Tuesday, July 26, 2016

In the Eye of the Beholder

Land of Desolation - coverYou see what you are looking for. Last week we wrote about William Bradford's Arctic Regions. On the same trip Bradford enjoyed on board the Panther was the experienced arctic explorer Isaac Hayes (no, not South Park's "Chef," an earlier Isaac Hayes) who also wrote a book about the trip. Bradford saw beauty and his text oozes with awe and wonder, but Hayes appears to have seen something very different in his popular account of the north aptly titled, Land of Desolation.

Having been north several times, Hayes found the journey "devoted to the study of the picturesque" a novelty, and he particularly enjoyed the lack of responsibility:
There can be no more comfortable situation on board a ship than that of a passenger. You are not expected to know any thing. You are content to trust to the captain, who is presumed to be quite competent to look to the safety of his ship, and therefore to your own.
Hayes had led his own expedition, and he was certainly content to let someone else run this one and spend his time in observation.

Land of Desolation - Glacier of Sermitsialik
The contrast suggested by the title is pretty stark until you dive into the text. Then you realize that Hayes had a deep appreciation for Northern waters and peoples:
The morning came fresh and sparkling as the eyes of our fair oarswomen, who, singing to the music of their splashing oars, came stealing over the still waters, bearing the good pastor in his arctic gondola, while we were yet at breakfast.
 To read more about what he saw, ask for Stef G742.H41.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Arctic Regions

One of the most glorious books in our collections is William Bradford's Arctic Regions (London: Low, Marston, Low and Seale, 1873). It is a photographic tour de force assembled by an artist better known for his landscape paintings. Bradford traveled up into Baffin Bay and toured Greenland with two photographers in tow. Rather than seeing the north as a forbidding landscape, Bradford saw, and his photographers captured, a scenic land. In their hands ice formations were not obstacles to shipping and navigation, but wondrous works of nature--at times beautiful, and other times sublime. It is a unique view of the north for its time: when explorers from around the world were trying to conquer the north and find a Northwest Passage for commerce, it pauses to ponder the beauty of a foreign world.

As Bradford put it, "This volume is a result of an expedition to the Arctic Regions, made solely for the purposes of art." His text both waxes poetic and weighs down the images with the kinds of copious detail only a landscape painter would see. 

The book is also a technical wonder. All of the images (over 140) are actual photographic prints pasted into the book. There were around 300 copies printed, so you can imagine the darkroom work involved in producing the edition.

You can see it in all of its glory by asking for Stef G610.B79.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

18th Century Justice

Letter concerning Woodworth case
MS-1310, 747217
Sarah Woodworth, wife of Ichabod Woodworth of Lebanon, North Parish, was called to the meeting house for a public admonition on March 17, 1747. She was accused of stealing wool from Esther [Villanee? Wallace?] -- which Esther might have unlawfully taken from her own father -- but Sarah was also accused of "Profane & Sinfull Language" and "impertinence" in the face of the community's "Long Patience" with her. For this, Sarah faced a public admonition. This sentence was given by Eleazar Wheelock, founder of Dartmouth College, during his days as a pastor in Lebanon, Connecticut. This incident reveals a few things about 18th century justice.

Letter concerning Woodworth case
MS-1310, 746368
The saga of Sarah Woodworth began the year before, in June 1746, with a meeting of the Pastor (i.e, Wheelock) and the Council. After a Mrs. Stephen Tilldin plead on Sarah's behalf, "Mrs. Woodworth Comes in and Says She Chuse to have a hearing." The Council decided to see if Mrs. Woodworth had "any new Light to offer." This seems fair enough.

Then comes the public admonition -- not a verdict handed down by the current US judicial system. We don't have any surviving documentation, but we can presume that the accusations in MS-1310, 747217 were read out in the meeting house. (We imagine a deep, ringing voice, with something like thunder in it.)

However, in 1750, Wheelock wrote a letter noting that Sarah had "many Symptoms of a Delirium," she was admonished and the case against her dismissed (MS-1310, 750330). But this admonition should not be so great, Wheelock writes, that it would be "her Ruin."

So, what is this a case of? Was she truly ill (and delirious) in 1747, or in 1750? Was she aging poorly? Was she an outspoken woman in a society that did not approve of such "impertinence"? From these documents, we may never know. Research paper, Dartmouth students?

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Salty Cookbook

cover of Good Maine FoodOur Kenneth Roberts Library collection consists of Roberts' personal library, including a well-thumbed and annotated cookbook. After Robert's article about New England food in the Saturday Evening Post went viral (or whatever the pre-digital phrase would be), he worked with Majorie Mosser to write a book on Good Maine Food. 

Roberts' annotationThis copy is Roberts' personal copy, presented to him by Mosser in 1947. It contains his notes for the 1959 update (Foods of Old New England), but it seems to have served as a repository for any kind of recipe from couscous to avocado salad -- neither of which are from Maine or New England.

Devilled ham saladToday, some of the recipes seem quite dated. Who wants to eat corn and deviled ham salad? It also shows Roberts' more ... acidic side. "Fanny Farmer, the dope, says to cook the bones about an hour ...."

