Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Clements Library Summer Reading: Part II

Last week we ran the first half of our Clements Library summer reading list, pairing staff's recently read and recommended books with items from the Clements's collections. We continue now with other good reads and interesting connections to the Library's rich historical sources.

Terese Austin, Curatorial Assistant and Reading Room Supervisor, recently read Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (New York: Crown Publishers, 2010). Skloot's book recounts the story of how in 1951 doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital removed and cultured cells from Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman who was suffering from cervical cancer, without her or her family's permission. The cells were hugely influential for medical research and treatment, but the history of their use highlights serious questions about medical ethics. The Clements Library's Alexis St. Martin Collection speaks to medicine's long history of negotiating, and sometimes abusing, patient rights. In 1822 Alexis St. Martin, a French-Canadian employed by the American Fur Company at Mackinac, was shot in the stomach, leaving him with an open wound that exposed his digestive system for the rest of his life. St. Martin's doctor, William Beaumont, offered medical care but also undertook a long series of experiments that revolutionized medical understanding of gastric processes. St. Martin eventually signed a contract with Beaumont, but the case highlights the thin line between medical consent and coercion.

In 1879, Alexis St. Martin was in conversation with Chicago medical facilities about taking up residency there for observation. He eventually refused due to failing health.
Jayne Ptolemy, Curatorial Assistant and Reading Room Supervisor, has also been reading about the medical field in Atul Gawande's Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2014). This moving exploration of how modern medicine has affected the experience of aging and dying resonates across the centuries. The very human encounter with health and mortality can also be glimpsed in the Clements's collection, Vine Utley, Observations on Old People 80 Years of Age, from the Duane Norman Diedrich Collection. Utley's interviews with elderly residents of New London County, Connecticut, in the early nineteenth century provide remarkable details of an aging population's health, family, and habits.

Utley's Observations are written in a hand-made notebook with an 1806 newspaper cover.
From the aged to the young, the Clements Library's collections give insight into all stages of life. Oksana Linda, Rare Book Cataloger, enjoyed The Children's Book (London: Chatto & Windus, 2009) by her favorite British author, A. S. Byatt. The novel describes the various adventures and complicated familial relations between a group of adults and children in the period from 1895 through the First World War. With a focus on children's lives, and with one of the protagonists being a children's book author, there is a clear connection to the Clements's rich collection of juvenile books. Take, for example, Shirley Dare Power's, Art of Good Manners, or, Children's Etiquette. Dare advises children on proper behavior. "Girls like strong words," she proclaims, "just as they like pickles, and cinnamon, and citron, and all sorts of unwholesome things—tastes that you will drop as soon as you begin to half know anything."

The cover of S. D. Power's Art of Good Manners (Akron: Werner Co., 1899) is nearly as colorful as the advice she gives within it.
While Oksana's pick centered in Europe, Janet Bloom, our Research Services Specialist, spent some time thinking about the sunny shores of Hawaii. She just finished Laura Fish Judd's Honolulu: Sketches of Life in the Hawaiian Islands from 1828-1868 (Chicago: Lakeside Press, R. R. Donnelley, 1966). Laura Fish Judd, one of the earliest missionaries to the Hawaiian islands, served with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and this narrative of her experiences was first published in 1880. Complementing Judd's vivid descriptions of Hawaii, are the Clements's Horace Mann, Jr. Papers. Mann travelled to Hawaii in 1864 where he performed botanical research, which is documented in our collection. The Clements also has a series of Mann's photographs and maps that gives a broader sense of Hawaii during both Laura Fish Judd and Horace Mann, Jr.'s stays on the islands.

This manuscript map of Hawaii, produced by Mann in 1864, shows the Mauna Loa lava flows from various years.
The Clements staff's reading choices span centuries and cover a wide range of topics. Clayton Lewis, Graphics Curator, finished a novel that does the same within one volume. He showed his mettle and read the innovative, if sprawling, Thomas Pynchon novel, Against the Day (New York: Penguin Press, 2006). Beginning aboard a hydrogen skyship on its way to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, the tale spins its way across time and space, touching upon such topics as Colorado mining, labor unrest, gilded age New York, Nicholas Tesla, among others. The Clements does not seem to have any materials related to time travel, a problem that Clayton suggests, "In the future, we'll have to do something about correcting in the past." However, we do have a nice collection of materials related to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in our Handy Family Papers, including a scrapbook of admission tickets compiled by Moses P. Handy, Chief of the Department of Publicity and Promotion for the momentous affair.

