Our Fall 2017 Creative Fellow is Soe Han Tha ’18.

Following her intuition since she emigrated from Myanmar to California at the age of 10, Soe Han (an Economics and International Studies double major, with a Chinese minor), “draws energy from both the beautiful and ugly aspects of life.” She “strives to use art to express human complexity and simplicity.” Tango tantalizes her, mosques move her, and Lisbon lingers in her heart wherever she goes to explore. She will explore all the things that the Watkinson holds, and by the end of the semester, her collection of poems will be a testament of her adventures with Watkinson treasures.

 

The Watkinson is extrememly pleased to announce the donation of a fine and extensive private collection of science fiction novels and pulp magazines, acquired over the course of sixty years, given by Lofty Becker of West Hartford, CT, a professor (emeritus) at the University of Connecticut specializing in constitutional and criminal law.

Here are a couple of high-spots of the collection, to whet your appetite (see the end of this post for further pics of covers, etc.):

In 1953, Ballantine released a limited edition run of Ray Bradbury’s book-burning novel Fahrenheit 451 that might survive a visit from the firemen. Two hundred numbered and signed copies of the book (ours is number 46) were bound in Johns-Manville Quinterra, a chrysolite asbestos material. The copies are much sought after by collectors.

Another jewel of the collection is the original typescript of Philip K. Dick’s Eye in the Sky, along with a copy of its first edition (Ace paperback) issued in 1957! Also, the final galley proofs for Isaac Asimov’s 1957 (Doubleday) collection of short stories under the title Earth is Room Enough.

Thousands of other volumes are in the collection, from Asimov to Zelazny, as well as issues of early pulp magazines!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following is a history of the formation of this collection in the words of its compiler, Loftus (Lofty) E. Becker, Jr.:

I started reading fantasy and science fiction in May 1954. I was 9 years old and home sick from school. After I had finished “The Count of Monte Cristo” my mother brought three issues – April, May, and June – of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction to my bed. (Those days cover dates on magazines were when they were removed from newsstands, so the June issue had been on sale since early May.) I read Robert Heinlein’s “Star Lummox” (published in book form as The Star Beast) and was hooked. Before I went back to school I’d read everything in those three issues.

My father – Loftus Sr. – had long been reading fantasy, and some science fiction. Every month he brought The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction home from a newsstand. That didn’t give me enough to read, and when I ran out of science fiction in the children’s library section my parents got permission for me to take out “adult” books. In addition, our family excursions most weeks were to Estate Book Sales in Washington, D.C. – the only secondhand bookstore open on Sundays. My father would take his children along and pay for any books we wanted to buy. I got a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars) there.

I was particularly taken with Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, Clifford Simak, and Hal Clement, but I’d read anything I could find and buy anything I could afford. Mostly that meant Astounding and Galaxy magazines at newsstands. When we moved to Long Island in 1956, my allowance was higher and I started taking the train into New York City every weekend to browse the many secondhand bookstores on 4th Avenue below 14th St. I also began visiting Gnome Press’s headquarters on 11th Street. Marty Greenberg, the publisher, would sell me Gnome books for a dollar, and I got quite a few.

When we moved back to Washington, D.C. in 1957, I discovered the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA), an active fan club with monthly meetings. I was able to buy a few books and magazines from members there – I got 30 of the first 31 Astoundings for $30 from one man who was running out of space, and a number of Arkham House books from Robert Madle – who is still alive and selling secondhand science fiction by mail order at the age of 97.

In addition, I discovered that 9th Street N.W. had three secondhand bookstores with reasonably good science fiction collections. One – George Friend’s – had a large collection of remainders available for $1 and accessible only by climbing a tall ladder. No bookstore these days would let a 13-year-old climb that high up, but George let me and I got quite a few books from him. I also discovered a store on Staten Island that would let me place a standing order for every science fiction paperback published. At the start that meant 10-15 a month. I kept it up through college, but not long after that the bookstore went out of business.

My father was smart enough not to buy “The Lord of the Rings” until all three volumes were out. That meant we didn’t suffer the agony of waiting for two years to find out what happened to Frodo, captured by orcs at the end of the second volume. The problem was that Papa had priority, so I could read them only when he wasn’t home and I wasn’t at school, so I had several 20-hour agonies of suspense. Reading them turned me into a Tolkien enthusiast. I even started making my own index of the books (which Tolkien told me not to publish since he was doing his own). My mother got unbound sheets of The Silmarillion and bound a copy in leather for me. That’s the one book I’m holding back from the gift (there is another copy, not leather bound, in the collection).

Thanks to WSFA, I also was able to go several of the annual science fiction conventions – Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Los Angeles. At the first I won a copy of H.P. Lovecraft’s Beyond the Wall of Sleep in a lottery. It was second prize; first prize was The Outsider and Others, which went to a friend. I later bought it from him for $100. At others I bought a Phillip K. Dick typescript, and some original illustrations, at auction. I was also able to meet many of the authors and editors I admired – Heinlein (very gracious to a young admirer), Asimov, de Camp, Robert Silverberg, and some others. I even had an hour’s conversation with Anthony Boucher (bought at auction) – in which he turned me into an enthusiast of Wagner’s Ring cycle.

