Special Collections & Archives Blog

Alexander’s feast; or, The power of musick (1750)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 5:39 pm

The following is a joint post by Megan Mulder (Special Collections Librarian) and Chelcie Rowell (Digital Initiatives Librarian).

History of Alexander’s Feast

The 18th century edition of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast has one of the most interesting provenances of any book in Z. Smith Reynolds Library’s Special Collections department.

Title page of Alexander's feast

Title page of Alexander’s Feast with Felix Mendelssohn’s signature.

The work is based on an ode in commemoration of St. Cecilia’s day by English poet John Dryden (1631-1700). Dryden’s “Alexander’s Feast” tells a story from the life of Alexander the Great, in which the conqueror and his soldiers enjoy a drunken feast in celebration of their victory over the king of Persia. The bard Timotheus provides entertainment, and his poetic and musical skill inspire Alexander and his men to a frenzy of revenge against the conquered city of Persepolis. Dryden’s poem is more cautionary than celebratory, as the “power of music” is used for morally questionable ends.

Nonetheless, Dryden’s poem was a great critical success when it was first published in 1697, and it was apparently still popular enough nearly 40 years later for George Frideric Handel (1685- 1759) to choose it as the inspiration for a new musical work. Handel’s Alexander’s Feast was well received at its 1736 London premiere and was performed many more times during the 18th century. Published versions of Handel’s score began to appear shortly after its first performance.

Wake Forest’s copy of Alexander’s Feast was likely published around 1750. Its first recorded owner was William Hawes (1785–1846) an English musician who eventually became master of choristers at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

At some point the book made its way to a Stuttgart bookseller and was purchased by the famous German composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847). Mendelssohn signed the front endpaper and the title page, and he also annotated many pages of the score. The notes may well have been for a performance at the Aachen music festival in 1846, which featured an appearance by the famous singer Jenny Lind.

After Mendelssohn’s death in 1847, the book’s provenance again becomes murky. But it was, at any rate, purchased from a rare books dealer in 1958 for the Wake Forest University library. For the past 50 years the volume has been part of the Rare Books Collection at Z. Smith Reynolds Library. It is an interesting object for students of music history. But in the absence of a large collection of related materials at Wake Forest, it has not been well known to Mendelssohn scholars. So Special Collections librarians were pleased to learn of an opportunity to contribute to a project at the Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften in Leipzig. This project, which began in 1959, is working to publish the complete works of Mendelssohn.

Digitization of Alexander’s Feast

In order for ZSR’s Alexander’s Feast to be included in the Leipzig Mendelssohn project, we needed to digitize the entire book. We wanted to do this in such a way that users of the digital surrogate would experience the materiality of the book—the physical organization and details—in addition to being able to read the text.

Capturing digital images of each page of Alexander’s Feast presented a familiar challenge for the Digitization Lab at ZSR. We wanted to make sure that we created a faithful digital representation of the physical object. To this end, we cropped the images of the front cover and back cover such that all four edges are visible. Additionally, we cropped the images of interior pages such that the gutter is visible on the right side for images of verso (left) pages, while the gutter is visible on the left side for images of recto (right) pages. Our goal is to provide viewers as much context about the physical object as possible within the constraints of the hardware and software that we use for digitization.

Recto and verso pages of Alexander's Feast

Recto and verso pages of Alexander’s Feast with annotations by Felix Mendelssohn.

A best practice for the digitization of special collections materials is to create both a preservation copy and an access copy. In the case of Alexander’s Feast, we created a high-resolution TIFF file of each page of the volume, including the front cover, the marbled endpapers, and the back cover. The advantage of preservation copies is that they’re flexible; they allow different kinds of access copies to be generated as the needs of viewers, as well as the constraints of the systems that present these materials to viewers, both evolve.

The access copy of Alexander’s Feast, available in our Digital Collections, is a single PDF that incorporates all of the pages of the bound musical score.

