Thursday, March 29, 2012

From the Stacks: A False Deathbed Confession

Thomas Skinner, Another Voice From the Grave (Philadelphia, 1819). 
A handwritten note on the cover of this pamphlet hints at the intriguing story within: "This tract is an entire fiction. The particulars were fabricated by a base woman (Mrs. Sayres) and imposed on Dr. Skinner. The detection of the imposture produced very great excitement."

The pamphlet is Another Voice From the Grave, or, The Power of Conscience Exemplified in the Dying Confession and Exercises of an Unfortunate Female. Published According to Her Dying Request, written by the Rev. Thomas H. Skinner and published by the Tract Society of Philadelphia in 1819. It gives the deathbed confession of a woman who committed terrible sins, including adultery, prostitution, and murder. Her last words were, "Hell, hell is my everlasting doom."

This was meant to be a true cautionary tale to scare sinners into repentance. It was based on the testimony of a woman named Mrs. Sayre, who had witnessed the woman's last days. Skinner's introduction to the story assured readers that "of its entire authenticity there is no room to doubt." Unfortunately, it was soon discovered that Mrs. Sayre and another woman had fabricated the whole story. He investigated and published his findings in the American Sentinel, apologizing for the mistake.

The Rev. Skinner was sternly criticized in another pamphlet written in response: A Voice From the Living: addressed to the Rev. Thomas H. Skinner. By A Friend to Truth (Philadelphia, 1819). The anonymous writer observed that a visit to the street where this woman supposedly lived would have immediately revealed the story to be false. Moreover, he questioned whether it showed good judgment to publish the story, even if it was true. Surely it would do more harm than good to describe such terrible crimes in detail, and would be unlikely to cause any sinners to repent.

Skinner served as pastor of the fifth Presbyterian Church until 1823. He was a professor of sacred rhetoric at Andover Theological Seminary (1833-1835), pastor of the Mercer Street Church in New York (1835-1848), and professor of sacred rhetoric, pastoral theology and church government at Union Theological Seminary (1848-1871).

Other works by Thomas H. Skinner in the Clements Library:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Upcoming Event: Afternoon with the Curators: Founder's Day Lecture, April 19, 2012

Afternoon with the Curators: Founder's Day Lecture

April 19, 2012, 4:00 p.m.
Main Room, Clements Library

Please join the division curators as they highlight and display some of their favorite items from the various collections at the Clements.

Free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Library at (734) 764-2347 or visit our website:

William L. Clements Library 
909 S. University Ave. 
Ann Arbor, MI

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Clements Library Fellowships Awarded for 2012

The Clements Library is pleased to announce the list of fellowship recipients for 2012. See the Clements Library Research Fellowships page on our website for full descriptions of the fellowships offered.

Post-Doctoral Fellowships


Prof. Ruma Chopra, San Jose State University: “Imperial Governance After the American Revolution: The Logic of British Rule in Canada, in the Caribbean and in India.”


Prof. Ian Finseth, University of North Texas: “Born in Flame: Civil War Mortality and the Making of Modern America.”

Dr. Matthew P. Dziennik, The New School University: “Our Sovereign Lord the Mob: Committee and Community in Revolutionary America.”

Prof. Mary Stockwell, Lourdes University: “Confessions of a Mad General: The Life and Times of Anthony Wayne.”

Prof. Gregory D. Smithers, Virginia Commonwealth University: “The Cherokee Diaspora: A History of  Indigenous Identity.”


Prof. Brooke N. Newman, Virginia Commonwealth University: “Island Masters: Gender, Race, and Power in the Eighteenth-Century British Caribbean.”

Dr. Teagan Schweitzer, University of Pennsylvania: “Defining American Cuisine: An Exploration of American Identity Through Examination of Early American Foodways.”


Dr. Karen Marrero, Independent Scholar: “Making New Nations: Natives, M├ętis, and Euro-Americans and the Reconfiguration of the Midwest in the Nineteenth Century.”


Dr. Uriel Heyd, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem: “The Culture of Newspaper Reading in the British Atlantic.”

Jacob M. Price Visiting Research Fellowships

Stephanie Bergman, The College of William and Mary: “The Colonial Landscape of Material Improvement: An Archaeological and Historic Study of St. Nicholas Abbey Sugar Plantation, Barbados, WI.”

Michael Leonard Cox, University of California, Riverside: “Wyandot Communities and the War of 1812.”

Christine Alice Croxall, University of Delaware: “Holy Waters: Lived Religion, Identity and Loyalty Along the Mississippi River, 1780-1830.”

Dr. Huw J. Davies, King’s College, London: “Institutional Memory in the British Army, 1781-1815: Military Lessons from the British Strategic Defeat in the American Revolutionary War.”

Prof. Jonathan Den Hartog, Northwestern College: “Transatlantic Anti-Jacobinism.”

