Special Collections & Archives Blog

How does Home Movie Day work?

Thursday, November 6, 2014 5:23 pm

We’re counting down the days to the first ever Piedmont Triad Home Movie Day! How does Home Movie Day work? We’re glad you asked!

The Details

2014 Piedmont Triad Home Movie Day

WHAT: 2014 Piedmont Triad Home Movie Day
WHEN: Saturday, November 8, 1:00–5:00 p.m.
WHERE: Z. Smith Reynolds Library Auditorium (Room 404), Wake Forest University
WHO: Sponsored by Wake Forest University’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Davidson College’s E.H. Little Library, and A/V Geeks Transfer Services

Faculty, staff, and students of Wake Forest may park in lots that correspond with their parking decal. Visitors may park in any general or visitor parking lot on campus. See parking.wfu.edu and the Wake Forest University Parking Map [PDF] for more information.

Panel Discussion

We’re kicking off the event with a panel discussion from 1:00–2:00 p.m. about the historical and artistic value of home movies and other ephemeral film, as well as preservation tips so that our films can be enjoyed by future generations. Our panelists include:

  • Caitlin Christian-Lamb, Associate Archivist, Davidson College
  • Skip Elsheimer, Founder, A/V Geeks
  • David Spencer, Senior Curator of the Moving Image Archives and Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies, UNC School of the Arts
  • Tyler Starr, Assistant Professor of Art, Davidson College

Your Films on the Big Screen

Following the panel discussion, we’ll start screening home movies. The heart of every Home Movie Day is seeing your films projected on the big screen. Home Movie Day events provide the opportunity for individuals and families to see and share their own home movies with an audience of their community, and to see their neighbors’ in turn. You are also welcome to drop in as you are able to see what others have to share. We will be sharing films from the collections of A/V Geeks, Davidson College, UNCSA, and Wake Forest. As a very special treat, Mr. Wake Forest himself (Provost Emeritus Edwin Graves Wilson) will speak as we show silent footage of Wake Forest’s original campus in Wake Forest, NC! Hope to see you there!

18 Poems, by Dylan Thomas (1934)

Friday, October 31, 2014 2:16 pm

You asked me to tell you about my theory of poetry. Really I haven’t got one. I like things that are difficult to write and difficult to understand; I like “redeeming the contraries” with secretive images; I like contradicting my images, saying two things at once in one word, four in two words and one in six. But what I like isn’t a theory, even if I do stabilize into dogma my own personal affections.
Dylan Thomas to Charles Fisher, 1935. In The Collected Letters of Dylan Thomas, ed. Paul Ferris (London: J.M. Dent, 1985), 208.

Dylan Thomas, who was born 100 years ago this week, was 20 years old when he wrote of his non-theory of poetry. He had just moved from Swansea, his childhood home, to London. His first volume of poetry had been published in December 1934 and was starting to attract critical notice.

18 poems

ZSR Special Collections’s copy of the first edition of Dylan Thomas’s first published book of poetry.

By the time Thomas died less than two decades later he was Wales’s best known literary figure. But “difficult to write and difficult to understand” is an apt description of Thomas’s life as well as his writing.

In March of 1934 Dylan Thomas was still living at his parents’ home in Swansea. He was already a prolific poet, and a few of his poems had recently been published in literary magazines. When fellow Welshman Glyn Jones wrote to inquire about his background, Thomas replied thusly

I am in the very early twenties. I was self-educated at the local Grammar School where I did no work at all and failed all examinations. I did not go to a university. I am not unemployed for the reason that I have never been employed. I have done nothing but write, though it is only recently that I have tried to have some things published. . . I believe I am going to live in London soon, but as, so far at least, no-one has offered me suitable employment, living is rather an ambiguous word. I shall probably manage to exist, and possibly to starve. Until quite recently there has been no need for me to do anything but sit, read and write (I have written a great deal, by the way), but now it is essential that I go out into the bleak and inhospitable world with my erotic manuscripts thrown over my shoulder in a sack. If you know any kind people who want a clean young man with a fairly extensive knowledge of morbid literature, a ready pen, and no responsibilities, do let me know. Oh, would the days of literary Patronage were back again!
Letters, 123

Soon after he wrote this missive, Thomas did manage to secure literary patronage of a sort. The Sunday Referee newspaper, which had published a few of his poems, awarded Thomas its Poet’s Corner Prize for 1934. The prize included the publication of a book of poetry.

However, the Referee editor Victor Neuburg had some difficulty securing a publisher for a 19-year-old unknown poet. The publication was delayed for months, which gave Thomas time to worry over his selections. He wrote to fellow Referee poet Pamela Hansford Johnson in May 1934 about his process of choosing and revising poems to include in the book:

I am going to include some poems which have been printed, so “Boys of Summer”, though altered & double the length, is to open the book. Other poems are:
“Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines”. “Before I Knocked And Flesh Let Enter”. “No Food Suffices” (revised). “When Once The Twilight Locks” (revised). “Our Eunuch Dreams”. “A Process In the Weather”. “The Force that through the Green Fuse”. “Where Once the Waters of Your Face”. “That The Sum Sanity” (revised). “Not Forever Shall the Lord of the Red Hail” (revised). And about six or seven others I am still in the process of pruning and cutting about. You say Vicky’s [i.e., Victor Neuburg] obstinate. Well you know I am, too. And nothing that I don’t want goes in.
Letters, 151

