Archive for the ‘News’ Category

The Watkinson is extrememly pleased to announce the donation of a fine and extensive private collection of science fiction novels and pulp magazines, acquired over the course of sixty years, given by Lofty Becker of West Hartford, CT, a professor (emeritus) at the University of Connecticut specializing in constitutional and criminal law.

Here are a couple of high-spots of the collection, to whet your appetite (see the end of this post for further pics of covers, etc.):

In 1953, Ballantine released a limited edition run of Ray Bradbury’s book-burning novel Fahrenheit 451 that might survive a visit from the firemen. Two hundred numbered and signed copies of the book (ours is number 46) were bound in Johns-Manville Quinterra, a chrysolite asbestos material. The copies are much sought after by collectors.

Another jewel of the collection is the original typescript of Philip K. Dick’s Eye in the Sky, along with a copy of its first edition (Ace paperback) issued in 1957! Also, the final galley proofs for Isaac Asimov’s 1957 (Doubleday) collection of short stories under the title Earth is Room Enough.

Thousands of other volumes are in the collection, from Asimov to Zelazny, as well as issues of early pulp magazines!







The following is a history of the formation of this collection in the words of its compiler, Loftus (Lofty) E. Becker, Jr.:

I started reading fantasy and science fiction in May 1954. I was 9 years old and home sick from school. After I had finished “The Count of Monte Cristo” my mother brought three issues – April, May, and June – of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction to my bed. (Those days cover dates on magazines were when they were removed from newsstands, so the June issue had been on sale since early May.) I read Robert Heinlein’s “Star Lummox” (published in book form as The Star Beast) and was hooked. Before I went back to school I’d read everything in those three issues.

My father – Loftus Sr. – had long been reading fantasy, and some science fiction. Every month he brought The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction home from a newsstand. That didn’t give me enough to read, and when I ran out of science fiction in the children’s library section my parents got permission for me to take out “adult” books. In addition, our family excursions most weeks were to Estate Book Sales in Washington, D.C. – the only secondhand bookstore open on Sundays. My father would take his children along and pay for any books we wanted to buy. I got a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars) there.

I was particularly taken with Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, Clifford Simak, and Hal Clement, but I’d read anything I could find and buy anything I could afford. Mostly that meant Astounding and Galaxy magazines at newsstands. When we moved to Long Island in 1956, my allowance was higher and I started taking the train into New York City every weekend to browse the many secondhand bookstores on 4th Avenue below 14th St. I also began visiting Gnome Press’s headquarters on 11th Street. Marty Greenberg, the publisher, would sell me Gnome books for a dollar, and I got quite a few.

When we moved back to Washington, D.C. in 1957, I discovered the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA), an active fan club with monthly meetings. I was able to buy a few books and magazines from members there – I got 30 of the first 31 Astoundings for $30 from one man who was running out of space, and a number of Arkham House books from Robert Madle – who is still alive and selling secondhand science fiction by mail order at the age of 97.

In addition, I discovered that 9th Street N.W. had three secondhand bookstores with reasonably good science fiction collections. One – George Friend’s – had a large collection of remainders available for $1 and accessible only by climbing a tall ladder. No bookstore these days would let a 13-year-old climb that high up, but George let me and I got quite a few books from him. I also discovered a store on Staten Island that would let me place a standing order for every science fiction paperback published. At the start that meant 10-15 a month. I kept it up through college, but not long after that the bookstore went out of business.

My father was smart enough not to buy “The Lord of the Rings” until all three volumes were out. That meant we didn’t suffer the agony of waiting for two years to find out what happened to Frodo, captured by orcs at the end of the second volume. The problem was that Papa had priority, so I could read them only when he wasn’t home and I wasn’t at school, so I had several 20-hour agonies of suspense. Reading them turned me into a Tolkien enthusiast. I even started making my own index of the books (which Tolkien told me not to publish since he was doing his own). My mother got unbound sheets of The Silmarillion and bound a copy in leather for me. That’s the one book I’m holding back from the gift (there is another copy, not leather bound, in the collection).

Thanks to WSFA, I also was able to go several of the annual science fiction conventions – Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Los Angeles. At the first I won a copy of H.P. Lovecraft’s Beyond the Wall of Sleep in a lottery. It was second prize; first prize was The Outsider and Others, which went to a friend. I later bought it from him for $100. At others I bought a Phillip K. Dick typescript, and some original illustrations, at auction. I was also able to meet many of the authors and editors I admired – Heinlein (very gracious to a young admirer), Asimov, de Camp, Robert Silverberg, and some others. I even had an hour’s conversation with Anthony Boucher (bought at auction) – in which he turned me into an enthusiast of Wagner’s Ring cycle.

