Monday, December 21, 2015

From the Stacks: Santa Claus

The Clements staff are busy packing offices and preparing collections for our move back to campus, an all-encompassing task that makes the days pass far too quickly. We take this opportunity to step back from bubble wrap and boxes to reflect on the magic of the holidays.

The spirit of generosity that characterizes so much of this season is not only reflected in the exchange of gifts and the gathering of loved ones but also in the special efforts to heighten children's excitement and wonder. Charming letters to Santa can be found in several of our manuscript collections, but it's less common to see how Santa responded. This undated draft of a poem written by "Santa Claus" reveals some of the thought that went into these exchanges.

Undated draft poem by "Santa Claus" in our Lars Gustaf Sellstedt family collection.

"Dear children I've come with a pack full of toys / Some presents to leave for all good girls and boys / But I am growing so old, and your chimney's so small / I fear that I never should get down at all," Santa worries. His hand-wringing continues as he frets about the changing world he encounters on his yearly trip. "So many fast trolleys horses are running you meet / A quiet old saint dares not drive in the street… Then as to the chimneys they build now-a-days, / They are not made for Santa Claus by a great ways." Despite his "grumbl[ings]," Santa finishes by admitting that no matter his grievances he would not "be obliged from my darlings to part," and he promises "my sleigh with its presents shall stop at your door / And whether I come with books, candy, or toys / I've heart full of love for my girls and my boys."

This poem, if left for children to read on Christmas morning, would make Santa Claus feel all the more tangible, as his worries about contemporary road traffic and chimneys connected him to their daily experiences. Another example of how Americans grounded Santa in the historical moment can be found in Louise Clack's 1867 General Lee and Santa Claus. This volume features a story about three Southern girls arguing about Santa, with one angrily proclaiming "he wasn't a rebel. I know he wasn't, for he never came to the Southern children for four Christmas Eves." Intended to be read by children recovering from the anxieties and traumas of the Civil War, the book acknowledges the hardships experienced in recent years.

Robert E. Lee waves to Santa in this illustration from General Lee and Santa Claus. Mrs. Louise Clack's Christmas Gift to Her Little Southern Friends (New York: Blelock & Co., 1867).

The children write to General Robert E. Lee, a trusted and beloved Confederate figure, to determine whether Santa "was our friend." The return "letter" from Lee proclaims Santa "one of the best friends that the little Southern girls have," and explains that he met Santa during the first Christmas Eve of the Civil War, crest-fallen at not being able to travel South to deliver toys on account of the war. He encouraged Santa to instead "take every one of the toys you have back as far as Baltimore, sell them, and with the money you get buy medicines, bandages, ointments and delicacies for our sick and wounded men." Thus, Santa joins the rank of war heroes and the girls' worries about paltry Christmases are addressed. Tying Santa to the historical realities of post-bellum children's lives made him and his magic more believable.

The developing technology of late nineteenth-century photography could also be harnessed to heighten excitement about Christmas. Take, for example, these two stereographs from our Graphics Division.

F. G. Weller, "Christmas Scenes—No. 282" and an untitled stereograph labeled in manuscript on verso, "Santa Claus- No. 172."
These images featuring Santa, one as he prepares to descend the chimney and the second as he enters the home with his pack of toys, could be used with a stereo viewer to see them in three-dimensions. Whether through poetry, literature, or photography, Santa's plausibility—and the excitement about his visit—surely grew when these media interacted with children's already vivid imaginations. As these items from the Clements's collections show, the collective interest in building the season's wonder has found imaginative outlets through the years, harkening to children's lived realities to make the magic feel all the more special.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Giving Blueday at the Clements Library



Today the University of Michigan is hosting Giving Blueday, a university-wide campaign to participate in the growing tradition of Giving Tuesday, a global day of generosity to mark the opening of the holiday season. All of us at the Clements Library would like to invite you to join in this initiative. Your support enables us to build and preserve our world-class collection of early Americana.