18 poems one

“I see the boys of summer in their ruin” was the first of 18 poems in Thomas’s collection

In August he still working on his selections and was “glad that [Neuburg] hasn’t been able as yet to get my book published, for I want to cut some of the poems out & substitute some of the later ones.”(Letters, 189). By October he had lost faith in the whole enterprise:

My letters … demanded the return of my book. But I’m no more likely to get it than to find Gibbon’s History of Christianity in my navel. Only force remains. No, I can’t seriously adopt the idea of a second selection of even more immature & unsatisfactory poems. I find, after reading them through again, that the poems in Vicky’s confounded possession are a poor lot, on the whole, with many thin lines, unintentional comicalities, & much highfalutin nonsense expressed in a soft, a truly soft language. I’ve got to get nearer to the bones of words, & to a Matthew Arnold’s hell with the convention of meaning & sense.
Letters, 195

But Neuburg had finally found a publisher—David Archer of the Patron Bookshop– and Thomas’s first collection, titled 18 Poems, was published in December 1934 in a small edition of 250 copies.

18 poems title page

Title page from the first edition of Dylan Thomas’s 18 Poems, from ZSR Special Collections

The final selection of poems was different from Thomas’s original list, but it retained “Boys of Summer” as the opening piece.

18 poems contents

Contents from the first edition of Dylan Thomas’s 18 Poems

The book was a slender volume, unadorned with an author portrait or introduction, apparently at Thomas’s request.

18 poems tp verso

From the first edition of 18 Poems

Perhaps Thomas wanted to minimize Neuburg’s editorial commentary on the poems, since he had previously taken issue with his editor’s take on his poetry:

[L]ooking at Vicky’s noncommittal remarks about Dylan Thomas, the experimentalist, I found myself wondering who this sad-named poet was. . . . I’m not an experimentalist & never will be. I write in the only way I can write, & my warped, crabbed & cabinned stuff is not the result of theorizing but of pure incapability to express my needless tortuities in any other way. Vicky’s article was nonsense.
Letters, 160

18 Poems received several positive reviews in the winter and spring of 1935. The Times Literary Supplement was typical, observing in its brief notice that

Mr. Thomas’s idiom is certainly entirely his own, even if it is often too “private” to be easily intelligible. . . [But] the peculiar language in which these poems are written is easier to decipher than it at first appears, and Mr. Thomas’s habit of translating human experience into the terms of physiology or of the machine, and his vivid sense of the correspondence between the forces informing the macrocosm and the microcosm result in some powerful as well as surprising imaginative audacities.
TLS 14 March 1935, p. 163

Critics began to take notice of the young poet, and another collection, 25 Poems, was published in 1936. By the end of the decade, Thomas’s literary reputation was well established.

In addition to his poetry, Thomas also wrote stories, memoirs, novels, and plays. One of his most beloved works is his memoir A Child’s Christmas in Wales.

childs christmas in wales

First edition (1954) of Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales, from ZSR Special Collections

Another enduringly popular work is Under Milk Wood, a radio play that draws on Thomas’s early memories of growing up in Wales.

Under Milk Wood was first performed in 1953 at the Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y during one of Thomas’s tours of the United States.

under milk wood

First edition of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood (1954), from ZSR Special Collections

These tours, organized by the Poetry Center’s director John Brinnin, made Thomas wildly popular in American literary circles.

dylan thomas in america

John Brinnin’s 1956 memoir of Dylan Thomas’s American tours, from ZSR Special Collections

Thomas was a gifted speaker as well as a writer, and his readings drew large crowds wherever he went. But Thomas was also well known for his erratic and often irresponsible behavior. He was plagued by financial troubles, drank heavily, and had a volatile relationship with his wife Caitlin McNamara Thomas.

caitlin thomas

Caitlin Thomas’s autobiography and memoir of life with Dylan Thomas, from ZSR Special Collections

During the 1953 visit to New York, Thomas fell ill after a bout of drinking and died suddenly, aged only 39.

At his death, Thomas was memorialized as one of the most influential poets of the 20th century.

memorial program

Programme from a Memorial Recital for Dylan Thomas, held at Royal Festival Hall in February 1954. From ZSR Special Collections.

And now, on the centennial of his birth, Dylan Thomas is again remembered for his unique idiom and compelling imaginative language. The literary legacy that began with 18 Poems is poised to continue into a second century.

memorial program cover

Dylan Thomas memorial recital programme cover, from ZSR Special Collections.

Wake Up The World: An Archival Journey

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 9:04 am

Camels

Special Collections & Archives is teaming up with Global Programs & Studies (GPS) to host “Wake Up The World: An Archival Journey.”

This event will take place in the Special Collections & Archives Research Room (ZSR Room 625) on Thursday, October 23 from 4-5.

Join us as we celebrate National Archives Month and the history of Global Programs & Studies! Global Programs & Studies will give a brief program in honor of transferring their records to the University Archives. International and Study Abroad students will share about their experiences and additional information will be available.

The program begins at 4:15.  Refreshments will also be served!

Artist’s Talk with Ken Bennett, University Photographer

Friday, October 10, 2014 2:42 pm

ken-bennett-heading

Mark your calendars! Special Collections & Archives is hosting an Artist’s Talk with University Photographer Ken Bennett on Wednesday, October 15th from 4:15-5:30.

