This Just In: Horsing Around!

From time to time the Small Special Collections Library receives a transformative gift that reshapes its collections and collecting in unexpected, unusual, and ultimately very beneficial ways.  One such gift was the 1985 bequest of the Marion duPont Scott Sporting Collection.  A direct descendant of E. I. du Pont de Nemours (founder of the eponymous chemical company), Marion duPont Scott (1894-1983) was an internationally renowned horse breeder and equestrian who lived for many years at Montpelier—once the home of president James Madison—some 25 miles northeast of Charlottesville.  She also formed a major collection of sporting literature—especially books, manuscripts, and periodicals relating to horses and horse-racing (though sports such as fishing, hunting, even cockfighting, are also represented)—that was entrusted to the U.Va. Library.  Accompanying the 1,200-item gift was a generous acquisitions endowment that has so far enabled us to more than double the collection’s size.

Frontispiece to part 2 of Cesare Fiaschi, Trattato dell’imbrigliare, maneggiare, et ferrare cavalli (Bologna, 1556)

How does one build such a collection in ways that not only honor the donor’s wishes but enhance its value to U.Va. and the international research community?  The challenge has been an exciting one, for sporting and horses are subjects that permit us to forge stronger connections between the Scott Collection and our other diverse holdings.  Here are a few examples drawn from many recent Scott Collection acquisitions.

Woodcut illustration from Cesare Fiaschi, Trattato dell’imbrigliare, maneggiare, et ferrare cavalli (Bologna, 1556)

We were able to obtain at auction a fine first-edition copy of a classic sixteenth-century work on horsemanship: Cesare Fiaschi’s Trattato dell’imbrigliare, attegiare, & ferrare cavalla, published in Bologna in 1556.  This book now takes pride of place as the earliest work in the Scott Collection.  Master of a famed riding academy founded in Ferrara in 1534, Fiaschi distilled in his book a lifetime’s knowledge concerning the training, equipping, and shoeing of horses.  The work is also a notable example of early Italian book illustration, filled with dozens of woodcuts depicting bits, bridles, and horseshoes. Of particular note are the unusual diagrams mixing horse, rider, and music, which accompany Fiaschi’s famous explication of why tempo and rhythm are crucial to expert riding.

Engraved plate from Johann Elias Ridinger, Verstellung und Beschreibung derer Schul und Campagne Pferden nach ihren Lectionen (Augsburg, 1760)

Another classic equestrian manual, published two centuries later, is Johann Elias Ridinger’s Verstellung und Beschreibung derer Schul und Campagne Pferden nach ihren Lectionen (Augsburg, 1760).  A noted German engraver, Ridinger (1698-1767) was renowned for his depictions of animals, especially horses.  For this rare self-published work Ridinger prepared sixty finely engraved plates to illustrate the bilingual German and French text.  As was typical of the time, Ridinger’s manual concentrates on riding maneuvers useful for a cavalry officer.

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, some of the finest color-plate books ever created were published in England.  These works, which embraced a wide range of subjects, typically were illustrated with hand-colored aquatint plates.  One of the most popular English illustrators working in the genre was Henry Thomas Alken (1785-1851), who combined a gift for caricature and love of sporting to illustrate many notable works on horse racing, fox-hunting, and other sports.  The Scott Collection contains copies of nearly half of Alken’s sporting books, many of which are quite rare, and we are actively pursuing the remainder.

A one-foot section from Henry Alken’s panorama, A trip to Melton Mowbray (London, 1822), which is 26 feet in length.

Our latest Alken acquisition is his delightful A trip to Melton Mowbray, published in 1822.  This 26-foot-long panorama consists of 14 hand-colored aquatint plates pasted together end-to-end and was originally issued wound around a wooden spindle.  In our copy the plates have been separated and mounted in an album for easier viewing.  The Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray, known for its pork pies and Stilton cheese, has for centuries also been famous as a fox-hunting mecca.  In this work Alken imagines first the comic misadventures of a sporting party journeying from London to Melton Mowbray, and then its participation in the hunt.