A sampling of some of the World's Columbian Exposition admission tickets to be found in the Handy Family Papers.
While the Clements has no evidence of time machines, the Library's incredible collections may just be the next best thing. When you read our books, study our graphics and maps, and explore our manuscripts, you get a vivid sense of the past that transports your imagination, if not your body, back in time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Clements Library Summer Reading: Part I

The William L. Clements Library is not only home to a world-class collection of manuscripts, books, maps, and graphics, it's also home to a staff of voracious readers. Our passion for all things Clements-related carries over even when we happily have our noses buried in modern books. We've compiled a list of books recently read and recommended by the staff, and have paired them with items from our collections that were brought to mind while enjoying them. Hopefully you'll find something worth exploring—whether it's recently published or it's a little more antiquated and requires a visit to the Clements.

In June, Kevin Graffagnino, Director of the Clements Library, delivered a lecture for the Book Club of California on "Murder Most Foul." Preparing for this talk put him on a "true crime and crime fiction" reading jag. He reports, "I'm making my way through all of James Lee Burke's novels, courtesy of William L. Clements Library and good personal friend Bill Sikkenga; I've started "Murder Will Out": The Detective in Fiction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989) by T. J. Binyon, which the New York Times described as 'destined to be a classic'; and I'm dipping in and out of Bruce F. Murphy's The Encyclopedia of Murder and Mystery (New York: St. Martin's Minotaur, 1999) for its useful and interesting details and summaries. All, I hope, will sharpen my appreciation for our James V. Medler Crime Collection, which is one of the best pre-1900 American true-crime libraries anywhere."

A gruesome woodcut illustration from a 1782 broadside in the James V. Medler Crime Collection, A Poem, Occasioned by the Most Shocking and Cruel Murder that Ever was Represented on the Stage; or the Most Deliberate Murder that Ever was Perpetrated in Human Life.
Perhaps because the staff members experience first-hand the drama and poignancy of people's lived experiences as told through primary sources, a good number of us at the Clements enjoy reading non-fiction. Our Conservator, Julie Fremuth, is currently reading Jim Abbott's autobiography, Imperfect: An Improbable Life (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012). Abbott was born without his right hand, but through talent and determination he not only starred as a pitcher for the University of Michigan baseball team, but he also won an Olympic gold medal, played in the major leagues, and pitched a no-hitter as a member of the New York Yankees. This incredible story is one part of America's enduring love for baseball. From illustrated sheet music to board games, our Graphics Division has plenty of evidence of just how enamored we are with this national pastime.

Charles Kinkel, The Red Stockings' March (New York: J. L. Peters, 1869) and Our National Ball Game, an 1886 board game by McGill & Delany, are just two examples of baseball-related items in our Graphics Division.

Anne Bennington-Helber, from our Development team, has also found herself enjoying a sports-related history. She recommends picking up Daniel Brown's The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (New York: Viking, 2013). The tale of how this young group of University of Washington men won the gold medal in rowing is a compelling one, and the Clements has a nice selection of items that speak to the long-standing interest in rowing. Take, for example, this illustration from Donald Walker's British Manly Exercises: In Which Rowing and Sailing are Now First Described (Philadelphia: Thomas Wardle, 1836). Of course, rowing isn't inherently "manly," as Anne has herself shown by taking up the sport this summer.

British Manly Exercises includes a series of illustrations demonstrating how to properly row.
A number of Clements staff have been reading histories and novels about World War II. Diana Sykes, Head of Reader Services, participates in two book clubs during her free time, one of which is currently reading Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin (New York: Crown, 2011). The story follows the U.S. ambassador to Germany, William E. Dodd, delving into his and his family's political, social, and romantic forays among Berlin's elite. While the Clements's primary focus remains on early American history, we do have a robust and growing collection of World War One and World War Two papers. Our William M. Muth Collection, in the Duane Norman Diedrich Collection, documents Muth's time as an American student in Heidelberg in 1939 where he witnessed rising anti-Semitism and militarization. On August 24th, 1939, Muth was advised to leave Germany, and that same day the woman he was courting expressed her love for him for the first time. These intertwined stories of military upheaval and personal desire parallel some of the themes in Larson's latest book.