Vincent Denis, University of Paris, Sorbonne: “A British Commissioner in Paris: The Letters of William Mildmay (1750-1755).”

Prof. James J. Gigantino, University of Arkansas: “Freedom and Slavery in the Garden of America: African Americans and Abolition in New Jersey, 1775-1861.”

Dr. Lawence B. A. Hatter, University of Nevada: “A People in Between: The Laurentine Trade and the Making of an American State, 1763-1825.”

Donald F. Johnson, Northwestern University: “Occupied America: Politics and Society in Revolutionary Cities Under British Rule, 1774-1783.”

Jacob F. Lee, University of California, Davis: “Imaginary Empires: Natives, Newcomers, and Networks in the Illinois Country, 1550-1840.”

Paul Lee, Texas A&M University: “Soldiers in the Southeast: British Troops, Colonists, Indians, and Slaves in Southeastern North America, 1756-1763.”

Christopher R. Pearl, Binghamton University: “For the Good Order of Government: The America Revolution and the Creation of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1740-1790.”

Bryan Rosenblithe, Columbia University: “Where Tyranny Begins: British Imperial Expansion and the Origins of the American Revolution, 1759-1766.”

Simon Andre Thode, The Johns Hopkins University: “The Observational Sciences and Their Use in the Development of the Early United States, 1770-1820.”

Matthew Wyman-McCarthy, McGill University: “Empire After America: The American Revolution and the Origins of British Abolitionism, c. 1775-1793.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Upcoming Exhibit and Conference: "Proclaiming Emancipation: Slavery and Freedom in the Era of the Civil War"

October 15, 2012 - February 18, 2013
Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, Room 100 Gallery

Martha S. Jones and Clayton Lewis, curators. Sponsored by the Program in Race, Law & History and the William L. Clements Library, in cooperation with the Hatcher Graduate Library. It will feature rarities from the Clements and other sources.

Friday, October 26, 2012
Graduate Library Room 100 Gallery and Clements Library Great Hall

The objective is to develop a critical analysis of this complex moment in the history of slavery and emancipation in the United States and the world.

Eric Foner, Columbia University, History
Thavolia Glymph, Duke University, History
Martha S. Jones, University of Michigan Law, History, and Afroamerican and African Studies
Kate Masur, Northwestern University, History
William J. Novak, University of Michigan, Law and History
James Oakes, CUNY Graduate Center, History
Leslie Rowland, University of Maryland, History
Rebecca J. Scott, University of Michigan, Law and History
Michael Vorenberg, Brown University, History
John Witt, Yale Law School

The Keynote address by Pulitzer Prize winner Eric Foner, of Columbia University, will be at the Great Hall of the Clements.

Classes and groups are welcome to visit the exhibit Proclaiming Emancipation. To schedule a visit, please contact Clayton Lewis or Martha Jones.

See Upcoming Events at the University of Michigan Law School Program in Race, Law, and History for more information.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Recent Acquisition: Map of Grenada

Warin. Carte de la prise de la Grenade par Mr. Cmte. D'Estaing. le 5 Juillet 1779.

The Map Division of the Clements Library has recently acquired a rare Revolutionary War-era manuscript map of Grenada in the West Indies. This battle plan may provide the only contemporary visual record of the first phase of the battle for Granada between French and British forces during the American Revolution. It depicts the events on July 2, 1779, when 2,500 French troops attacked the British forces on Grenada, . Other early maps of the engagement record only the second phase, a large scale naval battle on July 6, 1779. 

This map, drawn only a few days after the events it depicts, is a precise and elegant work of cartography. The numbered legend on the right provides a roughly chronological sequence of the action, keyed by numbers to the plan. Roads, topography, dwellings, and other details are noted on the map. This is a unique and significant addition to the Clements Library's collection of manuscript Revolutionary War maps. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Current Exhibit: "The David P. Harris Collection: A Collector's Look at the War of 1812," February 27 - June 1, 2012

"The David P. Harris Collection:  A Collector's Look at the War of 1812"

February 27 - June 1, 2012

Curated by Barbara DeWolfe
Curator of Manuscripts

In the exhibit case at the east end of the Main Room, this exhibit supplements our main exhibit, The War of 1812: A Bicentennial Exhibition. It presents selections from the David P. Harris Collection on the War of 1812, a significant addition to the Library's holdings on this topic.

David P. Harris, a graduate at Kenyon College, received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Michigan in 1954 and retired as Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University in 1990. In his retirement he has pursued his longtime interest in early U. S. history, collecting original documents with a concentration on the War of 1812 and particularly on materials that reflect the effects of the war on so-called ordinary people or illuminate the personal lives – as distinct from the official acts and decisions – of the better known military figures of the time.