My parents moved to Paris in 1959, but I stayed in D.C., which meant I had to get my own subscription to Fantasy and Science Fiction. I’ve one had ever since. (I could have bought a lifetime subscription for $100, but sadly didn’t.) When I went to college (1961) and law school (1966) I was in towns with fewer good sources of secondhand books but kept looking.

My mother moved to Havertown, Pennsylvania, in a house that finally had space for all my books and magazines on shelves. Alas, part of that space was in the basement, which flooded. My mother was a professional bookbinder and was able to salvage many. Still, I lost a lot of paperbacks (the covers stick together when wetted), and the first few issues of Amazing Stories.

After graduating law school and starting work, I had less time to read and the bookstores were drying up (the 9th Street bookstores in D.C. were all gone). I still kept prowling what I could find, filling in the Arkham House collection (I paid $150 for Out of Space and Time, the hardest to find) and sometimes finding better copies – generally copies with dustjackets to replace books my father had bought. I never did find a decent American copy of Heinlein’s Starman Jones. For a while I subscribed to Easton Press’s series of leatherbound signed editions but either my tastes or theirs changed and I finally dropped it.

I’ve bought very little since about 2000. I’ve kept up my subscription to Fantasy and Science Fiction, but dropped Analog (formerly Astounding) a few years ago.

(Loftus E. Becker, Jr.)

Just acquired!

A long, literary letter from John Trumbull (1750-1831) to Sarah “Sally” Lloyd (1753-1779), the leader of a small poetry club in Stamford, CT.

Trumbull, the eldest member of the Hartford Wits, was a precocious lad of 7 when he passed the Yale entrance exam (he did not enter until he was 13); he is 22 when he writes Miss Lloyd at length about poetry, relations between the sexes, and the art of writing.

Sally Lloyd was 19 at the time, of Long Island’s prominent Lloyd’s Neck family…she would later become the first wife of James Hillhouse (1754-1832), a graduate of Yale (1773), lawyer, Revlutionary War militiaman, and U. S. Senator. She witnessed the British attack on New Haven (1779), and died in childbirth at the age of 26.

Trumbull is best known as the author of M’Fingal, a famous mock-epic poem of about 1,500 lines on the American Revolution, published in 1782.

Just acquired! A sweet bit of local history….

An early 18thC manuscript sermon by Rev. Simon Backus (1701-1746), who 20 years later died serving as Chaplain to 350 Connecticut troops on the expediton to Louisburg, Cape Breton.

Backus was brother-in-law to Jonathan Edwards (he was married to Eunice Edwards (1706-1778)), and also a graduate of Yale College (1724).

The second minister to be assigned to Newington, CT, he preached this sermon on September 11, 1726, 18 days after the parish voted to hire him full-time (albeit at a meagre salary).

The sermon proper begins on p. 5, comprises 15 pages, and is on the doctrine “That Pofessors of Christianity are Eminently obliged to a Life of Holiness and Piety.”

17
Nov

An almanac bonanza!

   Posted by: rring   in Americana, book history, New acquisition, Uncategorized

This collection just came in from an anonymous donor, who has single-handedly DOUBLED our holdings of this important genre of American print culture. Our collection, which spans 300 years of American history (1675-1975), will be an important source for the study of many aspects of American culture. The almanac was one of the most ubiquitous printed items in America for over two centuries, reaching a larger readership than any other secular publication.

This new gift comprises nearly 2,000 almanacs from 1750-1970, and were mostly issued in the Middle Atlantic and New England states, with a smattering from Southern and Midwestern states. A great variety of topics are represented: farming and agriculture, cookery, comic material, medicine and remedies, newspapers, magazines, publishers, politics, religion and social movements. Many are illustrated.

Most of this collection was formed over the course of 50 years by a private collector, William Pennybacker of Hotboro, PA, whose manuscript inventory came with the collection. Pennybacker sold this collection to the donor in the mid-1980s, and it has been in storage for over 30 years, until now! It will take some time to process fully, but we are hoping to make it available as soon as possible.

14
Nov

Ben Barber sees his papers

   Posted by: prawson   in Alumni, Manuscript collections, News

The Watkinson library has completed processing the Ben Barber papers. Ben Barber ’64 enjoyed a lengthy career as freelance foreign correspondent from the 1970’s to today. His articles have appeared in The Washington Times, USA Today, Christian Science Monitor and the Huffington Post, among others. He worked as a senior writer for the U.S. Agency International Development (2002-2010) reporting on and photographing aid projects in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.  Ben is the author of Groundtruth: work, play and conflict in the Third World, published in 2014. Over the years Barber worked as an adjunct international communications professor at George Mason University and Georgetown University and taught media seminars to journalists in Africa.

The  papers consist of story proposals, journalism and poetry notebooks, and news service copy; correspondence between Barber, fellow journalists, editors and friends; photographs that accompany his work as a journalist and senior editor for USAID; and personal papers from his time as a student and professor. Throughout his career as a journalist Barber focused on social injustice, economic policy and conflict in developing countries and beyond.

