Today, the folks over at UVA’s facebook page invited curator Molly Schwartzburg to share with them some of her favorite items in the miniature book collection on the Facebook Live streaming video platform. For those of you not on Facebook, here’s the video. We’re impressed that those teeny tiny books are actually in pretty good focus! Check out some of our beautiful and unusual minature treasures.
Inspired by the recent conservation treatment of a portrait of Burroughs painted by Orlando Rouland, this exhibition brings an important American naturalist back to light. The painting serves as the focal point of the exhibition, tying together writer, artist, collector, and library. The exhibition showcases books, manuscripts, and other materials from the Burroughs collection. John Burroughs’ (1837-1921) essays on nature were widely read by both scholars and the reading public during his lifetime. He counted among his friends prominent men including Walt Whitman, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Ford, John Muir, and Thomas Edison.The Burroughs collection is part of the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature at the University of Virginia.
Here are a few tastes of the exhibition in photographs:
We look forward to seeing you in the gallery!
This week we are pleased to share a guest post by two graduate students in the English department, Neal D. Curtis and Samuel Lemley who are currently doing research for a grant-funded project on the early history of the UVA Library. Neal, a 3rd-year PhD student, specializes in bibliography and the eighteenth century. Sam, a 4th-year PhD candidate, is working on a dissertation on antiquarianism as a literary mode in early modern England. Their project on the Rotunda Library is funded by a William R. Kenan Grant, an International Center for Jefferson Studies (ICJS) fellowship, and a research grant from the Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures (IHGC) at UVA.
As part of an ongoing project on the design, history, and layout of the University of Virginia’s first library, we spent two weeks in the late summer this year deciphering cryptic shelf-marks in books. A shelf- or press-mark is a letter, number, or other sign stamped inside or on a book that signals the book-press, case, or shelf to which the marked book belongs. Often overlooked, historical shelf-marks can bring to light the provenance of individual volumes and reveal the ways in which collections were shelved and accessed in the past—a big deal for bibliographers and book historians.
The approximately 3,100 books (8,000 volumes) originally shelved in the Rotunda are known, thanks to a 29-chapter catalogue printed in 1828. This catalogue makes reconstituting the University’s first library relatively easy, but its historical arrangement in the Rotunda remains obscure. This is due in part to the scant information provided by the catalogues that survive. The 1828 catalogue and its 1825 manuscript precursor list titles, authors, and dates, but don’t specify how the books were arranged on the Rotunda’s shelves. A later catalogue, begun in 1857, adds shelf numbers beside each title, but presumably the books were also marked to prevent mis-shelving and loss.
In search of these hypothetical marks, we began by examining the first fifty books listed in the 1828 published catalogue. All of these books are classed in Chapter One (“Ancient Languages”), and most are still held in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library—a result of the fact that this section of the Rotunda library was shelved on the main floor of the dome room rather than in the upper galleries, which burned along with the books they held in 1895. (But that’s a story for another time…)
Our search revealed three types of shelf-mark, each representing a phase in the history of the collection:
The first and earliest type is rudimentary: a number penciled on the front flyleaf of each volume, indicating the chapter or subject heading to which the marked book belongs. This number evidently refers to chapter headings in 1825, and not those in 1828. We know this because the pencilled numbers fit a 42-part (or chapter) system employed in 1825 rather than the 29-part system devised in 1828. To clarify by way of example, a book that would be categorized in Chapter 1 (“Ancient Languages”) in 1828 is here labeled “41”, for Chapter 41 (“Philology”) in 1825. Confirming this prediction, the same book appears in the first chapter of 1828 and the 41st chapter of 1825.
The second type of shelf-mark is a small, diamond-shaped leather label pasted at the head of the spine of each volume. These labels list the shelf and position of each book in an alphanumeric shorthand. For example, the label pictured here specifies ‘A9’—that is, the book 9th in sequence on the shelf labelled ‘A’. Presumably the librarian would have known the case number based on the subject of the book; otherwise, the case number could have been found by consulting the catalogue and finding the book under the appropriate chapter heading. Evidently, this shelf-marking system endured: next to the same title in the 1857 catalogue appears ‘1A’, meaning that this book was shelved in the first case on the first shelf from ca. 1828 until ca. 1895, when the 1857 catalogue was replaced.
The third and latest type of pressmark is a red and white paper label pasted at the foot of the spine of each volume. Unfortunately, these survive only in fragments, and most have been removed entirely. However, the ink from some of these shelf-marks bled through, staining the leather underneath.These traces reveal that the call numbers on these labels belonged to Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC)—a system of library organization invented in 1876 and only implemented at the University of Virginia from ca. 1896 to 1906. It’s therefore safe to assume that these labels were added after the fire in 1895 when books were reclassified and re-shelved in the newly-renovated Rotunda. Presumably these labels were removed when the books were re-catalogued according to the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) system and transferred to Alderman in the 1930s.
