Archive for December, 2012

“I shot the two little birds here represented, near the village of Henderson, in the State of Kentucky, in May 1811.  They were both busily engaged in searching for insects along the branches and amongst the leaves of a Dog-wood tree.  Their motions were those common to all the species of the genus Sylvia. On examination, they were found to be both males.  I am of opinion, that they were both young birds of the preceding year, and not in full plumage, as they had no part of their dress seemingly complete, excepting the head.  Not having met with any other individuals of the species, I am at this moment unable to say anything more about them.  They were drawn, like all the other birds which I have represented, immediately after being killed; but the branch on which you see them was not added until the following summer.

The common name of this plant is Service Tree.  It seldom attains a greater height than thirty or forty feet, and is usually found in hilly ground of secondary quality.  The berries are agreeable to the taste, and are sought after by many species of birds, amongst which the Red-headed Woodpecker is very conspicuous.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 308 [excerpted].

“In the beginning of May 1808, I shot five of these birds, on a very cold morning, near Potts-grove, in the state of Pennsylvania.  There was a slight fall snow at the time, although the peach and apple trees were already in full bloom.  I have never met with a single individual of this species since . . .

Where this species goes to breed I am unable to say, for to my inquiries on this subject I never received any answers which might have led me to the districts resorted to by it.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 306 [excerpted].


Artful bookish things

   Posted by: rring    in Artist's books, book history, New acquisition

[Posted by Sally Dickinson, Associate Curator]

The Watkinson purchased several intriguing pieces from two British book artists this year.  Rick Myers visited the library late in 2011 to show some of his amazing art which centers around innovative printmaking techniques with strong associations to historical artifacts and interactions with paper.  Before and After Breath (2009) is a series of 5 prints from an edition of 37 housed in a thin plywood box.  The prints are the result of a forceful interaction between a pre-1908 carbon filament light bulb and a 50 ton industrial tooling press used to crush the bulb between sheets of carbon paper.  The glass shards, which punctured the paper, and the carbon make successively fainter images with each imprint.  Ideas emerge from the event: the release of “breath” after over 100 years of being contained in a bulb, the symbolic use of carbon paper as media since carbon is one of the basic elements of life. Myers focuses on process and the use of found materials as much as the end result.  Another recent Myers acquisition is a series of 8 prints entitled Itself , described as a “removal of carbon black xerographic toner, then re-used for its reproduction.”   The edition is limited to the quantity of toner, (36 realized.) The texture of these prints evokes the surface of the moon as much as anything else.


A few months later Myers returned to the library with his friend and fellow artist Sam Winston. The synergy between the two was apparent, lightened by a dose of British humor.  I spent a stimulating couple of hours listening to Winston explain his intricate work, a blend of visual art and story, with a very high level of craft thrown in.  We bought 3 titles: Dictionary Story, Made-Up True Story, and Solace from the Romeo and Juliet series.  Winston also gave the library a letterpress print of an illustration he did for the New Yorker, a whirling vortex of letters for a book review called “The English Wars” (May 14, 2012)


Dictionary Story, written and designed by Winston, is in the form of an accordion book.  “From order to chaos and back to order … Dictionary Story graphically illustrates the balance between a world that’s safe but boring and a high risk universe full of creative possibilities.”  The graphics of the typography help explain what is happening in the story.  The story runs in one column against the outer edge of the page and the definitions opposite their words in another column on the reverse side. As the characters get out of hand, so does the graphic layout as letters tumble over the pages. Made-Up True Story based on the interaction of different kinds of literature from train schedules to fairy tales is another typographic adventure with a charming story built in.  Winston augments the effect with a fury of penciled scribbling.  In the Romeo and Juliet series he explores the text of a classic work in an analytical dissection, cutting apart the letters and arranging them into 3 emotional states: passion, rage and solace.

Both Myers’ and Winston’s paper art is in major collections in the U.S. and abroad,  including the British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Library of Congress.


Illuminated birds!

   Posted by: rring    in book history, New acquisition, ornithology

We have a small, but steadily growing collection of medieval manuscripts, both complete codices and leaves which have been cut and sold individually.  Shown here are two (of four) leaves we recently acquired which all came from the same manuscript–a fifteenth-century Book of Hours (Use of Bourges), which was once in the collection of François César Le Tellier, Marquis de Courtanveaux, the son of Louis XIV’s war minister, François Michel Le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois.  The scene is Christ’s presentation in the Temple.  Flora and fauna used as decoration is not typical for this genre.


