Archive for December, 2011

This book came in with a few others from a donor who has given us many items (books and ephemera) on “road travel,” much of it published prior to the creation of the interstate highway system after World War II.  This is an exception, and I almost missed the fact that it was written by Julian May, a prolific writer of science fiction.

Minimal searching led me to discover that Julian May (born in 1931, and still writing) wrote more than 250 books for children and young adults from 1956-1981, including at least nine (9) of them in this “Popular Mechanics Career Book” series.  The title on Automobiles shown here was published in 1961.  Others she wrote were on Atomic Energy (1957), Chemistry (1957), Electronics (1957), Geology (1958), Rockets (1958), Jet Aircraft (1959), Marine Science (1959), and Astronautics (1961).

This book is a mix of fiction and fact in doses I have not seen before.  According to the back of the book, the series “is aimed at introducing boys and girls to science careers.  These books are the product of careful research, but they are much more than a compilation of scientific information.  Through each book runs an exciting story which features Randy Morrow, his younger brother Sam and their friends.  As the fiction line unfolds, the boys and girls discover the wonderful world of science and learn of the career possibilities in various fields of science.”

It is heavily illustrated with technical drawings.  Here’s an interesting bit of “meta” writing in the story (clearly the author is speaking through her character), which takes place at a drag race:

Sam looked at his father curiously.  “You seem to know an awful lot about hot rodding all of a sudden, Dad.  Don’t tell me you’re going to write a book about that!”

Mr. Morrow took out his pipe and started to pack it with tobacco.  He winked at Sam.  “I’m a professional writer, Sam.  And I take my inspiration where I find it.  Hot rodding is one of the most popular hobbies for young men–and it leads a lot of them into careers in the automotive industry.  I don’t think I’ll write a book on hot rods–but I have been thinking seriously about about some magazine articles on automotive careers.

“Although the Snow Birds live in little families, consisting of twenty, thirty, or more individuals, they seem always inclined to keep up a certain degree of etiquette among themselves, and will not suffer one of their kind, or indeed any other bird, to come into immediate contact with them.  To prevent intrusions of this kind, when a stranger comes too near, their little bills are instantly opened, their wings are extended, their eyes are seen to sparkle, and they emit a repelling sound peculiar to themselves on such occasions.”

[. . .] “I have seen the Snow Birds far up the Arkansas, and in the province of Maine, as well as on our Upper Lakes.  I have been told of their congregating so as to form large flocks of a thousand individuals, but have never seen so many together.  Their flesh is extremely delicate and juicy, and on this account small strings of them are frequently seen in the New Orleans market, during the short period of their sojourn [early November to the beginning of spring] in that district.”


History Day seminar at the Watkinson

   Posted by: rring    in Classes, Events

On December 7th we hosted a History Day seminar for eighteen 8th-graders from Renzulli Academy in Hartford.  The theme this year for History Day in Connecticut is “Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History.”  In the first part of the workshop I brought out one (1) primary resource held by the Watkinson related to the following revolutions in history:

The Glorious Revolution (1688)

A 1689 pamphlet attributed to Daniel Defoe titled Reflections upon the late great revolution, about the Glorious Revolution (1688), when James II of England was overthrown by William of Orange (backed by a Dutch fleet), who becomes William II of England; James was tolerant of Catholics (which was unpopular) and had just had a son, which disrupted the line of succession (William’s wife Mary, a Protestant, had been the heir presumptive).  The new heir threatened England with a Catholic dynasty.  Members of the opposition in Parliament invited William to invade, and with that support the revolution was won with only a few minor battles and little bloodshed.

