Friday, September 19, 2014

North Britain or Scotland?

In the wake of the Scottish referendum, we thought we'd share a little gem in our collection that has varying degrees of connection to independence, Scotland, and Great Britain (although not to the West Lothian question). George Taylor and Andrew Skinner were Scottish surveyors from Aberdeen who initially rose to prominence through their careful mapping of the post road between London and Bath. For their next endeavor, in 1776, the two men published what amounted to the first road map ever made of Scotland.  Needless to say, this was also an important year for yet another group of oppressed colonists of England. Less than a decade later, Taylor and Skinner would journey west across the Atlantic to ply their trade in the new country of the United States of America.

The atlas consists of 62 plates, each containing three side-by-side sections of a long strip of road. All but one radiate outward from Edinburgh at a one inch to one mile scale. The atlas includes a detailed chart at the front of the book that gives the distances between each stage of the journey as well as the total distance from Edinburgh. In their explanation of the chart,Taylor and Skinner assure the nervous traveler that "There are good inns on all the Roads, with Post Chaises and Horses at every Stage, as far North as Inverness by Aberdeen," an area with which they were well acquainted. In closing, the two express their confidence that the public road system will be soon completed in the north because "a Spirit of Improvement prevails throughout Scotland." One might venture to say that the recent referendum suggests that such a spirit still lives on in the hearts and minds of the Scottish people, even though there may be some differences of opinion as to what form that improvement should take.


To see our copy of Taylor and Skinner's Survey of the Roads of North Britain or Scotland, walk into Rauner and ask to see Rare G1826.P2 T3 1776. If you aren't able to come by but would like to see more, the National Library of Scotland has scanned the book in its entirety and made it available online to the public.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A War to End All Wars: "Necessary, Just & Righteous"

Kirkland at Bowdoin
Edward C. Kirkland, Class of 1916, was an intellectual through and though. At Dartmouth, he was in the first honor group and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.[1] After graduating in the spring of 1916, Kirkland enrolled in a PhD program in economic history at Harvard. When America declared war, despite opposing military solutions to the conflict, Kirkland shelved his PhD studies and volunteered for the Harvard Ambulance Corps on June 2, 1917. Now that Americans were involved, Kirkland felt a duty to act and believed that volunteering quickly would relieve his conscience from “fretting, worrying, and doubting.”[2] Kirkland’s parents had difficulty accepting his decision to volunteer, but Kirkland was thereby able to select the Ambulance Corps. One soldier pithily summarized the advantages of volunteering, “You can pick any branch you want now, later they pick you.”[3] Still, only 28% of Americans who fought in World War I volunteered, while 72% waited for their service to be conscripted.

After volunteering, Kirkland was sent to a training camp in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Kirkland left Boston amidst a crowd of crying mothers and waving American flags but considered the talk of heroics unjustified. To Kirkland, his role in the war was practical, but not valiant. At camp he reported that after being paraded around town he felt like “such a superficial hero.”[4] Otherwise he adjusted well to military camp life. He joked to his mother in a letter, “I thank my bringing up for many things, but just now for the ability to eat everything.”[5] During the Harvard section’s week on kitchen service, Kirkland and a friend were placed on butter duty. In his letters Kirkland hilariously recounted the challenges of mixing 300 pounds of oleo margarine with yellow coloring every day for a week.[6] After spending more than two months training, Kirkland arrived in France on August 21, 1917.

Like George Dock, Class of 1916, Kirkland was first stationed at Bar-Le-Duc. In October, he moved to La Grange aux Bois in the Argonne. During the war, he was also stationed in Haudainville, near the Verdun front, and in the Chateau-Thierry Sector during the allied offensive of August 1918. Kirkland seemed content with his noncombat role. He downplayed the risks of his position by joking that helmets were very handy for preventing bumping one’s head and regretted that gas masks were not necessary in his region because they gave one “a snappy appearance.”[7] In November 1917 all of Kirkland’s ambulance work was ferrying the wounded to hospitals behind the line, so he could easily pen these jokes to comfort his anxious family.

