[Posted by Aidan Willner for ENG 812 Modern Poetry, Professor Rosen]

Frost1Robert Frost published his sixth collection of poetry titled West-Running Brook in 1928 with the Henry Holt publishing company. The limited special edition featured woodcuts by his friend J.J. Lankes. I was lucky enough to find the 172nd copy of this limited edition at the Watkinson Library here at Trinity College. The book contains all forty two poems that would be found in the first edition separated only by four beautiful woodcut prints. While West-Running Brook did not receive one of Frost’s unfathomable four pulitzer prizes it was a noticeable continuation of prolific career. The front cover is the only other noticeable difference between the special edition and the first edition with an artful spread of falling leaves and tissue paper cover underneath the dust jacket. I thought this jacket was iconic Frost due to the humble presentation. There were no fancy gold letters or intricate designs, just a simple yet appealing arrangement of colorful leaves. This image fits Frost as he wished to present himself as a simple nature poet to the general public.

Frost2Frost3The first edition and special edition were both signed by Frost, but the special edition that I found in the Watkinson has an additional personal touch on the front page. Frost wrote out his poem Canis Major in full with one change from the printed version. The only change comes at the end and shifts the word roams to romps and is made out to Harry Bacon Collamore. Little evidence remains proving the friendship between H. Bacon Collamore and Robert Frost but this subtle clue provides a fair amount of insight. Collamore was a major donor to Trinity College and The Watkinson and it is significant that Frost signed his note to Harry Bacon Collamore instead of abbreviating. This could be proof that the two were on a friendly first name basis with each other.

The other interesting thing about the personal note is the edit Frost made to his own poem. The edition is in great condition and not a mark has been placed upon the text save for Frost’s opening note and a single penned change on the text of Canis Major. After Frost had written his note to Collamore he went in and made the same change of roams to romps on the text itself. This change would later be made to all subsequent versions and is thought to represent the one flaw that Frost and his editors missed before the original version of West-Running Brook printed.

Frost4Another interesting addition to West-Running Brook is the Athenian Owl Drachma on the title page. The Owl represents the ancient greek symbol for wisdom as well as perspicacity and erudition. It is unlikely that Frost chose this mark for his title page. Henry Holt may have consulted Frost before including the symbol but it would have been his decision to make. The symbol was appropriated during the turn of the 20th century in the west as a symbol of knowledge and eduction. It became widespread and this is likely what led Holt to include it. The image itself is of a Greek drachma coin and has since been used on the back side of the euro in Greece.

 Frost5Frost6

3
May

Auden artifact

   Posted by: rring   in book history, Classes

[Posted by Sean Flynn for ENG 812 Modern Poetry, Professor Rosen]

Auden artifact unearths interesting connection between poets and their readers.

WHAuden-Spain(1)-1“That is just what I think is wrong with modern poetry – The poets are not writing for the people, for a vast audience – They are writing for a small clique – And then the members of this small group interpret these poems to the public through books, articles and reviews,” writes former Trinity College Vice President Albert E. Holland.

When Albert E. Holland donated an original copy of “Spain” by W.H. Auden to the Trinity College graduating class of 1946, he gave his classmates a clear explanation why. An overview of Holland’s thirteen-year journey between his junior year in 1934 and graduating year in 1946 suggests that Holland interpreted the poem as analogous to his darkest moments as a college dropout.

The Watkinson library houses the gift of Holland within a collection of modern poetry artifacts. Along the inside cover of “Spain,” readers find “Gift of Albert E Holland, Class of ’34,” written across the bottom of the page. Dedications like this often transform a large “I found it at the Watkinson” assignment into specific project, more appropriately titled, “I indirectly learned this at the Watkinson.” Brief research on Holland reinforced the fruitfulness of the latter.

In 1933, the Great Depression stole Holland’s senior year at Trinity College. Becoming a workingman prematurely, Holland entered a tanking American economy that summer. But Holland’s fluency in German helped him secure several prestigious positions abroad. In 1937, when W.H. Auden published “Spain,” a poetic treatise on the Spanish Civil war, Holland established himself as the point person for Brown Brothers Harriman office in Berlin. Perhaps Holland, who then stood at the apex of his private sector ascent, did not find value in the poem like he did when donating an original copy to the Trinity class of ‘46.

After working on projects in Germany, Netherlands, and the United States, the North Negros Sugar Company of Manila culled Holland in 1941. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan invaded Philippines, where Holland, his wife, and two young children lived. For three years they remained incarcerated at the Santo Tomas internment camp. Holland spent the next thirty-seven months reading and keeping an extensive diary.

In the daily entries, Holland documents air raids and his day-to-day mindset.

“Today Lt. Shiragi said that we should kill all the dogs in the camp & serve them on the food line – I agree that the dogs should be killed – They are a menace to our health – But I do not relish eating these mangy mongrels – This shows while I may be very hungry, I am not yet starving – Otherwise I would make no such objection,” writes Holland.

Despite obvious struggles as a prisoner of war, Holland displays a poised and thoughtful demeanor throughout his diaries. He cites a range of books and modern poets who helped him cope, including Auden. “Auden, Spencer, MacNeice, Stevens, E. E. Cummings & – in many poems T. S. Eliot – all apparently disdain us – Look at Eliot’s “Wasteland,” The same is true of Stein, Wolfe & Joyce in the novel – It is never necessary to be incomprehensible – And I detest poems composed of words put down for their musical effect & not for their meaning,” writes Holland.

While Holland criticized modern poets that wrote “incomprehensible” lines, Holland certainly viewed Auden’s “Spain” as comprehensible. When the Japanese internment camp released Holland and his family in 1945, Trinity let Holland walk with the class of 1946. His first donation to Trinity was a copy of Auden’s Spain. Since Auden wrote the poem about the Spanish Civil War, while addressing the grave byproducts of war, perhaps Holland drew many parallels between the poem and his own experience as a POW.

