Many of the treasures in Special Collections don’t actually live in the stacks downstairs but are instead housed in Swem Library’s Offsite Stacks (SOSS). Most materials are kept in SOSS either because they are infrequently requested through Special Collections or have specific requirements for the environment in which they must be housed. However, SOSS contains materials just as intriguing as items found in the regular stacks, so it’s a treat to go through some of the lesser known materials held there.
Earlier this year, a box belonging to the Chapin-Horowitz dog book collection arrived from SOSS to have its contents evaluated. Inside were quite a few interesting and old books, all with unique histories and subjects, but the book that immediately caught my eye was a Yiddish children’s book printed in 1920 in Bialystok, Poland. The small book, דאס לעבּן פֿוּן די חיוס, בּינגא, א געשיִכטע פֿוּן א הוּנט, (Dus Lebn Fun Die Chias, Bingo, A Geschichte Fun A Hunt) is a translation of a chapter of British-American author Ernest Thompson Seton’s (1860-1946) Wild Animals I Have Known. Outside of its historical context the publication of a children’s book translated into Yiddish may seem inconsequential. Yet this book marks an important period in the development of contemporary Yiddish literature and linguistic practice for Jewish communities in Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus.
The end of World War I and the relaxation of Czarist anti-Semitic policies following the Soviet victory during the Russian Revolution led to an incredible growth of secular Yiddish culture in Eastern Europe. In 1921 Bundists and a coalition of other leftist parties in Warsaw created the TSYSHO (Central Yiddish School Organization) which functioned as an institution responsible for creating new secular Yiddish language schools for Jews in Poland and parts of Lithuania and Belarus. The Bundists pushed for a very strong Yiddish education curriculum even before the establishment of the TSYSHO and began publishing secular stories for children years before its founding. Yiddish already had a rich secular literary tradition in the early twentieth century but considering the volume of new Yiddish material for schoolchildren that the Bundists and TSYSHO desired to release, there simply wasn’t enough material; thus, translating popular literature from other languages—rather than commissioning Yiddish authors—became a more viable and faster alternative. Consequently, popular children’s novelists from world literature like Ernest Thompson Seton became quick favorites.
Wild Animals I Have Known, specifically this section about a dog named Bingo, may be the earliest dog book written in Yiddish, thereby establishing itself as an important and unique addition to the Chapin-Horowitz dog book collection. Without organizations like the TSYSHO, pop literature and culture associated with the Yiddish language in Eastern Europe may not have survived to the extent that it has today, and the role of book publishing in maintaining dwindling minority languages like Yiddish is clearly evident. After the horrors of the Second World War, only about half of Europe’s Yiddish speakers survived. Still, only about a million and a half of the Jewish diaspora today speak Eastern Yiddish, compared to 13 million before the start of the Second World War. Despite the decimation of the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe during the Holocaust, contemporary Yiddish pop literature persists, thanks both to the Yiddish schools as well as the large volume of non-religious Yiddish books published by the Bundists and TSYSHO. Support from these programs during the interwar period allow for materials like Wild Animals I Have Known to exist as tools not only for enjoyment but also as sources for language revitalization and reclamation within the Jewish Eastern European diaspora.
The Yiddish version of Wild Animals I Have Known can be found at Swem Library’s Special Collections. Online versions of the English original are available through the Swem catalog and a physical copy can be found in Swem’s stacks.
Written by Daniil Eliseev.
On the fourth of July, 1698, an expedition set out from Scotland. The small group of ships set a course for the Isthmus of Darien in modern-day Panama, intending to create a Scottish colony that would be an overland trading link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans–a seventeenth-century Panama Canal.
Outside the enthusiasm of the Scots, there was a distinct lack of support for the plan. English and Dutch investors had been forced out by English East India Company pressure, and the Spanish were less than pleased about a colony in an area they claimed to own. So funding was withdrawn, English colonies were ordered not to help the Scots, and Spain prepared military intervention.
