Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays from the Clements Library!

This holiday card from 1929 was created for Mr. William L. Clements, the founder of the Clements Library. The illustration is based on an etching of the exterior of the library by Wilfred B. Shaw. His work can also be seen in the circular Clements logo on the library website.

Wilfred B. Shaw was a graduate of the University of Michigan in 1904. He attended the Art School in Chicago, and was known for his work as an artist and etcher of UM campus scenes, buildings, and personalities. From 1929 to 1951, he was the director of alumni relations for the University of Michigan. The Wilfred B. Shaw papers are held at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Current Exhibit at Hatcher Graduate Library: 200 Years of Cookies

The Clements Library and the Hatcher Graduate Library present an exhibit giving an overview of the history of cookies in "200 Years of Cookies." The exhibit showcases cookbooks from both collections, as well as 19th century American cookie cutters and cookie molds from the Clements.

The exhibit is now open in Hatcher's North lobby and Gallery, and will be there through January 15th.

The history of cookies is probably impossible to trace back to its beginnings. The Roman writer Apicius gives a description of a wheaten paste that was cooked, cooled, and fried, then served with honey and pepper. This technique was used in the Middle Ages to make small sweetened biscuits called cracknels, which continued to be made into the 19th century. Another early form of cookie was sweetened and spiced dough made up into as flat gingerbread cakes, often decorated or baked in elaborate forms such as those pictured in these cases. Traditional forms of gingerbread and its relatives lebkuchen and leckerli are still made for festivals in northern European countries, notably Germany and Switzerland.

The books and recipes shown in this exhibit follow the career of cookies through 200 years of publication, beginning with recipes dating from 1805 with The art of cookery made plain and easy (the 1st American imprint of a work originally published in London in 1747) and continuing to cookbooks of the present day, all drawn from the collections of Hatcher Library and the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at the William L. Clements Library.

Monday, December 7, 2009

National Letter Writing Day: The Lost Art of the Handwritten Letter

While the origins of this obscure December 7 holiday are unclear, the tradition of having letter-writing days can be traced back to a time when handwritten letters were the most common form of communication. Before the invention of the telegraph, the typewriter, or the computer, handwritten letters were both an art form and an essential part of everyday business. To illustrate this history, we present the following examples from the Book and Manuscript Divisions of the Clements Library.

Numerous books offered advice on the etiquette of writing letters, improving one's penmanship, and using handwriting analysis to learn about a person's character.

The universal letter-writer; or, Whole art of polite correspondence: containing a great variety of plain, easy, entertaining, and familiar original letters, adapted to every age... (1808)

Image caption: "MINERVA Recommending YOUTH of BOTH SEXES to acquire a knowledge of Writing Letters on the various Occurrences of Life, while Genius attends with a Crown of Laurel, and Ignorance, ashamed of being seen, is trampled under foot."

Etiquette books like this one provided aspiring letter-writers with samples of letters to write for every occasion. This particular book includes such varied and useful examples as "From a young Gentleman to his Father claiming a promised Increase of Allowance," "From a Gentleman to a young Lady of superior Fortune," "From a Gentleman, who had long neglected a Correspondence to his Friend," and "An ironical Letter to a Slanderer."

If you would like to know how to properly issue a challenge for a duel, see page 120:
The epithets which you were pleased to bestow upon my late conduct, being, in my opinion, illiberal and impertinent, I demand that satisfaction due to injured honor, -- and, therefore, insist upon your meeting me tomorrow, with whatever friend you may think proper, in order to settle this business according to the laws of honor.

I am, Sir,
Your humble servant."
Dean's analytical guide, to the art of penmanship (1805)

This book by Henry Dean offered, according to the title page, "a variety of plates in which are exhibited a complete system of practical penmanship made easy and attainable in much less time and greater perfection than by any other method in present use."

The ornamental flourishes on the title page attest to the author's own skill and dexterity. Good penmanship was an important consideration at this time for many people. It was an essential skill for aspiring businessmen to enter the world of commerce. Women of leisure were expected to develop a more delicate, feminine style of handwriting for social correspondence. Gentlemen of higher status, by contrast, sometimes affected an illegible scrawl to show that they did not have to work for a living.

Handwritten letters make up a large part of the manuscript collections at the Clements Library. Courtship letters, letters home from soldiers on the battlefront, business letters, and many other types of correspondence found in these collections can provide a glimpse into people's lives in the past. These three examples illustrate the great variety of handwriting that can be found in such collections.

Platt R. Spencer to Victor Rice. January 31, 1848.

In the 1840s, Platt Rogers Spencer (1800-1864) and Victor M. Rice (1818-1869) developed a system of cursive handwriting, to facilitate the quick and legible authorship of letters and documents (for business and personal use). The Clements Library's Victor M. Rice papers contain around 380 incoming letters to Mr. Rice, including a large selection of Platt Spencer's correspondence. In the decades following their initial 1848 publications, "Spencerian penmanship" was integrated into schools across the country.

George Manor Davis Bloss manuscript. Unknown date.