Trinity hired Holland as a freshmen advisor in 1946. He transitioned into various fundraising positions and later became vice president at the college. In 1966, Hobart and William Smith named Holland president, but the school forced his resignation two years later. Fittingly Holland’s early exit stems from an allegiance with Reverand Daniel Berrigan-a Vietnam war activist Holland invited to speak on campus. He finished his career at Wellesley College and retired from higher education in 1977.

That Holland lived to tell his story is nothing short of a minor miracle. The Watkinson library assignment unearthed his seldom-shared story. Yet when Holland dedicated a poem on war and struggle to Trinity, the former administrator told his classmates something else.

Holland lived a reader’s life.

The Auden poem and a typed replication of Holland’s prison diaries can be found at the Watkinson Library.

 

10
Apr

Frost’s New Hampshire (1923)

   Posted by: rring   in book history, Classes, Students

[Posted by Sophie Vitzthum​ for ENG 812 Modern Poetry, Professor Rosen]

Frost3Robert Frost first published his Pulitzer Prize-winning volume of poems, New Hampshire, in 1923. The copy that I stumbled across at the Watkinson Library in Trinity College was the 165th copy of the limited three hundred first edition copies printed. This collection of Frost’s poetry contains forty-six poems in total, which are divided into two sections: Notes and Grace Notes. This collection includes several of his most well known poems such as “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” and “Fire and Ice.”

Frost2Inside the cover of this book I found two bookplates, one that read “The Brick Row Shop,” and another that was labeled with the name Harry Bacon Collamore. The Brick Row Shop is one of the oldest antiquarian book businesses in the United States, and specializes in first editions, rare books and manuscripts from the 17th through the 20th centuries. Indeed, it makes sense that a book such as the one that I found in the Watkinson Library was associated with a business that dealt with rare books. Harry Bacon Collamore’s bookplate, however, has some history behind it. Harry Bacon Collamore donated many modern English and American first editions to the Watkinson Library, including major poetry collections of Robert Frost. He was the president of the Watkinson trustees as well as of the Trinity College Library associates. Although the relationship between Frost and Collamore is undocumented, the two clearly had a unique friendship. I can attest to this fact because out of the many Frost books that I looked at in the Watkinson, many of them were signed to Harry Bacon Collamore from Frost.

The physical aesthetics of this edition of New Hampshire are quite striking in their simplicity. The book itself was in formidable shape as well, considering it has been around for almost a century now. The binding was completely in tact and there was no sign of fading to be seen. Both the title and the woodcut on the cover are painted in gold, which could be linked to his poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” The unique typeface of the title is only seen in three other sections of this book: in the introduction of the volume, in the introduction of Notes, and in the introduction to Grace Notes.

Frost1The typeface is complemented by the woodcuts that pop up throughout this book. The unified, rustic style of both the typeface and woodcut suggest that Frost may have wanted his poetry to be read in a certain way. Seeing that his poems deal with primarily pastoral topics, it seems appropriate that the typeface appears handwritten and simple, while the woodcuts depict bucolic, natural scenery. In fact, the woodcuts were created by print artist JJ Lankes, a close friend of Frost’s. Lankes also created woodcuts for Frost’s other publications, as well as prints for other authors such as Sherwood Anderson and Beatrix Potter.

When I found this book it was presented in a cardboard casing that contained three other editions of New Hampshire. This edition, however, caught my attention more than the others when I opened the first page to find an original, handwritten poem of Frost’s. Frost’s script is somewhat hard to decipher, though it is quite attractive, but after reading the poem over with close attention several times, this is what I was able to make out:

 

I shall see the sorrow all go down hill

In water of a slender April rill

That flashes tail in last years’ withered brake

And dead weeds like a disappointing snake.

Nothing will be left white but here a birch

And there a clump of houses with a church.

 

The poem is followed with a second signature from Frost, as well as a dedication to Harry Bacon Collamore. Nowhere has this poem been printed other than in this edition of New Hampshire. Although the poem consists of only six lines, the image that it describes, of a vanishing winter and a blossoming spring, is quite striking. The poem’s primary focus on the white objects that remain after the snow dissipates makes this a colorist poem, which could be a parallel to his poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

This edition of New Hampshire personified Frost in many ways, in my opinion. The simplicity of its façade is a testament to the way that Frost wanted his poetry to seem simple on the exterior, yet intricate and tricky beneath the surface.

10
Apr

William Carlos Williams and The Tempers

   Posted by: rring   in book history, Classes, Students

[Posted by Sophie Prince for ENG 812 Modern Poetry, Professor Rosen]

WCW2In 1913, Williams Carlos Williams published his second book of poetry, The Tempers, through a small publishing house in London with the help of fellow modern poet, Ezra Pound. Williams was already 30 years old at the time, but this collection was just an early step in his career. A first edition copy of The Tempers, one of only 1000 printed, is preserved at the Watkinson Library in a small, royal blue box.

The artifact is eye-catching not for its grandeur or style, but because it is so small. At around four and a half inches, the entire book fits in the palm of your hand. Something about its miniature-nature marks the book’s uniqueness and makes it even more enticing to encounter. Other than the blue box (which was likely added by the Watkinson to protect the fragile binding), a plain, beige cover and gold inscription of the title are the only decorations. These stylistic choices seem to speak to Williams as a poet. The simplicity of the edition is a reminder of his domestic and pastoral subjects as well as his emphasis on honesty.

