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.

The Golden Age of Pop-Up Books

The Golden Age of Pop-Up Books

by Carin Graves, Public Services Intern

pz8-l778-17858_1Movable and pop-up books became increasingly popular in the 19th century, as publishers looked for inventive ways to create and market books for children. Previously, movable elements like the volvelle (a turnable wheel of paper) had been used to demonstrate concepts in astronomy as well as concepts in scientific and religious literature, but only in the 19th century did movable elements become primarily associated with children’s literature and toy books.

What we think of today as pop-up books were pioneered during the mid- to late-19th century.  During what is now referred to as the “Golden Age of Pop-Up Books,” the foremost publishing company was Dean & Son.

When George Dean joined his father’s publishing company in 1847 to form Dean & Son, he was already working within the decades-long history of Dean publishing. With George Dean’s arrival the company started selling toy books for children and later moved onto movable books. Between 1850 and 1900 Dean & Son published more than sixty movable books, dominating the market for several decades.

Dean & Son’s first forays into movable books were the Dean and Son’s New Scenic Books Series, which included titles like Little Red Riding Hood, Robinson Crusoe, Aladdin, and Cinderella. The Lilly Library owns the first of this series, Little Red Riding Hood.  The style of the Dean and Son’s New Scenic Books is reminiscent of earlier peep shows, which had three dimensional images created by separate layers of the scene folded into an accordion-style book. The foreground, middleground, and background of each scene in Little Red Riding Hood are pulled back by a single string to form a three dimensional picture. Dean & Son also created another version of Little Red Riding Hood titled Dean & Son’s Moveable Red Riding Hood.  This version featured individual movable parts, one of the first instances of such an innovation in pop-ups and movables.

Another type of movable developed by Dean & Son was the “dissolving view,” created using two images cut with slats.  When a tab was pulled, the first image would be replaced by the underlying second image.  The first instance of the dissolving view, Dean’s New Book of Dissolving Views is also owned by the Lilly Library and was first published in 1860.

The Golden Age of Pop-Ups coincided with a time of innovation and growth in Victorian England. Another Dean & Son moveable at the Lilly Library exemplifies this; A Visit to the exhibition: in eight changeable pictures showing its beautiful objects of art and how they were made … illustrates some of the exhibits that were on display in the Crystal Palace during the Great Exhibition of 1851. Each page displays an exhibition object on a stage with Victorian onlookers in the foreground. Once a tab is pulled down, a second illustration beneath the object reveals how it was made.

By the last two decades of the 19th century Dean & Son’s grip on the market had diminished as people like the artist and writer Lothar Meggendorfer and the artist Ernest Nister developed other pop-up publications. During the World Wars, the market for movables and pop-ups was further reduced and only saw a resurgence beginning in the middle of the 20th century.

Follow us on Twitter @IULilly Library to see gifs and videos of some of the books described here.

IUCat Records

Little Red Riding Hood: http://www.iucat.iu.edu/catalog/5100064

Movable Red Riding Hood: http://www.iucat.iu.edu/catalog/230545

Dean’s New Book of Dissolving Views: http://www.iucat.iu.edu/catalog/1409860

A Visit to the Exhibition: http://www.iucat.iu.edu/catalog/1403103

Works Consulted

DuLong, J., Baron, A., Boehm, A., Montanaro, A. R, Rubin, E. G. K, Sabuda, R., & Ziegler, R. (2004). A Celebration of Pop-up and Movable Books. Special limited ed. [New Brunswick, N.J.]: Movable Book Society.

Haining, P. (1979). Movable Books: An Illustrated History: Pages & Pictures of Folding, Revolving, Dissolving, Mechanical, Scenic, Panoramic, Dimensional, Changing, Pop-up and Other Novelty Books from the Collection of David and Briar Philips. London: New English Librar

Montanaro, A. R. (1993). Pop-up and Movable Books: A Bibliography. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press.