Future Uses of Alexander’s Feast

Wake Forest’s copy of Alexander’s Feast has been cataloged and available to researchers for decades, and Special Collections has provided digital files and photocopies of relevant pages to remote researchers on request. But its inclusion in the Mendelssohn project will situate the material within the context of Mendelssohn’s career and may bring the item to the attention of international researchers. If this occurs, we will be able to provide remote researchers with high-quality digital images of the book’s pages.

In addition to broadening accessibility, digitizing special collections may enable new paths of inquiry, especially in the digital humanities community. Digitizing sheet music presents tantalizing opportunities. For instance, imagine an interface that displays a moving bar indicating the place in time on the sheet music alongside an audio or video recording of a performance.

Do you have an idea for a digital humanities project that could build upon digitized music scores? Contact us!

Hoffmann Collection in the News

Thursday, March 13, 2014 3:49 pm

The Gertrude and Max Hoffmann Collection is enjoying the limelight once again. An article by ZSR Special Collections Librarian Megan Mulder about the collection is featured in the Winter 2014 issue of Performance!, the publication of the Performing Arts Section of the Society of American Archivists.

The entire publication is available in PDF format here.  Don’t miss the cover photo of Max, Gertrude, and their photogenic cat!

Gertrude Hoffmann was a dancer, choreographer, and manager of her own dance troupe;  her husband Max was a ragtime composer and musician. Their papers, now part of ZSR’s Special Collections, include music manuscripts, photographs, posters, correspondence, and other materials– many of which are now available as digital collections. The Performance! article describes the Hoffmanns’ colorful careers in early 20th century vaudeville and on international tours, and also explains how the collection came to reside at Wake Forest.

For more information about the Hoffmann papers at ZSR Library, please contact Special Collections and Archives.

“Finding A Piece of History” in Wake Forest Magazine

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 11:08 am

We are so excited about the story published in Wake Forest Magazine on Friday! Read all about our discovery of a Philomathesian banner and our plans for it in the future in Kerry King’s article “Finding A Piece of History.”

Letters in Lead: Moveable Type and the Books It Created

Thursday, February 27, 2014 10:45 am

letters in lead heading 1

The invention of a practical method for printing with moveable type was a watershed event in European history. From Johannes Gutenberg’s first metal types in the mid-15th century to letterpress printing of today, printers and type designers have practiced their craft to create texts that are both legible and beautiful.

baskerville milton

A 1759 edition of John Milton’s Paradise Lost by the famous printer and type designer John Baskerville.

Letters in Lead, the current exhibit in the ZSR Library Special Collections and Archives Reading Room (room 625), features examples of type and other materials of printing. The ZSR Preservation Lab houses a small 1906 job press and a large supply of type font. Examples of type and other equipment from the ZSR Press are included in the exhibit.

type drawer

One of many cases of moveable type from the ZSR Press collection

The exhibit also features volumes from the ZSR Rare Books Collection, tracing the development of printing and book design from pre-Gutenberg manuscripts to 20th century illustrated books.

manuscript book of hours

Page from a 14th century manuscript Book of Hours

Letters in Lead will be on exhibit February through April 2014. Visitors are welcome any time during Special Collections and Archives open hours, Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., and other hours by appointment. For more information please contact Special Collections at 336-758-6175 or via our query form.

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 11:23 am

C is for…

Casa Artom Scrapbooks

Casa Artom is a house, purchased by WFU in 1974, facing the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. The two-story house was built in the 1820s and is located between the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and Ca’Dario. The house is named for Dr. Camillo Artom, a faculty member at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and his wife Bianca, a teacher of Italian and native of Venice. Wake Forest University students and faculty reside in Casa Artom while participating in the semester in Venice or other study-abroad programs.

Students at Casa Artom

Students at Casa Artom

The Casa Artom Scrapbook collection consists of 14 bound scrapbooks, including originals and facsimiles, in which students and other visitors have written their thoughts and reminiscences about their time at Casa Artom. Guests of the house are invited to sign scrapbooks during their visit as a way to record their time spent in Venice.

Page from Casa Artom scrapbook

Page from Casa Artom scrapbook

The scrapbooks range in dates from 1974 to 2007. You can find both photographs and original drawings by students and faculty in the scrapbooks. For more information, check out the Casa Artom Scrapbooks finding aid.