One of two newly acquired pencil drawings by Henry Alken for his book, Ideas, accidental and incidental to hunting (London, ca. 1826)

As fine as they are, the color-plate works cannot do proper justice to Alken’s artistry, for something is inevitably lost in the process of translating his exquisite line drawings into the tonal process of aquatint.  Hence we were delighted to acquire two original Alken pencil drawings made for another sporting book: Ideas, accidental and incidental to hunting and other sports (ca. 1826).  By placing the drawings side-by-side with Alken’s books, we can teach in the most effective way possible both Alken’s remarkable artistry and the manner in which etchers translated his work to aquatint plates.

Advertisement for Sloan’s ointment in The complete farrier, or, Horse doctor (Chicago, 1848)

The Scott Collection is also strong in ancillary literature concerning horses.  Here we are less interested in collecting comprehensively than in acquiring the particularly rare, significant, and out-of-the ordinary works that add distinction to a major research holding.  In the area of veterinary medicine, for instance, we snapped up the second known copy of an early Chicago imprint: The complete farrier, or horse doctor, published by W. B. Sloan in 1848.  Sloan was a Chicago purveyor of patent medicines, and the primary objective of this veterinary handbook was to advertise his horse ointment (“The best horse medicine in the world!”) and related products to upper Midwest horse owners.

Frontispiece and title page to The wonders of the horse (New York, 1836)

Literature featuring horses and equestrian sports also figures prominently in the Scott Collection.  An unusual acquisition in this area is The wonders of the horse, recorded in anecdotes, and interspersed with poetry (New York, 1836).  Written for a juvenile audience and first published in London in 1808, this illustrated work anthologizes short extracts about horses from contemporary literature and periodicals.  This fine copy is resplendent in its original publisher’s binding of dark green ribbon-embossed cloth with a red glazed paper label printed in gold pasted to the front cover.

Horse breeders take pedigree as seriously as humans take genealogy, and we have taken advantage of an unusual opportunity to acquire several hundred late nineteenth-century catalogs issued by American horse farms and auction firms.  Today these catalogs are extremely rare, especially in such a concentrated holding, yet they are essential sources for tracing race horse  pedigrees.  These join other catalogs and several complementary manuscript collections previously acquired for the Scott Collection that document the history of the American horse breeding industry.  We have also added a variety of early trade catalogs featuring products suitable for raising and racing horses, such as an 1890 color-illustrated booklet featuring blankets for the well-dressed horse.  These provide a wonderful complement to the extensive and diverse collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century trade catalogs recently given to us by Albert Small.

An opening from Jesse Haney’s Art of training animals (New York, 1869)

Other items in the Scott Collection document the roles horses have played in providing entertainment in circuses, exhibitions, and touring shows.  Equestrian and other animal acts have long been circus staples, and they became even more popular in the mid-nineteenth century with the rise of the touring circus.  Haney’s art of training animals (New York, 1869) was one of the first general handbooks in the field.  It begins with a long section on training horses to perform various tricks and to “act” in horse dramas, followed by another long section on training dogs. Other chapters concern elephants, lions, tigers, monkeys, pigs, rats and mice, seals, and birds, though we are told that “cats do not appear to be favorite subjects of the trainer’s art.”  Another new acquisition is a profusely illustrated “autobiography” of famed circus horse Princess Trixie, the “Queen of all educated horses.”  This pamphlet was sold on the road, wherever Princess Trixie was engaged to perform.

Keepsake pamphlet (ca. 1905) sold at performances by Princess Trixie, “Queen of all educated horses”


The ABCs of Special Collections: A is for…

There are so many items in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library that it would be impossible to tell you about each and every one.  However, in our new series, the ABCs of Special Collections, which will run every two weeks for the next year, the library’s staff will share with you some of the unsung as well as better-known items of Special Collections.  So today, we bring you the letter…

A is for Atkinson Tuscan Roman (light), which is one of 75 alphabets represented in Frank H. Atkinson’s Atkinson Sign Painting up to Now: A Complete Manual of Sign Painting. Chicago: Frederick J. Drake & Co., 1915 (not yet catalogued. Gift of Nicholas Curtis. Photograph by Petrina Jackson).

