Special Collections & Archives Blog

In the 'Rare Book of the Month' Category...

Formulation : Articulation, by Josef Albers (1972)

Friday, October 14, 2011 12:33 pm

If one says “Red” (the name of a color)
and there are 50 people listening,
it can be expected that there will be 50 reds in their minds.
And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.

Josef Albers, Interaction of Color (1963)


The artist Joseph Albers (1888-1976) was born in Germany and began his career as an art teacher, painter, and printmaker. In 1920 he enrolled in the new Bauhaus School in Weimar, where he studied under color theorist Johannes Itten and began to formulate his own theories about the perception and interaction of color. Albers eventually joined the Bahaus faculty and remained there until the Nazis closed the school in 1933. He and his wife, the artist Anni Fleischmann Albers, left Germany for Asheville, North Carolina when Black Mountain College offered Albers a teaching post. While at Black Mountain Albers became influential in the American art world as an artist, color theorist, and art teacher . He remained at the college until 1949, when he left to become head of the Design Department at Yale.

Color remained Albers’s main preoccupation in both his art and his teaching. He emphasized the changeable nature of color, demonstrating how color perception is affected by light, shape, motion, and juxtaposition of other colors. In 1963 he published Interaction of Color, in which he set forth his ideas about the teaching of color theory and provided plates, many of them interactive, for use in classroom settings.

Formulation : Articulation, a collection of 127 silkscreen prints of Albers’s works, was published in 1972. Albers himself selected the works and arranged their order.

The preface to Formulation : Articulation states that

The concept of this publication is the realization rather than the reproduction of the essential ideas in Josef Albers’ works. . . . No attempt has been made to present the work in chronological order; rather, for each portfolio the artist has placed the folders in a sequential order so that they may be seen and examined for their interaction. . . .

Albers collaborated with Yale colleagues Norman Ives and Sewell Sillman to design the book and produce the silkscreens, a process which took nearly two years. The finished product, published by Ives and Sillman in cooperation with Harry N. Abrams, consists of the plates and a booklet of notes by Albers, all contained in two large portfolio cases.

Below is a sampling of images from Formulation : Articulation, with Albers’s notes on each print or set of prints.

I : 25

From oil of 1940, Bent Black. On tiptoe and pendant between points.


I : 26

Repeated and not repeated.

II : 8


Seeing several of these paintings next to each other makes it obvious that each painting is an instrumentation of its own.
This means that they are all of different palettes, and therefore, so to speak, of different climates.
Choice of the colors used, as well as their order, is aimed at an interaction- influencing and changing each other forth and back.
Thus, character and feeling alter from painting to painting without any additional “hand writing,” or so-called texture.
Although the underlying symmetrical and quasi-concentric order of squares remains the same in all paintings — in proportion and placement — these same squares group or single themselves, connect and separate, in many different ways.
In consequence, they move forth and back, in and out, and grow up and down and near and far, enlarged and diminished. All this, to proclaim color autonomy as a means of a plastic organization.

II : 18

A rare palette for a Variant in six colors. See the color interaction, particularly the illusionary transparencies within the grays.


II : 19

A quartet within an Homage to the Square which permits and deserves reversal — and, although reversed, the two remain twins.

Two original paintings by Albers– one of which is part of hisHomage to the Square series –are on view through December 31 at Reynolda House Museum of American Art as part of the special exhibit Modern Masters from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Z. Smith Reynolds Library’s copy of Formulation : Articulation is number 705 of 1000 copies printed. It was purchased by the Special Collections Department in 1986.

Select bibliography of works by and about Josef Albers in the ZSR Library collection:

Albers, Josef, and Francois Bucher. Despite Straight Lines. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1961.

Albers, Josef. Interaction of Color. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963.

Albers, Josef., and Casa Luis Barragan. Homage to the Square: Josef Albers. Mexico, D.F.: Casa Luis Barragan, 2009.

Danilowitz, Brenda., Josef Albers, and Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. The Prints of Josef Albers: A Catalogue Raisonne, 1915-1976. New York : [Lanham, Md.?]: Hudson Hills Press in association with the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 2001.

Pakay, S., Weber, N. F., Albers, J., Albers, A., et. al. Hudson Film Works (Firm), & WMHT (Television station : Schenectady, N. (2006). Josef and Anni Albers: Art is everywhere. [Hudson, NY]: Hudson Film Works.