This manuscript, written by George M.D. Bloss (1827-1876), lawyer, editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, and Democratic political writer, shows the importance of penmanship by negative example. So poor was his handwriting that only one compositor at his Cincinnati office was supposed to have been able to read it - and this employee was apparently retained for that purpose.

Sargeant and Martha Beach to Reverend Joseph P. Fessenden. September 29, 1838.

This image shows part of the first page of an extensive letter respecting a family move from Bridgton, Maine, to Sharon Centre, Ohio, jointly written by Sargeant and Martha Beach.

Cross-writing was a letter-writing technique employed to conserve space on costly paper and to minimize postal fees. The writer or writers would fill their paper, then return to the first page and continue by writing over the original text at a 90 degree angle. The practice was generally disliked for the difficulties it posed for the recipient, as cleverly noted by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) in his 1888 booklet Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter Writing: "When you get to the end of a note-sheet, and find you have more to say, take another piece of paper – a whole sheet, or a scrap, as the case may demand; but, whatever you do, don't cross! Remember the old proverb, 'Cross-writing makes cross reading.'"

If these examples from the Clements Library collections have inspired you, consider writing a letter to someone today to celebrate this little-known holiday. Even in the age of electronic communication, sometimes a handwritten letter still says it best.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Today in History: Thanksgiving during the Civil War, November 24, 1864

Although we traditionally trace the origins of this holiday to the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621, it did not become an annual celebration in the United States until 1863 and a federal holiday in 1941. In the colonial era, days of thanksgiving were designated throughout the year by individual colonies as a time for prayer and fasting. After the Revolutionary War, Thanksgiving days were occasionally proclaimed by American presidents or governors of individual states. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation on October 3, 1863, proclaiming a national Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November.

The Clements Library collections include a wide array of materials related to Thanksgiving in American history, beginning with early colonial observances and continuing through the 19th century. To offer a glimpse of these rich holdings, the following items from the collection all describe a single date: Thanksgiving, November 24, 1864. Through printed materials and manuscripts centering on this particular date, we can see how Americans experienced this holiday in the midst of the Civil War.

The Union League Club's "Report of the committee on providing a Thanksgiving Dinner for the soldiers and sailors, presented December 14th, 1864." Includes copies of correspondence among the organizers, a description of the event, lists of those who contributed money or food for the dinner, and a summary of the expenses ($57,102.33).

During the Civil War, the Union League Club of New York determined to provide a Thanksgiving dinner to every soldier and sailor in the Union Army on November 24, 1864. They solicited donations from Northern citizens and distributed shipments of food for the dinner to as many of the army regiments and navy vessels as they could reach. The main challenges were to organize the donations pouring in from every Northern state, and keep the food from spoiling during transport by ship or railway to the different encampments. It was estimated that at least 373,586 lbs. of poultry was provided for the occasion, in addition to "an enormous quantity of cakes, doughnuts, gingerbread, pickles, preserved fruits, apples, vegetables, and all the other things which go to make up a Northern Thanksgiving Dinner." The organizers declared the effort a "grand success."

Benjamin C. Lincoln to Dora F. Lincoln, November 26, 1864

Writing to his wife from his post in Key West, Florida, during the Civil War, Benjamin Lincoln described the Thanksgiving dinner he had on the 24th. At that time, Benjamin Lincoln was a major with the 2nd United States Infantry Regiment (Colored).
"Thanksgiving night we had a first rate supper which Mrs. French & Weeks prepared. Some most excellent cakes and other things which I did not think possible to manufacture on this Island. We had a very pleasant time after supper all our officers were together and had a social chat.

I wished you were here but then wishes did not bring you, so I shall have to remain content until you can come, whenever that happy event may be."
On the same day, at the Second Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn, New York, the Rev. N. West delivered a sermon titled "Victory and Gratitude. A Thanksgiving Discourse." His was one of many Thanksgiving sermons delivered on November 24, 1864. The Clements Library has an extensive collection of American sermons, of which there are several hundred such Thanksgiving day addresses, dating from 1690 to the end of the 19th century.

Friday, November 13, 2009

From the Stacks: Two Hollow Books

In the Clements Library book collection, one small shelf of books has the call number "Curiosa." Here may be found oddities that fit nowhere else in the collection, including these two hollowed-out books. The smaller one is the Oeuvres choisies de Bossuet, volume 24 (1824), and the larger one is the Historie ecclesiastique par Monsieur l'Abbe Fleury, volume 1 of 20 (1722). Books like these provide an intriguing glimpse into the history of the book as an artifact. While most books are intended to be read, people have also used them for many other purposes such as decoration, furniture, or even storage.

Such book boxes, also known as "book safes," have a long history of use. They have been used to hide valuables from theft, smuggle weapons, drugs, and other contraband, and camouflage recording equipment and explosive devices. When backgammon was banned in England during the time of Henry VIII and all backgammon boards were ordered to be burned, people crafted them inside hollow books to conceal them. Hollow books were used during Prohibition to smuggle bottles of alcohol. Hiding an object in a book is also a popular plot device in fiction and film, including the movies From Russia with Love, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Matrix.