WCW1While the outside of the edition already offers reflection on Williams’ career, the inside pages hold many more opportunities to explore his life and poetry. On the very first page, an inscription in loose cursive handwriting and fading, grey ink reads: “To Evelyn Scott from William Carlos Williams.” Discovering Williams’ own signature (here compared side by side to his signature logged at www.poetsquarterly.com) was quite a pleasure. It brought many questions to the imagination, as well as the unique feeling of knowing a celebrated and genius poet held this very book in his own hands. In addition, the signature raises the value of the book immensely. After researching some rare book sellers, it appears that these first edition copies typically sell for around $1000, particularly because few of the original and incredibly fragile copies survived. With the added benefit of Williams’ signature, the selling price of the book goes up to somewhere around $7500. Unfortunately, the condition of the book is relatively poor. The outside edges of the pages where they were folded together during production were not cut open, but forced apart and torn, likely by an eager reader.

The handwritten note from Williams raises an important question: who was Evelyn Scott? The answer to this question provides a bit of insight into Williams’ intellectual circle. Evelyn Scott, also known as Elsie Dunn, was an American novelist, playwright, and poet operating in the same period as Williams. At the time, she was an important part of the modernist circle, known for being an experimental writer published in avant-garde magazines.  In biographies of Scott, it is always mentioned that William Carlos Williams was one of her many literary friends. Unfortunately, while Williams’ reputation has been cemented as an influential American poet, Scott eventually faded into the background after two decades of literary significance in the 1920s and 30s. The two names contained within this single copy leave much to be explored about the literary circles of the time. It is exciting that this book, a gift from Trinity alum Arthur Miliken, was at one point involved in a personal exchange between two poets.

One more relationship of Williams’ is represented in this edition of The Tempers and it is worth noting. The dedication inside the book is to Carlos Hoheb, Williams’ uncle on his mother’s side. Hoheb was an accomplished Puerto Rican musician and had an influence in Williams’ early life. In the act of declaring Williams as one of the great American poets, his Spanish roots are often forgotten. This dedication reinforces his Spanish-American background and the collection even includes one of his Spanish translations, “El Romancero.”

Overall, the biggest surprise when examining this collection by a proudly American poet was that it was published in London. Even more surprising is the fact that no American edition of The Tempers was ever released. This felt quite contradictory to Williams’ agenda as an American nationalist poet. At the same time, it speaks to the fact that the poetry community was still largely focused around London during this period. It likely felt as a necessary starting point, especially under the advice of Ezra Pound, who made his fame in the literary community of London as an American expatriate.

WCW3Pound was, in fact, the orchestrator of this publication and Elkins Matthew was his main publisher. After meeting at University of Pennsylvania, Pound became a friend to Williams and helped develop his reputation. But later in their careers, the two poets experienced a polar divide. Williams’ style developed in a way that was distinctly American, felt scorned by Pound, and purposefully excluded himself from the elitist, European poetry community. When looking at The Tempers, the trajectory of the relationship between Pound and Williams serves as an interesting backdrop for examining the poetry. Most of the poems in this volume do not sound anything like the Williams of his later, more successful collection, Spring and All. Poems titled “Con Brio” and “Ad Infinitum” feel much more like the type of poetry Pound would support. The poem, From “The Birth of Venus,” Song, is pictured here as an example of the poetry in this early collection, which is still cemented in the conventional. Knowing that Williams’ brand of experimentation eventually developed in a very unique way, The Tempers provides some interesting insight into his early career and is simply a miniature wonder to investigate.

Eliot1[Posted by Jia Yu for ENG 812 Modern Poetry, Professor Rosen]

T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land was published as a single book by Boni&Liveright in November, 1922. The first edition of The Waste Land comprises of 1000 copies, and one of these can be viewed at Watkinson Library, Trinity College. The book I held in hand is about the size of an A5 notebook and has 64 pages in total. Judging from its appearance, the book probably has been checked out many times by readers over the years. The stiff board binding is lose, and the place for a title sticker is torn off from the black canvas cover (Fig.1). According to the bookplate, the book was initially received by Trinity Library as a special collection with the donation from Elton Fund, which was founded by a Trinity alumni, John, P. Eton, in 1854, and this collection later merged with Watkinson Library after it was built.

The worn-outness does not veil the aura the book emits. On the limitation page, it writes, in 5mm type front: ““Of the one thousand copies printed /of The Waste Land this volume is /number 894” (Fig.2) Gazing at it seems to throw you into an imagined community –who are the original readers of the first thousand copies? The number 894 becomes enigmatic which seems not only to identity the uniqueness of the book, and offers an imaginary space for its readers. With this design, the editor seems to have in his mind the future collective value of the book.

Reading the poem in a book format is slightly different from reading it in Eliot’s Selected Poems. Unlike Selected Poems, one has “Sweeney Among the Eliot2Nightingales” before it and “The Hollow Men” after the poem, which all might have impacted one’s understanding of The Waste Land. As a single book, the poem becomes its own context and content. Firstly, the epigraph that is printed in the beginning of the poem is moved to the title page. The epigraph is put in the middle of the title page, between the author’s name and the name of the publisher. By making the epigraph a part of the title page, the editor separates it from the rest of the poem and gives a weightier meaning to the title itself. Only after flipping through the limitation page, the second half title page, one finally finds the real poem. In addition, the book invites a participatory experience towards the reading.

Interestingly, copious notes are made by several different readers. These note makers attempt to identify the sources of the quotes and at the same time try to unravel what is Eliot’s intention. For example, one find notes marks about the allusion, such as “Philomel” beside “Twit twit twit/Jug jug jug jug jug/So rudely forc’d/Tereu” (30). One also find comment like “humanism?” beside “Oh keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,” (16); One writes “To Hollow man” beside “Do you know nothing? Do you see nothing?/Do you remember/ nothing?” (21); one writes “tempest” beside the sentence “Those are pearls that were his eyes.” One also finds “extreme despair?”  beside “What shall we ever do? (22); One marks “extreme despair?” beside “what shall we ever do?” And one marks “form of grief” beside “Treu” (31). For these readers, reading The Waste Land means putting a lot of effort of identifying connections, just as what we were doing in class.

