Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Civil War-Era Valentine's Day Print in the Peter H. Musty Papers

While serving as a drummer with the 61st Ohio Infantry Regiment during the Civil War, Ohio-native Peter Henry "Hank" Musty wrote many a letter to his friends and family back home.  Hank was most often in communication with his parents and his brother Francis.  He would occasionally send letters and illustrations depicting scenes of camp life.  In one such letter to Francis, written sometime between April and May of 1863, Hank confided that he received "a valentine in a letter from 719y 298sb59829, and it was a mighty nice one too and I send [sic.] one to her, it was a nice large one and no doubt you will hear about it."

Hank was fond of using encryption in his letters; he employed a simple substitution code in which numbers 1 through 9 corresponded to letters of the alphabet.  Once deciphered, 719y 298sb59829 translated to Mary Ernsburger, a fellow resident of Greensburg, Ohio, who seems to have harbored a crush on the young musician.  Stating that he "never intended to send any [Valentine] to anyone," Hank seemed to imply that he returned Mary's gesture out of politeness.  After imploring Francis to notify him if he heard anybody discussing his "nice large" valentine, Hank also enquired about what "Pip & 74th29 [i.e. mother]" may have had to say regarding the matter.  In the last line of the letter Hank admitted that he "can't quite understand mother's hints in her letters" and hoped that Francis might help him deduce what their mother truly thought of his exchange with Mary.

Tucked away among the letters and illustrations in the Peter H. Musty Papers is an undated, commercially-produced Valentine's Day print that may have been the gift Hank received from Mary.  Depicting a man playing guitar whilst serenading a woman on a balcony, this charming little valentine contains the text of a romantic poem which reads: 

"My song is mute, the strain
Which melodized each line,
My sentiments convey
To thee my Valentine."


The Civil War is one of the first military conflicts in which a significant number of participants were letter-writers and diary-keepers; Hank Musty was one of many thousands of American soldiers who were able to trade Valentine's Day gifts and/or maintain passionate correspondence with their sweethearts over the course of the war.  Hank returned to Greensburg in 1864 after being discharged for medical reasons.  We are currently uncertain as to whether or not he and Mary pursued a relationship upon his return.  Regardless of the outcome, the record of their exchange serves as a fine example of a soldier's long-distance brush with the romance and social dynamics of the holiday.


Letter transcription: "Francis I can't write you much just now, but I am agoing to tell you something which I want you to keep to yourself.  Don't tell any one anything about it.  The other day I got a valentine in a letter from 719y 298sb59829 and it was a mighty nice one too, and I send one to her.  It was a nice large one and no doubt you will hear about it I want you to tell me all if there is any thing said about.  I never intended to send any to any one but I done it to return her favor.  What does Pip & 74the9 say about me writing to her.  I can't quite understand mothers hints in her letters.  Can't you tell me? … [rest of letter torn away]"

Jakob Dopp
Reading Room Supervisor

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Ins and Outs of Cataloguing Atlases

Many years ago, a fellow map librarian said to me, “If you want to study old maps, be ready to do gymnastics.”  Those words stuck in my mind as I undertook to help a Dutch colleague by photographing all the maps in a series of Dutch atlases in our collection.  As the picture shows, this endeavor is definitely a gymnastic affair.  A ladder is required to get sufficient height to take in the sometimes very large maps folded inside the atlas. The sheer weight of some volumes demands muscle tone and core strength to move them around. So why, the reader asks, is such a performance necessary at all? Aren't these atlases described sufficiently in our catalogue?


No, they are not.  Sometimes we simply do not know what our atlases are, and occasionally it is only the title, name, and date on the spine that informs the catalogue entry.  This is because for the great centuries of atlas production in Europe– the 17th and 18th -- there was no standard format for an atlas, which was merely a collection of maps.  An atlas could be assembled by a collector, a printer, a geographer, a publisher, and bound at the time of collection or many years, if not decades, later.  To add to the confusion, because there were no copyright laws, and privilege only extended to the country of origin, maps were often copied and re-printed in a different city, sometimes with nothing changed, not even the printed place of production.  Thus it can be difficult, for example, to distinguish an original map by the well-known French geographer Guillaume Delisle published in Paris from the excellent copy made by Pierre Mortier in Amsterdam.