Kirkland's Alumni War Record
During the winter of 1917-1918, though, he was stationed close to Verdun’s front line, and he admitted to feeling more vulnerable. He was disturbed by the cries of the wounded in his ambulance, but comforted himself with the thought that “if the [wounded] are making a racket they are probably not intending to die on you.”[8] On one mission Kirkland was hit by a gas bombardment while driving up a very steep hill near the front. He could not stop because of the grade of the hill, but his gas mask was stuck between the seats out of reach. His nose smarted as he drove, and he started to cough, but the gas cleared by the time they reached the top. He received a Croix de Guerre for his bravery. Kirkland acknowledged that the “Croix de Guerre may be as common as Phi Beta Kappa keys in Cambridge, but still I am happy.”[9] Within his ambulance unit, Kirkland found a group of like minded men. His compatriots nicknamed the group “the intellectuals.”[10] In their unit the group established a renting library and offered books for 50 cents a week. The proceeds went towards the purchase of new volumes. Kirkland and two others also wrote a newspaper for their unit called, Every Little Detail.

Kirkland comforted himself throughout the war with these intellectual pursuits, but at the end of the war, the joy of the Armistice was coupled with the distressing news of the death of his good Dartmouth friend, Harold Bridgman Stedman, Class of 1916, who contracted influenza and died in a training camp at Fort Slocum, New York. Reminded so recently of the human costs of war, Kirkland greeted the news of the Armistice with an increased determination that the peace should be a righteous one that would “purge our minds of prejudices and hate.” Though most of the allied countries held the Germans in contempt and called them “Brute, Barbarians, and Huns,” Kirkland believed that their sins were sins of the mind that could be remedied through education, not sins of the heart.[11]

Kirkland, who at the beginning of the war disapproved of the conflict and saw it as the result of irresponsible militarist governments, admitted, “I have changed my view, you see, since I entered the army. The war was necessary and just and righteous in order to overthrow a pernicious philosophy, the philosophy of brute force.” Kirkland believed that the war could usher in a new era of peace, or at least a time where war would be less common. He was concerned, though, that “America was as unprepared for peace as she had been for war” and that if a spirit of vindictiveness prevailed at peace talks, the great suffering on both sides would have been for nothing. As an ambulance driver Kirkland knew intimately the human suffering caused by war, and was “not anxious for another war.”[12] He considered the ideologies at stake and ultimately agreed with Wilson that fighting “a war to end all wars” was justifiable. Kirkland, however, lived to see WWII. After completing his PhD course at Harvard, he taught history for many years at Bowdoin College.

Written by Ellen Nye '14.

This Series: During World War I, 3,407 Dartmouth men were uprooted from campus, graduate school, or their early careers to serve in a modern war unlike any previous American military engagement.[13] Four of them, Harold Pinkham ’15, George Dock ’16, Edward Kirkland ’16, and Wainwright Merrill ’19, left records of their war experience in the Rauner Special Collections Library. All four matched the demographics of the College at the time and were united by their experiences at progressive prewar Dartmouth, but despite their somewhat similar backgrounds, their personalities were quite different. Their stories speak to the diverse beliefs, experiences, and sources of comfort of Dartmouth men involved in World War I.

Edward C. Kirkland ’16
Bellows Falls, Vermont
Private First Class, Section Sanitaire Americaine No. 510

Ask for Rauner Alumni K635l.

