Archive for August, 2013

We recently acquired the first English translation of a famous chronicle of the New World, written and compiled by Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas (d. 1625), who was appointed the official historian of the Indies (Cronista Mayor de Indias) by King Philip II in 1586.

Originally published between 1601-15 as the Historia General de los Hechos de los Castellanos en las Islas i Tierra Firme del Mar Oceano, the History is, according to one scholar, “a huge work of erudition.  Its author, who never crossed the Atlantic Ocean, incorporated the greatest collection of sources up to that date, including many important writings that had not yet been published, such as the histories of Bernal Diaz and Bartolome de las Casas, and the valuable Geografia y Descripcion Universal de las Indias by the cosmographer Juan Lopez de Velasco.   . . . [It constitutes] a true encyclopedia of all the facts pertaining to the Spanish involvement with the Indies between 1492 and 1555.  The narrated events are arranged in chronological order by decades.  Since the author was sufficiently removed from the facts he narrated, he made judgments without worrying about possible accusations and lawsuits by the people involved, a common problem in many of the earlier histories of the Indies.”

Cited source: Spanish Historical Writing about the New World: 1493-1700 by Angel Delgado-Gomez. (Providence: John Carter Brown Library, 1992).

We recently acquired a travel narrative of the Ohio River issued with this fabulous cover, written by Reuben Gold Thwaites, a Massachussets native who moved to Wisconsin in 1866 and became the director of the state historical society, as well as a noted historian (famously editing the monumental, 73-volume Jesuit Relations, relating to their missions to the natives of North America).

In January of 1895 this book, Afloat on the Ohio, was in manuscript, and he was shopping around for a publisher.  We have two letters from Thwaites in our Robert’s Brothers collection, the first of which, dated 18 January 1895, addressed to Messrs. Roberts Brothers, begins:

Gentlemen: I am sending you today, prepaid, by American Express, the MS of a new book I have just completed–“Afloat on the Ohio.”  My other two books built on the same lines–“Historic Waterways” [1888] and “Our Cycling Tour in England” [1892] were published by Messrs. McClurg & Co., Chicago; but I thought it best to secure for this one, in particular, an Eastern publisher.”

Later he suggests a marketing strategy, predicting that “it might have a steady sale to tourists taking the annual summer steamboat tour down the Ohio–and thousands do this. Then again, in the Ohio Valley states I should suppose that there might be some demand on the part of teachers, as extra reading in connection with instruction in history and geography.”

The Roberts Brothers apparently did not agree, for they sent no reply to Thwaites for several weeks, which spurred him to write our second letter, dated 1 March 1895, asking them for an answer to his first.  Eventually, he evidently gave up and the book was published by another Chicago firm, Way & Williams.


The Traveling Bibliographer

   Posted by: rring    in College Archives, image collections

George Watson Cole (1850-1939), the first librarian of the Huntington Library, was a pioneer of modern bibliography who set a standard few have matched with the catalogs of the collections of Americana and English Literature assembled by E. Dwight Church.

Cole was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Trinity in 1920 “in recognition of his work in the field of Bibliography.”  It is likely this honor which led him to give his collection of some 10,000 postcards and miscellaneous ephemera related to Europe, most of which dates prior to 1915.  His Americana postcards (some 25,000) and his papers are at the American Antiquarian Society.

Volunteer Lisa Lew is creating an inventory of these postcards, which show the churches, monuments, city views, art galleries, market squares, harbors, theaters, cemeteries, municipal buildings and neighborhoods of Europe as they were before the ravages of both World Wars.  There are also postcards of soldiers, portraits of ruling families, flags, coats-of-arms, coins, ships, bridges, beaches, vehicles (carriages, automobiles, planes, trains, fire engines, etc.), farms, parks, sports events, gardens, fountains, and costumes.  It is an amazing collection, and we hope to have the inventory online soon, and at some point, we may digitize it all.

Lisa’s job has been made much easier because Cole was a librarian, and ordered the collection upon strict and detailed guidelines.  Indeed, he wrote a pamphlet on the subject in 1935, entitled Postcards: The World in Miniature.  A Plan for their Systematic Arrangement.