Naturally, the Scottish people, many of whom had invested in the expedition, were unhappy. They attempted to have the Scottish Parliament pressure the English for help. In order to appease English and Dutch commercial interests and to avoid war with Spain, King William III of England (who was also King William II of Scotland and founder of the College of William and Mary), stalled.
The man he put in charge of running the Parliament in Scotland, James Douglas, 2nd Duke of Queensberry, delayed the opening in May by saying that the carriages, horses, and so on needed for the ceremony were not yet ready. When Parliament finally met, the king’s supporters began with religious matters, which kept the business of providing support to the Darien colony from coming up for several days. Finally, Queensberry claimed that he had a sore throat and also needed to consult the king, and adjourned the session until the 20th of June. By the 28th of that month, news arrived in Edinburgh that the colony had surrendered to the Spanish–it was too late. The damage done to the Scottish economy was considerable, and historians attribute the passage of the Act of Union in 1707, which created the United Kingdom, in part to payments made to cover these debts.
These events explain the letter just acquired by Special Collections through the Thomas G. and Louise Rowe Pullen Fund. In it, William tells Queensberry that he is sending a long official letter, but wants to send this one in his hand to say how happy he is with Queensberry’s conduct. The King assures him of his friendship and esteem, and promises not to miss an opportunity to prove it. We can read this letter as offering congratulations and gratitude for Queensberry’s success in dealing with the Scots, so incensed by the English sabotage of their colony in the Americas. And we also know that the King rewarded Queensberry the next year with the Order of the Garter, the highest order of knighthood. In England.
It may seem like Spanish empire in the Americas would have little to do with European politics, but we should not assume that the Atlantic world of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was any less global than our own. As noted in a previous post, the publication in Europe of different editions of Bartolomé de Las Casas’s description of Spanish colonialism was linked to both conflict with Spain and sovereignty and border politics a long way from Mexico.
Another new arrival to Special Collections’ Las Casas collection is a perfect example of these European concerns. It is a Venetian edition of the text, printed in 1626. While we may think of Venice as being a long way from the problems of the people of Mexico, it was in frequent conflict with Spain; so books like this would have been popular. Due to a variety of circumstances, largely based on inheritance, the Spanish crown in the seventeenth century also controlled considerable territory in Italy, as well as in the Low Countries and in what is now eastern France. Venice and Spain were therefore rivals for influence in and control of the Italian peninsula. In this case the printer took the unusual step of making a dual-text edition. The new acquisition is printed in two columns, one in Spanish and one in Italian. So although this was acquired by the library to be used in Hispanic Studies and History classes, if there is anyone who understands one of those languages and wants to learn the other while reading descriptions of Spanish imperial activities in Mexico, we now have the perfect resource.
Other boundary disputes were less about power than money. Many of us are familiar with pirated DVDs made outside the country of origin so as to avoid copyright, but what about books? Two of the editions of Las Casas in Special Collections illustrate just how this happened in the late seventeenth century. A French translation was published in Paris in 1697, dedicated to the Comte de Toulouse, illegitimate son of Louis XIV. It received the ‘Privilege du Roi,’ a form of copyright that prevented anyone else in France from printing this book for ten years. However, French rules about who could print a book did not apply outside France, and the Dutch Republic, a short voyage away across the Spanish Netherlands, was known for copying French books. Which is why we also have a copy of the same book, right down to the dedication to Toulouse, printed in Amsterdam in 1698. Publication was profitable, and French was spoken throughout Europe. If someone else had done all the work of translation, all the Amsterdam printer had to do was buy a copy of the original and pay his compositor to replicate it and his pressmen to print it. In a globalising world that still had national boundaries, even books were worth pirating, and one as popular as Las Casas, absolument.
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The College of William and Mary was founded before the City of Williamsburg, the former in 1693, the latter in 1699. The original of this map, however, was made at some point before 1683, and was used by the Lords of Trade and Foreign Plantations in London in their administration of the colonies. It shows the area where Williamsburg and the College would be built, at least a decade before they came into being. This was often the only sort of documentation people in London had access to about places they had never seen themselves.