William M. Muth's student I.D. from 1939 and a photo from when he served as an aviator with the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Curtis in the Pacific.

As this sampling of recommended books suggests, the Clements's staff has widespread interests. The Clements Library's rich and varied collections shed light on these topics, and so many more. Check back next week to see how, as we continue to explore our summer reading list.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

From the Stacks: Decorative Papers in the Book Division

Post by Jayne Ptolemy, Manuscripts Curatorial Assistant

The reasons to appreciate and enjoy the Clements Library's collections are as varied and numerous as the holdings themselves. Whether they are exceptionally rare, provide detailed information, or are particularly evocative, the research materials at the Clements are valuable on multiple levels. And sometimes, it's the sheer beauty of an item that draws our attention.

The Book Division holds some striking examples of decorative papers. Whether used as covers or endpapers, these vivid designs speak of both a personal aesthetic and a particular affection for the printed item at hand. Take, for example, these Poor Will's Almanacks, covered with colorful Dutch gilt paper, a type of printed paper that was produced through the use of blocks or engraved rollers, often using gold size and dust. Additional colors were sometimes stenciled or dabbed on to yield a visually stunning paper. While almanacs are quotidian in their nature-- dealing with calendars and seasonal predications-- these late eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century volumes have been bound in a highly stylized paper, perhaps indicating the users' interest in beautifying something that would have been consulted regularly.

Poor Will's Almanack (Philadelphia: Joseph Cruikshank, 1789 and 1799). These are two of several almanacs in the Clements's collection that feature Dutch gilt covers.

Another example of a Dutch gilt cover can be found on this 1724 pamphlet, Brief aan de heer N.N., koopmaan in Nieuw-Nederlandt. The golden shine does not translate well in photographs, but it catches the light beautifully in person. While visually appealing in itself, this type of paper also hints at an expressive sense of design that adds to our sense of the text's readers.

Wilhelmus à Brakel, Brief aan de heer N.N., koopmaan in Nieuw-Nederlandt (Deventer [Netherlands]: Bernard de Vries, 1724).
Other volumes in the Book Division use different types of paper as decoration. This 1768 Spanish volume, Carta del venerable siervo de Dios, D. Juan de Palafox y Mendoza al sumo pontifice Inocencio X, has hand-colored endpapers that were produced by New Orleans paper maker Ambroise Benoist-Huquier, who appears to have been active in the second half of the eighteenth century. These endpapers, then, were a later addition, and the nature of its design points to it possibly being wallpaper repurposed as a colorful addition to the book. Opening the book to this floral and avian design adds an aesthetic quality to the reading experience and provides clues about this volume's history.

Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, Carta del venerable siervo de Dios, D. Juan de Palafox y Mendoza al sumo pontifice Inocencio X (Madrid: 1768).
The use of these papers connects us to the users of the books, sometimes giving us a glimpse into the ornamental elements of their home lives. It is possible that some of these papers were scraps from other projects. Looking at this small 1811 edition of Rhode-Island Sermons, only 12 cm. tall, it seems feasible that a remnant piece of wallpaper used elsewhere may have been repurposed to cover this religious text.

Rhode-Island Sermons; first published in the Providence Gazette, A.D. 1810. Vol. 1 (Hartford: Peter B. Gleason, 1811).
Likewise, our 1790 children's book, Hagar in the Desert, features a hand-made covering, possibly sewn from leftover wallpaper. This text reflects the book owner's direct influence. The reasons why these decorative papers were chosen for these specific items remains obscure, but they do suggest how individuals showed special attention to beloved volumes.

Stéphanie Félicité, comtesse Genlis, Hagar in the Desert. Translated from the French for the Use of Children (Newburyport: John Mycall, [1790?]).
Hagar in the Desert's title page further proves this point. A hand-stitched tear reveals that the owners not only read this book heavily but cared enough about it to repair it to ensure future use.