These book boxes were made by gluing the pages together, then cutting out the center of the text block and lining the interior. While hollow books may be considered delightful curiosities or useful hiding places by many, some book lovers can only regard the destruction of the book itself with horror. In The Anatomy of Bibliomania (2001), Holbrook Jackson eloquently writes:
"But what shall we say of those ghouls, chiefly in France, who scour the auction rooms, the booksellers' shops and the stalls, for choice and ancient bindings which they turn into boxes by gluing the pages together, cutting out the type area, and so translating books into receptacles for cigarettes, cigars, liqueurs, jewels, chocolates, bon-bons, or note-paper? And what of those who encourage this ghoulish trade? They are no better than body-snatchers, desecrators of the temple, vain, tawdry, callous, whether sellers of such monuments of destruction or buyers of them, biblioclasts and dolts to boot, necrophils of a sort..."
A typewritten note inside the Histoire ecclesiastique, presumably written by a past book curator at the Clements Library, reads, "This shell, once a book, is not placed here as a curiosity, but as a shameful example. The existence of this kind of thing is the reason some people may not share in the joys of this library."

If you want to try this at home, please don't use a library book. Better yet, create a faux book by decorating a box to look like a book. Almost as good, but without the guilt, and then you can have fun making up imaginary titles to use for your faux book collection. Charles Dickens had a collection of such books, with entertaining titles like The Corn Question by John Bunyan, Dr. Kitchener's Life of Captain Cook, and Mr. J. Horner on Poets' Corner. Another fake library, described by Aldous Huxley, included such titles as Biography of Men who were Born Great, Biography of Men who Achieved Greatness, Biography of Men who had Greatness thrust upon Them, and Biography of Men who were Never Great at All.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Playing Ball with Legends: An Afternoon with Don Lund, Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009, 4:00 p.m.
in the Main Room of the Clements Library
909 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Enjoy never-before published personal stories about famous sports legends.

Please join us to hear noted local businessman Jim Irwin and legendary University of Michigan athlete Don Lund. Jim will be discussing his new book, Playing Ball with Legends: The Story and the Stories of Don Lund. This is an exciting biographical look at one of Michigan’s most talented and honored athletes.

Don Lund is the winner of 9 varsity letters at UM, a member of the University of Michigan Hall of Honor and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and a Major League baseball player. He will speak about his years as an athlete and a coach with the University of Michigan and his career as a Major League baseball player. Don is admired by thousands and this will be an entertaining and interesting look at his career.

This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. For additional information, please contact the Clements Library at (734) 764-2347 or

Monday, October 19, 2009

An Exhibition and Symposium: "Reframing the Color Line: Race and the Visual Culture of the Atlantic World"

Exhibit dates: October 19, 2009 - February 19, 2010
Exhibit location: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
Curated by Martha S. Jones, Associate Professor of History and Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan, and Clayton Lewis, Curator of Graphics, Clements Library.

Symposium dates: October 30, 31, 2009
Symposium location: 1014 Tisch Hall, 435 S. State St., University of Michigan, Department of History

The William L. Clements Library presents "Reframing the Color Line: Race and the Visual Culture of the Atlantic World." This exhibition and symposium explore the origins of American racism in visual culture by examining original 19th century engravings, lithographs, watercolors, and books. Through an interdisciplinary approach, "Reframing the Color Line" explores the interplay between visual culture and U.S. race politics of the early nineteenth century. Visitors will come away with a better understanding of racism's past. They will also acquire a new, critical vantage point on how race continues to be constructed by the visual culture of today. Many images we confront in our everyday lives have long histories that imbue them with social meanings.

"Reframing the Color Line" centers on the work of Philadelphia artist Edward W. Clay. The artist’s most notorious series, "Life in Philadelphi"” was published in the late 1820s. Clay deployed caricature to pose questions about who African Americans, many of them former slaves, could be in a nation that relied upon race and slavery to signal inequality and difference. Clay invented black figures that uttered malapropisms, wore clothing of exaggerated proportions, struck ungraceful poses, and thereby failed to measure up to the demands of freedom and citizenship. His ideas were cruel, yet enduring.

The Exhibition reframes "Life in Philadelphia" in two new contexts. The series was influenced by parallel developments in Europe’s visual culture. The exhibition contrasts the series with the work of British and French caricaturists and reveals the trans-Atlantic roots of racism in visual culture. "Life in Philadelphia" also had a local context. In Philadelphia, Clay was only one of numerous artists to portray African Americans. Others, including Patrick Reason, Charles Willson Peale, James Akin, and John Lewis Krimmel, portrayed black Philadelphians as respectable, sympathetic and at times unremarkable figures on the urban landscape.

Visitors will be challenged to consider how these works, which drew upon well-established, fine arts techniques, also perpetuated derogatory ideas. The core materials are as provocative as they are important. Great care has been taken to ensure that their presentation teaches about their origins and meanings, while never perpetuating the pernicious stereotypes they contain. To meet this challenge, an interdisciplinary team from university programs in History, Museum Studies, American Culture, History of Art, and Afroamerican Studies has advised the production of this project. This exhibit will appeal to scholars, students, and members of the general public who have an interest in American history and culture, art history, ethnic studies, and graphic satire.

