William Blake, Visionary

A new exhibition, “William Blake, Visionary / Envisioning William Blake,” is now on view in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library’s 1st floor exhibition gallery. William Blake (1757-1827) died in obscurity, the genius of his visionary art only imperfectly comprehended by an appreciative few. Nearly two centuries later, however, Blake is universally recognized as one of England’s greatest artists and poets. This two-part exhibition begins by briefly outlining selected aspects of his life and art. The second half traces the fascinating process by which later generations have rediscovered Blake, gathered and disseminated his rare and widely dispersed work, and sought to envision this visionary artist.

Part I of the exhibition: "William Blake, Visionary."

Part I of the exhibition: “William Blake, Visionary.”

The exhibition draws primarily from the Sandra Elizabeth Olivier and Raymond Danowski Reference Collection of William Blake, a magnificent gift to the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library received in 2010. Its 275 titles in some 400 volumes have remedied a long-standing weakness in our formidable holdings of 18th- and 19th-century British literature. Internationally renowned for having formed an exceptionally comprehensive collection of 20th-century English and American poetry, Raymond Danowski also built an impressive collection of works by and about William Blake. We are deeply grateful to the Danowskis for designating U.Va. as its permanent home, and for continuing to augment the collection.

The engraved frontispiece and title page to Robert Blair, The Grave: a poem (London: T. Bensley for R. H. Cromek, 1808), illustrated by William Blake. The portrait of Blake at the age of 48 was engraved after a painting by Thomas Phillips.

The engraved frontispiece and title page to Robert Blair, The Grave: a poem (London: T. Bensley for R. H. Cromek, 1808), illustrated by William Blake. The portrait of Blake at the age of 48 was engraved after a painting by Thomas Phillips.

Few of Blake’s contemporaries displayed genius as wide-ranging as his. Although mostly self-taught, Blake was admired for his outstanding poetic gifts. Yet because his verse was self-published in a small number of copies, it was little read during his lifetime. As an artist, Blake was an innovative master of several media: engraving, etching, wood engraving, drawing, watercolor, and tempera painting. He was best known in his own day as an engraver and etcher of book illustrations, in particular for his designs to Edward Young’s Night thoughts (1797) and Robert Blair’s The grave (1808). Perhaps Blake’s greatest achievement as an engraver was his Illustrations of the Book of Job (1826), though like many of his publications, it was not a commercial success.

Frontispiece to William Blake's illuminated book, Europe: A Prophecy (1794), reproduced from the 1969 facsimile edition printed by the Trianon Press for the William Blake Trust.

Frontispiece to William Blake’s illuminated book, Europe: A Prophecy (1794), reproduced from the 1969 facsimile edition printed by the Trianon Press for the William Blake Trust.

It was in the so-called “illuminated books” that Blake found an ideal medium for his singular genius. Blake’s intense spiritual life—what some contemporaries considered madness—found expression in verse and unforgettable images which Blake drew in reverse on copper plates, etched in relief, printed in colors, and then hand-illuminated with watercolor, paint, even gold leaf. It was a process under his complete artistic control, a process which empowered him to publish copies on demand. Sadly, demand proved to be slight.

Part II of the exhibition: "Envisioning William Blake."

Part II of the exhibition: “Envisioning William Blake.”

Part of the fascination of William Blake is the process by which he has steadily, but unevenly, risen from obscurity to universal fame. Though his literary and artistic output was not overlarge, many have found something irresistible within its singularity and diversity. So it was with the Pre-Raphaelites, who admired Blake’s verse and his uncompromising artistic vision in the face of prolonged adversity. Later audiences have warmed to his brilliant images, his mysticism, and the challenge of comprehending the abstruse philosophy enshrined in Blake’s illuminated books.

Home page of the William Blake Archive (www.blakearchive.org), a comprehensive online resource for Blake studies. A pioneering effort in the digital humanities, the website was launched in 1996. U.Va.'s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) has provided substantial technical assistance for the site since 1993.

Home page of the William Blake Archive (www.blakearchive.org), a comprehensive online resource for Blake studies. A pioneering effort in the digital humanities, the website was launched in 1996. U.Va.’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) has provided significant technical assistance for the site since 1993.

Blake has long been a magnet for scholars who, over the past 150 years, have made substantial progress in solving the puzzles presented by his life and art. Despite a paucity of primary sources, we now know far more about Blake’s life and his innovative artistic methods. Through the labors of Sir Geoffrey Keynes and others, it is likely that nearly all extant copies of Blake’s illuminated books, as well as his drawings, watercolors, paintings, and commercial engravings, have been located and cataloged. Many of these are now accessible in faithful color facsimiles. A multitude of scholars have delineated Blake’s philosophy and debated its meaning. And through advances in the digital humanities—particularly those made at U.Va. over the past two decades—we now have, in the William Blake Archive and other online resources, powerful tools for envisioning Blake in ever new ways.

