Archive for the ‘Classes’ Category


To Keep or Not to Keep?

   Posted by: rring

IMG_3039As an exercise in analyzing the artifact, Jonathan Elukin’s Honors Seminar on the History of the Book (FYSM 256) recently examined two works from our collections which occur in, shall we say, multiple “instances.” Four copies of two editions of the so-called Nuremberg Chronicle, (German and Latin), published in 1493 . . . and five editions of Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia, all printed in Basel, 1550 ; 1558; 1559; 1568; and 1574.

IMG_3037The question we put to the students: Why do we need multiple copies of an edition of a work, or even multiple editions of the same work? What (if anything) can each copy of each edition “teach” us?

The students did an excellent job of examining the various aspects of the books, which included marginalia, binding, rubrication, hand-colored illustrations, observations about linguistic changes over time, and other factors crucial to the study of what kinds of information was available to Europeans about the world in the Renaissance, and the modes of the production and distribution of that information.

Not only did we decide to keep all of the copies, they convinced me that I should try to acquire (by gift or purchase) more editions of the Cosmographia! Since complete copies of 16thC editions run into five figures these days, this may take a while…

IMG_3040The most gratifying part of all this, of course, is to be able to provide such a fully equipped “laboratory of the humanities” for Trinity students. The rare book collections in the Watkinson are equal to, and most often exceed, those of our “peer” schools, and is a true point of pride for Trinity.


IMG_3031We are fortunate indeed to own a fabulous resource for the study of native Mexican culture, which came to my attention (as many things do) when a professor “discovered” we had it and asked to bring in a class to see it. Professor Chris Couch brought his American Studies (870) class on artistic and linguistic traditions of Native Americans (primarily North- and Central America) to look at this and other sources in the Watkinson.

Antiquities of Mexico (London, 1831-1848, 9 volumes), compiled by Edward King, Viscount Kingsborough (1795-1837). Its publisher was Robert Havell (of Audubon fame).





img135This copy was donated to the Watkinson Library in the spring of 1910 by the Rev. Dr. Melancthon Williams Jacobus (1855-1937), and his wife, Clara May, whom he married in Hartford in 1896. Jacobus was a Pennsylvania-born graduate of Princeton (class of 1877), who studied at the Princeton Theological Seminary (1878-81) and abroad at Gottingen and Berlin. In 1884 he became pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Oxford, PA until 1891, when he  came to the Hartford Theological Seminary to take the position of Hosmer Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Criticism, retiring to emeritus in 1928. He was a Trustee of the Watkinson for 31 years, from 1906-37, was a generous donor of books and supplies, and served as Board President from 1924-35. In 1916 he was instrumental in founding the Kingswood academy (now Kingswood Oxford School) in West Hartford, donating 18 acres of land for the campus.


[The following is quoted in full from a London bookseller’s excellent description of a copy currently on the market]IMG_3032

The greatest illustrated work on Mexican antiquities. Supported by Sir Thomas Phillipps – many of whose manuscripts are described in the Antiquities – Edward King, Viscount Kingsborough (1795 – 1837), who first became fascinated by Mexican artifacts whilst studying at Oxford, employed the Italian painter Augustine Aglio to scour Europe’s greatest libraries and private collections for Mexican manuscripts. Aglio sketched and later lithographed these manuscripts for publication here in Kingsborough’s magnum opus. Although Kingsborough’s intention was to prove that the indigenous people of the Americas were a lost tribe of Israel, he inadvertently produced one of the most important books on the architecture and extant codices of Central America and Mexico ever produced. The cost of producing the work was enormous and Kingsborough reportedly spent more than £32,000, driving him into bankruptcy and debtor’s prison as well as litigation with Phillips. Kingsborough died of typhoid contracted while in prison for a debt to a paper manufacturer mere months before he inherited the estate, with an annual income of £40,000, of his father, the Duke of Kingston. This set is from the Havell issue: Aglio began publication of the first five volumes in 1830 but later, in 1831, transferred publication to Havell and Colnaghi who printed newer title pages. Besides Aglio’s reproductions of manuscripts in the Bodleian, the Vatican Library, the Imperial Library of Vienna, the Library of the Institute at Bologna, and the royal libraries of Berlin, Dresden, and Budapest, the work includes Dupaix’s ‘Monuments of New Spain’ (‘the first drawings of Maya architecture to be published’, Wauchope), taken from Castaneda’s original drawings, and descriptions of sculptures and artifacts from several private collections. The text, with sections in Spanish, English, French, and Italian, includes Sahagun’s ‘Historia General de la Nueva Espana’ and the chronicles of Tezozomoc and Ixtlilxochitl.