Roberts must have used the book often, as he re-backed the paper dust jacket with what looks like a napkin or handkerchief.

To see these salty annotations and retro recipes, Ask for Roberts Library TX715 .M915 1947.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Shivering Shakers: July 12, 1841

1816 is famous for being the year without summer. A volcano in the Dutch East Indies spread so much ash into the atmosphere that crops failed across the world. New England was particularly hard hit with frosts in each month of the summer and snow in August. A 1817 almanac in our collections reflected on 1816 philosophically: "Frost destroys the seeds of disease'--Perhaps if the frost had not prevented, a destructive pestilence might have depopulated North America."

Apparently 1841 wasn't much better in New Hampshire. We have the daily diary of Seth Bradford from June 1834 to March of 1849. A farmer and member of the Shaker community in Enfield, New Hampshire, Bradford recorded the mundane but essential facts of each day that pertained to his crops. Mixed into entries like "Washed Sheep," and "The Peas Bloomed" are moments of historical importance such as "Began to raise the Stone Dwelling House" on July 1, 1837. But what caught our eye was the sobering entry (and sobering is a strong word for Shakers) on July 12, 1841. Underlined and written larger than any other day is, "A Frost in the morning." The weather was important. The next year, after he records over nine inches of rain in a two-week period causing a dam to break, after which he reported, "Reuben Dickey becomes deranged and put into close confinement."

Luckily, we have been having a lovely July so far this year.

To see the diary ask for Codex MS 000585, Leavitt's Farmer's Amanac is at NH Imprints Gilmanton 1804 (ask for the 1815-1829 volume).

Friday, July 8, 2016

Birch Bark Poems

1870 and 1880 editions of Birch Bark PoemsSometimes a book's form and content give little indication of the life its author led. Birch Bark Poems, by Charles Fletcher Lummis, is just such a book. A collection of small poems written in the transcendental style, Birch Bark Poems is printed on thin and delicate birch bark, sporting beautiful engravings of birch trees on front and back.

Birch Bark Poems began as a summer enterprise in Lunmis's college years. Lummis attended Harvard and was a known jock and rebel, but during his summers he worked at the Profile House in the White Mountains as the in-house printer of things like menus and programs. Lummis had been enamored with printing for several years, and was efficient enough at his job to do some projects on the side.

Back cover of 1880 Birch Bark PoemsLummis was a fairly serious poet, and after a few years on the shores of Profile Lake (where he was known to sleep in a birch bark canoe) he had written enough poems that he deemed publishable if they were to come in an attractive package. Lummis printed his poems on birch bark, puzzling out the medium's eccentricities and making about a dozen little books to sell for twenty-five cents each in the Profile House gift shop. The books were far more popular than expected, and by the end of the next summer Lummis had printed over 3,500 copies in various editions. Lummis's enterprise was so successful that other publishers in the area began to put out similar books of poetry and engravings of local scenes on birch bark, and even on fake birch bark paper (Birch Bark Souvenirs, Views, F41.32 B57; Smith's Birch Bark Poems, PS595.W4 S54 1900;  and A Voice from the Mountains PS595.W4 G73).

Collage of books printed on birch bark
Lummis was an excellent self-publicist, so he had the brilliant idea that he would send a few copies of his book to the eminent poets of the day--Whitman, Longfellow, and Lowell, to name a few--who actually responded with encouragement. With these poets' blessing, Lummis proceeded to send his book to literary journals and even Life Magazine, who thought the binding of the book was better than the poems within, but that they "may have some lasting power."

To learn more about Lummis's colorful life, see Mark Thompson's American Character: The Curious Life of Charles Fletcher Lummis and the Rediscovery of the Southwest (New York, Arcade, 2011).

Ask for White Mountains PS3523.U49 B5 1870, PS3523.U49 B5 1880, and PS595.W4 B46 1900 to see editions of Birch Bark Poems. For a political rather than aesthetic use of birch bark for printing, check out Pokagon's Red Man's Rebuke.

Posted for Kassie Amann '16

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The British Gazette

British Gazette, May 5, 1926In the age of the internet we forget that there once was a time when the news was not accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In those days people relied on the broadcasting services and the newspapers for that steady stream of news. It is, therefore, not surprising that when a 1926 general strike related to coal miners shut down the United Kingdom,
the fear of rumors replacing factual news accounts was worrisome to its government.

British Gazette, May 13, 1926With "nearly all the newspapers hav[ing] been silenced," the government decided to go into the newspaper business themselves, likening the lack of accurate news to that of "African natives" carrying tales from place to place. Winston Churchill, who at that time was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was instrumental in getting it done. Drawing on his past experience as a journalist he offered editorial guidance - turning the newspaper into an effective organ for the government. Printed on the presses of the Morning Post, the British Gazette set out "to carry full and timely news throughout all parts of the country."

British Gazette, May 13, 1926 - circulation numbers
Run without profit (it sold for 1 penny) and entirely at the expense of the government, the paper was published between May 5 and May 13, 1926 and was disbanded when the strike ended after 9 days.

The entire run of the British Gazette can be found in in the Forsch Collection of Winston Churchill material, MS-788.