Special Collections & Archives Blog

Author Event: Lev Grossman

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 4:06 pm

We are very pleased to announce that on Friday, September 5 at 3:00 p.m., Special Collections & Archives will host a talk, Q&A, and book signing event with acclaimed fantasy novelist Lev Grossman.

Mr. Grossman will also be a featured author at the 10th annual Bookmarks Festival of Books, a free event happening in downtown Winston-Salem on Saturday, September 6. His Wake Forest appearance is co-sponsored by Bookmarks and ZSR Library as part of the Bookmarks Authors in Schools program. It is free and open to the public.

Mr. Grossman will discuss his new book The Magician’s Land, the third and final installment of his New York Times bestselling Magicians trilogy.

grossman magicians land

The Magicians trilogy is already being hailed as a modern classic of fantasy literature. And a recent review in the New York Times opined that

The Magician’s Land is the strongest book in Grossman’s series. It not only offers a satisfying conclusion to Quentin Coldwater’s quests, earthly and otherwise, but also considers complex questions about identity and selfhood as profound as they are entertaining.

Mr. Grossman is also the book critic and lead technology writer for Time magazine and has written for the Village Voice, the Wall Street Journal, the New York TimesSalon, Wired, and numerous other publications.

A book signing will follow the talk in Special Collections & Archives. Books will not be for  sale at the library but can be pre-ordered from Bookmarks and picked up at the event. All proceeds from these sales go to support Bookmarks and the Authors in Schools program. For more information, or to place an order, call 336-747-1471 or email info@bookmarks.org .

Devoted fans may also enjoy a special exhibit in the Special Collections and Archives reading room that showcases ZSR Library’s copies of several books featured in Mr. Grossman’s 2004 novel Codex!

The Special Collections & Archives reading room (ZSR 625) is located on the 6th floor of the ZSR Library Reynolds Wing.

For more information about this event, contact Megan Mulder.

Worth a Thousand Words: Ken Bennett’s Photographs of ZSR

Friday, August 1, 2014 11:20 am

Ken Bennett Exhibit POster

Special Collections & Archives is honored to host a selection of photography from University Photographer Ken Bennett. The exhibit will be up in the Special Collections & Archives Research Room (ZSR 625) through December 31st.

Artist’s Statement:

The photographs in this exhibit all have a common theme: they include the Z. Smith Reynolds library in some way, either as the subject, the location, or the background.

On one level, I make these photographs simply as part of my job as the university staff photographer. But it goes beyond that on a personal level: the ZSR library inspires me in the way that few other places do. Rising above the campus, the cupola is a recognizable symbol of Wake Forest, visible from many locations in Winston-Salem, and it makes an excellent subject as well as a background for portraits. The interior spaces of the library, bustling with student activity, are a wonderful place to find those small, intimate moments that make candid people photography so compelling. The ZSR library is a primary center of academic and student life on campus, and as such is the first place I go looking for new photographs, or when I want inspiration.

I’m now in my eighteenth year of documenting life at Wake Forest, which provides a unique long-term perspective and the opportunity to go back to the same places many times for new photographs. One of my first successful images here was of the cupola at dusk, shot in 1997, and over the years I have been fortunate to explore changes in the library itself, as well as the students and other members of the community who inhabit it.

Please drop in Monday-Friday, 9-5 to take a look at this stunning exhibit.

Sarum Breviaries (1555, 1556)

Friday, July 25, 2014 10:17 am

One of the shelves in my office has a small label that reads “Problems.” On it are books that were found, in a recent inventory of ZSR’s Rare Books Collection, to have incorrect or nonexistent catalog records. One of my summer projects this year is to evaluate and create records for this small collection of obscure, odd, or otherwise inexplicable volumes.
problems

Recently I pulled down two volumes bound in dark blue velvet.
sarum breviary covers

An order slip tucked inside one of the books indicated that they had been purchased by the library nearly 50 years ago. But we could find no indication that they’d ever been cataloged.
sarum breviary order card

Purchased in 1967 from book dealer Paul Stroock, they were supposedly a two-volume set of a breviary—a Roman Catholic liturgy book—of the type known as the Salisbury (or Sarum) usage. This was by far the most common type of Catholic liturgy used in England in the 16th century. Many editions were printed in England or on the continent for English use, especially during the reign of Queen Mary I (1553-1558), when Catholicism was briefly reinstated as the official religion in England.

sarum breviary 1556 moveable feasts

A page from the Sarum breviary giving a table for calculating dates of “moveable feasts”—liturgical holidays and events, like Easter or Pentecost—whose dates change from year to year.