The exhibition, which is open Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-9 p.m. and Friday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (with occasional exceptions), will remain on view through May 3.

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Really Getting One’s Hands Dirty in the Archives: An Historian of Science Turns Archivist for a Semester

This week, we are pleased to feature a guest post by Professor of History and Mathematics Karen V. H. Parshall. It is hard to express just how grateful we are for Professor Parshall’s exceptional generosity in volunteering to process the Gordon T. Whyburn Papers over the past several months. She has been a fixture in the back corner of the reading room, surrounded by boxes, and it was a bit sad when she finished the project because she’s been such a joy of a colleague. We asked if she’d be willing to share some of her observations on her experience with the blog.

In the course of my research toward a new book project on the history of American mathematics between the two World Wars, I needed to consult the collection of the influential American mathematician, Gordon T. Whyburn, which I knew had been deposited in UVa’s Department of Special Collections.  On searching the online catalogue, though, I found a puzzling remark.  The collection was in eleven “cubics.”  Scratching my head, I e-mailed Heather Riser, Head of Reference and Research Services in Special Collections and my friend and colleague, to ask her what that meant exactly.  I could almost hear the sigh in her reply: “It means that the collection has not been processed and is currently in eleven very large, uncatalogued boxes.”

After spending two days literally going through each box just to get a sense of what was there, I realized that the collection contained some amazing material and represented a resource key to my ongoing research.  The only problem was … how to use it in its unorganized state?  Thinking on that question for a couple of days, I, not without more than some trepidation, approached Heather with a disclaimer and a proposition.  The disclaimer?  I am definitely not a professional archivist, but I am a professional and seasoned user of archives.  The proposition? Would Special Collections consider allowing me full access to the collection for a semester to put order into it and to make at least a first draft of a finding guide?  After just a couple of days, the answer came back as “yes!”

Professor Parshall hard at work. Not only did she organize all the materials, she rehoused the entire collection, replacing dusty old file folders and boxes with fresh archival ones.

Professor Parshall hard at work. Not only did she organize all the materials, she rehoused the entire collection, replacing dusty old file folders and boxes with fresh archival ones. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

What an interesting mess I confronted, yet what intense satisfaction I felt throughout the semester as I not only brought, little by little, order to chaos but also found an historian’s treasure trove! As I discovered, the Whyburn Papers open a fascinating window on the mechanics of creating a research department of mathematics from scratch and on the motivations for doing so in the South and in the depths of the Depression of the 1930s.  Only archives have the potential to answer such thorny questions, and I am indeed lucky that the professional archivists in Special Collections trusted this amateur with the task of opening up the rich Whyburn collection.

Karen Parshall, Honorary Archival Processor Extraordinaire.

Karen Parshall, Honorary Archival Processor Extraordinaire.

 

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This Just In: We Welcome The Day of Doom!

Today’s post actually concerns an important acquisition made nearly two years ago. At that time the item was too fragile for reader use. But after extensive conservation treatment, it is now ready and available. Please join us in welcoming to our shelves Michael Wigglesworth’s celebrated didactic poem, The day of doom!

The title page to Michael Wigglesworth's The Day of Doom (Boston, 1701). It is bound, as issued, following the second edition of Wigglesworth's other verse collection, Meat Out of the Eater (Boston, 1689).

The title page to Michael Wigglesworth’s The Day of Doom (Boston, 1701). It is bound, as issued, following the second edition of Wigglesworth’s other verse collection, Meat Out of the Eater (Boston, 1689).

The day of doom, a quintessentially Puritan poem of over 200 eight-line stanzas vividly describing Judgment Day and the torments awaiting sinners in Hell, was the first book of poetry printed in the American Colonies and the first American bestseller. Its author, Michael Wigglesworth, graduated from Harvard in 1651 and served the town of Malden, Mass., as minister and physician. The day of doom is the foundation of any collection of early American literature, yet it is also one of the legendary rarities of early American printing. Only one fragmentary copy survives of the first edition, printed in Cambridge, Mass., ca. 1662, and only four fragmentary copies of the second edition of 1666. For the past century the Boston, 1715 edition (there is a copy at U.Va. in the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History) has been what booksellers term the “earliest obtainable edition,” that is, the earliest one could still hope to find a copy of.

Wigglesworth explains (and the popularity of his Day of Doom proves) why a stanza of verse is worth more than the proverbial thousand words of sermon.

Wigglesworth explains (and the popularity of his Day of Doom proves) why a stanza of verse is worth more than the proverbial thousand words of sermon.

Two years ago a previously unrecorded copy of the Boston, 1701 edition—the third printed in America—unexpectedly surfaced. It is the eighth known copy, and one of only three that are complete. Passed down from generation to generation in one New England family for three centuries, it was acquired by a bookseller who immediately gave U.Va. first refusal. The offer could not be refused, for U.Va.’s otherwise superlative American literature collection has notable gaps in its Colonial-era holdings. This acquisition, purchased on the McGregor Endowment, Library Associates, and Robert and Virginia Tunstall Trust Funds, significantly remedies that weakness.