For Giving Blueday you can choose from a number of different funds that advance our mission to collect and preserve the primary source materials used by students, scholars, and the general public alike. Consider giving to our Acquisitions Fund if you would like to support the Clements's efforts to purchase materials for our collections. The manuscript and rare book markets can be competitive and expensive, but our curators' keen eyes for "new" materials have made our collections some of the best in the world. While we continue to pursue large collections and the rarest of materials, more modest purchases add nuance and context to our holdings as well. If you wonder what your donation could purchase, consider this item recently acquired for $150.


A tongue-in-cheek elegiac poem for Chippie, the "only and beloved duck of J. N. Clark," this charming manuscript gives a unique glimpse into a nineteenth-century family's relationship with pets, death, and satire. All donations made today, no matter their size, can quickly add up and help us purchase such singular items. Another way to offer more general support for acquisitions, while also getting some added perks, is to join the Clements Library Associates. Contributing to this fund not only helps the Clements Library purchase extraordinary items, like this exquisite 1793 hand-colored manuscript map Plan de Carthagene en Murcie, but you also receive membership benefits such as invitations to special events, and our semi-annual publication, The Quarto.

Detail from Baerend, Plan de Carthagene, ([Paris?],1793), purchased with funds from the Clements Library Associates.

Many of our supporters and researchers enjoy the public programming offered by the Clements Library. Donating to our Lectureship Program helps host speakers on early America. Another way to help us reach wide audiences is through our Technology Fund. As an example of how digitized collections can be used, explore the webpage for the Arabella Chapman Project. The Clements Library has two unique photograph albums compiled by Arabella Chapman, an African American woman who lived in Albany, New York, and North Adams, Massachusetts. In collaboration with Dr. Martha S. Jones and her University of Michigan classes, the Clements has made these albums available online for student and public use.

Visit the Arabella Chapman Project, where you can digitally page through these unique albums, just one example of how the Clements Library's resources benefit from technological support.

Other digitization efforts currently underway are being made by our Joyce Bonk Assistant, Noa Kasman. She is currently working on establishing an online image bank for Clements materials and will be scanning books relating to African American history to be uploaded to HathiTrust. Whether you wish to sponsor a fellowship, as the Bonk family generously did, or give towards our general Technology Fund, your donation can further our efforts to get more content available digitally. For distant researchers having our materials online would make all the difference. Your donation can make this possible.

Our conservation initiatives go hand-in-hand with our digitization efforts, as both seek to preserve our collections for future use while making them as widely accessible as possible. Donating to our Conservation Fund could help us create custom housings to protect the most fragile items in our collections. Whether it be a simple wrap or an elaborate tray case, placing fragile bound manuscripts in protective coverings can help prevent shelf wear, light damage, and other environmental impacts. Our Charity Hospital (New Orleans, La.) Lunatic Asylum Admission Book contains admittance records from 1841-1848 for patients suffering from mental health troubles and contagious diseases. Relevant to the history of science, gender, race studies, and other subjects, this admission book contains a wealth of information. However, in order to ensure that it remains in usable condition, it needs some help.
 

The volume's binding is very fragile, its original cloth cover is fraying, and some pages have separated from the spine. Your donation to our Conservation Fund could go towards protecting incredible resources like this, ensuring that all of its information remains available for study by researchers and students.

If you find it difficult to choose just one area to support the Clements Library, you can always opt to donate to our General Fund, which will grant us the freedom to use your generous contribution to support the multifaceted operations that keep our Library a world-class institution.

As we celebrate the generosity and open-heartedness that characterizes Giving Tuesday, we hope that you will consider the Clements Library as a worthy recipient for your contribution.

Please support the Clements Library today. If you would like to discuss giving opportunities further, please contact Angela Oonk at angmo@umich.edu or phone 734-647-0864.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving from the Clements Library

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and here at the Clements Library we're thankful for all of our supporters.