The implications for this discovery are far reaching. We expect that additional research will establish the number and size of the shelves in the Rotunda, the distribution and organization of volumes in each case, and the aesthetic of the books arrayed in their original order beneath the Rotunda’s dome. Identifying these pressmarks will also enable researchers and special-collections staff to approximate the date a particular book was added to the collection. All of this, we hope, will help us paint a detailed portrait of the university’s first library in use.
Please note that the exhibition opening and book launch party planned for this Thursday, August 31, has been POSTPONED due to logistical problems produced by the “Unite the Right” Rally earlier this month. We are very sorry for the inconvenience and hope you will share this email with other friends who were planning to attend.
Stay tuned for a new date for this celebration!
The Philadelphia printer John Dunlap (1747-1812) is best known for having printed the so-called “Dunlap Broadside”—the first printing of the Declaration of Independence—of which the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library is privileged to possess two of the 26 known copies. Less well known is Dunlap’s distinction as the person responsible for bringing printing to Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1781. On the eve of July 4th, and in celebration of having acquired our very first John Dunlap Charlottesville imprint, here is the story of Dunlap’s brief career as Charlottesville’s pioneer printer.
Eighteenth-century American printers were eager for significant business and steady cash flow, which were more easily obtained through newspaper publishing and government printing contracts than through other printing work. John Dunlap did well on both accounts. He immigrated from Ireland to Philadelphia in 1757 and, after serving an apprenticeship in his uncle’s printing establishment, took over the business. In 1771 Dunlap launched the weekly Pennsylvania Packet, or the General Advertiser. Taking advantage of his Philadelphia location and the urgent need for public printing during the American Revolution, Dunlap secured printing contracts not only for the state of Pennsylvania, but also for the Continental Congress.
In August of 1780, Dunlap expanded his public printing portfolio to Virginia. Directed by Virginia’s House of Delegates to engage a public printer, then-Governor Thomas Jefferson recommended acceptance of the proposal submitted by Dunlap and his business partner (and former apprentice) James Hayes. That fall a press and supply of printing types was dispatched to Richmond, where Hayes was to establish and manage a printing office. But its opening was delayed when the shipment fell into British hands. A second press was sent from Philadelphia to Richmond, and Hayes was at long last able to begin printing in April 1781.
The following month, however, the arrival of British forces under General Cornwallis prompted Virginia’s state government to flee Richmond, first to Charlottesville, and then to Staunton. Hayes packed up his printing equipment and followed. But in late June, near Charlottesville on his way back from Staunton, Hayes was captured by the British and then released on condition that he not print “until properly exchanged.” This was soon arranged, and in July 1781 Hayes set up his press in Charlottesville. It remained in operation into October, but by early December Hayes had relocated the press to Richmond. All the while Dunlap remained in Philadelphia.
In its three months of operation, the first Charlottesville press is known to have printed at least four items: two broadsides, the 52-page Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia for 1781, and the 1781 Virginia session laws. It is a copy of this last publication—a 20-page folio publication titled Acts Passed at a General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia—that has now been acquired by U.Va. Given the constraints under which Hayes is known to have operated, it is tolerably well printed, bearing the Virginia seal on its title page above the two-line imprint: CHARLOTTESVILLE: Printed by John Dunlap and James Hayes, Printers to the Commonwealth.
All four known 1781 Charlottesville imprints were printed by Hayes in his role as public printer, and all are very rare. It is likely, however, that Hayes printed a few other items, e.g., broadsides, printed forms, and other jobbing work, during his Charlottesville sojourn. Some day we may be able to identify these through careful typographical analysis. The history of Charlottesville’s first press has yet to be written–this précis is based on unpublished research by former U.Va. Librarian John Cook Wyllie, which is available for consultation in the Small Special Collections Library.
Following Hayes’ departure, Charlottesville would remain without a printing press for another four decades, until Clement P. and J.H. McKennie established a newspaper, The Central Gazette, in 1820.
We are pleased to announce the opening of our latest First Floor Gallery exhibition, “Fact, Fiction, Forgery: Thomas Chatterton and Literary Invention,” which will remain on view through September 1, 2017. This exhibition, curated by David Whitesell, traces Chatterton’s career and enduring influence through books and manuscripts from U.Va.’s distinguished holdings of 18th-century British literature, in particular an important collection of works concerning Chatterton recently acquired on the Martin C. and Ruthe R. Battestin Library Fund, the Battestin Fund for 18th Century British Literature, the W. Braden and Kathryn K. Kerchof Library Fund, and the Robert and Virginia Tunstall Trust Fund.