C is also for …Choate Family Papers

Excerpt from the Choate Family Papers

Excerpt from the Choate Family Papers

This collection of papers from the Choate family living in Alleghany County, North Carolina consists primarily of correspondence between William Thomas Choate (1832-64) and his wife, Martha (Fender) Choate (1836-97), during his service as an officer in Company I, 61st Regiment North Carolina State Troops during the Civil War. His letters are concerned with camp life, the Battle of Antietam, casualties, sickness in his company, and the need for food and clothing from home. His wife’s letters are mostly about the family and neighbors, deaths in the family and neighborhood, sickness, running the family farm, care of livestock, and her wanting William to come home. Other correspondents include William Choate’s brothers, friends, relatives and others. For more on the Choate Family Papers look through the finding aid and visit Special Collections to see the microfilm.

And C is for…Cranford by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Title page from Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Title page from Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was a British novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era. She was born in London in 1810 and died in 1865. She’s known for works such as Ruth, The Life of Charlotte Bronte, North and South, and Cranford.  Her novels offer readers details on the lives of many strata of English society including the very poor.  She framed her stories as critiques of contemporary attitudes and generally emphasized the role of women.

Biographical information on Gaskell

Biographical information on Gaskell

Cranford was a popular novel during the 19th century. First published in 1851 in serial in the magazine Household Words, Cranford is one of the best known novels of Elizabeth Gaskell. It was published in eight parts in Charles Dickens’ journal from 1851 until 1853. Cranford is different from the other novels by Elizabeth Gaskell in that it is the depiction of a small English village and is concerned with the everyday occurrences in the lives of mainly older ladies, rather than the story of a great social problem threatening the lives and security of the characters. Special Collections and Archives has two copies of this wonderful novel. Special Collections’ older copy was published in New York in 1892 and is a part of the Charles L. Smith collection. The second copy was published in London in 1935 and is one of 500 copies printed at the University Press, Oxford. To read one of these copies in the Rare Books collection, visit the Special Collections and Archives reading room.

And don’t forget to look out for D…

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

The Old Gold and Black Now Keyword Searchable

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 2:33 pm

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

Searchable PDFs of some issues of Wake Forest University’s student newspaper, the Old Gold and Black, are now available!

Beginning in January, issues of the Old Gold and Black are being converted into a keyword searchable PDF format and uploaded to replace existing copies, which were not keyword searchable. What this means for users of the collection is that as new copies steadily replace old copies in the digital collection throughout this semester, they will be able to search more and more of the Old Gold and Black by keyword.

The progress of this project can be followed using the keyword searchability progress chart accessible from the Old Gold and Black collection page. The chart, pictured below, shows which issues are currently keyword searchable. As of today, issues from 1916 (when publication began) through 1931 are discoverable through a keyword search.

Keyword searchability progress chart of Old Gold & Black digital collection as of February 11, 2014

Keyword searchability progress chart of Old Gold & Black digital collection as of February 11, 2014

Perhaps you are looking for information about basketball teams throughout Wake Forest’s history, or mentions of his or her grandfather who was a student at WFU, or advertisements for Hudson-Belk Stores.  The following provides a simple outline of how to search the collection by keyword.

Searching the Old Gold and Black digital collection

Search for a term using the “Search This Collection” box on the Old Gold and Black collection page. Below is a general search for “basketball.”

Collection search box for Old Gold & Black Digital Collection

Collection search box for Old Gold & Black Digital Collection

The search returns issues of the Old Gold and Black containing the keyword for which you searched. Depending on the research mission, and because keyword searchable issues are being added by date, you may want to sort the results by issue date in ascending order.

Search results for Old Gold & Black digital collection

Search results for Old Gold & Black digital collection

From the search results page, select an item to view in more detail.

From the search results page, select an item to view in more detail

From the search results page, select an item to view in more detail

Searching within a particular issue of the Old Gold and Black

We selected the December 4, 1925 issue to view. From the item page, click the “Download” button to view an issue within your web browser or download to your PC.