Lenardo und Blandine, illustrated by Joseph Franz von Goez (1783)

Friday, September 30, 2011 10:53 am

Joseph Franz von Goez’s 1783 adaptation of Lenardo und Blandine “in 160 impassioned designs” may be the world’s first graphic novel.

Based on a ballad by German poet Gottfried August Bürger , Goez’s book tells the story of doomed lovers Lenardo and Blandine in a series of captioned copper etchings.

Bürger’s poem is itself based on Boccacio’s tale of Ghismonda and Guiscardo. In both versions a young woman is promised in marriage to a nobleman. However, her betrothed soon discovers that she already has a lover. The girl’s father kills the lover, after which the distraught daughter goes mad and dies.

Bürger’s poem was popular in 18th century Germany, inspiring works of art and theatrical adaptations. A musical melodrama based on the poem was staged in Munich in 1779, with a score by Peter Winter. The director and librettist was Joseph Franz von Goez.

Goez’s illustrations were based on the theatrical version of Lenardo und Blandine. The melodrama makes a few adjustments to Bürger’s poem , mostly to make the title characters more sympathetic. In Goez’s version the lovers are secretly married and Lenardo is a faithful courtier to Blandine’s father the king.

Whether or not Goez’s book is the first graphic novel, it is a fascinating record of an 18th century theatrical performance.

As the story begins, Blandine’s fiance witnesses her tryst with Lenardo and vows revenge.

The lovers, meanwhile, are grieved to have to part as morning approaches.

Parallels with stories of other doomed lovers are abundant. Here Blandine insists that the bird Lenardo hears is a nightingale, not a swallow, herald of the morning.

Lenardo, as it turns out, was right to feel a sense of foreboding. After he leaves Blandine, he is killed by her father the king.

That evening Blandine wonders why Lenardo does not come to her as he had promised.

She is visited by three mysterious messengers, bearing in turn a bloody, broken ring…

…an urn containing the dead Lenardo’s heart…

…and a letter accusing her of infidelity.

Blandine goes mad…

…and soon dies of grief.

The king is left to mourn his dead daughter and repent of his rash actions.

Wake Forest’s copy of Lenardo und Blandine was purchased by the library in 1964.

Images of the Old Testament, by Hans Holbein (1549)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011 3:59 pm

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) is now best known as portrait painter of some of the most famous figures of Renaissance Europe, including Erasmus, Thomas More, and King Henry VIII of England. But as a young artist in his native Basel, Holbein also worked as an illustrator, producing drawings that would be reproduced in woodcuts and included in printed books.

Holbein’s most famous illustrations are his Dance of Death series. The drawings that make up The Images of the Old Testament (better known by its Latin title Icones Historiarum Veteris Testamenti) were likely done at about the same time as the Dance of Death, probably between 1523 and 1526. The first four illustrations in the Icones are taken from the Dance of Death series. The depict the creation of Adam and Eve and their fall and expulsion from the Garden of Eden, with Death personified as a skeletal figure.

The rest of the illustrations are in landscape format and demonstrate Holbein’s movement toward increasingly complex spatial structure in his drawings.

Woodcut illustrations of the 16th century required collaboration between artist and craftsmen. Holbein would have provided the original drawings for engravers to transfer onto woodblocks for the printing press. There is considerable discussion among art historians about who the engravers for the Icones might have been. A few of the engravings have been attributed to Hans Lützelburger, a particularly skilled wood-engraver who had also worked on the Dance of Death. ButLützelburger died in 1526, and it is clear that a number of other engravers worked on the illustrations.

Holbein’s Icones are part of a long tradition of biblical illustration in Europe. Lavishly illustrated manuscript Bibles were a popular luxury item during the Middle Ages. The religious Reformation of the early 16th century, with its emphasis on bringing scripture directly to the laity, created a new demand for Bibles translated into the language of everyday speech rather than scholarly Latin. Many of these vernacular Bibles contained illustrations, maps, and diagrams. It is not known who commissioned Holbein’s Old Testament illustrations, but they may have been intended for an illustrated Bible.

Proof copies of the Icones woodcuts are known to have been in existence by 1531, but the entire set was not published in any form until 1538. By the 1530’s religious conflict and Protestant iconoclasm were on the rise in Germany, and religious illustrations fell somewhat out of favor. This may account for the fact that the first appearance of the Icones was in a Catholic folio Bible printed in Lyons.

The Icones prints were published separately for the first time in the same year by the Lyonnais publishers Francis and Johan Frellon. This small book, with verses in French by Gilles Corrozet and an introductory poem in praise of Holbein by Nicholas Bourbon, was likely intended as a Christian version of the classical emblem books that were extremely popular at the time.