From a recent acquisition, The Club Room Gazette, a manuscript magazine produced by members of the Everett Literary Association in 1861. This beautifully illustrated volume is in need of conservation, one of several ways your Giving Blueday donation could be put to good use.

December 1st is Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving that celebrates generosity as we enter the holiday season. We hope you will consider participating in the University of Michigan's part in it, Giving Blueday.

This is the second annual Giving Blueday, and we invite you to take advantage of this chance to make a gift to the Clements Library. Your donation makes a difference to us and can sponsor our acquisitions, conservation, and outreach.

Please join us on December 1st in this new tradition of generosity!



Thursday, October 29, 2015

From the Stacks: Skeletons

With Halloween right around the corner, here at the Clements Library our thoughts have turned to all things spooky that send shivers up your spine. While perhaps not as sinister as ghouls and goblins, the bare human skeleton has a disconcerting effect all its own that lends it symbolic weight.

Our Book Division has a sampling of tracts that use the human skull as a tool to emphasize the dire impact of immoral behavior. A sermon preached at the funeral of Joshua Spooner, a man who was "barbarously murdered at his own gate… by three ruffians, who were hired for the purpose by his wife," was published in 1778. If Pastor Nathan Fiske's admonishments against this "blackest catalogue of sins" were not enough to deter wayward minds, the publisher included a woodcut of a skull and cross bones to underline the dire consequences awaiting sinners.

Detail from Nathan Fiske, A sermon preached at Brookfield, March 6, 1778: on the day of the interment of Mr. Joshua Spooner (Danvers: E. Russell, 1778), p. 3.

The image must have resonated with the audience, or at the least with Ezekiel Russell, the publisher, for six years later he included it again in the evocatively named American Bloody Register. The narratives of the "lives, last words, and dying confessions" of notorious high way robbers and pirates are accompanied by the same forbidding skull and cross bones, now amidst the message "See and fear and do no more so wickedly."

Detail from The American Bloody Register: containing a true and complete history of the lives, last words, and dying confessions of three of the most noted criminals that have ever made their exit from a stage in America (Boston: E. Russell, [1784]).

The skeleton's implication of moral danger and death served as a not-so-subtle reminder of the final consequences that awaited criminals and sinners. Heightening this connection, some publishers directly evoked the style of gravestones. The popular death's head imagery that appeared on many colonial grave markers as an icon for mortality resonated strongly into the eighteenth century. The Ungodly Condemned, published in 1771 on the occasion of a murderer's execution, certainly conjures up thoughts of death as well as the body (and soul's) final resting place.

For those interested in pre-1800 gravestones from Northeastern America, the Farber Gravestone Collection is available online.

Of course, not all skeletons serve moralizing ends; some function in a more scientific context. Our 1795 New Medical Dictionary features some stunning illustrations of human anatomy, including this jauntily posed skeleton.


Medical practitioners, for good reason, can be drawn to the skeletal figure as a symbol for their work with the human body. The Clements Library's Harvey L. Sherwood Memorial Collection includes London apothecary William P. Marshall's manuscript notes, which he entitled "Medical Manipulation." His hand-drawn title page includes a crest topped by a human skull. The skeleton's obvious symbolic link to human mortality makes it an especially appealing addition to this volume of medical information aiming to stem its tide.



The linkage between the human skeleton and death makes it an apt satirical tool, as well. In this ca. 1813 print by William Elmes, the devil stands astride a sea monster that unleashes a barrage of unholy matter on a British seaman. Lambasting the American's recent adoption of explosives and torpedoes during the British blockade of New York in the War of 1812, this print uses a skeleton to represent death. Its pugilistic stance further emphasizes how sailors had to face mortal danger, an unnerving prospect in reality even if humorously portrayed here.

William Elmes, The Yankey Torpedo (London: [Thomas Tegg], [ca. 1813]).
A detail of the print's bad-tempered skeleton.