From the item page, click the "Download" button to view an issue within your web browser or to download it to your PC

From the item page, click the “Download” button to view an issue within your web browser or to download it to your PC

To search for a term within that issue, press the Ctrl + F keys to open the search box of your web browser (in the top right corner of the screen).  Below, a search of the December 4, 1925 edition for “basketball” returned five results, which are highlighted within the document.  You can navigate to each instance of the word “basketball” using the up and down arrow buttons on the search box.

Keyword search within an issue of the Old Gold & Black

Keyword search within an issue of the Old Gold & Black

As always, if you have any questions about accessing this digital collection, you may contact Special Collections & University Archives.

Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, by Robert Burns (1787)

Saturday, January 25, 2014 9:43 am

Title page of the Edinburgh edition of Burns's poems

Title page of the Edinburgh edition of Burns’s poems

In December of 1786 a young country poet from the west of Scotland traveled to Edinburgh. Robert Burns hoped to drum up support for a second edition of the collection of poems that he had recently published by subscription in Kilmarnock. On 6 December Burns wrote to a friend

I have now been a week in Edin[burgh] and have been introduced to a great many of the Noblesse.—I have met very warm friends in the Literati… [Letters of Robert Burns, 2nd edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985) 61A]

Shortly thereafter he joked to another friend that

I am in a fair way of becoming as eminent as Thomas a Kempis or John Bunyan; and you may expect henceforth to see my birthday inserted among the wonderful events, in the Poor Robin’s and Aberdeen Almanacks… [Letters 62]

Burns could hardly have imagined that his birthday—January 25—would indeed be celebrated far beyond Aberdeen. Robert Burns Night is commemorated all over the world with food, speeches, and song in honor of the man now widely known as the national poet of Scotland.

Frontispiece portrait of Robert Burns from the Edinburgh edition

Frontispiece portrait of Robert Burns from the Edinburgh edition

In 1786, however, young Robert Burns was an obscure country poet. The son of a tenant farmer from the southwest of Scotland, Burns always had a talent for poetry and song. He also had a fondness for women, which may have led indirectly to the first publication of his poems. A few months before his trip to Edinburgh, Burns was making plans to emigrate to the West Indies, in part to escape the demands the family of a woman who had recently borne his out-of-wedlock twins. Before quitting Scotland Burns decided to publish a collection of poems based on the traditional dialect and songs of his native land. The very modest volume, titled Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, was printed by John Wilson in Kilmarnock in July 1786, its production paid for by Burns’s friends and supporters.

In October 1786 Burns approached Wilson about the possibility of a second edition, which would include some new poems. But, as Burns recounted in another letter, the printer insisted on an advance of £27 for the paper

[B]ut this, you know, is out of my power; so farewell hopes for a second edition ‘till I grow richer! An epocha, which, I think, will arrive at the payment of the British national debt. [Letters, 53]

Before leaving the country, Burns decided to make an attempt at finding patronage in the much larger city of Edinburgh, where, he had heard, copies of the Kilmarnock edition had been well received. He was indeed eagerly received by the Edinburgh aristocracy, and he quickly secured the patronage of the Caledonian Hunt –an exclusive social club for Scotland’s wealthiest men—for the second edition of his Poems.

Dedication page addressed to members of the Caledonian Hunt Club

Dedication page addressed to members of the Caledonian Hunt Club

Much of Burns’s stay in Edinburgh was taken up with preparations for this second edition, which included some new poems not found in the Kilmarnock edition. Writing to one of his partrons in March 1787, Burns records that

I have today corrected the last proof sheet of my poems and have now only the Glossary and subscribers names to print. . . . Printing this last is much against my will, but some of my friends whom I do not chuse to thwart will have it so. – I have both a second and a third Edition going on as the second was begun with too small a number of copies.—The whole I have printed is three thousand. [Letters, 90]

The average edition size at the time for a work of poetry was under 1000 copies, so an edition of 3000 copies was clear evidence of Burns’s ascendant fame. And the 46-page list, printed at the beginning of the volume, of names and tiles of subscribers provided incontrovertible evidence that the literary elite of Scotland had given their approval.