(American Revolution, 1776)

Issue 2 of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis (1776), one of a series of pamphlets published from 1776 to 1783 during the American Revolution. The first part was written during Washington’s retreat across the Delaware and by his order was read to his dispirited and suffering soldiers. The opening sentence was adopted as the watchword of the movement to Trenton: “These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

(French Revolution, 1789)

Historical and critical memoirs of the general revolution in France by an Irish nobleman (Sir John Talbot Dillon), published in 1790, is interesting not only as a collection of original documents, but as giving the views of a contemporary while the revolution was yet in its first stage.  Dillon was an ardent advocate of religious liberty, and an uncompromising enemy of intolerance in every shape. He was a firm believer in the moderation of the revolution. With all his enthusiasm for liberty, however, he was not disposed to extend it to African slaves in the West Indies. ‘God forbid,’ he says, ‘I should be an advocate for slavery as a system;’ but in their particular case he regarded it as a necessary evil, and believed that upon the whole they were far better off as slaves than they would be if set free.

(Haitian Revolution, 1791)

For this I showed Marcus Rainsford’s 1805 An historical account of the black empire of Hayti, a famous source.  The slaves in the French colony of St. Domingue (now known as Haiti) staged a revolt and declared independence from France.  Other than the American Revolution, this was the only rebellion that successfully created a new government in the Western Hemisphere during the eighteenth-century.  In 1789 St. Domingue produced 60 percent of the world’s coffee and 40 percent of the world’s sugar imported by France and Britain. The colony was the most profitable possession of the French Empire, but enslaved blacks outnumbered whites and free people of color ten to one.

(The Mexican War of Independence, 1810-21)

What started as an idealistic peasants’ rebellion against their colonial masters ended as an unlikely alliance between Mexican ex-royalists and Mexican guerrilla insurgents.  The source for this was William David Robinson’s very popular Memoirs of the Mexican Revolution (1820).

(The Easter Rising, Ireland, 1916)

For this I showed a 1916 “extra” issue of the London Times, detailing the British response.  An insurrection staged in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916, the Rising was mounted by Irish republicans with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing the Irish Republic at a time when the British Empire was heavily engaged in the First World War. It was the most significant uprising in Ireland since the rebellion of 1798, and led to the Irish War of Independence, and the formation of the Irish Republic in 1921.

In the second part of the workshop I had the students look at scans from an 1811 textbook on geography, a book which students their age would have used in school 200 years ago in Connecticut.  The sections on meteorology and science were particularly interesting to the kids.


Press room update–new furniture!

   Posted by: rring    in Gallows Hill Press

On Sunday we had a new piece of equipment delivered for the little press room–a metal cabinet that will hold two dozen cases of type, which is dual-sided (that is, two compositors can stand and compose simultaneously), and has a rack above the case for leading (spaces between lines) of different sizes.

All of the empty drawers are a promise–once we figure out what sorts of fonts we need, we can buy new ones, which will generally be better to print from than older type.

Here’s another angle on the new cabinet, as well as the small Vandercook that we will be getting in January (no automatic inking here–we’ll be inking by hand!)

“The Baltimore Oriole arrives from the south, perhaps from Mexico, or perhaps from a more distant region, and enters Louisiana as soon as spring commences there.  It approaches the planter’s house, and searches amongst the surrounding trees for a suitable place in which to settle for the season.  It prefers, I believe, the trees that grow on the sides of a gentle declivity.  The choice of a twig being made, the male Oriole becomes extremely conspicuous. He flies to the ground, searches for the longest and driest filaments of the moss, which in that state is known by the name of Spanish Beard, and whenever he finds one fit for his purpose, ascends to the favorite spot where the nest is to be, uttering all the while a continued chirrup, which seems to imply that he knows no fear, but on the contrary fancies himself the acknowledged king of the woods . . . No sooner does he reach the branches, thank will bill and claws, aided by an astonishing sagacity, he fastens one end of the moss to a twig, with as much art as a sailor might do, and takes up the other end, which he secures also, but to another twig a few inches off . . . The female comes to his assistance with another filament of moss . . . inspects the work which her mate has done, and immediately commences her operations, placing each thread in a contrary direction to those arranged by her lordly mate . . . Their love increases daily as they see the graceful fabric approaching perfection, until their conjugal affection and faith becomes as complete as in any species of birds with which I am acquainted.” [. . . ]

“The plumage of the male bird is not mature until the third spring, and I have therefore in my drawing represented the males of the first, second, and third years.  The female will form the subject of another plate.  The male of the first year was taken for a female by my engraver, during my absence, and marked as such, although some of the plates were corrected the moment I saw the mistake.”