Over the next decade the Frellons published several editions of the Icones with text in various combinations of Latin and vernacular languages. The 1549 edition held by Wake Forest has verses in French below the woodcuts and English text above. The English spellings are peculiar even by 16th century standards, suggesting that the translation was probably done by the French-speaking printers or one of their employees.

The late art historian Arthur M. Hind wrote that

Holbein’s Images of the Old Testament, as they were called in the English edition of 1549, are the most wonderful series of illustration to the Bible in existence. Even outside the more limited sphere of book illustration they have practically no rivals, except the scriptural printes of Dürer and Rembrandt. Inspiration is so much more often found in separate works than in a series, that it is all the more remarkable to see so high a level of artistic power preserved throughout the ninety-one uniform cuts that make up Holbein’s Old Testament.

Z. Smith Reynolds Library’s copy of The Images of the Old Testament was purchased for the Rare Books Collection with funds from the Oscar T. Smith endowment. The book is part of the Historic Bibles exhibit on view in the ZSR Special Collections Reading Room, September 2011 through January 2012.



Common Sense, by Thomas Paine (1776)

Friday, July 1, 2011 11:43 am

Volumes have been written on the subject of the struggle between England and America. Men of all ranks have embarked in the controversy, from different motives, and with various designs; but all have been ineffectual, and the period of debate is closed. Arms as the last resource decide the contest; the appeal was the choice of the King, and the Continent has accepted the challenge.

Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Thomas Paine’s 79-page pamphlet has achieved a mythic status in the history of the American Revolution. Paine often gets credit for more or less single-handedly galvanizing the reluctant colonists to commit to the war of independence. As one historian puts it “Common Sense swept the country [sic] like a prairie fire,” and “as a direct result of this overwhelming distribution, the Declaration of Independence was unanimously ratified on July 4, 1776.” [Gimbel, 57]

This may be overstating the case a bit. Paine’s pamphlet was certainly popular and influential in revolutionary America, but the real story of Common Sense‘s creation, dissemination, and reception is less straightforward– and perhaps more interesting– than the myth.

Thomas Paine was born to a Quaker family of modest means in Norfolk, England in 1737. His formal education ended when he was 12 years old, after which he pursued various occupations without great success. In 1774 he emigrated to Philadelphia, where he soon took on the job of editing Robert Aitken’s radical new monthly newspaper, the Pennsylvania Magazine. Paine loved controversy, hated the British aristocracy, and was devoted to the Enlightenment ideal of individual liberty. So it comes as no surprise that he was an immediate and vocal supporter of American independence.

In October 1775 King George III gave a speech to Parliament in which he declared that the American colonies were in rebellion against the crown and therefore subject to military intervention. Paine wrote a response to the king’s pronouncement, for which his friend Dr. Benjamin Rush suggested the title Common Sense.

Paine had originally intended Common Sense to appear in newspapers in several installments, but he realized that his argument was more convincing when taken as a whole. So he contracted with Philadelphia printer Robert Bell to publish the work.

Wake Forest’s copy of Common Sense is Bell’s third edition, published in February 1776.

Common Sense was first published on January 9, 1776. This first printing consisted of 1000 copies, with profits to be split evenly between the author and publisher. By January 20 Bell was advertising a “new edition” in press, which likely means that the first printing had already sold out.

Paine had already publicly announced a plan to use his share of the profits from Common Sense to buy mittens for the Continental Army in Quebec. However, Robert Bell insisted that printing costs had eaten up all the profits from the first edition and that he owed Paine nothing. A very public feud commenced between Paine and his publisher, with accusations and counter-accusations printed in the Pennsylvania Evening Post.

Bell published his unauthorized “second edition” (really just a reprint of the first edition) on January 27. Paine meanwhile contracted with printers Thomas and William Bradford to publish, at the author’s expense, a “new edition” with “large and interesting additions by the author” and a response to Quaker objections to a military rebellion. The Bradford edition was published in February and sold for half the price (one shilling) of Bell’s.

A publisher’s advertisement from Bell’s 3rd edition of Common Sense gives an idea of the reading habits of Philadelphians in 1776.

Undeterred, Bell produced a third edition that not only pirated the additional materials from the Bradford edition, but also included a section called “Large Additions to Common Sense,” which reprinted several pieces by other authors. Paine was predictably incensed by this and published another denunciation in the Post, to which Bell then responded in kind.