As part of the “Worth a Thousand Words: Ken Bennett’s Photographs of ZSR” exhibit in Special Collections and Archives (Room 625, Z. Smith Reynolds Library), University Photographer Ken Bennett will share about his experiences documenting the Wake Forest campus. Light refreshments will be served.

The program will begin at 4:30. All are welcome to attend.

Save the date! Piedmont Triad Home Movie Day

Friday, October 10, 2014 10:31 am

The first ever Piedmont Triad Home Movie Day will be held on Saturday, November 8, 2014 from 1:00–5:00 p.m. in the auditorium (Room 404) of Z. Smith Reynolds Library on the campus of Wake Forest University. This year’s event is sponsored by Wake Forest University’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Davidson College’s E.H. Little Library, and A/V Geeks Transfer Services.

Members of the public are invited to bring in their own home movies to be screened and shared with other attendees. Formats accepted for on-site projection include 8mm, Super 8mm, and 16mm film. Depending upon the condition of the film, attendees will have the chance to view their own films on the big screen and will receive a free transfer of their film, thanks to equipment provided by A/V Geeks Transfer Services.

Now in its twelfth year, Home Movie Day is an international event held in local communities around the world. It provides an opportunity for participants to bring in their home movies, learn more about their own family films, and—most importantly—watch them and share them with others! Archivists and film transfer professionals are on-site to share information about how to care for films and videotapes so that they can be enjoyed by future generations.

Because they are local events, Home Movie Day screenings can focus on family and community histories in a meaningful way. This year’s event will be the first Home Movie Day ever to be hosted in the Piedmont Triad.

“Home movies capture so much of our lives—from footage of kids’ birthday parties, historic (now humorous) public service announcements, and full-length amateur films, to footage that we have of Wake Forest’s original campus in Wake Forest, NC that we have in our university archives,” says Tanya Zanish-Belcher, Director of Special Collections and Archives at Z. Smith Reynolds Library. “Films provide unique perspectives on our society and capture important moments from our past. Yet they exist in many increasingly obsolete formats and often don’t find their way into the historical record. We look forward to celebrating and discussing how to preserve home movies as vignettes in time.”

For more information about the Piedmont Triad Home Movie Day on November 8, please contact Chelcie Rowell.

For more information about Home Movie Days around the world, visit the Home Movie Day website.

Let us know you’re coming! Please indicate your interest in attending Home Movie Day via our Facebook event or our Wake Forest University event (whichever you prefer) so that we can provide ample refreshments.

RSVP via Wake Forest University Events ›

RSVP via Facebook ›

Systema Cosmicum, by Galileo Galilei (1635)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 2:47 pm

Galileo 1636 title page detail

Banned Books Week  is observed each September by librarians, publishers, authors, educators, and readers to show “support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” By calling attention to various attempts to restrict access to books and other materials, Banned Books Week reminds readers that freedom of access to ideas and information is not something to be taken for granted.

Banned Books Week was begun in 1982, but book banning has a much longer history. ZSR Special Collections holds a copy of one of the most famous banned books of all time, Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) became interested in physics and astronomy while a student at the University of Pisa. By 1592 he was a professor of mathematics at the University of Padua and was conducting extensive scientific experiments. He was naturally interested in one of the great controversies of his day, which concerned the theories of Polish mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543).

Copernicus had been one of the first European scholars to question the traditional Ptolemaic universe—the idea that the earth remained immobile at the center of the universe while the sun, planets, and stars revolved around it in concentric spheres. This model was posited by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy (ca. 150 CE), based on the philosophy of Aristotle (384-322 BCE).

nuremburg ptolemaic universe 2

A medieval view of the cosmos, from ZSR Special Collections’ copy of the Liber Chronicarum (Nuremberg Chronicle), 1493

Aristotle’s concept of an imperfect and changeable earthly realm surrounded by an eternal and immutable heaven had become integral to medieval Christian theology. Thus many religious authorities – in particular the Catholic Church—found Copernicus’s challenge to this model an unwelcome threat.

Galileo’s work in astronomy and physics lent support to the Copernican theory. Working with Dutch prototypes, Galileo developed a telescope that allowed him to make unprecedented observations of the moon, sun, and other planets in the solar system.

Galileo 1635 telescope detail

Detail from the engraved portrait of Galileo in the Systema Cosmicum, showing a cherub with a telescope.

His work made him famous and gained him the patronage of the powerful Medici family. But it also attracted the attention of church authorities, who were less impressed.

In 1616 Galileo was called before a committee of the Roman Inquisition and instructed to stop teaching and writing anything that supported Copernicus’s heliocentric model. Galileo’s books were placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum—the Catholic Church’s list of banned books.

Galileo kept a low profile for the next decade, but in 1623 his friend Maffeo Barberini was elected Pope. He requested and received permission from the new Pope Urban VIII to publish a book on the Copernican controversy. The result was Diologo … Sopra I Due Massimi Sistemi del Mondo (Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems), published in Forence in 1632. Pope Urban had specified that Galileo should present the argument as a purely mathematical hypothesis and that he should give equal weight to both the Ptolemaic and the Copernican theories.

Galileo framed his argument in a dialogue (or more accurately, a triologue) among three fictional characters: Salviati, a proponent of the Copernican theory; Sagredo, his friend, who has no fixed opinion but is eager to learn; and Simplicio, a traditionalist who defends the Ptolemaic/Aristotelian view.