A is for abecedarium

An abecedarium is an alphabetical wordbook used as a primer for teaching reading and spelling.  Among the many examples in Special Collections are those published by Henkel Press, a German language press in New Market, Virginia, that supplied newspapers, religious materials, and children’s books to communities throughout the Shenandoah Valley. Also shown here are examples of fine press and mechanical books as well as modern primers using various subjects to present the alphabet.

Contributed by Edward Gaynor, Head of Technical Services and Specialist for Virginiana and University Archives

Both of these alphabet books, written in German, were authored by Ambrose Henkel. The opened book is entitled Das grosse A B C Buch and was published in 1820. The closed book is entitled Das kleine A B C Buch, oder erste Anfangs Buchlein and was published in 1816. (Das grosse A B C, PF3114 .H35 1820, Gift of Chevalier E. Reynolds and Das kleine A B C, PF3114 .H38 1816, from the Henkel-Miller Family Papers, MSS 14434. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Jolly Jump-Ups ABC Book was illustrated by Geraldine Clyne and published in 1948. (PZ92 .F6 J66 1948b, Brenda Forman Collection of Pop-Up and Moveable Books. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

A is for Amos Bronson Alcott

Amos Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May, friend of Emerson and Thoreau, was a leading figure of the Transcendentalist Movement in the middle of the 19th-century. His efforts at educational reform and utopian living were considered radical at the time, and though ultimately unsuccessful, his writings remain influential today. A search of VIRGO, our online catalog, features 27 hits related to Alcott, including letters to his famous daughter, and books he authored.

Contributed by George Riser, Collections and Instruction Assistant

Amos Bronson Alcott, n.d. (MSS 7052-c, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Louisa May Alcott and actor James Murdoch, n.d. (MSS 7052-c, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Letter from A. Bronson Alcott to his daughter Louisa May on the occasion of their shared birthday, 29 Nov. 1848. (MSS 7052-c, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

The verso of Alcott’s November 1848 letter to his daughter Louisa May. (MSS 7052-c, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

A is for Ambrotype

Ambrotypes are sharply detailed, one-of-a-kind photographs on glass, packaged in protective cases similar to those used for daguerreotypes.  An ambrotype is essentially a collodion on glass negative that is intentionally underexposed so that the negative image appears as a positive image when viewed against a dark background.  The process of making ambrotypes was patented in the United States in 1854 by James Ambrose Cutting.  The popularity of ambrotypes was short-lived, however, and the process was soon displaced by the growing popularity of albumen prints.

Contributed by Eliza Gilligan, Book and Paper Conservator, University of Virginia Library; text from the George Eastman House Photography Collections Online Glossary

Featured is the ambrotype of “Mammy Kitty” from the Ellis Family Daguerreotypes. Accompanying the image is a note that reads, “The faithful servant of Charles and Mrs. K. Ellis.” Died in Richmond in 1864. Our mother’s mammy.” (MSS 2516-c. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

A is for American History

One of the cornerstones of the University of Virginia Special Collections is the American history library of Tracy W. McGregor (1869-1936).  A unique call number classification scheme for the McGregor Library begins with “A” and is followed by the date of publication.  A further delineation identifies the specific volume.  The earliest volume in the collection is “A 1475 .P76” for the first edition of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia, printed in 1475.  It represents pre-discovery science and geography of the world before Columbus.

Contributed by Margaret Hrabe, Reference Coordinator

Tracy W. McGregor in an undated photograph. (Prints File, Gift of Mildred White. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)


Ptolemy’s Cosmographia. (A 1475 .P76, Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

A is for Assiduous

It might also, in this case, stand for “artist” as they both define the life and personality of Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966). His paintings are a legacy of devotion to divine detail.  Creativity flowed from him like oil from a tube of artist’s paints, to the extent that the color cobalt blue came to be known as “Parrish Blue” by generations of artists who followed in his footsteps. Even his autographs reflect the care, detail, and flair of a born artist; why give in to mundane repetition when an upstroke here, a hook there, and a swash everywhere would embellish the letter more beautifully?

Contributed by Donna Stapley, Assistant to the Director

Maxfield Parrish’s signature, ca. 1901-1910 (MSS 6953, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature).


Maxfield Parrish’s signature, ca. 1901-1910 (MSS 6953, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson).

