Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Upcoming Exhibit at the Clark Library: "An Imaginary Arctic: Speculative Cartography in the Search for the Northwest Passage," April 30 - July 27, 2012

Melanie Langa, a researcher at the Clements Library and a student from Community High School in Ann Arbor, will curate an exhibit on the history of cartography beginning April 30th at the Stephen S. Clark Library in the Graduate Library. Entitled, An Imaginary Arctic: Speculative Cartography in the Search for the Northwest Passage, it will feature maps from both the Clements Library and the Clark Map Library through July.

This event is the culmination of Melanie's research during the 2011/2012 academic year, which centered around cartographic depictions of the extreme northern reaches of the North American continent. The makers of these maps were searching for an Arctic trade route from Europe to Asia, often known as the Northwest Passage. The Northwest Passage has inspired thoughts of mystery and adventure. Maps have visualized and catalogued the search for this mythical waterway. From the 15th century, cartographic representations of the Northwest Passage has always incorporated unproven and imagined features. Despite numerous voyages, the waterways through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago were not accurately charted until the 20th century; they remained a frozen mystery long after the rest of the Americas had become well known. Maps played a vital role in both the speculation about, and the demystifying of, the Northwest Passage.

The exhibit attempts to explain the attraction of a Northwest Passage despite Arctic dangers, the ways in which cartographers represented their speculation about such a waterway, and how navigation of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago has changed and will continue to change in the future.

Melanie began her studies in the history of cartography in 2008 as part of the Community Resource program at Community High School. For the last four years she has pursued an independent study under the direction of Mary Pedley, Assistant Curator of Maps at the Clements Library with the help of Brian Dunnigan, Associate Director and Curator of Maps at the Clements Library. This course has covered a variety of subjects including foundational topics in the history of cartography, early urban plans, Native American cartography, and the cartography and exploration of the Northwest Passage.

A reception and open-house will kick-off the exhibit on Thursday May 10th from 4pm-6pm at the Clark Map Library. It will then be available for viewing during the Clark Library's regular hours through the end of July 2012.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

For National Poetry Month: Anne Bradstreet's Tenth Muse

Anne Bradstreet, The Tenth Muse (1650).
In honor of National Poetry Month, we are featuring one of the Clements Library's great treasures, The Tenth Muse by Anne Bradstreet. Printed in 1650 in London, it is noteworthy as the first book of poetry published by an American.

Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) and her husband Simon immigrated to America in 1630. In 1647, her brother-in-law John Woodbridge took her manuscript poems to England to be published under the title The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America, by a "Gentlewoman in those parts." In the preface, he explained that the publication was supposedly done without her knowledge, and that she took no time from her family obligations to write the poems. The book also included praise from other prominent men regarding her virtue and piety, to defend her from any accusations of impropriety as a woman author. In the Prologue, Anne Bradstreet comments on her critics:
"I am obnoxious to each carping tongue,
Who sayes, my hand a needle better fits,
A Poets Pen, all scorne, I should thus wrong;
For such despight they cast on female wits:
If what I doe prove well, it wo'nt advance,
They'l say its stolne, or else, it was by chance."
In 1912, William L. Clements purchased 140 books from the book dealer Lathrop C. Harper, his first major acquisition of rare Americana. Among them, Anne Bradstreet's Tenth Muse was the single most expensive volume. This book is listed as No. 15 in One Hundred and One Treasures from the Collections of the William L. Clements Library (Ann Arbor, 1998).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Today in History: The Sinking of the Titanic

Guest post by Meg Hixon, Project Archivist

Though the Titanic saw her last glimpse of daylight exactly 100 years ago this Sunday, the tragedy continues to fascinate the modern imagination in many ways, both as a symbol of the era's social hierarchies and customs and as a backdrop for Broadway musicals and Hollywood films.  The Clements Library holds several items related to the famous shipwreck, including several letters from Americans sharing their first reactions to the news.  Their letters provide valuable insight into the psychological impact of an "unsinkable" ship's foundering, and touch upon many of the same themes with which the Titanic is associated today.