A portion of Wigglesworth's vivid verse description of the torments awaiting sinners in Hell.

A portion of Wigglesworth’s vivid verse description of the torments awaiting sinners in Hell.

The volume actually contains two works bound together: the 1701 Day of doom (Boston: Printed by B. Green, and J. Allen, for Benjamin Eliot), and the second edition (Boston: Printed by R. P[ierce] for John Usher, 1689) of Wigglesworth’s only other book of poetry, Meat out of the eater or meditations concerning the necessity, end, and usefulness of afflictions unto Gods children, of which this is only the sixth known copy. This newly discovered copy is especially important because it proves what bibliographers have long suspected: that the 1689 work was reissued in 1701 with a new printing of the Day of doom to form a volume containing Wigglesworth’s collected works.

An opening from Meat Out of the Eater, showing a bit of textual loss and some of the marginal mends made to virtually every leaf.

An opening from Meat Out of the Eater, showing a bit of textual loss and some of the marginal mends made to virtually every leaf.

When received, the volume lacked two leaves and portions of others and was in very fragile state, with marginal tears to virtually every leaf. The blind-tooled calf binding, probably done in Boston shortly after publication, was quite worn, and a previous owner had crudely repaired the original sewing. Several generations of owners had added their signatures to the book. Clearly the volume had been read so frequently as to nearly wear it out. All in all, a very evocative object, but one that was too fragile to use. But because this unexpected opportunity would almost certainly be the only chance we would ever have to obtain a copy of either of these exceptionally rare works in any condition, we decided to acquire it.

At left is the volume's original blind-tooled calf binding. At right is the volume in its new calf binding by U.Va. Library conservator Eliza Giligan, copying the original style and structure.

At left is the volume’s original blind-tooled calf binding. At right is the volume in its new calf binding by U.Va. Library conservator Eliza Giligan, copying the original style and structure.

In order to preserve the volume and make it available for research, teaching, and exhibition, the U.Va. Library’s conservator, Eliza Gilligan, undertook a thorough conservation treatment, now successfully completed. First, the original binding and sewing were thoroughly documented. Then the binding was carefully removed (it will be retained permanently for research purposes); the text leaves carefully washed, deacidified, and mended with Japanese tissue; the textblock reassembled and resewn; and a new calf binding, tooled like the original, added. Now nearly as good as new, the book can be handled safely and will inform many future generations of readers about the Day of Doom!

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Collecting History in Real Time

As early as November 21st, a spontaneous display of notes, supporting rape survivors and expressing grief and anger, began appearing at the entrance of Peabody Hall, home of the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Admissions. The display was the result of the controversial Rolling Stone article, “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely.

Display of Notes on the doors of Peabody Hall, 10 December 2014. (Photograph taken by Edward Gaynor.).

Display of notes on the doors of Peabody Hall, 10 December 2014. (Photograph by Edward Gaynor)

Staff at special collections and archives across the country, including the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, have become increasingly active in collecting material, ephemeral and otherwise, born out of crises that have rocked their communities. These records–be they notes, flowers, posters, photographs, poems, press releases, online articles, etc.–help to document and provide insight into the actions, reactions, and  emotions of the people, institutions, and their associated communities as they are impacted by each wave of the event. We know from experience that our own students and faculty are deeply interested in researching events from the university’s past, distant and recent alike, and we want to ensure that we can provide future generations with a rich record of our present.

During U.Va. finals week, the Dean of Admissions contacted Library Administration, who in turn contacted Special Collections staff, to start the process of removing the notes for permanent preservation. On Wednesday of finals week, Librarian for Virginiana and University Archives Edward Gaynor and Rare Books Cataloger Gayle Cooper removed the notes and other ephemera from the doors and brought them to Special Collections.

To get the materials researcher-ready, staff had to answer questions, like “How do you preserve it?” and “How do you capture something so ephemeral?” The first step was to temporarily house them by sticking them to archival folders.

Notes from Peabody Hall door, temporarily housed on archival folders, 10 December 2014. (Photograph by Edward Gaynor)

Notes from the Peabody Hall door, temporarily housed on archival folders, 10 December 2014. (Photograph by Edward Gaynor)

The second step was to consult Library Conservator Eliza Gilligan for guidance in permanently housing and treating the items. She suggested transferring the notes to pieces of archival mat board cut to the size of our standard document box, and then shelving them in the University Archives. She recommended methyl cellulose as the adhesive and determined that placing each piece of mat board in a labelled folder would best support later scanning, display, and researcher use. What about the flowers? They will be freeze-dried in the Preservation Department’s freezer.

Now that the preservation and housing methods have been decided upon, our manuscripts and archival processing staff will begin arranging and describing the notes so that they will be fully processed and accessible to the public spring semester 2015.