An initial examination of the books revealed several things. First, the velvet bindings were clearly more recent than the text pages. The decorative metal bosses in the center of the covers, looked like they might date to the 16th century, but the books had been rebound in the 19th or early 20th century, perhaps by a collector or book dealer. What this meant was that the two volumes may not have originally been a matching set, and that the original order of the pages may or may not have been preserved when the books were rebound.

The title page of the first volume indicated that the book was published in London in 1555, but the publisher’s name did not appear.
caly title page

A check of a standard reference work (R.B. McKerrow & F.S. Ferguson, Title-page Borders used in England & Scotland 1485-1640)  indicated that the decorative border and printer’s device originally belonged to Richard Grafton (McKerrow & Ferguson, 48).

Grafton was a successful London printer during the reigns of King Henry VIII (1509-1547) and his son Edward VI (1547-1553)*. He was appointed King’s Printer in 1547. But with the death of the Protestant Edward and the ascension of his Catholic half-sister Mary, Grafton’s fortunes changed, and by 1553 his printing operation had been taken over by Robert Caly, a staunch Catholic. Caly continued to use Grafton’s decorative border, with the printer’s device at the bottom slightly altered to change the initial G into a C. Caly printed many pro-Catholic publications, so it made sense that he would publish a breviary for use in England.

However, at the end of volume I was another publication statement called a colophon. These were common in books from the 16th century (and earlier).

sarum breviary 1556 colophon detail

The colophon indicated that the book was printed in London by John Kingston and Henry Sutton in March of 1556, not by Robert Caly in 1555. Kingston and Sutton had also begun printing in London around 1553, taking over the shop of a Protestant printer who had fled to the continent. Kingston had been Richard Grafton’s apprentice, and in his new partnership with Henry Sutton he produced more Sarum liturgies than any other English printer. So Kingston and Sutton were also very plausible candidates for publishers of our volume. But there was no indication that they had ever partnered with Robert Caly, so it made no sense to have both imprints in the same volume.

Another feature that struck me as odd was that the page following the volume I title page—the first page of the calendar that begins the breviary—was badly damaged and discolored, as though it had been exposed to the elements over a long period of time. The final colophon leaf (pictured above) had shown the same type of discoloration, as though the book had been used, unbound, for many years. But the title page at the front of the book was relatively clean and undamaged.

sarum breviary 1556  leaf1r

Yet another inconsistency in volume I was a bit of text in red on the title page, indicating that it was for the “Pars Estiualis”—the summer section of the liturgy. This made sense, because Sarum breviearies from this period were usually divided into separate volumes for the winter (hiemalis) and summer (estiualis) liturgies. Except that the text of volume I actually began with the winter section, the “Pars Hyemalis.”

Hoping to find some answers, I turned my attention to volume II. It opened with a page indicating the start of the section of services for the summer liturgy.
sarum breviary caly leaf1

Like the title page from volume I, the decorative border on this page was attributed to the printing shop of Richard Grafton (McKerrow & Ferguson, 59), later taken over by Robert Caly.

However, when I turned to the verso—the reverse side of the page– it became clear that this section page was out of place.
sarum breviary caly leaf1verso

How did I know this? In part because the catchword at the bottom right of the page did not match the first word of the following page.

Catchwords are words (or parts of words) found at the bottom of each page of text. They are almost universal in books printed before the 19th century. Catchwords are meant to insure that pages of a books are ordered and bound correctly—the catchword at the bottom of a page should match up with the first word of the text on the following page.
sarum breviary caly leaf1verso catchword

In the case of our breviary, the catchword on the verso of the first page was “Edgarus,” but the next page began with two large initials “B” and “L”.

sarum breviary caly leaf2r

About 100 pages into the volume, I found the text that matched our catchword:
sarum breviary caly aa2 detail

The running heads at the top of the pages also indicated that this was the original placement of the initial leaf. So the “title page” for volume II had been removed from its correct spot and placed at the beginning of the book. But why?

