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