Special Collections & Archives Blog

Preserving Indentures from the Dalton Family Papers

Friday, April 10, 2015 11:28 am

Dalton indenture 1806

The Dalton Family Papers include materials from several generations of this family from Stokes County, NC. The Dalton Family papers are frequently used by our patrons in Special Collections. I recently encapsulated about 200 indentures in polyester (mylar) from this collection. Encapsulating a document involves creating two identically sized sheets of polyester which are attached on several sides and provide a safe and transparent enclosure for each document. The indentures are often hand-written and many times are signed with an X instead of a signature. These indentures often have a homemade or hand-drawn seal attached to the document. The wording of each indenture usually begins in a similar way as the document above: “This indenture made this twentieth day of October in the Year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred six between Thomas Graham Senior and the State of North Carolina and the County of Stokes.”

dalton_indenture04

The indenture above is for Alexander Boles in 1795. This indenture shows Boles’ X and the words “his mark” in lieu of his signature and also has a paper seal affixed. An indenture was a legal contract between two parties. Indentures could be for property, labor or other service. The Dalton Family papers primarily have indentures for property.

dalton_indenture01

The indenture above from 1797 between William Martin and the State of North Carolina shows the beautiful handwriting on many indentures in the Dalton Papers.

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Surveys, such as this one from 1779 in Surry County, were often attached to an indenture to show the exact location of the property.

dalton_indenture02

The indenture above from 1796, also has an attached survey. Interestingly, this indenture was paid for in Shillings, and at the bottom the indenture mentions it was signed in Raleigh “in the XXIst (21st) year of our independence.”

The Dalton Family papers have many more documents and materials that are fascinating to research and study.

Poetry Month: A Celebration of W. B. Yeats

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 2:48 pm

yeats autograph

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

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

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

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

Repairing Shakespeare with a “tacket”

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 12:19 pm

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a “tacket” as a nail; in later use, a small nail, a tack: a hob-nail with which the soles of shoes are studded. In the case of book preservation, a tacket is a physical connection between a loose board and the book itself with linen thread. I learned to make a tacket from Jim Hinz, a book conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia, in his leather preservation workshop in 2008.

Close up  of tacketing on joint

This particular book is Shakespeare’s Comedies, histories and tragedies from 1685. The binding i am repairing, however, is likely from the 19th century.

The best candidates for this repair are usually larger sized books with a distinct “shoulder” through which you can punch holes for the tacket.
The shoulder is a ridge on the inside joint of the book where it joins the cover board. When making a tacket, you punch a hole though the shoulder and thread a piece of linen thread through it.

Two holes are then punched diagonally though the cover board. The two ends of the linen thread are then threaded through these holes and a knot is tied.

Tacket-both sides threaded

By creating a shallow trench in the board, the knot and thread are embedded and glued into the cover, which is then not very visible.A piece of thin Japanese Moriki paper is then attached over the break in the joint.

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Interior hinge repaired

Finally, another piece of Japanese Moriki paper is attached over the outside break in the joint. Several coats of a leather consolidant make the repair quite presentable as well as usable.

Completed repair

W. B. Yeats and his Books

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 12:14 pm

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

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

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

yeats byzantium

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

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

yeats tower dust jacket

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

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

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

Preservation Training From Our Friends at UNCG

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 12:00 pm

We go to training for a variety of reasons, but often because you may have good basic skills, but need to get to another level. You need someone at a higher skill level to show you the ‘tricks’ that will help you excel and help your work rise to a higher level of accomplishment.

Clamping corner repairs
Isabella Baltar and Preservation Student Assistant, Lauren Peirish

On Friday, February 13, 2015, Isabella Baltar, from UNCG spent the day training me and my student assistants. Isabella holds degrees from two universities in Brazil; a BA in Museology from Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro and an MA in Art History from Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. She also spent 6 years working under Don Etherington at the Etherington Conservation Center in Browns Summit, NC.

Applying Japanese paper to repair the broken internal hinge

Repairing a broken internal hinge

Isabella and I worked exclusively on Special Collections books bound in leather. We have so many leather bound books that have loose boards and bad joints, that it seemed the best use of our time. We covered may topics such as the use of Klucel-G (a leather consolidant) and SC6000 (a leather wax). We worked on reattaching loose internal joints on books using Japanese paper. Isabella also led me through the steps of restoring damaged head-caps and damaged corners of the books. This process involved creating a Japanese paper support on the corner of the board. Then a papier mache-like form is created from shreds of twine to reconstitute the missing portion of the book cover. This form is pressed and allowed to dry, after which, it is toned with either acrylics or gouache to match the leather on the cover. After the toning is completed, it is hard to tell where the work begins and ends. This technique is commonly used by book conservators and one that we can use in our lab.