Curator’s Note:  In our copy the plate is uncorrected.


Funny Cold War-era novel set in CT

   Posted by: rring    in New acquisition

We just picked up this first edition of Max Shulman’s Rally Round the Flag, Boys! (New York: Doubleday, 1957).  Shulman (1919-1988) was an American humorist best known for his creation of Dobie Gillis in his 1951 novel, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, which spawned a television series in 1953 called “The Affairs of Dobie Gillis.”  Shulman was described by Al Morgan as “the master of undergraduate humor, the outrageous pun, and the verbal caricature.”

From the jacket:  “Rally Round the Flag, Boys takes place in a Connecticut commuting village, where discontented country husbands live with their discontented country wives; where old Yankee settlers wish the commuters would vanish in a puff of smoke but mulct them mercilessly until they do; where teen-aged disciples of the late James Dean prove you don’t have to be underprivileged to be delinquent; where frenzy lies fitfully beneath a rustic patina.  Into this seething cauldron a new and highly volatile ingredient is tossed: the U. S. Army installs a Nike guided missile base, with results that are explosively funny.”


Seven Wonders event a success!

   Posted by: rring    in Classes, Events, exhibitions

The opening of the student-curated exhibition “Seven Wonders” on December 6 was a great success.  Over 50 people braved a dark and rainy Tuesday night to look at the show.  Many were also in attendance to pay their respects to Paul Lauter, who spoke movingly about his wife, Ann Fitzgerald (a Trinity professor who died tragically in mid-October), the original instructor of the course.

The students wrote, designed, and raised money for the production of a full-color 16-page illustrated catalog of the collection, printed in 100 copies.  These were sold for a pay-what-you-can donation to Ann’s charities (Doctors without Borders and Amnesty International), for which we collected over $200.

Faculty, staff, students, parents, and other members of the community mingled and chatted as local talent Romulus Perez played classical piano on one of the keyboards we have in the library.  After Paul spoke, we visited each exhibit, and its curator said a few words about why she chose her topic, and what items in particular were fascinating or compelling to her.

Going forward, this is clearly a model for us to follow.  Creating an exhibition is one of the best ways to learn about a topic, and about a collection (its strengths and weaknesses).  The librarians need not have all the fun–we will be encouraging students and faculty to be our partners in years to come.

Missing from the class photo is student Emily Bloom, who could not attend because of a family emergency–you were here in spirit, Emily!

“It was in the month of February 1814, that I obtained the first sight of this noble bird, and never shall I forget the delight which it gave me . . . We were on a trading voyage, ascending the Upper Mississippi . . . I lay stretched beside our patroon.  The safety of the cargo was forgotten, and the only thing that called my attention was the multitude of ducks, of different species, accompanied by vast flocks of swans, which from time to time passed us.  My patroon, a Canadian, had been engaged many years in the fur trade . . . An eagle flew over us . . . “Look sir! The Great Eagle, and the only one I have seen since I have left the lakes” . . . [he] assured me that such birds were indeed rare; that they sometimes followed the hunters, to feed on the entrails of animals which they had killed, when the lakes were frozen over, but that when the lakes were open, they would dive in the daytime after fish.”

“The name which I have chosen for this new species of Eagle, “The Bird of Washington,” may, by some, be considered as preposterous and unfit; but as it is indisputably the noblest bird of its genus that has yet been discovered  in the United States, I trust I shall be allowed to honour it with the name of one yet nobler, who was the savior of his country, and whose name will ever be dear to it.  To those who may be curious to know my reasons, I can only say, that, as the new world gave me birth and liberty, the great man who insured its independence is next to my heart.  He had a nobility of mind, and a generosity of soul, such as a re seldom possessed.  He was brave, so is the Eagle; like it, too, he was the terror of his foes; and his fame, extending from pole to pole, resembles the majestic soarings of the mightiest of the feathered tribe.  If America has reason to be proud of her Washington, so has she to be proud of her Great Eagle.”