The David P. Harris Collection is a “Collector’s Collection.” A donor who has specific collecting interests donates materials to the library as he or she collects them and thereby builds a collection gradually. Collectors’ collections enhance the subject strengths of the library, or they expand our holdings in new areas, providing a foundation on which to build. The Harris collection does both – it fills in gaps in the Clements’ War of 1812 materials, and identifies new subjects, such as the United States Revenue Cutter Service, 1780-1802, another Harris donation. Collectors’ collections are both partnerships and legacies. We are truly appreciative of donors who wish to build their collections at the Clements Library.

Open to the public in the Main Room of the Clements Library, Monday through Friday from 1:00 pm to 4:45 pm. The Clements Library is located on the campus of the University of Michigan at 909 South University Avenue, Ann Arbor. For further information, visit our website or call 734-764-2347.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

In the News: Researching a Recipe

Ruth Gretzinger's post this week on the Michigan Marketing & Design blog provides a delightful example of the power of historical research. Ruth came across a reference to "democrat cake" in a novella set in 19th century New Mexico, and wondered what it could be. She contacted JJ Jacobson, Clements Library Curator for American Culinary History, to find out more about this mysterious food. JJ was able to locate a recipe in an 1886 book called The Queen of the Kitchen. Mystery solved! If only all research projects were this delicious.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Staff Favorite: Hand-Colored Astronomical Charts

Emi Hastings has been Curator of Books at the Clements Library since 2009. Although she is constantly discovering new favorite items in the stacks, one of the current top contenders is the Astronomicum Caesareum of 1540.

The Astronomicum Caesareum, perhaps the most elaborate scientific book ever published, is generally regarded as one of the great masterpieces of sixteenth-century printing. This lavishly-illustrated astronomical text, also known as the "Emperor's Astronomy," was published by the author Peter Apian, the court astronomer of Emperor Charles V. Its most notable feature is the 35 hand-colored woodcut volvelles, or movable paper circles, which allow the reader to calculate astronomical data and planetary movements. The volvelles, layered on top of each other and held together with silk threads, are both beautiful illustrations and functional scientific instruments. Apian adapted the idea of the astrolabe for the design of his volvelles, intending to make astronomy easier by replacing tedious mathematical calculations with these movable paper charts.

One of the most advanced astronomical works of its day, the Astronomicum Caesareum quickly became outdated. Its calculations and charts, although reasonably accurate, were based on the Ptolemaic system in which the sun revolves around the earth. Less than three years later, in 1543, Copernicus would publish his landmark De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, defining the modern heliocentric model with the sun at the center of the solar system.

According to some estimates, approximately 120 copies of the Astronomicum Caesareum survive, probably the majority of the print run. The astronomer Tycho Brahe recorded that he paid twenty florins for his copy (roughly equivalent to $3,000 today).

High-resolution images from the Bodleian Library's copy of the Astronomicum Caesarium are available online at the Rare Book Room. A full pdf copy can be downloaded from the Digital Rare Book Collection of the Vienna University Observatory.

Further reading:
Owen Gingerich. Petrus Apianus, Astronomicum Caesareum.
S.A. Ionides. "Caesars' Astronomy (Astronomicum Caesareum)." Osiris vol. 1 (Jan. 1936), pp. 356-389. Contains a detailed analysis of the text and astronomical calculations.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lecture by Brian L. Dunnigan: "Troubled Waters: The Great Lakes Frontier on the Eve of the War of 1812," March 8, 2012

Brian L. Dunnigan, Associate Director and Curator of Maps
"Troubled Waters: The Great Lakes Frontier on the Eve of the War of 1812"

Thursday, March 8, 2012
4:00 p.m.

To mark the bicentennial of the War of 1812, the Clements Library will present an exhibition drawing on the rich array of primary sources about this conflict found in its collections. The exhibition will focus on significant theaters and events of the war using original books, manuscripts, maps and graphics.

Free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Library at (734) 764-2347 or visit our website:

 William L. Clements Library 
909 S. University Ave. 
Ann Arbor, MI

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Current Exhibit: "The War of 1812: A Bicentennial Exhibition," February 27 - June 1, 2012

The War of 1812: A Bicentennial Exhibition 

February 27 - June 1, 2012 
Main Room, Clements Library 
909 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 

Curated by Brian L. Dunnigan 
Associate Director and Curator of Maps 

The War of 1812 has sometimes been called a forgotten conflict, one that resolved none of the issues that brought it about. This second confrontation between the United States and Great Britain did, in fact, have a considerable influence on the future development of the country as well as its relationships with Canada, Native Americans, and Europe. The bicentennial of the war of 1812 begins this year. To mark the events of 1812-1814, the Clements Library will present an exhibition drawing on the rich array of primary sources about this conflict found in its collections.

Open to the public in the Main Room of the Clements Library Monday through Friday from 1:00 pm to 4:45 pm. The Clements Library is located on the campus of the University of Michigan at 909 South University Avenue, Ann Arbor. For further information, visit our website or call 734-764-2347.