The original of this manuscript map is held by the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University, and makes up part of a collection of maps known as “The Blathwayt Atlas.” This was a combination of print and manuscript maps, used by the Lords of Trade, but taken home and kept by William Blathwayt, from whom the collection takes its name. The copy in Special Collections is part of a facsimile that was produced using state-of-the-art technology in the 1970s, with commentary by Jeannette Black. It represents a technology of sharing information and images that is in most respects superseded by modern computers – Brown now makes these maps available in high-resolution scans through their website. However, the facsimile, showing the collection of maps used in running England’s colonies in the Americas, is still interesting as an indication of the technology available to people both in the 1680s and in the 1970s for storing and sharing knowledge.
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Swem Library has a great many books in very bad bindings. Most modern books, for instance, are held together only by glue at the spine. Even modern hardcovers have the same binding. Other than the hard shell surrounding them, they are in all other respects exactly the same as a cheap paperback. In the past, however, bindings were much stronger.
Special Collections also has books that have bad bindings, but in many cases their poor condition is due to the fact they are old enough to have been damaged by time or handling. One example shows how this process happens, and also the way the book was made over five hundred years ago, in 1498. Even if the binding is in trouble now, five centuries is not a bad run.
The bumps on the spine of an old book are not just decorative. They are cords, and the pages are sewn to them, so that they are actually integral to the structure. Here they are made of animal skin. The spine was also backed with another piece of animal skin, or in this case, an old manuscript. Many medieval manuscripts ended up this way, cut to bind the products of the printing press which was changing the way books were made. Traces of the manuscript are still visible here because the outer layer of binding has worn away over the centuries. The text you can see here is neither printed, nor was it added after the book was made. It is a medieval manuscript, re-purposed.
The other parts of a hardback that you may be familiar with, but that have lost its original purpose, are the headbands. These are the little pieces of coloured thread at the top and bottom of the spine, which originally reinforced it during use and particularly during removal from the shelf. Modern headbands are just glued on to the spine. In the past, however, they were sewn to the binding before the outer skin was added. Here again you can see how this book is coming apart, but also that the headbands have come loose (and this one has split), and that they are clearly made up of thread that also loops down, through the vellum manuscript, where they are anchored to the structure of the book.
Although we might wish that this binding was still intact, protecting this book from 1498, its decay provides great lessons in how books were made when they were really built to last.
On April 6, 1917 the United States entered World War I, then known as the Great War. A century later, objects in Special Collections reveal memories of Americans’ lives at wartime. Among the variety of materials available for research are a collection of Red Cross posters, a veteran’s scrapbook, and a nurse’s correspondence with loved ones.
The Red Cross was a vital source of aid and relief both at home and overseas during World War I, providing food, comfort items, and medical care to American and Allied soldiers and their families. In fact, by the end of the war, “nearly one-third of the U.S. population was either a donor to the Red Cross or serving as a volunteer” (“World War I and the American Red Cross, http://www.redcross.org/about-us/history/red-cross-american-history/WWI).
The posters the Red Cross published were pivotal visual tools for soliciting participation in the war effort:
“Mass produced, full-color, large-format war posters….were both signs and instruments of two modern innovations in warfare—the military deployment of modern technology and the development of the home front….In addition to being sent to the front, they reached mass numbers of people in every combatant nation, serving to unite diverse populations as simultaneous viewers of the same images and to bring them closer, in an imaginary yet powerful way, to the war. Posters nationalized, mobilized, and modernized civilian populations….It was in part by looking at posters that citizens learned to see themselves as members of the home front” (Pearl James, Picture This: World War I Posters and Visual Culture (Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press, 2009), 2).
The pages of this unbound scrapbook contain photographs and an assortment of ephemera belonging to a member of the 78th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, identified only as “Emmet” (Mss. Acc. 2009.309). The scrapbook preserves memories from his service, beginning with his departure from New York on May 19, 1918 and concluding with his discharge on May 29, 1919.
Included among the pages are hand-written schedules, propaganda dropped from planes, and photographs of cities in destruction, military equipment, and soldiers on the battlefield.