Sorting out copies from originals, random collections from designed productions, requires the expertise of a map scholar who closely studies all the known copies of particular atlases and creates a catalogue that may be consulted by map librarians to identify what is in their local collection.  Such a catalogue exists for Dutch atlases, the Atlantes Neerlandici, first published by Cornelis Koeman in the 1970s, and now being updated and expanded by Peter van der Krogt.  As van der Krogt was working through the atlases produced by Pierre Mortier, Covens and Mortier, Pierre Husson, Nicolas Visscher, Frederick de Wit, and Carolus Allard, he noticed many atlases associated with these names in the Clements Library.  The easiest way for him to consult these twenty atlases was for his old friend and colleague Mary Pedley to photograph them and for him to tell us what they are.

The result of this effort will be a closer and more refined identification of what we have in our rich collection of atlases, an improved catalogue entry for each of them, and a visual digitized record for readers to consult who cannot visit the library in person.  A winning project all around and worth every minute on the ladder!

Mary Sponberg Pedley
Assistant Curator of Maps

Friday, February 2, 2018

From the Stacks: Battle Estrays

Soldiers’ wartime letters and diaries sometimes contain references to items picked up on the battlefield or seized from enemy property. For example, the Henry Clinton Papers at the Clements Library contain letters and other materials captured or intercepted from Americans during the Revolutionary War. Battlefield artifacts such as bullets and other objects may be found in the realia collections of the Graphics Division.

In the Book Division, we have traditionally catalogued books of this kind using the local subject heading “battle estrays,” apparently a usage unique to the Clements Library. This terminology hints at the circumstances of the book’s capture without specifying the manner in which the item may have been acquired. Under this heading, you will find a handful of books in our collection with interesting stories to tell. Our “battle estrays” are usually inscribed with a brief note from a previous owner outlining the history of the object, purportedly captured during a military conflict. In some cases, this history may be supplemented by later notes from family lore. In researching these items, one must consider whether the inscriptions can be taken at face value. Whether to tell a better story, conceal wartime looting, or provide a more valuable association, it is always possible that the inscriptions do not tell the whole truth about the provenance of these books. 

The earliest known example in the collection is a book from 1733, Robert Warren’s The Devout Christian’s Companion. It bears the inscription: “Jesse Banister at Saratoga Oct ye 11 1777 This book was taken from one of Burgoins men at the above date.” This date falls just after the Second Battle of Saratoga on October 7, 1777, when British forces led by General John Burgoyne were defeated by the American forces under Benedict Arnold.


Volume 3 of Jonathan Swift’s Miscellanies (London, 1742) is the second "battle estray" connected to the American Revolution. This volume is inscribed: “22d-43d-54th & 64d Regiments took possession of New York 5 Brigade. Taken in ye Field of Battle the 16th of September 1776 T:B:” First Library director Randolph Adams noted in The Colophon that the British occupied the lower part of Manhatten Island on the 14th and 15th of September, then started up the island on the 16th. The battle on the 16th, in which this book was picked up, took place about what is now 126th St.


We have one item linked to the Mexican War, Instruccion para la Infanteria Ligera del Ejercito Mexicano (Mexico, 1846). It contains the signature of Lieut. Thomas R. McConnell, 4th Inf'y. U.S.A. Fort Chapultapec. Mexico, Sep. 13th 1847. This is the date of the U.S. attack on Chapultepec Castle, during which this book was apparently taken.

Nine “battle estrays” can be found among our Civil War books. Unsurprisingly, five are Confederate imprints, such as William Gilham's Manual of Instruction for the Volunteers and militia of the Confederate States (Richmond, Va., 1861) captured at Fort Donelson; William Hardee's Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics (Nashville, Tenn., 1861) "taken from the Rebels at Nashville, Tenn. March 26th 1862," A Manual of Military Surgery (Richmond, 1863) picked up after the Battle of Atlanta, and A Digest of the Military and Naval Laws of the Confederate States (Columbia, 1864), removed from General Lee's captured baggage train. One prayer book was reportedly "thrown overboard from the rebel blockade runner Robert E. Lee off Wilmington, N.C." in November of 1863.


Other purloined titles included The Washingtoniana: Containing a Biographical Sketch of the Late General George Washington (Baltimore, 1800), The Letters of Curtius (Richmond, 1804), and Reliquæa book of poetry by Emma M. Blake.

