Class Notes Goes on the Road: Medieval Manuscripts in South Carolina

This week, we are pleased to feature a guest post from Anne Causey, Public Services Assistant for the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

When I joined the Small Special Collections Library eight years ago, I realized how much I loved medieval manuscripts: books from before the emergence of printing (ca. 1450), which are often artfully decorated in vibrant natural colors, and sometimes gold leaf. Mostly I loved them because they are so beautiful (and so old), and amazingly enough, all done by hand!

I am always searching for opportunities to learn more about these gems, so in March I attended “Understanding Medieval Manuscripts,” a two-day seminar at the University of South Carolina. The class was hosted by USC and Scott Gwara, USC professor of English and comparative literature, along with guest lecturer Professor Eric J. Johnson, curator of early books and manuscripts at the Ohio State University, who brought along 8 codices (books) and 40 fragments from his institution for study. In the class, I discovered that beyond the beauty of these illuminated books, there is much to learn–even from a single page of text.

Professors Scott Gwara and Eric Johnson show fragments of medieval manuscripts to the class. (Photograph by Anne Causey)

The Basics

Professor Johnson started us off with a discussion of parchment. Parchment (or, “vellum”) is treated animal skin, and was the dominant surface for writing from the fourth century C. E. to the fourteenth century C. E.

Making parchment was a planned process – “not an afterthought,” he said. It could take eight to 16 weeks.  One has to kill the animal, drain the blood, soak it in water and lime; set the skin on a herse (frame) and with a curved blade and gloves strip away the flesh side and “pull off as much hair and gunk as possible.” The uneven sheet that is left can be cut into regular pieces

You’ll see lots of imperfections in the skin, Johnson pointed out.  The hair and flesh side are easy to distinguish: the hair side has lots of follicles and is rougher. There may be sewing holes that were elongated and repaired on the herse, or round holes that came from a wound or insect bite. “The saggy bits,” such as the neck, shoulders and belly, become translucent and are sometimes wrinkled.

You can determine man-made damage such as cuts and scrapes, or ink that burned through from the letters, or there may be elemental damage – extreme temperatures can cause parchment to be brittle and brown.

There are other things to look for as well. What kind of quill did the scribe use – small bird or large? What is the pricking and ruling like? What kind of ink ? Was it lampblack (not as good for parchment) or was it oak gall mixed with sap? Are visible differences due to a change in the ink or the introduction of a different scribe? Are there scribal errors and corrections – eye skip errors, erasures, insertions?

“This is text under the text – every last bit of manuscript has gone through a craft process,” Johnson said. By studying a manuscript’s physical characteristics and comparing it to other examples, we learned, you can determine how and when it was produced.   He suggested that when teaching to undergraduates, you might even pair fragments with incunables (the earliest printed books, from about 1450 to 1501) as well as books from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The Unexpected Beauty of Fragments

In the class, we discussed and reviewed Bibles, books of hours, breviaries and psalters. We had ample time for hands-on examination, which we did in pairs. Surprisingly, the category Eric Johnson is most excited about? Fragments! And not even the “prettiest” fragments at that.

The dirtier they are, the better – it means they have been used a lot and they have a lot to say—undergrads have a huge opportunity to access them.

Look at your manuscripts – fragments with many hands [multiple scribes] and imperfections. They are really great places to learn. You can pass them around and give students a chance for the tactile experience.

Professor Johnson talks to the class about a fragment of a medieval manuscript.

Students from South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, Michigan, and Virginia study fragments of medieval manuscripts during class. (Photograph by Anne Causey)

Sometimes fragments come about because someone has broken apart a medieval manuscript. Breaking books is a problem for many reasons – including the fact that pages lose their context. People often want the decorated pieces to frame as artwork and don’t care about the text or meaning. However, the undecorated fragments have much to say to us, Johnson said:

Studying them is not so much about coming up with the right answer but coming up with answers to help us interact with a book.

Returning Home, Energized!

Afterward the course ended, I wanted to rush back to the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library and immediately begin examining our fragments! Besides our thirty  more-or-less complete medieval manuscript codices, there are 235 fragments in the Rosenthal Medieval Manuscript Collection alone. These date from the ninth century C. E. on, and some of the fragments are unidentified and undated. Just what I needed!

Unidentified fragment from the Rosenthal Medieval Manuscripts Collection. (MSS 9772. Photograph by Anne Causey)

The Rosenthal manuscripts were purchased in 1972. The collection contains no pre-800 manuscripts because they are so rare and expensive; interestingly, a note in the collection indicates that just one of these earlier fragments would have cost almost as much as the entire collection. Most of the fragments are vellum, though some later leaves are paper; many were reused as covers for archival bundles or book bindings and show traces of use such as fading, stains, cut edges, remains of glue, and pen and ink scrawls.

There is nothing identifying the fragment, so we must examine it for clues. You will notice the black ink written in the middle–down the “spine.” That was likely added later when the fragment was used to rebind a book. On the right side of the fragment, there is a wrinkled pattern, and it is slightly translucent–probably what Professor Johnson referred to as the “saggy bits,” either from a shoulder or neck of the animal. On the far right edge, you can see holes that were probably prickings made to help rule the page for the scribe. (MSS 9772. Photograph by Anne Causey)

The Rosenthal Collection is not the only place to find medieval fragments at the Small Special Collections Library. There are 20+ manuscript fragments in the Atcheson Hench Collection.

I look forward to using all I learned regularly in my job, whether it’s assisting researchers and students in the reading room or teaching undergraduates how to start understanding these beautiful artifacts.

This amazing course was FREE, underwritten by sponsors in South Carolina, including The Humanities Council of South Carolina, Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, College of Arts and Sciences, and the Department of English at USC.  Also, Scott James Gwara, professor of English and comparative literature at USC, was a most generous host who added his knowledge of Latin and medieval manuscripts to the class.