Despite–or more likely, because of– this feud, copies of Common Sense continued to sell briskly in Philadelphia.

There were many loyalist rebuttals of Common Sense. One of the earliest and best known is Plain Truth: Addressed to the Inhabitants of North America, written by Maryland planter James Chalmers under the generic pseudonym Candidus.

Wake Forest’s 1776 London edition of Plain Truth

Both Bell and Bradford published several more editions of Common Sense in 1776, and it was also reprinted by dozens of publishers in North America and eventually in Europe. But there is no way to know how many actual copies were produced. Thomas Paine made various claims that 100,000 to 150,000 pamphlets were printed and distributed in the first months of 1776. But he had no evidence for these very large figures (a sale of 150,000 copies in three months in colonial North America would be comparable to a modern Harry Potter book release), and it seems likely that the actual numbers were considerably lower. And since Common Sense was published only once south of Philadelphia (in Charleston), it is also likely that the North American distribution was concentrated in the urban centers of New England. A close look at the dissemination and reception of Common Sense suggests that its influence was strongest among people who were already sympathetic to the revolutionary cause [Loughran, 13].

But if Common Sense is not necessarily the book that sparked a revolution, it is certainly the book that came to symbolize the American Revolution for later generations. One need only read a few pages of Paine’s pamphlet to see why this is so.

Paine’s gift for rhetoric, his persuasive power, and his ability to make complex ideas accessible to any audience have ensured his status as an American icon. And our 1776 copy of Common Sense– stained, dog-eared, and hastily printed on cheap paper– is a tangible link to the birth of the American republic.


Gimbel, Richard. Thomas Paine: a Bibliographical Check List of Common Sense with an Account of its Publication. New Haven: Yale U.P., 1956.

Gilreath, James. “American Book Distribution,” in Needs and Opportunities in the History of the Book: America, 1639-1876, David D. Hall and John B. Hench, eds. Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1987.

Loughran, Trish. “Disseminating Common Sense: Thomas Paine and the Problem of the Early National Bestseller.” American Literature 78.1 (March 2006): 1-28.

Rare Book of the Month: Ulysses, by James Joyce (1922)

Friday, June 10, 2011 4:22 pm

Text page from the first edition of Ulysses

The publishing history of James Joyce’s Ulysses is itself a complicated odyssey.

Joyce began writing Ulysses, a modernist novel detailing one day (16 June 1904) in the life of Dubliner Leopold Bloom, in 1914. By 1918 he was sending typescript chapters to Ezra Pound to be published in installments in the American magazine Little Review. But the publication of the Nausikaa section resulted in an obscenity lawsuit against the the magazine’s publishers, Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap.

From the Nausikaa section, Shakespeare and Company first edition.

By 1921 the Little Review was bankrupt. Meanwhile Joyce’s friend and benefactor Harriet Weaver approached several English publishers (including Leonard and Virginia Woolf), but none were willing to take on a huge and complex printing project with dubious legal implications.

In 1920 Joyce moved to Paris and made the acquaintance of Sylvia Beach, whose bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, was a social center for the American and British expatriate author community. Despite her lack of experience as a publisher, Beach decided to take on Ulysses as a project.

In her 1959 memoir Shakespeare and Company Beach described Joyce’s “complete discouragement” after the Little Review ceased publication:

All hope of publication in the English-speaking countries, at least for a long time to come, was gone. And here in my little bookshop sat James Joyce, sighing deeply.

It occurred to me that something might be done, and I asked : “Would you let Shakespeare and Company have the honour of bringing out your Ulysses?”

He accepted my offer immediately and joyfully. I thought it rash of him to entrust his great Ulysses to such a funny little publisher. But he seemed delighted, and so was I. . . . Undeterred by lack of capital, experience, and all the other requisites of a publisher, I went right ahead with Ulysses. [57]

Publisher's note from the first edition

Publisher’s note from the first edition

Sylvia Beach found a French printer, Maurice Darantiere, who was willing to print the book essentially on commission. They planned a first edition of 1000 copies (including 100 signed by the author).

Printer’s colophon from the first edition

The process of printing the 700+ page book was complicated for a variety of reasons. Just finding typists who could create useable typescripts from Joyce’s manuscripts was a challenge. Joyce’s writing process involved so many revisions, insertions, and emendations that transcribing them was sometimes nearly impossible. And his nonstandard language and potentially offensive content provided another layer of difficulty. Sylvia Beach recounts how the printing was at one point held up because no typist could be found to complete the Circe section of the manuscript.