On the last page of the book, one finds an “epitaph” -two readers’ response to the book that further affirm the authorial ethos this book attempt to present (Fig. 3). These two notes are transcribed as below:

Eliot3Eliot’s presentation is good- Lasting examples! – although- he writes absolutely and many can not gain the entire value – modern man is in a hurry “Hurry up please its times” – can’t take time to analyze all material again greatest fruits.

Modern moralists recognize the fault in the 20th cent(ury) human but do not give any corrective measures- Philip Wylie, (An) Essay on Morals, Eliot does!

Judging from the tone of the writing, the first note probably comes from the first owner of the book. He is delighted to find the poem resonant with the fast pace of modern life. The second reader responds both to the first reader and the book itself. He cited from a book to argue that the modern writer does give a “corrective measures” to the fault of modern life.  Since this book, Philip Wylie’s An Essay on Moral is published in 1947, the note is definitely made later than that. Over twenty years, the first reader identifies Eliot as a speaking voice for his time and the second reader attempt to read him into a representative moralist figure. Both readers recognize the positive energy Eliot generalizes in a poem seemingly full of despairs. The reverence they give to him seems hard to understand yet the original dust jacket does provide a possible answer.

According to the photos of the original dust jacket I retrieved from New York Public Library Digital Resources, these responses correspond with the advertised value of this book. On the front side of the dust jacket, it presents the book title and a text box illustrating this poem as the 1922 Dial award. The left flap of the jacket contains an introduction of the poem, which praises it as a synthesis of all of Eliot’s early works, and gives a universal voice to addresses the despair and resignation arising from spiritual and economic consequences of the war. Published three years after WWI, the series number “894” can be identified as any individual in the society who tries to understand his life in the wasteland of the culture. And through this design, one sees in this book how a publisher attempts to preserve an author’s aura in the age of mechanical reproduction.

[Posted by Kate Sheely for English 812: Modern Poetry]

HD2Poet H.D. (a.k.a. Hilda Doolittle) published her first novel, Palimpsest, in 1926. It’s an eye-catching object—a bright red jacket with wavy blue lines and an inside hard cover decorated with what appear to be gold Egyptian hieroglyphics, or an artist’s rendition of hieroglyphics. As is indicated on the jacket of the front cover, only 700 initial copies were printed in the expatriate’s home country, the United States, despite her relative success as a modernist poet.

An original copy of Palimpsest, published by Boston’s Houghton-Mifflin Company, can be found in Trinity College’s Watkinson Library in Hartford, Conn., where I viewed it in February 2016. According to the WorldCat research database, as of March 2016, there only 111 of these American editions accounted for in libraries worldwide, with 3 copies available in Connecticut: one at Trinity College, one at Yale University library, and one at the Bridgeport Public Library.

It’s immediately obvious that H.D.’s pen name is gender neutral. What is interesting about Palimpsest is that it preserves the ambiguity of H.D.’s gender identity. “In its snaring of the elusive overtones of life this first venture into the novelist’s field by one of the most distinguished of contemporary poets thrusts forward the established frontiers of prose fiction,” touts the front cover of the book, avoiding any gendered pronouns.

The inside left jacket flap advertises a reprint of Willa Cather’s My Antonia, referring to the author as “Miss Cather.” The back jacket flap describes Godfrey Elton’s The Testament of Dominic Burleigh, referring to the author more than once as “Mr. Elton.” We see no such mention of H.D.

Looking at Palimpsest, it is also interesting to observe the name of the printer: “Printed at Dijon (France) by Maurice Darantiere.” As it turns out, according to the State University of New York, Buffalo (which has a few original documents online), Darantiere also printed modernist writer James Joyce’s Ulysses, which had just been published a few years earlier by Sylvia Beach, owner of the Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company, where modernist poets such as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound spent time. (T.S. Eliot published one of the first review of Ulysses in the October 1922 Vol. 1 of his literary review, The Criterion, which is also available for viewing at the Watkinson Library.)

HD1Describing the muddled web woven among the writers, businesspeople, and lovers is fascinating. Although it’s impossible for me to independently verify every piece of information available online about the printing of Palimpsest without more extensive research of original sources, it’s clear the web was very tangled. Ulysses was initially typed and edited by Robert McAlmon. According to rare book dealer Priscilla Juvelis, Inc., Robert McAlmon is the one who sold to Houghton-Mifflin the rights to print 700 copies of Palimpsest. McAlmon was, for some time (1921-27), the husband of Bryher (a.k.a. Winifred Ellerman), who, according to Poetry Foundation (among others), was H.D.’s lifelong female lover. (H.D. pens a dedication to Bryher at the beginning of Palimpsest. See photo.)

For a bit of local history embedded in Palimpsest, the edition at the Watkinson Library contains a sticker of bookseller Edwin V. Mitchell, who had a store in downtown Hartford at 27 Lewis St., a store which at the time Palimpsest was printed would have been a recently opened business. The Connecticut Historical Society has a digitized collection of scrapbooks put together by local resident Mary Morris, and the June 1920 edition contains photos of Mitchell and information about the opening of his bookstore in 1923 (see page 102 of 189 in the PDF version of the scrapbook).

