Special Collections & Archives Blog

Author Archive

Matthew Campbell Lecture in Special Collections

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 12:51 pm

Please join us in the Special Collections & Archives Reading Room (ZSR 625) this evening at 5 p.m. for a lecture by renowned Irish poetry scholar Dr. Matthew Campbell.

Dr. Campbell is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of York and has written extensively on Irish and English poetry. His books include Rhythm and Will in Victorian Poetry, The Cambridge Companion to Contemporary Irish Poetry, and Irish Poetry Under the Union, 1801-1924. He is a recipient of a Provost’s Grant for Library Research from ZSR Library and is visiting Wake Forest to do research in the Dolmen Press manuscript collection.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information contact Megan Mulder at mulder@wfu.edu or 336-758-5091.

Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indian, by George Catlin (1841)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 9:24 am

Book-making now-a-days, is done for money-making; and he who takes the Indian for his theme, and cannot go and see him, finds a poverty in his matter that naturally begets error, by grasping at every little tale that is brought or fabricated by their enemies. Such books are standards, because they are made for white man’s reading only; and herald the character of a people who never can disprove them. They answer the purpose for which they are written; and the poor Indian who has no redress, stands stigmatised and branded, as a murderous wretch and beast.

If the system of book-making and newspaper printing were in operation in the Indian country awhile, to herald the iniquities and horrible barbarities of white men in these Western regions, which now are sure to be overlooked; I venture to say, that chapters would soon be printed, which would sicken the reader to his heart, and set up the Indian, a fair and tolerable man.

George Catlin, Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indian (1841) vol. II, p. 8-9

catlin color front

Frontispiece to Catlin’s Letters and Notes. This image is from a late 19th-century edition featuring color lithograph illustrations.

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Poetry Month: A Celebration of W. B. Yeats

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 2:48 pm

yeats autograph

ZSR Special Collections & Archives will celebrate Poetry Month on Thursday, April 16 with a special Library Lecture event. In coordination with the current Special Collections exhibit, W.B. Yeats and his Books, Dr. Jeff Holdridge of the Wake Forest English Department will give a talk entitled “The Sterner Eye:  Yeats and the Inhuman.”

The lecture will take place at 3:30 p.m. in the Special Collections & Archives reading room (ZSR 625). Light refreshments will be served, and representatives from the Wake Forest University Press will be on hand offering books for sale.

Participants will also have the opportunity to view the Special Collections exhibit, which showcases materials from Wake Forest’s extensive Yeats collections, including many first editions, books inscribed by Yeats, and Dun Emer/Cuala Press imprints.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Megan Mulder at 336.758.5091 or mulder@wfu.edu.

W. B. Yeats and his Books

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 12:14 pm

2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats, one of the most important and influential literary figures of the 20th century. In celebration of the Yeats sesquicentennial, Z. Smith Reynolds Library’s Special Collections department has opened an exhibit of materials from its extensive Yeats collection.

February 2015 – August 2015
Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections & Archives (Room 625)
Curated by Megan Mulder

William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin on 13 June 1865, the oldest of four children in an Anglo-Irish family. Though he spent much of his childhood in London, Yeats always identified as Irish. He devoted much of his life to promoting and sustaining a distinctively Irish literary tradition. During a career that spanned more than 50 years and included a 1923 Nobel Prize for literature, Yeats published more than 100 works of poetry, drama, and prose. His interests were wide-ranging and his devotion to his art was all-consuming. By the time he died in 1939, Yeats was a towering figure in the world of English literature.

yeats byzantium

Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium,” from October Blast (Cuala Press, 1927). ZSR Library Special Collections.

Yeats was deeply interested and involved in the design of his publications. As the son of an artist he was acutely aware of the interplay of his text with the material and visual aspects of his books. ZSR Library’s exhibit traces Yeats’s life and career through the changing designs of his publications. Included are many examples of Yeats titles from the Dun Emer Press (later renamed the Cuala Press), a small hand-press establishment run by Yeats’s sister Elizabeth. Also on exhibit are books designed and illustrated by Althea Gyles and Thomas Sturge Moore, Abbey Theatre publications, and other materials representing all aspects of Yeats’s long career.

yeats tower dust jacket

Dust jacket design by Thomas Sturge Moore for Yeats’s The Tower, from ZSR Special Collections

On April 16, 2015 the ZSR Library Lecture Series will celebrate the Yeats exhibit and poetry month with a talk by Dr. Jefferson Holdridge of the Wake Forest English department. This event will take place at 3:30 p.m. in the Special Collections & Archives reading room (ZSR 625).

The W. B. Yeats and his Books exhibit will remain on display through July 2015. The exhibit can be viewed at any time during Special Collections & Archives regular hours of 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., or after hours by appointment. For more information, please contact the Special Collections & Archives department.