Joyce had been trying in vain for some time to get this episode typed. Nine typists had failed in the attempt. The eighth, Joyce told me, threatened in her despair to throw herself out of the window. As for the ninth, she rang the bell at his door and, when it was opened, threw the pages she had done on the floor, then rushed away down the street and disappeared forever. “If she had given me her name and address, at least I could have paid her for her work,” Joyce said. [Beach, 73]

From the Circe section, first edition.

Beach pressed various of her friends and family into service to try to complete the Circe typescript. When one friend’s husband happened to read the manuscript pages she was typing, he was so disgusted that he threw the manuscript into the fire. Photographic copies of the missing pages had to be retrieved, with great difficulty, from the uncooperative American collector to whom Joyce had sold carbon copies of his manuscripts.

There was even difficulty with finding the right paper for the book’s cover. Joyce wanted the cover to be the blue and white of the Greek flag, but Beach and Darantiere could not find paper in a shade of blue that met with his approval. Finally the resourceful printer found the right blue in Germany and had it lithographed onto white cardboard for the bindings.

Beach had advertised a publication date of autumn 1921 for the first edition of Ulysses, but the many complications in the printing process delayed the project for more than a year. The first copies finally appeared on 2 February 1922, Joyce’s fortieth birthday.

Copies of the book sold briskly at the Shakespeare and Company shop in Paris. Getting books into the hands of the many British and American subscribers proved to be more of a challenge, since the book was banned from distribution through the mail in both countries. But the always resourceful Sylvia Beach found ways to get around the official censorship. At one point she enlisted the help of Ernest Hemingway, who recruited a friend from Toronto (the book was not banned in Canada). A shipment of books for American subscribers was sent to Hemingway’s friend, who then boarded the ferry from Toronto every day with “a copy of Ulysses stuffed down inside his pants” [Beach, 96].

“If Joyce had foreseen all these difficulties,” Beach observed, “maybe he would have written a smaller book.”

Harriet Weaver arranged for an English edition in the same year. Published by John Rodker, the edition was also printed by Darantiere using the same printing plates as Beach’s Paris edition.

The English edition encountered censorship problems almost immediately, and most copies intended for the British market were confiscated by the authorities. Copies headed for the U.S. met a similar fate, although some were supposedly smuggled into the country disguised as volumes of Shakespeare. Of course, the censorship mostly served to pique interest in Joyce’s novel. A copy of Ulysses was a popular souvenir for American and English visitors to Paris in the 1920s.

A well-worn copy of the Shakespeare and Company second edition, inscribed by its American owner B.W. Walton

Ulysses was finally cleared of obscenity charges in the U.S. in 1934.

Dust jacket from the first U.S. edition, Random House, 1934

The later publication history of Ulysses was no less complicated. Sylvia Beach published several printings of the first edition and in 1926 brought out a “corrected” second edition.

Edition statement from the Shakespeare and Company second edition, second printing.

Many more editions of Ulysses were published throughout the 20th century, and literary scholars still argue over what constitutes the definitive text of Joyce’s novel.

Z. Smith Reynolds Library’s copy of the first edition of Ulysses was purchased by the library in 1967. The Egoist Press edition was purchased in 1981. Both are part of Special Collections’ extensive Joyce collection.

Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman (1855)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011 9:50 am

We have yet had no genius in America, with tyrannous eye, which knew the value of our incomparable materials, and saw, in the barbarism and materialism of the times, another carnival of the same gods whose picture he so much admires in Homer; then in the middle age; then in Calvinism. . . .Yet America is a poem in our eyes; its ample geography dazzles the imagination, and it will not wait long for metres.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Poet” (1843)

The young Walt Whitman heeded Emerson’s call for an American poet, and the result in 1855 was Leaves of Grass.

Whitman had worked as a printer and newspaper publisher, and this first edition of his poetry was self-published in every sense of the word. The book was printed at the shop of Whitman’s friends Andrew and Thomas Rome. The poet himself was involved in all aspects of design and production, even helping to set some of the type.

The first edition of Leaves of Grass was, like its author, an oddity in mid-19th century America. Whitman’s name did not appear on the title page; instead his now-famous portrait was featured opposite as a frontispiece.

The book is only 95 pages long but is printed on large paper. The size and the leafy decoration and lettering on the dark green covers suggest a Victorian botanical scrapbook.

The twelve poems that make up the text of the first edition are untitled. It was not until 1881 that the first and longest was given the name “Song of Myself”.