Ever since his untimely death at 17, Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770) has been one of England’s most fascinating literary figures. The “Rowley Poems”—pseudo-medieval verses presented by their “discoverer” Chatterton as the work of the 15th-century priest Thomas Rowley—are among the most famous of literary hoaxes. Their posthumous publication in 1777 initiated the Rowley Controversy: a vigorous public debate over the poems’ authenticity and the extent of Chatterton’s involvement. Finding themselves ill equipped to weigh the physical and documentary evidence, England’s leading men of letters were driven to make important advances in literary, philological, and textual analysis that stimulated the field of textual scholarship. Yet underpinning Chatterton’s forgery was prodigious literary talent, tragically silenced by his presumed suicide (more likely an accidental overdose) in the face of poverty and an indifferent world. Such credentials made Chatterton irresistible to the Romantics and Pre-Raphaelites, who mythologized him in their own poetry. Chatterton continues to inspire authors intrigued by issues of literary authenticity and invention.
Born in Bristol, England in 1752, Chatterton was apprenticed as a legal scrivener in 1767. The next year he began to publish a torrent of anonymous and pseudonymous poems and essays in newspapers and periodicals. In April 1770 Chatterton moved to London where, despite his prodigious talent and industry, literary fame proved elusive. On August 25, 1770, not yet 18, he was found dead, ruled a suicide from arsenic and opium poisoning.
Chatterton’s most ambitious literary project—the Rowley Poems—remained unpublished at his death. He presented these mock-medieval English verses—some written on old parchment, most being manuscripts in Chatterton’s hand—as long-lost works by the fictional 15th-century Bristol priest Thomas Rowley. Until their publication in 1777, the Rowley Poems circulated privately in manuscript among England’s literati—embraced as genuine by many, suspected as forgeries by some.
From 1777 to 1782 the Rowley Poems’ authenticity was vigorously debated in print. Their literary merit was undisputed. But could the poems, written in stilted “Rowleian dialect” in a diversity of styles, be genuine 15th-century works? If forgeries, could they truly be creations of a teenage apprentice? Stoking the debate were the tragic circumstances of Chatterton’s death, personal rivalries, the differing perspectives of antiquaries and scholars, and the inability of existing scholarly methods to settle the matter. The controversy prompted significant advances in textual scholarship.
Ever since Chatterton’s death, his life and literary works have provided inspiration to poets, novelists, dramatists, biographers, artists, and composers. For the Romantics and Pre-Raphaelites, Chatterton was a seminal figure: a precocious and original literary talent, and—though not factually true—the very model of the “neglected genius” who, rather than compromise his art, plunges destitute and despairing into suicide. Others have honored Chatterton’s powers of literary invention by invoking their own in reimaginings of his life and legacy.
William Faulkner adopted various personae throughout his life—poet, father, Mississippi gentleman, Nobel Prize winner— but the persona that required his ability to invent and create the most was William Faulkner, Englishman. Most of Faulkner’s childhood was spent making flying contraptions with his brothers and taking turns being the flight-test dummy. He never gave up on his dream of flying. Years later, when World War I broke out, Faulkner saw his opportunity to get into a plane and to get into the air. Worried about his size, Faulkner stuffed himself full of bananas and water before going to Air Force recruiting station. Despite his preparations, he was rejected for being under regulation height and weight. After this rejection, Faulkner went with his childhood friend and mentor, Phil Stone, to Yale for several weeks. While at Yale, Faulkner was persuaded by some of Stone’s friends to try the Canadian RAF rather than wait for the draft. To join the RAF, however, they had to be British subjects.
Faulkner and Stone went to work. They practiced English pronunciation. They forged documents. They invented a fictional vicar, the Reverend Mr. Edward Twimberly-Thorndyke, and wrote letters of reference from him on their behalf. They even enlisted the sister of Phil Stone’s British tutor at Yale as a “mail drop.” When he presented himself at the RAF recruiting station, his name was William Faulkner—not Falkner— and he claimed that he was born in Finchley, UK, and that his mother had emigrated to Oxford, Mississippi years before. Despite his height—five foot five and half inches— and his weight, he was accepted as an applicant for pilot training.
Though Faulkner’s time in the RAF was limited to 179 days in Canada, (and it is debatable whether he even flew a plane during his training), Faulkner dressed as a conquering war hero when he returned to Oxford after the war. He purchased an officer’s uniform right before his discharge, which he wore, and posed for photographs in, all over town even though it was against regulation to wear a uniform after being discharged. (He was belatedly promoted to Honorary Second Lieutenant in March 1920). Since he was already dressed for the part, he invented tall tales about flying and seeing combat too.
His most often-told tale was that he crashed a plane during training, which resulted in either a fictitious silver plate in his head, or a fictitious leg injury that made him walk with a limp. Faulkner told this tale for decades. Even some of his own family members believed his story of the plane crash, though they knew he had not seen combat. It was not until 1950 that Faulkner admitted in a letter to Dayton Kohler that he had not seen combat and had not been injured in a plane crash.