Observations on the Seventeen-Year Cicada: A Citizen Scientist Reports from 1824

For the last two weeks, I have been, well, geeking out as cicadas have begun appearing in my heavily wooded neighborhood in Charlottesville. I’ve seen two waves of the little beasties emerge from beneath the shrubs outside my cottage, and each time, have immediately documented my sightings online. Social-networking and online-news sources this spring alerted me to two websites that are calling on “Citizen Scientists” to document the emergence, one hosted by Radio Lab and the other by National Geographic.

One of the first cicadas to emerge in my neighborhood in Charlottesville, May 15, 2013.

One of the first cicadas to emerge in my neighborhood in Charlottesville, May 15, 2013. It rests on the branch of an Abelia shrub, under which may be seen numerous circular holes from which this and other cicadas emerged. (Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

Why the big deal? Brood II cicadas (Magicicada septendecim) spend seventeen years living underground before emerging to sing loudly, lay eggs, and then die within about a month. Because of this unusually lengthy life cycle, Brood II cicadas are relatively mysterious to scientists, and a lot of basic questions about their activities remain unanswered. So scientists have been taking advantage of crowdsourcing opportunities to gather information; emergences are spotty (some people will see no cicadas in their yards) and range across hundreds of miles. Projects like the ones I’m participating in will perhaps provide enough data to keep the lab rats busy for, oh, maybe another seventeen years.

I wondered how earlier Virginians experienced cicada emergences, and was thrilled to discover that Special Collections holds a remarkable 200-year-old personal account of a fellow magicicada enthusiast, who wrote his own history of “locusts,” as they were commonly termed in that period. “J. S.” (who felt uncomfortable giving his/her full name to “such a rough draft”) tracked what are now known as Brood II and Brood X, which also emerges every 17 years, and will emerge next in 2021. J. S. explains how careful observation led him to determine that the cicadas feed off the roots of trees while underground (correct!). He also describes with great detail the workings of the female’s “perforator” (now called the “ovipositor”), the mechanism with which she lays her eggs.

J. S.’s  4-page long description of emergences in 1766, 1783, 1800, and 1809 is reproduced here in full, each page first in transcription (with paragraph breaks added and some spelling and punctuation modified for ease of reading), followed by an image of the page. Enjoy!

A short history of the locusts of North America

Several years past some conversation took place between an intimate acquaintance and my self, respecting the locusts. For his information I will throw my Ideas on paper. In the spring of 1766 they made their appearance in Frederick County Virginia and in 1783 the appeared again. Previous to their coming up at this time, I observed the Hoggs were very busy rooting under the Apple trees in the orchard. In a few days the locusts were seen in abundance crawling from the avenues of their subterenious dwellings. A short time after they appeared they were observed to be busily employed in geting released from a covering they had no use for in their present abode. As they appeared to come onely a small distance from the apple trees or the trees of the forrest, I was at a loss for a reason why it was so, and was induced to think that when the eggs they deposited in the small branches of of the trees, were hatched, that the young ones droped down and made their way into the earth, that they remained there a certain number of years. I had heared of several spaces of time mentioned, but there appeared no standard to calculation as to the length of time they remained in the earth, or the depth they decended. All appeared uncertain.

So it passed on untill they came in 1800. The first discovery I then made of their coming was the earth rooted up by the hoggs as heretofore. At this time finding it to be 17 years since their last appearance, it claimed my further attention, and I undertook a more minute investigation of the case. I had an orchard near the house where the trees were planted too close together and some of them had been cut down two or three years before. In conversation with a friend of mine on the subject of the locusts, which appeared in great abundance, we walked into the orchard, and made a prety full examination of their coming out of the earth, and discovered that there was no holes in the ground near the stumps of the trees that had been removed some years previous to that time. This led me to investigate the case further in respect to the means of sustenance & I was now led to believe that they drew their support from the live roots of the trees So I left it until they came the next time.
I was now living In the State of Ohio in the year 1809. In the spring of this year I

First page of A Short History of the Locusts of North America (MSS 9727). (Digitized by Molly Schwartzburg)

First page of A Short History of the Locusts of North America (MSS 9727). (Digitized by Molly Schwartzburg)

I was fencing a garden. I observed in diging the post holes at one corner of the garden, we found many locusts near the Surface, but in the other part we did not discover any. Here the former observation took place. There was the green roots of a shade tree that we had removed, and the locusts were not found further than the roots had spread. This was several years before the time that I expected they would again shew themselves, according to my former calculations, yet I judged we should have another locust year before the time in course. I now made enquiry of some of the former setler that had lived near me, when the locusts had made their appearance last, but none of them appared clear as to the time. And recuring back to the time that I discovered that they did not come up round the dead appletree Stumps, it struck me that it was similar to our not finding any locusts in the holes we dug for the post holes of our garden fence.

This spring the locust came in great abundance. A further examination took place. I took a walk in order to satisfy my curiosity, and after advancing some distance and passing several stumps of trees that had been cut not more than two or three years, and could not find one hole where the locusts had come up, and proceeding on a little further, I discovered one hole, and then another, and casting my eye a little further on, I observed several holes the locusts had made nearly in a straight line. In order to gratify my curiosity a little more, I got a spade and dug till I found the root of an elm tree that was now exactly under the row of holes, the locusts had made, and searching further about the roots of the elm, I discovered there was small open spaces round the roots, where I thought it was at least probable, the locusts had lain and sucked the sap out of the roots. Here they could not have decended more than four or five feet , as the leavel of the creek was not more than that distance.

The knowledge I thought I had gained of their history led me to pry minutely into the manner of their increas. I found that they hatched in a short time after the eggs were deposited in the small branches of the trees, and that they were

Page two.