One particularly interesting item is the Lectures of Lola Montez (Countess of Landsfeld) Including Her Autobiography (New York, 1858). According to the inscription, it was taken from a deserted mansion in Charleston, South Carolina in March of 1865 by Luis F. Emilio, a Captain of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The 54th Massachusetts was the first Union regiment to consist of African American enlisted men. Captain Emilio became acting commander of the regiment on July 18, 1863 and mustered out of the army on March 29, 1865.


Finally, the collection contains three examples of books salvaged from World War II. Major Robert Benaway Brown, Curator of Books from 1946 to 1950, brought back a slim volume recovered from the city of Isernia in 1944. Another book, Royal Westminster and the Coronation, was damaged by a bomb in London. The inscription reads, "One of some 2000 books variously injured in 217 Amesbury Avenue, Streatham, London by a flying-bomb on June 29th 1944. Four were killed in the opposite house. I, the occupant of No. 217, and my wife were seriously injured and buried under debris. R.P. Howgrave-Graham."


The last item, a charred remnant of a book from a burned library, was salvaged by an American soldier and is now preserved in a cloth case. These artifacts remind us of the great losses suffered during wartime as well as the personal stories behind many of the books we care for in this collection.

Emiko Hastings
Curator of Books

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Locating the Gage Trunks

Every manuscript collection in the Clements has its own tale of survival and travels from the time of its creation until safely ensconced on the shelves of the Library. One of the most interesting is that of the papers of Thomas Gage (1719-1787), British commander-in-Chief in America from 1763 to 1775. It was on Gage’s watch that the American colonies exploded into rebellion, and his papers are critical to understanding events of the time.

William L. Clements was fortunate to purchase the papers directly from General Gage’s descendants. Not only was their provenance perfectly documented, but the papers were even shipped from England to Bay City in the same twelve military document trunks in which they had been filed during Gage’s command and then sent to England in 1775. In 1937, following the settlement of Clements’s estate, the twelve boxes full of documents arrived at the Library in Ann Arbor.


The Gage Papers were mounted and bound to make them accessible to researchers. But what of the trunks? Each is a significant artifact of the American Revolution that had spent its days in America at the epicenter of the British command. Unlike the letters and documents, however, the twelve trunks were “realia,” (three-dimensional objects). To many archivists they were of little or no use in a research library. Over the twenty years after their arrival at the Library the trunks were gradually dispersed until only one remained. Even that one had been given away but was later returned to the Clements.

This lone box appeared to be of a standard design, 32 x 21 x 12 inches high, constructed of sturdy pine planks dove-tailed at the corners with wrought iron hinges and handles and a lock. The lid is covered with a sheet of canvas painted in “Spanish brown” (a reddish brown color) to repel water. The rest of the box is painted the same color. On the lid, spelled out in upholstery tacks is the message “Secty Off / N 7 / 1770.” We have interpreted this to mean “Secretary’s Office, Number 7, 1770.” The seventh year of Gage’s actual appointment as commander was 1770, which might explain the number and date. Coincidence? Inside is a level of built-in pigeonholes with 14 slots (2 x 7). Above this is a removable tray with another 14 slots. Small paper labels once identified the contents of each box.

Several members of the Library staff have become intrigued by the mystery of the missing 11 trunks and have resolved to find out what had become of them. The long-time answer is that “they went to good homes.” In the course of talking with Library “old-timers” we collected clues that might account for as many as 7 of the 12. Then we hit the jackpot and found two of the trunks in Ann Arbor! They have since been returned to the Library. Both are of nearly identical construction to No. 7. Both lack some of their internal components, and one has lost its canvas covering and tacking on the lid. The other, however, bears the message “Sectys Off / No 8 / 1771.” A 1937 photograph of four of the trunks together includes one readable lid. It says “Sectys Off / No 3 /1766.” It appears that our hunch that each box was labelled to a specific year of Gage’s command just might be correct.


So far, three of the trunks are in the Library, and rather shaky clues suggest what might have happened to another four. We are very excited about this development and invite anyone who might have seen one of the Gage trunks or know of its whereabouts to please let us know.

