Archive for February, 2012

“The Purple Martin makes its appearance in the City of New Orleans from the 1st to the 9th of February . . . and is then to be seen gambolling through the air, over the city and the river, feeding on many sorts of insects, which are there found in abundance at that period.

It frequently rears three broods whilst with us. I have had several opportunities, at the period of their arrival, of seeing prodigious flocks moving over that city or its vicinity, at a considerable height, each bird performing circular sweeps as it proceeded, for the purpose of procuring food . . . at the Falls of the Ohio, I have seen Martins as early as the 15th of March, arriving in small detached parties . . . by the 25th of the same month, they are generally plentiful . . . at St. Genevieve, in the State of Missouri, they seldom arrive before the 10th or 15th of April . . . at Philadelphia, they are first seen about the 10th of April.  They reach Boston about the 25th, and continue their migration much farther north, as the spring continues to open.

. . . These birds are extremely courageous, persevering, and and tenacious of what they consider their right.  They exhibit strong antipathies against cats, dogs, and such other quadrupeds as are likely to prove dangerous to them.  They attach and chase indiscriminately every species of Hawk, Crow, or Vulture, and on this account are much patronized by the husbandman.  They frequently follow and tease an Eagle, until he is out of sight of the Martin’s box.

. . . The note of the Martin is not melodious, but is nevertheless very pleasing . . . [and is] among the first that are heard in the morning, and are welcome to the sense of every body.  The industrious farmer rises from his bed as he hears them . . . the husbandman, certain of a fine day, renews his peaceful labors with an elated heart.  The still more independent Indian is also fond of the Martin’s company.  He frequently hangs up a calabash on some twig near his camp, and in this cradle the bird keeps watch, and sallies forth to drive off the vulture that might otherwise commit depredations on the deer-skins or pieces of venison exposed to the air to be dried.  The humbled slave of the Southern States takes more pains to accommodate this favourite bird.  The calabash is neatly scooped out, and attached to the flexible top of a cane, brought from the swamp, where that plant usually grows, and placed close to his hut.  It is, alas! to him a mere memento of the freedom which he once enjoyed; and, at the sound of the horn which calls him to his labor, as he bids farewell to the Martin, he cannot help thinking how happy he should be, were he permitted to gambol and enjoy himself day after day, with as much liberty as that bird.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 112-119.

” . . . In a word, kind reader, it is where Nature seems to have paused, as she passed over the Earth, and opening her stores, to have strewed with unsparing hand the diversified seeds from which have sprung all the beautiful and and splendid forms which I should in vain attempt to describe, that the Mocking Bird should have fixed its abode, there only that its wondrous song should be heard.

But where is that favoured land? –It is in that great continent to whose distant shores Europe has sent forth her adventurous sons, to wrest for themselves a habitation from the wild inhabitants of the forest, and to convert the neglected soil in to fields of exuberant fertility.  It is, reader, in Louisiana that these bounties of nature are in the greatest perfection. It is there that you should listen to the love-song of the Mocking Bird, as I at this moment do.

. . . Different species of snakes ascend to their nests, and generally suck the eggs or swallow the young; but on all such occasions, not only the pair to which the nest belongs, but many other Mocking Birds from the vicinity, fly to the spot, attack the reptiles, and, in some cases, are so fortunate as either to force them to retreat, or deprive them of life.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 110-11.

“This pretty little warbler is migratory, and arrives in Louisiana from the South, in the beginning of spring.  It is found in open woods, as well as in the vicinity of ponds overgrown with low bushes and rank weeds.  Along with a pair of Blue-Winged Yellow Warblers, I have represented a species of Hibiscus, which grows on the edges of these ponds.  Its flowers are handsome, but unfortunately have no pleasant odour.

The species which now occupies our attention is a busy, active bird, and is seen diligently searching among the foliage and grasses for the small insects on which it feeds, mounting now and then towards the tops of the bushes, to utter a few weak notes, which are in no way interesting.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 102.


New path of collecting: Squash!!

   Posted by: rring    in New acquisition

One of the first things I heard about Trinity was that it had this amazing squash team.  Librarians don’t get out much, so its no surprise that it took me over a year to get to a match.  I knew nothing about it, but fortunately a colleague on the faculty who loves the game became my guide, and seeing Trinity’s successful match against Princeton sold me.

What struck me most was the fact that the players respected each other and the game more than any team sport I know.  I was vastly impressed that the referees for each match consisted of one member of each team.  My world is the world of rare books:  It’s still very much a culture of honor, reputation, and gentlemanly competition.  Squash is therefore a sport I can really “get.”

A quick check revealed that our library has almost no books on squash–in fact, you need to borrow from Wesleyan or other libraries to get the most current histories of the game.  This strikes me as a great oversight, and so to correct it I am planning to build a comprehensive collection in the Watkinson on the history of the sport.

I place before you two of my recent acquisitions: the first American edition of Racquets, Tennis and Squash (1903) by Eustace Miles, who won the U.S. amateur singles title in 1900 and the British amateur singles title in 1902 (he lost four other times in the finals), as well as the British amateur doubles in 1902 and 1904. Tennis, not racquets, was his main sport. He won the British amateur singles nine times and lost in the finals of the 1908 tennis tournament at the London Olympics, thus getting a silver medal (which is on display at the Queen’s Club in London). [The information on Miles was provided by James Zug, author of Squash: A History of the Game (2003)].

We also acquired the 1937-38 Squash Racquets Annual, which is packed with British, American, and international records, biographies, a club directory, articles on court construction, rules of play, and a list of schools and universities with courts.  The advertisements are pretty fun as well.


Overcome “slovenliness of bearing”!

   Posted by: rring    in New acquisition

Harrie Irving Hancock (1868-1922) was a Massachusetts-born journalist and a prolific author, as well as a chemist.  He was a proponent of physical fitness (evidenced here), a critic of smoking at a time when everyone seemed to be lighting up, and an early western expert in Jiu-Jitsu.  The book is filled with action photos like the one you see on the cover, intended to demonstrate proper movement.  This item joins a growing collection of 19th- and early 20th-century books on fitness in the Watkinson.

We have two of Hancock’s “boy’s adventure” novels, Uncle Sam’s boys in the Philippines; or Following the flag against the Moros (1912) and  High school boys’ fishing trip; or Dick & Co. in the wilderness (1913):

“Much and justly as the song of the Nightingale is admired, I am inclined, after having often listened to it, to pronounce it in no degree superior to that of the Louisiana Water Thrush.  The notes of the latter bird are as powerful and mellow, and at times as varied.

This bird is a resident of the low lands of the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, and is to be found at all seasons in the deepest and most swampy of our cane brakes, from which its melodies are heard to a considerable distance, its voice being nearly as loud as that of the Wood Thrush.  The bird may be observed perched on a low bough scarcely higher than the tops of the canes, in an erect attitude, swelling its throat, and repeating several times in succession sounds so approaching the whole two octaves of a good piano-forte, as almost to induce the hearer to imagine that the keys of that instrument are used on the occasion.  The bird begins on the upper key, and progressively passes from one to another, until it reaches the base note, this last frequently being lost when there is the least agitation in the air.  Its song is heard even in the winter, when the weather is calm and warm.

[Of the Indian Turnip, upon which this bird is perched] . . . The flowers are green and purple, and the roots are used by Indians as a remedy for colic.”