Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


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.

“The Baltimore Oriole arrives from the south, perhaps from Mexico, or perhaps from a more distant region, and enters Louisiana as soon as spring commences there.  It approaches the planter’s house, and searches amongst the surrounding trees for a suitable place in which to settle for the season.  It prefers, I believe, the trees that grow on the sides of a gentle declivity.  The choice of a twig being made, the male Oriole becomes extremely conspicuous. He flies to the ground, searches for the longest and driest filaments of the moss, which in that state is known by the name of Spanish Beard, and whenever he finds one fit for his purpose, ascends to the favorite spot where the nest is to be, uttering all the while a continued chirrup, which seems to imply that he knows no fear, but on the contrary fancies himself the acknowledged king of the woods . . . No sooner does he reach the branches, thank will bill and claws, aided by an astonishing sagacity, he fastens one end of the moss to a twig, with as much art as a sailor might do, and takes up the other end, which he secures also, but to another twig a few inches off . . . The female comes to his assistance with another filament of moss . . . inspects the work which her mate has done, and immediately commences her operations, placing each thread in a contrary direction to those arranged by her lordly mate . . . Their love increases daily as they see the graceful fabric approaching perfection, until their conjugal affection and faith becomes as complete as in any species of birds with which I am acquainted.” [. . . ]

“The plumage of the male bird is not mature until the third spring, and I have therefore in my drawing represented the males of the first, second, and third years.  The female will form the subject of another plate.  The male of the first year was taken for a female by my engraver, during my absence, and marked as such, although some of the plates were corrected the moment I saw the mistake.”

Curator’s Note:  In our copy the plate is uncorrected.


Acorn Club at the Watkinson

   Posted by: rring

On Saturday we hosted a meeting of the Acorn Club–a small but dedicated bibliophilic group (their archives are at the Connecticut Historical Society) that publishes books related to Connecticut history.  Here are a few of the more than 30 publications that they have published over the last 100 years:

Thomas Short : the first printer of Connecticut, by W. De Loss Love (Hartford, 1901)

Supplementary list of books printed in Connecticut, 1709-1800, by Albert Carlos Bates, M.A. (Hartford, 1938)

The journal of William Stebbins, Stratford to Washington in 1810, with an introduction by Leonard W. Labaree and notes by Pierce W. Gaines (Hartford, 1968)

Letters and documents of Ezekiel Williams of Wethersfield, Connecticut, Deputy Commissary General of Prisoners of War within the State of Connecticut (1777-c.1783), introduction & notes by John C. Parsons (Hartford, 1976)

John Warner Barber’s views of Connecticut towns 1834-36, edited by Christopher P. Bickford, J. Bard McNulty (Hartford, 1990)

Connecticut observed : three centuries of visitors’ impressions, 1676-1940, edited by Richard Buel, Jr. and J. Bard McNulty (Hartford, 1999)

For the members’ enjoyment I brought out a random sampling of items from our collection of books printed in Connecticut prior to 1800.  The earliest was this funeral sermon printed in New London and written by Cotton Mather, on Gurdon Saltonsall (1666-1724), Governor of Connecticut from 1708-1724.

Saltonsall was one of the few men in American history to step directly from the pulpit to the governorship.  His challenges were typical for the time: war with the native population and their allies, the French, boundary disputes with the adjacent colonies, and defending Connecticut’s charter from cancellation by England.  He was an early supporter and protector during Yale’s founding and its fledgling years, and came under political fire for insisting it be sited in New Haven rather than Hartford.

Another quite ephemeral piece is An account of the surprizing events of providence, which hapned [sic] at the raising of a bridge in Norwich, June 28th 1728 (New London, 1728).

This is part news story and part moral contemplation.  Forty men were working on building a bridge over the Shetucket River (about 3 miles from Norwich, CT), when a 100-foot section collapsed, dropping most of them 20 feet (and one man 40 feet) amid falling timbers to the rocky shallows below.  Many were injured, and two died: Jonathan Gale of Canterbury (who was just 19, whose father had recently died as well), and Daniel Tracy (who was 76, and only there to see the work being done as one of the founders of the project–he just happened to be on the bridge at the time).  This copy belonged to Tracy’s son, Winslow Tracy (1689-1768), which we can deduce from his signature, which he practiced writing on the back:

Another item, close to my bibliophilic heart, is a 1743 catalogue of the books in the Yale College Library.  It’s funny to think that this little 44-page pamphlet lists some 2,600 books of a library that now holds over 12 million volumes–a mere 270 years later.Lastly, my favorite, in an age when title-pages were like movie trailers today, giving a pithy summation of what was to come: The adventures of Colonel Daniel Boon, one of the first settlers at Kentucke: containing the wars with the Indians on the Ohio, from 1769 to 1783, and the first establishment and progress of the settlement on that river.  Written by the Colonel himself.  To which is added, A narrative of the captivity, and extraordinary escape of Mrs. Francis Scott, an inhabitant of Washington County, Virginia; who after the murder of her husband and children, by the Indians, was taken prisoner by them; on the 29th of June, 1785. (Norwich, 1786).


Bird of the week (11/7/11)

   Posted by: rring

This is the first of what I hope to be regular posts about the weekly bird we will show in the Audubon (took me 7 weeks to get into the groove, but we have 428 to go, so no worries).  Basically, I’m just going to be letting Audubon speak, transcribing sections from his “ornithological biography,” so here we go:

Plate VII: Purple Grackle or Common Crow-Blackbird (male and female)

“I could not think of any better mode of representing these birds than that which I have adopted, as it exhibits them in the exercise of their nefarious propensities.  Look at them: the male, as if full of delight at the sight of the havoc which he has already committed on the tender, juicy, unripe corn on which he stands, has swelled his throat, and is calling in exultation to his companions to come and assist him in demolishing it.  The female has fed herself, and is about to fly off with a well-loaded bill to her hungry and expectant brood . . . see how torn the husk is from the ear, and how nearly devoured the grains of corn already are!  This is the tithe our Blackbirds take from our planters and farmers; but it was so appointed, and such is the will of the beneficent Creator . . . ” (from Vol. I, 1831, pp. 35-41).