1Joseph M. Larimer, “Voice of the People.” The Dartmouth: November 9, 1915.
2Kirkland, Edward C. Letter to his parents, June 3, 1918. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library, 1919.
3Keene, 15.
4Kirkland, Edward C. Letter to his parents, July 1, 1917. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library.
5Kirkland, Edward C. Letter to his parents, June 24, 1917. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library, 1919.
6Kirkland, Edward C. Letter to his parents, July 1, 1917. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library, 1919.
7Ibid.
8Kirkland, Edward C. Letter to his parents, February 1, 1918. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library, 1919.
9Kirkland, Edward C. Letter to his parents, January 11, 1918. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library, 1919.
10Kirkland, Edward C. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library, 1919, “Dear Ma and Pa,” February 17, 1918.
11Kirkland, Edward C. Letter to his parents, November 13, 1918. The Letters of an Ambulance Driver. Rauner Special Collections Library, 1919.
12Ibid.
13Charles Wood, The Hill Winds Know Their Name: A Guide to Dartmouth’s War Memorials. Hanover N.H.: Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs, 2001, 6.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Oh, that I had a Steam Launch

It's our 500th posting on this blog, and yesterday was our fifth anniversary. What to blog for such an auspicious occasion? The traditional fifth anniversary gift is made of wood--we did that once, no wait twice, and so many of our books have wood in them that would be too easy. The most glamorous "500" item we can think of is the publisher's mock up for Dr. Seuss's second book, the 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.  But, really, we blog Seuss all the time. There is always the line in Richard Hovey's "Eleazer Wheelock" satirically referring to five hundred gallons of New England rum, but we're not sure we want to celebrate that way.... Luckily, current events have stepped in, and we always try to be timely.

Earlier this week the Canadian government discovered one of the lost ships belonging to the John Franklin expedition. The most recent search has been going since 2008, but it was the intensive search for Franklin spearheaded by his wife, Lady Jane Franklin, that captured the world's attention in the 1850s and successfully mapped vast regions of the Arctic. The story does not have a happy ending. In 1854 John Rae discovered relics from Franklin's expedition and interviewed Inuit witnesses that established the death of the crew.

You would think that Rae would have been seen as a hero for his efforts, but he also discovered evidence of cannibalism that cast a shadow on the men the world had made lost heroes. Even after Rae's discovery, Lady Franklin continued her efforts to not only find possible survivors but exonerate them of any behavior not fitting a British Naval officer. In this letter, she conveys the frustration of one of the searchers, who felt that large sailing ships were at a disadvantage in polar seas, stating, "Oh that I had a steam launch, or a small vessel of 100 tons but chiefly a steam vessel!"

Our extensive Stefansson Collection on Polar Exploration has dozens of items related to the Franklin Expedition and the ensuing search.

You can see some of Lady Franklin's letters by asking for Stef Ms-180. And to read a sensational pamphlet on Rae's find, ask for The Dreadful Fate of Sir J. Franklin and the Brave Crews in the Arctic Expeditions (London, Saunders, Brothers, 185-) at Stef G660.D72.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A War to End All Wars: "Dying for a Cause"

Training Trenches at
Dartmouth College

Wainwright Merrill's, Class of 1919, war correspondence oozes with good-humor, idealism, and enthusiasm. He spent only one year studying English literature at Dartmouth (1915-1916), but even as a 17-year-old Dartmouth freshman, he believed in preparing the United States for war. He was an active member of the first controversial military drill battalion at Dartmouth that began training in February of 1916.[1] The group practiced marching in formation on the green, learned about artillery, and simulated the war experience by digging trenches near the football field. In addition to his training at Dartmouth he attended camp at Plattsburg, New York, a well-known volunteer pre-enlistment military training program organized by private citizens.[2] In the fall of 1916, Merrill transferred to Harvard, perhaps to be closer to his family in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Despite his premature departure, Merrill remembered Dartmouth fondly and believed that he could recognize a Dartmouth man anywhere, because the school “does put a sort of brand upon a man.”[3]