Mitchell’s friend and business partner, James Thrall Soby, joined as a partner in the bookshop in 1929. His papers were published in the 1970s, and his piece titled 27 Lewis Street is available at the Connecticut Historical Society. It is easy to envision Mitchell purchasing Palimpsest when one reads Soby’s description of Mitchell and the bookstore.

HD3The house in which the shop was located was one of several two-story brick houses built on the short street in the middle of the 19th century. It was a beguiling location in downtown Hartford and doubtless it had been chosen by Edwin Mitchell because it reminded him of places where bookshops were found in London, a city he revered. He stacked new books from the creaky floors to the high ceilings on the ground floor [ . . . ] and, later, a rare book room [ . . . ].

—James Thrall Soby in 27 Lewis Street

 It’s always interesting to find out in what ways local lore plays into any given research project. For me, the most fun aspect of examining H.D.’s first novel was digging up information about the bookshop form whence it came. After viewing Mary Morris’s scrap book newspaper clippings and James Soby’s captivating piece about his time at the Mitchell bookshop with the help of the Connecticut Historical Society, and scoping out the property thanks to the convenience of Google Maps (see screenshot), I will certainly be walking past 27 Lewis Street next time I’m in downtown Hartford and imagining it full of old books one hundred years ago.

 

[Posted by Dr. Scott Gwara, professor of English at the University of South Carolina]

Fig 1Datable to about 1470, manuscript 7 in the Watkinson Library is a “Book of Hours,” a prayer-book widely used by the laity in Europe from about 1300 to 1550. These manuscripts were often illustrated with lavish paintings called “miniatures” or “illuminations.” Nearly all Books of Hours include an “Office of the Dead,” which is recited for deceased loved ones. Because the Office of the Dead has readings from the Book of Job, it also served as a personal reflection on mortality. A miniature in MS 7 reveals this emphasis in the extravagant depiction of a lady speared by Death in the presence of her knight [fig. 1]. Featured in some of the manuscript’s other miniatures, the lady doubtless depicts the book’s original owner. A zombie-like Death aims his dart at her abdomen. Will her demise result from appendicitis? Food poisoning? Or, since she walks in a private garden with her lover, perhaps childbirth?

While popular in the Renaissance, scenes of “Death and the Maiden” are exceptionally rare in Books of Hours. This distinctiveness enabled me to identify the manuscript as one of very few medieval books in antebellum America.

Fig 2The Watkinson manuscript came from the collection of Joseph J. Cooke, a mercantile and real estate tycoon. When Cooke died in 1883, he left $5,000 to each of ten libraries in New England to buy his books at auction. Trinity College bought six manuscripts, including this lovely Book of Hours [Other Cooke manuscripts can be found at Yale, Brown, and the Providence Athenaeum].

Cooke’s manuscript came from the collection of William Menzies, whose library was auctioned in in New York in 1876. A copy of the auction catalogue at Harvard records Cooke’s name as the buyer and the price he paid: $80. The catalogue quotes a certain “Rev. W. Bacon Stevens”: “it contains thirteen miniatures of grouped figures, one of which represents a lady, with a gaily attired knight, while Death in the form of a skeleton steals up from behind, and transfixes her with his dart.” This statement yields a clue to an even earlier owner.

Originally from Maine, William Bacon Stevens practiced medicine in Savannah from about 1838. There he met Alexander Augustus Smets (1769-1862), one of the wealthiest men in Georgia … and a voracious bibliophile. [Alexander Augustus Smets, from an engraving published in De Bow’s Review (1852): “[His library] has a reputation wide as the country, and scarcely a scholar or distinguished personage visits Savannah without seeking it out and feasting upon its contents.”] Fig 4Smets’ library of 5,000 books included twelve “ancient manuscripts,” one of them “Death and the Maiden.” In 1841 Stevens contributed an essay called, “The Library of Alexander A. Smets, Esq., Savannah” to the Magnolia, a Savannah monthly. He praised Smets’ library as “rich in ancient manuscripts,” writing the text cited above in the Menzies catalogue (“it contains thirteen miniatures of grouped figures,” etc.).

As far as I can determine, Smets was only the third person in America to collect medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. Some of his medieval books survive at the New York Public Library, Indiana University, and Yale. One belongs to the Earl of Crawford in Scotland. Even more significantly, as Stevens’ article got re-published in newspapers, journals, and magazines, Smets’ manuscripts became the best known antebellum collection in North America, praised in Leipzig, Boston, New York, New Orleans, and London. Some of these reports express surprise that European patrimony had fallen into the hands of an American.

Fig 7Smets’ manuscripts were auctioned in New York in 1868. Menzies probably bought “Death and the Maiden” at the sale. At that time the manuscript would have had Smets’ teensy autograph, “A. A. Smets Savannah” plus a date of acquisition. But the manuscript was re-bound, and the new binding explains why this Book of Hours has never before been associated with Smets. At the time, it was common even for the original bindings of medieval manuscripts to be replaced. Luckily, this manuscript did not have an original binding, and the new one by William Matthews is a bona fide treasure. Matthews was the leading binder in New York, and the first American genius of “bibliopegy”—the art of bookbinding.

It’s always satisfying to uncover the provenance of medieval manuscripts, and it doesn’t get any better than this. Watkinson MS 7 not only represents the best of antebellum collecting in America but also conveys the afterlife of medieval books in second-, third-, and fourth-generation ownership.