Faulkner eventually did learn how to fly, however, and did so recreationally for the rest of his life, even after the death of his brother, Dean, in a plane crash in 1935. In addition to the tall tales he made up, his own experiences in the air inspired a number of Faulkner’s works. His first published short story, “Landing in Luck” and his novels, Soldier’s Pay and Pylon, are a testament to his love of flight.
For a chance to see Faulkner’s RAF uniform and the letter correcting his tall tales in person, come see “Faulkner: Life & Works,” on view at the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library from February 6, 2017 to July 7, 2017.
This week, we are pleased to feature a second guest post by Ethan King, one-time Special Collections graduate student assistant, who is now pursuing his Ph.D. in English at Boston University. Ethan takes a strong interest in Faulkner, and has generously written for us about Faulkner’s fascinating later-life work as a cultural ambassador, a subject featured in our current exhibition, Faulkner: Life and Works.
In my previous post, I examined the divergent geopolitical visions of William Faulkner and the U.S. State Department as manifested in their practices and attitudes before, during, and after Faulkner’s trip as a cultural ambassador to Venezuela in the spring of 1961. Impressed by those he met in Venezuela, and his sympathy elicited by stories about the difficulties for Latin Americans of publishing fiction in and outside of Latin America, Faulkner proposed the Ibero-American Novel Project, a competition administered by the Faulkner Foundation through which Latin American books could seek translation into English and publication in the United States. The plan was to identify the best novel written in each Latin American country since the end of World War II and not yet translated in English and reward those winners with a Certificate of Merit from the William Faulkner Foundation, with the overall winner receiving a plaque. The Foundation’s statement regarding the project is as follows:
Many novels of the highest literary quality written by Latin-American authors in their native languages are failing to reach appreciative readers in English-speaking North America; and accordingly the William Faulkner Foundation, at the suggestion of William Faulkner himself, is undertaking a modest corrective program in the hope of contributing to a better cultural exchange between the two Americas, with an attendant improvement in human relations and understanding (MSS 10677).
However, as Faulkner died soon into the Project’s infancy, the Project ran into a host of challenges and difficulties created by the market forces of the United States. Without the ability to offer a cash prize to the winners from each of the represented regions of Latin America, Project officials had hoped Faulkner’s prestige would be enough for publishers to take on Latin American novels to be translated and published in the US, but unfortunately, publishers often refused, citing lack of commercial interest.
Before his death, Faulkner chose Arnold del Greco, an associate professor of Romance Languages at the University of Virginia, to direct the Project. In del Greco’s own words in a 1974 letter to Martha Murray, a teaching assistant at Southern Methodist University, his role as Project director “entailed all aspects of [the] project: preparing program and announcements, appointing judges in each country (usually after receiving wide recommendations from critics, etc.), reviewing decisions through the home board, seeking publishes for the American editions, etc” (MSS 10677). Under del Greco’s tutelage, the Project sought to compose panels of three judges from each country, none of whom, the Foundation’s statement reveals, was “to be older than twenty-five years of age on the grounds that youngsters are best able to evaluate the work of their contemporaries.” Each panel of judges was to read all submitted novels from their nation and identify the best “on the basis of literary distinction and achievement” (MSS 10677). Although this part of the competition was supposed to be completed by the end of 1961, it was not until February of 1963—half a year after Faulkner’s death—that the prizewinners were announced.
After broadcasting these winners throughout the US and Latin America on the “Voice of America,” the Project moved into the next phase—the selection of the best overall novel. Based at the University of Virginia and composed of six doctoral students and two assistant professors, as well as del Greco himself, the final panel of judges selected Díaz Sánchez’s Cumboto to be the most outstanding novel. Despite its meritorious achievement, Cumboto followed an agonizing trajectory in its quest for translation and publication. In her essay on Faulkner’s Ibero-American project that appeared in The Southern Quarterly (Winter 2004), Deborah Cohn characterizes Cumboto as being a novel about “a rural black community and the problems of race relations and mestizaje in Venezuela” (12). Shortly after receiving the Project’s highest honor, the novel was initially considered for publication by the University of Virginia Press and Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. However, both rejected it outright. Over the next few years, del Greco offered the manuscript to over twenty different publishing companies, all of whom denied publication for the novel based on their readers’ active dislike of the novel as well as on the difficulties of finding a market for it in the U.S. For example, Frank Wardlaw, Director of the University of Texas Press, rejected del Greco’s request for them to consider the novel because the “principal advisors on our Latin American translation program […] are emphatic in their recommendation that we do not publish it. Quite frankly, they do not have a very high opinion of the novel” (MSS 10677). Another example from Eric Swenson, Vice President and Executive Editor at W.W. Norton & Company Inc.: “I am afraid [Cumboto] would elicit very little response from a broadly-based North American audience, which I suppose is another way of saying it does not seem to us to be important enough to be worth the time and effort of translation and publication” (MSS 10677). Though none of the editors indicated precisely why the novel would not be of interest to readers in the U.S., Cohn surmises that it had to do with the novel’s intense regionalism: that because of its “emphasis on local color, […] it was even less likely to be of interest to a US audience” (13). Or in other words, while Faulkner’s regional focus on the US South was critically lauded, regionalism employed by writers from Latin American countries struggled to reach a US audience.