Galileo 1635 caption title

It seems that Galileo genuinely believed he was presenting an unbiased account of the argument. But it was immediately clear to his readers where his sympathies lay: in the fictional debate, Salviati easily bests the unfortunately named Simplicio, who comes across as fairly dimwitted. Pope Urban was not pleased when he realized that the objective and dispassionate treatise he had approved was actually a thinly veiled manifesto for Copernicanism. Worse, Urban believed that Simplicio was in fact a satiric portrait of himself. Galileo had lost a vital ally, and within a year of the Dialogue’s publication he was called before the Inquisition, convicted of heresy, and placed under house arrest.

Galileo was by then nearly 70 years old and in poor health. His scientific career was over, but his influence on the scientific revolution in Europe had just begun.

Galileo 1635 portrait

Portrait of Galileo from the Systema Cosmicum, 1635

Even as the Dialogue was being banned in Rome, Galileo’s friend Elia Diodati  was making plans for an international edition. Diodati recruited Matthias Bernegger, a university professor in Strasbourg, to translate Galileo’s text into Latin, the universal language of European scholarship.

Diodati also found a publisher for the book, the Dutch Elzevier firm, one of the most prestigious scholarly publishers in 17th century Europe, based in safely Protestant Leiden. Anticipating an eager audience, the Elzeviers hurried the book into print. Printing (by David Hautt of Strasbourg) was begun while the translation was still ongoing. And the book was published in a large edition of about 600 copies.

Copies were available for sale by March of 1635. The book bore the new title Systema Cosmicum, but the text was nearly identical to the 1632 Dialogue. One striking difference, however, was the newly engraved frontispiece for the Elzevier edition. As in the Italian edition, the engraving showed Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Copernicus engaged in conversation. In the Italian illustration, all three were elderly and all were equally absorbed in the debate.

Galileo Diologo front LOC

Engraved illustration from the 1632 Italian edition of Galileo’s Dialogo; image from the Library of Congress collection http://www.loc.gov/rr/european/guide/science.html .

In the new edition the Greek philosophers were still elderly—Aristotle appeared to be leaning on a cane—but Copernicus was much younger. While Aristotle and Ptolemy focused on the model of the old universe, Copernicus, holding his new model, looked out at the reader, as though he was appealing directly to the sophisticated, intelligent European of 1635.

Galileo 1635 frontispiece

Illustration from the 1635 Elzevier edition of Galileo’s Systema Cosmicum.

The banner overhead pays tribute to Galileo’s patron, Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Since the pages would have been sold unbound, in typical 17th century publishing practice, the illustration would have served as a sort of cover advertisement for the contents inside.

Galileo 1635 binding

ZSR Special Collection’s copy of the 1635 Systema Cosmicum is bound in a typical 17th century vellum binding.

For the editors and publishers of the Systema Cosmicum, the idea of intellectual freedom was as important as the specific arguments about the nature of the universe. The title page of the Elzevier edition prominently featured Galileo’s credentials, and it announced that the two world systems would be evaluated in “philosophical and natural” arguments. It also advertised an appendix in which it would be demonstrated that the Copernican system was compatible with Christian scriptures.

Galileo 1635 title page

Title page from Galileo’s Systema Cosmicum.

The two quotes near the bottom of the page reinforced the theme of intellectual freedom and free inquiry. The first, from the Greek philosopher Alcinous reads “It is necessary for one intending to be a philosopher to be free in thought.” The second, a quote from Seneca, reads “Especially among philosophers should be equal liberty.”

The verso of the title page listed the Catholic authorities who had originally approved publication of the Dialogue and later reneged. And for good measure, there was another quote from a classical author on the theme of truth triumphing over falsehood.

Galileo 1635 title page verso

Title page verso of the 1635 Systema Cosmicum.

A note by translator Matthias Bernegger addressed to the “Kind Reader” described the reasons for publishing a new edition of the Dialogue. Bernegger claimed that the book had been published without Galileo’s knowledge or consent, a patent falsehood intended to protect the author from more persecution. In fact Galileo knew about and enthusiastically supported the project.

Galileo 1635 benevole lector

Matthias Bernegger’s introduction to the Latin edition of Galileo’s Systema Cosmicum.

The text of Systema Cosmicum was an example of a new type of discourse taking shape in Renaissance Europe. Instead of basing his discussion of cosmology on theological principles and classical authorities, Galileo evaluated the Ptolemaic and Copernican systems in scientific terms, using mathematical proofs and direct observation to bolster his arguments.

Galileo 1635 diagram 3

A diagram from the 1635 Elzevier edition of Galileo’s Systema Cosmicum.

The appendices to Systema Cosmicum were an excerpt from the writings of German astronomer Johannes Kepler and an essay by Carmelite monk Paulo Foscarini, which had also been placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Both argued that Christian scripture was not incompatible with the Copernican theory, in part because Biblical teachings were not meant to answer questions about physics and astronomy.

Galileo 1635 appendix foscarini

Paulo Foscarini’s Letter concerning the Opinion of the Pythagoreans and Copernicus about the Mobility of the Earth and Stability of the Sun, included as an appendix to the Systema Cosmicum

The Latin edition of Galileo’s Dialogue was distributed widely throughout Europe. As is generally the case, the controversy surrounding the book only served to pique interest in it. Fierce public debate continued for the next decade, but by the mid-17th century the Copernican model was accepted by most educated Europeans.

Galileo’s works remained on the Catholic Index until the early 18th century. In 1992 Pope John Paul II issued an official apology for the church’s persecution of Galileo.