***

Do you have fliers, posters, signs, or other materials related to the current events surrounding sexual violence at U.Va.? If so, please consider donating them to Special Collections. Just drop them by the reference desk, or contact Edward Gaynor at efg2f@virginia.edu.

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On View Now: “At the Front: World War I Series Books for Girls”

We are so pleased to announce our newest mini-exhibition, curated by Susan Swicegood, Wolfe Docent in the Harrison Institute. Susan is a fourth year student in the Master of Teaching program at the Curry School of Education. Her joint undergraduate major is in English. So, it was no surprise when, upon beginning to learn about the collections here with curator and supervisor Molly Schwartzburg, she gravitated towards a project involving the marvelous Arthur P. and Christopher P. Young Collection of World War I Juvenile Series Books. We’ll give you a sneak peek at the show below, with selections from the exhibition’s text.

“At the Front: World War I Series Books for Girls”

Detail of cover art from Martha Trent, “Alice Blythe Somewhere in England: A War Time Story,” illustrated by Charles L. Wrenn (New York: Barse & Hopkins Publishers, 1918)(PZ9 .Y67 no. 474)

After the Great War began in 1914, and even more so after the United States became involved in 1917, many children experienced the war through characters in series books. While some girl protagonists “do their bit” on the home front through food drives and benefit concerts, many leave for the front themselves.

From ***

Detail of cover art from Aline Harvard, “Captain Lucy in France” (Philadelphia: The Penn Publishing Company, 1919). (PZ9 .Y67 no. 246)

These teenage characters—ranging in age from twelve to seventeen—dutifully serve as nurses in the Red Cross, drive ambulances, rescue lost soldiers, and uncover German spies.

Detail of frontispiece from Martha Trent, “Alice Blythe Somewhere in England: A War Time Story,” illustrated by Charles L. Wrenn (New York: Barse & Hopkins Publishers, 1918)(PZ9 .Y67 no 474)

The popularity of these books with American youth is undeniable, and with such far-fetched and fantastical adventures, girls could imagine the part they could play in gaining victory. In an almost propagandistic way, these books sold the war to young women as a chance to leave their homes and fight alongside the boys. Yet though the characters show an amazing degree of agency at the front, they return after the war’s end to the docile, domestic spaces they had left behind. Invariably, the heroine manages to find—or rescue—a fiancé along the way.

This exhibition will remain on view until the end of February, 2015.

A sneak preview of some of the items on display.

A sneak preview of some of the items on display.

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The Book in Tibet

U.Va. has long been a world leader in advancing our understanding of the Western book through bibliographical scholarship. Happily, U.Va.’s considerable bibliographical expertise is now being applied more broadly, as scholars take an increasing interest in adapting the techniques of descriptive and analytical bibliography to the Islamic and Asian book.

A page from an 18th-century manuscript copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The text is written in alternating gold and silver ink. The blue-black lacquered paper was created by applying a lacquer made of yak-skin glue, animal brains, and soot, which was then burnished to create an appropriate writing surface.   (MSS 14259)

A page from an 18th-century manuscript copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The text is written in alternating gold and silver ink. The blue-black lacquered paper was created by applying a lacquer made of yak-skin glue, animal brains, and soot, which was then burnished to create an appropriate writing surface. (MSS 14259)

That interest is particularly intense right now than in the field of Tibetan studies. On November 6-8, U.Va. hosted an international Symposium on the Tibetan Book, at which many of the world’s leading scholars explored the benefits of applying bibliographical methods to the study of Tibetan books and manuscripts. Organized by doctoral students in U.Va.’s Department of Religious Studies, with financial support from the Jefferson Trust and the Buckner W. Clay Endowment, the symposium also attracted speakers and participants from several other academic departments, Rare Book School, and the U.Va. Library.

Symposium papers ranged from an analysis of scripts in the 9th- and 10th-century manuscripts found at Dunhuang to the archiving of Tibetan websites. Despite the considerable hurdles scholars face in accessing Tibetan books and manuscripts, there was a palpable feeling of excitement among symposium attendees, as the time now seems right for making major advances in the field.

A page from a xylographic printing of The Wish-Fulfilling King of Power, a work by the Fifth Dalai Lama published at the government printing house in Lhasa in the late 7th century.

A page from a xylographic printing of The Wish-Fulfilling King of Power, a work by the Fifth Dalai Lama published at the government printing house in Lhasa in the late 17th century.

Of particular value was a workshop, led by Jim Canary, conservator at Indiana University’s Lilly Library, in which participants made Tibetan paper literally from scratch: boiling the raw ingredients (the inner bark of a woody plant ubiquitous in Tibet), pounding the fibers into mush, constructing a simple paper mold, forming the sheets, and then drying them; following which participants printed in the Tibetan manner: inking woodblocks, applying paper, and transferring the image by rubbing.

