Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Chemistry Lecture Notebooks, 1863

   Posted by: prawson

Chemistry Lecture Notebooks


The Trinity College Archives has just acquired two volumes of chemistry lecture notebooks from 1863.  These notes were taken by William T. Currie—Class of 1863.  The lectures were delivered by Thomas R. Pynchon—Class of 1841.  Pynchon was President of the College from 1874-1883 and Scovill Professor of Chemistry and Natural Sciences from 1854-1902.  Pynchon also served as College Librarian.





The notebooks are a gift from the Estate of Dr. J. Reilly Lewis.


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.


Rare French & Indian War map

   Posted by: rring

Rediscovering the amazing things we hold in the Watkinson in the course of our daily work is one of the best parts of the job.

Associate Curator Sally Dickinson, who specializes in cataloging and preservation, has been methodically removing oversize maps from flat files that are too small to hold them unfolded, in preparation for storing them in a custom-made metal case with drawers big enough to hold them flat.

Of the several eye-catching maps that have been literally unfolding before our eyes, this one presented a bit of a mystery. We could not initially find a reference to it, but after asking a few specialists in the field we can say that it is a “pirated” map, dated ca. 1758/59, and one of only three copies of this particular issue in a library (the others are at the Boston Public Library and the Library of Congress).

Based on Bowen & Gibson’s wall map of 1755, maps such as this one were produced to make political statements, depicting various claims cartographically–locating forts which should not have been erected, “correcting” boundaries that were “misrepresented” in other maps, and pointing out when and where violations of treaties and sales with the Five Nations occurred, etc.

Library of Congress copy:
Boston Public copy:



Going boldly

   Posted by: rring

[Posted by Ashley Esposito, a graduate student in American Studies doing an internship in the Watkinson]

AshleyLeigh Couch Collection in progress…

I have been a fan of contemporary science fiction and comic movies/series. Yet my love for written works and reading is relatively new in comparison. So when I was offered the opportunity to work on the Leigh Couch Collection of science fiction magazines at the Watkinson, I was a bit overwhelmed. As part of this project, I will clean, categorize, and inventory this collection while trying not to get too distracted by its content. That is likely to be easier said than done.

The collection is approximately twenty-five standard banker boxes with neatly stacked volumes that are grouped and wrapped in plastic. They were stored in a barn so have varying conditions. Although it is a work in progress and will continue to be for many weeks, I am already beginning to discover hidden treasures.


stargateThe work is slow and repetitive but seeing my first 120 volumes air drying was worth it. So far I have found at least three covers that remind me of favorite contemporary works, diverse images that speak to the duality of science fiction and their fans and even a cover that appears to be printed to be viewed with 3-D glasses. I will let you know how that works out once my newly purchased 3-D glasses arrive in the mail for me to view the cover again.

cleaned cartI have barely scratched the surface of this generous donated collection and have found more than a few ways to let my mind wander and enjoy. That is really what science fiction is about for me. As Robert Frost wrote; “Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled and that has made all the difference.”  Here is to the less traveled road.



NY Book Fair

   Posted by: rring

book fair1Every April the ABAA (Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America) and the ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) sponsors an international antiquarian book fair in New York, at the Park Ave Armory. The other big fairs of the year are in Boston (November) and California (February), alternating years in Los Angeles & San Francisco.

I always come to New York, but this may be the last year that the show is at the Armory, which would be a great shame (they are planning to go up-market and attract folks that can pay a lot more than book dealers to use the space). I usually just come for a day, but this trip I was able to stay for 3 days, and so, I thought a report might be fun.

Some 200 dealers from all over the world place the most interesting items in their stock in booths that measure about 10 x 10 feet … tens of millions of dollars worth of antiquarian material in one big room for four days. It’s a great place to build relationships and buy amazing things for your collection.

The dealers hail from many US states as well as the U.K., Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Russia, Japan, Australia and Argentina.

There are a cluster of dealers from the UK from whom I love to buy–they have an eye that I agree with, and generally I agree with their pricing! This year was no different, and I will discuss specific acquisitions in later posts. Justin Croft, whom I met perhaps 10 years ago when I was buying for another institution, always has more than enough items to tempt–especially French and English manuscript material. Simon Beattie is another whom I met a decade or more ago, when he was with Quaritch, I think, and I was so impressed when he set up on his own–both because I know how brave that move is (I tried my hand at bookselling for a couple of years), and because his catalogues were just so freaking cool. The design actually made the items more attractive–one wanted to buy them just to reward Simon for the effort! And although I generally don’t acquire Russian materials (one of his specialties), he often has a quirky rare item that fits with what I am looking for at the time (more to follow!).