In a letter written to José Antonio Cordido-Freytes—a member of the Faulkner Foundation—Díaz Sánchez scathingly and articulately expressed his frustrations with the competition’s outcome, pointing out the very hierarchic geopolitical climate that the Project sought to break down:
The resistance of North American publishers to publish Latin American literary works is well known to me, which is more than sufficiently explained by the contempt with which the people of North America look down on our Southern countries, on their institutions, their history and their language. I had thought that the prize for a novel granted by the William Faulkner Foundation was actually aiming to help break down this barrier of contempt and inexorable utilitariarism [sic] which the North Americans have created between the two racial zones of the New World and to lend a bit of ethical and aesthetical dignity to the relationship between the greatest power of modern history and our small and under-developed nations. […] The only satisfaction and the only positive value that such a tournament could give us, the writers of Latin America, would be the publication in the U.S. of the books produced in our countries and which carry a message of good faith, because besides this there is nothing very attractive about the giving away of a metal disk not any more important or honoring than those distributed for propaganda purposes for international industrial products. By this I don’t intend to say that I consider the Faulkner Prize to be a mere artifice invented for advertising of one of these products, but the truth is that up to this moment, it looks quite a bit like it. […] Considering these circumstances, please tell me frankly: What is the efficacy of the Faulkner prize? (MSS 10677)
Charged by this letter to up the ante in seeking Cumboto’s publication in the US, the Foundation finally authorized a $2,000 allotment to bankroll its English publication, but this money didn’t help until two years later, when Wardlaw inexplicably agreed to review the novel again. Likely incentivized only by this money, Wardlaw commissioned its translation and publication in 1968. Heartbreakingly, however, Díaz Sánchez died a few months before its publication, never seeing his translated work circulating in the United States, nor his nomination for the National Book Award that year.
While the Ibero-American Project set out to “contribut[e] to a better cultural exchange between the two Americas,” it is hard to see anything but its unfulfilled potential from the sad tales of its outcome. Although Coronación and El señor presidente, as well as novels not entered into the competition by Mallea and Marqués, were published in English, Cohn points out that “no work by any of the other prizewinning authors has ever been published in English” (11). One wonders, then, as Díaz Sánchez did, “What is the efficacy of the Faulkner prize?” Perhaps if Faulkner himself had lived past the Project’s infancy, he could have wielded his tremendous literary weight among US publishing to better effect in achieving its goals.
This week we are pleased to feature a post from Nora Benedict, who will receive a Ph.D. in Spanish this Saturday. Nora’s research for her dissertation, “The Fashioning of Jorge Luis Borges: Magazines, Books, and Print Culture in Argentina (1930-1951),” serves as the inspiration for her exhibition in our First Floor Gallery, open through July 7, 2017.
Nora has been a constant presence here in Special Collections for many years as a researcher, a Bibliographical Society Fellow, a Rare Book School staff member tasked with working in our stacks to prepare materials for classes, and as a graduate assistant to staff member Heather Riser. Thanks, Nora, for all you’ve done for the library–and for providing us with your blog entry in two languages! (To read Nora’s post in English, scroll to the end of the Spanish version.)
Borges, libros y bibliografía
Casi tres cuartos de siglo después de la primera publicación de sus laberintos vertiginosos y bibliotecas sin límites en Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges y sus libros siguen despertando el interés de ambos investigadores y aficionados. Como la mayoría de las personas que pasan por la Universidad de Virginia, descubrí su Borges Collection por casualidad. Aparte de la experiencia inverosímil de tocar e hojear los manuscritos y cartas escritos por Borges mismo, lo que más me llamó la atención de la colección en sí es el nivel de completitud. Desde un punto de vista bibliográfico, todo lo que hay en la colección sirve, de manera ideal, para cualquier tipo de investigación textual. Además de los manuscritos valiosos y periódicos raros, hay por lo menos una copia de cada edición de cada libro que Borges publicó durante su vida (¡en algunos casos hay más de una copia de ciertas obras que son aún más raras que los manuscritos!). En cierto sentido, es el lugar perfecto para estudiar la evolución de su proceso de escribir desde los manuscritos hasta las primeras y posteriores ediciones.