9
Jun

The Courant in the late 18thC

   Posted by: rring   in Americana, Classes

[Posted by Sarah Mowery for AMST 838: America Collects Itself, from Colony to Empire]
We are reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale in AMST-803 (Historiography). In Ulrich’s work I have found inspiration for this post; not from the book’s content, but rather in Ulrich’s methodology. Ulrich’s primary source was a diary kept by Martha Ballard, an active midwife, between 1785 and 1812. Ballard’s daily entries were succinct and to the point, simply stating weather, visitors, housework performed and midwifery calls.  There was not enough meat on the bones to retell a full story, and for years the diary was overlooked by historians who concluded it was noteworthy but too limited.  Ulrich overcame this obstacle by looking to other sources to link the activities of a local midwife with other local happenings in the town of Hallowell, Maine and in doing so she was able to tell not just the tale of one local midwife, but to develop a picture of the larger community.
And so I turned to newspapers for this project, wondering what tidbits I might find of pre-Revolutionary life in America.  At the Watkinson I found a folio containing editions of the Connecticut Courant between January 4, 1774 and May 31, 1774.  The Courant was the third newspaper to be printed in Connecticut.  It was preceded by the Connecticut Gazette printed by James Parker in New Haven beginning in 1755 and the New-London Summary, or The Weekly Advertiser, first printed in August 1758 by Timothy Green.
The Courant was founded by Thomas Green, a relation of the aforementioned Timothy.  With printing in his blood, in 1757 Thomas turned to the Gazette’s office in New Haven for training under John Holt, the manager of Parker’s publication.  In 1760 he assumed managerial responsibilities for the Gazette and in 1764 he opened his own shop in Hartford to begin publication of the Courant.  In a history of Connecticut Newspapers in the Eighteenth Century prepared for the Tercentenary Commission of the State of Connecticut, Jarvis Means Morse described Thomas as “not as bold an editor as his contemporaries in New Haven and New London.”  Morse notes that Thomas’ publication stayed away from controversy and editorial commentary.  This approach changed in 1770 when management of the Courant was assumed by Ebenezer Watson.  Mr. Watson was the publisher of the editions of the Courant I examined for this post and based upon my readings he does not appear to have shied away from relaying news of Revolutionary America.As I turned the well-worn folio cover of Watson’s publication I was transported to New York, December 17, 1773.Detestable Tea. No. 471; Tuesday, December 28, 1773 – Tuesday, January 4, 1774. The Boston Tea Party occurred on December 16, 1773.  This edition of the newspaper was therefore published just days following that momentous event.   The front page is filled with the happenings of Boston and contains articles originally printed in both New York and Boston on 12/17/1773. New York’s response to the Tea Party opens Connecticut’s new year.  By advertisement distributed throughout New York on December 16, 1773, citizens of the City were called to action by the Members of the Association of the Sons of Liberty.  A meeting was to be held “to morrow, (being Friday) on Business of the utmost Importance: — and every Friend to the Liberties and Trade of America, are hereby most cordially invited, to meet at the same Time and Place.”Mowrey1The subsequent article describes the proceedings of the December 17, 1773 meeting.  Despite bad weather a “respectable number of citizens” attended the meeting at City Hall.  John Lamb, a member of the Association addressed those gathered, reading aloud letters from Boston’s and Philadelphia’s Committees of Correspondence, relaying the happenings in Boston “relative to the Importation of the East India Company’s Tea.”   Following the reading, a “Committee of Fifteen Gentlemen was chosen to answer those Letters, and to correspond with our Sister Colonies on the subject of the dutied Teas.”   This was followed by a message from the governor read by the mayor of New York declaring that one of the six ships carrying the “detestable tea” would be offloaded in New York.  The mayor asked the attendees if they consented to such and the crowd responded with a “general No, No, No.” It was then resolved that “this Body highly approve of that spirited and patriotic Conduct of our Brethren, of the City of Philadelphia, and the Town of Boston, in Support of the common Liberties of America.”  New York would stand in solidarity with Boston.

Of interest to note is that the ship bound for New York was “by an Act of God, fast on Shore, on the Back of Cape Cod.” Severe weather delayed the ship’s arrival and open revolt prevented its docking; it shrunk back to the land of its colonial overlord.

But the Boston Tea Party and the colonies’ responses are well documented and well studied.  While it was fascinating to stumble upon this account what I was really hoping to find were the tidbits of local life in Connecticut.  In turning the page I found just that.

Lost and Found: 12/28/1773: Mr. David Riley of Wethersfield placed an ad warning his creditors that his wife had “without any reason or cause eloped and willfully deserted [his] house” and that the public be warned – she should not be given credit upon his good name.  In a quick online genealogical search, I found reference to a Sarah Goodrich, born July 28, 1743 in Wethersfield, “poss. the Sarah Goodrich who m. David Riley May 17, 1773 at Rocky Hill.” Could this be the same Sarah and David and if so, what could have caused Sarah to run off just seven months into their marriage?

1/4/1774: Similarly, Ichabod Wadsworth offered a reward of six pence for the return of his “servant boy named George White” who had run away.  Mr. Wadsworth provided quite a detailed description of the runaway youth.  George was still missing as of the following publication.

1/31/1774: Poor Mr.  Jonah Gillet of Windsor was hopeful that his “stray’d” two year old HEIFER would make its way back home. A “handsome” reward was offered for its safe return.

4/18/1774: A “Negro Man about 26 years of age” reportedly ran away from Elihu Hyde.  Reward: $7. A sad commentary of the definition of property in 1774.

The Poet’s Corner offered a lovely piece written by “Maria” entitled Winter.   A sampling follows:  “The herbs and flow’rs that deck’d the field / Are winter’d all, and left; / The streams and Brooksto ice congeal’d / Are chain’d by Winter’s frost. / But nature changes all combine / To prove their Author’s hand divine.”

Job Opportunities. A blacksmith sought a “LAD, about 14 years of age” to apprentice. Asher Bull of New Hartford sought to hire three journeymen, joiners by trade.

For Sale. Ames’s Almanack for 1774 to be sold at the Printing Office.  (A 1762 edition of Ame’s Almanack is part of the Watkinson collection.)