The colophon for volume II further confused the issue. It indicated that the book had been printed in Paris by Francois Regnault in 1535!
sarum breviary caly regnault colophon

So our book had at least three possible printers and three publication dates spanning over 20 years. It was time for some research.

A good starting point for research on 16th century English imprints is A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, & Ireland, originally published by Alfred W. Pollard and G. R. Redgrave in 1926 (later edited and enlarged by other scholars). Popularly known as the STC, it is a monumental work of bibliographic scholarship, accomplished long before the advent of laptops and scanners.
STC

The STC listed several 16th century editions of the Sarum breviary, none of which matched exactly the volumes in our collection. The STC listings included

  • An edition printed by Francois Regnault in 1535 (#15833)
  • An edition printed by Robert Caly in 1555, which was reprinted from the 1535 Regnault edition and mistakenly included its colophon (#15840)
  • An edition printed by John Kingston and Henry Sutton in 1556 (#15842)

ZSR’s volume I matched up perfectly with STC #15842, except for its title page, which was the one associated with STC #15840. Volume II seemed likely to be STC #15840, except that it lacked a title page. Had there been some mixing and matching of pages in our breviary?

A note at the beginning of the STC’s section on liturgies suggested that this was not only possible but quite likely. Pollard and Redgrave observed that “Most bibliographers are hesitant to deal with liturgies from the period before, during, and after the Reformation” because the multiplicity of textual variants and editions made it nearly impossible to create a definitive list. In addition,

the problem is compounded by the sad state of the majority of copies, some surviving only as fragments rescued from bindings and others having undergone contemporary, near-contemporary, or modern mutilation and/or sophistication: “made-up” copies in every possible sense.

It seemed likely that ZSR’s books were among the many “made-up copies.”

sarum breviary caly initial G

A capital G from a 1555 English breviary nicely illustrates a Rare Books librarian’s frame of mind after she has spent a few weeks on the Problem books.

After weighing the bibliographic evidence, I formed the following hypotheses:

  • ZSR’s volume I and volume II are from two completely different editions of the Sarum breviary, rearranged and bound to look like a single publication.
  • Volume I is a copy of the Hiemalis section of the 1556 Kingtson and Sutton edition whose title page went missing long ago.
  • Volume II is the Estiualis section from the 1555 Caly edition that mistakenly included the colophon from a 1535 Paris edition. (It’s likely that the compositors—the people setting type—in Caly’s shop had used the 1535 Regnault edition as their source copy. Whether through carelessness or lack of facility with Latin, the compositor responsible for setting the final page had included the source copy’s colophon in the text of the new edition.)
  • At some point a person in possession of both volumes had the title page from the Caly edition removed and placed at the beginning of the Kingston and Sutton volume I. Presumably the same person relocated a section page from the Caly edition to the beginning of volume II, to replace the title page that had been moved to volume I.

Most of the bibliographic evidence supported my hypotheses (but experts on Marian liturgical printing are welcome to weigh in with alternative theories!), so I felt confident enough to create catalog records for the volumes. But some mysteries remain, the most obvious being: why would someone go to the trouble of rearranging pages in the two books?

It’s possible that the rebinding and rearrangement were done early in the books’ 450-year history by an owner who actually used the volumes as liturgical books and wanted a uniform set. It’s much more likely that the alternations were a “modern mutilation and/or sophistication,” intended to make the volumes more attractive to a non-expert collector. Perhaps the moral of this story is that anyone setting out to collect early modern liturgical books should be able to translate Latin– at the very least, “caveat emptor.”

*For more information on 16th century English printers see: Peter W. M. Blayney, The Stationers’ Company and the Printers of London, 1501–1557 (Cambridge UP, 2013).

The ABC’s of Special Collections and Archives : F is for…

Thursday, July 10, 2014 10:14 am

F if for…

President Francis Pendleton Gaines (April 21, 1892- December 31, 1963)

Francis Pendleton Gaines Signature

Dr. Francis Pendleton Gaines was unanimously selected to be the President of Wake Forest College in 1927. Prior to being selected as President, Dr. Francis Pendleton Gaines was a professor at Furman University in South Carolina where he primarily taught courses in Literature of America. Once at Wake Forest College, Dr. Gaines outlined three goals that he aspired to ingrain into the Wake Forest community: Wake Forest must be a small college, Wake Forest must be a cultural college, and Wake Forest must be a Christian College.