The symposium, scheduled for October 30, 31, 2009, will discuss issues related to race and 19th century visual culture, and the role of archives and museums in the construction of historical memory. The symposium panelists are:
Corey Capers, University of Illinois, Chicago.
Jasmine Cobb, University of Pennsylvania.
Erica Armstrong Dunbar, University of Delaware.
Martha S. Jones, University of Michigan.
Phillip Lapsansky, Library Company of Philadelphia.
Elise Lemire, SUNY Purchase.
Clayton Lewis, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Samuel Otter, University of California, Berkeley.
The symposium events will be held at Tisch Hall on the University of Michigan central
campus and will be free and open to university faculty, students, and the public. There
will be a reception at the Clements from 4:30 - 6:00 pm on Friday October 30.
Symposium email contact:


FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30. 1:00 P.M. – 4:30 P.M.

Samuel Otter. University of California, Berkeley. Department of English.
'Have You Any Flesh Coloured Silk Stockings?' : Re-Viewing Edward W. Clay's 'Life in Philadelphia.'

Corey Capers. University of Illinois, Chicago. Department of History.
Reading Bobalition: Toward a Genealogy of Satiric Public Blackness.
Erica Armstrong Dunbar. University of Delaware. Department of History and Black American Studies Program.
Reading, Writing, and Womanhood: Representations of African American Women in the Antebellum City.

Elise Lemire. SUNY at Purchase. Department of Literature.
Edward Clay's "Practical Amalgamation" Series.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30. 4:30 – 6:00 P.M.


SATURDAY, OCTOBER 31. 9:30 A.M. – 1:00 P.M.

Jasmine Nicole Cobb. University of Pennsylvania. Annenberg School for Communications.
Race in the Trans-Atlantic Parlor: Diffusions of "Life in Philadelphia."

Martha S. Jones. University of Michigan. Department of History, Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, and Law School.
Trans-Atlantic Visions: The Case of Haiti's Faustin Soulouque.
Phil Lapsansky, Curator of African American History, Library Company of Philadelphia.

Clayton Lewis. Curator of Graphic Materials, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan.

COREY CAPERS teaches Early American History and African American Studies from the Seventeenth to the mid-Nineteenth Century. Among the courses he has recently taught are: Ritual, Print and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Anglo-America; Authority, Resistance and Power in Early America; Black Lives in Revolution; and A History of Punishment: From Early Modern Europe to the Nineteenth-Century U.S. His primary areas of interest are in racial practice, print culture and citizenship during the Revolution and Early Republic as reflected in his dissertation, Black Voices/White Print: Race-making, Print Politics and the Rhetoric of Disorder in the Early National U.S. North. He is currently working on his book project entitled Public Blackness: Racial Practice, Publicity and Citizenship in the U.S. North, 1776 - 1828 as well an article entitled "Reading Bobalition: Racial Publicity and the Shaping of Democratic Order, 1816 - 1834."

JASMINE NICHOLE COBB is a doctoral candidate in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation, "Racing the Trans-Atlantic Parlor," considers representations of Black women in popular culture of the early nineteenth century. More broadly, her writing and research focuses on race, gender, and visual culture.

ERICA ARMSTRONG DUNBAR specializes in 19th century African American and Women's History. She received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1994 and her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2000. Her first book is entitled: A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City (Yale University Press, 2008). She is currently working on her next book length project that focuses on African Americans and mental illness in the 19th century.

MARTHA S. JONES is Associate Professor of History and Afroamerican Studies, and Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Jones is the author of All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830-1900 (2007), which examines nineteenth-century debates over the rights of women. She directs the Law and Slavery and Freedom Project, an international research collaborative with Rebecca J. Scott (Michigan) and Jean H├ębrard (EHESS). Her current book length project is Overturning Dred Scott: Everyday Life at the Intersection of Race and Law in an Antebellum City. Jones is co-curator of the exhibition "Reframing the Color Line," with Clayton Lewis of the Clements Library.

ELISE LEMIRE is the author of two books on race in the antebellum Northeast. "Miscegenation": Making Race in America, originally published in 2002, was recently reissued in paperback by the University of Pennsylvania Press. Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts was published this past spring, also by the University of Pennsylvania Press. She is the recipient of several fellowships, including two year-long fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Educated at Yale and Rutgers and now Associate Professor of Literature at SUNY Purchase, Dr. Lemire is currently working on a book about the largest mass arrest in Massachusetts history, which took place when Vietnam Veterans Against the War attempted to camp on the Lexington Battle Green.