A Token of My Affection: 19th Century Christmas Annuals

Tuesday, December 9, 2014 2:19 pm

christmas annuals token 1839 presentation page

Presentation page from the 1839 edition of The Token: A Christmas and New Years Present

If you were a holiday shopper in the 1830s, one item on your list might well have been an annual gift book—an anthology of illustrations, poems, stories, and essays, in an affordable but decorative binding.

Several examples of 19th century holiday gift books are now on exhibit in the ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives Research Room (ZSR 629). A Token of My Affection: 19th Century Christmas Annuals will remain on view through January.

christmas annuals keepsake 1832 mary shelley

Added engraved title page from The Keepsake (London) for 1832. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

christmas annuals garland 1831

Color lithograph title page from The Garland, or Token of Friendship (Boston) for 1851. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

Gift annuals became popular in the early 19th century, as mechanization of the printing and binding processes began to make books in general more affordable.

Publishers appealed to gift-buyers by packaging their books in decorated paper, silk, or leather bindings.

christmas annuals token with box

This copy of The Token for 1828 was bound in green printed paper over boards and issued in a protective cardboard slipcase. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

christmas annuals1848 cover

Leather binding on an 1848 Leaflets of Memory annual (Philadelphia). From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

ZSR Special Collections holds a complete run of one of the most popular American annuals, The Token: A Christmas and New Years Present. Published in Boston, it was produced by Samuel Griswold Goodrich, a prolific author and publisher better known by his pseudonym, Peter Parley.

christmas annuals tokens spines

Samuel Goodrich’s The Token: A Christmas and New Years Present, 1836 and 1840 issues. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

The Token, and its competitors in England and America, sought to appeal to both gift-buyers and young readers. Most of the early 19th century annuals are eclectic anthologies that strike a balance between educational and morally uplifting content intended to satisfy parents and other elders, and sentimental or mildly sensational stories that would keep the recipients entertained—and asking for next year’s volume.

poe purloined letter

Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Purloined Letter” was first published in The Gift for 1845, a Philadelphia annual. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

The contents often included original contributions from authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary Shelley, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

christmas annuals mary shelley

“The Dream,” which appeared in The Keepsake for 1832, was one of many short stories that Mary Shelley wrote for gift annuals. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

The heyday of the holiday annual anthology was the 1820s-1840s. The genre persisted throughout the 19th century, but later annuals had to compete with other types of gift books and with a flood of non-holiday-specific publications timed for the Christmas market.

mrs lirriper 1863

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843) is of course his most famous holiday story. But Dickens published many other Christmas books, including an annual special issue of his magazine All the Year Round. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

beetons fortunate island

This 1880 annual from London publisher Samuel Orchart Beeton featured contributions from Max Adeler and others. The 1887 Beeton’s Annual would become famous for introducing Sherlock Holmes in “A Study in Scarlet.” From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

Some gift annuals were published by religious, social, or philanthropic organizations. These served the dual purpose of raising funds for the organizations and for spreading their messages.

christmas annuals temperance

The Sons of Temperance of North America published the National Temperance Offering as an annual gift book. This issue, in typical mid-century decorated cloth, is from 1851. From the ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

Illustrations were an important part of the gift book package. Early in the 19th century, the new technique of steel engraving allowed for a high level of detail even in small illustrations. In the 1840s, the invention of color lithography made it possible for the first time to mass produce color illustrations.

christmas annuals1848 lithograph title page

Color lithograph illustration from Leaflets of Memory: An Illuminated Annual (Philadelphia, 1848). From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

christmas annuals pears ad

Advertisers also took advantage of the new technique for printing in color. This ad for Pears soap, which doubles as a “test for colour blindness,” appeared in the 1848 Leaflets of Memory. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

Few of the holiday gift books in ZSR Special Collections are in pristine condition. Most have been well-read, and many bear traces of their original owners.

christmas annuals bookmarks

Bookmarks found in 19th century gift annuals from the ZSR Library Special Collections. One is crocheted lace, the other is made from human hair.

christmas annuals token inscription mary davis

Mary W. Davis of Newton, Mass. used the endpapers of her copy of The Token for 1830 to show off her considerable skill with a pen. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

girls own annual crayoned illustration

A reader of The Girl’s Own Annual (London, 1888) applied her crayons to many of the volume’s engraved illustrations. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

Those of us with reading material of any kind on our holiday wish lists can’t help but feel a kinship with our fellow book enthusiasts from the 19th century and their quirky, charming, and well-thumbed gifts!

For more information about the exhibit, contact Special Collections & Archives.