My parents moved to Paris in 1959, but I stayed in D.C., which meant I had to get my own subscription to Fantasy and Science Fiction. I’ve one had ever since. (I could have bought a lifetime subscription for $100, but sadly didn’t.) When I went to college (1961) and law school (1966) I was in towns with fewer good sources of secondhand books but kept looking.

My mother moved to Havertown, Pennsylvania, in a house that finally had space for all my books and magazines on shelves. Alas, part of that space was in the basement, which flooded. My mother was a professional bookbinder and was able to salvage many. Still, I lost a lot of paperbacks (the covers stick together when wetted), and the first few issues of Amazing Stories.

After graduating law school and starting work, I had less time to read and the bookstores were drying up (the 9th Street bookstores in D.C. were all gone). I still kept prowling what I could find, filling in the Arkham House collection (I paid $150 for Out of Space and Time, the hardest to find) and sometimes finding better copies – generally copies with dustjackets to replace books my father had bought. I never did find a decent American copy of Heinlein’s Starman Jones. For a while I subscribed to Easton Press’s series of leatherbound signed editions but either my tastes or theirs changed and I finally dropped it.

I’ve bought very little since about 2000. I’ve kept up my subscription to Fantasy and Science Fiction, but dropped Analog (formerly Astounding) a few years ago.

(Loftus E. Becker, Jr.)


Ben Barber sees his papers

   Posted by: prawson

The Watkinson library has completed processing the Ben Barber papers. Ben Barber ’64 enjoyed a lengthy career as freelance foreign correspondent from the 1970’s to today. His articles have appeared in The Washington Times, USA Today, Christian Science Monitor and the Huffington Post, among others. He worked as a senior writer for the U.S. Agency International Development (2002-2010) reporting on and photographing aid projects in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.  Ben is the author of Groundtruth: work, play and conflict in the Third World, published in 2014. Over the years Barber worked as an adjunct international communications professor at George Mason University and Georgetown University and taught media seminars to journalists in Africa.

The  papers consist of story proposals, journalism and poetry notebooks, and news service copy; correspondence between Barber, fellow journalists, editors and friends; photographs that accompany his work as a journalist and senior editor for USAID; and personal papers from his time as a student and professor. Throughout his career as a journalist Barber focused on social injustice, economic policy and conflict in developing countries and beyond.

The Watkinson Library encourages researchers to visit the library and view the papers.  For further information contact Peter Rawson, Associate Curator of Archives and Manuscript Collections.


Ben Barber reviews his papers in the Archives Room, Watkinson Library during Homecoming.

Comics collection!

   Posted by: rring

comics1comics2I am thrilled to announce the gift of a collection of comics, graphic novels, and comic book reference material by Marcus Leab, of Maple Grove, Minnesota.

Housed in 46 boxes (long and short–some shown here) and a few plastic bins, we estimate there are nearly 10,000 comics, 200+ graphic novels, and dozens of reference books. A full inventory will take some time to compile, but in general these date from the late 1980s to the present, and run the gamut of superhero and other series.

Many colleges and universities have acquired collections in this fascinating area of popular culture, which also include pulps (science fiction, horror, mystery, etc.) and zines (often produced out of fan culture). There are large collections at various universities–such as the University of Iowa, Indiana University, the University of Georgia, Brigham Young University, Duke, Brown, the University of Tulsa, Drew University, Southern Methodist University, Bowling Green University, and Texas A&M.

Here is Mr. Leab’s own account of his collection, along with a picture of him and his children:

For years in New York City, and later in Washington, Connecticut, I read Garfield, Bloom County, and other newspaper comic strips, but in May of 1988, my mother, Katharine Kyes Leab (editor of American Book Prices Current), and my father, Daniel Leab (Editor of Labor History and founder of American Communist History), bought me Action Comics 600. The issue, which had vibrant colors, huge action scenes, and interesting dialogue was quickly followed with Amazing Spider-Man 301. It was after those two issues that I was hooked. Soon I had a box at my local comic book shop (named “My Mother Threw Mine Away”) and I was collecting a dozen or more issues a week. Suddenly Batman, The Punisher, Doctor Strange, Checkmate, The X-Men, Spider-Man, and more were filling my imagination on a daily basis as I eagerly anticipated how their adventures would continue. My love of collecting was also bolstered by older sisters Abigail and Constance, who collected comics as well.

The main bulk of this collection is from the late 1980s to the present, but I also had some comics from the 1950s-70s that came to me after another collector came to speak to my parents about books and saw me reading comics.

“Hey, kid,” the man said. “Want to buy my collection off of me?”

