Special Collections & Archives Blog

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

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 12:39 pm

angelou dust jacket

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

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

angelou title page

First edition title page, ZSR Special Collections

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

angelou dust jacket flap 1

angelou dust jacket flap 2

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

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

angelou dedication page

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

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

Angelou eventually wrote five more autobiographical works.

angelou autobiographies

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

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

angelou algonquin notes

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

angelou caged bird script MS

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

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

angelou inscription

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

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

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

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

Grant Funding Supports Research at ZSR Special Collections and Archives

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 1:27 pm

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

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

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

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

Buildings & Roads of WFU: A Student Perspective

Friday, May 16, 2014 9:26 am

Bostwick Residence Hall

Did you ever wonder who Jasper Memory was? Or want to know more about Bostwick Residence Hall? We have got the online exhibit for you!

Special Collections & Archives is excited to release Buildings & Roads of Wake Forest University: A Student Perspective on our University’s History. This project started last summer when John Walsh, Class of 2014, worked part-time in Special Collections. His charge was to research and write-up the history of how or why buildings and roads on campus were named. The result is an engaging narrative of the campus landmarks we see every day. Enthusiastically written and complemented by the photography of Ken Bennett, Special Collections & Archives hopes that students, faculty, staff, alumni, and visitors all utilize this exhibit to learn more about campus and have a little fun. Many thanks to Kevin Gilbertson and his expertise for putting this online exhibit together.

Bianca Artom Collection Finding Aid

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 1:00 pm

A new finding aid is available for the Bianca Artom Collection. Mrs. Artom and her husband, Dr. Camillo Artom, fled fascist Italy in 1939. They came to Wake Forest, NC where he had been hired as chair of the biochemistry department at Wake Forest College Medical School. He was a world-renowned chemist whose study of lipid metabolism,  atherosclerosis, and the effect of phosphorus in the body was ground-breaking. They moved to Winston-Salem in 1941 when the medical school relocated to partner with North Carolina Baptist Hospital.  Dr. Artom retired in 1961 and died in 1970. Casa Artom was named in honor of the Artoms, and in 1975, Bianca began teaching Italian language and literature at Wake Forest. She taught until 1990, and also served as the summer director for the Casa Artom study abroad program for many years before she died in 1994. The finding aid for her collection is at this link: Bianca Artom Collection.

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

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 3:08 pm

E is for..

Edmund Gamble Military Order

This document, dated Aug. 16, 1779, is apparently an order to Edmond Gamble, Assistant Commissary, to take charge of the provisions for the Continental troops during the American Revolution. He was apparently commissioned by Governor Caswell of North Carolina, and served to the end of the war.

Edmund Gamble Military Order

To see this interesting piece of history, view the finding aid and then visit Special Collections and Archives to get a firsthand look.

E is also for… Ernest W. Glass Photograph Collection

Ernest Wilson Glass is an alumnus of Wake Forest College, class of 1944. He later served as pastor of many North Carolina Baptist churches.

Edward Glass Photographs

These photographs were taken by Glass and others on the Wake Forest College campus in Wake Forest, North Carolina from 1942 to 1944, while he was a student. The snapshots are of male and female friends, the Woman’s Army Corps of the Army Finance School marching on Gore Field, his Greek Class, and Professor Thane McDonald. The collection includes black and white photographic prints and negatives. To see what else is in the collection check out the finding aid for the Ernest W. Photograph Collection.

Edward Glass Photographs

And E is for… Evelyn P. Foote Papers

Evelyn Patricia “Pat” Foote served as an officer in the United States Army for 30 years, rising to the rank of Brigadier General. Her career is marked by several “firsts” for female Army officers, and she is considered an expert in issues affecting American women in military service.

This collection consist primarily of correspondence, newsletters, speech notes, clippings, photographs, certificates, and official Army orders, reports, and personnel records. The materials in the collection document Foote’s career in the Army from 1959 to 1989 as well as her numerous speaking engagements, participation in organizations, and attendance at conferences regarding women in the military through 1998. It also documents her participation in the creating of the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C.; and her involvement in various presidential campaigns. To find out more about this interesting collection, look through the finding aid for Evelyn P. Foote Papers.

Get fanatic about F…

This ABC’s of Special Collections blog post was written by student assistant Brittany Newberry.