Modern American Cookery, by Prudence Smith (1835)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014 1:30 pm

modern american cookery roast turkey

A recipe for roast turkey with sauce, from Modern American Cookery. ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

Modern cooks have it easy. If our Thanksgiving preparations go awry, we have shelves of books to consult for advice, not to mention Google, or, as a last resort, the Butterball hotline. Preparers of the original 17th century feast would have had to rely on oral traditions and perhaps a few handwritten “receipts,” which tended to be minimally instructive.

In the late 18th century, authors and publishers recognized a need (not to mention a market niche) for books that provided not just lists of ingredients, but instructions on how to acquire, store, cook, preserve, and serve food. Most were targeted at young, middle-class women setting up housekeeping for the first time. These books proved extremely popular, and a new genre was born—the cookbook.

Authors like Hannah Glasse, Maria Rundell, and Amelia Simmons dispensed helpful advice along with varying degrees of moral instruction to the young housewives of late 18th and early 19th century England and America.

rundell domsetic cookery 1807

An American edition of Maria Rundell’s popular cookbook A New System of Domestic Cookery. ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

Many cookbooks published in the United States in the early 19th century were reprints of English titles. By the 1830s America was asserting its cultural independence from Europe, and cookery books were no exception. Cookbook author and hotel chef J.M. Sanderson wrote that

The American stomach has too long suffered from the vile concoctions inflicted on it by untutored cooks, guided by senseless and impracticable cook-books; and it is to be hoped, that as this subject is now becoming more important in these days of dyspepsia, indigestion, &c., a really good book will be well patronized, and not only read, but strictly followed; and let it not be said hereafter that “the American kitchen is the worst in the world.”

complete cook and confectioner frontispiece

Frontispiece illustration from Sanderson’s Complete Cook and Confectioner, showing a well-ordered mid-19th century kitchen. ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

The New York publishing firm Harper & Brothers offered many affordable books on cookery and housekeeping.

modern american cookery publisher list

List of works offered by Harper & Brothers in 1835, from the ZSR copy of Modern American Cookery.

In 1831 they came out with a new title, Modern American Cookery, by one Prudence Smith.

modern american cookery title pagejpg

Title page from the second edition of Modern American Cookery. ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

Research yields no biographical information on Prudence Smith, and a perusal of the lengthy “Author’s Preface” to Modern American Cookery suggests why. Described in a note from the publishers as a “very singular and learned” treatise on “the great importance of Cooks and Cookery,” the preface is a tongue-in-cheek parody of earnest introductions found in previous cookbooks.

“Prudence” is purportedly a middle-aged spinster who has devoted her life to the intensive study of food and cookery. Citing both classical sources and modern philosophers, she argues that cooking is superior to all the other arts and sciences:

Why doth the poet steal verses, the historian invent history, the romance-writer compile romances, the critic retail all other opinions save his own, and the philosopher stultify himself and his readers with abstract speculation? Of a certainty for no other end than that they may be enabled to partake in the marvelous productions of the genius of [cookbook author] Mrs. Glass, videlicet, that they may eat. . . . Without eating there would be no philosophy, no poetry, no fine arts, no creations of fancy, or productions of the intellect.

In her 30 years of research, Prudence has compiled thousands of recipes and has “tried every one and tasted the result.”

If it was marvelously excellent, and of a triumphant relish, I did forthwith record it in my receipt-book. . . with certain notes of admiration, the number of which indicated the degree of its perfection.

Eventually Prudence accumulates enough recipes to fill 20 volumes. Although her brother discourages her from publishing them (“saying, that after all there was nothing original in them except a new recipe for making apple-sauce”), Prudence journeys to New York with her manuscript in hand. A publisher is found, but he is unwilling to commit to more than one volume, and Prudence must select only “those receipts which had six notes of admiration to them by which means the cream of my twenty volumes was skimmed, as it were, into one milkpan.”

Nevertheless, Prudence remains confident that her small volume of six-star recipes can be life-changing, especially for young girls, to whom she addresses herself in the preface’s closing paragraph:

Let [them] abandon mischievous novels, unseemly romances, and naughty poetry, and cultivate as well as enrich their minds by a constant perusal and practice of the precepts contained in this new, darling little book. . . . So may they in good time wed some rich husband who can afford to practice all my precepts, live in a three-story house with mahogany doors, red window-frames, and marble mantelpieces, keep a French cook, and liquidate his debts at least once in his life by advertising his creditors that he has stopped payment.

Sadly, the nameless Harper & Brothers employee responsible for creating Prudence Smith did not add any editorial commentary on the actual recipes in the collection. They are a standard compilation of early 19th century cooking, probably largely borrowed from other cookbooks. (Though as Prudence herself observed, “if people now-a-days published nothing but what was original the press would stand as still as old Squire Doolittle’s mill… built on Little Dry River.”)