Dado que he pasado la mayor parte de cinco años estudiando todo el contenido de la colección, siempre me encanta hablar de los tesoros maravillosos que se pueden encontrar aquí, lo cual generalmente lleva a varias personas a preguntarme cómo estas cosas llegaron a la Universidad de Virginia. Me pregunté eso también cuando vi, por primera vez, los manuscritos originales de Fervor de Buenos Aires, copias prístinas de la revista mural Prisma y dibujos impresionantes en la mano distinta de Borges. Dicho eso, de pronto aprendí que la presencia de esta colección en la Universidad de Virginia tiene sentido por varias razones. En primer lugar es su vínculo con la fortaleza sobresaliente de las colecciones especiales de la universidad: la historia y literatura americana. Sin lugar a dudas, no se debe restringir esta categoría a las obras norteamericanas, sino hay que extenderla lógicamente a la producción cultural de todas las Américas. Junto a esta conexión bien clara, también veo la historia de la bibliografía en la Universidad de Virginia y el estudio del libro como objeto como elementos esenciales para entender la decisión de incluir a estos materiales en las colecciones de Virginia a causa de que se puede seguir e identificar cualquier cambio textual dentro de una obra (ya sea verbal o la presentación física de un texto).
Mi exhibición, “‘Armar páginas, corregir pruebas’: Jorge Luis Borges as Author, Editor, and Promulgator,” recurre a las investigaciones para mi tesis doctoral sobre Borges y sus roles diversos dentro de la industria editorial en Buenos Aires. También hace hincapié en los tesoros menos conocidos de la colección en la universidad y las posibilidades para investigaciones futuras. Además de escribir prosa y poesía espléndida, a Borges le interesan los aspectos técnicos de la producción de libros, periódicos y revistas literarias. Desde un momento muy temprano en su carrera literaria estaba muy involucrado en corregir pruebas y aún armar páginas para las varias obras que escribió o editó.
Para mí lo más difícil de ser curadora de esta exhibición fue seleccionar un número limitado de cosas y crear una narrativa lógica que interesaría a expertos en Borges y, a la vez, a estudiantes que no sepan nada de él. Finalmente visualicé tres categorías vinculadas que ilustrarían cómo Borges navegó elegantemente las formas públicas y privadas de la escritura: Autor, Editor, Promulgador. Más específicamente, cada una de las cajas explora un rol distinto que Borges tenía en la industria editorial porteña durante los años 1930 y 1940 con el fin de enfatizar su impacto en los cánones literarios y los estándares educacionales. “Autor” presenta una selección de las colecciones de ficción y no ficción de Borges como Ficciones, El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan y Historia universal de la infamia.
“Editor” demuestra las conexiones arraigadas que Borges tenía con la forma física del libro a través de unos ejemplos de las obras publicadas con sus dos editoriales (ficticias), la Editorial Destiempo y la Editorial Oportet & Haereses.
También incluí dos manuscritos originales de Borges que hacen hincapié en sus vínculos bien fuertes con otras editoriales y su trabajo frecuente de escribir prólogos para las obras de otros autores.
“Promulgador” destaca su trabajo editorial, a veces bajo cuerda, en traducir, editar y prologar para varias editoriales argentinas.
Borges empieza a introducir obras extranjeras al público argentino a través de sus reseñas literarias en el periódico El Hogar.
A pesar de que esta exhibición presenta un número limitado de materiales que hay dentro de la colección más grande, mi deseo es proveer un bosquejo provocativo de uno de los muchos caminos de investigación inexplorados dentro de su jardín de senderos que se bifurcan.
“Borges, Books, and Bibliography”
Nearly three-quarters of a century after the first appearance of his dizzying labyrinths and limitless libraries in Ficciones, Borges and (his) books continue to pique the interest of scholars and aficionados. Like most, I first encountered the University of Virginia’s Borges Collection by happy accident. Aside from the incredible experience of leafing through manuscripts and letters written by Borges himself, what struck me most about the collection was its extreme level of completeness. From a bibliographical standpoint, the holdings are ideal for any type of textual investigation. In addition to the rich manuscripts and rare periodicals, there is also at least one copy of each and every edition that Borges ever published throughout his lifetime (in some cases there are multiple copies of works almost as rare as the manuscripts!). In a sense, it is the perfect place to study the evolution of his writing process from manuscript to first edition to subsequent editions.
Having spent the better part of five years “under grounds” with the collection’s holdings, I’m always eager to talk about the unique treasures that one might find here, which, more often than not, leads others to ask, time and time again, how these items ended up at UVA. I, too, wondered this when I first laid eyes on original manuscripts from Fervor de Buenos Aires, pristine copies of the rare Prisma mural magazine, and incredible drawings in Borges’s distinctive hand. That said, I soon discovered that the presence of this collection at UVA makes perfect sense for a number of reasons. First is its link to the university’s largest collection strength, American history and literature, which should not be restricted to North America, but must logically extend to all of the Americas. Alongside this clear connection, I also see the university’s rich history of bibliography and the study of the book as object as crucial to understanding the decision to make UVA the home for these materials since they easily allow scholars to trace and identify any changes in a work (whether it be in wording or in the physical presentation of the text).
