More Than Meets the Eye: Conservation Treatment of Chinese Export Paintings

By Doug Sanders, Paper Conservator, IU Libraries Preservation

The Paper Conservation unit of the IU Libraries E. Lingle Craig Preservation Lab recently treated a series of paintings from the Allen Mss. Collection at the Lilly Library. These 28 paintings arrived in a loose stack, water damaged, tattered and sooty and in need of repair. Accompanying the paintings was the front board and endsheet of a portfolio that likely held them in the past. On it were the words “Chinese Punishments. – on rice paper” tooled in gold.

The paintings depict various tortures and punishments of criminals, often graphic in nature, done in water-based opaque paints on a paper of Chinese origin (though likely not made of rice). Broadly speaking, these works are termed Export Art, which although sometimes used pejoratively, nevertheless reflects an interesting period in time.

 

 

 

 

 

Though they vary in size, each painting is roughly 10 x 13 inches. It is difficult to date them based on stylistic traits or media- these sorts of works were created by workshops in coastal cities of China in often production-line settings, with designs changing very little over time. My best guess is the end of the 18th century, but maybe well into the 19th.

After each painting was photographed and given an arbitrary working number and title, we began the treatment by surface cleaning as much as practically possible, given the fragile nature of the paper with its numerous tears and creases prior to an initial round of humidification and pressing. Humidification (ie. very careful introduction of moisture) allows us to open up fragile creases and then press them to restore the paper to a more planar state. If cleaning is not done beforehand, one runs the risk of water turning fine soot deposits into an ersatz ink and working it into the paper support.

After pressing and cleaning, we could take a closer look at the condition of the items. It was observed that the paper itself did not suffer much from discoloration or heavy staining. That, combined with the water-soluble nature of some of the colors used, led this conservator to decide not to wash the paintings further, but instead move on to repairing the tears to allow for safer access and handling. Because of the translucent nature of the thin paper, conventional mends with wheat starch and light-to-medium weight Japanese repair tissues would have shown through to the front when viewing. Instead, we used a very light tissue pre-coated in the lab with an adhesive called sodium carboxymethyl cellulose. It was reactivated with water and applied to the backs of the works, for an almost invisible mend. After mending, we were able to follow with another course of surface cleaning now that the paper had been strengthened, as well as another round of humidification and flattening. Application of hinges and storage within window mats and custom constructed clamshell boxes completed the treatment.

 

Interestingly, one side treatment that was performed on several paintings involved the chemical ‘reversal’ of darkened lead white paint as these before and after photos show.

While working with these paintings we began to wonder about their creation and the audience for which they were painted. After all, torture scenes are not something one generally wants to frame and hang over the mantel, and most export art of this time featured quaint scenes of peasants involved in industry, people sipping tea extolling Confucian virtues, or lovely bird and flower pairings. Some time spent online revealed that these very images (well, probably not our set, but identical ones from the same workshop) were used to generate English engravings of the same scenes published in 1801 as “The Punishments of China” by George Henry Mason.

The pieces began to assemble to reveal a very interesting exchange between East and West occurring around this time in the port cities of China. Western merchants and military personnel would dock in these ports and buy artwork to take back home. The Chinese artists found that certain images would sell better than others, particularly those that reflected what Westerners felt China should look like as well as their tastes and styles. Combine this with a growing movement seeking prison reform and changes to criminal justice systems in England and France at the time, and we can see how torture imagery could become a popular seller. A fascinating delve into this period can be found within the book “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” by Brook, et al., which examines Western views and interpretations of the Chinese legal system during the late Qing Dynasty. In it, the authors state that Mason “advised the reader that he had been careful not to include pictures that could be thought of as ‘committing an indecorous violence on the feelings.’”  Indeed, the 1801 edition lacks the content of several illustrations that our precursor contains- notably bare buttocks and female frontal nudity. Mason’s volume was produced from images that weren’t purely Chinese to begin with, and then manipulated in such a way through a team of engravers and additional text commentary to produce a product suited to Western audiences of the time. Research reveals such imagery continued to have use well into the 20th century to justify goals of American, European and Japanese foreign policy.

It is not often that we delve into the background of a collection item so thoroughly, as library conservators, but when we do, fascinating stories reveal themselves.

The (Extra)ordinary Activism of Isabel de Giberne Sieveking

By Miranda Wojciechowski

Miranda Wojciechowski is a PhD Candidate in the Department of English at Indiana University. She recently curated an online exhibition on Isabel de Giberne Sieveking, a project which began as part of Professor Christoph Irmscher’s course on “The Modern Archive,” taught at the Lilly Library in the Spring of 2017.

Isabel de Giberne Sieveking shines out as a fascinating figure buried beneath the remaining manuscript materials of her son, Lancelot Sieveking, a BBC radio announcer during WWII. Isabel emerges as a patchwork of compelling, and at times paradoxical, identities: a militant suffragette in a rural English village, a fervent public speaker and columnist for women’s rights and education, a historical biographer, an author and critic of literary fiction, an extensive traveler of English countryside and European continent alike, a rebellious but sweet Victorian child, an active correspondent devoted to female friendships, a Catholic wife, mother, and, at the very least, an object of passionate lesbian desire.

Like many archival recoveries, Isabel’s simultaneously vibrant presence amongst her rich collection of writings and her gaping absence in histories recorded elsewhere defies true recovery. Her obituary, and the occasional interview, in her local newspaper, The Hastings and St. Leonard’s Observer, gives us the brief outline of what comprises a historically lost life. She was born in 1857 to George and Maria Giberne and died in May 1936 after an apparently long and painful illness. As for the nearly seventy decades in between, she was to be remembered at once as a paradigm of devoutly religious motherhood and as an anti-marriage suffragette with a “casual attitude towards fire.”

Photograph of Isabel Giberne, age 5.
A devious looking Isabel Giberne. Around five years of age, the young Isabel is posed with hands demurely clasped in a domestic scene fringed with lace, while a martial toy drum lies to the side at her feet.

These paradoxical accounts of Isabel’s intertwined personal and political selves present a history of major social transformation beyond the coherently declared ideologies of their representative leaders and organizers. The archival reader, piecing together a lifetime of private and public writings, begins to construct a portrait of the political as an amalgam of ordinary lives of questions and contradictions lived out in their criticism and activism.

Isabel’s privately affectionate marriage and her strident anti-marriage crusading provide one such generative ambivalence. In 1891, a 33-year-old Isabel married the 25-year-old merchant, Edward Sieveking. While very little record of their relationship or even of Edward himself exists, the one letter in the collection penned by Isabel herself (and addressed to “dear Ted”) reveals a tender, albeit restrained, affection between the two.

Many more letters document her passionate friendships and relationships with women, including a series of romantic declarations from the nanny of her children, Gwendoline Edwards. Several such letters offer anecdotes about other women’s marital problems and raise broader questions about these issues through which it’s easy to hear early echoes of suffragette solutions. On July 3, 1902, for example, Gwendoline writes of a mutual acquaintances’ blunders:

[Miss Mole] told me a lot about Mrs. Goodwin- how the marriage had wrecked her happiness- and how she was fighting to get back to Miss Mole. . .Why do people rush into these things and regret it afterwards- I suppose Mrs. G thought like so many more, that it would be so much more than it is- Miss Mole told me too that she had refused several men because she had nothing like the love she had for Miss Bevis to offer to any of them.

From this bit of gossip regarding Mrs. Goodwin’s failed relationship with her new husband and her interrupted fulfilling one with Miss Mole, Gwendoline forms a simple questioning of a conventional given. Why sacrifice an intimate and fulfilling connection to an expected institution? This question comes up repeatedly in her other letters, as her family, unknowingly, urges her to give up her love for Isabel (and the freedom of her single state) for the financial and social security of a passionless marriage.

Connecting these personal questions to the lives of others, Gwendoline here performs the initial work of the suffragette movement on the ground in her private letters. She ruminates on the havoc wrecked by carefully cultivated female ignorance of martial realities and the equally carefully cultivated lack of companionship between the sexes nearly a decade before her correspondent and confidant, Isabel, attempts to resolve these issues in her political writings. In her article “The Celibate Englishwoman,” published in the July 12, 1913 issue of the suffragette magazine The Awakener, Isabel argues that marriage cannot satisfy women’s needs for close companionship. Converting commonplace issues in women’s lives to critical examination and proposed solutions, Isabel asserts that proper education was beginning to substitute women’s retrospective regrets with their informed and self-fulfilling choices, an “ignorance taken advantage of…innocence abused” with an “illimitable power” and the “practically boundless. . . horizons” of a “life [that]. . .can fulfill all [their] aspirations.”

"Votes for Women" handout.
“Votes for Women: Why Women Want the Vote” 1909 handout.

Through the mingling of journals, letters exchanged between friends and lovers, and suffragette tracts, the Sieveking collection intricately illustrates how ideas about gender played out in the everyday Victorian and Edwardian life and how the mundane routines and relationships of these daily lives impacted the platforms of early feminist movements. At the same time, reflections on Isabel’s “Life of Service” (The Hastings and St. Leonard’s Observer) within the collections illuminate the individual life as a site on which seamless narratives of socio-political movements break down. Isabel’s correspondence, from which her own voice remains largely absent, radically builds an archive of communal experiences from personal exchanges. Similarly, Isabel Sieveking’s activist writings challenge narratives of progressive movements as centralized in urban London. The work of Emmeline Pankhurst in Royal Albert’s Hall multiplies into that of participants of public meetings in Hollington, Ore Village, Mount Pleasant, and St. Leonard’s, a sprawling network rather than a single point of origin. Indeed, the work of this unknown individual illuminates the widespread existence of rural radicals, as well as national and international communities held together by a complex web of yearning questions, grievances, desires, and political investments.

The papers of Isabel de Giberne Sieveking can be requested through the Lilly Library Request System.

Remembering Eliena Krylenko Eastman: Painter, Dancer, Poet

by Christoph Irmscher

When I was writing my biography of the writer, ex-socialist, and poet Max Eastman, one character kept pushing herself into the foreground—his second wife Eliena Krylenko.   There was a reason.  Eastman, one of the most flamboyant figures among the Greenwich Village radicals, had plenty of charisma.  But everyone who met Eliena agreed that she outshone him.  Her papers and artwork at the Lilly Library allow us to piece together a life worth remembering.  Eliena was small but athletic, even muscular, exuding an aura of easy confidence wherever she went.  Born in Lublin, Poland, on May 4, 1895, to exiled Russian parents, she spoke English fluently, well enough at any rate to crack jokes, often at her own expense. Her family background was spectacular: she was the sister of Stalin’s Prosecutor General, Nikolai Krylenko, whose blood-soaked career left a permanent imprint on the twentieth century.  One of the things for which Nikolai is justly famous is his observation that it was important to execute not just the guilty but also the innocent. Eventually, what Nikolai had started caught up with him, too, as it did with all other members of Eliena’s family:  in 1938, after a trial lasting only 20 minutes, he was unceremoniously shot.  Eliena’s grief for her brother was limited:  “You died in silence, bruised and defamed, / By your own error, not by their deceit,” she wrote in a sonnet she dedicated to his memory (“They,” of course, were the Stalinists).

Max had met Eliena in 1922, when she was attending the Genoa conference as a member of the staff of Maxim Litvinov, the First Deputy People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet regime. As Max remembered later, Eliena, intrigued by the handsome American, made the first move.  Their on-again, off-again affair continued in Moscow, where they finally lived together.  In the summer of 1924, getting ready to return home, Max somewhat diffidently agreed to marry Eliena, who had found herself under increasing political pressure.  Being able to leave the Soviet Union likely saved her life.   If the naturally promiscuous Max thought their vows were a formality, he was in for a surprise:  Eliena was and remained fiercely committed to their marriage.  She moved to Croton-on-Hudson with Max, and although her primary source of information about American culture had been Huckleberry Finn, which her father used to read to her, she settled easily into her new life.  A lawyer by training, she took painting lessons, learned to drive, taught language classes in New York, and made herself available as a translator, later helping her husband with the massive task of rendering Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution into English.

Eliena Eastman on the Vineyard
Eliena Eastman on the Vineyard, Eastman Mss. II, Addition 1

Helped by funds from Reader’s Digest, the Eastmans acquired property on Martha’s Vineyard. Eliena managed their rental income, keeping a watchful eye over all expenses.  No tenant got away with anything; a letter survives in which she instructs their local agent to make sure that the tenants paid cash even for the light bulbs they ordered.  She also offered free instruction in interpretive dance to the Vineyard children.  As a painter, Eliena was cautious and conservative, combining an interest in finely observed detail with a good sense for atmosphere and mood.  A lovely charcoal drawing from a pad she carried with her on a trip to Cuba reveals her quick eye for scenery:  a hazy beach scene, with a freighter looming in the background, dominated by the sheer endless ocean that renders everything else indistinct, including the faceless adults and children pursuing their different activities—playing in the water, sitting in the sand, picking something up, or just standing there, staring. One cannot really tell where the beach ends and the water begins.

Undated Sketch by Eliena Krylenko Eastman, Eastman Mss. II, Addition 1: Yvette and Eliena Eastman Artwork, The Lilly Library
Undated Sketch by Eliena Krylenko Eastman, Eastman Mss. II, Addition 1: Yvette and Eliena Eastman Artwork, The Lilly Library

To his credit, Max did what he could to further Eliena’s artistic career, including helping pay for a trip to France in the summer of 1953, when Eliena exhibited her work in a gallery in Paris.  Eliena, in turn, defended him when his former friends criticized him for his apparent defection to the right side of the political spectrum.  But she reserved special condemnation for those of Max’s lovers who, disappointed that his main loyalty was to Eliena, publicly maligned him.  In the letters the couple exchanged, the code word for Max’s affairs was “seizures”—nothing bad, episodes that would pass, a blip on the all-encompassing horizon of their love.

It seems difficult now to understand Eliena’s devotion to a man who, in many ways, didn’t seem to deserve it. An extraordinarily tender, unpublished poem by Eliena from the early 1950s that has survived among Max’s papers perhaps sheds some light on the situation. In “To Max,” Eliena evokes a walk she took with Max across the shimmering moors.  They ended up next to a spring:

Wild roses grew there, pink and innocent, although full

Of nasty thorns, and dark green spearmint, cool

And fragrant, and a tall leafy weed, the like of which, I think,

I never saw before.  It had bell-shaped small

Gold blossoms and pale-green suede-like leaves.

Ever the naturalist, Max readily identifies the plant, a beautiful orange-blossomed annual species native to North America, which is indeed common in bottomland soils, ditches, and along creeks.  Also known as “touch-me-not,” since its seedpods explode when lightly touched, the plant derives its name from the fact that the leaves will assume a silvery shine when held under water.  Max had known it since he was a child.

“It’s Jewel-weed,” you said and bending over,

The round crystal pool, the clearest mirror,

In which your face so dear appeared reflected,

You dipped a slender branch of it in water …

What follows is an epiphany Eliena applies to her relationship with Max, in a fashion that will perhaps seem unappealing to the sophisticated reader of poetry.  But this poem was not intended to be a literary artifact. Instead, it is an intimate declaration of love, as fragile and as powerful and complex as the moment it commemorates:

Gay with a happy wonder, laughingly I watched

Enchanting miracle—that dull simple reed

Transformed in shining, sparkling work of jade and silver,

Aquiver with a million multicolored gems;

And then I watched your lovely lips and eyes,

Over which ripples moved, gentle and timid,

And thought—“You are the pool, and I that Jewel-weed.”

At first, the poem’s conclusion might seem too meek and mild, with Eliena, the jewel-weed, admitting that she needs Max, her crystal pool, to shine.   But such a reading forgets that, in the context of the analogy she has created, Eliena is the multicolored miracle, the hidden, explosive source of wonder, light, and power, while Max is merely the mirror in which she finds herself reflected.

Eliena died on October 9, 1956, at their shared Vineyard home, in view of her beloved ocean and in Max’s arms, after a painful bout with ovarian cancer.  “I love you so very much,” were Max’s final words to her.  “I am so very glad you do,” Eliena responded.  Max was left behind, in the shadows.

Note:  This essay uses material from Eastman Mss. II and Eliena Eastman Mss., both held by the Lilly Library.  It appears here by permission of the executor of the Eastman estate, Breon Mitchell.  Eliena’s story is told more fully in my biography of Max Eastman, Max Eastman: A Life, just out from Yale University Press.

In Memoriam, William R. Cagle

All of us at the Lilly Library were saddened to learn of the passing of William R. Cagle, former Lilly Librarian, who died in Paris last week at the age of 83.  Bill worked at the Library from 1967 until his retirement in 1997, and so many of the significant books, manuscripts, and collections that are now such important parts of the Lilly Library are here because of Bill’s efforts.

William R. Cagle in his office at the Lilly Library.
William R. Cagle in his office at the Lilly Library.

William Cagle was born in Hollywood, California in 1933. After studies at UCLA and Oxford, and military service in the U.S. Army, he began his library career at the Huntington Library in 1960 as Assistant to the Librarian.  In 1962, he accepted the position of Librarian for English at Indiana University, and in 1967, he moved to the Lilly Library as Assistant Lilly Librarian, where he worked closely with Lilly Librarian David A. Randall, the first to serve in that position.  In 1975, following Randall’s death, Bill became Acting Librarian, and in 1977, he was named Lilly Librarian, a post that he held until his retirement in November 1997.

Bill was, above all, a bookman, and he excelled in his collection-building activities.  He greatly augmented many of the Library’s already strong collecting areas, including British, American, and French literature; American history; and voyages and travels, and he pioneered a number of new collecting subjects for the Library, including film and popular culture; cookbooks; miniature books; and modern fine bindings.  Many of the Library’s most popular and frequently-used collections, including manuscripts of Sylvia Plath, Nadine Gordimer, Ezra Pound, Orson Welles, and John Ford; the Elisabeth Ball Collection of Historical Children’s Materials; and the Gernon Collection of Historical Cookbooks, were among his many major acquisitions.

Bill also instituted a systematic standing order system for first editions of newly-published British and American literary works, which he initiated when he first arrived at the Library in 1967.  After a half-century of this broad and deep collecting activity, the Lilly Library now holds an outstanding collection of modern literature, which we are continuing to build.  Bill was also responsible for securing funds to establish fellowships for visiting scholars to make use of the Lilly Library collections, and the Everett Helm Visiting Fellowships and the Mendel Fellowships are now awarded annually to help scholars with their research in the Library’s collections.

Following Bill’s retirement in 1997, he and his wife, Terry, moved to Maine, where they lived for several years, before moving to Paris, where Bill had served in the Army in the 1950s.  Bill had long been a Francophile, and he and Terry fully enjoyed the cultural pleasures that Paris offered.  Throughout his retirement, Bill continued to be a devoted reader of booksellers’ catalogues, and his perceptive and timely recommendations helped us to fill a number of significant gaps in the Library’s holdings.

During Bill’s time at the Library, one of his great pleasures was the writing of the Annual Report of the Lilly Librarian, in which he recounted his most interesting acquisitions of the previous year.  Bill had an excellent eye for books, and he was always looking for the exceptional or special copy of any book that he wished to add to the Library’s collections. A selection of Bill’s most important acquisitions was described in A Splendid Gathering: Twenty-two Years of Collecting at the Lilly Library, 1975-1997 (Bloomington, Indiana: The Lilly Library, 1997), the exhibition assembled at the Library in honor of his retirement (this catalogue may be viewed online).

The use of the word “Splendid” in the title of A Splendid Gathering highlights Bill’s loftiest word of praise for a special book.  A particularly interesting book might be described by Bill in his Annual Report as a “splendid copy,” and an especially remarkable book might merit two instances of “splendid,” used to describe different aspects of the book. Only once, to the best of my knowledge, did Bill go beyond that, when, in the Annual Report for July 1987-June 1988, he described an especially notable recent acquisition.  I’ll let Bill speak for himself:

“It is always a pleasure to find a book someone has particularly asked for but rarely does it happen with quite such spectacular success as in the case of fine arts professor Louis Hawes’s request for Baron Zurlauben’s Tableaux topographiques, pittoresques, physiques, politiques, moraux, litteraries de la Suisse (Paris 1780-1786).  Professor Hawes mentioned, in the spring of 1987, that a facsimile of Zurlauben’s famous work on Swiss topography had been published and asked if the Lilly Library would purchase a copy.  We said we would prefer to look for a copy of the original.  That, he said, would be difficult and expensive, but if we could find one it would be his once-in-a-lifetime request.  Good fortune was with us, and a copy far exceeding our expectations was found in a Paris bookstore that summer.

The Tableaux topographiques was published in five large folio volumes and contains 400 engravings after drawings by the best French artists of the time.  The artists were sent to Switzerland especially to execute works for this project.  The copy acquired for the Lilly, with 278 of the engravings in unlettered proof state, belonged to Mary Boydell, niece of the celebrated London engraver and print seller John Boydell, and was bound for her in full red morocco by Deróme. It passed from Mary Boydell to the library of William Beckford and was in the Hamilton Palace sale of Beckford’s books (Sotheby catalogue, June 1882, item 668). It’s a splendid provenance for a splendid copy of a splendid work. Mr. Lilly would have approved.”

I think that Mr. Lilly would have approved of all of Bill Cagle’s acquisitions for the library that bears his family’s name, and he also would have greatly admired the passion, energy, and commitment that Bill brought to his duties as Lilly Librarian.  Bill was a splendid librarian and collection builder, and he will be greatly missed by all of us here at the Lilly Library.

Joel Silver

Director

Lilly Library, Indiana University

Spock’s Ears: The Story of an Unexpected Donation

Visitors often ask Lilly Librarians where we get all of our wonderful treasures. Of course we began with a generous donation of over 20,000 books and 17,000 manuscripts from J.K. Lilly, Jr. Since his gift in the mid-1950s, we have acquired many fascinating, beautiful, and unexpected items through purchase and donation, and we’ve learned that you never know when someone you meet might have an interesting story to tell and item to add to the library’s collections.

This blog post tells the story of a recent and unexpected donation. Lilly Librarians Rebecca Baumann and Maureen Maryanski worked with other IU Librarians and Archivists to organize the Primary Source Immersion Grant Program, which kicked off in August with a three-day workshop for sixteen IU faculty members. Our keynote speaker for this series was Professor Ben Motz, Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Instruction for IU’s Department of Psychological & Brain Science. Ben inspired teaching faculty and librarians with ideas about how brain science can be applied to concepts of active learning. When Ben discovered that the Lilly Library has a Star Trek collection (including the original scripts for Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation, comic books, and the papers of IU alum and Trek producer Jeri Taylor), he realized that he had something in his own collection that might find a new home among the Lilly Library’s treasures. Ben explains:

“Even in elementary school, I was a big Star Trek fan.  Growing up I remember being anxious to watch episodes on Sunday evenings instead of playing outside.  So in 1992, as a gift for my sixth grade graduation, my parents (Barbara and David Motz) placed the winning bid on a pair of authentic Spock ears from Star Trek 6.  Leonard Nimoy was a member of our family’s synagogue, and had donated them as an auction item for a temple fundraiser; I think their winning bid was around $75 at the time, and it included a certificate of authenticity and a signed photo portrait of Nimoy.  For the last 17 years, I’ve kept them safe with all my other most prized childhood collectibles, but I’d always imagined that these ears should eventually be accessible to the public, under the care of people who would know how to preserve them.”

Ben Motz's donation of a pair of Spock's ears, worn by Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek VI, with signed photo.
Ben Motz’s donation of a pair of Spock’s ears, worn by Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek VI, with signed photo.

The original prospectus for Star Trek, dated March 11, 1964, is already part of the Lilly Library’s collections. It includes Gene Roddenberry’s initial description of the character of Spock, which is quite different from his final incarnation:

“The captain’s right-hand man, the working level commander of all the ship’s functions from manning the bridge to supervising the lowliest scrub detail. His name is “Mr. Spock.” And the first view of him can be almsot [sic] frightening—a face so heavy-lidded and satanic you might almost expect him to have a forked tail. Probably half Martian, he has a slightly reddish complexion and semi-pointed ears. But strangely—Mr. Spock’s quiet temperament is in dramatic contrast to his satanic look. Of all the crew aboard he is the nearest to Captain April’s [later changed to Captain Pike, then Captain Kirk] equal, physically and emotionally, as a commander of men. His primary weakness is an almost cat-like curiosity over anything the slightest ‘alien.'”

As Spock transformed from Martian to Vulcan, from red-skinned to green-blooded, and from catlike to logical, one thing remained: the pointed ears. As Ben Motz points out,

“There’s an interesting backstory about the popular and sociocultural significance of making someone look alien, which motivated Gene Roddenberry’s interest in Spock having pointy ears.  Leonard Nimoy was initially opposed to them, but they took on a life of their own in the series.  They provided a sort of sociological reference point, making the differences between different humans seem, relatively speaking, pretty minuscule.”

The IU campus recently welcomed George Takei, who played Sulu on Star Trek, and his powerful talk reminded us of Trek’s longstanding commitment to diversity, curiosity, and exploration—all values shared by Indiana University and the Lilly Library.

We love the story of Spock’s ears, we extend very warm gratitude to Professor Ben Motz for his kind donation, and we look forward to continuing to share all our Star Trek collections with fans on campus and around the world.

You can request Spock’s ears through our online request system.

Rebecca Baumann, Head of Public Services

Anatomy of an Epitaph: A letter by the journalist Philip Stong on meeting Sacco and Vanzetti

By Katherine Reed, PhD candidate, University of Manchester

August 23, 2017 is the 90th anniversary of the executions of the anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.  Accused of a crime they probably did not commit, in the midst of the Red Scare, their case became a liberal cause célèbre in the 1920s.  Having Dorothy Parker, John Dos Passos, H.G. Wells and Albert Einstein on their side turned out not to be enough to save them from the electric chair.  However, the fact remains that they inspired remarkable support.  It helped their cause that Vanzetti was a charismatic wordsmith.  Perfecting his English in prison, he wrote hundreds of letters and impressed visitors with his eloquence.  His most famous statement, made in 1927, ended: “Our words – our lives – our pains – nothing!  The taking of our lives – lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler – all!  That last moment belongs to us – that agony is our triumph!”

The quotation in the Sacco-Vanzetti Defence Committee bulletin.
The quotation in the Sacco-Vanzetti Defence Committee bulletin.

At first, the words were erroneously and emotively attributed to a speech Vanzetti had made in court.  Publicity materials produced by the Sacco-Vanzetti Defence Committee, and the first edition of the prison letters, claimed he had said it to the Judge on the day the death sentence was pronounced.  Its origins were in fact in an interview by the reporter Philip Stong who met with Sacco and Vanzetti at Dedham Jail in the spring of 1927.   At the time, Stong claimed he had added nothing except exclamation marks.   Despite this, scholars have taken the famous spiel with a pinch of salt (Russell, 1962: 388).  Although Vanzetti was indubitably eloquent, there has been a general inkling that the statement must have been polished up for print.  Tucked away in the Lilly Library archive is a fascinating letter by Philip Stong which breaks down, sentence by sentence, which words came verbatim from Vanzetti (or at least, were scribbled down fairly accurately in a hotel room later) and which had benefitted from journalistic fairy dust.   Perhaps predictably, the most famous phrase of all – “a good shoemaker and a poor fishpeddler” – was a fiction.  The letter, dated July 16, 1928, was written to the author Upton Sinclair who was researching a novel about the case.

Having achieved fame with the muck-raking The Jungle back in 1906, Upton Sinclair had won good reviews for Oil! in 1927 and intended to cement his literary reputation with an ambitious “contemporary historical novel” about Sacco and Vanzetti (Sinclair, 1929: 5).   Sinclair pestered everyone involved in the case for facts and insights.  Phil Stong was responding to such a plea.  It is notable that when younger writers wrote to Sinclair they often tried to impress him with their prose.  Their missives, strewn throughout the Lilly Library’s Upton Sinclair collection, are littered with gaudy sentences, flattery and the swagger of swear words.  Phil Stong’s letter, although in the same genre (he praises Sinclair as “a fine artist”), transcends this.  As a writer, he clearly had talent to burn.  It is hard to dislike someone who describes themselves thus: “I was 28 at the time, blondish but not blonde, German face, rather horsey but well-fed, six feet and a trifle plus, 194 pounds, well-groomed that day owing to being on an expense account.”  Sinclair nabbed whole sentences from the letter for use in his novel, including the jokes.

Phil Stong had visited Sacco and Vanzetti during a strange Indian summer of their imprisonment.  Having been, after years of appeals, finally sentenced to death, they were allowed such luxuries as an hour a day playing bocce in the yard.   During most of their imprisonment, the men had been in separate jails.  For these few months, they were together in Dedham, a gaol made to sound rather picturesque by visiting writers.   John Dos Passos described it as “airy, full of sunlight…a preposterous complicated canary cage” (Dos Passos, 1927: 69).  Stong later reminisced that, “It is odd to speak of a prison as pleasant, but this one was” (Leighton, 1949: 185).   During the interview, both the reporter and the two men were far too polite to mention the electric chair.  The thought was ever-present nonetheless.   Stong said that Vanzetti’s famous statement, or a version of it, was intended to comfort him.

Philip Stong’s doodle of the jail floor plan during his meeting with Sacco and Vanzetti. Philip Stong to Upton Sinclair, letter dated July 16, 1928.
Philip Stong’s doodle of the jail floor plan during his meeting with Sacco and Vanzetti. Philip Stong to Upton Sinclair, letter dated July 16, 1928.

In shaping the words for a newspaper audience, Stong admits that he might have “got that last bit a little more oratorical than Bart made it” but the gist was the same.   A few liberties were necessary to “inject that humility and simplicity that was in his presence into my story.”  He wrote to Sinclair, “I will confess to you, what you will not let anyone else learn, that Bart said it, somehow more simply, more powerfully and touchingly.”  Here is the annotated version of Vanzetti’s statement, which Phil Stong gave Sinclair, based on his notes from the day:

“If it had not been for these thing,” says Vanzetti, “I might have live out my life, talking at street corners to scorning men.  I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure.”  (Note how he recalls himself from his personal determination and includes Sacco, now.  I remember this distinctly.)  “Now we are not a failure.  This is our career and our triomph.  Never in our full life can we hope to do such work for tolerance, for joostice, for man’s onderstanding of man, as we do by an accident.
(This is approximate and you may take liberties with it.) “Our words – our lives – our pain – nothing!  The taking of our lives – lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fishpeddler – all!”

(This is exact): “The moment you think of belong to us – that agony is our triomph.”

Then they shook hands and went back to their cells.

One of the red arm bands worn by mourners at Sacco and Vanzetti’s funeral
One of the red arm bands worn by mourners at Sacco and Vanzetti’s funeral.

Katherine Reed is a History PhD student from the University of Manchester who took part in the John Rylands Research Institute/Lilly Library Doctoral Research and Training Program in 2017.  Read more about the program here.  

References

Avrich, Paul.  Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background.  Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991.

Dos Passos, John.  Facing the Chair.  Boston: Sacco-Vanzetti Defence Committee, 1927.

Leighton, Isabel, ed.  The Aspirin Age 1919-1941.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 1949.

Russell, Francis.  Tragedy in Dedham.  London: Longmans, 1962.

Sacco, Nicola and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.  The Letters of Sacco & Vanzetti.  London: Penguin Books, 1997.

Sinclair, Upton.  Boston.  London: T. Werner Laurie Ltd., 1929.

Tejada, Susan.  In Search of Sacco and Vanzetti.  Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2012.

 

O Rare: An Examination of Ben Jonson’s 1616 Folio

By Rachel Makarowski

This post is part of a series written by students in ILS-Z681, The Book: 1450 to the Present. This course is taught by Lilly Library Head of Public Services Rebecca Baumann through Indiana University’s Department of Information and Library Science.

The 1616 folio edition of Ben Jonson’s plays does not get as many requests at the Lilly Library as its more famous successor, the 1623 first folio edition of Shakespeare. It is not particularly remarkable in appearance to the average eye, with a leather binding roughed and worn with age. From the outside, it looks relatively humble. Although this folio lacks fame and ostentatiousness, the riches within reveal quite a bit about the author and the world of English Renaissance drama in print.

At the beginning of the book, the reader can find an author portrait. This picture was not a part of the original 1616 printing of the folio, but was “tipped in”—that is, attached to the page during the binding process. Jonson’s fine clothes and large stature portrayed in the depiction allude to a man who enjoyed the finer things in life. A laurel crown rests upon his head, as if crowning his prestige and victory. Cnircling this picture are the words: VERA EFFIGIES DOCTISSIMI POETARUM ANGLORUM BEN: JOHNSONII (“A true effigy of the most learned of English poets, Ben Johnson”). This wording is far from humble; he is not just a learned poet, but the most learned. Being considered as such was important to him. But why is this so?

Engraved portrait of Ben Jonson
The engraved author portrait in the 1616 Folio.

Ben Jonson did not come from a prestigious family or a wealthy class. His stepfather was a bricklayer, and Jonson served as his apprentice for a number of years. Like many bricklayers, he did not have a formal education at the university level. Despite this disadvantage, he ensured that he knew Latin, the educated language of the time. He left his stepfather’s profession to join the military. It was at this point in his life that he gained an interest in the theater and became an actor and continued on in this capacity after his return home (Drabble 540).

During his acting career, his self-taught skills in Latin saved his life. He murdered another man during an argument and went to jail. The punishment for such a crime was death, unless the offender could prove he was a cleric and thus gain religious exemption. Jonson claimed to have such status, arguing that he should be released from his punishment. To prove his claim, authorities asked him to read from a Latin religious text. Jonson successfully did this and was then released. After this, he left acting to become a full playwright (Hartnoll 524).

Even after this incident, he still was determined to proclaim his familiarity and love of Latin and the classics. He included the language in several places throughout the 1616 folio, quoting untranslated lines from classical authors, including Ovid and Vergil. His love of classics can even be seen in the title page, which contains multiple figures, such as Comoedia (a personification of Comedy).

The 1616 folio conveys evidence of who Ben Jonson might have interacted with in the form of the cast lists that follow each play. Although these lists do not provide information on who played what character, these lists are still useful in that we have printed proof that these people were involved with Ben Jonson, at least nominally, if not personally. Some of the people on the cast lists are unfamiliar, even to scholars; others, however, are surprisingly well known. William Shakespeare, for instance, is included on the cast list for two of Ben Jonson’s plays.

It was common for authors and playwrights to have a patron who would pay a sum of money that would help to supplement the writer’s income. In return, the author would dedicate works to his patron or write something that relates to the patron’s life. The 1616 Folio exemplifies this practice. Jonson included letters to specific people before each play. Some of these would be to friends and fellow poets, whereas others would be dedicated to those who could or already did support him by becoming a patron of him.

He also included a series of advertisements written by contemporaries and friends at the beginning of the folio at the beginning. These express the wit and intelligence of Ben Jonson and his works. They were included to encourage readers who might appreciate these features to purchase his book, and to attract more elite patrons who could not only afford the book, but also afford to support him in his career. How he gathered these advertisements is unknown, though he was a charismatic and friendly enough person that he could have convinced his friends and contemporaries to do this on his behalf.

Image of letter to Mary Wroth
The letter as it appears before his play The Alchemist from Ben Jonson to Lady Mary Wroth, a contemporary author and patron to Ben Jonson. He also wrote a poem in her and her husband’s honor, focusing on their estate.

These are all elements that we can be sure were placed in the folio with Jonson’s approval, and maybe even his insistence, to gain a higher class of readership. Jonson was heavily involved in the creation of this folio. He took older quartos of his theatrical works and edited them to varying degrees before passing them off to be printed (Pforzheimer 573). Acrostic poems preceded each play in the 1616 Folio, which would not be a part of the play when acted but were intended for his higher class readers who would be familiar with the classical works that use this as an introduction for select plays. Jonson intended these higher class readers to enjoy reading his works. They would have the education and background to appreciate all that he had included in the folio, much more so than those of a lower background.

The 1616 folio was both immense and important at the time of its creation, if only because of the hand the author had in its creation. It gives valuable insight to both scholars and casual observers about Ben Jonson and the larger scene of the theater in the English Renaissance. However, if what can be gleaned from this book is combined with the other plethora of English Renaissance material, anyone interested in this time period would be sure to find a treasure house replete with information.

Manuscript cast list for The Alchemist.
Manuscript cast list for The Alchemist.

Works Cited

Drabble, Margaret, The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 6th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Hartnoll, Phyllis. The Oxford Companion to the Theatre. 3rd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1967.

Pforzheimer, Carl H., Emma Va Unger, William A Jackson, Frederic Warde, Bruce Rogers, and Josiah Kirby Lilly. The Carl H. Pforzheimer Library: English Literature, 1475-1700: Volume 2. New York: Privately printed, 1940.

Rachel Makarowski is currently completing her Masters in Library Science with a specialization in Special Collections in Indiana University’s Department of Information and Library Science. She has an interest in medieval manuscripts, early modern print culture, and the book in East Asia. She hopes to find a full time position in public services at a special collections institution.

Rachel Makarowski with the Ben Jonson folio.
Rachel Makarowski with the Ben Jonson folio.

Vonnegut Freaks: The Fan Mail of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

By Isabel Planton, Public Services Librarian

What would you say if you had the chance to write to Kurt Vonnegut? The Vonnegut Manuscript Collection at the Lilly Library includes many letters from fans who took the leap and reached out to Vonnegut during his lifetime. The collection contains four boxes of general correspondence (Boxes 1-3 and 26, described in the Finding Aid) with the bulk of the fan letters spanning from 1970s until the time of Kurt Vonnegut’s death in 2007. Interspersed among routine business and publication agreements are hundreds of fan letters. Many come from Vonnegut readers who surprised themselves with an almost overwhelming impulse to write to the author. Many of these fans admit that they never thought they would write a fan letter.

A fan from Virginia wrote on September 30, 1976, “In my copy of Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons (Opinions) I found a letter from you. It looked very much like a personal letter, not because it was written to me alone; but because you shared personal facts and viewpoints with your readers. I usually like to answer my personal letters and so felt inclined to answer the one from you.”

On September 13, 1977, a fan in Ohio wrote, “I realize this is a very candid letter and from a total stranger, and such things can be embarrassing, but I wanted to write anyway.”

A reader from California wrote on March 28, 1981, “This is a fan letter. I am forty-six years old and this is the first fan letter I have ever written, so I might not be very good at it. Please bear with me.”

In the eyes of his fans, Kurt Vonnegut was a friend, a confidant, someone to ask for writing advice, someone to pitch ideas to, an insider in a club of like-minded individuals, a lifesaver, and a light in dark times. Fans often quoted Vonnegut’s own phrases back to him as though they were inside jokes between friends. They also opened up to him about personal matters such as near-death experiences, illness, loneliness, and writer’s block. It is clear that fans felt an intimate connection with Kurt Vonnegut through his novels and other writings.

On December 3, 1975, one fan wrote, “I find myself addicted to your writing; I find your stuff written just for me. How is it, then, that we could be on such intimate terms – you know the stuff I’ve hidden away between my ears and you write for that audience exclusively […]?”

Some children and teenagers also wrote to Vonnegut in an attempt to solicit help with English class assignments. In one particularly amusing example, on September 22, 1975 an enterprising student wrote, “I respectfully request an utterly profound statement in any one of your many areas of erudition, which will be both personally enlightening and also satisfy a requirement for my English class.”

People from diverse backgrounds wrote to Kurt Vonnegut. Fans include atheists and believers, teachers, students, people in the military, aspiring novelists and playwrights, and avid readers from outside the United States. The largest proportion of fan letters come from the 1970s, when Vonnegut’s popularity seems to have peaked. While we do not get to see photographs of most of the fans, one undated letter (almost certainly from the late 1970s or early 1980s) came with a photo of a high school book group who called themselves “Vonnegut Freaks.”

 

The collection does not include many examples of letters from Vonnegut back to his fans until the later years of his life, but some of these later letters demonstrate an engaging correspondence between Vonnegut and his fans. There are some touching moments. For example, Vonnegut’s own handwritten note in the upper margin of a letter dated June 10, 1997 indicates that he received this letter back from an ailing teacher to whom he had written a note of encouragement. In another example, we see evidence that Vonnegut corresponded with a prisoner at a correctional facility in Michigan. Kurt Vonnegut’s kindness to his fans is palpable in letters such as these.

 

An Unusual Use for a Scorpion: Folk Medicine in the Dorson Collection

By Katherine Reed, PhD candidate, University of Manchester

The Lilly library has a wonderful collection of folklore field notes taken by Richard Dorson (the “father of folklore” who was a professor at IU from 1957 to 1981), his students and colleagues.  They range from ghost stories and drinking songs to wince-inducing jokes based on long-gone stereotypes.

Angelina Flaccadori
Angelina Flaccadori O’Berti outside her home in New Swanzey in 1946 . Dorson mss. Box 56, f. 17.

Delving into the collection as part of my PhD research on immigration history, I came across an intriguing list of folk remedies recounted by a first-generation Italian immigrant named Angelina Flaccadori O’Berti.  Born in Bergamo, in Northern Italy, Mrs. O’Berti came to the United States at age 27 in around 1908.  Although not trained in medicine, she was “an indispensable friend to everyone in the neighborhood” because of her skills in midwifery and practical nursing.   Moreover, the field notes, taken by researcher Aili Johnson, comment that Mrs. O’Berti was “a gifted teller of tales.”   During the interview, Mrs. O’Berti went into her garden and collected some of the herbs needed for the cures – malva, bitter grass and tansy – which 70 years later are still taped to the page.

Here are some of Mrs. O’Berti’s suggested remedies (these are not endorsed by the Lilly Library!):

Field notes about Mrs. O'Berti's folk remedies.
Field notes about Mrs O’Berti’s folk remedies by researcher Aili Johnson . Dorson mss. Box 56, f. 17.
  • Removing warts requires patience. First, rub with salted pork.  Second, tie a string around the wart.  Third, bury the string.  Once the string has rotted, the wart will go.
  • Painful boils should be smeared with honey.
  • Her teacher, back in the 1890s, used to trap scorpions he saw in the classroom (“very carefully with the coal tongs lest he get bitten”) and soak them in a jar of olive oil. After several years, the oil would thicken.  This was used as a lotion for cuts.
  • Laundry soap rubbed on a sty “brings it to a head.”
  • Mrs O’Berti had a robust faith in garlic (“even the smell of garlic will kill pinworms”), while watered-down linseed could be used for both stomach complaints and hair setting lotion.

Katherine Reed is a History PhD student from the University of Manchester taking part in the John Rylands Research Institute/Lilly Library Doctoral Research and Training Programme. Read more about the exchange program here.

Newly Digitized: French Literature Manuscript Collection

Letter from Victor Hugo, May 22, 1867.
Letter from Victor Hugo, May 22, 1867.

The Lilly Library’s French Literature Manuscript Collection is now entirely digitized and available to view online. You can search the collection and download images from our finding aid.

Unlike most of our manuscript collections, the material in this collection does not derive from a single collector but has been gathered over many years from many different sources. Digitized items in the collection range from ca. 1750 to 1977 and include over 1000 images from letters, drafts, and other literary material. A number of famous French authors are represented, including Charles Baudelaire, Jean Cocteau, Alexandre Dumas, Gustave Flaubert, Victor Hugo, Marcel Proust, George Sand, Jules Verne, Volaire, and many others.

Handwritten title page for "Omelettes ou l'origine des Nouvelles Amazones."
Handwritten title page for “Omelettes ou l’origine des Nouvelles Amazones,” 1773.

Some of the most exciting items in the collection, however, are those which are not famous and which are rich with research potential. For example, an 18th-century unpublished feminist manuscript titled “Omelettes ou l’origine des Nouvelles Amazones” [Omelettes or the Origin of the New Amazons] recounts the tragic decline of amorous arts being foiled by the Goddess Discord by means of a treacherous omelette (served, as seen in the accompanying illustration, to some hapless men by a society of New Amazons).

You can explore these digitized materials online or contact us at liblilly@indiana.edu to make an appointment to view the material in person.