On View Now: What Lies Beneath (Visit if you dare…)

Curated by the Small Library’s Reference Team, What Lies Beneath: The Macabre and Spooktacular of Special Collections, takes a deeper dive into the catacombs of UVA’s archival netherworld. Leaving no page unturned nor manuscript box unopened, curators Anne Causey, Regina Rush, and Penny White have ferreted out the frightening and ghoulish side of Special Collections. The resulting exhibition is designed to whet the appetite of ghoul seekers young and old.

Ever want to see our stacks in person? Our exhibition poster might change your mind. Or you might want to pick one up to take back to your dorm–weirdo!

Would you believce that’s a real spider on the wall? Ok, ok, we admit, it’s a facsimile of a spider.

Located just a stone’s throw away from West Range #13—the purported room of the University of Virginia’s masterful matriculate of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe—lies a subterranean treasure trove of historical and literary scholarship.

Poe’s raven gets top billing, of course.

Yes, that’s a real raccoon coat and tail (More Cooning With Cooners, SK341 .C6 K83 2011-Marion DuPont Scott Sporting Collection); a leather book edged with shark teeth by fine binder Gabby Cooksby (Fantasy & Nonsense: Poems, PS2702 .T77 2001-Clifton Waller Barrett Library, James Whitcomb Riley Collection); and a miniature book bound in black calf suede and leather with colored leader onlays and shaped into the head of a hound by fine bookbinder Jarmila Sobata (The Hound of the Baskervilles: Conclusion & Retrospection, McGehee 05222 -McGehee Miniature Book Collection).

Did you know there are more than 3,000 species of spiders roaming around North America? We even have a few right here in the stacks, including The Spider written by Luide Woelflein and illustrated by Tomo Narashima (PZ92 .F6 D52 1992e) from the Brenda Forman Collection of Pop-up and Moveable Books.

No Halloween exhibition at this university would be complete without paying homage to the former Hoo and reigning Master of the Macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. Books, including miniatures (The Tell-Tale Heart, 2015, on loan from private collection and Poe, Master of Macabre, McGehee 01687 -McGehee Miniature Book Collection) and pop-ups (The Raven: A Spectacular Pop-Up Presentation of Poe’s Haunting Masterpiece, PS2609 .A1 2016b -Robert & Virginia Tunstall Trust Fund) are but a small sampling of Poe-influenced holdings. The broken windowpane on view in the exhibition—rumored to be from Poe’s Room 13 on the West Range—has the following verse etched into its glass: “O Thou timid one, let not thy/ Form rest in slumber within these/ Unhallowed walls,/ For herein lies/ The ghost of an awful crime.”

Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the short-lived Commonwealth of England following the defeat of King Charles, died of natural causes in 1658. Upon the restoration of the monarchy in 1661, Cromwell’s body was exhumed and subjected to a posthumous execution: he was hanged, beheaded, and his body thrown into a pit. His head was displayed on a pole outside Westminster Hall until 1685. This plaster cast is a copy from one of several death masks created(by pouring plaster or wax over the deceased’s face shortly after death)following Cromwell’s death in 1658, prior to his grim exhumation. (MSS 5368-a-Gift of Charles C. Abbott).


Come meet James Steele, the Revolutionary War soldier who lost his head and lived to tell about it. Have a Dance with Death…or, perhaps, you may want to sample an embalming recipe that’s simply to die for. As you explore this exhibition, we hope you will go, in the words of Edgar Allan Poe,“deep into that darkness peering…wondering, fearing, doubting,dreaming dreams no mortal dared to dream before.”Come and See…If You Dare!

What Lies Beneath is on view in the First Floor Gallery of Harrison/Small through December 21, 2019.


Sugar High: A Curator’s Halloween Musings

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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