First page of the subscriber list for the Edinburgh edition of Burns's poems

First page of the subscriber list for the Edinburgh edition of Burns’s Poems

Robert Burns was a gifted poet, but he also had the advantage of appearing at the right time. The antiquarian movement of the 18th century had brought about great interest in the literature and material culture of the distant past. And in Scotland, antiquarianism had a decidedly nationalistic bent. English language and culture had been encroaching in Scotland since the union of the two kingdoms in 1603, and Burns’s poetry provided a direct link to traditional Scottish folkways and dialects. Burns himself embraced his identity as a national poet, writing in 1787:

The appellation of, a Scotch Bard, is by far my highest pride; to continue to deserve it is my most exalted ambition.—Scottish scenes, and Scottish story are the themes I could wish to sing… [Letters, 90]

burns twa dogs

Among the new poems included Edinburgh edition was “The Brigs of Ayr”—a dialogue between old and new bridges over the river Ayr– dedicated to his friend and longtime patron John Ballantine. The desire to see this poem in print was a motivating factor in Burns’s publishing a second edition. In 1786, despairing of being able to raise money for a second Kilmarnock edition, Burns wrote

There is scarcely any thing hurts me so much in being disappointed of my second edition, as not having it in my power to shew my gratitude to Mr. Ballantine, by publishing my poem of The Brigs of Ayr . [Letters, 53]

burns brigs

Burns’s ode to haggis was likely responsible for this rather off-putting concoction (offal, onions, and oatmeal boiled in a sheep’s stomach) being enshrined as the national dish of Scotland.

Burns's ode to haggis, a traditional Scottish dish made of offal, onions, and oatmeal boiled in a sheep's stomach

Burns’s ode to haggis

The glossary included in the Edinburgh edition of Burns’s Poems preserves distinctively Scottish words and pronunciations. But the fact that even his fellow Scots needed a guide to the language attests that the dialect was rapidly disappearing from everyday use.

Burns's glossary recorded the pronunciations and vocabulary of the traditional Scottish dialect

Burns’s Poems included a glossary of distinctively Scottish words

The Edinburgh edition of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect made Burns’s reputation. It also gave him financial security, at least temporarily. On the eve of its publication Burns wrote that

I guess I shall clear between two and three hundred pounds by my Authorship; with that sum I intend, so far as I may be said to have any intention, to return to my old acquaintance, the plough, and, if I can meet with a lease by which I can live, to commence Farmer. [Letters, 90]

Burns did indeed go back to farming, at least for a while. He married the mother of his twin children and fathered several more children. Eventually he took on a job as an excise officer in Dumfries. But he continued to write poetry and continued to take an active interest in the study and preservation of Scottish culture. One of his best known poems, “Tam o’Shanter,” was published in a volume dedicated to the preservation of Scottish buildings and monuments.

First publication of Burns's poem "Tam o' Shanter" in The Antiquties of Scotland (1791)

First publication of Burns’s poem “Tam o’ Shanter” in The Antiquties of Scotland (1791)

Burns died suddenly in 1796 at the age of only 37. But enthusiasm for his poetry never flagged. Memoirs, tributes, and collections of his works were published, and the 1859 centennial of his birth was the occasion for many celebrations.

Souvenir publication from the Burns Club of New York City's centennial celebration

Souvenir publication from the Burns Club of New York City’s centennial celebration

Since then the tradition of commemorating Burns Night on January 25 has spread throughout the world. Robert Burns would no doubt be delighted that his writings have brought the songs and poetry of his beloved Scotland to a global audience.

ZSR’s copy of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect is from the Charles Babcock collection. It is particularly interesting as an artifact because it has never been altered or rebound. With its original printer’s cardboard binding and untrimmed pages, the book is exactly what an 18th century reader would have purchased from an Edinburgh bookseller.