Fighting Words. 3/8/1774 – “Four Millions of free Americans signed on to A new Creed, founded on immutable TRUTH.  We most solemnly DECLARE, that we sincerely believe the Parliaments or General Assemblies of North-America, have no more right…to tax the people of Great-Britain, than the Parliament of Great-Britain have to tax the people of America.”

4/8/1774 – New Haven”  “To complete the ruin of this island, we have a stamp-act, which has just taken place, and is perhaps the most oppressive order ever imposed, even in in oppressive governments.”

Letters to the Editor. 3/10/1774 – From Mr. Aaron Horsford of Wetherfield: “Mr Watson, please to insert the following in your next…I observ’d in your paper No. 480, a very ill-natur’d piece…”

It should be noted that for the most part, the “national” news offerings of local newspapers – such as the accounts of the Boston Tea Party relayed above – were simply articles reprinted from their original publications.  Jarvis notes that any local news was very limited.  But I found glints of local history in each of the last two pages of the Courant.  Much like Ulrich looked to Ballard’s diary, here we can look to the advertisements placed by local subscribers.  These ads very much add meat to the bones of local history and give us a taste of life in Hartford in 1774.

One final note is of an ad I came across in the edition covering the week of February 15, 1774 which is on topic for our class America Collects Itself.  Here we have an ad placed by Benjamin Trumbull of New Haven offering a “reward” of three dollars for a publication printed in New Haven in 1656.

Mowrey2

12
Mar

Modern Medicine of 19th Century America

   Posted by: rring   in Americana, Classes, Students

[Posted by Meghan Crandall for AMST 838: America Collects Itself, from Colony to Empire]

medicalcoverThe Family Doctor: A Counsellor in Sickness, Pain and Distress, for Childhood, Manhood and Old Age by Professor Henry S. Taylor, was published in 1869.

Looking through the Watkinson for books on medicine at first seemed like an easy enough task, but when you search for ‘medicine’ you come up with 652 pieces. It was Taylor’s plan which drew me to this text–to be honest, speak in simple terms and use common sense in respect to medicine in the 19th century. “We are sure that without health we can neither enjoy happiness nor discharge the duties which devolve upon us; and we know also that, if we would enjoy a healthy old age, we must exercise the care and prudence of the old while we are yet young”.  It is clear that the author asks his readers to think highly of their health. It is intended as a guide to understanding and preventing illness.

Family medicine is based on knowledge of the patient and patient’s family, and in some cases even the community. The goal of Family Medicine is to provide personal, comprehensive, and continuing care for the individual patient, family and community.  I can’t remember having seen a recent book published that offers this kind of knowledge without using medical terminology. Instead we get sites like webMD.com; medical-dictionary.com, and medicinenet.com; which if you’ve ever been on any of these sites you find you have most of the symptoms listed; thus you are extremely sick, and the language used is not plain. “Our plan is with all honesty, simplicity and common sense, to guard our friends against what is prejudicial to health, and then to tell them what to do when disease visits them.”

While The Family Doctor may be out of date by modern standards it still offers great advice. “We regard Tobacco as one of the greatest enemies of the human family, and indeed of all life.” Clearly in 1869 and even before they knew the problems with tobacco, and the medical establishment is still fighting to stop tobacco use. Taylor states that “Nicotine was the awful agent chosen by Bocarme for poisoning his brother-in-law, because it killed and left no sign whereby to convict him.”

AMST 8380004The book covers topics such as The Sick Room, Diseases of Children, Diseases of Men and Women, Wounds, Accidents and Minor Diseases, and Diseases of Women. The Sick Room is placed in the upper part of the house because diseases proved more fatal in the lower levels, such as kitchens or cellars. It should be well-ventilated and the fewer people allowed in the room the better. These requirements are not much different than current standards of care. What is most interesting is the book’s in-depth descriptions of diseases such as Whooping Cough, Croup, Teething, Thrush, Cholera Infantum, Colic, Hickups, Diarrhea, Constipation, Vomiting, Worms, Rickets, Scalled Head, Ringworm, Rose Rash (False Measles), Chicken Pox , Small Pox, and many more. While we may not see hiccups as a disease it was depicted as a spasmodic affliction of the diaphragm, and perhaps the stomach.  The suggested cure was to have the patient in bed drinking cool drinks with the administration of sweet spirits or white-wine whey, or a teaspoonful of vinegar as often as needed.

Among the work’s precepts were “Good morals preserve good health”, “Good ventilation and good drainage are the first importance to health”, “Air is to the lungs what food is to the body; therefore, breathe all the fresh air you can”, “Laugh and grow fat is a good adage; cheerfulness begets health and health begets cheerfulness; and both, thankfulness for God’s mercies”, this piece of advice is not so different than what we use today “Live, Laugh, Love” is a common quote, and “To be angry is to be contemptible; it destroys self-respect and digestion”.

Though the book was printed in 1869 it still discusses many things of concern to public health officials, and describes diseases in the mainstream 19th century and family health before the family doctor became commonplace. Linking The Family Doctor to similar books within the library is a simple task. Right Living by Charles E. Rosenberg written in 2003 writes of similar topics as The Family Doctor. Both these books note the existence of disease and treatment, but in different times; thus allowing readers to see the progression of medicine in America.