The symbolic weight of the skeleton makes it an appealing figure, even in the more relaxed moments taken up with doodling. In a wastebook in our Constantin Family Papers, a rather pleased looking skeleton appears holding death's sickle and a bottle of some unhealthy concoction.


While foreboding in its nature, this skeleton still seems terribly cheerful, and as well he should be as we approach Halloween, the season that celebrates his ilk!

Monday, October 5, 2015

From the Stacks: Preserving a Dried Strawberry

We recently received a Twitter query related to the strangest items in archival collections. Meg Hixon, who did extraordinary work at the Clements Library as a Project Archivist, recalled that we have a dried strawberry in our James Caswell Knox Papers. This small berry was enclosed in a letter written by Catharine Knox on June 18, 1865, to her husband who was serving in Virginia with the 147th Indiana Infantry during the Civil War. While carefully wrapped in a scrap of newspaper, she made no direct mention of the fruit in her letter, so her intentions remain obscure.

The strawberry appears here in its original newspaper wrapper.

Its enclosure in the letter and its careful preservation over the centuries signal its importance. Did it represent the comfort of familiar summer-time fruits growing at home to a soldier experiencing the horrors of war?

We preserve all materials enclosed in our manuscripts, whether they be newspaper clippings, hair, dried flowers and plant life, teeth, dirt, pounce, or any other item. These objects can provide any number of insights about the writer, their environment, or the processes they used in the creation of the manuscript. Researchers who make use of our collections can help parse out their meanings, and in the meantime we are charged with the task of preserving these special items. We handle these conservation challenges on a case-by-case basis, trying to determine what provides the best care for these fragile enclosures. For this particular strawberry, our conservator created a custom housing made from cotton, acid-free paper, with a special pocket to prevent the brittle berry from becoming damaged by movement, which was then placed in a separate envelope. The strawberry's newspaper wrapper received a similar treatment. Using cotton paper, rather than Mylar, lets this fibrous berry to breathe and helps prevent the appearance of mold.

The strawberry's new housing protects the fragile fruit and helps prevent mold issues.


The collections at the William L. Clements Library contain rich information about the past, and these enclosures, sometimes whimsical but often revealing, add unique details to that body of evidence. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Recent Acquisition: Rare Early Work by Native American Author

Post by Emiko Hastings, Curator of Books

The Book Division is pleased to announce a significant new acquisition, Diego de Valadés' Rhetorica Christiana (1579).  This purchase, courtesy of Liber Antiquus, Early Books & Manuscripts, fills an important gap in our holdings of early printed Americana. It is "almost certainly the first book written by a native of Mexico to be printed in Europe." The book itself is in excellent condition, bound in contemporary limp vellum and with all illustrations intact.

Mexica city with Aztec temple at center.

Valadés, the son of a native Tlaxcalan woman and a Conquistador, was educated by the Franciscans and later admitted to the Order. A native speaker of Nahuatl, he also learned other indigenous languages such as Otomí and Tarascan and used his language skills to proselytize among Native Americans for twenty years. In 1571, he was invited to Europe, and in 1575 named procurator general of the Franciscan Order at Rome. He wrote this work in order to teach missionary preachers the rhetorical skills necessary to compose and deliver sermons specifically to an Amerindian audience. It includes biographical information about Valadés, descriptions of Amerindian culture, a brief history of Mesoamerica, and an account of Franciscan missionary activities in the New World.

Depiction of the Franciscan method of evangelization in the New World. Within a stylized "memory palace," the Franciscans are shown preaching to, educating, and ministering to the Amerindians. 

The book contains twenty-seven remarkable engravings, designed by Valadés himself, which illustrate and expand upon his rhetorical teaching method. They include depictions of the Franciscans preaching to and educating the Native Americans, two mnemonic alphabets to aid in memorization, an Aztec calendar wheel superimposed with the Julian calendar, and a striking bird's-eye view of a Mexica city.

Franciscan preaching to an Amerindian audience with the aid of illustrated screens.