Dream Big: Commencement at Wake Forest University Through the Years

Tuesday, May 6, 2014 1:47 pm

dream big

Special Collections and Archives is honored to recognize the Class of 2014 with a new exhibit “Dream Big: Commencement at Wake Forest University Through the Years.” Commencement is the culmination of years of academic work, when Wake Forest graduates are recognized and introduced to the wider world. “Dream Big” is a visually dynamic exhibit featuring images of past Wake Forest commencements, in addition to 19th and 20th century invitations, and programs. All are welcome to come see the archival materials on display as we get ready to send another class of Demon Deacons out into the world.

See details on the University Calendar.

Lots of New Finding Aids Online!

Friday, May 2, 2014 1:05 pm

Special Collections and Archives has been very actively processing and re-processing collections over the past months and we are pleased to share the finding aids with our public!

As part of our collections overhaul and shifting project, manuscript collections 1-11 have been reviewed, processed, and have had finding aids published:

Account Books, Fayetteville, Cumberland County, N.C. 

John Thomas Alderman Papers

John Mason Peck Letters

Walter Eugene Daniel Papers

John Berry Papers

William Phillips Biddle Papers

Issac Winston Bill of Sale to L.G. Ligen

Charles Jefferson Black Papers

Henry Nathan Blanchard Papers

Lawrence O’Bryan Branch Papers

Iverson Lewis Brookes Papers

In addition to our ongoing, systematic processing, we have also processed some collections “out of order” including:

Secrest Artists’ Series

Reverend Doctor James Irvine Murphy Papers

Arthur Samuel and Pauline P. Gillespie Papers

William Elwyn and Jessie Swann Crocker Papers

Charles Tolbert Wilkinson Papers

I recommend taking a look at the finding aids- there are some very interesting materials in these collections!

Wake Forest’s Endangered Artifact

Thursday, May 1, 2014 2:22 pm

ZSR WFU Philomathesian Banner_sm

Special Collections and Archives is honored to be included in the North Carolina Preservation Consortium’s list of North Carolina’s Most Endangered Artifacts. You may have already ready about the “discovery” of our Philomathesian Banner in Wake Forest Magazine. You can read more about the history of the banner and the plans for conservation as well as see the other “Most Endangered” North Carolina artifacts at the NCPC website.

New Finding Aid

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 2:25 pm

A new finding aid is available from Special Collections for the Baptist Women in Ministry of North Carolina Collection. This group has existed since 1984, and helps to support and connect Baptist women in North Carolina who serve in a ministerial capacity. This collection has materials documenting the beginning of the group, as well as those from following years which show how it has grown and changed. Photos, audio interviews, and newsletters show the rich history of the people who have been and still are involved, as well as the projects, ministries and efforts that they have been part of over the years. For more details, you can see finding aid here: Baptist Women in Ministry of North Carolina.

Complete Book on the Judgment of the Stars, by ʻAlī ibn Abī al-Rijāl (1485 Erhard Ratdolt edition)

Monday, March 31, 2014 4:49 pm

Liber in iudiciis astrorum incipit

Preclarissimus liber completus in iudicijs astrorum, a Latin translation of Alī Ibn Abī al-Rijāl’s principal scientific work, Kitāb al-bāriʻ fī aḥkām al-nujūm.

One of the oldest printed books in ZSR’s Rare Books Collection is a Latin translation of Alī Ibn Abī al-Rijāl’s principal scientific work, Kitāb al-bāriʻ fī aḥkām al-nujūm. The text, commonly known as Liber in iudiciis astrorum,  is a treatise on astrological methods by an 11th century Arab mathematician, printed in 1485 by a German printer working in Venice. The book is featured in the Special Collections exhibit Letters in Lead: Moveable Type and the Books It Created. Its history is a fascinating anecdote in the story of how print culture developed in Renaissance Europe.

Around 1450 a goldsmith in Mainz named Johannes Gutenberg developed a viable method for casting moveable type out of metal. The invention made mechanical printing feasible and gave rise to an entirely new profession in Renaissance Europe. Many aspiring printers learned the craft of printing from Gutenberg’s successors, and within a few years a coterie of printers had formed in Mainz. In 1462, however, warfare between rival sects of German Catholics led to the sack of Mainz and a diaspora of its printers around Europe. One of these displaced printers was Erhard Ratdolt, who transplanted his fledgling business to Venice.

Ratdolt flourished in his new location and quickly gained a reputation as an innovative printer of scientific texts. He experimented with multicolor printing and invented techniques for integrating woodcut illustrations and diagrams into pages of text. Ratdolt is particularly famous for producing the first printed text of Euclid’s Elements in 1482, and he specialized in printing editions of classic works of science and mathematics.