In conjunction with the Symposium on the Tibetan Book, the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library is pleased to host an exhibition, “The Book in Tibet,” featuring Tibetan books and manuscripts from the U.Va. Library’s extensive holdings. Curated by Ben Nourse, with assistance from Natasha Mikles and Christie Kilby, “The Book in Tibet” surveys four centuries of Tibetan book production through examples of Tibetan manuscripts, woodblock-printed books, and modern imprints. “The Book in Tibet” will remain on view in our first floor exhibition space through December 2014.

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This Just In: New in the McGregor Library

Every autumn the U.Va. Library hosts the annual Tracy W. and Katherine W. McGregor Distinguished Lecture in American History. This year the speaker was Edward L. Ayers, President of the University of Richmond and formerly professor of history at U.Va., who on October 28 delivered a brilliant talk on “The Shape of the American Civil War.” October is also the month during which we compile a listing of books and manuscripts added over the past year to the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History. Here are a few highlights.

Increase Mather's notes for a Thanksgiving day sermon, December 2, 1718

Increase Mather’s notes for a Thanksgiving day sermon, December 2, 1718

Manuscripts by the Puritan minister Increase Mather are of great rarity, hence we were delighted to acquire these notes for a sermon, “Thanksgiving throughout ye province,” delivered in Boston on December 2, 1718. Written when Mather was 79, these notes confirm contemporary accounts of his working methods. After decades of experience, Mather no longer needed to write out sermons in full; rather, he preached from memory after sketching out sermons in notes such as these, which he carried to the pulpit as a memory aid. What makes this acquisition even more special is that it had once resided in the celebrated Mather collection formed by a descendant, William G. Mather. When Tracy McGregor purchased Mather’s collection in 1935, he permitted Mather to retain a few items, including this manuscript. Now that it was once again available, we promptly reunited it with the Mather Collection after, coincidentally, a 79-year absence.

Woodcut of a Sioux Indian "queen" from Der Reisen der Capitaine Lewis und clarke ... (Lebanon, Pa., 1811)   (A 1811 .T73)

Woodcut of a Sioux Indian “queen” from Der Reisen der Capitaine Lewis und Clarke … (Lebanon, Pa., 1811) (A 1811 .T73)

Perhaps the year’s most gratifying acquisition has been Die Reisen der Capitaine Lewis und Clarke, which had long been on our desiderata list.  Given that Meriwether Lewis and Thomas Jefferson both had deep Charlottesville roots, we have long been interested in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Thanks to the McGregor Library, U.Va. has a superb collection of primary printed sources relating to the expedition. The only significant lacuna was this very rare work—a gap now filled. Lewis and Clark returned home in 1806, but publication of the official expedition report was delayed until 1814. Meanwhile the public’s intense interest in the expedition and what it found out west was whetted piecemeal by expedition participants’s published memoirs, newspaper articles, and the like. In 1809 an unauthorized account, culled from published sources, was issued in Philadelphia under the title, The Travels of Capts. Lewis & Clarke. Two years later this abridged German translation helped spread news of the expedition to the Mid-Atlantic’s substantial German-American population. Included are four full-page woodcut Indian portraits copied from the Philadelphia edition.

Public lands in Illinois: January 17, 1839 ... [Vandalia, Ill., 1839]   (A 1839 .I55)

Public lands in Illinois: January 17, 1839 … [Vandalia, Ill., 1839] (A 1839 .I55)

This unprepossessing (and very rare) three-page Illinois state document, Public lands in Illinois: January 17, 1839, might not seem of much interest. However, it takes pride of place as item #1 in the standard bibliography of Abraham Lincoln’s writings, being his first separate publication. Then a 29-year-old Illinois state legislator, Lincoln urges that Illinois borrow $5 million to purchase the 20 million acres of state land then held by the federal government. Income from land sales would fund the state’s ambitious program of public works while simultaneously paying off the loan. The resolution was approved, but Illinois’s senators and congressmen were unable to secure passage in Congress of the requisite federal law.

Augustus Q. Walton [i.e. Virgil Stewart], A history of the detection, conviction, life and designs of John A. Murel ... (New York, 1839)   (A 1839 .W26)

Augustus Q. Walton [i.e. Virgil Stewart], A history of the detection, conviction, life and designs of John A. Murel … (New York, 1839) (A 1839 .W26)

A livelier read is this very rare popular biography of one of early America’s most notorious bandits. Born in Virginia ca. 1806, John Murel (or Murrell) grew up in Tennessee, where he and his brothers pursued lives of crime. Murel’s gang was most active along the Natchez Trace—the trail winding southwest from Nashville down to Natchez on the Mississippi River. His criminal activities all but ended in 1835 when Murel began a ten-year jail term, but his legend was just beginning. The chief trial witness, one Virgil Stewart, promptly published under a pseudonym this sensationalist (and mostly fictional) biography, in which he identified Murel as head of a 455-member “mystic clan” masterminding a national slave insurrection planned for December 25, 1835. Stewart’s warning was widely believed in the South and provoked a series of deadly vigilante actions. Murel’s legend lives on in such venues as Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, short stories by Jorge Luis Borges and Eudora Welty, and even a Hollywood western starring Humphrey Bogart.