12
Mar

Some Chinese Ghosts

   Posted by: rring   in Americana, Classes, Students

[Posted by Mariah West for AMST 838: America Collects Itself, from Colony to Empire]

Hearn coverOriginally, in delving into the depths of the Watkinson search engine, I found this book purely through my own personal whimsy. I was searching through the subject of mythology and this unassuming book appeared—but what a title! When I held this well-loved and well-worn book in my hands, I was charmed by its stained and dulled cover and its inscription from the original owner—Daisy Foster. Nothing about this book was personalized beyond that—no annotations, no folded pages. Nothing but an index card, apparently from a book dealer from whom it was purchased guaranteeing a good price based on recent auctions. For approximately $35 this book was purchased by Dr. Jerome P. Webster, who donated his collection of Far Eastern and Maritime books to the Watkinson in 1910. Why this was such a good deal became apparent when searching for the origins of this edition—in some sort of disorganized confusion, the publishers believed that Lafcadio Hearn disliked the mustard yellow cover and wanted it reprinted. They chose to burn the majority of this printing, but several copies escaped, including this copy filed away in the belly of the Watkinson!

Hearn tpAt first I was hesitant in reading this book. I thought that I would be disappointed in the treatment of the legends and the myths of China—especially ones that were translated at the height of exoticism and anti-Chinese sentiments in the United States. I was pleasantly surprised to find the contents to be lovingly and respectfully presented with great care to maintain their origins. I suspect that a great deal of this care comes from Lafcadio Hearn’s own background of isolation, abandonment, and disrespect as well as his great enjoyment of the different and unknown.

This book contains six legends formatted into a short story. There is “The Soul of the Great Bell,” “The Story of Ming-Y,” “The Legend of Tchi-Niu,” “The Return of Yen-Tchin-King,” “The Tradition of the Tea-Plant,” and “The Tale of the Porcelain-God.” Each story features important explanations of traditional Chinese morality and duties portrayed with florid and picturesque language. While the majority of the stories do have a horrific and violent end, much like the tradition of the Grimm Brother’s European fairy tales, the reader cannot help but become swept up in the fantastical descriptions that Hearn paints for her. Each story conveys the importance and the interest in material goods that was a part of dynastic China—nothing is regarded higher than artistry and the self-sacrifice that is pursued within these stories.

With “The Soul of the Great Bell,” we follow the journey of an artist and his daughter who have been ordered by the Emperor, a demi-god, to make the grandest bell in the history of China. The artist will always fail at his goal, the daughter soon learns, until his bell is forged with the sacrificial blood of a virgin. Upon the threat of her father’s death, the daughter throws herself into his forge and becomes immortalized through the bell due to her filial piety.

In “The Story of Ming-Y,” we follow the trials and tribulations of the young and brilliant Ming-Y as he finds a job as a tutor with a wealthy family and meets a beautiful woman. Ming-Y and the woman, Sië, fall madly in love and pursue a secret affair. Shortly Ming-Y is discovered through his exhaustion that he has been spending nights away from where he is supposed to be. Both his father and his employer are incredibly concerned and confront him, and force Ming-Y to introduce them to Sië. When Ming-Y attempts to bring them to her home where they had been meeting, they find nothing but a tomb.

“The Legend of Tchi-Niu” follows a poor but pious man named Tong-yong who was orphaned at an early age. In order to have his father buried properly he sold himself into slavery. While his life as a slave was miserable, Tong-yong maintained his ancestors’ graves as was required and spent much time practicing his family worship. Eventually, Tong-yong met an incredible woman who promised to provide. As time went on, she was able to buy Tong-yong’s freedom and secure a house and land for him to farm through her amazing skills with silk weaving. Once his freedom was secured, they had a child who was the most gifted and brilliant child ever seen. One night, his wife came to Tong-yong and told him she must leave them. She was a goddess sent by the Master of Heaven to reward him for his dedication to filial piety.

“The Return of Yen-Tchin-King” follows the illustrious heroics of the Supreme Judge from one of the Six August Tribunals who was commanded by the Emperor, the Son of Heaven, to control a revolt. Yen-Tchin-King was so loyal to the Emperor and the Master of Heaven that he could not be swayed into betraying his master’s even at the threat of his own life. When the rebels executed him, he passed on to serve the Master of Heaven who rewarded his greatness, wisdom, and virtue with a corpse that would never corrupt of decay and would become an emblem of justice for the future generations.

“The Tradition of the Tea-Plant” follows the painful but moral story of the origin of the tea plant—something obviously important to the social and traditional customs of China. A young ascetic monk finds distraction and temptation within a beautiful young woman. Beauty this corporal world is so fleeting and illusionistic that is should not draw the monk away from his spiritual journey. But alas—he cannot return to his meditation. In a final attempt to seek enlightenment while ignoring his desires he slices off his eyelids and throws them to the ground. From his sacrifice grows the sacred tea-leaf, forever mimicking their original form.

Finally, “The Tale of the Porcelain-God,” which is by far my most favored of these legends. While very similar to “The Soul of the Great Bell,” this story follows the grand tradition of porcelain and vase-making within the dynastic periods of China’s history. Once a great potter was so revered and respected for his talent that the Emperor of China called upon him to produce a vase that resembled human flesh. Try as he could, the potter created the most beautiful vases, but not one could compare to human flesh. In his despair over the Emperor’s disappointment and threatening advances against the artist’s life, he contacted and begged the Porcelain-God who resided within his kiln. A deal was made to produce a vase that resembled human flesh, something that could only be achieved when the vase itself contained the spirit of a human. In his final attempt, the potter made the most wondrous vase, painted it with care, and threw himself into the fire with his last piece. When the fires died down and the vase was removed from the kiln, it was like no other—appearing to breath and with the sumptuous undertones of flowing blood. The artist would live forever contained within his most prized work.

This book also contains a glossary of Chinese words which have not been translated into English for the fear of mistranslation and the desire to maintain authenticity within the stories. This glossary is, at least to me, a very impressive inclusion to a book from the 1880s, although it probably had much to do with the popular exoticism and orientalism of aesthetic practices during the 18th and 19th centuries.