Z. Smith Reynolds Library’s Special Collections holds two copies of the 1855 first edition of Leaves of Grass. One is from the library of Charles Babcock; the other was purchased in 1954 with funds from the Oscar T. Smith bequest. The O.T. Smith copy includes a page from a 19th century autograph album tipped in at the front, inscribed by Whitman to his friend John H. Johnston and his wife.

The autograph note reads: “Walt Whitman, visiting New York City after an absence of over four years– guest now of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Johnston at 113 East 10th Street. March 15th, 1877.”

The visit was a sadly memorable one. Johnston wrote to mutual friend Horace Traubel on March 17, 1892

Fifteen years ago yesterday Walt was with us when my wife was taken sick and died. He was in the room until the last, and went home next morning after a month’s stay– his first visit.
[Traubel, Horace, With Walt Whitman in Camden (Boston:Small, Maynard, 1906) 607]

Whitman printed 795 copies of the first edition of Leaves of Grass, but the book did not sell particularly well. About 200 copies of the 1855 edition are known to survive today.

Ivan Marki writes in the Walt Whitman Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998) that

The importance of the first edition of Leaves of Grass to American literary history is impossible to exaggerate. The slender volume introduced the poet who, celebrating the nation by celebrating himself, has since remained at the heart of America’s cultural memory because in the world of his imagination Americans have learned to recognize and possibly understand their own. As Leaves of Grass grew through its five subsequent editions into a hefty book of 389 poems (with the addition of the two annexes), it gained much in variety and complexity, but Whitman’s distinctive voice was never stronger, his vision never clearer, and his design never more improvisational than in the twelve poems of the first edition.

Whitman continued to tinker with Leaves of Grass throughout his entire life, giving it one of the most complicated publishing histories of any major American literary work. The second edition, published by Whitman in 1856, was smaller in format and included twenty additional poems.

In 1860 the progressive new Boston publishing firm Thayer & Eldridge came out with a third edition.

The third edition included another 120 new poems as well as Whitman’s revisions of poems from the first two editions. Whitman’s friends referred to the new frontispiece engraving as his “Byronic portrait”.

This was Whitman’s first publication by a commercial press. The poet’s reputation had grown since the first Leaves of Grass, and the third edition sold reasonably well. Unfortunately Thayer and Eldridge proved not to be astute businessmen, and their firm went bankrupt in 1861. The stereotyped plates were sold to another publisher, who published several more issues of the third edition without Whitman’s permission.

In 1867 Whitman published a fourth edition of the book which incorporated his Civil War poetry. 1871-72 saw a fifth edition that was again revised and reconfigured. The seventh edition of 1881-82 finally achieved a definitive arrangement of the poems; future editions merely appended material to this text.

The seventh edition, published by James R. Osgood of Boston, marked the first time that Leaves of Grass was issued by a major commercial publisher. But when threatened with an obscenity suit by a Boston district attorney, Osgood quickly ceased publishing the book and sold the rights to the Philadelphia firm of Rees, Welsh & Co.

From left to right: WFU’s copies of the 1867, 1881 (Osgood), and 1882 (Rees, Welsh) editions.

The final “deathbed edition” of Leaves of Grass (1891-92) was really just a reprint of the 1881 edition with the addition of “annexes” of new material.

In “A Backward Glance O’er Travel’d Roads,” an essay appended to this final edition, Whitman addresses future generations of readers:

Result of seven or eight stages and struggles extending through nearly thirty years, . . . I look upon “Leaves of Grass,” now finish’d to the end of its opportunities and powers, as my definitive carte visite to the coming generations of the New World. . . . That from a worldly and business point of view “Leaves of Grass” has been worse than a failure–that public criticism on the book and myself as author of it yet shows mark’d anger and contempt more than anything else . . . is all probably no more than I ought to have expected. . . . I have had my say entirely my own way, and put it unerringly on record– the value thereof to be decided by time.

Rare Book of the Month: The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid, by Oliver Byrne (1847)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 5:01 pm

THIS WORK has a greater aim than mere illustration; we do not introduce colours for the purpose of entertainment, or to amuse by certain combinations of tint and form, but to assist the mind in its researches after truth, to increase the facilities of instruction, and to diffuse permanent knowledge.

Oliver Byrne (ca. 1810-1890) was an eccentric Irish mathematician and teacher. His Elements of Euclid is a classic of enough enduring interest that a facsimile reprint was published in 2010. Byrne’s Euclid is admired as much for its surprisingly modernist design and color palette–which seems to anticipate Bauhaus and De Stijl— as for its innovative pedagogy.