Merrill’s love of English literature extended to all people and things English. He occasionally referred to the English as “his countrymen” and admitted, “I like England very, very much. I could easily love it as a home, and it is surely greatly worth fighting for.” After the British had endured two years of combat, Merrill decided that he could no longer continue drilling and waiting. He left his home at Cambridge in November of 1916 to volunteer as a gunner in the Canadian Field Artillery. Only eighteen, he was considered a minor by the Canadian military, and his father did not consent to his involvement, so Merrill assumed the false name Arthur A. Stanley.[4] In a letter home to his father, Merrill explained that he “could not, in honour, stay out if America should take no action.”[5] So, Merrill’s great love of all things English propelled him into war and he soon found himself on his way to England.
Students on Parade, Dartmouth College
From November 1916 to October 1917 at a training camp in England, Merrill was instructed specifically on operating the 8-inch Howitzers, massive guns fired from far behind the front lines. During his adjustment to military life in England, he decided that saying “Cheerio” was the best cure for war gloom.[6] When on leave, he explored the English countryside and overstayed his leave of absence several times. Finally he was placed in “the clink,” a solitary cell, as punishment for absence without leave. Merrill was unperturbed though, and simply brought his large collection of reading material with him: Shakespeare, Tennyson, Canterbury Tales, Vergil’s Aeneid I-VI, Wilhelm Tell, The Golden Treasury, Pickwick, poems by Rudyard Kipling, French, German, and English Dictionaries, the Daily Telegraph, Horace, The Iliad, and Don Quixote. He also penned a short poem titled “Ye Ballad of ye Clink” while confined.

One of Merrill’s only frustrations was that he was just a private. Merrill does not explain why his college education and previous training experience did not earn him a commission as an officer, but it may have been a consequence of using an assumed name. On October 18, 1917, Merrill was posted to Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, and was then stationed near Ypres in Flanders, Belgium. There he operated guns at the front, firing at unseen targets and relying on aviator’s reports to determine if the shots met their mark. During combat, he kept his optimism joking, “the Front is not so black as it is painted—though it is quite as brown with khaki and no end of Flanders mud.”[7]

Merrill’s cheerful determination ended on November 6, 1917, when a German artillery shell exploded in his barracks, killing him. Merrill was only nineteen and had been in Belgium less than a month. Ten days before his death when he was assigned to the front, Merrill wrote to his friend from Harvard, Edward Hubbard, and contemplated the possibility of his death:
It's mighty hard, Ed leaving everything back there, perhaps for good and all. So if it should be that, friend, I'll say good-bye—but God! how can one—a couple of simple words and it’s over, and you go up to the Line, and try to laugh, or smile at least, and swallow it down. But it's part of the game, of course, and it is a noble end which we seek out of the ruck and jetsam of death and broken men and lasting sorrow.[8]
Merrill died when he had just begun to experience the realities of war. He never wrote regretfully about his decision to join the military, and as this passage shows, he considered dying in the war “a noble end.” Wainwright Merrill was one of the many young, good-humored, and idealistic men whose lives were ended prematurely by the war.

Written by Ellen Nye '14.

This Series: During World War I, 3,407 Dartmouth men were uprooted from campus, graduate school, or their early careers to serve in a modern war unlike any previous American military engagement.[9] Four of them, Harold Pinkham ’15, George Dock ’16, Edward Kirkland ’16, and Wainwright Merrill ’19, left records of their war experience in the Rauner Special Collections Library. All four matched the demographics of the College at the time and were united by their experiences at progressive prewar Dartmouth, but despite their somewhat similar backgrounds, their personalities were quite different. Their stories speak to the diverse beliefs, experiences, and sources of comfort of Dartmouth men involved in World War I.

Wainwright Merrill ’19 
Cambridge, Massachusetts 
Private, Canadian Field Artillery 

Ask for Rauner Alumni M5525c.