Original publisher's binding on ZSR's copy of Burns's Poems

Original publisher’s binding on ZSR’s copy of Burns’s Poems

Introducing Graduate Intern Corrine Luthy

Thursday, January 16, 2014 8:30 am

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

Corrine Luthy

Hi! I’m Corrine Luthy, an intern in the Special Collections and Archives department here at ZSR for the Spring 2014 semester. I am a graduate student in my second semester at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the Library and Information Studies program. Although there are no concentrations within the program, I have a strong interest in archives.

I have been working in ZSR’s Special Collections and Archives department since October, becoming acquainted with the equipment and the staff and gearing up for some projects I will be working on this spring. I feel fortunate to have been given the opportunity to gain this hands-on experience while earning academic credit for my work. With the guidance of Tanya Zanish-Belcher (Director of Special Collections and Archives) and Chelcie Rowell (Digital Initiatives Librarian), we identified specific projects that I will lead, and we developed learning objectives that I will complete. I am excited that at the conclusion of my internship, having led these projects and completed these learning objectives will help me to build a strong portfolio.

I earned a bachelor’s degree in English from East Carolina University. Of course, my love for the written word and information access drew me to library school. But my interest in archives comes most immediately from my work as an editor and staff writer for a small community newspaper in northeastern North Carolina before returning to graduate school. There, I witnessed the real need for a usable and organized information organization system on a regular basis. The newspaper served not only as a historical record for the community, but for ourselves as well. Working at a print publication, I also became more aware of the contrast (and sometimes tension) between print and digital formats, some of the effects of the shift from one to the other, and the need for digital preservation. These are trends that I will be fortunate enough to explore more during my time at ZSR.

The projects that I have begun working on under Chelcie’s supervision hold a special interest for me. This semester I will be working with PDF files of digitized issues of Wake Forest’s student newspaper, the Old Gold and Black, making them keyword searchable for users of the library’s digital collection. I will also be working to create a digital exhibit with materials from the Secrest Artists Series.

I’m hoping to contribute to the digital community of Wake Forest by helping the library create and improve collections that capture the spirit of the university and make its digital materials more accessible and usable. I will be documenting my progress, thoughts, and learning as a ZSR intern and MLS student on my personal blog and portfolio website, Shelf Life. Anyone interested is invited to follow along. I hope to see you around ZSR!

A Northern Christmas, by Rockwell Kent (1941)

Thursday, December 5, 2013 4:34 pm

A Northern Christmas, by Rockwell Kent, was an American Artists Group gift book for 1941

A Northern Christmas by Rockwell Kent was an American Artists Group gift book for 1941

American artist Rockwell Kent spent Christmas 1918 in a small cabin on an island off the south coast of Alaska. More than twenty years later he recalled the experience in words and woodcut illustrations in a holiday gift book titled A Northern Christmas.

Title page from A Northern Christmas

Title page from A Northern Christmas

The small book was published by the American Artists Group, an organization founded in 1935 for the purpose of providing art for the masses and, in the process, creating a market for artists to earn a living during the difficult years of the Depression. Many prominent artists were members, including Edward Hopper, John Sloan, Thomas Hart Benton, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Max Weber, and Eugene Speicher. The American Artists Group published small monographs and offered unsigned engravings, lithographs, and woodcut prints for sale at very affordable prices. But the group was perhaps best  known for its yearly offerings of Christmas cards designed by its artists. In 1941 they also began a series of small holiday gift books, of which A Northern Christmas was the first.

Frontispiece illustration from A Northern Christmas

Frontispiece illustration from A Northern Christmas

Let it snow or rain and grow dark at midday! The better shall be our good Christmas cheer within. This is the true Christmas land. The day should be dark, the house further overshadowed by the woods, tall and black. And there in the midst of that somber, dreadful gloom the Christmas tree should blaze in glory unrivaled by moon or sun or star.

Rockwell Kent, A Northern Christmas

Cover from American Artists Group Illustrated Monograph no. 2

Cover from American Artists Group Illustrated Monograph no. 2

Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) was born and educated in New York. His first art teacher was William Merritt Chase; later he studied with Abbott Handerson Thayer, Robert Henri, and Kenneth Hayes Miller.  Kent also trained as an architectural draftsman and was an accomplished carpenter. He worked in a variety of artistic media, but he is best known for his prints and for his many illustrations for classic literary works like Candide, Leaves of Grass, The Canterbury Tales, and, perhaps most famously, Moby Dick.

