Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lecture by Leonard Walle: "Chasing the Light: 19th Century Astronomical Photography," February 27th, 2010

Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190

The work of 19th century photographers, painters, and astronomers interwove to capture and document astronomical events and record the fascinating workings of astronomers themselves. Leonard Walle shares this history and his fine collection of early astronomical photographs in a talk in the Great Hall of the Clements Library.

This event is co-sponsored by the Michigan Photographic Historical Society and the Clements Library, and is free and open to the public.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Today in History: Valentine's Day Cards

Saint Valentine's Day was first established in 496 A.D., and became associated with the celebration of romantic love in the Middle Ages. In the United States, mass-produced paper valentines were first sold in the mid-1800s.

The Ephemera collection at the Clements Library includes a variety of greeting cards for many occasions. A sampling of some of these cards shows the great diversity and creativity of 19th century Valentines. While the earlier cards are simple handmade items, the later commercial ones include embossed paper lace, pop-ups, and a profusion of flowers, hearts, and winged Cupids.

One of the most interesting early examples comes from the Mifflin family papers.This handmade card from the early 1800s has a poem that wraps around the cut-out shape of a Celtic knot. It reads:
"This is love & worth commending, still beginning never ending like a willy [sic] net ensnaring in a round shuts up all squaring; out & in goes every angle more and more does still entangle, keeps a measure still in moving never light but always loving twining arms exchanging kisses each partaking others blisses; laughing, weeping still together blessing one is worth in other never breaking ever bending."

Other examples from the collection:

Further reading on collections of 19th century valentines:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Black History Month at the Clements

The Clements Library has a wealth of materials on African American history, documenting many aspects of slavery, the abolitionist movement, the Civil War, and beyond. Much research remains to be done with these materials, to more fully explore the African American experience in the United States. Some highlights from the different Divisions include:

Book Division:
Narrative of James Williams, an American Slave (1838)
The American Anti-Slavery Society published this controversial account of James Williams' escape from enslavement in Virginia. African American engraver Patrick Reason created the striking portrait of Williams which appears in the book. (Currently on display in the Clements Library exhibit Reframing the Color Line, which closes February 19, 2010.)

Culinary Division (Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive):
Malinda Russell, A Domestic Cook Book (1866)
Printed in Paw Paw, Michigan, in 1866, this is the earliest cookbook authored by an African American. The Clements Library possesses the only known copy of this important work. 

Manuscripts Division:
Weld-Grimké papers (1822-1898)
These papers document the lives of Sarah M. Grimké, Angelina E. Grimké Weld, and Theodore D. Weld, prominent abolitionists and women's rights advocates. The collection includes a considerable amount of material on their involvement in the anti-slavery movement and correspondence with other prominent activists such as William Lloyd Garrison and James G. Birney.

Map Division:
"Map showing the proportion of the colored to the aggregate population: Compiled from the returns of  population at the ninth census of the United States 1870, by Francis A Walker."
Census maps such as this one, depicting the proportions of the African American population in 1870, can be of great value in understanding historical patterns and themes.

 Print Division:
"Come and Join Us Brothers: Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments"
 This print was a recruiting poster for black Union soldiers in the American Civil War.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Staff Favorite: First Map of the State of Vermont

Here at the Clements Library, we are sometimes asked, "What is your favorite item in the collection?" In a library full of great treasures, there is no easy answer to this question, and the answer will probably vary for each person. Starting with this post, the Clements Library blog will occasionally feature one of these favorite items, selected by a library staff member. These may not always be the most famous objects in the library, but the choices will reveal something of what we do here at the library and why we find this work so rewarding.

A Choreographical Map of the Northern Department of North-America, by Bernard Romans (Amsterdam: Covens, Mortier, & Covens, Jr.; engraved by H. Klockhoff, 1780)

Library director Kevin Graffagnino came to the Clements Library from his home state of Vermont. As he often says, his favorite item in the collection is this 1780 map by Bernard Romans, which hangs on the wall of his office. In his book The Shaping of Vermont, Kevin describes its significance:
"In the furious war of words that marked the early years of Vermont's independence, Bernard Romans's "Choreographical Map of the Northern Department of North-America" was a unique and impressive piece of propaganda for the supporters of the fledgling republic. As the first printed map to display the words "State of Vermont" for the area between the Hudson and Connecticut Rivers, Romans's work added something to the air of legitimacy that the beleaguered Green Mountain State's leaders were trying to establish for their new creation. Although the map also included parts of Canada, New York, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, Romans's emphasis was on Vermont, and to contemporary outsiders interested in the twists and turns of American developments during the Revolution, his map probably spoke as persuasively on the Vermont situation as any pamphlet or broadside from the pen of Ira Allen."