Page two.

to be found in little clusters on the small lims. In a short time they shed a little coat or shell something similar to that they shed soon after they came out of their [subterenious caverns?.] They shed several of these coverings when they are small of a colour between white and brown. To take hold of them is difficult. They will slip off more like what is calld a flee than any other insect that I know of. They continue on the tender branches of the tree, untill they are something more than half an inch long, and have the resemblance of the locust.

The perforator (as I do not know any name more proper to call it) appears to be perfectly formed at this time for driling the holes in the small branches of the trees where She deposits their eggs. This instrument is about half an inch long and about the thickness of a smallish needle. It is hollow and a seam along the lower part, a little resembling a steel pen, the outer end is shaped a little like the bowl of a spoon with the concave side down, the curved part is brought to a sharp point and both edges are set with sharp teeth so fine that the naked eye can hardly discern them, but when magnifyed appear something like [sickle?] teeth. The motion made with this almost curious instrument in driling the holes is nearly a semicircle and with the little teeth cuting both ways they soon make the hole as deep as the want it.

The egg now appears opening and swelling the tube untill it gets in the concave part, then the egg is deposited and another hole is commenced. So they go on untill they have a douzen or more of eggs in regular order. One end of the first one is [elevated?] about forty degrees, and the next egg is laid part on the first so that they lay in a regular streight line. So beautifully are they aranged that the nicest [illegible?] cant exceed it, and the perforator cant be exceeded by human art. The locust when prepared to decend into the earth as above described, is near three fourths of an inch long, is covered along its back from the hindermost part of the wings to the front of the head, with a hard horny substance perhaps as hard as a cows horn,

Page 3.

Page 3.

and on the foremost part it appears to be formed for diging or penetrating into the earth, (all the work of the great architect) . I think it is likely they ware this armour untill they are nearly ready to leave their house of clay, and about to ascend into the pure and sublime regions of the air. Here their existence is not long in duration. Soon after they arise they shed a coat or covering. It appears to burst on the back and they crawl out, and soon begin their ravages on the tender branches of the fruit and other trees, by piercing them with their small bits and sucking the sap, which appears to be their onely sustenance. I have seen them when about to leave the branch where they have been feeding on, the flow of sap hath been so strong that after the locust leaves the place where he has been feeding the tender juice will run and stand on the branch quite transparent.

There is one more remark that I want to make respecting the locusts. I have found the young locusts more numerous on the branches of the locust trees than any other tree. Whether the locusts took their name from this tree, or the tree from the locusts, I must leave.

It is left now to inform that what is wrote is the result of my own observation which begun with the year 1766—1783—1800—1817 were locust years in Frederick and Loudon, Counties, in Virginia. I once related this circumstance to a friend of mine in whom I could place the greatest confidence and he then informed me, that in the year 1749 his Father removed with his famely from Pensylvania to Loudon County Virginia, and it was a locust year. In the year 1817 the locusts onely reached to the crossings in the Aleghany mountain and in 1809 when we had them in Jefferson Ohio they did not reach Pittsburgh until several years after that time, so it is I believe they have 17 years as a stated period of appearance. What changes may take place hereafter we do not know. I onely state what has been the result of my my enquiry

Thy friend
J. S

My name in full is too much to put to such a rough draft as this 3rd mo 16th 1824

Page 4.

Page 4.

The ABCs of Special Collections: C is for

Welcome to our third installation of the ABCs of Special Collections!  We give you the letter:

C is for Condensed French, 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 Caroline Newcomb).

C is for “Calithump”

Webster’s defines “calithump” (variant spellings callithump and calathump) as a somewhat riotous parade, accompanied by the blowing of tin horns and other discordant noises.

Philena Carkin was a young schoolteacher from Massachusetts who came to Charlottesville, Virginia in 1866 as a representative of the American Freedmen’s Aid Commission to teach the newly freed slaves during Reconstruction.  Her Reminiscences of my Life and Work among the Freedmen of Charlottesville, Virginia, from March 1st 1866 to July 1st 1875 (MSS 11123) is a no-nonsense description of Charlottesville, its inhabitants, the University of Virginia, and the surrounding area.  In Chapter five she describes the “calithump” tradition among the University students:

Young men from all parts of the South and some parts of the North came here as students. Anyone living near the University would soon become impressed with the idea that it was a pretty wild and reckless crowd judging from appearances.   Probably the larger part were orderly and studious but the disorderly and reckless elements are always more in evidence from the very fact of their disorderliness, and our experience of them as neighbors did not tend to raise them in our estimation as a whole.  Woe to the unfortunate individual, be he professor or citizen of the town who in any way gained the ill will of one of these students. With faces masked, and torches made of brooms dipped in tar and lighted they would march to his house to the music of tin pans and tin horns, and surrounding the building make night hideous as only yelling demons can.  The victim might not always escape with only a Calithump.  Injury to person and property were not uncommon, and murder not unknown.

Contributed by Margaret Hrabe, Reference Coordinator

Carte de visite of Philena Carkin taken by William Roads. (MSS 11123. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Philena Carkin Reminiscences, 1910. (MSS 11123-a. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

C is for Chinese Seals

Chinese seals are personal name stamps or signatures used on art, contracts, documents, etc. to signify authorship. Seals are created from a variety of materials, including stone, wood, and ivory.  The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library holds well over 300 Chinese seals, representing individuals from the richest and most powerful (such as emperors) to the ordinary (such as merchants). John Maphis donated the collection in memory of his uncle, Charles Gilmore Maphis.