My exhibition, “‘Armar páginas, corregir pruebas’: Jorge Luis Borges as Author, Editor, and Promulgator,” draws heavily on my dissertation research surrounding Borges and his various roles within the Argentine publishing industry, and it also speaks to the lesser-known strengths of the UVA collection and the potentials for future investigations. In addition to crafting superb prose and poetry, Borges was interested in the technical production of books, magazines, and literary journals. From early in his career he was deeply involved with correcting proofs and even setting type.
For me the hardest challenge of curating this exhibit was selecting a limited number of items and creating a logical narrative that would speak to Borges experts as well as students that have never heard of him. I eventually landed on three linked categories that would seamlessly illustrate his graceful navigation of private and public forms of writing: Author, Editor, Promulgator. More specifically, each of these three cases explores a different role that Borges held in the Argentine publishing industry during the 1930s and 1940s, in an effort to emphasize his impact on literary canons and educational standards.
“Author” presents a sampling of Borges’s collections of fiction and non-fiction such as Ficciones, El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan and Historia universal de la infamia.
“Editor” explores Borges’s deep-seated engagement with the physical form of the book with samplings from his two unique (fictitious) publishing houses, the Editorial Destiempo and the Editorial Oportet & Haereses.
I’ve also included two original manuscripts that speak to his connections to other publishing houses and his writing of prologues for other authors’ works.
“Promulgator” highlights Borges’s behind-the-scenes editorial work in translating, editing, and prefacing works for various Argentine publishing firms.
While this exhibit features just a small number of items from the larger Borges collection, my hope is that it provides a thought-provoking snapshot of one of the many avenues of unexplored investigation into this writer’s garden of forking paths.
This week, we are pleased to feature a guest post by Ethan King, one-time Special Collections graduate student assistant, who is now pursuing his Ph.D. in English at Boston University. Ethan takes a strong interest in Faulkner, and has generously written for us about Faulkner’s fascinating later-life work as a cultural ambassador, a subject featured in our current exhibition, Faulkner: Life and Works.
In the last of his four U.S. State Department-sanctioned missions as a cultural ambassador, William Faulkner ventured abroad to Venezuela in the spring of 1961, completing a busy itinerary rife with press conferences, public discussions, and cocktail parties designed to, as Hugh Jencks explains in his “Report to the North American Association on the visit of Mr. Faulkner,” “strengthen and improve relations between the people of the two countries” (MSS 15242). The materials regarding Faulkner’s visit to Venezuela, written and compiled by members of the North American Association (N.A.A)., esteemed Venezuelans, Americans living in Venezuela, and Faulkner himself, are housed in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. They form a compelling time capsule, containing evidence of the diverging geopolitical visions of Faulkner and the State Department during the Cold War, as well as Faulkner’s eminence as a global writer and figure.
Having already traveled under similar governmental auspices to Brazil in 1954, Japan in 1955, and Greece in 1957, Faulkner accepted the invitation to Venezuela reluctantly, citing his growing frustration with political gerrymandering, and perhaps feeling the potential inefficacy of such a trip:
Please excuse this delay in answering the letter of invitation from the North American Union of Venezuela [sic]. I had hoped that the new administration by that time would have produced a foreign policy. Then amateurs like me (reluctant ones) would not need to be rushed to the front.
Although much of the correspondence leading up to Faulkner’s departure in March of 1961 bespeaks his discomfort with the foreign policy of the State Department, it also suggests his respectful acquiescence to the duty he had been prescribed. On the one hand, he declares to his mistress Joan Williams in a dynamic letter from January 1961,
the State Dept is sending me to Venezuela, unless by that time the new administration will have created an actual foreign policy, so that they wont need to make these frantic desperate cries for help to amateurs like me who dont want to go, to go to places like Iceland and Japan and Venezuela to try to save what scraps we can.(MSS 15314)
On the other, he writes to Muna Lee, the Office of Public Affairs adviser in Washington and the key mediator between Faulkner and the N.A.A.,
please pass the word on that I dont consider this a pleasure trip, during which Faulkner is to be tenderly shielded from tiredness and boredom and annoyance. That F. considers it a job, during which he will do his best to serve all ends which the N.A.A. aim or hope that his visit will do.” (MSS 7258-f)
The formal occasion for Faulkner’s trip was the Sesquicentennial of Venezuelan Independence, and the North American Association had been assisted in its preparations by three of Venezuela’s leading writers: Rómulo Gallegos, Arturo Uslar Pietri, and Arturo Croce. In addition to meeting these writers, Faulkner spoke at length with the President of Venezuela, Rómulo Betancourt, at an official luncheon. Not succumbing to a harrying schedule, Faulkner made sure he was available to all who wanted to speak with him, and as Joseph Blotner declares in his biography of the author, “his efforts did not go unappreciated by a group of journalists who had called him ‘el hombre simpático.’ […] Some of the reporters began calling him simply ‘El Premio,’” for being a recipient of the Nobel Prize” (688). While local papers covered Faulkner’s visit in great detail, Venezuelan radio and television coverage of his visit were orchestrated by the U.S. Information Service: they produced a film documenting his visit and delivered several news bulletins to eight radio stations, keeping the listening audience informed at all times of Faulkner’s whereabouts and activities. That the local media did not produce these radio and television broadcasts might suggest that the N.A.A. saw the trip as an opportunity not solely to “strengthen and improve the relations between the people of the two countries,” but to extend U.S. political and artistic supremacy in Latin America.