The Watkinson Library encourages researchers to visit the library and view the papers.  For further information contact Peter Rawson, Associate Curator of Archives and Manuscript Collections.

860-297-2269.  peter.rawson@trincoll.edu

Ben Barber reviews his papers in the Archives Room, Watkinson Library during Homecoming.
28
Sep

Rare French & Indian War map

   Posted by: rring   in Uncategorized

Rediscovering the amazing things we hold in the Watkinson in the course of our daily work is one of the best parts of the job.

Associate Curator Sally Dickinson, who specializes in cataloging and preservation, has been methodically removing oversize maps from flat files that are too small to hold them unfolded, in preparation for storing them in a custom-made metal case with drawers big enough to hold them flat.

Of the several eye-catching maps that have been literally unfolding before our eyes, this one presented a bit of a mystery. We could not initially find a reference to it, but after asking a few specialists in the field we can say that it is a “pirated” map, dated ca. 1758/59, and one of only three copies of this particular issue in a library (the others are at the Boston Public Library and the Library of Congress).

Based on Bowen & Gibson’s wall map of 1755, maps such as this one were produced to make political statements, depicting various claims cartographically–locating forts which should not have been erected, “correcting” boundaries that were “misrepresented” in other maps, and pointing out when and where violations of treaties and sales with the Five Nations occurred, etc.

 
Library of Congress copy:
https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3300.ct007430/
Boston Public copy:
https://collections.leventhalmap.org/search/commonwealth:z603vt37q

 

Just acquired for the College Archives from an online estate auction in Pueblo, Colorado–a postcard photo of the 1891 Trinity football team! For those who want to know who is pictured, there is a team photo with names in the 1892 IVY (opposite page 100), which can be found online here, or you can visit the Watkinson to see a physical copy!

24
Aug

How cool is this??

   Posted by: rring   in Americana, College Archives, Trinitiana

Just (re)discovered by archivist Peter Rawson–the flag flown over the College during the Civil War, given back to the College by the great historian Samuel Eliot Morison (1887-1976), whose grandfather, Samuel Eliot (1821-1898) was professor of history and political science (1856-1874) and president of Trinity from 1860-64.

[This post was contributed by Richard Mammana, archivist for the Living Church Foundation, founder and director of Project Canterbury, and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences]

The Watkinson Library at Trinity College recently acquired the intact personal library of Charles Hayden Proctor (January 11, 1850-June 25, 1890). Proctor was a Trinity alumnus (B.A. 1873) who had been graduated from the Episcopal Academy at Cheshire in 1869. He went on to receive his M.A. at Berkeley Divinity School (then in Middletown) in 1876. He was ordained to the diaconate in the Episcopal Church in 1876 by the Bishop of Connecticut, and then to the priesthood in 1877. Proctor had a relatively brief career in the church, dying at 40 after serving in a handful of cures: as a lay missionary in the Naugatuck River Valley; as the founding rector of St. James Church, New Bedford, Massachusetts (1878-1885); at Trinity Church, Pottsville, Pennsylvania (1885-1888); and finally as the third dean of Trinity Cathedral in Little Rock, Arkansas (1888-1890).

Proctor’s significance in Trinity history comes from his authorship of The Life of James Williams, Better Known as Professor Jim, for Half a Century Janitor of Trinity College (Hartford: Case, Lockwood and Brainard, 1873), a 79-page biography of the beloved “professor of dust and ashes” of the title—an African American who lived from c.1790 to 1878.

Williams was born to a free American father of African ancestry and a Creole mother in New York. He served as a seaman in the War of 1812, and had arrived in Hartford by 1821 when he was working at the City Hotel. Williams’s association with Trinity began as his domestic service in the household of the college’s founding president Bishop Thomas Church Brownell (1779-1865). As Professor Jim—by then “general factotum” of the college—he made farewell remarks to each graduating class from 1830 to 1874, receiving a gift of money or a valuable object each year, and then serving glasses of punch to the class. (It is from Professor Jim’s use of a lemon squeezer in preparing the punch that the elaborate Trinity traditions about fruit presses have emerged.) Trinity students took up a collection to buy Professor Jim a turkey each year at Christmas for four decades.

Proctor’s Life of James Williams was published by the foremost commercial press in Connecticut at the time, and its wide reach is attested by its presence in the private library of Mark Twain as well as a wide variety of public and academic collections still today.

Proctor’s library is significant in its own right because of its former owner’s work in chronicling an important chapter in Trinity College history. It is also notable for having remained undisturbed in the Proctor family home in Derby for more than 125 years since Proctor died in 1890. The ca. 400 volumes—most with their original owner’s bookplate—provide a fascinating look at the intellectual world of a late nineteenth-century Episcopal priest.

CURATOR’S NOTE: I would like to thank Dan and Denis (of John Bale Books in Waterbury, CT) for alerting me of the existence of this collection and working very hard to deliver it to Trinity College intact. Good booksellers make good libraries!