Geometry was emphasized as a particularly vital part of a basic mathematical education in 19th century Britain, and Euclid was still the standard curriculum. However, many reform-minded educators (including Byrne) believed that Euclid’s geometry was not being taught effectively to modern students [cf. Alice Jenkins, “What the Victorians Learned: Perspectives on Nineteenth-Century Schoolbooks” Journal of Victorian Culture 12.2 (2007) 267-272]. Several 19th century mathematicians attempted to make use of new printing technologies to produce new and improved editions of Euclid, but Byrne’s Elements was the most innovative. As Jenkins describes it,

This beautiful book adopts the principle of explanation via visual illustration, but goes much further than other attempts. Where many other textbooks confined themselves to providing enlarged diagrams and replacing Greek letters for angles with Roman ones, Byrne’s book eliminates letters altogether, instead printing lines, angles and figures in different vivid colours. Byrne’s book was far more than a response to new markets for textbooks: although clearly Euclidean, it was an entire rethinking of the nature of geometrical pedagogy. [270]

Byrne’s book was printed by Charles Whittingham II at the Chiswick Press, a small press noted for its innovative design and devotion to high quality printing, especially of illustrated works. And it is the graphic design elements of Byrne’s book that spark the most interest today. The New York Times review of the Taschen facsimile reprint enthused that “The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid is so rationalist, minimalist and aesthetically pure, every graphic designer, book lover and math nerd will be as awe-struck as I was.”

Wake Forest’s 1847 first edition of The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid was purchased by the Library in 1986.

Rare Book of the Month: The Chimes: A Goblin Story, by Charles Dickens

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 10:07 am

Of the five Christmas books that Charles Dickens published in the 1840s, the first, A Christmas Carol (1843), is by far the most famous. The following year Dickens came out with The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In.

Although the book sold well in 1844, it suffered the fate of many sequels in that it was criticized for being both similar to and different from its predecessor. In The Chimes Dickens once again takes up the cause of the underprivileged classes’ struggle for survival in a rapidly industrializing society. But The Chimes is a darker book than A Christmas Carol, its social criticisms more pointed and specific and its happy ending less certain.

Dickens’s protagonist is Toby Veck, a “ticket-porter” or messenger-for-hire who plies his trade on the steps of an old church, whose tower houses the Chimes of the title. Toby, his beautiful and virtuous daughter Meg, Meg’s fiance Richard, and Will Fern, an agricultural laborer newly arrived in the city, personify the struggles of the urban poor. On New Year’s Eve they suffer unpleasant encounters with a Member of Parliament, an Alderman, and a rich young gentleman. And Toby is further discouraged by newspaper depictions of the lower classes as inevitably prone to evil. When Toby reads an account (based on a notorious true story) of a desperate young woman who drowned herself and her illegitimate child, he succumbs to cynicism and despair: “None but people who were bad at heart: born bad: who had no business on the earth could do such deeds. It’s too true, all I’ve heard to-day; too just, too full of proof. We’re Bad!”

Toby then hears the Chimes in the church tower calling his name. He finds the bell tower “swarming with dwarf phantoms,spirits, elfin creatures of the Bells.” The Goblin of the Great Bell tells Toby that “Who turns his back upon the fallen and disfigured of his kind; abandons them as Vile; and does not trace and track with pitying eyes the unfenced precipice by which they fell from Good. . . does wrong to Heaven and Man, to Time and to Eternity.”

The Goblin informs Toby that he has died and shows him a vision of his daughter Meg’s unhappy future life. Through a combination of misfortune and malicious interference by the rich and powerful, Meg too is reduced to contemplating suicide with her infant child. Toby then understands that the unfortunate people he reads about in the papers are not bad by nature, but are driven to desperate acts by an uncaring world. The “spirit of the Chimes” has taught him that “we must trust and hope, and neither doubt ourselves, nor doubt the Good in one another.”

Toby then wakes in his own rooms to find Meg and Richard happily planning their wedding for the next day. A crowd of jolly neighbors soon join them to celebrate the new year and the upcoming nuptials, and one of the revelers proves to be a long-lost friend for whom Will Fern was searching.

Dickens leaves his readers with an admonition to “bear in mind the stern realities from which these shadows come; and in your sphere. . . endeavor to correct, improve, and soften them. . . . So may each Year be happier than the last, and not the meanest of our brethren or sisterhood debarred their rightful share, in what our Great Creator formed them to enjoy.”