Rockwell Kent's famous dust jacket design for Moby Dick (Random House trade edition, 1930)

Rockwell Kent’s famous dust jacket design for Moby Dick (Random House trade edition, 1930)

Kent also wrote and illustrated several of his own books, many of them memoirs of his extensive travels. He often sought out remote areas of untouched wilderness for artistic inspiration. In 1918-19 he spent several months in Alaska with his young son (also named Rockwell).  The resulting book, called Wilderness, was published by G. P. Putnam in 1920.

Cover illustration for Rockwell Kent's Wilderness (1920)

Cover illustration for Rockwell Kent’s Wilderness (1920)

The south coast of the mainland of Alaska is a wilderness of spruce-clad mountains whose outlying, isolated peaks are islands. On one of these we lived, a father and his eight-year-old son. . . . the man in pursuit of his profession, the boy in pursuit of what of education lay in doing things, and both in that pursuit of happiness which, with whatever right, is still what every living creature wants. . . .

Of the fullness of the days–fullness of work and thought, of play, of little happenings, of uneventful peace–we kept record. That record is a book: its name is WILDERNESS. From WILDERNESS these notes about a happy Christmas in the north are drawn.

A Northern Christmas

The Rockwell Kent Papers in the Archives of American Art include extensive correspondence between Kent and Samuel Golden of the American Artists Group. In the 1941 correspondence they discuss all aspects of the production of A Northern Christmas, beginning with the necessity of getting permission from G. P. Putnam for the use of excerpts and illustrations from Wilderness. The publisher at first demanded a rather steep fee but became more reasonable after a “sharply worded letter” from Kent. In the end, Kent insisted that Putnam’s cooperation should be acknowledged in the colophon of A Northern Christmas.

Colophon from A Northern Christmas

Colophon from A Northern Christmas

A Northern Christmas  consisted mostly of excerpts from Wilderness, along with an introduction and a few new illustrations.

From A Northern Christmas

From A Northern Christmas

For Rockwell Kent, the wilderness idyll was a welcome respite from the materialism of the modern world. In the excerpts chosen for A Northern Christmas, Kent describes, in words and pictures, the spare and simple Christmas that he and his son celebrated with their landlord, an old Swedish homesteader named Olson.  The presents are few– young Rockwell receives a pocket knife, some old National Geographic magazines, and a broken fountain pen, but he “sits on the bed looking at the things as if they were the most wonderful gifts.” The holiday proves all the more memorable for its minimalism.

Christmas menu from A Northern Christmas

Christmas menu from A Northern Christmas

The food is good and plentiful, the night is long, only the Christmas candles are short-lived and we extinguish them to save them for another time. Finally, as the night deepens, Olson leaves us amid mutual expressions of delight in one another’s friendship, and Rockwell and I tumble into bed.

A Northern Christmas

Rockwell Kent wrote and illustrated a very different gift book for the American Artists Group the next year. The 1942 book, called On Earth Peace, is a rather bleak wartime fable about a Jazz Age princess humbled by loss and privation.

Cover illustration for On Earth Peace, Rockwell Kent's gift book for 1942

Cover illustration for On Earth Peace, Rockwell Kent’s gift book for 1942

Kent’s popularity as an artist waned somewhat after the war. His style fell out of fashion in the age of abstract expressionism, and his ongoing involvement in  socialist causes aroused suspicion in the Red-baiting 1950s. At one point Kent’s passport was revoked, and he sued to have it reinstated. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled in his favor, a landmark decision that made it more difficult for the government to curtail a citizen’s right to travel.  Kent continued to work for progressive causes and tried to promote improved relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Typed letter to Lynwood Giacomini, signed by Rockwell Kent

Typed letter to Lynwood Giacomini, signed by Rockwell Kent

The items pictured here are all held by ZSR Library’s Special Collections. The library has a sizeable collection of Rockwell Kent books, most of them previously owned by publisher Lynwood Giacomini, whose collection of American literature was purchased by the library in 1976. Giacomini kept up a friendly correspondence with many authors, and his collection includes a few typed letters from Rockwell Kent.

