Archive for the ‘book history’ Category

Just acquired!

A long, literary letter from John Trumbull (1750-1831) to Sarah “Sally” Lloyd (1753-1779), the leader of a small poetry club in Stamford, CT.

Trumbull, the eldest member of the Hartford Wits, was a precocious lad of 7 when he passed the Yale entrance exam (he did not enter until he was 13); he is 22 when he writes Miss Lloyd at length about poetry, relations between the sexes, and the art of writing.

Sally Lloyd was 19 at the time, of Long Island’s prominent Lloyd’s Neck family…she would later become the first wife of James Hillhouse (1754-1832), a graduate of Yale (1773), lawyer, Revlutionary War militiaman, and U. S. Senator. She witnessed the British attack on New Haven (1779), and died in childbirth at the age of 26.

Trumbull is best known as the author of M’Fingal, a famous mock-epic poem of about 1,500 lines on the American Revolution, published in 1782.


An almanac bonanza!

   Posted by: rring

This collection just came in from an anonymous donor, who has single-handedly DOUBLED our holdings of this important genre of American print culture. Our collection, which spans 300 years of American history (1675-1975), will be an important source for the study of many aspects of American culture. The almanac was one of the most ubiquitous printed items in America for over two centuries, reaching a larger readership than any other secular publication.

This new gift comprises nearly 2,000 almanacs from 1750-1970, and were mostly issued in the Middle Atlantic and New England states, with a smattering from Southern and Midwestern states. A great variety of topics are represented: farming and agriculture, cookery, comic material, medicine and remedies, newspapers, magazines, publishers, politics, religion and social movements. Many are illustrated.

Most of this collection was formed over the course of 50 years by a private collector, William Pennybacker of Hotboro, PA, whose manuscript inventory came with the collection. Pennybacker sold this collection to the donor in the mid-1980s, and it has been in storage for over 30 years, until now! It will take some time to process fully, but we are hoping to make it available as soon as possible.

[This post was contributed by Richard Mammana, archivist for the Living Church Foundation, founder and director of Project Canterbury, and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences]

The Watkinson Library at Trinity College recently acquired the intact personal library of Charles Hayden Proctor (January 11, 1850-June 25, 1890). Proctor was a Trinity alumnus (B.A. 1873) who had been graduated from the Episcopal Academy at Cheshire in 1869. He went on to receive his M.A. at Berkeley Divinity School (then in Middletown) in 1876. He was ordained to the diaconate in the Episcopal Church in 1876 by the Bishop of Connecticut, and then to the priesthood in 1877. Proctor had a relatively brief career in the church, dying at 40 after serving in a handful of cures: as a lay missionary in the Naugatuck River Valley; as the founding rector of St. James Church, New Bedford, Massachusetts (1878-1885); at Trinity Church, Pottsville, Pennsylvania (1885-1888); and finally as the third dean of Trinity Cathedral in Little Rock, Arkansas (1888-1890).

Proctor’s significance in Trinity history comes from his authorship of The Life of James Williams, Better Known as Professor Jim, for Half a Century Janitor of Trinity College (Hartford: Case, Lockwood and Brainard, 1873), a 79-page biography of the beloved “professor of dust and ashes” of the title—an African American who lived from c.1790 to 1878.

Williams was born to a free American father of African ancestry and a Creole mother in New York. He served as a seaman in the War of 1812, and had arrived in Hartford by 1821 when he was working at the City Hotel. Williams’s association with Trinity began as his domestic service in the household of the college’s founding president Bishop Thomas Church Brownell (1779-1865). As Professor Jim—by then “general factotum” of the college—he made farewell remarks to each graduating class from 1830 to 1874, receiving a gift of money or a valuable object each year, and then serving glasses of punch to the class. (It is from Professor Jim’s use of a lemon squeezer in preparing the punch that the elaborate Trinity traditions about fruit presses have emerged.) Trinity students took up a collection to buy Professor Jim a turkey each year at Christmas for four decades.