By far though, Gaines was most well-known for his oratory skills. His files in Special Collections & Archives hold many invitations and letters from other universities, companies, churches and local North Carolina schools who wished for Dr. Gaines to speak at one of their events.

As well respected as Gaines was, he did receive contention among students and Wake Forest faculty when he attempted to limit who was able to attend Wake Forest University. By 1930, President Gaines resigned as President from Wake Forest University and went on to take the position as President at Washington and Lee University in Virginia where he would remain until his retirement in 1959. Letters sent and received and personal notes can be found in Dr. Gaines collection in Special Collections & Archives. Take a look at the finding aid for Francis Pendleton Gaines Papers to see all of the types of materials in these holdings.

The French Broad Baptist Association

The French Broad Baptist Association consists of 58 churches that formed a coalition at the end of the 18th century.  The association came about when Baptists from eastern settlements were moving towards the Great Appalachian Valley to avoid persecution from William Tyron, the Royal Governor of North Carolina. Tyron’s persecution, destruction of land and the act of taking prisoners was due to Baptists continued defiance of the marriage act that claimed only Anglican Clergymen could perform marriages. Once the Baptist fugitives were settled in the Mountains of North Carolina, they began to establish French Broad Baptist church, with the first being enacted on November 6, 1780. However, it was not until 1807 that The French Broad Association and the Broad River Association joined forces to become one French Broad Baptist Association.

The French Broad Baptist association did suffer some turmoil during 1827. Disagreements arose over the Calvinist doctrines of election and predestination, which ultimately led to many churches disaffiliating from the association. However, by 1847 the realization that the Baptist beliefs were more important than the doctrines led to The French Broad Baptist Association re-uniting once again.

In Special Collections & Archives, further information on the principles of the association, biographies of influential directors, and a brief description of all 58 churches in the association, along with pictures, can be found in The French Broad Baptist Association, which was published in 1994 by the History Committee of the French Broad Baptist Association.

Foy Johnson Willingham Farmer

Foy Johnson Willingham Farmer missionary photograph

Foy Johnson Willingham Farmer was a prominent figure in the Baptist association. She was the representative for the Southern Baptist convention missionary to Japan in 1911 to 1921. She was also a trustee of Meredith College, an all-girls institution in Raleigh, North Carolina and a leader in the North Carolina and Southern Baptist Convention Woman’s Missionary Union. Being a part of the Executive Council, Farmer carried out the purpose of the missionary study: to help women and young people find joy in learning about people of all races, to discover the prevailing dearth of the Gospel and to create a desire to share this Gospel, and to pray and give sacrificially that the whole would may know Christ our savior. Other additional information on the Woman’s Missionary Union can be found in the WMU Executive Council Pamphlet (1954) found in Farmer’s files in Special Collections & Archives.

In addition to WMU archives, Farmer’s collection consists of: pictures of her husband, Calder Truehart Willingham, financial documents, literary productions, Japanese publications, prayer books, personal files and Japanese artifacts such as paper lanterns. Be sure to read through the finding aid for this fascinating collection!

As always, if you would like to see any materials from Special Collections & Archives we encourage you to visit the Special Collections & Archives Research Room (625).

Get Giddy for G…

This ABC’s of Special Collections was written by Kathleen Darling, Special Collections & Archives student assistant.

More Processed Collections!

Thursday, July 3, 2014 2:59 pm

Special Collections and Archives has been busy this first Summer session! With the help of Kristin Weisse and Martha Fulton, we have been processing (and re-processing) lots of collections. This includes appraisal and rehousing. We are thrilled to publish finding aids for the following collections:

David L. Smiley Papers

Percival Perry Papers

Doris Walters Papers

Alliance of Baptists Records

Maya Angelou Film and Theater Collection

James M. Dunn Papers

Merrill Gray Berthrong Records

Each of these collections has a tremendous amount of research value and we are sure that with the publication of these finding aids users will now have better access to our holdings. Please take a look at these finding aids and learn a little bit more about our collections!