Brian Leigh Dunnigan
Associate Director and Curator of Maps

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Map Division: Mapping Sugar Production

The hurricane season has once again seized our attention as enormously powerful storms form over the North African desert and move out to sea, drawing up moisture as they drift westward.  Concern for family members who have moved to a warmer climate (and for permanent residents as well) draws more public awareness than usual to the waters south of the United States and help remind us that the Clements Library is not just a repository documenting mainland colonial and nineteenth-century America.  The Library also preserves primary sources of other regions of the Americas, including the Caribbean.  Although this electronic newsletter has previously trumpeted our West Indian holdings, these comments come as a reminder that our delightfully diverse collections continue to grow and include West Indian naval and military history, plantation life, commerce, production, agriculture, the sale and exploitation of enslaved people, natural history—from seahorses to big cats—and the life experiences of slaves in the Americas in an atmosphere swarming with sweat, squalor, and violence.

“Plan de l’habitation de monsieur de La Porte-Lalanne située au quartier du Cul-de-Sac,
dependence du Port-au Prince: En l’état ou elle se trouve cejourd’huy 12 Mars 1753.”

Over the last few years the Clements Library has been fortunate to acquire a considerable quantity of new documentation relating to St. Domingue as colonial Haiti was called.  The eastern half of the island of Hispaniola had become a Spanish colony, today the Dominican Republic, while the western half (Haiti) went to France.  By the middle of the eighteenth century, St. Domingue was the richest colonial possession of France, its wealth based on sugar.  The French Revolution changed that as different segments of its diverse population reacted in differing ways to events in Europe.  Slave uprisings, inter-class violence, foreign invasion, and civil war repeatedly shook the colony.  The situation was further complicated by British intervention and attempts by the French republic, and later the empire, to reestablish metropolitan control.  Haiti slid into poverty and instability and has never fully recovered.  Natural disasters, such as the devastating earthquake of 2010, have made improvement even more challenging.  Today this painful history has helped make Haiti the poorest nation in our hemisphere.

Scholars have not overlooked the Clements Library’s strong and growing collections on colonial and revolutionary Haiti.  In recent years a number of U-M history faculty have mined our holdings on Haiti while encouraging us to continue acquiring primary source material.  Recent additions include small collections of manuscript material from the 1790s and a French attempt to bring the colony back under metropolitan control in 1798; dramatic full-color prints depicting the burning of Cap Français and the nearby plantations in the early 1790s; and, most recently, a revealing and beautifully rendered manuscript plan of a sugar plantation situated just east of Port au Prince.

This latest addition to our Haiti material is also one of the most attractive pieces of cartography in a map collection that stands out for its high quality.  Like many of our recent acquisitions, it was acquired in France and surpasses all of our other property plats in its artistic technique and the information it provides about the organization and operation of an eighteenth-century sugar plantation.  This 96 x 71 centimeter work was drawn in 1753 by a talented but unidentified surveyor.  It is titled “Plan de l’habitation de monsieur de La Porte-Lalanne située au quartier du Cul-de-Sac, dependence du Port-au Prince: En l’état ou elle se trouve cejourd’huy 12 Mars 1753.”  The plantation’s crop fields are divided into 28 neat parcels.  All are shown as cane fields by the realistic rendering of the fields of tall stalks that must have been visible as far as the eye could see.  Large parts of adjoining properties appear around the boundaries of M. La Porte-Lalanne’s plantation, all labelled with the names of their proprietors.  One of them was Pierre Rigaud de Vaudreuil, Marquis de Vaudreuil (1698-1778), who was just ending his service as Governor of Louisiana in 1753 and who was fated to be the last Governor of New France (1755-1760).

Close-up view of the plantation portion of the map. Click to enlarge.

One block stands out from the sea of sugar.  It is clear-cut with the only trees being ornamentals or those bordering the drive to the buildings of M. La Porte-Lalanne’s plantation.  This part of the plan is the most informative, showing how sugar production was related to the facilities available and the organization of the infrastructure.  The Clements has at least one similar plan depicting the layout of a plantation in Haiti (also dated 1753), but it lacks a table of references to identify the structures.  Our new arrival has many similarities in its layout, and the two plans could also be compared with others to determine if there was a consistent pattern in the organization of a plantation’s infrastructure.
All of the structures of are numbered, and a table of references presents an Explication of the buildings, identifying them in some detail.  The numbers of the table commence with the plantation’s élite, the owner and his family.  “1” is the “main house” or mansion, and nearby is a carefully designed eighteenth-century formal garden.  The kitchen for the mansion is number “2.”  It is located in a building set well apart from the main house to reduce the threat of fire, the equivalent of the summer kitchens so common in the American South.  The coach house is number “3.”  M. La Porte-Lalanne’s property bordered the primary road to Port au Prince, and a coach or passenger carriage was a necessity when someone of his status wanted to go into town.  Number “4” is the hen house, located not far from the kitchen.