Maxfield Parrish’s signature, ca. 1901-1910 (MSS 6953, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson).

Maxfield Parrish’s signature, ca. 1901-1910 (MSS 6953, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson).

Maxfield Parrish created detailed, stunning paintings. This one is from “The History of the Young King of the Black Isles.” The Arabian Nights: Their Best Known Tales edited by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora A. Smith, and illustrated by Maxfield Parrish. The caption, which accompanies this illustration, reads, “When he came to this part of his narrative the young king could not restrain his tears.”

We hope you enjoyed today’s selections from the letter A, from the A is for Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library!

The Taxman: What a Founder, a Poet, and a Fascist Have in Common

Tax records are probably the last thing you would think that Special Collections libraries possess. However, along with our many books, photographs, letters, drawings, and more, the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library has financial records, such as tax materials, in its many collections documenting the life and work of people and their businesses.  These records document how citizens pay the government for services and benefits, and as such reveal much about those citizens’ work, but they also serve a secondary use: for instance, a tax form close at hand might become the surface for a draft of a literary work.  This post shows both utilities of these most ubiquitous records through their use by the famous–and infamous.

Imagining Thomas Jefferson’s Debt and Wealth Through Sheriff Ledgers

In colonial Albemarle County, Virginia, as in some other Virginia counties, the sheriff collected taxes.  Thomas Jefferson, as a major plantation and slave owner, was, of course, not exempt from these taxes.

Image of Thomas Jefferson, engraved by T. Johnson from the painting by Gilbert Stuart. (MSS 5845. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

During the American Revolutionary War, Nicholas Hamner was the Sheriff of Albemarle County.  As a duty of his office, he kept a ledger of all of the citizens who owed and paid taxes in the county.  We hold one of those ledgers, dated from 1782-1783, the last two years of the Revolutionary War.  Shown here is the tax assessment for Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson was taxed on his land and moveable property, including his slaves and cattle.  He also had to pay a parish levy, which covers ministers’ salaries, church upkeep, and aid to the poor and orphans:

Nicholas Hamner’s Sheriff’s Ledger for the assessment of taxes in Albemarle County, Va. for the year 1782, opened to the page spread numbered 49. The last entry on the spread is Thomas Jefferson. On the verso (left) is the list of debts/taxes he has to pay, while on the recto (right) is the list of tax credits/payments he has made. (MSS 3455. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Detail of Jefferson’s debt or taxes owed for the year 1782.  The taxes were all assessed in British Pounds. Here you can see that Jefferson has to pay a land tax, a poll tax for two white males, a property tax on 129 slaves, 23 horses and six wheels.  He also has to pay parish levies, which defrays the cost of ministers, upkeep of the churches, and aid to the poor and orphans.  Further research might explain how or why he was assessed for the named people on the list, such as Mary Moore. (MSS 3455. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Detail of Jefferson’s credits or payment of his taxes for  1782.  On September 18, 1782, 12 days after the death of his wife Martha, Jefferson paid part of his taxes by cash.  He also paid by way of George Nicolson and W. Nicolson; a tax historian might be able to explain this detail.  Jefferson has a zero balance by April of the following year 1783.

Seeing the Evolution of Walt Whitman’s Poetry Through His Chosen Surface: Tax Forms

Poet Walt Whitman lived, worked as a journalist, and wrote poetry in New York during the 1840s and 1850s.  It is here that he composed his poems for the third edition of Leaves of Grass.  He wrote his poems on scraps of paper. Some of the paper were melon-colored, while others were plain, and still more were actual tax forms from the city of Williamsburgh (Brooklyn).  Whitman worked in a print shop as well as at the Brooklyn Times, so it is likely the paper was produced as part of a job printing at one of his places of employment.  The Special Collections Library holds a number of handwritten poetry drafts on these particular tax forms, as part of the massive fragmentary draft for the third edition of Leaves of Grass, one of the cornerstones of the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature.  Fredson Bowers, bibliographer and professor of English at the University of Virginia from 1938 to 1975, used all manner of physical evidence available to him in these artifacts to reconstruct the manuscript’s likely original order.