SAMUEL OTTER has taught in the English Department at the University of California at Berkeley since 1990. His research and teaching focus on nineteenth-century United States literatures. He is particularly interested in the relationships between literature and history, the varieties of literary excess, and the ways in which close reading also can be deep and wide. He has published Melville's Anatomies (1999), in which he analyzes Melville's concern with how meanings, particularly racial meanings, have been invested in and abstracted from human bodies. He recently finished a book entitled Philadelphia Stories, in which he examines the narratives about race, character, manners, violence, and freedom that unfold across a range of texts written in and about Philadelphia between 1790 and 1860.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Clements on the Air: 1949 Radio Show Featured Dramatizations of Library Materials

Did you know the Clements Library had a radio program in 1949? "Treasures Off the Shelf" was a 13-episode show on the Michigan radio station WUOM that featured dramatizations of materials from the collection. The subjects of the episodes were:
  1. Columbus returns to Spain & reports to the King and Queen
  2. Benedict Arnold offers West Point to the British
  3. Washington plans to trap Cornwallis at Yorktown
  4. Invasion from the north! General Burgoyne at Saratoga
  5. Sebastian Cabot in England
  6. Captain Thomas Morris prevents a second Pontiac War
  7. The Declaration of Independence is delivered to George III
  8. The siege of Fort Detroit, 1763
  9. Valley Forge, winter of 1777-78
  10. Battle of Quebec & death of General Wolfe
  11. The preliminaries at Yorktown
  12. Thomas Paine and the Battle for Trenton
  13. The surrender at Yorktown
Each episode focused on a document or book from the Clements Library and recreated the historical events surrounding it. The scripts were written by William Bender of WUOM, in cooperation with Clements Library staff, and read by actors recruited from the University of Michigan campus. Each Thursday evening the shows were recorded in front of audiences at the WUOM studios.

Highlights of the transcripts include this imagined conversation between William L. Clements and a book dealer:

Clements: Is that what I think it is?

Quaritch: The “Columbus Letter.” Printed in 1493 by Stevan Plaanck.

Clements: I am definitely interested.

Quaritch: Splendid. I have it right over here.
The transcripts and other materials from this radio show have been archived by the Bentley Historical Library in the records of the WUOM radio station. The collection includes a sound recording of episode 8, "The Long Siege," based on the diary of Jehu Hay.

No recordings of the other episodes are known to have survived. In 1950, tape copies were distributed to schools by the Audio-Visual Education Center at the University of Michigan. If you have any information about their whereabouts, please leave a comment on this post to let us know.

Citation: WUOM Records, 1914-1982, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Future of the Book Symposium, October 10, 2009

The Clements Library, The Special Libraries Association-U of M chapter, and the School of Information invite you to a fall 2009 interdisciplinary conference "Digital Book Debates" asking the question, "What is the future of the book?"

This event will be held in the Main Room of the Clements Library on October 10, 2009, 10:00-4:30. Clements Library Director Kevin Graffagnino will be participating in the first panel, "The Physical Book and Its Future."

Online registration is available through the official event website at Questions about the event can emailed to

Schedule of events

Registration and refreshments

Panel 1 Presentations - The Physical Book and Its Future- (Shannon Zachary, Kathy Beam, Kevin Graffagnino, Nicholas Theisen)


Lunch (On Your Own)

Panel 2 Presentations- The Current State of Digital Publishing (Maria Bonn, Phil Pochoda, Mary Sauer-Games, and Melissa Levine)



Panel 3 Presentations- The Future of Publishing and Collections (Richard Adler, Paul Hartzog, Nicole Garrett, and Eli Neiburger)


Closing Remarks

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Online Exhibit in honor of Banned Books Week

Dangerous Ideas: Controversial works from the William L. Clements Library

In honor of Banned Books Week, this online exhibit from the William L. Clements Library presents twenty titles from the collection that have been the subject of controversy at different moments in history.

These books span over four centuries, from the Nuremberg Chronicle in 1493 to Elinor Glyn's Three Weeks in 1907. They provide examples of actual or attempted censorship by governments, social organizations, and private citizens. The topics of controversy, from witchcraft to abolitionism to adultery, show how societies' values have changed over time as subjects that are taboo in one generation become commonplace in the next.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recently Published: Article about the Clements in the Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily has a new article about the Clements Library: "Off the Beaten Path: William L. Clements Library," by Gracelin Baskaran. The article includes quotes from Tom Dziuszko, longtime Clements Library volunteer, and Ann Rock, director of development at the library.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

In honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, we offer several examples from the pirate-related materials at the Clements Library. The library has a variety of books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and maps related to the history of pirates, buccaneers, privateers, and other folks on the high seas.

Did pirates really say, "Arrrr, matey"? Probably not, but you can find accounts about real pirates in the Clements Library. The picture below is from the 1699 English translation of The History of the Bucaniers of America, by A.O. Exquemelin. This book is a collection of writings from or about several different pirates, including the one depicted in this portrait, Captain Henry Morgan. The Clements Library has several different editions of this work in different languages.

In the Lyttelton Papers at the Clements Library, there is a handwritten letter of marque issued by the government of King George the II in 1756. Letters of marque were used by governments to authorize someone to seize property from a foreign party. Such documents were issued to privateers to legalize activities that would otherwise have been considered piracy. This 4-page letter, of which the first page is shown below, has blank spaces on the later pages to fill in the names of the captain and ship.

