Friday, February 27, 2015

Have You Seen This Balloon?

On July 11, 1897, Salomon A. Andrée, Nils Strindberg and Knut Frænkel took off from Dane's Island in the Svalbard archipelago in an attempt to fly over the North Pole in a balloon. Things went badly from the beginning.

The balloon was overloaded and while it initially started to rise on release, it quickly began to sink as it traveled over the harbor, eventually touching the water. Andrée, Strindberg and Frænkel immediately dumped eight bags of ballast overboard to remedy this. Unfortunately, during the crisis, the drag lines that had been intended to be used as steering lines were lost, which put the balloon's path at the mercy of the wind. Moreover, the loss of ballast, both deliberate and from the loss of the weight of the steering lines, caused the balloon to rise too high, allowing the hydrogen lift gas to escape faster than anticipated. Eventually, the balloon came to rest on the arctic ice. The fate of the crew remained unknown for 33 years.

In 1930, a Norwegian scientific party discovered the remains of the expedition on White Island. The bodies of the crew were recovered as well as photographs and diaries which recorded their attempts to return to civilization. The flight lasted a little over two days. The attempted return journey on foot across the arctic ice ended three months later with the death of all three members of the expedition. Rauner holds material collected by William Hillman, a reporter, as part of his coverage of the 1930 discovery of the expedition's final camp. The collection includes prints of photographs taken by Frænkel, copies of the articles written by Hillman, and a flyer distributed in Greenland by the Danish government asking the native population to assist Andrée should he be discovered there.

Ask for Stefansson Mss-241 to read the stories accompanied by headlines such as "Heroic Struggle Bared in Notes Found on Bodies" and "Records Reveal Grim Fight For Life Amidst Ice."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Surviving the Cold

February has been brutal. The average daily temperature around here is running about 14 degrees below normal--and it is not like February has a comfortable "normal." This morning it was in the 20s below zero. So, as solace, let's turn to our polar collections. Cold is relative.

Amongst the many amazing manuscripts in our Stefansson Collection on Polar Exploration is Clements Markham's six-page hand written proposal to the Royal Navy to create The Antarctic Manual to serve expeditions bound for the last uncharted continent. Based on the Arctic Manual of 1874, it was to provide practical advice for conducting scientific experimentation in the South. The final product contains frank admissions of its limitations. The introduction to the "Climate" section by Robert Falcon Scott begins, "The meteorology of the Antarctic regions is practically unknown to science...." Scott would, of course, later become all too familiar with the area's climate in his tragic Terra Nova expedition (1910-1913) where he froze to death on his return from the South Pole.

As we shiver and complain of cars that won't start, ice dams on our roofs, and frozen pipes, it is somewhat comforting to read of winters "with a general temperature of -30 C. to -50 C."  Humm, it seems almost balmy outside now.

To see Markham's proposal, ask for Stef Mss-274. For the completed manual, ask for Stef G860.R8.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Plantin Polyglot

Printer Christophe Plantin was a Protestant sympathizer during the height of the Reformation--but his greatest legacy is a Catholic masterpiece. In Catholic-ruled Antwerp, his sympathies drew the suspicions and threats of the authorities, so Plantin decided to undertake a massive printing project in order to publicly prove his loyalties, both to the Church and the Catholic king, Philip II of Spain. He proposed a comprehensive polyglot Bible that would present all of the canonical texts and the Catholic apocrypha in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and the Chaldean languages--Syriac and Aramaic. Philip II gave his enthusiastic support to the project, but not his financial backing; instead, he sent the renowned theological Benito Arias Montano to oversee the theological and linguistic correctness of the text.

The project, which lasted from 1568-1573, nearly bankrupted Plantin. He employed nearly 40 printers to complete it, and many of the original 1200 copies were lost in a shipwreck in 1572. However, it did win him the favor of Philip II, who granted Plantin the  exclusive right to print Roman Catholic liturgical books in his domain--along with the dubious honor of overseeing the skill and theological accuracy of other printers. Despite its complicated origin story, the Polyglot is Plantin’s masterpiece. Today, it remains incredibly important for its contributions to the study of language, theology, Biblical history, and the art of printing.

Rauner owns five volumes of the original eight-volume folio. The first four comprise the Old Testament, with the original Hebrew text and Latin translations on the left page, and a Greek translation with Latin commentary on the right. At the bottom of the left page is the Aramaic text, which is paraphrased in Latin on the opposite page. The fifth volume contains the complete New Testament, with a Syriac translation and Latin commentary on the left page, the original Greek text with a Latin translation on the right, and a translation of Syriac into Hebrew with paraphrased Latin at the bottom. This volume also includes a Latin-Syriac index of phrases.