Contributed by Petrina Jackson, Head of Instruction and Outreach

Chinese Seals, 800 B.C. – 1800 A.D. (MSS 6678. Gift of John Alan Maphis. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Chinese Seals, 800 A.D. – 1800 A.D. (MSS 6678. Gift of John Alan Maphis. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

C is for Cotton

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a runaway best-seller, second only to the Bible in the number of copies sold in the nineteenth century. Stowe’s publisher commissioned John Greenleaf Whittier, a stalwart abolitionist, to write a poem about the character Little Eva and subsequently printed the words and music on a cotton handkerchief. This artifact of fervent capitalism shows just how deeply slavery was entrenched throughout American society: even the most zealous abolitionist message shamelessly profited from slave labor.

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

One score of Little Eva Song, printed on a cotton handkerchief.  The words are by John G. Whittier, and the music is by Manuel Emilio. 1852. (Broadside .S68 Z99 1852c. Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

C is for Harry and Caresse Crosby

Perhaps no couple epitomized the Lost Generation in Paris of the twenties more than Harry and Caresse Crosby. Famously wealthy, the two hosted many social events for their artist friends, and pushed the limits of acceptable behavior to the delight of a scandalized public. In 1928 they founded The Black Sun Press in Paris. This highly influential small art press published, among others, James Joyce, Kay Boyle, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Hart Crane, and William Faulkner, as well as editions of their own work. Caresse Crosby continued publishing after Harry’s dramatic suicide in 1929. Special Collections houses more than two dozen titles published by the press.

Contributed by George Riser, Collections and Instruction Assistant

Shown here is an edition of Hart Crane’s The Bridge, 1930, and Harry Crosby’s Mad Queen: Tirades, 1929. (PS 3505 .R272B7 1930b and PS 3505 .R883M3 1929 and, respectively. Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

 C is for Cross-Hatching (sometimes called cross writing)

Cross-hatching was a letter-writing practice popular in the nineteenth century.  In a hand-written letter, the correspondent wrote across the paper in one direction and then turned the paper sideways to write across it at right angles to the original writing on the same page.  This both conserved scarce paper and saved on postage costs.

C is also for cross, which is how an archivist trying to read cross-hatched letters feels at the end of the day.

C is also for cross-eyed; see above.

Contributed by Sharon Defibaugh, Manuscripts and Archives Processor

Cross-hatching used in a letter written by J. S. Wilson to Miss E. E. Richards, no date (MSS 5410. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Don’t forget to catch us next time when we cover the letter “D”!



This Just In: A Happy Reunion!

Here at U.Va. Thomas Jefferson looms large both on, and under, Grounds.  It is only fitting that the Small Special Collections Library holds one of the world’s best collections of Jefferson manuscripts.  Some form part of the U.Va. Archives, for Jefferson founded the university and served as its first Rector from 1816 until his death in 1826.  Others have been placed in our care by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello.  Still more have been acquired over the years through the generosity of many donors, who have either entrusted their Jefferson manuscripts to us or given funds for new acquisitions.

Jefferson is estimated to have written some 19,000 letters during his lifetime.  A great many survive, and a significant number of Jefferson letters and documents remain in private hands.  Given our finite resources, Special Collections can by no means acquire every Jefferson manuscript that comes on the market.  Instead we patiently seek items of high research value, especially the previously unknown and unpublished.  Our latest Jefferson acquisition arrived just last week, and it fits the bill perfectly: an early and highly significant manuscript, previously unknown and unpublished, which is the mate of a manuscript already at U.Va.

Our newly acquired Thomas Jefferson manuscript: the bottom half of a leaf containing his draft revision (ca. November 1769) of the rules under which the Virginia House of Burgesses conducted its business. (Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

But the story begins in 1988, when Special Collections learned of an unrecorded Jefferson manuscript being offered in an upstate New York auction.  The document, for which we were high bidder, was identified by editors at the Papers of Thomas Jefferson as the top half of a leaf, written on both sides, containing Jefferson’s draft revision of the rules by which Virginia’s House of Burgesses conducted its business.  Jefferson began his political career in 1769 when, at the age of 26, he took a seat in the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg.  In November of that year he was appointed to a committee chaired by Edmund Pendleton, who assigned Jefferson the task of drafting new rules for the House.  Jefferson’s draft was refined in committee before being approved by the House of Burgesses on December 8, 1769.  These rules guided its deliberations in the crucial years leading up to the American Revolution.

In 1997 U.Va.’s incomplete manuscript was published in volume 27 of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, where it was described as Jefferson’s “earliest surviving documentary contribution as a public official to promoting the orderly conduct of legislative business, a subject of enduring interest that culminated during his vice-presidency with the publication in 1801 of his Manual of Parliamentary Practice, which still helps to guide parliamentary procedure in the United States Congress today.”  In some respects it also prefigures Jefferson’s later committee assignment, in June of 1776, to draft another key document: the Declaration of Independence.

Proof that the document’s top and bottom halves were once joined: from left to right, note how the dot of the i and ascenders of the letters h, h and b align perfectly across the divide. (Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

Last month, on the opening night of the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, I was called over to a dealer’s booth, where a modest scrap of paper was placed in my hands.  It was none other than the missing bottom half of Jefferson’s 1769 draft!  Negotiations were quickly concluded, and last week the two halves were happily, and permanently, reunited.  Once the newly acquired manuscript is fully studied and published, we will know far more about this key episode in Jefferson’s nascent political career and the development of his political thinking.

Reunited at last! The top half is cataloged as MSS 10803; the newly acquired bottom half is presently being accessioned. (Photo by Molly Schwartzburg)

Coincidentally, an exhibition of some of our best Jefferson manuscripts is on view under Grounds through June 8.  Curated in cooperation with Monticello staff, “Thomas Jefferson Revealed” briefly surveys Jefferson’s pre-presidential years and his life at Monticello.  Highlights include a ledger recording Jefferson’s Williamsburg book purchases from 1764-1766; his annotated copy of the London, 1787 edition of Notes on the State of Virginia; a lock of Jefferson’s hair taken on his deathbed, and a letter describing his last hours; and the manuscript autobiography of Isaac Jefferson, a Monticello slave.