There are also a variety of "true confessions" of pirates, based on testimony given at their trials. Some of these are quite sensational and possibly exaggerated, such as that of Charles Gibbs in 1831. Charles Gibbs was one of the last people to be executed for piracy in the United States. His exploits were marked by exceptional violence and cruelty; before his death, he confessed to participating in the murder of over 400 people. This is described in "Mutiny and murder : confession of Charles Gibbs, a native of Rhode Island" (1831).

His story is also recounted as a cautionary tale for youth in the song "Charles Gibbs: The Pirate's advice to those who witnessed his awful end," sung to the tune of "The Rocks of Scilly."

The song begins:

"Oh, all that now stand round me,
Take warning by my fate,
Avoid the path of sin and death
Before it is too late.

I once had tender parents
Who dearly loved their son;
But I proved disobedient
And into follies path did run."

Stanzas 10 and 11:

"We hoisted up the Black Flag,
And a Pirate I became;
I then committed cruelties
Too dreadful for to name

No sex nor age we spared
But all we took was slain;
No mercy did we ever show,
For dead men tell no tales."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Recent Acquisitions: Iconic Images of Custer's Last Stand

The Clements Library has acquired two prints depicting Custer's last stand: John Mulvany's "Custer's Last Rally" (1881) and Cassily Adams' "Custer's Last Fight" (1885). These two iconic images provide the best known representations of the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Mulvany, "Custer's Last Rally"

Adams, "Custer's Last Fight"

Both of these images were widely copied and distributed. As can be seen from the text on the Adams print, it was reproduced by the Anheuser Busch brewing company, which distributed it to saloons across America and made it one of the most famous images in American art.

Part of their popularity can be attributed to American fascination with the event itself, which shocked the nation in 1876 when news of Custer's defeat spread. The story of Custer's last stand is one of the most memorable events in American history, partly because it remains controversial to this day. These famous depictions of Custer's last stand contributed to his myth as a heroic figure, although other information about him provides a much more troubling image. Modern reinterpretations of the battles between U.S. forces and Native Americans have given a more sympathetic understanding to the Native American perspective, in which Custer's actions were anything but heroic.

The Clements Library holds a variety of materials related to Native American history and the history of the American West. Search the library catalog or manuscripts finding aids for more information on our holdings.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Today in History: Kicking Off the UM Football Season at the Clements

To celebrate the opening of the University of Michigan 2009 football season, we offer this selection of football-related items from the Clements Library collection.

University Foot-Ball: The Play of Each Position Treated by a College Expert, 1893
This book, edited by James R. Church, includes portraits of players, illustrations of plays, and diagrams.

Foot Ball Rules: As Recommended to the University Athletic Club by the Rules Committee, 1896
This pamphlet, part of the Spaulding's athletic library series, contains rules, a summary of the 1895 season, a discussion of the All-America team for 1895, letters from players, and a variety of individual and team portraits throughout. The University of Michigan football team had the following scores for the 1895 season (p. 101):
U. of Michigan, 34; Mich. Mil. Acad., 0.
U. of Michigan, 42; Detroit A. C., 0.
U. of Michigan, 64; Adelbert College, 0.
U. of Michigan, 40; Rush Med. College, 0.
U. of Michigan, 42; Oberlin College, 0.
U. of Michigan, 0; Harvard, 4.
U. of Michigan, 12; Purdue Univ., 10.
U. of Michigan, 20; U. of Minnesota, 0.
U. of Michigan, 12; Chicago Univ., 0.

Romance of Prairie Gold, 1939, is a promotional item from the culinary ephemera collection. Written as an educational item for young readers, it promotes corn and its products. It contains several illustrations, including this one of athletes playing football.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Kerrytown BookFest, September 13, 2009

The 7th Annual Kerrytown BookFest will be held in and around the Farmers’ Market in Ann Arbor on Sunday, September 13, 2009. The theme of this year’s Fest is Culinary History and Culinary Michigan. Clements Curator of American Culinary History Jan Longone will be honored with the KBF’s Community Book Award. The Award will be presented by Ari Weinzweig, Honorary Chair of the 2009 Fest and co-founder of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses.

Following the Award presentation Jan will moderate a panel on Local Foods in the World and Global Foods in Michigan. Panel members are Ari Weinzweig and Jane and Michael Stern, authors of the the “Roadfood Column” in Gourmet Magazine and on NPR. All serve on the Honorary Committee for the Longone Center for American Culinary Research.

Many other events relating to culinary matters will be available at the Fest, including an Edible Book Contest and the presentation of Awards for the second annual Book Cover Contest winners. This year’s book was a facsimile of the first American cookbook: American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, 1796.

For details and further information, visit the official Kerrytown BookFest website.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Clements Library Has a New Sign!

On Friday, August 21, workers installed a blue University of Michigan sign in front of the Clements Library. We hope this will increase our visibility and make it easier for visitors to find us on S. University Avenue.