William Wells Brown, A lecture delievred before the Female Anti-Slavery Society of Salem ... Nov. 14, 1847 ... (Boston, 1847)   (A 1847 .B74)

William Wells Brown, A lecture delivered before the Female Anti-Slavery Society of Salem … Nov. 14, 1847 … (Boston, 1847) (A 1847 .B74)

A lecture delivered before the Female Anti-Slavery Society of Salem at Lyceum Hall, Nov. 14, 1847 is the second published work by William Wells Brown, one of the most prominent African Americans of the 19th century (and the subject of a newly published biography). Born into slavery in 1814, Brown escaped to Ohio in 1834 and soon joined the abolitionist movement. In 1847, shortly before delivering this impassioned lecture, Brown published an autobiography, which for a time made him as prominent a figure in abolitionist circles as Frederick Douglass. Brown was in England when the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, and he remained abroad rather than return and risk capture. There, in 1853, he published what is considered the first novel written by an African American, Clotel. Brown eventually returned to Boston, where he was prominent in its African American community and published several more books.

Robert A. Slaney's account of a Richmond, Va. slave auction, from his Short journal of a visit to Canada and the states of America, in 1860 (London, 1861)   (A 1861 .S53)

Robert A. Slaney’s account of a Richmond, Va. slave auction, from his Short journal of a visit to Canada and the states of America, in 1860 (London, 1861) (A 1861 .S53)

A new addition to the McGregor Library’s comprehensive collection of American travel narratives is this fascinating and candid diary kept by Robert A. Slaney, a member of Parliament, while traveling in the entourage of the 18-year-old Prince of Wales during his 1860 American tour. From Boston the prince traveled to Niagara and then to Detroit, where Slaney found the residents to be “all pale, none fat. How is this? … Detroit is laid out with noble, wide streets … there are many nice villas, as of retired or rich persons, in and about this flourishing town.” In Chicago they witnessed a torchlight procession supporting Abraham Lincoln’s presidential bid. From St. Louis the party journeyed overland by train to Washington, DC, which they explored at length. President Buchanan’s White House reception for the prince was somewhat disappointing: “No refreshments but two large bowls of punch.” Perhaps of greatest interest is Slaney’s disapproving account of the slave auctions he witnessed in Richmond, Va., which reflects his liberal leanings. Indeed, this rare work was one of the first printed at the Victoria Press, established by English women’s rights advocate Emily Faithfull and entirely staffed by women.

The grant of the Venezuelian Emigration Company, with full explanation of their laudable object ... [St. Louis?, 1866]   (A 1866 .G73)

The grant of the Venezuelian Emigration Company, with full explanation of their laudable object … [St. Louis?, 1866] (A 1866 .G73)

The grant of the Venezuelian Emigration Company is the only recorded copy of a fascinating prospectus, distributed by a New Orleans real estate agency, promoting emigration to Venezuela. Immediately after the Civil War, Henry M. Price of Scottsville, Va. (just south of Charlottesville) secured from Venezuelan officials a grant of 2400 square miles. There he hoped “to provide a home for those in the South, that had the foresight enough to see, could not remain in their old homes, under the domination and rule of their heartless victors.” Unreconstructed Southerners who bought company shares would receive a substantial land grant and promises of greater freedoms than they expected under Reconstruction. The first 50 settlers claimed their land in 1867, and dozens more soon followed, but the expatriate colony shut down in 1869.

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Sugar High: A Curator’s Halloween Musings

In the throes of a pleasant candy-corn headache the other day, I wondered what we should post to the blog in celebration of tomorrow’s big holiday. What does the library hold related to candy, I wondered? So I opened Virgo, put on my headphones and hit play. On deck was the Flaming Lips’ cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Research always benefits from an apt soundtrack, and this over-the-top techno-celebration suited my purposes.

With a list of possible items in hand, I wandered the stacks, wishing I had a stash of Junior Mints in my pocket for this journey (but never fear, even Junior Mints cannot tempt me to break our no-food-in-the-stacks rule). Among the treasures I discovered, one in particular made my tastebuds buzz: a turn-of-the-century trade catalogue of the Savage Bros. Co., a Chicago manufacturer of candy-making machines since 1855 (They’re still in business today!). Enjoy the following selection of images (preferably while consuming something terribly bad for you) and have a happy Halloween!

halltaffypuller1

Ah, pulled taffy. Who hasn’t enjoyed the unique pleasure of stumbling across one of these machines in action in an olde candy shoppe in a seafront or mountain resort area?  Truly, only the Zamboni exceeds it in mesmeric power. Note the manufacturer name on the image here: perhaps Savage Bros. distributed this east-coast product to the Midwestern market.

