Posts Tagged ‘New Acquisition’


Flamingo comes home!

   Posted by:    in Uncategorized

One of the first things I learned upon starting at the Watkinson was that our copy of the Birds of America, which was given to Trinity by one of its early graduates in 1900 (Dr. Gurdon Russell, Class of 1834), was incomplete.  Unfortunately, well before the current security measures were put in place, a professional thief had stolen two plates from the book in 1977.  One plate (no. 430, the Slender-billed Guillemot) was recovered from a Boston bookseller within a year of the theft—the man also stole from the Connecticut State Library, the Boston Public Library, the Peabody Institute, and the New Bedford Public Library in Massachusetts.  The other plate (431, the American Flamingo), was never recovered.  Fortunately, we were able to secure a copy of this plate (from another set, owned by a paper company in Alabama) at auction on September 28, so after 35 years, our set is complete again.

The fact remains, however, that somewhere out there, on someone’s wall (hopefully unbeknownst to them), is our copy of the Flamingo.  Maybe someday we’ll find our wayward bird, but in the meantime, we will cherish our adopted one.

Tags: , , ,


The Kickapoo Doctor

   Posted by:    in Uncategorized

Recently acquired is a piece of ephemeral printing often associated with the traveling medicine shows.  The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company (headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut) published a variety of booklets and other advertisements to promote their products.

A great site which outlines the history of the company is here.

And here are some of the advertisements inside:


Railway Economy: a treatise on the new art of transport (New York, 1850).

According to the dealer’s description, this is the first edition of possibly the most comprehensive book ever written on railways.  The author, Dionysius Lardner (1793-1859) was an Irish-born professor, polymath and prolific writer on astronomy, economics, natural philosophy, and electricity.

Lardner begins with a brief history of transportation through the ages and then focuses on trains, providing many tables and statistics.  He leaves out no detail of railway systems in America, Europe, and the U.K., from the cost of building particular lines, to the operation of the boilers, to the behavior of passengers in stations, to the odds of being killed per mile traveled.  He concludes with a chapter on the politics of railways, a discussion similar to those of today relating to funding of ownership of roads and the Internet.



Author of Peter Pan….smokin’!!!

   Posted by:    in Uncategorized

Late 19thC decorative bindings are endlessly fascinating, and this book by J. M. Barrie is even more delightful.  This is the first American edition of My Lady Nicotine. A Study in Smoke.  In a series of wispy little essays (33 of them, generally under 2,000 words) Barrie explores the pleasures and pitfalls of dedicated smoking recounted by one who has happily married (with tongue lightly in cheek), and has “quit”–but still dreams of bachelor days and the pipe, the cigarette, and the cigar. 

Illustrated for the first time throughout (well over 130 illustrations in all) by the American impressionist painter Maurice B. Prendergast (only one of two books he illustrated himself).

Chapter titles include, “Matrimony and Smoking Compared,” “His Wife’s Cigars,” “The Romance of a Pipe-Cleaner,” “How Heroes Smoke,” and “The Perils of Not Smoking.”


From these posts it might seem that we only acquire “old” things–so here is an antidote to that assumption.  Below is the bookseller’s description, which gives a nice precis of the scope of the magazine:

Feminist Bookstore News.  47 issues from 1987 to 1999.  Published in San Francisco by Carol Seajay from 1983 to 2000, FBN is an unparalleled primary source for hard-to-find information about feminist publishing and bookselling of the day.  It is packed with feature articles, news notes, book reviews, surveys of the field, business strategies, profiles of publishers and shops, ads, and more.  The ups and downs, causes and concerns, of the feminist book community come across with great immediacy.  Although the focus is on the U.S., there is a great deal of international coverage, including Third World feminism.  Some issues focus on themes, such as Black History, Children’s Books, University Press, and Travel.  All kinds of publishers are represented–mainstream trade, scholarly, small press, lesbian, etc.


This new acquisition is cool on so many levels.  I love the binding–so striking–and the fact that it’s an early science fiction novel by John Jacob Astor IV (1864-1912).  Astor was 47 when he went down with the Titanic, although his 18-year-old bride and her unborn son survived.

A Journey in Other Worlds: A Romance of the Future was published in 1894 in New York.  This is early “steampunk,” a century before it became a genre. 

The novel is set in the year 2088, and explores three utopias–a Christian heaven on Saturn, and Eden-like new world on Jupiter, and a technologically oriented, entrepreneur’s paradise on Earth.  Space travel is possible through “apergy,” a kind of anti-gravity.