ZSR Library’s copy of The Chimes is a first edition published by Chapman and Hall in 1844. It was purchased by the library in 1970.

Rare Book of the Month: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley

Friday, October 8, 2010 3:53 pm

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818.

“I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.”

Mary Shelley‘s tale of the chemist Victor Frankenstein and his nameless creature is considered by many to be the first science fiction novel. The story of the brilliant but overreaching Frankenstein and his misunderstood monster has fascinated readers and critics for nearly 200 years.

The origin of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is one of the more famous stories in English literature. The 18-year-old Mary had fled to the continent with her married lover, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. They spent the summer of 1816 near Geneva, where they met the already infamous Lord Byron and his personal physician and traveling companion John William Polidori. The friends had been reading “some volumes of ghost stories, translated from the German and French” and discussing recent experiments by Erasmus Darwin and others with galvanism-the reanimation of dead tissue by electrical current-when one rainy night Byron challenged them each to come up with a ghost story. Mary was the only one to complete her story, the first version of Frankenstein.

As Mary later described it, the story came to her in a vivid waking dream:

“I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful it must be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.”

In the preface to the 1831 edition, Mary claimed that she intended her story to be “but of a few pages… a short tale.” But Percy Shelley encouraged her to develop Frankenstein into a full-length novel and seek publication. The manuscript, completed in 1817, was first rejected by Byron’s publisher John Murray, but eventually published on January 1, 1818 by the smaller firm of Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones.

The first edition was issued in three volumes, a form that was becoming the standard for 19th century novels. Mary dedicated the book to her estranged father, the radical philosopher William Godwin.

Mary Shelley’s “hideous progeny” was immediately popular with the reading public. Imitations and dramatic adaptations appeared within a few years of the first edition.

Critical reviews were mixed. The first edition was published anonymously, which led to much speculation about the author’s identity. Even after Mary’s name appeared on the title pages of later editions some readers refused to believe that the book had been written by a young woman. Various critics have argued that Percy Shelley edited the published version of Frankenstein so substantially that he should be considered the true author. But recent studies of the earliest manuscripts, now in possession of the Bodleian Library, vindicate Mary’s assertion that “I certainly did not owe the suggestion of one incident, nor scarcely of one train of feeling, to my husband.”

A second edition of Frankenstein was published in 1831, after the death of Percy Shelley. The 1831 text was considerably altered by Mary Shelley, and until recently it was the most frequently read and reprinted version of the novel.

Wake Forest’s first edition of Frankenstein is part of the Charles H. Babcock collection.

History of the Bucaniers of America, by Alexandre Olivier Exquemelin

Friday, September 3, 2010 4:10 pm

Alexandre Exquemelin’s first hand account of the life of a pirate in the Spanish Main is the source of much of today’s pirate lore. From Long John Silver to Jack Sparrow, fictional pirates have their roots in Exquemelin’s 17th century bestseller.

The History of the Bucaniers of America has been called the ur-text of pirate narratives. It is the earliest and most complete source of information about the so-called golden age of piracy. First published in Dutch in 1674, it was immediately translated into several languages. The English editions were wildly popular, and the book was reprinted many times well into the 18th century. The 1741 fourth edition held in Wake Forest’s Special Collections Department includes additional narratives by Basil Ringrose, Raveneau de Lussan, and the Sieur de Montauban describing voyages and encounters with pirates in the South Seas.

Exquemelin was apparently a Dutch or Flemish surgeon who purchased his freedom from indentured servitude in the West Indies and joined Henry Morgan and his crew of pirates. He also gives accounts of his encounters with other famous pirates, including L’Olonnais and Roc Braziliano. Exquemelin describes daily life on a pirate ship and gives vivid (if not always entirely believable) accounts of the peoples, flora, and fauna of the Caribbean islands that they visited.

Exquemelin does not shrink from recounting the extreme cruelty of the buccaneers, often describing in grisly detail the tortures inflicted on the victims of pirate raids. But he also admires the pirates’ daring exploits, their defiance of an oppressive social order, and their peculiar but strict code of honor. It was this view of pirates as swashbuckling rebels that took hold in the popular imagination in the 17th century and retains its tremendous appeal today.

Wake Forest’s copy of The History of the Bucaniers of America was purchased, probably between 1939 and 1950, with funds from the Tracy McGregor Plan for the Encouragement of Book Collecting by American College Libraries.

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