1“Military Advocates to Organize Monday Night: Elementary Drill will be begun under direction of Army Officer.” The Dartmouth: January 13, 1916, “Over 500 Men Attend Preparedness Meeting.” The Dartmouth: January 22, 1916, and “Battalion Drill Begins.” The Dartmouth: February 5, 1916
2Wainwright Merrill and Charles Miner Stearns. A College Man in Khaki, Letters of an American in the British Artillery. New York: George H. Doran Co, 1918, vii.
3Merilll, Letter to Charles Miner Stearns, his English professor at Dartmouth, November 5, 1917.
4Merrill, vii.
5Merilll, Letter to his father, June 29, 1917.
6Merrill, Letter to Mrs. Clark, August 18, 1917.
7Merrill, Letter to his father, November 2, 1917.
8Merrill, To Edward Hubbard, October 28, 1917.
9Charles Wood, The Hill Winds Know Their Name: A Guide to Dartmouth’s War Memorials. Hanover N.H.: Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs, 2001, 6. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

"Not expected they will be useful for either study or reference"

In 1871, General Sylvanus Thayer gave a large gift of books from his personal library to Dartmouth to support the work of the Thayer School for Civil Engineering. The list is an impressive one, with major works in architecture, mathematics, and engineering.  But what caught our attention was a note he had added to the catalog of the gift regarding the volumes on military history. "Note: These works are given, as part of the library, more for safe-keeping and careful preservation than for use. It is not expected they will be useful either for study or reference."

Thayer expands on his reasons for giving the books in his cover letter accompanying the gift. After reiterating that they books have no connection to the research or curriculum of Dartmouth, he goes on to say, "There may come a crisis in our national affairs where the value of such a military library cannot be too highly estimated."

It is hard to imagine accepting a gift under these circumstances today, though we have respected Thayer's request that we maintain the collection. As far as we know, the books were never needed for a national crisis.

To see the catalog and Thayer's cover letter, ask for the Thayer School Record, DA-4, Box 2231.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A War to End All Wars: "Not the Gay Life You Would Have Imagined"

Both at Dartmouth and during his military career, George Dock 1916 chased adventure. During his four years at Dartmouth, Dock was a member of Psi Kappa Psi Fraternity, the rifle team, the ski team, and the outing club.[1] Before America even entered the war arena and before Dock’s own graduation, he joined the Dartmouth Section of the American Ambulance Corp in 1916. Urged by humanitarian concerns, Dartmouth College alumni and students raised the funds for the purchase of ambulances to be manned by Dartmouth students and alumni at the American Hospital in Paris. Dock did not anguish over the morality of the war but instead signed up out of an adventurous interest in “going over to see war.”[2]

At first, Dock eagerly anticipated his work in the ambulance corp. On the ship to France, Dock wrote his family entertaining tales of his perplexed discussion of the unfathomable French menus and unfamiliar dishes. One evening the American men attempted to identify the mysterious meat on their plates. Dock guessed roast horse, but another American claimed it was “wild and gamey like camel.”[3] While onboard, Dock tried to croon in elementary French to the handsome girls on board, but was disappointed that there was “no romance in sight, as they are all married or nuns.”[4] Dock ended his first letter home enthusiastically: “I hope I can write next time about life in the trenches.”[5]

However, Dock had barely begun his work as an ambulance driver when he became frustrated about his noncombat role. Dock’s unit was dispatched to Bar le Duc in the Verdun in June 1916. He served as an ambulance driver at Verdun and Argonne from June 1916 until May 1917. To him, the weather was more disheartening than the battle and was itself the cause of most of the hospitalizations: “Only 15% of our men are wounded, the 85% being sick from colds, frozen feet, mumps, rheumatism and similar maladies.” [6] The longer Dock spent driving ambulances, the more frustrated he became. In October 1916 he complained,
No one can stay in this ambulance work four months without wanting to do something less passive and without wishing to get a crack at them with something better than a hand grenade. This work-in-behalf-of-humanity bunk sounds very altruistic and pretty, but towing the pieds geles [men with frozen feet] back and forth from the lines is not a great step toward cleaning up on the hostiles, and the only reason any Americans applaud this stuff is that they are humiliated at what little the States have done, and try to magnify that little. Then they re-elect Wilson.[7]
Though Dock was heartily disappointed by his time in the American Field Service, he served the front trench in Verdun and was awarded the Croix de Guerre for rescuing an injured man while under fire. Rather than celebrating his accomplishments as an ambulance driver, Dock contemplated what occupation in the war would suit him better. He planned to change divisions, if and when the United States entered the war.