The remaining structures take us into the gritty, industrial part of manufacturing sugar from cane.  Number “5” is identified as the storehouse for grain, and “6” is the forge from which a blacksmith maintained tools and equipment.  Set at some distance from any of the habitations is the hospital (“7”), while some distance to the north (north is at the bottom of this map) are three long rows of “cabins of the Negroes” (“8”).  Number “9” identifies an area for the storage of waste and, nearby, a cooperage for the manufacture of barrels.  Many of the craftsmen were probably part of the enslaved population.

The true heart of the plantation is represented by numbers “10” through “12,” the sugar works with a trio of mills for grinding the cane, and “11,” the refinery or boiling house where the sugar water was removed from the waste cane.  Finally, number “12,” the brewery, probably made beverages for local consumption.

The 1753 plan of the buildings of M. La Porte-Lalanne’s sugar plantation provide a model and a check list of the infrastructure of a large-scale sugar operation.  Used with other plans, documents, and published works about St. Domingue and sugar-making, this new arrival can give us more insights into sugar and slavery in the Caribbean.

Brian Dunnigan
Associate Director and Curator of Maps

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Story from Clements Library Lore: "Young Man, Make It Americana"

From its founding, the William L. Clements Library has dedicated its collecting efforts to the subject of American history. While some aspects of the collecting scope have changed over the years, we have generally held firm to the idea that items must be "Americana" in some fashion.

Plato. [Platonis Opera omnia latine]. Colophon: Impressum Florentie per Laurentiũ [de Alopa] Venetũ, 1485.  
Soon after the Library's founding in 1923, our first Director, Randolph G. Adams, discovered the challenges of enforcing this rule against a determined library supporter. Junius E. Beal, a Regent of the University of Michigan and collector of incunabula, wished to donate his 1485 edition of Plato's works to the Clements Library. When Director Adams protested that it wasn't Americana, Beal replied, "Young man, make it Americana. That is what you are paid for."

Fortunately, Adams was able to find the connection in a 1922 catalogue entry for the book by dealer Joseph Martini: "Editio princeps of Plato's Works, and a book of interest to the Collector of Americana, as it contains the First Appearance in print of the Story of the Atlantis, which rests solely on the authorship of Plato, who sketched it in the Timaeus." A typewritten copy of this entry is tucked inside the front cover of Beal's Plato, lest anyone question why this book is shelved in the Rare Book Room.


This anecdote is recounted with some variation by Adams' son Thomas R. Adams in "Defining Americana," The Book Collector vol 57, no 4 (Winter 2008), page 562. He described the title in question as a 1480 edition of Cicero's Tusculanae Disputationes, a book which sits next to the Plato on the shelf but was in fact part of Clements' original donation.

Regent Junius Beal also left his mark on the Clements Library in the form of the "Beal Books" on our front lawn. These stone books were once the carriage steps at the Beal residence in Ann Arbor. 

Emiko Hastings
Curator of Books

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Out of the Ordinary Gems & Oddities Trivia Answers REVEALED

Many of you who visited our previous exhibit might have participated in the trivia challenge What Is That Thing?  We invited visitors to identify objects in case 16. We can now reveal their names and purposes! Read what the mystery objects were below:

First Item: Powder Tester

The first object is an eprouvette or gunpowder tester. To determine the quality of powder a small amount is placed in the tiny vertical barrel, the muzzle of which is covered with a flap connected to the notched and calibrated wheel. The flintlock on the side is primed and, with a squeeze of the trigger, the powder sample is ignited.  The force of the explosion is conveyed to the calibrated wheel so the tester can measure the strength of the powder.  The most imaginative visitor guess on this was an "eighteenth-century pizza cutter!"

Middle Item: Flash Pistol

The middle object is a photographer's flash pistol, used before flashbulbs to light a scene.  Only three individuals correctly identified this item.  The majority of our trivia players guessed that this was some type of stamp.

Last Item: Sticking Tommie

The final, right-hand item is called a "sticking tommie," a wrought iron candle holder that can be hung or driven into a post to provide illumination.