hallfruitdrop

Fruit-drop candy machinery is well-represented in the catalog, and this example clearly reveals the production method. Sugary goodness goes in on the left as the two rolls turn, popping out shaped candies on the other side, which roll down the plank, cooling as they go. Yum.

hallalphabet

This alphabet fruit-drop roller mechanism is DIVINE! What bibliophile wouldn’t want to receive a gift of a bag of alphabet candies?

animules

Few things are as creepy as baby dolls that have the faces of adults. But I think maybe baby candy with this problem is creepier.

hallfrogs

The catalog makes me want to take up candy-making. These tiny creatures would make wonderful Halloween treats, especially if they were made in a creepy brownish-green. Deeeeee-licious!

hallyellowkid

There was even a fruit-drop mold for the Yellow Kid, a popular cartoon character of the period. Seventy-five of this odd little figure could be rolled out of a pound of sugary goodness.

hallhatchet

Hundreds of fruit-drop patterns were available to the Savage Co.’s customers, including odd ones like this Washington Hatchet. Somehow, I can’t quite imagine wanting to suck on a hatchet blade. But now that I think of it, there would be something very halloweeny about it, wouldn’t there? Puts a whole new twist on the whole razor-blade Halloween paranoia…

halltools

Speaking of blades, all sorts of candy-making hand tools are available in the catalog, alongside large and small industrial machines.

hallforms

These lovely “plaster paris starch moulds” resulted in highly detailed shaped bonbons. No candy corn shape, alas. Savage only offered molds for an entire ear of corn.

hallcabinet

Some products feature factory workers for scale. Here, a woman places pans of chocolate candies in a cooling cabinet; a block of ice is visible in the open door on the left. Maybe I’ll dress as her for Halloween next year.

Blogger’s note: all images  have been shamelessly cropped and altered for full sugar-high effect. No images are left unscathed. To view the book in its original condition, request TS199 .A5 H4 no. 24 in the Special Collections reading room. As always, please wash your hands of all candy residue before entering the reading room.

 

 

 

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Class Notes: Tolkien, Middle Earth, and Medieval Manuscripts in Special Collections

A few weeks back, we shared on this blog the story of our recent acquisition of a rare Tolkien book. A few days later, curator Molly Schwartzburg received an e-mail from English Department graduate student Caitlin Hamilton, who had just begun teaching her own semester-long undergraduate course, Exploring Middle-Earth: Tolkien and the Anglo-Saxon Tradition. Caitlin was hoping we could show the recently acquired volume to her class.

Well, we could do more than that, right? Molly and Caitlin decided to put together a broader presentation introducing students to items in Special Collections that would help them to understand the kind of cultural artifacts Tolkien studied as a scholar, and which he often imitates or alludes to in his Middle-Earth novels.From objects printed with text–such as cuneiform tablets and runestones–to medieval manuscripts and early maps, the session was jam-packed with items that would spark the intellectual imagination of any Tolkien scholar (and perhaps a few budding medievalists).

Setting up

Curator Molly Schwartzburg puts the finishing touches on the display before the students arrive. Don’t miss the tiny cuneiform tablets and facsimile runestone at the front right of the picture, just behind the massive choirbook. These were of great use in discussing the tenth-century Exeter Book Riddles and the inscribed ring in Tolkien’s trilogy.

Molly leading class

Curator Molly Schwartzburg starts off the class with the story of acquiring Songs for the Philologists. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

A student feels a piece of parchment. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Much of the session was about medieval books, so we passed around sample pieces of parchment for students to handle. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Curator Molly points out detail of ? for students to examine. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Molly points out tiny illuminated dragons decorating a fragmentary manuscript. The students had just finished reading the greatest monster story of all, “Beowulf,” and Tolkien’s 1936 lecture, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.” In relation to this (and of course, to Tolkien’s own creature creation Smaug) Caitlin hoped to show them some medieval iconography of dragons or other magical creatures. Happy to oblige! (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Students take a close look at our medieval manuscripts, featuring the legend of St. Margaret. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Students take a close look at two illuminated  medieval manuscripts featuring the legend of St. Margaret, who was swallowed by a dragon. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

One of the images students viewed was this page from the Verse life of St. Margaret from a Picardy Book of Hours, ca 1325. Image by UVA Library Digital Services.

One of the items students viewed was this page from the verse life of St. Margaret from a Picardy Book of Hours, ca 1325 (MSS 12455). Image by UVA Library Digital Services.