Valadés' theory of memory emphasized the use of images to communicate across cultural barriers. Visual images could be used as mnemonic keys to aid memorization and recall of various ideas. Preachers could employ large, illustrated screens as backdrops to their sermons, as shown above. Valadés encouraged the use of oratorical skills to provide more lively, compelling sermons, and recommended that preachers use descriptions of New World culture and environment to help connect the Native American audience to new concepts. For example, his first mnemonic alphabet shows correspondences between letterforms and the shapes of common objects, while the second alphabet shows the connections between letters and sounds. Many of the objects and symbols he employed refer to indigenous objects and concepts.

Mnemonic alphabet using New World imagery.

This acquisition is a significant addition to our rare book collection, and one that will provide multiple research opportunities for the campus community. Its text and images may be useful for the study of Native American history, Franciscan missionary activities in the Americas, the development of rhetorical and visual teaching methods, and much more. We hope that faculty and students will be able to make use of this material in any related courses or research projects. 

Images and catalogue description courtesy of Paul Dowling, Liber Antiquus, Early Books & Manuscripts.

Further Reading:

  • Linda Báez Rubí, Mnemosine Novohispánica: Retórica e Imágenes en el Siglo XVI (México: Univ. Nacional Autónoma de México, 2005). 
  • Francisco de la Maza, "Fray Diego Valadés, escritor y grabador franciscano del siglo XVI," Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, 13 (1945): p. 15-44. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Palm Trees, Sugar, Slavery, and More

Post by Brian L. Dunnigan, Associate Director and Curator of Maps

The Clements Library is known to historians and scholars of other disciplines as a primary source repository of “Americana” dating between 1492 and 1900. For all too many members of the history and the University of Michigan communities, however, that word suggests collections documenting mainland, English-speaking North America, particularly the territory that became the United States. Admittedly, that is the part of the Americas most heavily represented in the Clements Library’s books, manuscripts, maps, and graphics. However, Canada, both French and British, is nearly as well documented and, as noted in our last electronic newsletter, it remains a priority area for collecting.

South and Central America, with their primarily Native/Hispanic colonial cultures, are best represented in the Library by printed works from the age of European exploration and their colonial history. The collection is not as strong in books and manuscript materials from later periods in South and Central America, but we do have numerous maps and a respectable sampling of graphic items. We also hold concentrations of titles published during times of crisis—the South American wars for independence and the Mexican-American War for example.

Rene Phelipeau's Plan de la plaine of Cap Francois en L'Isle de St. Domingue (Paris, 1786) provides details of property lines, names of planters, and locations of slave quarters on the fertile northern plain of Haiti.

In this issue we introduce the Library’s third best-documented region of the Americas—the Caribbean. The West Indian sugar islands of the Greater and Lesser Antilles have a long and turbulent history. They were the arrival point of Christopher Columbus in the autumn of 1492. He was followed by other explorers and settlers, who exploited and soon destroyed much of the indigenous population. Needful of labor, the islands became the cradle of the practice of African slavery in the Americas. Politically, they were a cockpit of naval and military conflict from the colonial era through the Napoleonic Wars.

Documentation of the West Indies is to be found across the Library’s divisions, and the subject is an area of active acquisition by both gift and purchase. Much of our holdings relate to sugar production, trade, military and naval activities, and slavery. A fine example is Nicolas Ponce’s Recueil de Vues des lieux principaux de la colonie françoise de Saint-Domingue,which provides a visual overview of France’s richest American colony. The book includes maps and highly detailed plans and views of the towns and countryside. Foreground figures in the views provide animation and details of daily life as they undertake activities ranging from surveying to dancing. Published in Paris in 1791, Ponce’s book of images depicts the colony as it was on the eve of the great slave uprisings of 1791 that would devastate the colony and turn the French planters’ way of life upside down. The turmoil would also lead to independence for Haiti, of course. Other published histories recount Haiti’s struggles and preserve accounts of observers, participants, and refugees (many of whom made their way to Philadelphia). Manuscript collections, such as the papers of Anne-Louis de Tousard, provide further useful documentation on this particular event in Caribbean history.