These well-loved volumes are a joy to handle and admire, as we glimpse the past users' influence and experience through them. As caretakers of these books, the Clements Library continues the tradition of honoring and valuing these distinctive texts. However, they can prove to be a conservation challenge. Preserving these decorative papers and evidence of readership takes special care and attention. Fortunately, the Clements Library's Conservator, Julie Fremuth, is up to the task. If you find yourself as taken with these volumes as we are, please consider contributing to our Adopt-a-Piece-of-History program. Hagar in the Desert is available for adoption, and your sponsorship can help ensure that it is safely repaired and housed, making it available to be cherished and used for decades to come.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Latest Quarto: Arnold and André


The Spring-Summer 2015 Quarto is now available. The Quarto is a semi-annual magazine published by the William L. Clements Library and sent to members of the Clements Library Associates. This issue of The Quarto focuses on the Clements Library collections related to Benedict Arnold and John André. 
  1. "Arnold and André," by J. Kevin Graffagnino, Director of the Library.
  2. "Commodore Arnold and the Defense of Lake Champlain," by Art Cohn, Earhart Foundation Fellow, co-founder & Director Emeritus, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Details Arnold's efforts to build an American fleet on Lake Champlain as the first line of defense against a British invasion from Canada. 
  3. "André the Artist," by Brian Leigh Dunnigan, Associate Director & Curator of Maps. Highlights a lively but mysterious sketch by John André, purchased by the Library in 1978. 
  4. "Accessory to Treason," by Jayne Ptolemy, Curatorial Assistant, Manuscripts Division. Peggy Shippen Arnold's role in her husband's treason. 
  5. "Images of Treason," by Clayton Lewis, Curator of Graphic Materials. The Library's pictures of the Arnold-André plot and its participants. 
  6. "After the Treason," by Cheney Schopieray, Curator of Manuscripts. Arnold's post-treason career. 
  7. "Developments," by Anne Bennington-Helber, Development Generalist. Adopt a Piece of History event and other news. 
  8. Announcements
  9. Calendar of Events
Read past issues of The Quarto online. Members of the Clements Library Associates will receive the current copy in the mail. If you would like more information about membership, please contact Anne Bennington-Helber at abhelber@umich.edu.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New Online Exhibit: 1759: Britain's Year of Victories


Curated by Brian Leigh Dunnigan

The Clements Library is pleased to share a new online exhibit, 1759: Britain's Year of Victories, based on an exhibit that was on display in the Avenir Great Room of the William L. Clements Library from June 8 to October 9, 2009.

Benjamin West’s iconic history painting, “The Death of General Wolfe,” has looked down on the Avenir Foundation Room of the Clements Library since it was acquired by William L. Clements in the late 1920s. It is surely the best-known image of the Seven Years’ War (or the French and Indian War as the American part of that global conflict is called in the United States). The painting commemorates the defeat of a French army at Québec on September 13, 1759, and apotheosizes the victorious British commander, Major General James Wolfe, who died on the field of battle. Idealized in almost every respect, West’s composition was intended to represent the triumph of British arms and the acquisition of a much-expanded empire rather than to realistically depict the event itself. A British officer, approaching from the left with a captured white regimental color, heralds the decline of French fortunes that, with the signing of a treaty of peace in 1763, would cost France most of her American empire.

Québec was only one of a series of British victories in 1759—the annus mirabilis—that would decisively shift the momentum of the war against the French and in Britain’s favor. A celebratory medal struck that year recognized victories and victors in seven major engagements fought in America, in Europe, and on the high seas. An inverted fleur-de-lis symbolized the reversal of French ambitions and the prowess of the forces directed by Prime Minister William Pitt under the auspices of King George II, whose profile graces the obverse of the medal.

In 2009 the Clements Library marked the 250th anniversary of the British victories of 1759 by presenting a few of the treasures from its collections that illustrate the events and participants in that momentous year. This online version has been enhanced by the addition of a number of items that could not be displayed in 2009 due to the limited space available in the exhibit cases.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Today in History: Father's Day

Post by Jayne Ptolemy, Manuscripts Curatorial Assistant

In 1880 William Brunton, a Unitarian minister from Boston, began composing a special diary that recorded the everyday activities of his young son, Herbert, whom he affectionately called Bertie. "It is a work of pure love," the enamored father wrote, explaining that he was "not going to make anything very elaborate or literary—it is simply for your own use and amusement—Some of the fairy flowers that grew in your childhood's garden." William wrote of Bertie's moods and interests, the sweet and funny things he said, the toys he played with, the pictures he drew, and, through it all, we see William's deep and abiding paternal affection.
One of Bertie's drawings from 1881, from the William Brunton Journal, Duane Norman Diedrich Collection. His father had noted elsewhere, "You begin to take a fancy for drawing & you have drawn with chalk everywhere, & you have filled paper after paper with your pictures. You like steam engines especially but attempt almost everything."