Six Pack–student exhibition opening

   Posted by: rring

Six Pack Student ExhibitionsIt is somehow fitting that my 300th post to this blog is about our student exhibition opening on Wednesday night (12/10), which was a solid success, and drew almost 30 students and staff who heard the presentations with interest.

Filling the occasional gaps in conversation, and providing an excellent backdrop as always, was our resident piano player Romulus Perez.

All six shows will be up through June 30th, and catalogs will be available for those who stop in to see them (Monday – Friday, 10:00am – 4:30 pm).

Six Pack Student ExhibitionsThe shows are:

Voices for the Vote: What Women were Saying and Reading during the Fight for Suffrage (Gaia N. Cloutier ‘16)

The Impossibility of Translating Culture (Alix A. de Gramont ‘15)

Aotearoa: The Land of the Long White Cloud (Quirin A. Sackmann ‘15)

Vinegar Valentines (Meghan E. Shaw, graduate student)

Shall We Dance? The Evolution of Etiquette on the Dance Floor (Karen J. Tuthill-Jones, graduate student)

Functional Pottery in America (Mariah J. West, graduate student)

Six Pack Student ExhibitionsSix Pack Student Exhibitions


“This was a man!”

   Posted by: rring

Charles_Promo_021The Watkinson (with support from the English Department) hosted a dual celebration–both of the acquisition of the 2nd Folio of Shakespeare in 2012, and of the life and work of Charles Keating, who among many other achievements, had a special Trinity connection in that he worked with generations of Prof. Milla Riggio’s Shakespeare students for almost 30 years.

Three of Milla’s former students came back to talk about the influence that Charles–and Shakespeare–has had on their lives.

IMG_3007Shown here are Kirk Peters (center, who played Othello, and was then the Associate Dean of Trinity; he is now Dean of Student Affairs at Tunxis Community College); Chris Andersson (left, who played Iago, and who is now Director of Admissions at the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU); and Kara Molway Russell (right, who played Bianca, and is an English professor at CCSU, teaching Shakespeare!). Also shown here is the original cast of Othello, ca. 1990. Each special guest spoke of Charles’s profound impact on their lives as students of Shakespeare, and it was clear that he served the function of a grand mentor to all of them in different ways.img049

Also present were Charles’s son (Sean) and widow (Mary), and about 25 students from Milla’s current Shakespeare class.



Making books!

   Posted by: rring

book making workshop 029 copyPaulette Rosen, an instructor from the Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven, held a workshop in the Watkinson on making a book by hand. A small but enthusiastic group learned how to assemble and sew a pamphlet and make an accordion-fold book. We learned about the properties of paper, tricks for measuring and folding, sewing, and covering boards. We all came away inspired with ideas for new projects and gifts for the upcoming holidays under the capable guidance of book artist Rosen.

book making workshop 022 copy

pamphlet 72 dpiaccordian 72 dpi


Farewell feast for AMST 851!

   Posted by: rring

IMG_2857Tonight one of my students provided a feast for our last “world of rare books” class: octogenarian Emily Leonard, who made (among other things) the incredibly sinful chocolate chocolate cake in the foreground. It was a grand finale to a truly great group-dynamic this summer–thanks to all of my students (two not shown), and best of luck in your collecting!



Class visit to a private collection

   Posted by: rring

During the 1st summer session (June/July) I am teaching AMST 851, a graduate course on “the world of rare books.” I have nine (9) students in all–four from American Studies, four from English, and one auditor from Simmons College’s LIS program.

Len1A few of us were privileged to visit the home of one of our Trustees, who collects Americana before 1840. He laid out a table of some of his favorites and went around, book by book, telling each item’s story. He also told us how he began collecting as a child–first with coins and stamps, then on to books beginning in his teens.

The one item that sticks out in my mind was a little (but important) rare tract by Samuel Penhallow (1665-1726), published in Boston in 1726: The History of the Wars of New England with the Eastern Indians.  This copy was annotated with commentary by someone who knew a veteran of the wars–in some cases correcting the text. The Watkinson has a 19th-century reprint of this work, but not the original, and certainly not such an amazing copy!

Len4In all the collection comprises over 600 items, which are neatly  shelved in several rooms.