Visitors are welcome to come in the front door of the library and see the Main Room on Monday through Thursday from 1:00 pm to 4:45 pm, and by special arrangement. Stop by and see the current exhibit, 1759: Britain's Year of Victories.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Five Ways to Use Google Books for Historical Research

The University of Michigan is partnering with Google on the Michigan Digitization Project to scan the print collection of the University Library. Scanned books from the University of Michigan can be searched in the Mirlyn library catalog and on Google Book Search. Google Book Search, which searches the full text of millions of books, will provide snippets of page results from copyrighted works and full text results for materials that are out of copyright.

Although the Clements Library is not currently part of the Google project, here are five ways that Google Book Search can be useful to Clements researchers:

1. Find a starting point for your research. Get an introductory understanding of a historical topic and see what kinds of sources may be relevant for further study. Since Google Books searches the full text of published books and magazines that have been digitized by this project, it will often yield higher-quality information than general search engine results. This can lead you to further books and manuscripts, including Clements Library materials which you can use in person at our library.

2. Find obscure biographical information about an individual through listings in directories, genealogies, and other printed sources in Google Books. For example, the Clements Library has the Fyffe family papers, 1756-1847. One member of the family about whom little was known was David Fyffe of the 46th Regiment of Foot. A search for "David Fyffe 46th" in Google Book Search retrieved information about his family estate, his regimental history and dates of promotion, and an obituary listed in the Gentlemen's Magazine.

3. Track down an unattributed quote by searching for a phrase. For example, an unsigned poem in the Owen Lovejoy papers began with the lines "Once there was a little boy that lived in a cottage by the wood / 'Twas on the edge of the prairie wide his father's cottage stood." Searching some of the main keywords in the poem led to a Google Books result for the title Minstrelsy of Maine: Folk-songs and Ballads of the Woods and the Coast, by Fanny Eckstorm. This book, found in the University of Michigan Library system, contained a different version of the poem with further information about its history.

4. Look for references to Clements Library materials in published secondary sources. Since Google Books searches the full text of books, references in footnotes and bibliographies can be found. For example, the Fyffe family papers from the Clements Library have been cited in several published works that can be found in Google Books, including Domesticating Slavery, by Jeffrey Robert Young; Scotus Americanus, by William Ranulf Brock; and Nation and Province in the First British Empire, by Ned C. Landsman.

5. Read full-text copies of books in the public domain, and get limited views of many copyrighted works. Some books owned by the Clements Library have copies in other libraries that have been digitized, so it's worth checking to see if it's already online. Google Books can also be a source for finding early publications about the Clements Library, such as this full-text book from 1922, A temple of American history: The William L. Clements Library by William Warner Bishop.

Find a book in Google Books and want to know if the Clements Library has it? Click on the link "Find in a library" and look at the owning libraries listed for that book on Enter your zipcode to find the copy nearest you, or look for "University of Michigan, William Clements Library" in the list of libraries to see if we have it.

Like any initiative, the Google Books project has its flaws, as this article from the American Historical Association points out. However, if carefully used it can be an invaluable tool for historical research. Also, remember that anything on Google Books can also be found in a library, as well as much more that is not online. Even in this digital age, the physical library can still be the best place to do research, and here at the Clements Library, we firmly believe in the enduring power of the written word.

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Out of the Blue" TV Show Featuring Jan Longone

Watch this video to learn more about the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at the Clements Library:

This video segment is from an episode of the Big Ten Network television show "Out of the Blue." Michigan Public Media produces this series that is hosted by Jen White of WFUM, and in this episode Charity Nebbe of WUOM interviews Jan Longone of the Clements Library. It aired on the Big Ten Network on March 19, 2009 and has been replayed several times on Michigan Television and PBS stations. This and other videos are available for download on the University of Michigan on iTunes U. You will need the iTunes program installed on your computer to play them.

Jan Longone says, "Early in 2009 I was contacted by Jay Nelson of Nice Work Productions about a very special new television series being undertaken by the Big Ten Network, WFUM/Michigan Television and PBS. Each member of the Big Ten was to produce an eight half-hour TV series about people on their campus “who are involved in particularly innovative and interesting work.” David Lampe, UM Vice President for Communications, selected the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at the Clements Library as one of the segments. Many months of work followed, culminating in a very long day of television taping. The opportunity to “show and tell” a few of the treasures of the Archive was a memorable experience. We were honored to be selected, to open the series, and to share the program with the newly remodeled Museum of Art. In addition, we have been pleased with the feedback and response we have had to the program."

For other views of the Culinary Archive and its holdings and work, see two recent lectures based on the collection: The Old Girl Network: Charity Cookbooks and the Empowerment of Women and 500 Years of American Grapes and Wines: A Remarkable Journey. The exhibits for these and other events can be found on the Culinary Archive exhibits page.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Tradition of Giving: Adopt a Piece of History

During the last 86 years, through the generosity of the University of Michigan and many important donors and leaders, the Clements has come to stand for excellence in the study of America history. But we are now beginning to write the story of the Clements in the 21st Century. We are starting a new program, Adopt a Piece of History, that asks people to fund purchases and conservation at the Clements. There are many books, manuscripts, maps and visual materials that we desire to add to the collection, but we are in need of additional support to do so. Also, some of our collection requires repair because of fragility and age. Consider a gift to the Clements Library to conserve an item or purchase one for our collection so that you can adopt a piece of history. Your contribution will make our internationally recognized collection available to a wider audience for years to come.

