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.