A French cartographer named Warin drew this manuscript map illustrating the progress of a French landing force that wrested the island of Grenada from the British in July 1779.

Evidence of slavery may be found in almost every part of our West Indies holdings. The manuscript letters of the Tousard Papers contain correspondence describing the treatment of slaves on Haiti, while the Tailyour Family correspondence records the activities of a Scottish merchant family, whose business ventures in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries included large holdings of land and slaves on Jamaica. All in all, a cursory search of Clements Library manuscript finding aids turns up 99 collections with substantial West Indian content.

The Library’s Graphics Division is also strong in images of the Caribbean, both photographic and pre-photographic, Most revolve around the production of sugar or the frequent outbreaks of warfare between European colonial powers that inevitably involved their American possessions. Fighting was particularly widespread during the Seven Years' War, the American Revolution, and the wars that followed the French Revolution. The Graphics Division holds visual material as diverse as a series of colorful prints from the 1830s showing the steps of sugar production on the island of Antigua to a group of five watercolor views of St. Lucia drawn by British Lieutenant Charles Forrest in 1780 and '81.

British engineer Henry Mercier carefully drew a plan of the British bombardment of Havana in 1762.

A particularly significant event late in the Seven Years’ War was the British siege and capture of Havana in 1762. British engravers produced celebratory portfolios of views of the campaign, notably Elias Durnford’s Six Views of the City, Harbour, and Country of Havana (London, 1764, later reproduced as part of the Scenographia Americana of 1768) and Philip Orsbridge’s Britannia’s Triumph (London, 1764).

The Clements collection is also rich in atlases—Dutch, German, French, and British—that contain printed maps depicting the Caribbean islands. The last three years has also seen a successful effort to expand our holdings of separate maps of the West Indian islands, both printed and manuscript. Recent additions include Daniel Paterson’s 1780 map of Grenada that reveals much detail on crops and mills as well as a French manuscript map showing how their forces captured the island from the British in 1779. Other new maps include a French manuscript of the chief harbor of St. Lucia at the time of its reoccupation by French forces in 1784; a 1753 manuscript plan (including slave quarters) of the Fleuriau plantation on Haiti; a 1793 plan of Cartagena, Colombia by a French engineer; and published plans of St. Domingue and Puerto Rico. 

This finely detailed plan shows the plantation of Aime-Benjamin Fleuriau as it was in 1753. The important production buildings and residence appear at center. At the bottom are two parallel rows of penciled rectangles -- quarters for Fleuriau's slaves.

The hunt for documentation continues, sometimes with surprising results. While in England in July, our manuscripts curator purchased a pair of letters dated 1762 and signed by “Alexander White Lieut. of York troops.” At a glance the letters seemed to be a plea by a British officer for assignment to America—promising additions to our Seven Years' War collection. But, as so often is the case, there proved to be much more of a story to these two brief letters.

One of the documents is dated (10th Octor, 1762); the other is undated but clearly part of the same exchange of correspondence. The dated letter was written from “ye Cap”—then known to the French as “Le Cap” (today Cap Hatien). From context, it is clear that Lieutenant White was an officer of the New York provincial battalion assigned to the British expedition against Spanish Havana. But why was he in St. Domingue (Haiti), a French possession? The answer, after limited research, seems to be that White’s transport, along with several others, had been captured at sea by the French frigate Opale. Soon after, the warship was wrecked on the north coast of Haiti and the prisoners apparently taken to Le Cap. White, in his letter, was actually pleading with a French official to be allowed to give his parole and return to his home in New York, where he could be with his wife and three small children rather than be transported to a prison in France. We have not yet discovered the result of White’s request.

The Clements Library collection holds much of interest for scholars studying the Caribbean. We encourage you and your students to make use of these resources following the reopening of the renovated Library building in January 2016.