I was intrigued. “How much?”

“Tell you what,” the man stated, “If you move it yourself, inventory it, and then give me a copy of that inventory…$100. What do you say?”


I moved three boxes of older comics that included classic Silver Surfer issues, an older Thor, and many other classic Marvel, DC, and independent books. A great deal.

As I grew older, I continued to collect DC and Marvel comics, but also started collecting some of the independent comics as well, such as Eastman & Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spawn by Todd McFarlane, and Kurt Busiek’s Astro City.

Now, as a father of two, I still love comics and have passed that love on to my kids, but how to manage the boxes became a challenge. A few months ago, as I was re-reading part of my collection, I noticed that some of the books had visibly aged. Since libraries are amazing at taking care of precious texts, and these comics were very precious to me; and since my mother had just donated some other material to Trinity, I thought the Watkinson Library would be the best place to send the collection so it would be cared for. I realized that comics are one of the many reflections of our world & culture, and it is my hope that readers will come to see the collection both to remember their own love of the world of comics as well as (in the case of new students) to see what influenced their parents and even grandparents.

Into the unknown, dear readers!


Science Fiction comes to the Watkinson

   Posted by: rring

scifiThe Watkinson is pleased to announce the gift of the Leigh Couch Collection of science fiction magazines, consisting of several hundred magazines dating from the 1930s to the 1980s. It is particularly strong in the magazines from the 1950s and 1960s, when experimental, diverse and New Wave writers like Samuel R. “Chip” Delaney, Roger Zelazny, and Michael Moorcock were remaking the field into its modern form. Scores of issues feature the first appearances by many of the most important writers in contemporary science fiction, including Philip K. Dick, Connie Willis, Joe Haldeman, Ursula K. Le Guin, and many others.

Science fiction fandom began in the United States in the 1920s when pulp fiction magazines like Amazing Stories (founded by Hugo Gernsbach, for whom the annual science fiction Hugo Awards are named) were the medium for the development of the science fiction genre, and attracted passionate followers who connected with each other through letters published in the pulps. They began to correspond, form groups, publish the first fanzines (or zines) and many sought to become professional writers. Early fans-turned-pros include Ray Bradbury, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (creators of Superman), and Isaac Asimov (I, Robot).

Leigh CouchLeigh Couch (1925-1998) was a fan of science fiction who began reading the genre in the pulp magazines as a child in the 1940s, so she was a pioneer as the fandom was predominantly male for decades. As a Catholic grade school teacher and young mother of three, she become very active in science fiction fandom from the 1960s through the 1980s, along with her whole family. She attended numerous world and regional science fiction conventions and was on the planning and organizing committee of the Saint Louiscon World Science Fiction Convetion in 1969, the year of the Moon landing. She and her husband Norbert C. Couch were popular fan guests of honor at regional conventions in the Midwest in the 1970s.

In a letter to a zine in the 1970s, she recalled, “I don’t think a young fan of today can realize how suspect we were for reading the pulps, and for a girl to read [SF], that was almost proof of perversion!” During her almost three decades of activity in science fiction fandom, she was a mentor to many younger fans, both personally encouraging of their publishing, writing, and art activities, and providing a role model as a mature and professional adult who also took popular culture seriously, publishing zines, writing letters and articles, running and attending science fiction conventions. She published the well-regarded zine Sirruish, which was included in Fredric Wertham’s The World of Fanzines: A Special Form of Communication.

The collection will be available for research in the fall.



Third Annual Writer’s Residency

   Posted by: rring

IMG_1361I am pleased to announce that May Collins P. Woollcott ’16 is this year’s awardee of the South Beach Writing Residency, offered by the family of Hyam Plutzik ’32.

Originally from Atlanta, GA, May is an English major with a focus on creative writing. This semester she is completing a poetry thesis under Professor Clare Rossini, poet and Artist-in-Residence at Trinity College. Upon graduation, May will be moving to Boston to work in publishing. She hopes to attend an MFA program in the coming years.

The family of Hyam Plutzik (Trinity ’32) provides an annual residency (for five years) in South Beach in the Betsy Writer’s Room to a graduating senior with outstanding talent in the literary arts.  The award is bestowed as part of the graduation program (Honors Day).  This residency comes with a $500 travel stipend, six days lodging, and a per diem of $50. During the residency, which can happen anytime during the award year, the recipient will be invited to participate in an Arts Salon to share her work with the community.

gothic exhibThe Watkinson loans material to round out the story!