Head-cap reconstruction

Repairing a missing head-cap

We used rice starch paste and PVA adhesive to repair missing pieces of our books. The first step is to attach a piece of Japanese paper on which you build back the shape of the missing piece. To do this, we shredded jute twine and added paste to recreate the missing shape.

Rebuilding loss area of book cover corner

We then let this piece dry, covered it with Japanese paper and clamped it between pieces of binders board to dry.

Repaired corners drying under clamps

After the repair dried, we used acrylic and gouache paint to tone the repair and match it to the color of the surrounding leather. We even tried to replicate the gold tooling on the leather. The final product is quite presentable and will last indefinitely.

Finished and toned corner repair

The work we did was very helpful and I am very appreciative of the training I received from Isabella Baltar. Thank you UNCG Preservation for lending Isabella for a day to help us out. We are better equipped because of this experience.

Martin Luther King, Jr. at Wake Forest

Thursday, January 15, 2015 4:18 pm

[O]n Thursday, October 11, 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in Wait Chapel at Wake Forest College as part of the College Union Lecture Series.[i]  This was not the first time a black person had spoken on the campus, but it was the first time a black man had been invited to speak after the College had officially integrated.  Much social and political action on the part of the students and some faculty had brought the College to this rhetorical moment — a black civil rights leader speaking in Wait Chapel. [i] Old Gold & Black, October 15, 1962.

So begins Susan Faust and John Llewellyn’s short article “Prelude to a Dream” analyzing King’s Wait Chapel speech and placing it in the context of desegregation and activism at Wake Forest at the time. One must consider the climate of the campus, the South, and the country in the early 1960’s when Dr. King spoke in Wait Chapel to understand how significant this event was. Wake Forest College had only just admitted Ed Reynolds (’64), the first black graduate of the college, in the Fall of 1962. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to campus so quickly after this monumental change to the campus culture only reinforced the transformation of the time.

Special Collections and Archives has an audio copy of this significant address in our holdings. Prior to the now famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King used some of the same language and phrasing he later used in that historic speech in his address at Wait Chapel. Due to the nature of the copyright restrictions on these materials, patrons are required to listen to the audio, and read the transcript, in the Special Collections & Archives Research Room (ZSR 625). The finding aid is available online for researchers to view. We recommend making an appointment in Special Collections & Archives to come in and listen to the audio recording. Special Collections & Archives is honored to care for and provide access to such an important piece in Wake Forest’s history.

For additional information on what was happening on the campus at the time, you can search the Old Gold & Black Archives or peruse the “Faces of Courage” website for a timeline of events surrounding Wake Forest’s integration and Dr. King’s visit. In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Wake Forest University is joining up with Winston-Salem State University and other community groups to host the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 2015 Celebration. We hope you can participate, celebrate, or volunteer at some of the events for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

A Token of My Affection: 19th Century Christmas Annuals

Tuesday, December 9, 2014 2:19 pm

christmas annuals token 1839 presentation page

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

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

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

christmas annuals keepsake 1832 mary shelley

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

christmas annuals garland 1831

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

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

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

christmas annuals token with box

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

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

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

christmas annuals tokens spines

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

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

poe purloined letter

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

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

christmas annuals mary shelley

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

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

mrs lirriper 1863

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

beetons fortunate island

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

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

christmas annuals temperance

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

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

christmas annuals1848 lithograph title page

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

christmas annuals pears ad

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

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

christmas annuals bookmarks

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

christmas annuals token inscription mary davis

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

girls own annual crayoned illustration

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

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

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

Modern American Cookery, by Prudence Smith (1835)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014 1:30 pm

modern american cookery roast turkey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

complete cook and confectioner frontispiece

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

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

modern american cookery publisher list

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

modern american cookery hannah jane king

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

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

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

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

modern american cookery carving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does Home Movie Day work?

Thursday, November 6, 2014 5:23 pm

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

The Details

2014 Piedmont Triad Home Movie Day

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

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

Panel Discussion

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

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

Your Films on the Big Screen

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

18 Poems, by Dylan Thomas (1934)

Friday, October 31, 2014 2:16 pm

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

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

18 poems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18 poems one

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

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

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

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

18 poems title page

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

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

18 poems contents

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

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

18 poems tp verso

From the first edition of 18 Poems

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

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

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

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

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

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

childs christmas in wales

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

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

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

under milk wood

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

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

dylan thomas in america

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

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

caitlin thomas

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

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

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

memorial program

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

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

memorial program cover

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


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