Engraving of Walt Whitman from the frontispiece of the third edition, first issue of Leaves of Grass (PS 3201. 1860 copy 4, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Whitman drafted his poems on all different scraps of paper, including the backs of tax forms from the City of Williamsburgh [Brooklyn, NY].  During the 1850s, Whitman worked at a printing shop and the Brooklyn Times newspaper, where it is likely that they did many job printings, including these tax forms.  This featured manuscript copy of a poem, written on the back of the tax form, would later become part of the third edition of Leaves of Grass. (MSS 3829, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Detail of tax form on which Whitman wrote some of his poems for the third edition of Leaves of Grass. (MSS 3829, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Reading Hitler’s Rise Through His Falling Taxes

Oron Hale was an historian, University of Virginia professor, U.S. Army Major with the Intelligence Division of the War Department during World War II, and Commissioner for Bavaria with the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany. During his government service in Germany, he witnessed first-hand the rise of Hitler and National Socialism in Europe; after the war he took part in a special mission of the U.S. War Department’s Historical (Shuster) Commission in Germany, interrogating the surviving defeated leaders of the Third Reich, including Hermann Göring, Wilhelm Keitel, Karl Dönitz, and Joachim von Ribbentrop among others.

The Oron Hale Papers at the Special Collections Library include his personal and office correspondence, manuscripts of his published writings, records relating to his academic activities and government service in Germany, and declassified intelligence reports.  One unexpected, and fascinating component of the collection is the set of contemporary photostats of Adolf Hitler’s tax returns from 1925 through 1935, which were among the documents seized by the Allies during the war.

Photograph of Oron J. Hale, ca. 1942.  At the time of this photograph, Hale was a U.S. Major, serving with the Intelligence Division of the War Department General Staff in Washington. (MSS 12800-a. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Hitler’s taxes show his metamorphosis from struggling writer to powerful–and financially well-off–dictator in a relatively short amount of time.

First page of Hitler’s completed 1925 tax forms. Here you can see his signature and the statement of his profession as writer (Schriftsteller) from Munich (München). He owns no real estate property. (MSS 12800-a. Photograph by Petrina Jackson.)

On page 3 of Hitler’s 1925 tax form, Hitler’s property tax declaration is limited to one writing desk and two bookshelves with books. The combined cost of those items was 1000 Reichsmark. (MSS 12800-a. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Signed, final page of Hitler’s 1925 tax forms. (MSS 12800-a. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Here are some other points of interest in his tax files found in notes, translated by Hale, from Hitler’s tax files:

In 1925, Hitler buys a motor-car II A 6699 in February 1925 for 20.000 Reichsmark (RM), but must explain to the tax office where he got the money for this purchase. He responds that he borrows it from a bank.  In this year he also asks for an extension to pay his taxes by installments.

In 1933, the Minister of Finance makes a decision that Hitler is not to pay any income tax on his fees as Reichskanzler (chancellor of the empire).

In 1934, The Reichsminister of Finance decides that Hitler may deduct 50% of his income as propaganda costs.

The final translated note is from Dr. Lizius (senior finance government official and manager of finances for Munich-West), and it reads:  “On Febr. 25, 1935 President Mirre called me by telephone and said, that Staatssekretär Reinhardt had informed the Führer of the apprehension concerning his exemption from taxation as Head of the State and that the Führer dealt the opinion of Herr Mirre and Reinhardt.  The order, that the Führer should be tax-free, thereby would be final.  Upon that I withdrew all records of the Führer from the ordinary business performance and put them under lock.”

These documents–and those of Thomas Jefferson and Walt Whitman–are a very particular kind of historical evidence, and our collections are replete with other fascinating examples. Who knew tax records weren’t just mundane frustrations we are happy to file away as quickly as possible each year? And who knows what stories our own tax forms might tell someday?


I would like to extend a special thanks to Chad Wellmon, assistant professor of Germanic languages and literatures for helping me by translating into English the German tax documents.

I would also like to give a special thanks to my colleagues Heather Riser, Special Collections’ head of reference and research services, and Donna Stapley, Assistant to the Special Collections director, for their research help with interpreting the 1782 Sheriff’s ledger.