William Brunton wrote about the tender moments between father and child. "I used to lift you to the window to see the stars. You liked to see them very much," he remembered. "One day you wanted me to get you the crescent moon out of the sky." Reading this diary, you get the impression that if he could have found a way, William would have done just that for his son.

Like any father, however, William also experienced some of the frustrations that accompany parenthood. In late May, 1880, he wrote, "Last night a pretty little event happened. It was a fine moonlight night & you were sleeping in your cradle. When you woke up about two oclock and lay awake some time & Mamma of course urged you to go to sleep again. You tried & failed-- & then in a pretty soft voice you said—Please Mamma may I lie a little on the edge of your bed? And Mamma took you in & let you be in the middle which drove me out as you kick so." Bumped out of his own bed by his young toddler, William took it all in stride and remained "perfectly devoted" to Herbert, even writing him a poem, "Our Bertie's King of the Household."

In a remarkably similar vein, John J. Hagan wrote a song dedicated to his infant son, "Monarch of All He Surveys."
John H. Hagan, "Monarch of All He Surveys." (Philadelphia: Bazaar of the Muses, ca. 1898).
The chorus speaks to the power children can yield over their parents. "Monarch of all he surveys, His subjects laud paeans of praise, Our hearts, his domain and there he will reign Forever and grace of three days; With his voice the welkin will ring, His mandate will bring anything, No potentiate, however great, Can rule with our Household King."

The Clements's Graphics Division holds further evidence of fathers' love. The tenderness and joy in these cabinet cards from the David V. Tinder Collection require no explanation.

David V. Tinder Cabinet Card Collection, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan. The majority portion donated by David B. Walters in honor of Harold L. Walters, UM class of 1947 and Marilyn S. Walters, UM class of 1950.

"I cannot tell you how much I love you & think of you as I leave you behind me," William Brunton wrote to his son. "You are rooted pretty deep in my heart." Each father's love for his child is unique, but as the collections at the William L. Clements Library show, it is also tied to a long tradition of warmth, care, and dedication that spans the years.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Today in History: Mother's Day

Post by Jayne Ptolemy, Manuscripts Curatorial Assistant

On May 24, 1873, Kate Edgerly finally found the time to return her sister's letter. "You want to know how I get along with four children," she wrote, with more than a little exasperation, "I don't get along at all I am half crazy." Mothering four young children took a lot of time, energy, and dedication, as it still does. Some nine months later, following the birth of another daughter, Kate again confided to her sister, "I don't feel very strong yet but expect I shall have to wash this week the baby is real cross she generally cries from three Oclock until morning so I can hardly keep her still." Parenting comes with its fair share of trials, but as we know, it comes with equal measures of magic. In January 1876, Kate commented on her family's Christmas and went on to describe her young daughter Annie. "It would tickle you to hear her try and sing she wants the girls to sing to her and then she will learn the song and she can't say all of the words plain nor sing the tune but will say some times a whole verse and go around saying it over." In the spirit of Mother's Day, these glimpses from the Martha Barker Papers remind us of the demands and delights mothers have experienced throughout the years.

The collections at the William L. Clements Library also include children's perspectives on their mothers. Take, for example, this marginalia found in our 1816 edition of My Mother. A Poem.

From My Mother. A Poem. By A Lady (Philadelphia: William Charles, 1816).
Above a sentimental stanza, a child was compelled to write, "MY MOTHER," perhaps reiterating the connection they felt to this particular passage. The illustration's coloring also belies a child's touch, making this small volume an especially poignant one.

Some of our collections speak directly to Mother's Day, including the Thomas Downs Papers. On May 7, 1938, Jane Augusta Reifel wrote a letter to her mother, Florence Downs, commemorating the day. "And so mother dear- you are like a great big guiding light- whose warm rays and penetrating beams will ever spread into the lives of those two girls you have given so much for… my heart is filled with a great, deep love- and thankfulness- So mother's day is really every day- and I hope that if some day someone would say 'Jane's like her mother--', I would be very happy."
An undated, hand-made Mother's Day card from Jane Augusta Reifel in the Thomas Downs Papers.
These children's love for their mothers hasn't faded despite the years, and the collections here at the Clements Library document the powerful and compelling relationships between mothers and their offspring. May that help all the mothers out there persevere, even as they are driven "half crazy" in the present by the children in their care.