In 1485 Ratdolt printed the book in ZSR’s collection, a work on astronomy by the 11th century Tunisian court mathematician Alī Ibn Abī al-Rijāl, whose name was Latinized to Albohazen Haly or Haly Abenragel in European publications. Ratdolt’s volume bore the Latin title Preclarissimus liber completus in iudicijs astrorum ( The Complete Book on the Judgment of the Stars).

Liber in iudiciis astrorum colophon

Colophon (a printer’s statement found at the end of a text) from Erhard Ratdolt’s 1485 edition of Liber in iudiciis astrorum, indicating that printing was completed in Venice on July 4, 1485.

This astrological text was already well known to scholars in Renaissance Europe. It had been translated from Arabic into Castilian Spanish by astronomer Jehuda ben Moses Cohen in the 13th century, and from Spanish into a number of Latin translations.

In the world of the Renaissance, there was no sharp division between what we would call astronomy (the study of celestial bodies)  and astrology (the influence of those celestial bodies on terrestrial events). Medieval astrology was based on an Aristotelian concept of the universe, as interpreted by Claudius Ptolemy , which posited a universe with a stationary Earth at its center, surrounded by concentric spheres containing stars, planets, and other celestial bodies.

nuremburg ptolemaic universe 2

A woodcut illustration of the Ptolemaic universe from ZSR’s copy of the Nuremburg Chronicle (1493)

Medieval and Renaissance astrologers used mathematical formulas to predict the movement of objects in the sky. These calculations were used to create calendars, to determine propitious times for various activities, and to predict eclipses and other unusual events. Astrology was an important scientific pursuit, and Renaissance scholars eagerly sought to recover Arab and Byzantine astrological texts. The eastern astrologers had developed advanced techniques that were of great interest to scholars in western Europe.

Liber in iudiciis astrorum t8r

A page from ZSR’s 1485 Liber in iudiciis astrorum, with handwritten notes and astrological symbols in the margin.

Erhard Ratdolt’s Venice edition of Liber in iudiciis astroroum made this text available in print for the first time. As an example of incunabula (books printed in Europe before 1500), it is both typical and innovative.

Fifteenth century books share many attributes of the manuscript volumes that existed for centuries before the invention of moveable type.

MS oxford 1240

A page from a 13th century manuscript in ZSR’s collection

Like most early books, Ratdolt’s volume has no title page or table of contents. Its text was printed in  black letter type, which reflected the manuscript handwriting prevalent in 15th century Europe.

Liber in iudiciis astrorum q7r

Another page from the Liber in iudiciis astrorum; notes in red were added by hand by a 15th century reader.

As in manuscript volumes, the text is printed in two columns with minimal punctuation. Medieval and Renaissance manuscript texts, like the one pictured above, relied on rubrication – initial letters and other text in colored ink—to indicate section breaks and other textual navigation. Early printed books often left space for rubrication to be added by hand to printed text, since multicolor printing was difficult and time consuming. Erhard Ratdolt hit upon the idea of using decorative woodcut initials in place of color.

Liber in iudiciis astrorum q5r

Page from Ratdolt’s Liber in iudiciis astrorum, with various large, decorative initials denoting section breaks.

Liber in iudiciis astrorum initial d

Detail of one of Erhard Ratdolt’s decorative woodcut initials.

Ratdolt also pioneered techniques for including tables and woodcut charts in his pages of text, which was particularly important for scientific and mathematical books.

Liber in iudiciis astrorum chart

Page from Liber in iudiciis astrorum with woodcut diagram integrated into the text block.

In the 1480s Erhard Ratdolt also printed editions of several other important astrological works.  As historian Jonathan Green observes, Ratdolt “achieved a near monopoly during that decade for many astronomical and astrological works” [Printing and Prophecy (Ann Arbor: U. of Michigan Press, 2012) 135].  

Ratdolt’s edition of Liber in iudiciis astroroum was a large and probably expensive book. But the original purchaser of ZSR’s copy obviously make good use of the volume. It was heavily annotated by its 15th century owner(s), with pages full of manuscript notes, underlinings, added headings, and astrological symbols.

Liber in iudiciis astrorum b3r

Annotated page from ZSR’s Liber in iudiciis astrorum.

Erhard Ratdolt’s Liber in iudiciis astroroum embodies the cultural exchanges and the technological innovations taking place in Renaissance Europe. ZSR’s copy of this book was purchased in 1964 with funds from the Oscar T. Smith endowment. It is on view in ZSR Library’s Special Collections and Archives Reading Room through April 30, as part of the Letters in Lead exhibit, which traces the development of printing type and book design in Europe from its beginnings through the 21st century.


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