If you want to check out this incredibly complex feat of printing--or use your high school Latin skills to learn some ancient languages--come to Rauner and ask for Rare Book BS1 1569, volumes 1-5.

Posted for Emily C. Estelle '15

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Gentleman's "C"

One of the concerns raised in the recent "Moving Dartmouth Forward" report concerned the excessive grade inflation that has infected Dartmouth and the rest of higher education. There is a call for stricter grading to counter the rash of "A" grades. Dartmouth students today would be appalled by the grades their peers received in 1925.

Amid some worry that certain departments and divisions were looser in their grading than others, in 1926 the Board of Trustees received reports on academic performance across campus. In the Fall term of 1925, only 8% of all grades were an "A," and only 23% a "B."  But 41% of all grades were a "C."  It was easiest to pull an "A" in Fine Arts (a whopping 19.3%) and hardest in the "Special Freshman Courses" (just 3%). 35.5% of all grades doled out in the Ancient Languages and Literatures departments were a "D"--and that department gave more failures than "A" grades.  Overall GPA in Fall of 1925? That would be 2.028... and just 1.847 for freshman. Gentlemen, you earned your "C."

To see the report, ask for DA-1, Box 1484, folder 87.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine from the Home Front

The World War II years in Hanover were marked by a sense of urgency. As young men prepared to ship out and serve, the climate became one of "eat, drink, be merry, tomorrow we die." That's how Mary Mecklin Jenkins remembered it, at least. Mary was one of many young women who met her husband - John Jenkins '43 - and fell in love during those war years, and she and he reminisced in an interview with the Dartmouth College Oral History Program in 2007, more than 60 years after the fact.

Mary was a student at Skidmore College in 1942, when she returned home to Hanover to work for her father, a sociology professor, for the summer. She was dating Ernest Hemingway's son, Jack, at the time, but after a falling out with Jack led to the prospect of a dateless weekend, she agreed to attend a party with John, whom she had met several days earlier. Their practical date of convenience turned into something much more meaningful. As John said in the 2007 interview, "The chemistry started to take…63 years later, here we are with four kids and eight grandchildren."

Although John joined the Army in December 1942 and spent that first Christmas in a training camp far from Mary, the couple married in February 1944 and reunited for good in 1946 at the end of John's service. To hear their full interview, visit John & Mary's oral history page. For more World War II love stories, browse the husband/wife interviews in "The War Years at Dartmouth" collection.

Happy Valentine's Day, from Rauner to you!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


We got to Robert Fludd through Thomas Cromwell.  It doesn't make much sense at first (but neither did Fludd most of the time). Really, it is Hilary Mantel's fault.  While waiting for the third part of the Wolf Hall trilogy to come out, we read her older books, including Fludd. That made us wonder about the real Fludd which brought us to his Philosophia Moysaica (Gouda: Petrus Rammazenius, 1638).

He is not a charismatic clergyman who seduces nuns as Mantel paints him. But he has a lot of cool diagrams that somehow seek to explain the connections between the heavens and the earth, God and Man, the macrocosm and the microcosm. He also has some things to say about "weapon salve." Apparently, rubbing healing herbs on a blade that cut you will help the wound to heal (or not--it is hard to tell). Beyond that... well, come in and take a look yourself by asking for Rare Q151.F58 1638.

Friday, February 6, 2015

How the Experts Build a Snow Man

In 1951, Popular Science featured Dartmouth students under the headline “How the Experts Build a Snow Man.” That year's Winter Carnival snow sculpture was the Alpendoodler, an odd little man blowing an enormous alpenhorn. The sculpture was formed with wire mesh and birch logs covered with slush.

Since the 1920s, snow sculptures on the Green have served as focal points for Winter Carnival. Each year Dartmouth students have puzzled, schemed, designed and built wondrous sculptures. They vary from the absurd to the sublime. There are feats of engineering that leave you awed, whimsy that makes you laugh, special effects to thrill, and even a Guinness World Record. We currently have some our favorite “Center of the Green” snow sculptures from 1924 to 1987 on exhibit to celebrate the artistry and expertise of Dartmouth’s snowman builders.

Come into Rauner before this year's sculpture melts to take a look!  The exhibit will run through March 1st.