Clara Louise Walde Lawrence was a nurse whose correspondence relates largely to her career before, during, and after World War I. She wrote letters to her parents, sharing details of her experiences abroad during wartime. She particularly notes illnesses suffered by the soldiers, accounts of the condition of various cities in war-torn Europe, and rumors of the date for her homecoming. Interspersed with her letters home are exchanges with her beau, (and later husband) Sgt. Otto Lawrence.
In the letter at right, dated March 8, 1919, Clara writes:
“Only yesterday I wrote you all a long letter – so will add only a few lines here saying that I hope you enjoy these books, also the map of Rhein which I know will interest you and Dad. Perhaps you can find many(?) places that might interest you that you know about. In this envelope I am sending a snap shot of my dear boy [Otto Lawrence] to realy not as good one as it was his first days out of bed taken on the Ward with some of the other nurses from Base Hosp. No 1. I have better one’s only this was among them pasted in my book of pictures and as it came off the easiest by wetting it. I am sending it to give you an idea of what a nice chap he is I know you will all like him. I also enclosed a negative of my self taken on balcony of my ward early last August, but I am much thinner at present….Have them printed and save them all for me. I just received a telegram dated Jan 31 from my boy on noon mail stating he was leaving “Bordeaux” the next day for good old U.S. it sure made me very lonesome and more home sick than ever, but I don’t think it will be a great while before we will all follow. I am looking for a telegram from New York on his arrival in port, surely that will be some time after this one coming at this late date….Please write soon. Lovingly, Clara.”
Also included among Clara’s memorabilia are two photograph albums—perhaps one of them the “book of pictures” she mentions in the letter—that document her experiences.
The stationery on which Otto Lawrence wrote this letter (left) to Clara includes a plea “To the Writer: Save by Writing on Both Sides of this Paper, / To the Folks at Home: Save Food, Buy Liberty Bonds and War Savings Stamps.” Even simple tasks like reading and writing letters presented reminders of opportunities for participating in the war; and organizations like the Army and Navy YMCA—who published the stationery Otto used—took those opportunities to encourage support.
*Be sure to stop by the main entrance of Swem Library to see SCRC’s display of WWI materials! It will be up for the entire month of April.*
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Can you type without looking at the keyboard? This used to be a skill taught to people who wanted secretarial or clerical jobs. Now of course many of us type quickly because we use computers on a daily basis. But what about the predecessor to the keyboard we know? This is it – a typecase, filled with individual letters which had to be assembled by hand to create anything which needed to be printed.
Each cell contains the same letter, symbol, or space. Do you think you could use this without looking? Remember that the letter on the piece of type would be in mirror image, so looking at it may be confusing anyway. A good typesetter or composer would have been able to set type without looking at the pieces of type, remembering the way around the case in the same way we remember our way around the keyboard – through practice. That way he or she could keep looking at the text which needed to be copied and could work faster, with one hand holding the composing stick with the assembled words and the other picking up more letters.
But there’s another thing – actual physical type doesn’t have an autocorrect, so letters sometimes went in upside down, backwards, or were the wrong letters in the first place. What is more, the compositor could make a mistake in picking up type, but the mistake could also have been made by the person who put the type away. If an “a” was accidentally put into the “o” cell (which is immediately above it), the person setting type the next time around might not notice it and might use the wrong letter. Or the “wrang letter” as the end of that last sentence might have looked if I had been setting it by hand and had had this problem.
Nowadays of course this is only a problem for a very few people, and a ‘printer’ has changed from being a person who used a press to the machine which has replaced both that person and the press. As our world becomes more automated, what other skills will become less necessary? With improvements in voice-recognition software, will today’s William and Mary students find themselves explaining to their children about how they used to have to type all of their work?
Some of Swem Library’s printing equipment, long stored in the basement, is on display on the second floor of the library in the rotunda above the entrance to Special Collections. This includes a typecase like the one pictured here, known as a California Jobbing Case.