This captivating exhibition displays costume, the fine and decorative arts, and literature to explain the context of Romantic fashion up to contemporary Goth. Watkinson loaned books by Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Jules Verne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, H.G. Wells and Hartford’s own Lydia Sigourney. Sigourney’s Letters to Young Ladies is one of the stops on the audio tour, and is described by Watkinson associate curator Sally Dickinson.


gothic exhib sigourney 2Mrs. Sigourney wrote hundreds of poems, books, and articles that captured the sentiments of the day, especially for women. Guest curator Lynne Bassett gave a special tour the day of the opening and was most appreciative of our collaboration. Our relationship with the Atheneum continues to grow!

Gothic to Goth runs March 5 through July 10, 2016 at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford.

gothic exhib sigourney

[Posted by Sally Dickinson, Associate Curator & Preservation Librarian]


Homecoming visitors

   Posted by: rring

IMG_3330Members of the current Tripod staff were able to benefit from the wisdom of several alumni who worked on the paper in their time at Trinity, and came in today to look at the exhibition “Ten Decades of the Tripod.”

Ben Barber ’65 held forth to the students about the importance of editing, especially when the current editor revealed that many student contributors were offended by changes made to their copy.

“That’s journalism,” said Barber, a professional journalist for decades who currently writes for the Huffington Post, and who made it clear that every writer needs an editor. Barber left Trinity and “became a hippie,” as he says, roving through India and Thailand for ten years, writing poetry and selling stories to newspapers back in the US. He spoke at length with several students about writing and reporting.


IMG_3331Robert Cockburn ’90, who also serves on the Board of Fellows, talked animatedly with the students and other alumni (Pat Sclafani ’83, and Patty Hooper Kelley ’82) and told stories of their days with the paper. A bit later Marybeth (Callan) Serdechny ’83 and Que (Ho) Witik ’83 dropped in and reminisced about the classmates they saw in the stacks of Tripods from the 1980s.

Another alumnus, Dan Kelman ’76, who served on the Tripod as a freelance photographer in the early 1970s, pointed out many of his pics and reminisced about his friend Dave Levin ’75, who went on to shoot photos for Sports Illustrated.





Exhibition opening

   Posted by: rring

IMG_3262Now that our 20-foot timeline for “Ten Decades of the Trinity Tripod” has been installed, we can finally open this exhibition!

The Watkinson Library invites the campus community to our opening during Common Hour (12:15-1:30) on Tuesday, October 6th, 2015. We will have light refreshments, and the event for the hour will be a running game of Trin-Trivia, a game devised by Head Curator Rick Ring to test your knowledge (and teach you a little something) about Trinity College history.

For those who show up and play, you will be able to win a “vintage” edition of the Tripod, or other cool bits of Trinitiana!IMG_3261


We lent some cool stuff for their party!

   Posted by: rring

[Associate Curator Sally Dickinson attended a recent event opening the Wadsworth Atheneum after a long period of renovation. Some of our books are featured in their exhibition.]

The evening began with a walk up the red carpet to the Wadsworth Atheneum’s opening celebration for its “museum family.” The cause was the completion of a 5-year renovation and reinstallation of its impressive collections of European art. Shown here is the Watkinson’s contribution to the Cabinet of Art and Curiosities: Konrad Gesner’s Historiae Animalium (1617,) Johann Gottfried’s Newe Welt und Americanische Historien (1655) and Joannes Jonstonus’s Historiae naturalis (1657). The books were selected by Atheneum curator Linda Roth. A personal favorite is the engraving of a unicorn. The gallery was visually arresting. Picture natural history specimens, painting, and decorative arts informing one another. The installation (puffer fish mounted about the door, drawers of manuscripts and portraits, etc.) was as remarkable as the art itself. This show is one not to miss. Link to the New York Times review.

atheneum 3atheneum 1athenuem 2


Welcome to Trinity!

   Posted by: rring

RawsonThe Watkinson Library is pleased to announce the appointment of Peter Rawson as Associate Curator of Archives and Manuscript Collections. He will begin working at Trinity on August 24, 2015.

Peter is originally from Riverside, Connecticut.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in history (concentrating on modern Europe) from Antioch University Seattle, a master’s degree in library science, and a master’s degree in history (American history, 18th-20th centuries)—both from Simmons College. His history thesis focused on the ways in which the 1918-19 influenza epidemic in the U.S. disappeared in popular discourse for over a generation after the event.

For the past nine years he has been Archivist for the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT. Prior to that he served for six years at the Center for the History of Medicine at the Countway Library, Harvard Medical School, as photograph/image archivist, archivist for the National Archives of Plastic Surgery, and assistant reference librarian. Before becoming an archivist, Peter spent a decade living and working in Hartford as the Canvass Director for the Connecticut Citizen Action Group.