Proctor’s Life of James Williams was published by the foremost commercial press in Connecticut at the time, and its wide reach is attested by its presence in the private library of Mark Twain as well as a wide variety of public and academic collections still today.

Proctor’s library is significant in its own right because of its former owner’s work in chronicling an important chapter in Trinity College history. It is also notable for having remained undisturbed in the Proctor family home in Derby for more than 125 years since Proctor died in 1890. The ca. 400 volumes—most with their original owner’s bookplate—provide a fascinating look at the intellectual world of a late nineteenth-century Episcopal priest.

CURATOR’S NOTE: I would like to thank Dan and Denis (of John Bale Books in Waterbury, CT) for alerting me of the existence of this collection and working very hard to deliver it to Trinity College intact. Good booksellers make good libraries!


Modern Library comes to the Watkinson!

   Posted by: rring

ML1We are exceedingly pleased to announce a recent gift from Katherine Kyes Leab, of Washington, CT–an almost complete set (nearly 600 volumes) of first- or early issues of the first series of The Modern Library (1917-1970), most of which are in very good condition and have their dust jackets. This collection adds materially to our 20thC literary holdings, as a study collection for modernist literature, publishing, and criticism.

“In the 1920s the Modern Library achieved an honorific cultural status unparalleled in reprint publishing, equivalent to that enjoyed simultaneously by America’s ‘intellectual’ magazines and experimental theater troupes . . . [and] despite the deepening Depression, in 1930 it sold over a million books. What had begun in 1917 as a publishing venture designed for self-consciously ‘modern’ bohemian intellectuals found an extensive new audience after Bennet Cerf and Donald Klopfer bought the series from Horace Liveright in 1925.”

“The Modern Library’s origin as a self-consciously subversive literary purveyor to America’s fledgling Greenwich Village intelligensia established its early critical success . . . From 1925, when Cerf and Klopfer took control of the series and began to apply new marketing strategies, to the start of World War II, the Modern Library sustained a period of healthy growth as it rapidly expanded into new markets. Its distribution and sales methods in the early 1930s foreshadowed the era of the mass-market paperback, and it became the cornerstone of Random House, perhaps the most financially successful publishing firm of the twentieth century. This period was crucial in the development of the modern concept of culture and it saw a dramatic reformulation of the country’s book trade.”

[Jay Satterfield, The World’s Best Books: Taste, Culture, and the Modern Library (U. of Massachusetts Press, 2002), “Introduction”].


Geeking out on typography

   Posted by: rring

Sofia1Sofia Safran ’18, the fabulous “Peer mentor” to the first-year students of my “World of Rare Books” seminar, shows off her typesetting and printing chops, displaying a poster she designed, type-set and printed herself! Sofia did a great 20-minute presentation on letterforms and typography, inspired by a summer study abroad program she took in the UK in Graphic Media & Design at the London College of Communication.



Hebrew Bible Printed in England

   Posted by: rring

BibleThe Watkinson has a great Bible collection, including this, the first separate edition of the Hebrew Bible printed in England, preceded only by the printing of the text as part of the Walton Polyglot (which we also have!). Editor Nathaniel Forster (1718–57), an accomplished scholar of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, has included (in the style of the table of contents) “Pentateuchus, Prophetae priores, Prophetae posteriores, Hagiographa”; the leaves following “Prophetae posteriores” are separately signed and printed “Vol. 2.” Based on Van der Hoogh’s version, the text is in Hebrew, with titles and chapter heads also in Latin. Unlike most 18th-century books printed at Oxford, this is scarce. Of the eight reported copies in libraries four are in the Northeast, two in California, one at Duke, and one in Ohio.

Our first librarian, J. Hammond Trumbull, acquired our copy for the Watkinson in May of 1872 from the English firm of Bernard Quaritch, for 15 shillings.

[With thanks to PRB&M for their description]


And we’re off!

   Posted by: rring

DoughertyThe Watkinson helped jump-start the first day of classes by hosting Jack Dougherty’s EDUC 300 class last night until 9:00pm. The students were asked to analyze several examples of 19th-century common school textbooks from the collection of Henry Barnard, which was bought by J. Pierpont Morgan in 1905 and made its way into Trinity’s hands when the Watkinson was given to the College in 1952.