[Posted by Peter J. Knapp, College Archivist]

The Archives has recently received a gift of books, research papers, published poems and literary correspondence from Dr. Arnold L. Lieber, Trinity College Class of 1959, a distinguished psychiatrist and clinician.  Dr. Lieber retired in 2005 after a career of over 30 years as a psychiatrist in Miami and Miami Beach. He served several years as medical director of the Clinical Neuroscience Center, St. Francis Hospital and Miami Heart Institute, Miami Beach, and was also on the consulting staff of the Mt. Sinai Medical Center, Miami Beach, until his retirement.  During his career Dr. Lieber published many clinical research reports and papers, including studies on biological rhythms.   Included are copies of his books, The Lunar Effect (1978) with 10 foreign editions, and How the Moon Affects You (1996) with three foreign editions.  In addition there are copies of Dr. Lieber’s  poems that have appeared in journals as well as an inscribed copy of his just-published collection of poems entitled Chasing the Muse. The gift also includes a small collection of correspondence with various literary figures such as Allen Ginsburg and Samuel French Morse, formerly a Trinity faculty member, as well as with members of the London school of poets he came to know during a brief sojourn in England during the 1960s.

Dr. Lieber’s interest in biological rhythms complements the pre-1950 research work of Trinity biology professors Thomas H. Bissonnette and J. Wendell Burger already contained in the Archives.  The Lieber gift also contributes to the wide range of archival material documenting the careers of Trinity alumni in various fields.


Don’t blow your nose on it!!

   Posted by: rring    in Americana, New acquisition

Squarely in the realm of “cool stuff” that we are able to acquire recently is this silk handkerchief that I saw in an English dealer’s catalogue, upon which was printed a famous image depicting William Penn (1644-1718) agreeing to to a treaty with the Delaware Indians, ca. 1684.  The design was based on an engraving by John Hall (1739-1797), after the painting by Benjamin West (1738-1820) known as “William Penn’s treaty with the Indians” (ca. 1771).  The handkerchief was produced at the Germantown Print Works in 1824, “in commemoration of the peaceful settlement of Pennsylvania and of the friendly welcome with which the first settlers were received by the native Indians.”

Thanks to both the bookseller’s description and Herbert R. Collins’s Threads of History, which is a standard reference for Americana printed on silk.

We recently acquired a packet of letters which will be added to our Roberts Brothers collection–an archive which compliments our extensive holdings of that publishing company’s books.  The letters date from 1884-1895, and are from the following correspondents:

Lyman Abbott (1835-1922, American Congregationalist, ordering “[Ernest] Renan’s Life of Jesus“)

Alexander Black (1859-1941, American author & reviewer, requesting books to review for the Brooklyn Times)

Gertrude Hall (1863-1961, American author, poet & translator; two letters)

Ernest Ingersoll (1852-1946, American naturalist & writer, related to his story “Sacred Spring”)

James Martineau (1805-1900, English minister, philosopher & author, regarding Hours of Thought)

Edward T. Roe (b. 1847, American lawyer & author, regarding a manuscript)

Flora L. Shaw (1852-1929, English journalist and author, thank-you note for royalties)

Reuben Gold Thwaites (1853-1913, American historical writer, two (2) letters, seeking “an Eastern publisher,” which accompanied his manuscript of Afloat on the Ohio; the book was eventually published by a Chicago firm, Way & Williams, in 1897).

Julius H. Ward (1837-1897, a letter written on behalf of a Japanese author, Mr. Nobuta Kishimoto, who had written a book on Christianity)


Memorial keepsake

   Posted by: rring    in publications

The Watkinson Library has recently published a memorial keepsake to honor the career and service of Donald Brown Engley, who was Librarian at Trinity College from 1951-1972, and a member of the Watkinson Board of Trustees from 1960-2004.  This 18-page booklet with letterpress covers was printed in an edition of 250 copies, and designed and composed in Emerson types by Michael Russem of Kat Ran Press.  For more information contact


New brochure!

   Posted by: rring    in publications

We have just published a new, full-color brochure, which gives a brief history of the Watkinson and an overview of the collections.  This beautifully illustrated gem will be available very soon.  Please e-mail me at with your preferred mailing address for a copy.


“This, kind reader, is another constant resident in the Southern States, more especially those of Mississippi and Louisiana, where it abounds during the winter months, and is found in considerable number during spring and summer.  In the lower parts of Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee, it is also observed during spring and summer; but it becomes scarcer as you advance towards the Middle Districts, where a few are occasionally seen about the low woodlands of the Atlantic shores.

Except during winter, this Thrush prefers the darkest, most swampy, and most secluded cane-breaks along the margins of the Mississippi, where it breeds and spends the summer . . .

As soon as the waters of the Mississippi become so swelled as to overflow the banks, the Hermit Thrush retires to the to the nearest hills, and mixes with many other birds . . . ”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 303-304 [excerpted].