Class Notes: Finals Week Edition with Media Studies’ Sports, Media and Society

Earlier this spring semester, about 40 undergraduates from Allison Wright’s media studies course Sports, Media, & Society came to Special Collections Library for an orientation on finding primary sources.  They were preparing for an assignment that required them to select a primary source and write a paper analyzing its sociohistoric context and relationship to topics covered in class.  Out of the class, six of the student papers rose to the top, so we are featuring them to show their great work!

You may ask, what separated their papers from the rest?  According to Dr. Wright, who is also the Assistant Editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, it was their level of analysis and application of good investigative journalism that made these papers strong ones.  She emphasized that they did good hands-on research, but also clearly integrated primary sources with quality secondary sources.  They went beyond the basic class framework and requirement of the assignment and applied critical thinking skills especially well.

Now check out these fabulous students!

Allison Wright and her students Chris Wood, E.P. Stonehill, Robbie Kemp, and Patrick Schuler (left to right). April 8, 2013 (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Students Charlotte Clarke and Kayleigh Hentges pictured with their instructor Allison Wright (on the left) round out the group with superior essays.

Let’s take a closer look at their work.

Chris Wood’s “The End of Black Jockeys”

Not all primary sources are accessible on paper: many of them have been provided in a digital format.  That is the case with Fourth-Year student Chris Wood’s choice of Goodwin’s Official Turf Guide, a publication for those interested in horse racing, particularly jockeys and racing associations in the U.S. and Canada. Wood’s selection is not from the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, but it is an example of how these types of materials can be accessible via the Internet.  In this case, it is accessible via the HathiTrust Digital Library.

Chris Wood, Fourth-Year student, displays Goodwin’s Annual Turf Guide. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Goodwin’s Annual Turf Guide as viewed on Allison Wright’s tablet.  (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Excerpt from Chris Wood’s “The End of Black Jockeys”:

Close examination of Goodwin’s Official Turf Guide displays a lack of African American jockeys in the early twentieth century. Goodwin’s Official Turf Guide was the most respected guide to horse racing during this time period and contains information regarding jockey mounts, horse deaths, weight limit rules, gambling guidelines, and other horse racing information from the period. It was published semi-annually, with the second volume always containing the full information from the past year. Comparing the names of jockey mounts from 1905-1908, I found that only the 1907 guide lists more than one black jockey (Goodwin’s). The only two African American jockeys whose names are included in Goodwin’s are Dale Austin and Jimmy Lee (Goodwin’s). Considering that in the first Kentucky Derby, fourteen out of fifteen riders were black and that fifteen of the first twenty-eight Kentucky Derbies were won by African Americans, there must be a reason for the lack of black jockeys listed in these four years of Goodwin’s Official Turf Guide.

E.P. Stonehill’s Whitewashed Columns

Elizabeth (E.P.) Stonehill, Fourth-Year student, selected an editorial column from a 1968 Cavalier Daily (student newspaper of the University of Virginia) to explore the University’s resistance to black athletes after the end of segregation.  The column she used was part two of an editorial/article by Bob Cullen in “The Sports Scene” titled “Orange, Blue, and Lily White II.”

E.P. Stonehill, Fourth-Year student, pictured with Special Collections’ bound copy of the 1968 Cavalier Daily. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

The central piece of Stonehill’s essay is Bob Cullen’s article from the Cavalier Daily, entitled “Orange, Blue, and Lily-White.” November 5, 1968. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Excerpt from E.P. Stonehill’s “Whitewashed Columns”:

In 1968, the Olympic Project for Human Rights [OPHR] threatened to boycott the Mexico City Olympics as a denunciation of racism within sports and society.  Specifically, OPHR focused on the plight of the black athlete.  Print journalism, in publications such as Life and Sports Illustrated, featured the issue prominently and thus garnered it international attention.  Nearly 2,500 miles away in Charlottesville, Virginia, issues surrounding the black athlete took on a salient position–or, technically, a lack thereof.  Indeed, The Cavalier Daily, the University of Virginia’s student newspaper, ran a two-part series entitled “Orange, Blue, and Lily-White” in its Sports section between November 4 and 5, 1968.  The articles, written by Bob Cullen for his column “The Sports Scene,” criticize the University’s systemic racism and espouse the need to recruit black football players and coaches.  Although comprising only two columns of text, Cullen’s articles reflect the national focus, particularly within print journalism on black athletes.  By framing black athletes within the whole university culture, Cullen’s articles additionally highlight the inherent inability to separate politics from sport and the gradual nature of athletic integration.

Robbie Kemp’s “Sampson’s Lasting Legacy”

Fourth-Year student Robbie Kemp chose two Sports Illustrated articles to examine U.Va. alumnus and basketball great Ralph Sampson’s role as an athlete and a college student. Kemp stated that this assignment exposed him to paper sources again, instead of relying so heavily on databases and proxies as he had become accustomed to doing.

Robbie Kemp, Fourth-Year student, pictured with two of the Sports Illustrated that featured Ralph Sampson as an undergraduate athlete at the University of Virginia. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Sports Illustrated article, “His Future is Up in the Air,” by Larry Keith. December 17, 1979. (GV885 .43 .V57 K45 1979. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Excerpt of Robbie Kemp’s “Sampson’s Lasting Legacy”:

Sports Illustrated featured Ralph Sampson in a variety of articles starting with his first season at the University of Virginia in 1979.  The analysis of my sources results from a combination of two specific articles: “His Future Is Up in the Air” by Larry Keith and “Hello, America, We Came Back” by Curry Kirkpatrick. Together, these articles explain both the stellar athletic talents Sampson possessed along with the passion to excel academically.  Sports Illustrated reaches a national audience and is considered the premier weekly sports magazine in the country.  When Larry Keith first published his article in 1979, he was revealing Sampson to an audience that had likely never heard of his accolades in an era before information was spread easily and widely.  By the time Kirkpatrick published his article profiling Sampson’s return to U.Va., it is safe to assume that even the casual basketball fan had been introduced to Sampson.  However, it is important to note that Kirkpatrick’s article does not emphasize the importance of Sampson’s decision as setting a precedent for extremely talented college athletes; perhaps it is with the benefit of hindsight that the lack of this emphasis is glaringly missing.  Ralph Sampson could have easily turned to the NBA after his second season at the University, a move that would have earned him a six-figure salary.  Although earlier quotes alluded to the criticism Sampson received, some NBA general managers approved of the move at the time as Bob Ferry of the Bullets stated, “All kids benefit from four years in college…maybe not basketballwise, but lifewise. They all benefit” (Kirkpatrick 37). Ferry’s opinion is mirrored today by the NBA’s decision to enforce a mandatory one-year waiting period after high school before being draft-eligible, although basketball at the collegiate level is not required.

Patrick Schuler’s Untitled Essay Analyzing Murrell Edmunds’ Letter

Fourth-Year student Patrick Schuler selected a letter from the Papers of Murrell Edmunds for his assignment.  Murrell Edmunds was a poet, novelist, and U.Va. alum, who wrote and spoke out against segregation and the mistreatment of African Americans during the Jim Crow era.  The 1968 letter is from Edmunds to the Editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. In it, he uses examples of incidents in football to admonish University administration for its lack of action against mistreatment of black and Jewish students.

Patrick Schuler, Fourth-Year student, pictured with two letters written by alum Murrell Edmunds BA 1917, Law 1920, regarding the treatment of black athletes at the University of Virginia during the 1960s. Hook em!  (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Letter from Murrell Edmunds, U.Va. Class of 1917, to Virginius Dabney, Editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 12, 1968. (MSS 5989-x. Published Permission of the Estate of Murrell Edmunds. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Excerpt from Patrick Schuler’s essay:

While the University administration allowed this behavior to continue, the student body was active in promoting racial equality in other areas on life on Grounds. The “University finally actively embraced the ideals of a changing world”, calling for equality throughout the state (100 Years on the Lawn). A flier from February 17, 1969 from the University community calls the Governor and Board of Visitors to address “the affront to the black community posed by the presence on the Board of Visitors of representatives of the segregationist Massive Resistance Movement” and the lack of involvement in improving the lives of African American members of the Charlottesville community (Fliers Concerning Racism at the University of Virginia). The Student Council also declared segregated businesses off-limits to university student organizations. However, as Edmunds argues, the one thing absent from any of the University’s efforts to rid the institution of racism was the treatment of black football players. Racism survived at UVA for quite some time after Harrison Davis, Kent Merritt, Stanley Land, and John Rainey took the field for the first time. The University’s inaction on the football team contradicted their apparent commitment to ridding the community of racism on other fronts, reinforcing the perception that football was a way to maintain the Southern institution of racism.

When we look at the race of today’s best college football players or the roster of the team here at UVA, it is hard to imagine that this was the reality of college football 40 years ago. Murrell Edmund’s letter is a perfect depiction of how football was used as a vehicle to maintain the prejudiced treatment of blacks in the South during the decade following the end of legal segregation. Discrimination against black players did not end when they were allowed to play for Southern universities. While formalized acts of racism were no longer tolerated, college football provided a venue to re-assert the self-perceived superiority of white southerners, as black players were harassed on and off the field. The University of Virginia and other institutions in the South turned a blind eye to their football stadiums to maintain “tradition.”   

Charlotte Clarke’s” Fighting the Feminine Ideal: Social Constructs of Gender and Their Impact on How We Perceive Women in Sport”

Third-Year student Charlotte Clarke chose and analyzed the 1914 published paper, “Girls at Play” by Arthur Kyle Davis.  In her paper, she explores what Davis deemed acceptable behavior and qualities for women participating in sports during the 1910s.

Charlotte Clarke, Third-Year student, photographed with “Girls at Play,” the centerpiece of her essay. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

“Girls at Play: A Paper on ‘Forms of Recreation Desirable in Schools for Girls'” by Arthur Kyle Davis, 1914. (LB3608 .D3 1914. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Excerpt from Charlotte Clarke’s “Fighting the Feminine Ideal”:

How female athletes are perceived by society is a topic that has been hotly contested and analyzed in recent years. Through the analysis of the paper “Girls at Play”, which was read before the National Recreation Congress in June of 1914 by Arthur Kyle Davis, A.M., his beliefs and recommendations as to the appropriate and desirable forms of recreation for girls in the early 1900’s are outlined. This paper compares the opinions expressed by Davis in 1914 to the beliefs held in today’s society in regards to women’s participation and success in sport. Through these analyses and comparisons, it will be shown that despite massive gains in equality achieved by women in many areas of society, including sport, there still persists today a perception that sport is a male dominated arena. This paper also explores how and why these beliefs are capable of infiltrating into society, and able to become established and accepted as societal norms.


Arthur Kyle Davis was the president of the Southern Female College in Petersburg VA. His father William Thomas Davis founded the college in 1863 and it ran until 1938. Davis presented his paper during an era that was socially extremely different to that of today. Women were subject to discrimination in all areas of their lives and at the time of his reading, women in America did not have the right to vote. At this time, men’s colleges did not accept female students and so between the 1860s and the 1930s, women’s colleges were founded to provide their students with the means to achieve an education that would assist them in their “female duties” as mothers and teachers. In order to demonstrate their respectability, women’s colleges placed many social restrictions on their students, and southern colleges, such as the Southern Female College, were exclusively white until the civil rights era. Society was typically male dominated and women were considered and expected to be more reserved, placid and peaceful in nature.