One of the most intriguing chapters is “professor Cortland’s historical sketch of the world in AD 2000.”  Remember, this is 1894, twenty years before the start of World War I, and only 30 years after the Civil War.  Astor’s professor interestingly gets the population right–300 million–but the U.S. now includes all of Canada, Mexico, and Central and South America, in ultimate fulfillment of the Monroe Doctrine.  Here’s an excerpt (pp. 39-40):

“Gradually the different states of Canada–or provinces, as they were then called–came to realize that their future would be far grander and more glorious in union with the United States than separated from it; and also that their sympathy was far stronger for their nearest neighbors than for anyone else.  One by one these Northern States made known their desire for consolidation with the Union, retaining complete control of their local affairs, as have the older States.  They were gladly welcomed by our government and people, and possible rivals became the best of friends.  Preceding and also following this, the States of Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America, tiring of the incessant revolutions and difficulties among themselves, which had pretty constantly looked upon us as a big brother on account of our maintenance of the Monroe doctrine, began to agitate for annexation, knowing they would retain control of their local affairs.  In this they were vigorously supported by the American residents and property-holders, who knew that their possessions would double in value the day the United States Constitution was signed.  Thus . . . the Union has increased enormously in power, till it now embraces 10,000,000 square miles [the land area of the Western Hemisphere is roughly 16 million square miles], and has a free and enlightened population of 300,000,000 [the population of the Western Hemisphere is about 860 million] . . . and as a result of modern improvements, it is less of a journey now to go from Alaska to the Orinoco than it was for the Father of his Country to travel from New York or Philadelphia to the site of the city named in his honour.”



Greatest Hits of the 1820s

   Posted by:    in Uncategorized

Here is a sweet little item we acquired last week–the only other copies I can find are at Yale and the British Library.

Songbooks like this are truly ephemeral pieces of popular culture, and in the mass are invaluable for the windows to the mores of their times.  We have hundreds of songbooks, both religious and secular, as well as over 25,000 pieces of sheet music in the Watkinson–see our guide here:

Of particular interest in this collection to me personally are numbers 12 & 15.  Number 12, “Negro boy sold for a watch” is a 24-line guilty lamentation of a person who sold a boy into the Atlantic slave trade for “this poor simple toy.”  Number 15, “Sailor’s Farewell,” is a sailor talking to potential sweethearts about his actions during the Anglo-Egyptian War of 1807.

Tags: ,

The other really nice item we acquired at auction in June was a bound collection of 30 lithographed, hand-colored prints typical of the product of the town of Epinal, which produced stylized, fanciful, and humorous depictions of various subjects.  Most of these (with one exception) were printed in the town of Epinal  by Pinot, Pinot & Sagaire, and Pellerin.  Pellerin was a printing firm in Epinal, which is east of Paris, that produced distinct images in a simple, fresh, and spontaneous style.  Founded by Jean-Claude Pellerin, in the late 18th century, the firm flourished in the 19th century.  Other Epinal firms like Pinot imitated the style, thus linking the images with the name of the town.  About half of the posters relate to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.



New Acquisition–original sketch by Fuertes

   Posted by: rring    in Uncategorized

We just acquired an original pencil sketch by the artist-naturalist Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874-1927), which came in last week.  It is of a Cooper’s Hawk, and on the back is a certification of authenticity signed by Margaret S. Fuertes (nee Sumner), dated 1927.  Cornell, where Fuertes was educated and later taught, holds his personal papers and the majority of his artwork–at least half a dozen other sketches of a Cooper’s Hawk can be found there:

Arthur A. Allen, in the Dictionary of American Biography, wrote of Fuertes:

“When examining a bird, his concentration was supreme; he was oblivious to everything about him; and during these moments, apparently, details of pose and expression were so fixed in his mind that years afterwards he could reproduce them with his pencil and brush without the slightest hesitation. “



Open House a success!

   Posted by: rring    in Uncategorized

I’m happy to say that we had a successful Open House last Friday.  Some forty people visited the Watkinson between 10am and 2pm, including Board members, faculty, students, and interested “townies.”  The day also yielded two volunteers which will soon be working on a digitization project, and two gifts to the collection. 

The first is Dove at the Windows: Last Letters of Four Quaker Martyrs (Penmaen Press, Lincoln, MA, 1973). With a foreword by George Selleck & five woodcuts by Michael McCurdy, this is a fine press book limited to 200 numbered copies (this is number 199) and signed by McCurdy. It was printed by hand in Palatino on Nideggen paper from Germany, and reprints the surviving letters written by four American Quakers who were put to death in Boston between 1659 and 1661.  The Watkinson does have another copy (number 62), but in teaching about letterpress and bibliography it is often good to have two copies of a hand-made work to use for comparison.

The other gift is related to our wonderful collection of works published by the firm Roberts Brothers, of Boston.  

This is a letter to the publishers which apparently came with a manuscript of a novel titled “In the heart of the Rockies,” by an A. M. Barbour.  There is a note on the bottom of this query letter–the manuscript was apparently returned by express, because it was “full of slang talk by miners.”  One really wished to have that manuscript now!  Interestingly, a novel with the same title by the famous G. A. Henty was published two years before (1894) by Scribners in New York.  This letter will join our manuscript collection on the Roberts Brothers, described here:

Tags: ,