "Canterbury Pilgrims" at the end of the book. How could this be?
Prospectus for Stothard's Canterbury Pilgrims
It turns out the publisher, R. H. Cromek (really more an impresario) who produced Blake's rendition of The Grave, was also into Stothard, and he was responsible for issuing Stothard's "Canterbury Pilgrims". That must have angered Blake since he considered Stothard's design a rip off of his own work. There is another connection--the engraver. In each case Cromek hired L. Schiavonetti to execute the actual engravings. So, here you have the impresario, the two competing artists, and the engraver in a kind of unholy mess of art, business, and conflicting personalities--wait, I guess that's par for the course.

Come take a look at the trinity by asking for Val 825B57 R31 (The Grave), Iconography 1661 (Stothard's Chaucer), and Iconography 1596 (Blake's Chaucer).

Friday, January 31, 2020

What is this Book?

Engraving of Aveline Here is a curious book. It contains multiple sets of engraved plates from the 18th century, mostly by Pierre-Alexander Aveline. The plates constitute different series of views of Paris and its surroundings. There is no title page, and there is no indication that it was ever issued in its current format.

So, why does it exist?  We had a theory that it may have been some kind of sample book. Like a catalog in a shop where plates were housed. A tourist could look through the book and select an image to have printed to take home as a memento of his or her trip to Paris. But then we saw a description of a similar book of engraved plates that described it as a source book used in an artist's studio. Need a good Parisian backdrop? Take a look at the book of engravings and select one to work into your painting.

It is a pretty compelling explanation for the existence of a book like this. Ours has been rebound, so it lacks some important evidence of use, but it could well be a reference work of visual culture for others to sample. This is not yet cataloged, but you can see it by asking for it at our desk. The magic number we need to find it is 10110446. We welcome your theories!

Set your Sundial for Success

Map of New England
Here in Special Collections, we have a lovely little volume written in 1687 by Richard Blome titled The Present State of His Majesties Isles and Territories in America. This book, along with Ogilby's America, had a profound influence upon British emigration to the American colonies. Numerous maps of various islands are painstakingly reproduced in beautiful engravings, including a decent one of New England.

Sundial instruction sheetDespite the fascinating cartographic efforts that the book contains, our favorite detail is found on the very last page of the text itself (before the list of other books that the seller is trying to hawk). An engraving of various sundials demonstrates to the reader how to properly align their garden sundial, depending upon which of the British territories they live in. New England, Barbados, Jamaica, Virginia, and Carolina all have different instructions for alignment. As we move into February, when the days are growing longer, if not warmer, it's interesting to reflect on how important the sun was for early settlers for more than just heat and light.

To see Blome's book, come to Special Collections and ask for Rare E162 .B65 1687.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

"To Pearson"

Charles Pearson wearing a Dartmouth letter sweater
We have blogged about our man Charles "Stubbie" Pearson '42 a couple of times and we also featured him in one of our Hindsight is 20/19 podcasts. We just love his story. It is moving, funny, and in the end, heart-wrenching. He was captain of the football and basketball teams (took them to the Final Four!), valedictorian, and seemingly all around great guy. He died over the Pacific in WWII. You can get his whole story here.

One of the things that gets us every time is the poem "To Pearson" his classmate and Air Force comrade, James M. Idema wrote after the war and published in the prestigious Poetry Magazine. Here is the first stanza:
You'd never in a million years have guessed
Heor Pearson wrote fatuous verses to the stars,
And--tall, generous, brooding, loving, clumsy--
Laughed and made them paper balls to pitch.
Want more? Go to the Poetry website.

Friday, January 24, 2020


Engraving of a scorpion
If you like old tomes and creepy-crawlies, then do we ever have the book for you. In preparation for an anthropology class on bestiaries, we discovered an edition of Jan Swammerdam's Historia Insectorum Generalis that was printed in 1685. Inside, a cornucopia of detailed engravings of insects are lovingly tipped in. The high quality of the images is almost reminiscent of Vesalius's anatomy of the human body, which makes sense once one learns that Swammerdam initially trained as a physician. In fact, his love of insects derailed his father's plans for him to become a wealthy and prominent doctor. In anger, his father withdrew financial support and Swammerdam was forced to practice medicine in order to make enough money to continue his entomological research.

In 1669, Swammerdam published his Historia, which disproved the prevailing Aristotelian perspective that insects were inferior creatures which lacked any sort of internal anatomy worth mentioning. Additionally, Swammerdam argued that insects came from eggs instead of spontaneous generation, which was a widely-held Christian notion at the time. Swammerdam is today often cited as ushering in a natural theology that took hold in the 1700s, wherein the glory of God was revealed by careful scientific examination of his various creatures. He also was an innovator with regard to scientific techniques for working with scientific specimens, both insect and human.

Engraving of a mosquito

To explore the amazing world of insects contained within the first Latin edition of Swammerdam's work, come to Special Collections and ask to see Rare QL463 .S8.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

A Little Plainer Mr. Emerson

Inscribed title page to NatureDartmouth students in the 19th century had a habit of tweaking the sensibilities of their nervous professors. The school was a factory for missionaries, members of the clergy, lawyers, and teachers--not exactly the most radical professions of the time--and the faculty were strict and conservative in their views of culture. So, in 1838, the Dartmouth Literary Societies invited the bad boy of the American intelligentsia, Ralph Waldo Emerson, to speak at their Class Day celebrations.

On July 24th, 1838, Emerson stood before the class and orated on his Transcendentalist views. God is not found in the Bible but in Nature! Blasphamy, scandal! He also threw in a critique of education in America that was not particularly flattering. Worse yet, the speech occurred just nine days after Emerson delivered his scathing Harvard Divinity School Address that shook Harvard, the Unitarian church, and American thought in general.

Marked up flyleaves to Nature
Emerson gave the Literary Societies a little present when he was here: an inscribed copy of the first edition of his Nature published two years earlier. His copy was placed into the Social Friends' Library then became part of the Dartmouth Library in the late-19th century. The book was well read. On the inside flap are notes from various readers and there are bits of marginalia throughout as curious readers tried to puzzle out Emerson's prose.

Last page of Nature with note, "A Little Plainer Mr. Emerson."
But the best comment comes right at the end. The frustration of a confused student is expressed in his scrawl across the bottom of the final page: "A little plainer Mr. Emerson." If you want to learn more, listen to our Hindsight is 20/19 podcast episode for the 1830s.

To see the book, ask for Val 816Em3 T614.