The official report written by Hugh Jencks for the N.A.A. situates Faulkner’s trip in the cultural context of the Cold War:
The cultural leaders of Venezuela, many of whom are pre-disposed to take an anti-U.S. attitude on all international issues, include writers, artists, newspaper commentators (particularly those connected with El Nacional), educators and people in government. The group also includes many on-the-fencers. Its members tend to agree with the Communist tenet that the United States is grossly materialistic, with no cultural achievements. To bring a literary figure of the stature of Faulkner to Venezuela was an effective refutation of this view. (MSS 15242)
Jencks goes on to write, “The leftist extremists, who certainly would have exploited the visit for anti-U.S. attacks if they felt they could have made hay, remained silent. Mr. Faulkner’s evident popularity was too great for them to make the pitch” (MSS 15242). Commenting on and exaggerating Faulkner’s popularity amongst the Venezuelans, Charles Harner declares in his report “Evidence of Effectiveness, Faulkner vs. Astronaut” that “As far as PANORAMA, the leading daily newspaper of Maracaibo, is concerned, William Faulkner’s visit to the second largest city of Venezuela was more important than Russia’s success in launching a man into space” (MSS 15242). Harner’s declaration springs from the fact that the newspaper granted Faulkner and Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin equal print space, allotting Faulkner the portion above the fold. With passages such as these, one cannot help but read the U.S. official reports of his trip as containing calculated embellishment and sanctimonious self-congratulation and as espousing American exceptionalism rather than a genuine interest in cultural interchange.
Faulkner, in contrast to U.S. officials, made bona fide attempts to generate cultural exchange during his trip, cherishing his discussions with university students over the highbrow cocktail parties with political elites; delivering his acceptance speech for the Order of Andrés Bello, the country’s highest civilian decoration, in Spanish (a language he was only starting to learn); expressing an earnest desire to experience all Venezuelan food and in his words, “saborear el vino del país.” Further, he refused housing with Americans living in Venezuela, indicating that he did not want the trip to be a “shabby excuse for two deadhead weeks with [his] North American kinfolks and their circle.” He reserved his autograph signing for locals: he writes to Muna Lee before the trip,
If possible, I would prefer to avoid being asked for autographs by Anglo-Americans, since the addition of my signature to a book is a part of my daily bread. I intend, and want, to sign any and all from Venezuelans and other Latin Americans who ask. (MSS 7258-f)
Faulkner’s attentiveness to the tenets of his trip (i.e. exercising a willingness for dialectical, rather than unidirectional, cultural construction) rewarded him upon his return to Virginia with, among other things, Spanish copies of the works of Armas Alfredo Alfonzo and Rómulo Gallegos, sent and inscribed by both authors.
Perhaps most importantly, after being profoundly touched by seeing his works printed in translation and by interacting with a foreign readership knowledgeable of and influenced by his work, Faulkner felt it necessary to use his literary status to implement a program through which Latin American books could be translated into English and published in the United States. In this way, Faulkner’s trip to Venezuela planted the seeds of what would become the William Faulkner Foundation’s Ibero-American Novel Project, a Project that, as Helen Oakley explains in her essay “William Faulkner and the Cold War: The Politics of Cultural Marketing,” “played a vital ideological role in the unfolding drama of Faulkner’s relationship with Latin America.” The Foundation’s statement regarding the project is as follows:
Many novels of the highest literary quality written by Latin-American authors in their native languages are failing to reach appreciative readers in English-speaking North America; and accordingly the William Faulkner Foundation, at the suggestion of William Faulkner himself, is undertaking a modest corrective program in the hope of contributing to a better cultural exchange between the two Americas, with an attendant improvement in human relations and understanding. (MSS 10677)
However, as Faulkner died soon into the Project’s infancy, the Project ran into a host of challenges and difficulties created by the market forces of the United States. In my next post, I will cover in more detail the Ibero-Novel Project, as well as the political and cultural struggles that led ultimately to its failure.
Keep your eyes peeled for Part II, coming soon!