In April 1917 when the United States declared war on Germany, Dock decided on aviation, “the most thrilling and adventurous thing American lads are doing in The Great War.”[8] Dock first considered joining the American Escadrille, but he was aware that his own country had been unprepared for war. He decided early on to “go in with the French [rather than] into a green American outfit officered by self-important bumpkins from Plattsburg.”[9]

While training as a pilot, Dock discovered what would become a lifetime interest in bird watching: “One gets so obsessed by this aviation that he falls into the habit of watching flying birds to see how they make a good landing in rough terrain.”[10] He also tried his hand at poetry. When he sent one of his poems to his brother, he prefaced it: “I expect you, my press-agent, publisher, and incarnate Muse, to give these vigorous lines what they deserve; in brief a merciful death in the apartment incinerator. It is, I need not say, quite original.”[11]

When Dock was first stationed at the Chemin de Dames he was exhilarated by aviation work.12 Dock and his unit patrolled the front and completed dangerous reconnaissance missions behind German lines. After landing from his first patrol where he faced German fire without damage, Dock wrote to his parents exuberantly, “This is the life! Good machines. Exciting work. Excellent men.”[13] His optimism was dampened however, when he first experienced personal tragedies. In late April, he mournfully admitted to his brother, “This is not the gay life you may have imagined from my previous mouthings.”[14] The day before one of his dear friends in the French Escadrille died in a skirmish with German airplanes. Dock comforted himself in the outdoors and was happy to adopt a fox cub as his pet, who “is very savage, but comical withal. . . only 2-months old, but untimely crafty. We feed him milk, but he prefers shoe leather and wool blankets as a war ration.”[15]

After the Armistice was signed in November, Dock celebrated with the French and British “who went thru 51 months of it instead of 6 to 12 months.”[16] During the debates surrounding the Treaty of Versailles, Dock was irritated by Wilson’s “high horse” speeches about the ideals of republican government, and by the end of the war he considered Wilson “a spineless shrimp”[17] and “the worst of misfortunes and the armistice profoundly deplorable.”[18] Dock remained committed to beating the “Boches” (Germans) until the end and could not see “the idea of even subconsciously sympathizing with them.”[19] His adventure ended in hospitalization for Spanish Influenza in Paris, but Dock returned to the United States healthy in February 1919. Dock was not immune to the horrors of war, but throughout his military career he sought out larger roles in the conflict despite the danger.

Written by Ellen Nye '14

This Series: During World War I, 3,407 Dartmouth men were uprooted from campus, graduate school, or their early careers to serve in a modern war unlike any previous American military engagement.[20] Four of them, Harold Pinkham ’15, George Dock ’16, Edward Kirkland ’16, and Wainwright Merrill ’19, left records of their war experience in the Rauner Special Collections Library. All four matched the demographics of the College at the time and were united by their experiences at progressive prewar Dartmouth, but despite their somewhat similar backgrounds, their personalities were quite different. Their stories speak to the diverse beliefs, experiences, and sources of comfort of Dartmouth men involved in World War I.

George Dock ‘16
St. Louis, Missouri
American Field Service (May 1916-May 1917)
Sgt. Pilot, Lafayette Flying Corps. Escadrille Spad 12. Groupe de Combat 11 (May 1917- January 1919)

Ask for MS-1057 to see the George Dock Papers. A guide to the collection is available.