In addition to a direct donation, we welcome gifts in honor of a person or a special occasion, in someone’s memory, or to celebrate a special event. Each book will receive a bookplate to honor the donor. All contributions will be recorded in our electronic catalog with the name of the donor. The purchases listed below are recent acquisitions – your support will help to offset the cost of these additions to our library while those in need of conservation have been in our collections for many years.

1. Peter Henry Musty collection, 1862-1865. Recent purchase cost: $5,400

2. 1/6 plate daguerreotype by Glenalvin J. Goodridge. Unknown male sitter. ca.1847-1851. Recent purchase cost: $1,200

3. Original watercolor view of Baltimore, Maryland. Signed: S. Uesirne, 1848. Recent purchase cost: $2,228

4. Army Lists Conservation cost: $300-400 each, depending on extent of treatment needed

5. Ausben W. Dech school book, 1858-1860. Recent purchase cost: $762

6. Christian L. Fisher daybook and recipe book, 1851-1852. Recent purchase cost: $300

7. Memorials presented by the deputies of the Council of Trade in France to the Royal Council in 1701. London, 1736. Conservation cost: $400

8. A Lesson from the Providence of God. A Sermon, … Rev. W. I. Pond. Saratoga Springs, NY, 1863.
Recent purchase cost: $150

9. Cavan, R.L. A new system of military discipline founded upon principle. London, 1773. Conservation cost: $ 300

10. California Big Tree Joint Wine Exhibit, World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1893. Chromolithograph advertising ephemera. Recent purchase: $350.

I hope you’ll consider making a gift that will enable us to build our acquisitions and to better conserve our collection. Thank you for considering this special gift that will benefit the preservation and study of American history at the University of Michigan.

If you would like to support our Adopt a Piece of History effort, please contact Ann Rock by phone at 734-358-9770 or email her at

Friday, August 14, 2009

Recent Culinary Acquisition: Lone Star Cook Book

The Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive has recently acquired the Lone Star Cook Book and Meat Special: From the Slaughter Pen to the Dining Room Table, by A. Fillmore (1929). A. Fillmore, an African American man from Texas whose father was also in the restaurant business, worked for hotels, cafes, and two railroad company dining car services during his thirty-year career. This book contains recipes and menus from Lubbock Hotel, Texas, where he was a chef. He writes, "I was born in Cuero, Texas, March 13, 1888, was reared in Victoria, Texas. I am trying to make cooking a larger success for the young colored man" (p. 90).

African American culinary history is one of the strengths of the culinary collection at the Clements Library, so we are happy to add this scarce title to our holdings.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Clements Library Online Exhibits

In addition to regular exhibits in the Main Room of the library, the Clements also offers a variety of online exhibits through the library website. These are listed on the Exhibits page of the library website, along with the current and past exhibits presented in the library. Online exhibits provide a portal into the collections of the Clements Library, bringing together a variety of manuscripts, prints, photographs, books, and maps on a particular theme. For those who can't come to the library in person to see our exhibits, this can be a great way to get an introduction to our collections. For more information, see the list of our online exhibits below.

Women's Education Evolves, 1790-1890

San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, 1906

Spy Letters of the American Revolution

500 Years of American Grapes and Wines: The Literature of a Remarkable Journey

The Old Girl Network: Charity Cookbooks and the Empowerment of Women

Colonial Photography: Viewfinder on the Past

George Washington: Getting to Know the Man Behind the Image

Benjamin F. Brown and the Circus in America

Summer Paradise: the Role of Railway and Steamboat Lines in Promoting Vacation Travel

Coming soon ... an online exhibit on controversial works from the Clements Library collections, in honor of Banned Books Week, September 26-October 3, 2009.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Introducing the New Library Catalog

The University of Michigan Library has officially launched the new Mirlyn catalog this month. The new catalog is designed to make searching easier and more intuitive.

To search for Clements Library materials in the new catalog, select "William L. Clements Library" from the drop-down menu at the top of the page. Books, maps, and some manuscript collections are available through this catalog. To search for more manuscript collections, see the Manuscripts Division finding aids.

In the new Mirlyn, search results are returned in order of relevance, the way they would be in a Google or search. The most relevant results should appear at the top of the page. However, the new catalog will also sometimes return several hundred or thousand results for a search, many of them not what you're looking for. If you have too many results, use the options in the left-hand column to narrow your search. The advanced search feature also provides more ways to specify what you are looking for.

If you prefer the older version of Mirlyn, it is still available as Mirlyn Classic.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Recently published: "Michigan's Bibliomaniac," by J. Kevin Graffagnino

The latest electronic issue of Fine Books & Collections contains a new article written by the Clements Library director, J. Kevin Graffagnino. "Michigan's Bibliomaniac" provides a history of William L. Clements as a collector, from his early years to the founding of the William L. Clements Library in 1923. The great collection he built still forms the core of the Clements Library today, among the best collections of early Americana in the world.