Black Alumni Weekend: Manuscripts and Mimosas

Every other year, hundreds of black alumni come back to Grounds to have fun with old friends, reminisce about their time at the University, and attend insightful open houses and seminars, ranging from education to entertainment to entrepreneurship.

The staff at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, including Director Nicole Bouché and Head of Instruction and Outreach Petrina Jackson, hosted a number of alumni at the Library’s “Manuscripts and Mimosas” event.  The aptly named event featured some of Special Collections’ most recent acquisitions in African-American materials, a digital story of the early years of Black Greek-letter organizations at the University, and refreshing mimosas and pastries.  Note: No manuscripts were harmed during this event.  There was no contact between the refreshments and the manuscript materials.

African-American history is a key component of our collection development, and we are committed to documenting the institutions, communities, and people who influence this culture.  The alumni, family and friends who attended “Manuscripts and Mimosas” got a first-hand view of some of the books, manuscripts, photographs, and broadsides that comprise our African-American collections and materials.

Petrina Jackson discusses some of the collection materials with alumni and friends. (Photograph by Gretchen Gueguen)

Event goers view recent African-American acquisitions. (Photograph by Gretchen Gueguen)

Here is a sampling of what they saw.

Featured is the title page of Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles: Together with a Preamble to the Colored Citizens of the World, But in Particular, and Very Expressly to Those of the United States of America. The 1829 anti-slavery tract Walker’s Appeal is considered by many, the most radical document of its kind. In his book, David Walker, a free black man originally from the South, but living in Boston, advocates for slaves to rise up against their masters, refutes African colonization to Liberia, and attacks Thomas Jefferson’s views on blacks. (E446. W15 1829, Purchased from the Robert and Virginia Tunstall Trust Fund, 2010/2011-2011/2012. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

In this June 10th, 1862 letter, soldier Aaron Sager writes to his sister Emma, regarding his service in the Union Army and his encounter with black people. This letter, accompanied by its transcript, is one of a several Sager Brother Civil War letters written by Captain Aaron and Sergeant George J. Sager, who were from Syracuse, NY and served in the 76th and 149th NY regiments, respectively. (MSS 15190, Purchased from the Coles-Special Collections Fund 2010/2011. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

An undated photograph of John Washington and one page from his slave narrative, entitled “Memorys of the Past,” are featured. The narrative, which was written after the Civil War, describes Washington’s life as a slave in Fredericksburg and Richmond, Va., where he was hired out, ownership by the Ware family, marriage, his escape to freedom across the Rappahannock River in 1862, scouting for the Union Army, identifying prominent Southern sympathizers, and avoiding Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby’s men. (MSS 15000, Purchased from the Robert and Virginia Tunstall Trust Fund, 2011/2012. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

This Reconstruction era document promotes a barbeque for the purpose of supporting African-American political candidates, civil rights, and fair voting practices. (Broadside 1869 .G73, Purchased from the Associates Endowment Fund, 2011/2012. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Pictured are two photographs, ca. 1950s, of the Board of Directors of the First State Bank and the minutes for a 1922 stakeholders’ meeting. We recently acquired this fantastic collection, documenting this African-American owned bank from Danville, Virginia. The bank thrives even today. (MSS 15550. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Featured is a page from the Peabody High School Yearbook (Petersburg, VA), 1939. The pages were mimeographed with pasted photographic prints. The volume includes a dedication, photographs of the school, faculty, and individual seniors, a class poem, class photographs and histories, and activity photographs and description, including clubs and athletics. (MSS 15284, Purchased from the Byrd Fund 2012/2013. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

The Negro Motorist Green Book: An International Travel Guide, 1949 Edition, was created by Victor Hugo Green, an African-American postal worker and civic leader from Harlem, NY. The book listed safe places (hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, etc.) for black people to stay when traveling during the Jim Crow era. (Not yet cataloged. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

We also showed the digital story Black Greek Letter Organizations at the University of Virginia: The Early Years.  The story gives a snapshot of the founding, service, and social life of the National Pan-Hellenic Council’s historically black fraternities and sororities at the University from 1973 to 1985.  Happily, there were alumni at the event who saw photos of themselves that they had not seen in years.  This surprise made for lots of fun, spontaneous responses from the audience!

The audience watches the digital story Black Greek Letter Organizations at the University of Virginia: The Early Years. (Photograph by Gretchen Gueguen)

Because Special Collections is the home of the University Archives (UA), documenting the University’s history is central to what we do.  The UA is filled with official records from the institution itself, but the student experience is under-documented.  This is woefully true in the case of black students.  One of the goals of the Library is to change that, but that can’t happen without alumni themselves.


Flyer created by Jeff Hill.

An alumna asks a question, regarding donating photographs. (Photograph by Gretchen Gueguen)

Based on responses from alumni at the event, we can safely say that the event was a great success.  One such response was a tweet from alum Quentin @AvenueSwank in which he states, “The UVA special collections library is amazing! Manuscripts and mimosas was super enlightening #uvabaw.”  We look forward to having another event like this when alumni come back home to U.Va. for the next Black Alumni Weekend!

I would like to extend a special thank you to my colleague, Digital Archivist Gretchen Gueguen, who took time out of her Saturday desk shift to take so many great photographs of the event and to Sarah Nyanjom, Assistant Director of Reunions, for all of her help in planning the event logistics and providing the mimosas and refreshments.

We look forward to seeing you all in 2015!



This Just In: First Cat in Space?

Now that we have your attention, in this post we feature a miscellany of recent book acquisitions.

An account of two balloon ascensions made in Valencia, Spain on March 12 and 15, 1784. The first was unmanned; the second carried “un gato grande.”  (Photo by David Whitesell)

Before the rise of newspapers, news was often disseminated in the form of inexpensive pamphlets sold in bookshops and hawked on the street.  We recently acquired the second recorded copy of a most unusual relación printed in Valencia, Spain and dated March 24, 1784.  Its unnamed author describes what are perhaps Spain’s earliest balloon ascensions, undertaken only nine months after the Montgolfier brothers first launched their hot air balloon.  The Spanish balloon, constructed primarily of paper and measuring 18 x 12 feet (1103 cubic feet), was smaller than the first Montgolfier balloon.  Its six-panelled blue surface was lavishly decorated with the arms of Valencia and King Carlos III, an inscription from Homer, and other decorations appropriate for a pioneering aerial billboard.  At 5:15 p.m. on March 12, 1784, the balloon ascended from an orchard just outside Valencia’s city wall, soon disappearing into the clouds before landing one league distant from the city.  After some repairs, the balloon was relaunched from the same site on March 15, this time with “una jaula de alambre con un gato grande dentro de ella” (a wire cage with a large cat inside) suspended beneath.  The balloon rose to a height of approximately 3,000 feet, then hovered motionless for ten minutes before making a gentle five-minute descent.  Presumably the cat had much to say upon landing but, because it immediately clawed its way free and fled, its feelings about having been “el primer viajante aëreo de su especie” (the first aeronaut of its species) have been lost to posterity.  We have found reference to a cat being sent aloft in a French balloon exactly one month earlier, on February 15, 1784, but it did not survive the flight, so the Spanish gato may well have been the first successful feline aeronaut.  This relación joins the Small Special Collections Library’s extensive aeronautical history collection.

Original printed front cover to The Philosophy of Kissing, Anatomically and Physiologically Explained. New York: R.H. Elton, 1841. (Photo by David Whitesell)

The second quarter of the 19th century saw a profusion of popular works devoted to courtship and marriage.  Most were issued in a small, portable format and, to make them suitable for gift giving, dressed in attractive bindings.  The Philosophy of Kissing, Anatomically and Physiologically Explained  (New York, 1841), is one of the more unusual.  The book’s perspective is stated up front: “Even Sir Isaac Newton, great philosopher as he doubtless was, kissed, and was kissed, though by no means to a remarkable extent, yet never enquired the WHY–never discovered the WHEREFORE. It was reserved for a later era and a more philosophical age … He ascertained existing phenomena, but found not the cause.”  Perhaps so, but one might well add, tongue in cheek, that Newton fully understood the principle of gravitational attraction.  The book might have been more successful—only one edition was published—if it had focused more on the how than on the why.  This copy retains its original illustrated covers and contains a number of illustrations, including phrenological charts of the brain’s amatory regions.