Religion in North Carolina Project News

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 9:55 am

Monique Swaby

The following post was written by Monique Swaby, Religion in North Carolina Project graduate assistant.

My name is Monique Swaby and I am the graduate assistant working with research and outreach for the Religion in North Carolina Project at Wake Forest University’s Department of Special Collections and Archives. I am a graduate of Smith College, 06’ and received my Master of Education from the University of Vermont, 11’. Currently I am working on my Master of Divinity at Wake Forest School of Divinity, 15’. From there I will go on to create a faith-based non-profit that focuses on spiritual formation, community service and teaching in Winston-Salem. I believe this collection will be a great resource to my current and future endeavors for community collaboration and historical knowledge. Some of my work with this project includes producing materials to highlight items in the collection, as well as offering presentations on Religion in NC and its uses to groups at WFU and its neighboring community.

The digital collection for the Religion in NC project is a collaborative effort between Duke University, UNC- Chapel Hill, and Wake Forest University. Religion in NC is federally funded through a grant provided by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and administered by the State Library of North Carolina. This project is entering its third year of funding and will continue to enhance the digital collection of religious and cultural life in North Carolina. What makes this database so special is that it is the only one of its kind. It specifically focuses on one state’s religious life where a multitude of primary resources can be found right at your fingertips through a single collection. This project has gathered primary resources through thousands of local and state-wide religious institutions such as historical foundations, churches, individuals, and library systems at Harvard University, Elon College, the Charlotte Mecklenberg Library, and our very own Wake Forest Baptist Historical Collection to name a few.

So, who exactly can utilize our digital collection and what treasures of historical data can you find? I’m glad you asked. Our collection houses materials that include conference proceedings, meeting minutes, autobiographies, newsletters, serial publications, and sermons. There is also a growing number of ephemeral works such as cookbooks, event programs, and directories. One of the most intriguing aspects of this collection are the personal stories that are recorded through letters and other materials from individual life. Anyone interested in personal, professional, or social history of religion in a vast array of communities can find these resources helpful. The collection may also appeal to anyone who is interested in how technology is being used to document our state’s rich cultural and religious history such as historians, genealogists, librarians, religious groups, teachers, and students. The Religion in NC portal can be reached through our website  or directly thought the Internet Archive hosted site. Our goal is to help preserve and transfer the cultural and religious history of our state. With your help we can continue to add to this collection as well if you have any materials you may wish to add. We hope you will enjoy this great resource for many of your personal and professional needs. History is always worth preserving and the religious life of North Carolinians is no exception. Enjoy! If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact us at Special Collections and Archives…

Read more about the Religion in North Carolina Project on their blog and collection highlights by Monique

Beneath the binding of an astronomical treatise, scraps of a Wake Forest campus publication revealed

Thursday, June 12, 2014 1:23 pm

How did a literary magazine from Wake Forest wind up in the Smithsonian Libraries’ Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology? Until recently, neither the Dibner Library nor Special Collections & Archives at Wake Forest University knew that it had.

In a post on the Smithsonian Libraries Unbound blog, Vanessa Haight Smith (Head of Smithsonian Libraries’ Preservation Services) showcases instances of printer’s waste incorporated into book bindings — including an example of printer’s waste that we can identify as the front and back covers of an issue of the Wake Forest Student, the campus’s literary magazine.

Volume 3 of the Mécanique céleste held by Smithsonian LIbraries

With its binding removed, the lining of the spine of the Mécanique céleste is revealed as scrap paper from Volume 18, Number 3 of the Wake Forest Student. Image courtesy of Smithsonian Libraries.

Book bindings often incorporated printer’s waste. Binding structures require paper, scrap paper was often leftover from the printing process, and sometimes the same shop served as both a printer and a bindery. Unlike printer’s waste used as endpapers, Smith notes, “Waste used as spine linings is only visible when books are damaged in a way that exposes what lies underneath the covering.” In this case, the front cover and first section of text of the volume were detached, so the volume was sent to the Smithsonian Libraries’ Book Conservation Lab for treatment, and there the lining of its spine was revealed. What’s unusual and fun about this instance of printer’s waste is that we can tell exactly what it is — Volume 18, Issue 3 of the Wake Forest Student. Consequently, these scraps of printer’s waste provide tantalizingly specific clues as to the book’s provenance.