The Performative Book in the film The Ocean in a Thimble

B-The-Ocean-in-a-Thimble
Image courtesy Bloomlight Productions

The exhibition at the Lilly Library, The Performative Book from Medieval Europe to the Americas, deals with the interaction between the world of medieval manuscripts and the world of new media at the interface between the Middle Ages and the early Modern era. On February 26, 6:30 PM, the Indiana University Cinema will screen a film that stages this dynamic of media confrontation by combining and bringing into contact with one another materials from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries—including some from the Lilly Library—as well as from the twentieth century.

The film, The Ocean in a Thimble, brings together four strong women, all crucial to the European history of spirituality, and takes the viewer on a meditative journey. Hildegard of Bingen, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Hadewijch, and Etty Hillesum lived in very different worlds and times and yet have one thing in common: self-determination is the key to their lives and works. They dealt with and overcame obstacles placed in their way by society and established patterns of thought.

Mystics of all ages and religions are explorers of other worlds, of spaces beyond time and matter. Hence, from their perspective time is an illusion. Hildegard Keller, one of the co-curators of the exhibition, takes this concept literally and plays with time as an author and a filmmaker. Did these four figures know one another? Could they ever have met one another in reality? No, says Keller, but that is the magic of fiction. Her film brings the four women back to life and makes them visible to one another, a fictional device that requires no justification. The film’s liberties with history offer an independent heuristic approach to its materials, enabling a special, artistic freedom.

Keller wrote the script and directed the film, which she co-edited with Russell Sheaffer, a doctoral candidate at the Media School. Julia Karin Lawson provided the English subtitles; Tony Brewer, a sound effects artist, will provide live accompaniment on stage. This multilayered film with its live sound component brings out the fascination found in the fabric of life—actually of interwoven lives!

Naked Hemingway

We are thrilled this week to present a guest blog post by Christoph Irmscher, Provost Professor of English, George F. Getz Jr. Professor in the Wells Scholars Program, and Director of the Wells Scholars Program. Professor Irmscher has conducted extensive research in the Lilly Library’s Max Eastman collections. As part of this research, he discovered a photograph of Ernest Hemingway that shows the great American author as you’ve never seen him before. Here, Professor Irmscher recounts the story behind this remarkable archival find.

 

Naked Hemingway 

by Christoph Irmscher

The poet, editor, and activist Max Eastman (1883-1969) was one of the handsomest men of his time. His film star looks melted the hearts of women right and left and, judging from the letters they sent him, they were not content with worshipping him from distance. A fervent believer in what might be called the “big tent” approach to modern love, Eastman readily invited his female fans into his life, if mostly for brief periods of time and with the understanding that he had not promised them anything at all. In 1925, when Eastman, having returned from Bolshevik Russia, was frequenting the coffee shops of Paris, Hemingway was a member of his circle of friends. Max deeply admired Hemingway’s In Our Time and even toyed with the idea of having his wife Eliena—the sister of Stalin’s favorite prosecutor Nikolai Krylenkotranslate it into Russian.  But his respect for the writer didn’t extend to the person. In Great Companions (1964), Max records a terse exchange that he had with Hemingway, who guiltily shared with him the pleasure he got from staring at the girls in the Parisian dance halls.  Coming home from his nights in Montmartre, Hemingway was, he told Max, “disgusted” with himself.  He asked Max if he felt so, too.  Max, an early convert to Freudian psychoanalysis, had little patience for such talk: “No, I don’t, Ernest.  I enjoy lustful feelings, and what’s more I don’t think you’re talking real.”

Max Eastman on the beach. Undated photograph. Eastman mss. II.
Max Eastman on the beach. Undated photograph. Eastman mss. II.