Galileo would not have called himself a scientist: the term was not coined until the 19th century. But his contribution to modern scientific thought is immeasurable. And Galileo himself has become a symbol of the visionary individual victimized by oppressive authority. Albert Einstein, in a foreword to a 1967 English translation of the Dialogue (University of California Press), wrote that

The leitmotif which I recognize in Galileo’s work is the passionate fight against any kind of dogma based on authority. Only experience and careful reflection are accepted by him as criteria of truth. Nowadays it is hard for us to grasp how sinister and revolutionary such an attitude appeared at Galileo’s time, when merely to doubt the truth of opinions which had no basis but authority was considered a capital crime and punished accordingly. Actually we are by no means so far removed from such a situation even today as many of us would like to flatter ourselves… (xvii)

Not all banned or challenged books end up becoming seminal works in the history of western civilization. But Galileo’s example reminds us that history seldom looks kindly on those who try to suppress “unorthodox or unpopular” ideas through censorship and intimidation.

References

J.L. Heilbron, Galileo (Oxford University Press,  2010).

Maurice A. Finocchiaro, Retrying Galileo (University of California Press, 2005).

Galileo, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, translated by Stillman Drake (University of California Press, 1967).

Early Issues of The Wake Forest Student now on DigitalNC

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 4:51 pm

wakeforeststuden01wake-0005

We are happy to announce that the first ten years of The Wake Forest Student is now available as a digital collection via DigitalNC. Begun in 1882 by the Euzelian Society, The Wake Forest Student is a fascinating slice of Wake Forest history. Read more about the DigitalNC project in the Digital North Carolina Blog.

We plan on continuing to work with DigitalNC to have all of the issues digitized in the coming months.

Joseph Severn Watercolors

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 10:15 am

The recently completed Joseph Severn Watercolors digital collection is a beautiful addition to ZSR’s online content as well as another chapter in the story of these materials. Prompted by a researcher and Severn scholar, we have been researching the provenance of the three pencil and watercolor images and have come up with some surprising and entertaining results.

Joseph Severn (1793-1879) was an English portrait and subject artist, working primarily in Rome, Italy. A selection of his paintings can be found today in the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate Britain, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. More notably for our story, Joseph Severn was a personal friend of famous English Poet John Keats. As Keats’ doctors suggested he leave England for a warmer climate, Severn was the only of his group of acquaintances that could, or would, accompany him. Keats and Severn set sail for Rome on the Maria Crowther September 17, 1820, finally arriving in Rome mid-November, 1820. Severn lived with and nursed Keats until his death February 23, 1821. Presumably, it was aboard the Maria Crowther that Joseph Severn produced the watercolors in Special Collections and Archives holdings. Two of the three images have handwritten notations in pencil, including that these were “done on the way to Italy with Keats.” It was this clue that pushed them to the top of our digitization queue, as these materials are both unique and high in research value.

"Sandwich Bay Dorsetshire - These and previous ones done on the way to Italy with Keats"

“Sandwich Bay Dorsetshire – These and previous ones done on the way to Italy with Keats”

The only hint of provenance is a barely legible pencil notation on the back of the mounting paper that reads “Given to Maureen Watson by Arthur Severn[RJ?] son of Joseph Severn (Keats [?]) 19[2?]3″. As our researcher prompted more questions on how this came into our holdings, and who Maureen Watson was, we turned to the Lady Watson Materials series in the Charles Lee Smith finding aid. It was by looking through the Lady Watson materials that we worked backwards to see how Wake Forest acquired the Joseph Severn watercolors.

Lady Maureen Watson, wife of noted British poet Sir William Watson (1892-1935) befriended Charles Lee Smith, Wake Forest College alumnus and rare book benefactor, after she and her daughters fled Ireland to South Africa and then to Asheville, NC in fear of Hitler’s invasion. Charles Lee Smith, a successful businessman and collector of rare books and manuscripts, read of her arrival in Asheville in the Raleigh News and Observer. It was this article that prompted Charles Lee Smith to write Lady Watson a June 10, 1940 letter describing their “accidental meeting about the first of July, 1927.” He continues:

Together with my son and one of his university classmates, I was spending some days at the resorts of the English Lakes. On the day in question, we were on a tramcar en route to take a lake boat when two ladies entered the car and the boys gave them their seats. A lady in the seat behind mine said, “That was beautiful”, and I turned and thanked her for the compliment paid my boys – that lady happened to be you. You remarked that it was not customary in England for men to give women their seats. Then you added, “But in Ireland they do, and I am an Irish girl”.

The letter goes on and so does the correspondence between Lady Watson and Charles Lee Smith. It seemed that they formed a close relationship. Lady Watson eventually visited Charles Lee Smith and his wife in Raleigh. Impressed by his collection of rare and unique books and manuscripts, Lady Watson wrote a November 4th, 1940 letter to Charles Lee Smith offering him some of her prized materials.

For the last few hours – I have gathered together the enclos [sic] oddments – some of them interesting – a very few precious (to me) and am greatly daring – considering my intimacy with your English collection of literary treasures is so small – in asking that you accept them to place in such good company, posterity, will perhaps make a call for all that pertains to my much loved Poet so that even oddments may have a special value. – I am also enclosing letters which bear upon his M.S.S. and where – in these days of TERROR they are in safe keeping – for all Englands [sic] future may (and probably will) lie in this Western Hemisphere

Enclosed with this letter is a list of materials Lady Watson intended to give to Smith, including “sketches by Joseph Severn while taking Keats to Rome.” It seems as if Lady Watson was somehow acquainted with Arthur Severn, son of Joseph Severn. Included in the Charles Lee Smith papers “Lady Watson Materials” is an essay titled “The Arthur Severns’” that is referenced in the same November 4th, 1940 letter.