The book in question is the third volume of a later edition of the Mécanique céleste by French mathematician and astronomer Pierre Simon, marquis de Laplace. (View the item record in the Smithsonian Libraries’ catalog.) The Mécanique céleste translated Newton’s Principia from English into French and re-framed the Principia‘s understanding of classical mechanics from geometry to differential calculus, raising new scientific questions in the process. This particular edition of the Mécanique céleste is an English translation from the French original and was printed in four volumes from 1829–1839. So what can the appearance of the Wake Forest Student in its binding tell us about this particular copy of the Mécanique céleste?

To find out, I turned to the complete run of the Wake Forest Student — later titled simply The Student — held by the Special Collections & Archives here at Wake Forest. (View the item record in the ZSR Library Catalog.) The date of the issue was not visible in the binding waste itself, but by consulting our collections, we can date that particular issue to December 1898 and speculate that the copy of the Mécanique céleste now held by the Dibner Library was probably re-bound around the turn of the century. We may never find out what bindery had scraps of the Wake Forest Student lying around with which to line the spine of the Mécanique céleste now held by the Dibner Library. Perhaps the same shop that printed the Wake Forest Student also bound the Mécanique céleste, and perhaps that printer-bindery was located in or near Raleigh, NC since Wake Forest College was located in Wake Forest, NC at the time. Or to entertain a more fanciful supposition, perhaps the binder of the Mécanique céleste was a Wake Forest alumnus who received the Wake Forest Student on a subscription basis.

Even without identifying the specific bindery, however, we know more than we did before. Not bad for a day’s sleuthing!

One State, Many Faiths: The Religion in North Carolina Digital Collection Project

Thursday, June 5, 2014 2:11 pm

programannualses1015woma_0017

Image from the Religion in North Carolina digital collection https://archive.org/details/ncreligion

ZSR Special Collections & Archives is pleased to report that the Religion in North Carolina Digital Collection project has received LSTA funding  for its third year. Wake Forest’s ZSR Library has partnered with Duke Divinity School and the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill for this project, which seeks to provide digital access to primary source materials from all religious groups in North Carolina.

Federal funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services has enabled the three partner institutions to collect and digitize nearly 800,000 pages during the first two years of the grant project. A large percentage of this material is drawn from the collections at Duke, Wake Forest, and UNC, but the digital collection also includes substantial contributions from over 200 other libraries and archives throughout North Carolina.

The collection includes a wide array of publications, from sermons and meeting minutes to camp hymnals and cookbooks. Religious bodies with long histories in North Carolina are well represented in the collection. But the project staff has also made it a priority to solicit materials from many underrepresented religious groups. The result is a wide-ranging collection that will serve as an important resource for anyone with an interest in the cultural history of the state.

In this third and final year the project’s emphasis will shift to education and outreach initiatives. Duke Divinity School Ph.D. candidate Ken Woo has been hired as the project’s doctoral fellow for research and education. Ken will be making contact with schools, religious institutions, and community groups throughout the state to give presentations and solicit feedback on the project’s digital resources. Here at ZSR, the Special Collections and Archives department has hired WFU Divinity School student Monique Swaby in a grant-funded summer position. Monique is working to identify potentially interested groups at Wake Forest and throughout the regional community. Monique will also begin the process of developing educational applications for the Religion in NC digital collections, using the primary sources to create narratives that will connect students and researchers to the state’s diverse and fascinating religious heritage. Check this blog later in the summer for Monique’s updates!