As Hemingway turned his adolescent approach to sex into literary method, Max’s respect for the writer took a hit too. Reviewing Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon, a book about bullfighting in Spain, Max freely expressed his frustrations with Hemingway’s masculine swagger.  His heart went out to the bull in Hemingway’s narrative, “this beautiful creature …  gorgeously equipped with the power for wild life, trapped in a ring where his power is nothing.” Max had no sympathy for the toreros who would hunt the animal till he would sink down, “leadlike into his tracks, lacking the mere strength of muscle to lift his vast head, panting, gasping, gurgling, his mouth too little and the tiny black tongue hanging out too far to give him breath, and faint falsetto cries of anguish, altogether lost baby-like now and not bull-like, coming out of him.” Max accused Hemingway of deriving pleasure from such callous acts of murder, an attitude he compared to the “wearing of false hair on the chest.”

Hemingway’s supporters were outraged. “I don’t know when I have written anything that I have heard more about from various sources than that article,” said Max.  Nevertheless, he included the review in a book he published in 1034, Art and the Life of Action.  Two years later, as Max was hanging out in the office of his editor at Scribner’s, Maxwell Perkins, look who happened to drop in:  Ernest Hemingway, en route back to the Spanish Civil War! Hemingway relished the opportunity to exact revenge on Max. To Perkins’s consternation, he ripped open his shirt and invited the men to inspect his chest hair.  He then proceeded to tear open Max’s shirt, too, revealing a chest that was, Perkins recalled, as “bare as a bald man’s head.” Rifling though a copy of Art and the Life of Action, which just happened to be lying on Perkins’s desk, Hemingway yelled out a particularly objectionable sentence and then, for emphasis, socked Max on the nose with the book. Max lunged at Hemingway, and both men fell on the ground.  By the time Perkins had reached them, Max was on top of Hemingway, although that might have been an accident. Max declared himself the winner.   Given his age he had, he told the press, used a wrestling move to take Hemingway down. Hemingway assured the Times that no such thing had taken place, and that Max instead had taken his slap “like a woman.” But there is one detail that does make Max’s account somewhat credible:  he did know how to wrestle.  Decades ago, while he was John Dewey’s student at Columbia University, he had coached a wrestling team in a Lower Eastside boys club.

Waldo Peirce, photographer. Ernest Hemingway, on the Marquesas Keys, 1928. Eastman mss. II.
Waldo Pierce, photographer. Ernest Hemingway, on the Marquesas Keys, 1928. Eastman mss. II.

Max never forgot what had happened. As Hemingway went from one well-publicized risky adventure to the next, Max continued to insist on his own version of masculinity that involved not loud displays of virility but a deliberate celebration of the human body and its infinite capacity for pleasure. As it turned out, he was not the only one with a grudge against Hemingway. Decades after the battle in Perkins’s office, a mutual friend of both men, the painter Waldo Pierce, presented Max with a surprise gift. In the 1920s, Pierce had been Hemingway’s fishing buddy in Florida, and it was on one of those occasions that Pierce had persuaded Hemingway to pose for his camera wearing nothing but a kind of turtle-shell on his head and the butt-rest of a fishing rod around his privates. I recently discovered the original photograph in Max’s extensive papers housed at the Lilly Library.  Hemingway had sometimes needled Pierce for his devotion to his family (in a letter to Dos Passos, he once called him a “domesticated … cow”). Well, here was Pierce’s chance to retaliate. Before he sent the compromising photograph to Max, he inscribed it on the back: “The great Pescador hiding his light under a but-rest [sic].”  Max, with evident satisfaction, noted the near-absence of chest-fur.  And he published the photograph in the second volume of his autobiography, Love and Revolution (1964), accompanied by the sarcastic caption, “Hemingway in the twenties.” By then, Hemingway had been dead for three years.

Whether Max or his publisher balked, we don’t know.  But in the published version of the photograph, Hem is wearing a pair of dainty swimming trunks.  No matter, Max had finally won the battle.

Christoph Irmscher’s biography of Max Eastman, Max Eastman’s Century, which contains an in-depth discussion of the material discussed above, will be published by Yale University Press.