The short memo by myself on the Severns I thought I would publish one day in the far off future if interest in these things revives – it cast light on a few obscure things – and as we so often stay in the same house as the Severns who inherited the the Ruskin traditions and wealth – it is first hand knowledge…

It is with this letter and supporting “memo” that we find the connection between both the Severn watercolors and Charles Lee Smith, but more importantly the vague mention of a relationship between Lady Watson and Arthur Severn. The implication that they were acquainted is supported by another document in the Charles Lee Smith papers. In a single undated manuscript letter to the Editor of the Times, Joseph Severn’s son Arthur writes a story he conveyed at the opening of the Keats House at Hampstead. It is this same manuscript that includes a quick note written in pencil that reads “Written by Arthur Severn RJ. Given to MW 1925.” This and a photograph of “Mrs. Severn in Brantwood Garden, Coniston” further supports a relationship between Arthur Severn and Lady Watson and another exchange of material from Severn to Watson.

Unfortunately, documentation of how and when Lady Watson received the watercolors does not exist in our holdings. As Lady Watson left Ireland in fear of Hitler’s eventual occupation of Europe, first traveling to South Africa and later on to Asheville, North Carolina, one might assume that she did not have time, money, or resources to bring all of her papers with her on relocation. Lady Watson’s husband died with very little money, leaving Lady Watson with little means probably limiting her ability to keep all of her belongings. A Raleigh News and Observer clipping from June 9, 1940 sheds a bit more light on Lady Watson and her daughters’ departure from Ireland and eventual settling in Asheville, North Carolina.

Geraldine disappeared to make coffee while Rhona reiterated her mother’s belief that Hitler will conquer not only Britain but the whole of Europe, that the continent will henceforth be known as Germania and that the United States will be the only safe place in the world. Lady Watson further believes that Hitler will be satisfied with South Africa, and will not invade our shores. For three years in Capetown, South Africa, Lady Watson gave English lessons to German refugees, where her brother is aide to General Jan Christiaan Smuts, vice-premier of South Africa.

It is the same article that describes Sir William Watson’s hardships and eventual death in August 1935 in “near-poverty in a Sussex nursing home.” Sir William and Lady Watson’s daughters explain to the journalist their desire to make good coffee as “We must have money. We’re going to open a pie and coffee shop.” It is with this in mind that we consider the later November 4th letter offering Charles Lee Smith some of her materials for safe keeping.

Had Lady Watson held onto the Severn watercolors, it is probable that they would not have survived. A very rushed and brief postcard dated March 15, 1943 reports bad news for Lady Watson.

All our possessions burned out in 7 minutes we are pulverized in mind but it’s only onward. ____ We can go! Our love to both- Maureen Watson and Geraldine.

Luckily, the Joseph Severn Watercolors were not among Lady Watson’s possessions destroyed in the fire. Charles Lee Smith had already taken possession of these materials and was in the process of donating all of his materials to a “reputable institution.” Although Lady Watson did not know what the institution was, we now know he was speaking of Wake Forest College. In a February 3, 1942 letter to Lady Watson, Charles Lee Smith writes:

Cora and I were glad to receive your January letter concerning the Sir William Watson items, etc. which you gave me for my collection. I assure you that members of your family and all others who have proper credentials shall have access to them for all time.

Now I have a secret to confide you. I have legally donated my library and collection of letters, documents, and manuscripts to an important educational institution, which will place them in a room (suitably and finely furnished) of its fire-proof library building, to be kept perpetually as the Charles Lee Smith Unit, no item to be sold, exchanged, or given away…

I am not at liberty to say any more about this matter now, and I am confident you will personally hold in strictest confidence what I am making known to you.

Although C.L. Smith began negotiations to donate his library to Wake Forest in 1941, the presentation of the Charles Lee Smith Library did not take place until March 13, 1958. Unfortunately, Charles Lee Smith died in 1951, but did work with E.E. Folk on A Catalogue of the Library of Charles Lee Smith, published by the Wake Forest College Press in 1950.

The Joseph Severn Watercolors are a wonderful example of the exciting and unique materials in our manuscript collections. We are especially pleased that they have been digitized and available online for patrons to view and study. Enjoy!

30 Years of Performing Arts: The Secrest Artists Series at Wake Forest University, 1983–2013

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 2:35 pm

The following is a guest post by Corrine Luthy, a graduate intern with Wake Forest University’s Special Collections & Archives.

2006-2007 Season Mailing

2006–2007 Season Mailing

During the week of the first Secrest Artists Series event of the 2014–2015 season, Special Collections & Archives is pleased to announced the online exhibit 30 Years of Performing Arts: The Secrest Artists Series at Wake Forest Univeristy, 1983–2013.

Explore the exhibit ›

This exhibit aims to capture the spirit of the Secrest Artists Series mission from 1983 to 2013, showcasing not only the talent that has graced the campus, but also the dedication of many different university departments that collaborate to make Secrest performances multifaceted affairs. The Secrest Artists Series has been a mainstay in the cultural education of Wake Forest University students for decades. Its mission has been to bring premier established and up-and-coming performing artists to the university and to expand their involvement beyond the performance events. Artists guide master classes, lectures, and participate in the larger Wake Forest and Winston-Salem communities.