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 3:18 pm

B is for…

The North Carolina Baptist Historical Collection

The Biblical Recorder

The NC Baptist Historical Collection is one of the largest collections in Wake Forest’s Special Collections and Archives. This collection documents North Carolina Baptist churches, institution, and individuals. It contains various materials on Southern, Missionary, Primitive, African-American, Union, and Alliance of Baptist churches. It includes over 16,000 books, periodicals, association annuals, and other printed materials as well as church records, association minutes, and church vertical files. Patrons may also find more than 1,000 biographical folders containing information as well as photographs on Baptist pastors and Wake Forest alumni. This collection serves at a repository for records from North Carolina Baptist churches and institutions as well as for the Alliance of Baptists and the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina archives. However, that’s not all someone can find in this collection. This collection holds a complete set of the print version of the Biblical Recorder, which is the official journal of the North Carolina Baptist Convention. It was published biweekly and in existence since 1833.
To see what else is in this expansive collection, check out the finding aid for North Carolina Baptist Historical Collection or the Ethel Taylor Crittenden Collection in Baptist History.

B is also for…Bill J. Leonard

Bill Leonard playing the carillon

Bill Leonard playing the carillon

Bill Leonard was the founding dean of the WFU Divinity School and is the James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies. He is also a professor of church history, author of Baptist history writings, and an ordained Baptist minister. He received his education form Texas Wesleyan University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Boston University, and Franklin College. He’s recognized for his work in American, Southern and Baptist religious studies and he is the author and editor of 17 books including The Fragmentation of the Southern Baptist and Baptist Ways: A History.
This collection includes some of his personal and professional papers, sermons, and research materials. It also includes research materials for books and lectures, professional papers and correspondence collected during his tenure at Southern Baptist Seminary, Samford University, and Wake Forest University. A major portion of the collection contains materials relevant to the controversy and split of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1970s and 1980s. The collection also contains his correspondence files with letters from President Jimmy Carter, Walter Harrelson, James Dunn, Glenn Hinson, and many notable figures of the Southern Baptist Convention. There are also some audio recordings of his sermons as well as lectures by such prominent theologians as Jurgen Moltmann.
To find out more about this notable Wake Forest professor, check out the finding aid for Bill J. Leonard and visit Special Collections and Archives to see materials.

And B is for… “Bibi” by R.B. Cunninghame Graham (1852-1936)

Title page

Title page

R.B. or Robert Bontine was a Scottish adventurer, writer, and political radical. He was the son of a Scottish laird and a half-Spanish mother. He was educated at Harrow School and in Brussels. During his adult life he was a rancher in Argentina, a traveller, a socialist Liberal MP (1886-92), and in 1892 a parliamentary candidate for the Scottish Labor Party, a party that he was a co-founder of. He was also elected president of the National Party of Scotland in 1928. He published various works on Latin American history, stories on Scotland, and travel books.

Author's signature and notation that this copy is #251 in a printing of 250

Author’s signature and notation that this copy is #251 in a printing of 250

His short work “Bibi” is a rare find. A editor’s note in the work states “This edition of “Bibi” is limited to 250 copies, numbered and signed by the author” The copy that Special Collections and Archives holds also has a handwritten note underneath the editor’s note that reads “251. Out of series.” The work was published in London by William Heinemann Ltd. in 1929. The work includes a prologue and the story itself is only 19 pages long.

Prologue

Prologue

In this work, Graham writes an episode of the life of Bibi. Bibi is the son of an English family living in Tangier who becomes a follower of Islam. The story is a quick read and very intriguing, and also not the only work of Graham’s that you can find in the Rare Books collection.
To find out more about Bibi or to read more of R.B. Cunninghame Graham’s works visit Special Collections and Archives.

Stay tuned for C…

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


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