First page of Specimens of Type in the Journal-Democrat Printing House (Warrensburg, Mo., ca. 1885), showing the smallest text types available in this printing shop. The textual snippets selected for typesetting are fascinating in their own right.  (Photo by David Whitesell)

The Small Special Collections Library boasts a large collection of type specimen books dating back to the 18th century.  These can be either specimens issued by typefoundries, alerting printers to the typefaces, ornaments, and vignettes available for purchase; or specimens issued by printers, showing potential customers what resources were on hand for their book and job printing needs.  Type specimens range in format from simple broadsides to massive, finely printed trade catalogs. Because most soon became outdated and were discarded, today many type specimens are rare.  Although particularly useful to the bibliographer and printing historian, type specimens are valuable sources for investigating the nexus between print and society.  One recent acquisition is the only known copy of a type specimen issued ca. 1885 by a rural Missouri printer: Specimens of Type in the Journal-Democrat Printing House.  The Journal-Democrat was published out of Warrenton, Missouri and, like many newspapers of the time, also printed pamphlets, the occasional book, and especially all manner of jobbing work: blank forms, letterheads, posters, fliers and the like.

Two pages of stock cuts useful for a wide range of job printing.  (Photo by David Whitesell)

This specimen book begins with 18 pages of typefaces in various sizes and decorative styles, most far more suited for jobbing work than for books.  Following are 60 pages of ornaments and stock cuts akin to today’s clip art, which provide a unique window into what a frontier printing shop thought appropriate for its clientele.

Spine and front cover of the Mäzmurä Dawit, an early 19th-century Ethiopic manuscript of the Book of Psalms.  (Photo by David Whitesell)

Our collection of medieval manuscript codices, fragments, and single leaves on vellum, parchment, and paper, receives constant use from U.Va. classes, Rare Book School courses, and scholarly researchers.  The manuscripts are valuable for any number of reasons, including their texts, what they reveal about the materials and methods of medieval book production, manuscript illumination, and paleographical studies of the various scripts employed by medieval scribes.  We recently acquired a manuscript codex which, we hope, will prove useful in the classroom for placing the medieval book in broader perspective.

Folio 1 recto, with decorative headpiece and first lines of text. (Photo by David Whitesell)

This finely preserved manuscript of the Mäzmurä Dawit, or Book of Psalms, is written in Ge’ez, the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.  It dates to the early 19th century but looks centuries older.  Indeed, it wonderfully demonstrates the close ties between the Western European manuscript tradition and the earlier, and more persistent, Christian tradition from which it sprang.  In appearance its blind-tooled goatskin binding over thick wooden boards resembles a 14th-century European binding.  Its parchment leaves were prepared and written using traditional methods that Europe had largely abandoned three centuries earlier as it embraced the printed book.  And in terms of illumination and binding construction, it is uniquely Ethiopian.

Two pages from Netter & Eisig’s Bucheinbandstoffe sample book (Göppingen, ca. 1912), with mounted cloth samples showing the range of colors in which this particular fabric was available. (Photo by David Whitesell)

From the 1820s onward, many books have been issued in “publisher’s cloth bindings,” i.e. bound in decorative  cloth bindings prior to public sale.  Bibliographers, booksellers, collectors, and library catalogers have traditionally described these in simple terms: “bound in publisher’s red cloth, gilt.”  Recently bookbinding historians have come to understand that, by consulting sample books distributed to commercial binderies by bookbinding cloth manufacturers, it is possible to describe publisher’s bindings far more precisely.  Such sample books are of legendary rarity, in part because the bookbinding cloth market was dominated by a handful of firms, who typically demanded the return of old sample books before new ones were sent.  Hence we were delighted to acquire a fine, complete, and previously unrecorded copy of the Bucheinbandstoffe sample book issued ca. 1912 by Netter & Eisig of Göppingen, Germany.  Included are 585 mounted samples of some 45 different fabrics showing the range of colors, qualities, and grains available.  The first three pages provide samples of 48 different specialty grains which could be embossed into most cloth rolls prior to shipment.  These cloths can be found on tens of thousands of publisher’s bindings for early 20th-century continental European imprints.