Included in the exhibit are items of visual interest such as event programs, articles from student newspaper the Old Gold & Black, invitations to artist receptions, mailed season schedules, and pocket schedules that illustrate the graphic themes for each season. These represent just a small selection of items from the Secrest Artists Series collection—the working files of Lillian Shelton, whose career with the Secrest Artists Series spanned nearly the entire 30 years. Shelton retired as the director of the series in 2013, and the files are now housed in ZSR’s Special Collections & Archives.

On a personal note, as the curator of the online exhibit my goal was to tell the Secrest “story” as succinctly as possible. When I began the process of selecting items to include in the digital exhibit, I was so concerned with telling the whole story that I had trouble narrowing down what items to include; I listed just about every item I feasibly could in each of the first few folders. But as I continued to work my way folder by folder through the collection, I realized that certain items summarized the mission and vision of the Secrest Artists Series quite nicely on their own.

Although it was still difficult at times not to include everything, I had the advantage of seeing, for example, how the programs for each performance were reflections of the artists and the series itself. They provide photographs, biographical information, and the performance’s context within the Secrest Series. In many cases, as with the Philadelphia Dance Company, programs have an additional element of interest by being signed by the artists.

2002 Philadanco Signed Event Program

2002 Philadanco Signed Event Program

I also saw how the artists’ reach in the university and Winston-Salem communities often extended beyond just their performances. Other events include masterclasses, lectures, fundraising efforts, and artists lunches and receptions, like one following the 1993 performance of the Moscow Virtuosi.

1993 Moscow Virtuosi Reception Invitation (1 of 2)

1993 Moscow Virtuosi Reception Invitation (1 of 2)

1993 Moscow Virtuosi Reception Invitation (2 of 2)

1993 Moscow Virtuosi Reception Invitation (2 of 2)

I was also intrigued by the care taken to ensure the visual elements of each season were incorporated across different printed items. Often, these were a reflection of the WFU Communications and External Relations team’s graphic design, as with this mailing from the 2002–2003 season announcing the upcoming year’s schedule to Secrest supporters.

2002–2003 Season Mailing

2002–2003 Season Mailing

Each season has its own graphic theme, like this fuchsia spread from the 1989–1990 season mailing.

1989–1990 Season Mailing

1989–1990 Season Mailing

I encourage you to explore the online exhibit 30 Years of Performing Arts to learn or reminisce about the past 30 years of the Secrest Artists Series, particularly the vast amount of information and graphic arts work that goes into preparing for a performance season. Included in the exhibit are programs, season mailings and schedules, promotional fliers, and other visually interesting items. I hope you enjoy this digital representation of a pillar of the university’s culture!

The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director (1754), by Thomas Chippendale

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 5:30 pm

chippendale plate xvi ribband back chairs detail

By the end of the 18th century, Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779) was the most famous furniture designer in England and North America. The term “Chippendale” had come to refer to a style of furniture prevalent throughout Europe and the United States. What started Thomas Chippendale on the road to this renown was the publication of a book.

In 1754 Chippendale was an up-and-coming young furniture designer, recently moved to London. Raised in a family of woodworkers, he presumably received extensive hands-on training in his early life, which no doubt served him well once he began to design his own furniture based on the popular styles of his day. But fashionable London was a competitive market, and Chippendale needed a way to distinguish himself from the crowd.

He hit upon the idea of publishing what was essentially a deluxe catalog of his designs. It was titled The Gentleman and Cabinetmakers Director. A few English furniture makers had published their designs before, but nothing had come close to the scale of Chippendale’s large folio volume.

chippendale title page

Title page from the 1754 first edition of Thomas Chippendale’s Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker’s Director.

The book was, its subtitle announced, “A Large Collection of the most Elegant and Useful Designs of Houshold [sic.] furniture in the Gothic, Chinese and Modern [i.e., English Rococo] Taste.”

The Rococo style, a French import, was the prevailing fashion in the mid-18th century. It was characterized by elaborate carving and sinuous forms, often featuring decorative elements taken from the natural world—leaves, shells, animals.

chippendale chairs plate xii

“A variety of new-pattern Chairs, which, if executed according to their Designs, and by a skillful workman, will have a very good effect. The fore feet are all different for your better choice. If you think they are too much ornamented, that can be omitted at pleasure.”

The Gothic style of furniture was part of the medieval revival in art and architecture, which began in the 18th century and became even more prevalent in the Victorian era. Gothic furniture tended to feature elements found in medieval architecture, such as arches and openwork patterns.

chippendale chairs plate xxi gothic

“[N]ew designs of Gothic Chairs; their feet are almost all different, and may be of use to those that are unacquainted with this sort of work. Most of the ornaments may be left out if required. The sizes … may be lessened or enlarged, according to the fancy of the skillful artist.

And finally the Chinese style of furniture was part of the 18th century’s fascination with Chinoiserie—decorative objects imported from Asia. The European version of Asian decoration stressed its exotic and fanciful elements, such as dragons, birds, and elaborate pagodas.

chippendale chairs plate xxv chinese

“Chairs in the present Chinese manner, which I hope will improve that taste, or manner of work; it having yet never arrived to any perfection…”

Chippendale self-published the Director, financing his venture by recruiting subscribers—buyers who pre-paid for their copies of the finished book. This was a fairly common practice in the 18th century.

