Archive for October, 2015


Food & Fitness…in the Renaissance???

   Posted by: rring    in Classes, students

Dario2Prof. Dario Del Puppo brought his First-Year Seminar on “Food, Fitness & Self Discovery” into the Watkinson for rather non-intuitive reasons, given the title of his course, until you understand that he routinely teached Italian literature from the medieval and Renaissance periods, and then the reasons become clearer.

In any case, the students were immediately engaged and curious about the 11 items Dario chose to show them–from an edition of Dante’s Commedia  published in 1484, a 1523 edition (almost pocket-sized) of Vitruvius’s De Architectura, and the 1632 edition of Galileo’s Dialogo.

There were lots of questions, and we looked at watermarks, bookworm damage, woodcut and copperplate illustrations, initial letters, and marbled paper–and one student even discovered a fragment of a medieval manuscript as part of the binding waste . . . . these sessions are always exciting when the students are engaged!




DAR1aIt was my pleasure to give a talk last week to a local chapter of the DAR on the life of John James Audubon, and specifically our copy of Audubon’s Birds of America, and its donor, Dr. Gurdon Wadsworth Russell, Trinity Class of 1834.

In 1839, after finishing the production of the plates, Audubon’s engraver Robert Havell moved to America. Almost forty years later in 1878, shortly before his death, he held an exhibition and sale at his home in Tarrytown of paintings and books—including our copy of Audubon’s Birds of America. They were purchased at the sale by a New York book dealer/publisher, C. S. Francis & Co., who in 1856 had charge of the sale of all of Audubon’s works. The set was sold the same year to Dr. Gurdon Russell, Trinity Class of 1834. Mention of this sale was made four years later in the December 1882 issue of Ornithologist & Oologist; the article stated, “The Doctor (G. W. Russell, 490 Main Street, Hartford, CT) also owns the Robert Havell copy of Audubon’s Birds, Double Elephant Folio. The copy cost $1150 and the table and roller drawers in which to keep it $100 new. Some years ago we furnished to the Doctor a letter from Robert Havell to one of Audubon’s sons stating that every plate was carefully selected as he was colouring the work, making it one of the best, if not the best, copy known.”

22 years later, an article ran in the Hartford Courant on July 11, 1900:

Fine Gift to Trinity / Dr. Russell Presents his splendid copy of Audubon Birds

Dr. Gurdon W. Russell of this city yesterday gave to the library of Trinity College the most valuable single work ever received by it in the course of its history. The work is none other than that monument of American genius and enterprise, “The Birds of America: From Original Drawings, by John James Audubon.” Dr. Russell visited the College in person yesterday morning and formally presented the work to President Smith. The extreme rarity and costliness of Audubon’s “Birds” has long made it famous in the book-world, and its deserved reputation of being by far the most sumptuous single ornithological work ever published has rendered its name well known to the general public, though few ever see a really fine and complete copy.

DAR4From 1897 until 1909, when Dr. Russell died at the age of 93, he enjoyed the status of being the oldest living graduate of both Trinity College and the Yale Medical School—he entered Trinity College (then named Washington College) in 1830, six years after its founding. Russell was born on April 10, 1815 in Hartford, the same year that Audubon’s daughter Lucy was born in Louisville, KY (she died 2 years later). His father was a printer who was born in Litchfield in 1790 and came to Hartford in 1812; his paternal grandfather was John Russell, a soldier in the Revolution who served in Boston, Long Island, and White Plains. Dr. Russell’s mother was the daughter of Gurdon Wadsworth, a lineal descendant of William Wadsworth, one of the first settlers of Hartford who came with Thomas Hooker.

Needless to say, Dr. Russell was one of the patricians of Hartford, and the list of his accomplishments was long and illustrious—having worked for Aetna for some 60 years. At his death he gave the College the REST of his natural history collection, numbering over 275 items of British and North American flora and ornithology, and including some of the great rarities we have at Trinity, including Audubon’s famous Quadrupeds of North America (folio) and the first and third editions of Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, containing the figures of birds, beasts, fishes, serpents, insects, and plants, published in 1738–100 years before Audubon’s Birds of America, and a cornerstone of any collection of American natural history.


Teaching literature @ Trinity

   Posted by: rring    in College Archives, Trinitiana

Burke 1-1As I continue my survey of the College Archives I recently discovered two large three-ring binders containing typed notes for “A Survey of American Literature” taught by Kenneth Walter Cameron in the 1950-51 school year.  These notes were donated to the archives by Hollis S. Burke, Class of 1951.

This led me to discover History of English and American Literature, by Charles F. Johnson, Professor of English Literature at Trinity from 1900-1931.  Johnson 1This work was published in 1900 and is part of the Trinitiana Collection.  These archival treasures opened up some questions for me:

What were the works read in the literature classes?
What were the themes of the classes and questions posed by instructors?
How did this all change over time?
How were the classes taught?—lecture, seminar.
The Burke notebooks contain many transcribed passages from various literary analyses and critical works.  Did students in the early 1950’s spend time transcribing these works themselves?Burke 2


[Posted by Peter Rawson, Associate Curator of Archives & MS Collections]


Back to the Future!

   Posted by: rring    in Classes, College Archives, Trinitiana

IMG_3272 This morning we happily responded to a last-minute request to pull copies of the College yearbook (Ivy) dating from the 1950s and the 1980s for Jen Jack Gieseking’s American Studies 203 (“Conflicts & Cultures in American Society”) course. The students had recently seen the movie Back to the Future and were fascinated to look at what Trinity “looked like” in the 1950s vs. the 1980s, as professor Gieseking led them through the themes he wanted to cover–coeducation, racial equality, social norms and conflicts, etc.

All of the Ivy’s are available online through our digital repository.


You know your friends…

   Posted by: rring    in College Archives, Events, exhibitions, Trinitiana

20151006_123341…When you hold an event with minimal marketing and the die-hard supporters come out.

Roughly a dozen folks came to our opening today, but we had a rather lively game of Trivia, some excellent cider and pumpkin bread (if I may say so), and dicoursed on how many themes in Trinity’s history seem to recur every few years! Look for this event again in a few weeks during Family Weekend and Homecoming!


[Posted by Peter Rawson, Associate Curator of Archives & Manuscript Collections]
Museum (003)The survey of the College Archives continues!  I happened upon a box on a high shelf that was deteriorating, crumbling, and very heavy.  As I pulled it off the shelf the box came apart.  I managed to place it in a secure location on another shelf before all of the contents fell to the ground.  To my surprise I found over 150 glass plate photographic negatives dating from around 1850-1923. Clements Room East (002)These images include portraits of faculty, campus exteriors, interiors–including some dorm rooms, track practice, and a photograph of the Cabinet Room in Seabury Hall, which was the college museum.
Library in WilliamsWith assistance of Naty Bush, a first-year student, and Special Collections Assistant Henry Arenth, we were able to temporarily re-box the slides and evaluate their condition.  Next steps include more permanent re-housing and printing the slides.