Class Trip to an Auction

   Posted by: rring

img938During the 1st summer session (June/July) I am teaching AMST 851, a graduate course on “the world of rare books.” I have four students from American Studies, four from English, and one auditor from Simmons College’s LIS program.

Several of us attended a sale sponsored by New England Book  Auctions, a firm that runs a few auctions per month out of the Hotel Northampton, serving mostly dealers but often collectors and librarians as well. The sale proceeded at a nice clip–faster than usual, and 215 lots were knocked down in precisely two hours. The Watkinson won the following items, to the delight of the students (and one of our new Board members, who came with us and purchased two items for his own collection).

A lot of ten (10) early 19th-century chapbooks for children (religious/moral/educational): two were published in London (with color illustrations) by the Wholesale Bible and Prayer Book Warehouse; two in Massachusetts (Worcester and Wendell); three in Philadelphia (issued by the American Tract Society); and three in New York (issued by the American Sunday-School Union).

img942An edition of the history of the Jews by Flavius Josephus published in Vermont in 1819–a rather scarce book, all told–which was clearly intended for a Christian audience. There are only 13 copies listed in American libraries (five of which are in New England), and ours is the only copy in Connecticut!

img941A very small (4 x 2.5 inches) edition of John Wesley’s Thoughts on Slavery, originally published in 1774. This edition was produced in 1839 by the American Antislavery Society in New York. According to the preface: “To many it will probably be a matter of surprise, to perceive how exactly the sentiments of Rev. John Wesley, on the subject of American slavery, agree, not only with those put forth about the same time, in this country, by Hopkins, Franklin, Rush, Jay, Jefferson and others, but, also, with those now advocated by the American Antislavery Society. –Truth is immutably the same; and hence the wisest and best of men, in every age, and in every country, have invariably arrived at the same results, when reasoning on the momentous question of Human Rights. Though written more than sixty years ago, the reader will find, in the following pages, a minute and faithful account of Slavery as it exists in this nation; and the sin of slaveholding, and the duty of instant emancipation, are here demonstrated beyond the possibility of successful refutation. Let no one, into whose hands this little tract may fall, fail to give it a candid perusal.”

img939img940And finally, a rather excruciatingly racist minstrel show, The Nigger Boarding House: A Screaming Farce, by Oliver Wenlandt, published in 1898 (New York: Fitzgerald Publishing Corp.). This is also fairly scarce–only 13 copies are recorded, and this is one of only two in New England (the other is at Yale). On the title-page it reads, “in one act and one scene for six male burnt-cork characters,” and further, “with complete directions for its performance.” Also of interest to theater historians is a full-page ad on the inside front cover for “Dick’s Theatrical Make-up Book,” shown here.




   Posted by: rring

EJJohnson_photo2We were thrilled to host Eric Johnson, Curator of Early Books & Manuscripts at the Ohio State University, from March 10-13 for a series about medieval manuscripts. On Tuesday he delivered a great talk on the notions of “value” or “worth” that underlie our understanding and appreciation of medieval manuscripts by examining the life of the Hornby-Cockerell Bible (OSU MS.MR14).

Hornby Bible_asstdAn example of a rare “proto-Paris” Bible likely produced in a Parisian workshop sometime in the early 1220s, this Bible survived intact until 1981 when it was sold at auction and promptly broken by its purchasers to be sold off leaf-by-leaf. Johnson is purchasing those leaves as they come back on the market and re-assembling them at Ohio State.  He discussed the manuscript’s original value as an objet d’art, its destruction and “re-packaging” into 440 constituent units of sale, and the slow, methodical process of reconstructing it at The Ohio State University.



Then on Wednesday Dr. Johnson spoke to the students in Jonathan Elukin’s course on the history of the Bible, where he discussed the transition from manuscript to print, using leaves from both the Watkinson and Ohio State University Libraries. Later, we had well over a dozen staff, faculty, alumni and students take part in a guided workshop on medieval manuscripts, when Dr. Johnson spoke at length about the production of parchment, inks, and other elements of the medieval book.



Lucky 13! opening a success!

   Posted by: rring

AMST 835 class picThe opening of our student exhibitions last month was a great success, with over 60 people in attendance from as far a way as upstate New York.

Every fall I teach a course in the American Studies department on museum and library exhibitions, and my students curate their own shows “soup to nuts,” – not just telling a story with artifacts, but also fundraising, planning and budgeting for an opening event and producing a published catalog. This fall I had 13 students, and each one did their own show, so I called the collective exhibition “Lucky 13.” The shows will be on display through June 15, and catalogs are still available.