The list of over 300 subscribers in the 1754 first edition of the Director includes both categories of reader mentioned in the book’s title: Gentlemen—members of the aristocracy who would purchase Chippendale’s furniture; and Cabinetmakers—Chippendale’s fellow craftsmen who could adapt his designs for their own use.

chippendale subscribers

Subscribers to the first edition of Chippendale’s Director.

Chippendale’s friend Matthew Darly engraved most of the illustrations, based on Chippendale’s own drawings. The 160 plates show the wide variety of furniture and decorative objects that his workshop could produce. Chippendale also included at the beginning of the book a brief discussion of five orders of architecture and instructions on drawing furniture in perspective.

chippendale chairs in perspective text

Chippendale’s instructions for drawing chairs in perspective. He included similar instructions for other types of furniture.

chippendale chairs in perspective plate

Chippendale’s diagram for drawing chairs in perspective.

The more elaborate pieces featured in the Director obviously required a very high level of woodworking skill to execute.

chippendale plate xxxi doom bed

Chippendale’s alarmingly named “Doom [i.e. Dome] Bed” illustrates the elaborate lengths to which “Chinese” style could go in the 18th century. It is also a reminder that English orthography was still somewhat in flux in 1754.

Even before the book was published, Chippendale apparently encountered some skeptics who suggested that the finished furniture could not live up to his drawings. Never lacking in self-confidence, Chippendale addressed his detractors in the Preface to the first edition:

Upon the whole, I have here given no design but what may be executed with advantage by the hands of a skillful workman, tho’ some of the profession have been diligent enough to represent them (especially those after the Gothic and Chinese manner) as so many specious drawings, impossible to be work’d off by any mechanic whatsoever. I will not scruple to attribute this to malice, ignorance and inability: And I am confident I can convince all Noblemen, Gentlemen, or others, who will honour me with their commands, that every design in the book can be improved, both as to beauty and enrichment, in the execution of it…

In fact, many of the designs include instructions for the less experienced cabinetmaker and options for making pieces more or less elaborate, as the craftsman’s skill level and purchaser’s income demanded.

chippendale plate xlix writing table

“A Writing Table, the front feet to draw out, with a double rising top, as in in profile D; ee is the Table top, h is a horse that turns up; G is part of the front rail morticed into the foot, which draws out with the front, and parts at C; G is the end rail morticed into the foot, as you see by the prick’d line; a is the end of the drawer, with its grooves for the slider and bottom as at A in the plan; F is the turn’d column glued into the corner of the foot.”

Chippendale’s catalog offered designs for many other household items besides furniture. Candle holders, clock cases, fire screens, shelves, mirror frames, and many other elaborately carved items were available from his workshop.

chippendale plate cxxxi brackets for busts detail

One of Chippendale’s bracket shelves for decorative busts.

Chippendale’s Director was not an inexpensive book. It sold for £1.17s in unbound sheets, slightly more for a pre-bound copy. But it apparently sold well enough to warrant a second edition less than a year after its appearance. And in 1762 Chippendale published an updated third edition.

chippendale binding

Chippendale’s Director is a very large folio volume. ZSR’s copy has been rebound in early 20th century brown morocco with gold tooling.

As a marketing tool, the Director was a great success. Chippendale’s business took off, and he was soon overseeing a large workshop of skilled craftsmen. With the publication and wide distribution of his book, Chippendale also –unintentionally—insured his legacy as the 18th century’s best known designer of furniture. Copies of the Director circulated across Europe and North America. Chippendale’s influence was particularly strong in the English colonies, later the United States, as woodworkers adapted his designs to American materials and tastes.

chippendale plate xxxviii sideboard table

“Plate xxxviii has two different feet, which are both cut through, as likewise the rail; the dimensions are also to the design.”

Many copies of the Director made their way to North America, and many examples of Chippendale-inspired furniture from 18th century America have survived. The collection of Winston-Salem’s Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts includes a sideboard based on Chippendale’s design pictured above. By publishing his designs in text and illustrations, Chippendale spread his influence far beyond the reaches of his London workshop.

Interested in learning more about American furniture design? Be sure to visit Reynolda House Museum of American Art’s special exhibit The Art of Seating: Two Hundred Years of American Design.


Categories
ABCs of Special Collections
Collection News
Digital Projects
Exhibits
General
News & Events
Preservation
Rare Book of the Month
University Archives
What Are You Working On?
Tags
a day in the life of a librarian American Indians American Revolution archives Arthur Conan Doyle Baptist book repair workshops botany Charles Dickens Christmas detective fiction Documentary Film Elizabeth Blackwell Engraving Gerald Johnson Harold Hayes herbal home movie day illustrations Ireland James Joyce John Charles McNeill John White Laurence Stallings LIB260 Maya Angelou medieval manuscripts poetry preservation mold programs Rare Book of the Month Rare Books Roanoke Rockwell Kent Shakespeare Sherlock Holmes Special Collections Strand Magazine Theodor deBry Thomas Hariot Travel Narratives Venice W.J. Cash wake forest Writers' Lives
Archives
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
December 2009
November 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
October 2008
September 2008
July 2008
April 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
Subscribe
Entries
Comments

Powered by WordPress.org, protected by Akismet. Blog with WordPress.com.