Caitlyn? shows her class a facsimile of ? (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Caitlin (center) uses a facsimile of an early map of the world to show students how changing norms of map orientations can be confusing. Turn this map sideways, and suddenly Britain is recognizable. Students viewed a number of map facsimiles and originals in the class visit in preparation for an upcoming assignment on Tolkien and cartography.   (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

In conclusion: what more could we ask for from a gift such as the Tolkien book that inspired this visit? It is wonderful how one item in our collection can open new pedagogical opportunities. Now, if only someone would donate us some beautiful first editions of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

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Finding Humanity in the Past

This week, we are pleased to feature a guest post by Gayle Jessup White, who is a Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies Fellow for 2014. Ms. White researched the collections of Thomas Jefferson, the Edgehill Randolph family, and the Nicholas family while at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

It was jarring to read.  “Dear Sir:” began the 1814 letter from P. Randolph (possibly Peyton Randolph, son of U.S. Attorney General Edmund Randolph, acting Virginia governor from 1811–1812, and cousin of Thomas Jefferson) written to Wilson Cary Nicholas, 19th governor of Virginia and Jefferson in-law:

“I beg leave to enquire of you what disposition you intend to make of William? If you do not wish to keep him, I am anxious to have him sold, in order to meet the note … which will shortly become due…I would thank you to employ some one to sell him immediately… Be so good as to let me hear from you on that subject.”

The polite exchange between the two white southern patricians left me feeling sick as I read about William, the enslaved man whose life meant little more to them than settling a financial obligation. I bristled while contemplating that both white men, public servants of a fledgling democracy, founded on the proclamation that “all men are created equal,” held in the balance a black man’s future, a man who would probably die a slave, as would his children, and grandchildren. My twenty-first-century mind couldn’t wrap itself around his nineteenth-century condition. Yet, I held in my hand this letter, a letter that’s part of the University of Virginia Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library’s rich archive about Jeffersonian history.

I spent long happy days at the Small Special Collections, poring over letters, official documents, old photos, even examining locks of Thomas Jefferson’s hair, in search of my own family’s ties to Jefferson and his extended family. Oral history, fragmented documentation, and DNA testing indicate that my African American family is directly descended from Thomas Jefferson and his wife Martha. Research points to my great-grandmother Rachael Robinson having several children with Jefferson’s great-great-grandson Moncure Robinson Taylor shortly after the Civil War. It’s a relationship that seems to have begun when the couple was young and appears to have lasted decades. Perhaps they bonded during and after the harrowing years of the war. Whatever the case, I have come to believe theirs was a love relationship, one that brought me to U.Va. to learn more about them and the times in which they lived.

An Account of Slaves, n.d. (MSS 5533. Image by Petrina Jackson)

An Account of Slaves, n.d. (MSS 5533. Papers of the Randolph Family of Edgehill and Wilson Cary Nicholas. Gift of  Misses Margaret and Olivia Taylor and Mrs. Mary Mann Moyer. Image by Petrina Jackson)

What I found was a record of lives interrupted and altered by disease, early deaths, war, and chattel slavery. And while I felt resentment and bitterness toward the people who owned William and others who wrote dismissively of their enslaved people, I also found myself captivated by and at times sympathetic to the tragedy of their lives. For example, Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph, wife of Thomas Jefferson’s grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph and my great-great-great-grandmother, lost five of her 13 children.

Portrait of Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph, n.d. (MSS 5533-c. Additional Papers of the Randolph Family of Edgehill on deposit from Steven M. Moyer. Image by Petrina Jackson)

Portrait of Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph, n.d. (MSS 5533-c. Additional Papers of the Randolph Family of Edgehill on deposit from Steven M. Moyer. Image by Petrina Jackson)

The Civil War shattered her life–she and her family were, after all, on the wrong side of history. Still, I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for her as I read the words of this November 15, 1870 letter from her to her cousin Mary:

“You have probably heard from others, dearest Mary of Lewis, I fear almost desperate state of health, caused by taking cold last December which he never got rid of which has brought him to a most alarming state…

I feel that I am teetering on the brink of the grave, & that I haven’t strength to struggle on any longer that the agony of seeing another dear child die is more than I can bear – it is the greatest of all sorrows for a mother… to stand by the death bed of a child & my children are so good that it makes it so hard to see them die.”

Detail of copy of letter from Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph to her cousin Mary, November 15, 1870. (MSS 9828. Image by Petrina Jackson)

Detail of copy of letter from Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph to her cousin Mary, 15 November 1870. (MSS 9828-a. Additional Papers of the Randolph-Nicholas Family. Image by Petrina Jackson)

Jane Randolph died two months later, struck down by the news that her youngest child Lewis, the one whose life-threatening illness had her “teetering” at the grave, would soon succumb to “consumption.” How could I not feel for her–I, too, am a mother.

Yet this woman, my ancestor, owned slaves, some of whom may have been my ancestors as well. Jane’s former enslaved people were said to have wept at her gravesite. I too wept as I read her plaintive letter, one of many she had written and that are housed at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.  For me, Jane’s letters gave her a humanity that history had stolen. Poor William and other enslaved people will never have theirs restored.

Gayle Jessup White at Fellows Forum, Berkeley Room, Jefferson Library, September 6, 2014.

Gayle Jessup White at the Fellows Forum, Berkeley Room, Jefferson Library at Monticello, 26 August 2014.

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