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The island of Taiwan, once commonly known in the West by the Portuguese name of Formosa, has recently resurfaced in the news in connection with the One China policy. In the past it was also a subject of interest, although information coming from Taiwan itself was often scarce. Because of that scarcity it was possible in 1704 for a European to appear in London claiming to be a Formosan and to publish a book about the island that was fiction masquerading as a true travel account. Special Collections has just acquired a first edition of one such work with funds from the Gale H. Arnold ’58 Special Collections Endowment.
The author of the work called himself George Psalmanaazaar. He was a Frenchman educated by the Jesuits. Although he wrote an autobiography that was published posthumously, he never gave away his real name and it remains unknown to this day. He used the accounts of Jesuits who had been active in China and Japan, as well as conventions from other travel accounts about exotic places to write his own story and to inform his own performance. In fact, the whole episode was one long charade, with Psalmanaazaar adopting unusual habits like eating raw meat and sleeping upright, which he thought would contribute to people believing that he really was from a different culture. He even invented an alphabet and language for the place he claimed to be from, and the book contains a fold-out sheet of the former and ‘translations’ into his language:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the truth of Psalmanaazaar’s story was challenged before the Royal Society, the premier scientific organization in Britain. His particular opponent was a Jesuit priest who had spent many years in missions in Asia, though not in Formosa; the priest knew the area and, with the benefit of expertise, attacked Psalmanaazaar’s assertions. However, the fact that he was a Catholic priest, and that Psalmanaazaar framed his whole narrative as an attack on the Jesuits – never popular in Protestant England – meant that he was able to hold his position with the support of anti-Catholics. Thus Psalmanaazaar reminds us that claims to knowledge about something often involve two threads: the assertion of truth and attacks on opponents who disagree. When compared with the second “corrected” edition, which addressed some of the claims that the author was not who he said he was—a copy of which was already in our rare books holdings—this book is an excellent way to explore how people three hundred years ago had to negotiate issues of truth or fiction in ways that seem to have resurfaced along with our recent discussions of Taiwan.
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The arrival of Europeans in the Americas was an event of global importance, and its effect on the people already living here was devastating. That is why in 1552 the Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas wrote a book that he called Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias, or A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. The book was so intensely critical of Spanish activities in the New World that it was used for centuries by the opponents of Spain as a way of criticising Spanish rule on both sides of the Atlantic, giving rise to what is now known as “The Black Legend.” As a result, the book was printed in numerous languages, generally in countries that were at war with Spain.
Special Collections already held a couple of these editions and has recently acquired a number of others, so that we now have editions of this book in English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish. Other editions were also produced in Latin and Dutch, although as yet we don’t have copies of these. Some are illustrated, with truly horrific scenes of murder and torture like those shown here, which once again served propaganda purposes, while others leave it to the words to convey the message of brutality.
One of the more interesting of our new arrivals doesn’t have pictures and is in the original Spanish, but its interest lies in where and when it was published and by whom. This is the 1822 Mexican edition, one of the first printings of this book in the Americas.
Moreover, this was the year after Mexico achieved independence from Spain, following a war lasting more than a decade. And the printer was someone who was himself a supporter of Independence and had printed books related to the struggle, Mariano Ontiveras. Thus this book is the perfect way to tie both ends of the story of Spanish activity in the Americas together – it describes the beginning of empire and was itself printed at the moment when independence movements were expelling the Spanish from most of the Americas.
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Most of us, if we recognize the name Maurice Sendak, probably think of him as the man who wrote and illustrated the beloved children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are,” published in 1963. Yet what some may not know is that Sendak wrote (and illustrated) much more than that one popular book. In the Chapin-Horowitz Collection of Cynogetica in the Special Collections stacks is a small book with a baby blue dust jacket with the words “Higglety Pigglety Pop!” along the spine. Next to them, “Sendak.” Inside is a short story illustrated with his familiar style of lines building upon lines to create forms and shadows. And much like “Where the Wild Things Are,” this book has its own brand of amusement and uneasiness that is suggested in its title, which intimates that playfulness will give way to something more contemplative: “Higglety Pigglety Pop!: or There Must Be More to Life.”