1Dartmouth Scrapbook, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
2Letter from George Dock Jr. to his aunts, June 13, 1916 , George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
3Letter from George Dock Jr. to his aunt and uncle, May 20, 1916, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
4Letter from George Dock Jr. to his brother, Will, May 21, 1916, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
5Letter from George Dock Jr. to his aunt and uncle, May 20, 1916, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
6Letter from George Dock Jr. to his aunt, November 2, 1916, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
7Letter from George Dock Jr. to his parents, October 10, 1916, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
8Letter from George Dock Jr. to his parents, November 19, 1916, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
9Letter from George Dock Jr. to his parents, March 1, 1917, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
10Letter from George Dock Jr. to his parents, June 30, 1917, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
11Letter from George Dock Jr. to his brother, July 3, 1918, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
12Letter from George Dock Jr. to his parents, March 15, 1918, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
13Letter from George Dock Jr. to his parents, March 24, 1918, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
14Letter from George Dock Jr. to his brother, April 22, 1918, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
15Letter from George Dock Jr. to his brother, May 24, 1918, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
16Letter from George Dock Jr. to his parents, November 12, 1918, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
17Letter from George Dock Jr. to his parents, August 14, 1916, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
18Letters from George Dock Jr. to his parents, November 3, 1918 and February 22, 1919, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
19Letter from George Dock Jr. to his parents, October 14, 1917, George Dock Papers, Rauner Special Collections Library.
20Charles Wood, The Hill Winds Know Their Name: A Guide to Dartmouth’s War Memorials. Hanover N.H.: Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs, 2001, 6.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dalí, Psychoanalysis & Dante’s Divine Comedy

During the 1950s, Salvador Dalí began working on a series of watercolor illustrations to accompany Dante's Divine Comedy. These illustrations, which follow the trajectory of Dante's journey through hell, purgatory and heaven, were commissioned by the Italian government to mark the 700th anniversary of Dante's birth in 1965. But when word got out that a Spaniard instead of an Italian had been recruited to create the artistic tribute to one of Italy's greatest literary legacies, a general public outcry broke out, pressuring the government to revoke the commission. Undeterred, Dalí pushed forward on his own to complete the series, and found enthusiastic support from the French publisher Joseph Forét. The project was eventually taken up and completed by the French publishing firm Les Heures Claires, which released Dalí’s work in 1965 as a suite of limited edition prints to accompany an exquisitely letter-pressed, six-volume set of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

The prints consist of one hundred color woodcuts, which carefully recreate Dalí’s watercolors, capturing their subtle washes of color and delicate linear drawing. It took the woodcut artists over five years to hand-carve 3,500 wooden blocks. Throughout the printing process, anywhere from twenty to as many as thirty-seven separate blocks were needed to reproduce each individual watercolor.

Dalí’s illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy are far from a literal engagement with the medieval Italian text. Implementing a psychoanalytic lens, Dalí extracts the metaphoric potential of Dante’s poetry. Dalí’s aesthetic idiom to represent dreams versus reality derives from explorations of the unconscious and subconscious.

Most of the Inferno and Purgatorio prints contain motifs referencing the elementary nature of human drives. Dali’s surrealist practice translates man's sins and frailties into unconscious drives. Crutches, bones perforating skin, soft or crystallized bodies, scatological and cannibalistic metamorphoses abound in his interpretation of the medieval text. For instance, Dalí’s interpretation of the twenty-eighth canto in Inferno, "The Hypocrites," plays with the crutch motif, with the naked Caiaphas nailed to the ground. In this print, the crutches indicate social weakness, flaccidity and vulnerability, but most importantly, the evil speeches of hypocrisy. One of the deceitful tongues, which a hypocrite is known to have several of, has been overused and hangs limply over a crutch. Caiaphas grasps desperately at another tongue as he simultaneously clutches his innards spilling from his body. The remaining two tongues are nailed to the floor.

Another illustration that draws heavily from psychoanalysis and surrealism is the print accompanying the first canto in Purgatorio. In this print, "The Fallen Angel" examines the drawers of his body. This iconography recalls the famous 1936 Venus de Milo with Drawers. Dalí used this sculpture, as well as the fallen angel illustration, to symbolize the ways in which Freud's analytical tools could be used to scrutinize the human soul.

To take a look at Dalí's surrealist illustrations of Dante's Divine Comedy, come to Rauner and ask for Presses S153dadi.