Modern American Cookery was nonetheless popular enough to merit a second edition published in 1835, of which ZSR Special Collections holds a copy. It was well used by its original owner, Hannah Jane King, for penmanship practice as well as (presumably) cooking.

modern american cookery hannah jane king

Inscription on the front flyleaf of ZSR Special Collections & Archives’s copy of Modern American Cookery.

Although Hannah Jane likely would not have celebrated Thanksgiving in the 1830s and 40s, Modern American Cookery provided her with plenty of instruction on how to roast a turkey, covered in both the “Roasting” chapter and another titled “To Dress Poultry.” The latter advises that

The best way to roast a turkey is, to loosen the skin on the breast, and fill it with forcemeat made thus:– Take a quarter of a pound of beef-suet, as much crumb of bread, a little lemon-peel, an anchovy, some nutmeg, pepper, parsley, and thyme; chop and beat them all well together, mix them with the yelk [sic.] of an egg, and stuff up the breast. When you have no suet, butter will do.

There were also instructions, with diagrams, on how to carve turkey and other meats.

modern american cookery carving

Instructions on carving from Modern American Cookery. ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

An entire chapter devoted to “Gravies and Sauces” offered many options for condiments. For a “Rich Sauce for Fish or Turkey” one should

Roll three-quarters of a pound of butter with a tablespoonful of flour, to which add a small quantity of water, and melt it; to this you must add half a pint of thick cream, one anchovy finely minced, but not washed; place the whole over the fire, and, as it boils, add two or three tablespoonfuls of soy. Pour it into the sauceboat, with the addition of salt and lemon. In making this sauce, great care is requisite to keep it stirring, as it will otherwise curdle.

Vegetables got short shrift in Modern American Cookery, with just one very brief chapter on their preparation. Hannah Jane would have been left to her own devices for making mashed potatoes. But there was a promising, if labor intensive, recipe for green beans:

First string them, then cut them in two, and again across; but if you would do them nice, cut the bean in four, and then across, which is eight pieces. Lay them in water and salt; and when your pan boils, put in some salt and the beans. When they are tender, they are done enough. Take care they do not lose their fine green. Lay them in a plate, and have butter in a cup.

Pies, on the other hand, were covered extensively. For pumpkin pie

Take out the seeds and pare the pumpkin; stew and strain it through a colander. Take two quarts of scalded milk and eight eggs, and stir your pumpkin into it; sweeten it with sugar or molasses to your taste. Salt this batter, and season with ginger, cinnamon, or grated lemon-peel to your mind. Bake with a bottom crust.

Modern American Cookery also assumed that cranberries would be served in pie form:

The cranberries must be stewed with the sugar; the seasoning is nutmeg or cinnamon. Bake them in deep plates, with one crust.

With the lack of coffee shops in antebellum America, Hannah Jane would have had to be her own barista. Fortunately there were instructions for making a latte- a.k.a. “Coffee Milk”:

Boil two ounces of well-ground coffee in a quart of milk for twenty minutes, and put in a shaving or two of isinglass to clear it; let it boil a few minutes, stand it by till fine, then sweeten to taste.

A chapter called “Useful Recipes” offered solutions for the spills and accidents that often occur at holiday dinners. Various potions were recommended for cleaning spots from linen and upholstery, and for mending broken dishes. This one was intended “To Mend Broken Glass”:

Take two quarts of litharge, one of quicklime, and one of flint glass, each separately and very finely powdered, and work the whole up into a paste with drying oil. This is an excellent cement for china or glass, and only becomes the harder by being immersed in water.

And finally, if Hannah Jane’s guests overindulged at the table, a chapter on “Family Medical Recipes” offered one for “Stomachic Pills”:

Take extract of gentian one drachm, powdered rhubarb and vitriolated kali each half a drachm, oil of mint sixteen drops, and of the common sirup enough to make the whole into pills. Three of these pills taken twice a day will strengthen the stomach and keep the body gently open.

Modern American Cookery, and countless other books like it, offered guidance on how to keep a family healthy and fed—and suggested that this endeavor required some skill, intelligence, and even artistry. On the eve of a major cooking holiday, one likes to think that “Prudence Smith” was not entirely tongue-in-cheek in her meditations on the importance of food:

In vain may philosophers confound themselves and their readers with definitions of reason and instinct, which run into each other like butter and sugar in a hot apple-pie. I say in vain; for were it not for the art of cookery, it would for ever remain impossible to give a just definition of man. He is emphatically a cooking animal, or he is nothing.

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.

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).

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.

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.


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