Sofia 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.
Archive for the ‘book history’ Category
We 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”].
The 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]
The 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).
On 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!
Well, 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.
Last 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.
It 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.
From 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.
I’d like to give a shout-out to our wonderful NERFC Fellow Amy Sopcak-Joseph, a PhD candidate (History) at UConn, who gave a well attended lunch-time talk in the Watkinson on Tuesday entitled “Before Pinterest, Oprah, and Vogue: Godey’s Lady’s Book in the Nineteenth Century.” In her own words:
Have a question about how to style your hair? Need a recipe for something healthy? Want recommendations for interesting new books? Or where you should buy new clothes and shoes? Twenty-first century American women have the answers to these questions and more at their fingertips. In the nineteenth century, most women turned to one source for all of these items: Godey’s Lady’s Book. Published by Louis Godey in Philadelphia from 1830 to 1877, this monthly magazine arrived in the homes of hundreds of thousands of women to answer these needs, and more. This talk explores how Godey adapted his marketing of and the advertisements in his Lady’s Book to women’s changing tastes prior to the Civil War. The ads in the magazine initially encouraged far-flung readers to purchase more reading materials, while Godey enticed readers with fiction by famous authors. By the 1850s, readers received fashion plates sponsored by retailers, could order fashionable goods directly from Godey, and could even purchase Godey-branded sewing needles. At the same time, Godey advertised his magazine as “Useful, Ornamental, and Instructive,” promising women recipes, clothing patterns, and tips for healthy living that would save them money.
[Posted by Peter Rawson, Associate Curator of Archives & Manuscript Collections]