Kayleigh Hentges’s “Pinpointing Prejudice”

Fourth-Year student Kayleigh Hentges focused her assignment on a 1971 photograph of U.Va. quarterback Harrison Davis, which served as a starting point for discussing the difficulties and major opposition African American football players faced from fellow students and teammates when they integrated the U.Va. football team in 1970.

Fourth-Year Student Kayleigh Hentges pictured with photograph of Harrison Davis, U.Va. quarterback during the 1971 season. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

#15 Harrison Davis, U.Va. quarterback, from the Corks and Curls Photograph Archives. 1971 Football Season. (RG-23/48/1.841. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Excerpt from Kayleigh Hentges’s “Pinpointing Prejudices”:

As Harrison Davis took the field in 1971 in the position of starting quarterback for the University of Virginia, his reception was less than enthusiastic, and he realized his college football years wouldn’t be the idealistic football experience that most college football starters envision. The quarterback he replaced was none other than George Allen, a future politician who had transferred from University of California at Los Angeles (Phillips). The unenthusiastic reception, from both fans and students of Davis, along with three other signees- Stanley Land, Kent Merritt and John Rainey, stemmed not from a lack of talent but from their skin color. These four players were the first African Americans to be integrated into the football program at the University of Virginia (“All the Hoos in Hooville..”). Fans and students used even the smallest of mistakes that Davis made on the field as a scapegoat for their dissatisfaction with integration and the replacement of white players. Even his own white teammates would throw the “n-word” out around the four new additions to the team (Scherer). The racism that Davis experienced stands out amongst the others, however, because he was chastised not only for being black but also for his position as a black quarterback. Although the situation has improved today, white quarterbacks still largely outweigh the number of black quarterbacks, with only 6 black quarterbacks in the starting position as of 2011 (Gray). I charge that without the inconclusive scientific studies on the African American body in relation to athletic ability beginning in the 1930’s, the assumptions that “White quarterbacks are smart but not athletic, Black quarterbacks are athletic but not smart” would not have prevailed and a more equal representation between the two races at the quarterback position could exist (Buffington).


We don’t usually get to see the finished product of the work done here by students. We watch them learn to find, request, and handle materials, and then they disappear. Thank you to Dr. Allison Wright, her Sports, Media, and Society class, and especially Chris Wood, EP Stonehill, Robbie Kemp, Patrick Schuler, Charlotte Clarke, and Kayleigh Hentges for sharing with us these wonderful results!



The ABCs of Special Collections: B is for …

Welcome to the second post in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library  alphabet series!  And the letter is…

B is for Broken Poster, 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).

B is for born-digital

B is for “born-digital,” the term we use in the archival profession for materials that were created in a digital format. The library has been acquiring digital material since the 80’s, first on floppy disks, then CDs, now on hard drives, laptops, or even from the web. Born-digital material will only increase in the coming years and will be preserved alongside our books and manuscript collections.

Contributed by Gretchen Gueguen, Digital Archivist

Examples of 8″, 5.25″, 3.5″ floppy disks from the collections. (Photograph by Gretchen Gueguen)

An internal hard drive from a laptop computer manufactured ca. 1991, being imaged by the Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device (FRED). (Photograph by Gretchen Gueguen)

 B is for Richard Brautigan

Richard Brautigan, best known for his 1967 novel Trout Fishing in America, was one of the seminal figures in the burgeoning San Francisco counterculture scene in the 1950s and ’60s.  While never attaining mainstream success, his work was wildly popular among the anti-establishment crowd of the psychedelic era.  A search of VIRGO, our online catalog, reveals 58 records related to Brautigan, including broadsides, chapbooks, posters, manuscripts, and books, such as Plant This Book with packets of seeds found inside the cover.

Contributed by George Riser, Collections and Instruction Assistant

Cover of Trout Fishing in America: A Novel by Richard Brautigan. The book was published in 1967. (PS3503 .R2736T6 1967. Gift of Marvin Tatum. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Cover of Please Plant This Book by Brautigan. Enclosed in the book are poem-covered packets of seeds. (PS3503 .R2736P54 1968, Gift of Marvin Taylor. Photograph by Petrina Jackson )

 B is for the Bruce Family of “Berry Hill”

The Papers of the Bruce Family (MSS 2692, -a through -f) provide a window in time to 18th- and 19th-century southern plantation life.  The family’s personal and business records include the operations of one of Virginia’s largest plantations and its influence on the South’s tobacco culture.  Of particular interest are the lists and inventories of enslaved African Americans.  Located in Halifax County, the Greek Revival mansion built by James Cole Bruce in 1842, “Berry Hill,” was the center of an agrarian economic and social community.

Contributed by Margaret Hrabe, Reference Coordinator

Berry Hill parlor, n.d. (Prints File. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Letterbook opened to a letter from “Berry Hill,” related to the tobacco crop. (MSS 2692-c. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

List and Inventory of the Negroes (Men and Boys) on the Plantation of Messrs. Bruce, Seddon and Wilkins. St. James Parish, Louisiana, “Wilton” near Convent. November 22, 1849 (MSS 2692. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

List and Inventory of the Negroes (Women, Girls, and Infants) on the Plantation of Messrs. Bruce, Seddon and Wilkins. St. James Parish, Louisiana, “Wilton” near Convent. November 22, 1849 (MSS 2692. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

I hope you join us in a couple of weeks when the letter of interest is C.  Until then, “C” you soon!