Like “Where the Wild Things Are,” which verges on dark and even scary, much of Sendak’s writing toes the line between humorous children’s banter and perceptive musings on adulthood and the business of growing up. At times his language in “Higglety Pigglety Pop!” (and other works) is playful—even, at times, verging on nonsensical—a quality of Sendak’s writing that many have compared to the work of Theodor Geisel, popularly known as Dr. Seuss. It’s this language, paired with Sendak’s characteristic illustrative technique, which gives his writing the veneer of childlike whimsy. Yet fans of Sendak’s work have increasingly suggested that his writings were often not very childlike at all, at least in the sense that they sometimes urge us to contemplate not only what it means to be a child or a “grown up,” but also what it means to be human, mortal, and fallible.
On one hand, this book is a terrific children’s story, elaborating upon a “Mother Goose” nursery rhyme also called “Higglety Pigglety Pop!” On the other hand, however, it is a tale that follows its main character on her journey to see if the grass is truly greener outside the confines of her comfortable home. Indeed, Jennie, the Sealyham terrier, has everything she could ever want: “She had her own comb and brush, two different bottles of pills, eyedrops, eardrops, a thermometer, and for cold weather a wool sweater. There were two windows for her to look out of and two bowls to eat from. She even had a master who loved her.” Yet Jennie is “discontented” and “[doesn’t] care” about all that, saying that she wants “something I do not have. There must be more to life than having everything!” So she packs up all her belongings and leaves home for good. “You have everything,” says the potted plant on the window sill. Jennie responds by chewing off the plant: first one leaf, then a few more, then all of the plant until it cannot speak any more to Jennie about how foolish she is to leave her happy home (3).
Yet while we might expect some kind of instructional tale about how the grass is not, in fact, usually greener on the other side, Sendak writes a story in which the protagonist ends up all right in the end, choosing to abandon her home for good and live at Castle Yonder. In fact, during her journey away from home, she eats a lot, travels to new places, and even gets to perform in a theatrical performance of the eponymous “Mother Goose” nursery rhyme. Jennie even sends a letter to her former owner to inform him of her new life, telling him that if he ever visits to “look for me when you get here.”
Though Jennie’s adventure is not a lesson learned, per se, neither is it a frolic without Sendakian undertones of loneliness, darkness, or growing pains. What builds and supports much of that drama is Sendak’s wonderfully detailed illustrations. His drawings of Jennie are so lovingly described that you can almost see her come to life and imagine her spunky personality (indeed, Jennie was a real dog, and the friend to whom Sendak dedicates the book). And just as imaginatively created are Sendak’s illustrations of various moments Jennie experiences during her trek away from home in search of the “More to Life.” Perhaps even more than the words of the tale or the actual events that unfold, the illustrations convey the uncertainty about what Jennie’s fate will be. They present at once a playful humor as she interacts with other characters—many of them animals, as well as one baby—and a sense of the isolation that looms and encroaches upon her.
Despite her confidence in leaving home and searching for the “more” that could exist in life, Jennie’s journey is always somehow at risk of making it all come undone. The baby tears up the things in her bag; she almost gets eaten by a lion; she gets lost in the woods; and yet Jennie reaches Castle Yonder, where she, quite contentedly, decides to stay. When we reach the tale’s conclusion and read her letter home, we realize that Jennie is happy where she is now, but that’s about all we learn. There’s no moralizing message, no instructional warning that you only know what you had once it’s lost. Instead we find that the journey was exciting, surprising, trying, and sometimes a little sad. But in a way that’s exactly Sendak’s point: that life is all those things, no matter whether you stay in the comfort of what you know or venture out to brave the unknown.
 See Malcolm Jones, “Maurice Sendak Didn’t Just Make Books for Children, but for Everyone,” thedailybeast.com, 2012; Pamela Paul, “The Children’s Authors Who Broke the Rules,” Sunday Book Review, The New York Times, 2011; and Avi Steinberg, “‘We Are Inseparable!’: On Maurice Sendak’s Latest Book,” The New Yorker, 2013.