Questions put to the students as they perused various readers, geographies, primers, speakers, spellers, and even a “confederate arithmetic,” included “what do textbooks reveal about the ideology of the authors and of the common school advocates?”, “how do they portray human nature?”, “what do they reveal about religion and education?”, and “what do they reveal about everyday life inside 19th-century common schools?” (i.e., classroom organization, student-teacher interaction, and pedagogical methods).


God & Evil in the Watkinson

   Posted by: rring

Enfield HS classOn Friday morning we hosted a group of high school seniors from Enfield, some from an English class but most from a philosophy course taught by Kelly Mazzone (nee O’Connor), who took an M.A. from Trinity in History in 2007 (under direction of the late Jack Chatfield).

The students have been studying excerpts from Genesis, the works of St. Anselm, St. Tomas Aquinas, William Paley and Blaise Pascal, as well as passages from Milton and Dante. They seemed pretty excited and engaged when I laid out for them our editions of Paradise Lost (in ten books, 1668, and in twelve books, 1678, including a copy formerly owned by John Eliot), and several edition s of the Inferno.

Also of interest to them were our original leaf (and newly acquired facsimile of) the Gutenberg Bible, the first volumes of two of the major polyglot Bibles–Paris (1645) and London (1657)–and the 1611 first edition of the “King James Version,” not to mention two of our beautiful books of hours, and (in answer to, “what is your oldest book”?), our cuneiform tablet.

I think a few bibliophiles were born that morning–or at least, definitley quickened!


Gutenberg Bible comes to Trinity!

   Posted by: rring

IMG_3309Well, in actuality, what I just brought back from Oak Knoll Books in New Castle, DE is a fabulous facsimile of the first book printed with moveable type, ca. 1455, shown here with TWO ORIGINAL LEAVES from a Gutenberg Bible that we have had at Trinity since the Fall of 1950.

This complete facsimile of the Gutenberg Bible was printed in 1961 by Pageant Books (New York). The reproduction derives from the Insel Verlag edition, which was based on the copy in the Königslichen Bibliothek in Berlin and the copy in the Standischen Landesbibliothek in Fulda, considered to be the most beautifully illuminated of the extant copies. According to the Gutenberg Museum, there are now 49 documented partial or complete copies of the Gutenberg Bible.

The two leaves shown here derive from an incomplete copy that was acquired by the New York bookseller Gabriel Wells in a Sotheby’s sale in November of 1920. Wells decided to “break” his copy and sell it for the most part as individual leaves, accompanied by an essay by Philadelphia collector, A. Edward Newton, entitled “A Noble Fragment.” Our two leaves are from I Chronicles and I Corinthians. Both were given to Trinity in the Fall of 1950 by the Reverend Joseph Groves (Class of 1910), “from the Ogilby sons in memory of their father, Dr. R. B. Ogilby.” Ogilby was the 14th president of Trinity College (1920-1943).
 Here is one of the original leaves beside its facsimile counterpart. The acquisition of this facsimile will allow students and faculty to put our “noble fragments” in context, and to make any number of comparisons with later Latin Bibles in the collection, etc., etc.

Ephemeral surprise

   Posted by: rring

PopeLast week in preparing a presentation for prof. Barbara Benedict’s ENGL 364 class, one of the books I pulled was our copy of the first edition of Alexander Pope’s translation of the Iliad (London, 1715-20). Pasted onto one of the flyleaves was a bit of paper that made me (and prof. Benedict, when I showed it to her an hour later) gasp in disbelief and delight. Here we have what MUST be a rare survival–a subscription ticket in Pope’s own hand, signed, for receipt of partial payment by one of his subscribers (and Pope scholars will understand the significance of this particular subscriber as well).

It was a great discovery of physical evidence, and allowed us to talk even more fully than we could have (using only the published subscriber’s list) about the ways in which Pope marketed, sold, and distributed the book.