Susanne Shulz-Falster and Deborah Coltham are two other U.K. dealers with whom I enjoy working. Always charming and enthusiastic (as are Simon and Justin), Susanne has fabulous books related to printing history, but it is often the quirky side items that attract me (again, more to follow). Deborah often comes up with great stuff on the history of medicine (including quackery).

That’s enough for now–back to the fair!


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!

“They always feed on the wing.  In calm and warm weather, they soar to an immense height, pursuing the large insects called Musquito Hawks, and performing the most singular evolutions that can be conceived, using their tail with an elegance of motion peculiar to themselves.  Their principal food, however, is large grasshoppers, grass-caterpillars, small snakes, lizards, and frogs.  They sweep close over the fields, sometimes seeming to alight for a moment to secure a snake, and holding it fast by the neck, carry it off, and devour it in the air.  When searching for grasshoppers and caterpillars, it is not difficult to approach them under cover of a fence or tree.  When one is then killed and falls to the ground, the whole flock comes over the dead bird, as if intent upon carrying it off.  An excellent opportunity is thus afforded of shooting as many as may be wanted, and I have killed several of these Hawks in this manner, firing as fast as I could load my gun.”

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 369 [excerpted].


Mapping the Middle East

   Posted by: rring

Several days ago we hosted professor Zayde Antrim’s “Mapping the Middle East” class.  The students pick a historical atlas and answer a questionnaire about aspects of what they see.  Here is the course description:

“This course approaches the history of the Middle East through maps. It will look at the many different ways maps have told the story of the territory we now call the Middle East and the many different points of view that have defined it as a geographical entity. Readings will analyze maps as social constructions and will place mapmaking and map-use in a historical context. We will relate maps to questions of empire, colonialism, war and peace, nationalism, and environmental change.”


Power to the People

   Posted by: rring

From another institution, we recently received the gift of a box of the papers of Trinity alumnus Steven H. Keeney ’71 (on the right in the photo), relating to the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and their activities at Trinity College between 1967-1969.  These activities are documented in primary source materials such as letters and memos, newspaper clippings, and “ditto” copies of documents such as Student Senate minutes, budgets, organizational structures, and flyers created by the SDS to publicize their activities.  Of these activities, the April 1968 sit-in was probably one of the most noteworthy of the SDS nation-wide movement.  There are also indications that the uprising at Columbia just a short time later was spurred by the SDS, who urged students to become active during their 10-day “Shake-up” in 1968.

Arising from a climate of frustration and miscommunication, SDS along with the Trinity Association of Negroes (TAN) rallied together a group of 168 students in April 1968 to hold the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees and President Jacobs hostage.  In their manifesto, included in this collection of material, the agitators requested that President Jacobs and the Board consider increasing scholarship support for black students, additional classes focusing on urban studies, and community development amid other requests.  Unknown to the agitators, President Jacobs and the Board not only had the same mandate in mind but they were working at that time to achieve the same goal as the students.  Due to a series of miscommunications, this was undisclosed at the time of the sit-in.

This collection joins scores of others in the Archives which collectively document Trinity’s history and place in American society, and are rich sources for research.

The page-turning of the Audubon will subside — for a brief summer vacation — until after the 4th of July.

Conservator Jean Baldwin is working in the Watkinson over the next several weeks to address some issues we have with our copy of Audubon’s Birds of America.  The set has been at Trinity for 112 years, and in that time a few pages have been wrinkled, and the animal glue used in binding the book has hardened, and its brittle edges are essentially cutting into the first and last pages of each volume.  Jean is slowly removing the glue and replacing it with a more pliable and inert binder, as well as making spot repairs and ironing out wrinkles throughout the first two volumes (we will see to volumes II and IV in the summer of 2013).

Jean has been a paper conservator for over a decade, and before setting up under her own shingle she held positions in conservation and preservation at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (University of Texas at Austin), the Library of Congress, and the Yale University Library.