Print by J. Clay, 1:40 A.M. Titanic Time, April 15, 1912.
Despite the fact that she did not know anyone onboard the ship for its only voyage, Juliana Conover of Princeton, New Jersey, felt personally affected by the disaster due to a previous brush with the ship.  Her letter to a young friend, Helen Buchanan, recalls their reaction upon encountering the Titanic in Belfast, Ireland, and shares her concerns about the implications of the sinking:
"Oh, Helen, isn't it awful beyond words about the Titanic! Do you remember how we leaned over the rail in the dock at Belfast & watched her? That mammoth iron-clad that looked as if it could defy anything. Of course there's still hope that the accounts are exaggerated. Doesn't it seem uncanny that the twin of the Olympic should meet with an accident on her maiden trip?...How sorry I feel for the White Star officers. Do you remember how badgered they were when no lives were lost & this is so infinitely worse. So horrible that it's hard to believe. I hope you didn't have any friends on board." (Helen Buchanan papers: April 16, 1912)
James Pinckney Pope, a lawyer and politician in Boise, Idaho, focused on the tragedy itself, and attempted to imagine the final hours of those on board.  His letter also shows a poignant reaction to reports of male chivalry, whose legacies are maintained amidst the modern mythology of the disaster:
"What if you had been on board the "Titanic"? I have just finished reading the morning paper, and am filled with horror. It is simply terrible. When we try to imagine the heartbreaks and the untold suffering of those who went down we get sick at heart. From the reports this morning it would seem that the women and children were put in the life boats, while most of the men volunteered to stay behind. Isn't that fine? Nothing could be more heroic! I'm proud of them. Men are just as brave now as they ever were, aren't they? They were men, every inch of them. But how terrible it must have been for the wives and daughters and mothers to leave them behind! Such a disaster brings a fellow right down to earth, and makes him feel his awful insignificance. We don't amount to much, do we? But I'm mighty glad you were not there. I am anxious for the "Carpathia" to arrive and let us know more about it. Oh, those poor fellows! All the tragedies of human life took place there- indescribable, and terrible beyond our conception." (Pope-Horn papers: April 17, 1912)
The news even resonated beyond the shores of America and Europe.  While the advent of wireless transmissions famously contributed to the story of the Titanic's foundering and to its subsequent splash in the American and European newspapers, the news resonated far beyond the Atlantic world.  An American missionary in Ramallah, Palestine, still hadn't heard full details several weeks after the sinking, though she anticipated the scope of the disaster and, like Juliana Conover, shared her own personal connection to the tragedy:
"We have not yet had American papers concerning the Titanic disaster and surely titanic is the proper adjective for it. If we get anything like the truth it must have been the most awful disaster of modern times. Some tourists that had been here this winter were among the lost the Consul told us. ([Belle Patterson] to Willard Patterson, May 5, 1912)
These powerful contemporary accounts show a remarkable understanding of the scope of the tragedy, highlighting its lasting symbolic significance and emotional power.  The intervening century has proven that the story of the doomed liner, a symbol of opulence and hubris and their continuing clash against the forces of nature, continues to resonate today.  The grandeur and allure of the Titanic, the great lost ocean liner, has yet to fade.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair, Sunday, May 20, 2012

Thirty Fourth Annual
Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair
 Sunday, May 20, 11am to 5pm
Admission: $5.00

Michigan Union Ballroom, 2nd Floor
530 S. State St., Ann Arbor, MI

Come see some 40 booksellers, map and print dealers gathered in one location. You will be able to find first editions, old and collectible books, literature, children’s books, Americana, prints and more. Your $5 admission fee benefits the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan.

For more information call:
Jay Platt, West Side Book Shop (734) 995-1891

Sponsored by the Ann Arbor Antiquarian Booksellers Association
A benefit for the William L. Clements Library

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

From the Stacks: Irish Emigrant's Guide for the United States

Guest post by Molly Malcolm, Clements Library volunteer

March was Irish American Heritage Month, which prompted us to showcase a wonderful book here at the Clements Library, The Irish Emigrant's Guide for the United States, by Rev. J. O'Hanlon.

The cultural ties between Ireland and the United States are as old as any other European connection with this land; it was Irish-born Patrick Maguire who was the first of Christopher Columbus’ crew to step off the ship and set foot on North American soil in 1492. During and after the Potato Famine of the 1840s and 1850s, waves of Irish nationals began to immigrate from the Emerald Isle to America. When Ellis Island opened in 1892, the very first immigrant to enter was a fifteen year old Irish girl named Annie Moore from the Irish county of Cork. Thousands of Irish people entered America through Ellis Island between the years of its operation from 1892 to 1954.

Irish American emigrant John O’Hanlon wrote The Irish Emigrant’s Guide for the United States in 1851. The book details the ways in which Irish immigrants could best assimilate to American life and offers helpful advice and guidance for Irish people on how to succeed in their new country. This text functions as a set of instructions on how best to make the sea voyage, what necessary preparation is required before the emigration process begins, what sorts of things an Irishman should bring with him to his new home country and the type of life that can be expected once he arrives on American soil.

The decision to publish this book in 1851 speaks to the large waves of Irish immigration in the 1800s and to the complicated transition process undergone by emigrants to an American way of life. It is an early account of Irish American life and the important role that Irish heritage has played in the historical makeup of our national identity. O’Hanlon says that he wrote this text to any Irish emigrant as a means of addressing “the necessity of a guide to direct him, at least on the outset of his career; and the presentation of those statements and facts of a reliable nature which may enable him to surmount the difficulties, hardships and dangers of a new life, and to advance himself to a station of comfort, honor and independence.” The book continues on to offer many helpful pieces of advice to emigrating people, including information on: currency exchange, securing international sea passage, traveling through American by steam ship or rail, deciding on a stopping place to settle down and create a home, how to find employment and housing once in America, and in short how to build for oneself a profitable and enjoyable new life as an Irish immigrant in America.

Emigrants' guides like these aided travelers as they prepared to make the long voyage to the United States, and helped them settle in upon their arrival. In the mid-19th century, emigrants' guides were also produced for westward pioneers seeking the gold fields of California or the new Mormon settlement in Utah. Search for the subject "emigrants' guides" in the Mirlyn library catalog to see a selection of the Clements Library's holdings on this topic.

Further Reading: