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

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.

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.

The Tragic Musical Memento of the Duchess de Berry

By Lindsay Weaver, Intern, Lilly Library Technical Services

The Lilly Library is currently cataloging an exciting collection of music once owned by Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Sicile, Duchesse de Berry (1798-1870), an important political figure in France during the nineteenth-century as well as a generous patroness of the arts.

One of the most intriguing items in the collection so far is a slim funereal volume bound in black morocco with silver fleur-de-lys stamped on the spine. If the Duchesse were a heroine in a novel, this item more than anything else would represent the tragic climax of her origin story. Inside are twenty-five pieces of printed music pertaining to the murder of her beloved husband, which occurred 197 years ago this week on 14 February 1820.

Marie-Caroline married Charles-Ferdinand d’Artois, Duc de Berry, at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on in June of1816. Despite their arranged engagement, a genuinely affectionate romance blossomed. Said to be inseparable, they strolled arm-in-arm in the public gardens of the Tuileries and scandalized the royal family by addressing one another in the familiar “tu” rather than the formal “vous.”

This, unfortunately, was not to last. On the evening of 13 February 1820, the Duc and Duchesse de Berry arrived fashionably late to the Opéra. Though an avid theater-goer, Marie-Caroline was exhausted and wanted to leave early. Unknown to Paris at large, she was three months pregnant. Charles-Ferdinand, ever the dutiful husband, escorted her to their carriage but wished to see the remainder of the performance. His decision to stay turned the evening from a diary footnote to history book fodder. As the Duc turned away from the carriage, an anti-monarchist called Louvel plunged a knife into his back and ran. The wounded prince was carried into an administrative office in the opera house where he died in the early hours of the morning with Marie-Caroline weeping at his side, covered in his blood. For over a month after the assassination, she sequestered herself in an apartment draped in black cloth.

A widow at twenty-two, they had been married less than four years.

Collections of music such as this one are fascinating pieces of history and offer rich insight into those who created them. Of the twenty-five songs contained in this volume, all but five are settings of a text entitled “Stanzas on the Death of His Royal Highness, Monseigneur Duc de Berry” by Marc-Antoine Désaugiers, then the director of the Théâtre du Vaudeville. The poem, which solemnly enumerates the Duc’s good qualities, ends on a hopeful note by declaring Marie-Caroline’s unborn child the future relief of France’s mourning. The words may have brought her comfort.

The contents also suggest something about her social circle during this time. Composers of personal importance are represented more than once: there are two works by her harp instructor, François Joseph Naderman, as well as two by Ferdinando Paër, her singing teacher. (And while this volume is not an exhaustive collection of all settings of Désaugier’s “Stances,” notably missing is a popular one by Paër’s rival, Gaspare Spontini.) Paër also appears as the musical intermediary between other composers and the Duchesse—three songs are marked as having been “offered to M. Paër by the music’s author.” Other pieces bear faint creases, clearly having been folded into quarters prior to binding, as though offered in passing to the Duchesse who tucked it away.

Lastly, multiple pages bear annotations, suggesting this was not passive, dutiful acquisition. There are penned annotations marking articulation or supplying missing accidentals, suggesting the Duchesse had engaged with this music. Given much of it is for soprano voice with piano or harp accompaniment, this seems likely: the Duchesse was reportedly a talented musician, especially on the harp.

This is only one of many interesting items at the Lilly Library relating to the musical life of the Duchesse de Berry and should prove an interesting collection to anyone interested in the music-making of women during the Bourbon Restoration.

References:

Margadant, Jo Burr. “The Duchesse de Berry and Royalist Political Culture in Postrevolutionary France.” History Workshop Journal 43 (Spring 1997): 23-52.

Reiset, Vicomte de. Marie-Caroline, Duchesse de Berry: 1816-1830. Paris: Goupil & Cie, 1906.

Skuy, David. Assassination, Politics, and Miracles: France and the Royalist Reaction of 1820.

Lindsay Weaver is a master’s student in library science with a specialization in Music Librarianship. Her research interests revolve around the the opera world in Paris during the nineteenth century. Currently an intern with the Lilly Library Technical Services Department, she hopes to work in a special collections library one day.

Cats in Miniature

By Katie Tyring, Special Collections Cataloger

The Lilly Library is currently home to a growing collection of over 16,000 miniature books.  This makes us one of the foremost collectors in the United States.  A miniature book, by definition, must be three inches or less in height and width.  Miniature books in the U.S. date back to 1690 and were primarily religious texts or children’s stories in their earliest forms.  Today, the genre has morphed into a much more artistic endeavor, exploring different methods of illustration, typeface, folding, pop-ups, etc.  A popular artist, author, and printer of the 20th and early 21st centuries that may be familiar to microbibliophiles is Lloyd L. Neilson, more famously known as Juniper Von Phitzer.

Juniper Von Phitzer is a penname created by Neilson inspired by his three cats—Juniper, Von, And Phitzer.  His cats are also the namesake for his private publishing house, Juniper Von Phitzer Press.  With this in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising to discover that at least 10 of his 89 miniature books are about cats.  Fortunately, the Lilly Library has recently completed the Juniper Von Phitzer Press cat collection!

For those interested in learning more about Juniper, Von, and Phitzer, Cats in Charge reveals the three personalities via poetic form.  Similarly, San Francisco Cats tells the stories of more unique cats who make their home in the city where Juniper Von Phitzer Press resides.

For more visually interesting mini books, Visions of Cats is an impressive work of art.  It is an accordion fold that, when unfolded, is more than seven feet of cat illustrations, facsimiles, poetry, and more, all inside a decorative wooden chest with a faux fur interior.  Another accordion fold, Pas de Chat, features mounted illustrations of dancing cats amidst a graceful background.

See below for a complete listing of Juniper Von Phitzer’s miniature cats in the Lilly Library collection.

 

IUCAT Records

Cats in Charge: http://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/164526

San Francisco Cats: http://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/15993239

Visions of Cats: http://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/16017024

Pas de Chat: http://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/16016413

Sun Cat: http://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/1409986

Catfish Fishcat: http://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/4931872

Celebrity Cats: http://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/16017119

Kitten’s Album: http://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/16017187

Punky Dunk & the Spotted Pup: http://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/16018581

Kiku: http://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/16018348

 

References:

Special Collections Cataloger Katie Tyring demonstrates how one of these miniature treasures unfolds.

Bradbury, Robert C. Twentieth Century United States Miniature Books: With Bibliographic Descriptions of each Book Arranged by Publisher. The Microbibliophile, 2000.

Bradbury, Robert C. Antique United States Miniature Books, 1690-1900: Principally from the Collection of the American Antiquarian Society and the Lilly Library, Indiana University. The Microbibliophile, 2001.

“Wipe Thy Self”: A Page from the Audubon Ledger at the Lilly Library

“Wipe Thy Self”: A Page from the Audubon Ledger at the Lilly Library

Christoph Irmscher, Provost Professor of English and Director of the Wells Scholars Program

In spring 2016, the Lilly Library acquired a handsome ledger bound in sturdy marble-covered boards. Dubbed the “Audubon Ledger” by bookseller Donald Heald, volume had been in the possession of Audubon’s great-granddaughter, Margaret Audubon McCormick until it was sold at Sotheby’s on January 26, 1983.  The earliest entry in the book dates from December 10, 1842; the latest was made on February 14, 1844.

The Audubon Ledger is a treasure trove for the scholar:  it is chock-full with lists documenting Audubon’s income and expenditures as he was finishing work on the Royal Octavo edition of Birds of America (1840-1844) and beginning to launch his new venture, The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.  Eight pages of draft letters, all in the handwriting of Audubon’s son Victor Gifford, add to the documentary value of the collection. But the Ledger has something else to offer too, something more unexpected.   Among the 70-plus pages of lists we find an example of a different kind of bookkeeping, a mysterious page-long aside, in Audubon’s own handwriting, consisting of nothing but a stream of words, slathered on the page in no apparent order and, it seems, with near-complete disregard to meaning.  Complete sentences are the exception rather than the rule.

audubon-ledger_00001

 

 

Transcription

  1. 219:

Second Course

Acquisition and use of Words in little sentences

Wipe Pocket  to wash

Fish, Wipe, Table, deceits  Smoke Pad  Bush–

Tables, Indian Ink  Pocket  Ashes  Ashes

Towels  to wipe, to wash, to catch to pilfer dainties

to extinguish, to listen, to smoke   to draw with water color

to wipe wiped mixed washed pilfered  between

already beautiful, Shine  shrine  rail sight

The table is high, The pocket is wide,  Pilfer

not that is not nice   Wipe thy self.

Bath Thread Needle

Wheel Bath Oath  envy harm song

 

Songs box, calf, (maggot, mite) fashion tired

waste booth both Silk (Willow pasture) boundary

Box boxes thread hurt to separate to avoid

(Willows to pasture) neither again Songs leather feather

(cart load, a tan [?])  mould vein quarrel noble

herd, poodle, nudel, needles, skull, there,

there that the to the the thine one no mine his

(clear pure)  Wine by shine flax stone.

The wheel is on the wagon  The mite

is in the cheese   The Willow is a tree.

Roof week to travel (to range to string)

Book Brook Roof partition   ah I me self

thee (yet, however)  (still, yet) high hole leek

Stomach breath smoke, rich soft proud cloth

Book beech (search to sack)  (matter thing affair)

revenge (guard watch) week cook kitchen oak

corpse (pool laughter)  to laugh—to make to pilfer

throat to rake to reach rays to cook cake

The book is new   The brook is deep  The beech is a

tree   The smoke comes out of the chimney.

The page that precedes this strange jumble of words (p. 214) is as ordinary as they come:  a list of monies the Audubons had collected in New York City on July 14, 1844, from subscribers to the Royal Octavo edition.  It is, as is most everything else in the volume, in Victor Gifford Audubon’s handwriting. Subsequent pages seem to have been cut out, and the number at the top of our strange meditation has been corrected to read “219.”

It’s difficult at first to discern some kind of principle behind this profusion of words.  Some come from the same semantic field (“wipe,” “wash,” “bath” “clear,” “pure”), some are repeated a number of times (“wipe” occurs, in somewhat different form six times; “pilfer” and “smoke” three times; “wash” twice).  Sometimes Audubon’s words acquire an incantatory quality and sound displaces meaning: “to rake to reach rays to cook cake.” Other passages—especially the few fully formed sentences—are almost embarrassingly simple, as if they had been lifted from a children’s picture book: “The wheel is on the wagon   The mite is in the cheese   The Willow is a tree.”  “The smoke comes out of the chimney.”  As we read on, elements of a landscape begin to emerge—willows, beech trees, a brook, a pasture, a house with a roof and a kitchen, smoke coming from the chimney. (I am immediately reminded of the “inscrutable house” in Elizabeth Bishop’s wonderful poem “Sestina.”) Then there is the feel of things, the soft, rich cloth of a dress (made of silk?) worn, perhaps, by a mother. “Pilfer not,” she might have said to her child, “that is not nice.”  And: “Wipe thyself.” We have, indeed, entered a child’s world, as the novelist Katherine Govier pointed out to me when I showed her a copy of that page.  But Audubon was a child not in England or America, where mothers or maids would have said such things.  He grew up in Napoleon’s blood-drenched France, raised by his stepmother.  The sounds made in this text—“Wheel Bath Oath,” “waste booth both,” “nudel, needles, skull,” “book Brook Roof””—are entirely English, as is the landscape it evokes, however confusedly.  Sing willow, willow, willow.

This page, then, evokes a childhood Audubon never really had, at least not in that form, a childhood he therefore couldn’t have outgrown. Hence, too, the sense of loss that pervades this page, a loss of purity and perhaps of life—the mite in the cheese, the maggot, the ashes, the skull, the corpse.   Pilfer not, the mother once said, and yet Audubon did, his entire adult life, when he entered into, and took away, the lives of birds.  And the need to “wipe thyself” would have been immediately clear to someone who spent his days wading through dirt and blood.  Birds weren’t “nice” in their habits, Audubon once said (in his essay about the Shoveler Duck; Ornithological Biography 241).  But neither was he.  “To draw with watercolor,” Audubon writes, close to the beginning of our page:  an apparent reference to the work he did.  And he goes on to define what he did: “to wipe wiped mixed washed pilfered  between already beautiful.”  All watercolors on the world could not wash out the damn’d spots each killing of a bird—of a living thing that was “already beautiful,” something that didn’t need the artist to make it so—left in him.

Of course, you might say, this is all speculation, a fantasy.  The title of the page (“Second Course”) and dry-and-dust subtitle (“Acquisition and use….”) might just mean that Audubon was reading a grammar textbook at the time and taking notes.  But for whom? Or had the insecurities he had felt as a non-native speaker finally caught up with him? In a journal he kept in England in 1826, he referred to himself as a man who “never Lookd into an English grammar” (Writings 186). But by the mid-1840s, he was widely respected as writer, even by other writers:  Longfellow, for example, based his Evangeline partly on the descriptions of Louisiana he had found in Audubon’s essays.  But maybe he was collecting words because he was getting ready to teach his grandchildren about homonyms and synonyms and the like?  Thomas Brewer, who visited Audubon on July 4, 1846, did attest to Audubon’s fondness for the “rising generation” (Herrick 2: 288).

However, the sheer difficulty of the fragment casts doubt on these more pedestrian readings.  What good are notes that make no sense?  And speaking of non-sense, perhaps this text is a clinical document more than anything else.  Audubon’s dementia became an established fact in May 1848, when his friend John Bachman visited him on his estate and found the naturalist’s “noble mind all in ruins” (Herrick 2: 289). But this change had not happened overnight—as early as July 1847, Spencer Fullerton Baird found his former mentor “much changed” (Herrick 2:288).  Did the first signs of his illness announce themselves even earlier?  We now know for sure what Alzheimer patients have perhaps always known intuitively, namely that language dysfunction is one of the first indications of the disease.  And we also know, and some of us have probably experienced it when taking are of a family member, that dementia patients still retain a measure of control over “a lexical phonological system that is used to repeat both known and novel words and that processes linguistic information independent of its meaning” (Glosser et al.).  But what if the last part of that statement—that there is no meaning in these repetitions—isn’t true after all?  What if all we needed to do is listen?  What if meaning—if of a different, more fantastical, speculative kind—still resides somewhere even in the lexicon of the troubled mind, waiting for the right person to unlock it?  “The brook is deep.”  John James continues to baffle us.

 

References

Audubon, John James. Ornithological Biography, or An Account of the Habits of theBbirds of the United States of America: Accompanied by Descriptions of the Objects Represented in the Work entitled The Birds of America, and Interspersed with Delineations of American Scenery and Manners.  Vol. 4. Edinburgh: Judah Dobson, 1839.

—.  Writings and Drawings.  Ed. Christoph Irmscher.  New York:  Library of America, 1999.

Glosser, Guila and Susan E. Kohn, Rhonda B. Friedman, Laura Sands, Patrick Grugan, “Repetition of Single Words and Nonwords in Alzheimer’s Disease,” Cortex, 33. 4 (1997): 653-666.

Herrick, Francis Hobart.  Audubon the Naturalist:  A History of His Life and Time.  2 vols.  New York:  Appleton, 1917.

Spectral Analysis of the Boxer Codex

boxer-pigment-analysis_00005During the first week of May, Ms. Ellen Hsieh, an Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship recipient, and Dr. Christian Fischer, from the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology and the UCLA/Getty Conservation Program at UCLA, visited the Lilly Library to study the images of the Boxer Codex, one of the most important manuscripts in the Library’s collection.

The Boxer Codex was supposedly made in Manila at the end of the sixteenth century during the early Spanish colonial period. It contains Spanish-language text and 95 pages of illustrations which are not influenced, apparently, by contemporary European artistic styles. The objective of the research was to analyze the coloring materials used in the different sections of the codex in order to study the nature and provenance of raw materials as well as the production process of the codex.

Scientific analysis was conducted using portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) and fiber optics reflectance spectroscopy (FORS) in the visible and near-infrared. FORS spectra were collected with two spectrometers, a USB2000+ (Ocean Optics) operating in the visible and a UV-Vis-NIR Fieldspec 3 (ASDI, Panalytical), while pXRF qualitative data were obtained with a Niton XL3t GOLDD+ XRF analyzer (Thermo Fisher Scientific). These non-invasive technologies provide complementary information particularly useful for the identification of pigments and dyes, and have been successfully used to study other manuscripts from Europe and the Americas.

Preliminary results show that the painter(s) of the Boxer Codex used both pigments and dyes such as azurite, cinnabar and indigo. However, precise identification of the whole palette and probable mixtures will require further in-depth analysis and interpretation of the collected data.

The researchers are thankful for the financial support provided by the Lilly Library and the warm welcome and assistance from the librarians, conservators, and staff during their visit.