Walter Whitman, before Leaves of Grass

This week, we feature a guest post from Special Collections staff member George Riser:

When Walt Whitman released his ‘idiomatic book of my land’ in 1855, he was thirty-six years old. Leaves of Grass, then twelve untitled poems in free style verse, was fully the work of an author who financed the printing, assisted in the typesetting, designed the extravagant cover, and acted as publisher and salesman. Though praised by Ralph Waldo Emerson in a private letter–“I greet you at the beginning of a great career”–the poems initially bewildered or shocked most early readers, not only in their lack of conventional rhyme and meter, but also in their use “of language and subject matter so coarse and crude as to be not fit for a mixed audience” (Charles Eliot Norton, Putnam’s Monthly: A Magazine of Literature, Science, and Arts, 6 September 1855).  Not all of the critics were so kind. Rufus Griswold in his review in Criterion in November 1855 wrote, “as to the volume itself…it is impossible to imagine how any man’s fancy could have conceived such a mass of stupid filth unless he were possessed of the soul of a sentimental donkey that had died of disappointed love” (Oddly, one of our Library’s copies of the first printings is a presentation to Rufus Griswold). Charles A. Dana, writing in the July issue of The New York Daily Tribune, notes “the poems certainly original in their external form, have been shaped on no pre-existent model out of the author’s own brain. Indeed, his independence often becomes coarse and defiant. His language is too frequently reckless and indecent.”

Can a work of art as original as Leaves of Grass spring out of “no pre-existent model,” simply from “the author’s own brain?” Our library holds twenty-five items that pre-date the first printing of Leaves of Grass in 1855. A look at this publication history can give, in many cases, insight into the genesis of the wild, innovative poems that formed the then revolutionary book of poems.

Whitman’s first published piece, “Death in the School-Room” appeared in The Democratic Review in August 1841. Written when Whitman was 21, the story drew on his experience as an itinerant teacher and was an indictment of what he called “the old-fashioned school-masters with their reliance on discipline and corporal punishment.”

Front cover of The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, (December 1841), which featured Whitman’s story “Bervance: or, Father and Son.” (PS3222 .B47 1841, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photo by Molly Schwartzburg.)

An early poem, “Death of the Nature-Lover,” appearing in Brother Jonathan in March 1843, and attributed to Walter Whitman, uses a strict meter and rhyme, though it employs Whitmanesque themes:

Not in a gorgeous hall of pride

Where tears fall thick, and loved ones sigh,

Wished he, when the dark hour approached

To drop his veil of flesh and die.

The title page from Brother Jonathan, (New York, N.Y.: March 11, 1843) featuring Whitman’s poem, “Death of the Nature-Lover.” (PS3222 .D45 1843, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photo by Molly Schwartzburg.)

Whitman worked for many of the serial publications that printed his early work, usually as compositor, pressman, or editor, including a stint with John Neal, publisher of Brother Jonathan. Neal, a popular novelist of the time, wrote in his 1823 novel, Randolph, “I do, in my heart, believe we shall live to see poetry done away with–the poetry of form I mean–of rhyme, measure, and cadence.…poetry will disencumber itself of rhyme and measure and talk in prose–with a sort of rhythm, I admit,” lines that Whitman seemingly took to heart.

Whitman’s “Death of the Nature-Lover” as it appeared in Brother Jonathan, above. (Photo by Molly Schwartzburg.)

Ralph Waldo Emerson contributed to many of the same publications as Whitman, and called upon American writers to “strike an original relation with the universe.’”Whitman took heed, writing, ‘”I was simmering, simmering, simmering; Emerson brought me to a boil.”

Whitman also worked for and contributed to The Broadway Journal at the time it was owned and edited by Edgar Allan Poe. The 29 November 1845 issue features a piece by Whitman, “Art-singing and Heart-singing,” that gives credit to a popular, though low, American singing style. In the November 20 issue of the same year, Poe responding to criticisms of a recent poetry reading, takes issue with a number of critics (to one: “we advise her to get drunk, too, and as soon as possible—for when sober she is a disgrace to her sex—on account of being so awfully stupid”), and ends with “a note to correspondents – ‘Many thanks to W.W.’”  Whitman may have learned a lesson in withstanding critical condemnation from Poe, who spent his editorial career inviting invective.

The opening lines of Whitman’s essay, “Art-Singing and Heart-Singing,” printed in The Broadway Journal, (November 29, 1845). This issue was edited by Edgar Allen Poe. (PS3222 .A7 1845, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photo  by Molly Schwartzburg.)

Poe thanks correspondents for their assistance in his “Editorial Miscellany,’ for The Broadway Journal issue, (November 22, 1845), including ‘W.W.,’ purportedly Walt Whitman. (PS3222 .A7 1845, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photo by Molly Schwartzburg.)


Poe and Whitman were linked more than once in professional publications. In this image, we see editor Thomas Dunn English thank collaborators, including Edgar A. Poe and Walter Whitman, in the opening pages of the March 1845 issue of The Aristidean. (A 1846 .A75, Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History. Photo by Molly Schwartzburg.)

In 1942, Whitman published his only full length novel, Franklin Evans or The Inebriate: A Tale of the Times in Park Benjamin’s paper, The New World. Franklin Evans was a novel of temperance that was an embarrassment to Whitman in his old age, but reflected an early concern for alcoholism, which may have affected his father and his brother-in-law. It is also a theme that appears in later editions of Leaves of Grass, though lacking the sensationalist style popular at that time.

The front cover of The New World (New York, N.Y.: 1842) featuring the first printing of Walt Whitman’s Franklin Evans; or, The Inebriate. A Tale of the Times. (PS3222 .F7 1842, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. Photo by Molly Schwartzburg.)

These are but a few examples of Whitman’s early writings that can give insight into the origins of the remarkable book of poems, Leaves of Grass.

In closing, we include a passage from that volume’s first edition, and one last contemporary commentary:

Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos, disorderly, fleshly, and sensual, no sentimentalist, no stander above men or women or apart from them, no more modest than immodest…

–Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman is a printer by trade, whose punctuation is as loose as his morality, and who no more minds his ems than his p’s and q’s.

–Anonymous from The Washington Daily National Intelligencer, (18 February 1856)