For more information about the Religion in NC project, please contact Special Collections & Archives. We welcome questions and input, especially from individuals or groups who would like to take part in our outreach initiatives.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou (1969)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 12:39 pm

angelou dust jacket

Dust jacket from first edition of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ZSR Special Collections

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) never intended to write an autobiography. In 1968 she was active in the civil rights movement and had a busy and successful career as a poet, playwright, performer, and educator. A recent project–  writing, producing, and hosting the PBS series Blacks, Blues, Black– had brought her to California, where she met Jules and Judy Feiffer. The Feiffers, immediately taken with Angelou’s fascinating history and storytelling flair, contacted Random House editor Robert Loomis. With help from James Baldwin, Loomis persuaded the initially reluctant Angelou to write a memoir. The result was Angelou’s most widely read book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

angelou title page

First edition title page, ZSR Special Collections

Published in 1969, the book chronicles Angelou’s life from the age of three, when she and her brother Bailey were sent to live with their paternal grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas.

angelou dust jacket flap 1

angelou dust jacket flap 2

Dust jacket description from the first edition of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ZSR Special Collections

The book ends with Maya becoming a mother at age 16. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is dedicated to her son, Guy Johnson.

angelou dedication page

Dedication page from the first edition of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ZSR Special Collections

The book was a critical and popular success, and it brought Angelou to the attention of national media as an important new voice in American literature.

Angelou eventually wrote five more autobiographical works.

angelou autobiographies

Three of Angelou’s later autobiographical works, ZSR Special Collections

She also continued to write poetry, dramatic works, and screenplays. In 1978 Angelou worked on an adaptation of  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings for the CBS television movie version of her memoir.

angelou algonquin notes

Maya Angelou’s introductory notes for the screenplay of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, on Algonquin Hotel stationery. From the Maya Angelou Film and Theater Collection, ZSR Library Special Collections and Archives.

angelou caged bird script MS

An early draft of the screenplay for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. From the Maya Angelou Film and Theater Collection, ZSR Library Special Collections and Archives.

In 1982 Maya Angelou accepted the position of Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.  A beloved and influential presence on the Wake Forest campus,  Angelou made numerous appearances in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library. The Rare Books Collection holds a comprehensive collection of her works. And in 2001 Angelou donated to the library an extensive collection of manuscript materials relating to her career in the performing arts. The Maya Angelou Film and Theater Collection now resides in ZSR’s Special Collections and Archives. Materials relating to Angelou’s literary career are housed at the Shomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library.

angelou inscription

Inscription by Maya Angelou from ZSR Special Collections’ first edition of The Heart of a Woman.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has never been out of print since its first publication nearly 50 years ago. The book has inspired countless readers with its story of resilience in the face of adversity. Angelou herself, in a 1990 interview with George Plimpton, commented that

There is, I hope, a thesis in my work: we may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. That sounds goody-two-shoes, I know, but I believe that a diamond is the result of extreme pressure and time. Less time is crystal. Less than that is coal. Less than that is fossilized leaves. Less than that it’s just plain dirt. In all my work, in the movies I write, the lyrics, the poetry, the prose, the essays, I am saying that we may encounter many defeats—maybe it’s imperative that we encounter the defeats—but we are much stronger than we appear to be and maybe much better than we allow ourselves to be.

Maya Angelou touched many lives and played many roles during her 86 years. But her first love was language, and her literary works, Caged Bird foremost among them, are the durable gemstones that will be her legacy for future generations.

Grant Funding Supports Research at ZSR Special Collections and Archives

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 1:27 pm

Applications are now being accepted for 2014-15 Special Collections and Archives research grants. The Provost’s Grant for Library Research and the ZSR Travel Grants provide financial support for visiting researchers who wish to use Wake Forest’s manuscripts, rare books, or archival collections.

Since its inception in 2009, the ZSR Special Collections and Archives grants program has brought researchers from all over the world to the Wake Forest campus. Recent recipients of Provost’s Grants include Dr. Edward Blum, San Diego State University; Dr. Wendy Raphael Roberts, University at Albany SUNY; Dr. Saverio Giovacchini, University of Maryland at College Park; and Dr. Alan Libert, University of Newcastle, Australia.

The ZSR research grants have an obvious benefit for the researchers who receive financial support. But the program also has a lasting impact on the Wake Forest community, as the visiting scholars share their projects and discoveries while on campus. Although many of our grant recipients are college and university faculty, our researchers have also included students, journalists, authors, and documentary filmmakers. We welcome applications from researchers whose projects make creative use of our special collections and archival resources.

For more information about the library research grants, please contact Megan Mulder, Special Collections Librarian, at mulder@wfu.edu or 336-758-5091.


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