Typographical Ransom Notes #1: Fine Port and Ham

For a while now I’ve been planning on making a repository to store interesting pages from type specimen books that I come across during the day. And, more importantly, I wanted a place for visitors who use the Updike Collection to share their own images (we welcome researchers taking pictures of the materials they’re using when they visit). That site is now up and running: typesampling-logo1There are only a few images available at present, but expect many more in the future. And to celebrate, here’s the first post in an occasional series of ransom-note-style collages taken from images on the site: FinePortAndHam

Free Printing Press! (Some manufacture and assembly required)

Have you ever found yourself wishing for a printing press built to authentic nineteenth-century standards? Of course you have. And fortunately T.C. Hansard has anatomized the press and provided a detailed description of its parts, in his 1825 Typographia: An Historical Sketch of the Origin and Progress of the Art of Printing.

If you decide not to go all-out and build a press from the instructions, the wood engravings could be printed, cut out and used to build your own paper model of a press. Better yet, download a 3D modeling program, spend a few weekends and evenings creating models of each part, and then send them to a 3D printer. (Please send photos if you choose this route.)

In either case, here are the images:

More History on the Internet

if there’s one thing more frustrating than interesting manuscripts hiding away with no way for researchers to find them, it’s when those manuscripts are also being stored in acidic folders and boxes, slowly self-destructing.

That was the case with the Arnold Autograph Collection until Stephanie Knott, a library student at the University of Rhode Island, arrived at the beginning of this semester and set to work on the collection. The Arnold Autograph Collection is a miscellaneous group of about 150 manuscript items (not to be confused with this nasty kind of autograph collection). They focus mostly on Rhode Island history, going back all the way to the 1600s and including items relating to the American Revolution, a bill of sale for a slave, and the deed to a pew.

In addition to moving items to new acid-free folders and boxes and creating an online collection guide, Stephanie has scanned the entire collection, and created an online exhibition focusing on a dozen items. The collection as a whole should be online in 2014.

Historic Book Person of the Week #22-262: Everybody Else

For over a year now, we’ve been offering a regular series of portraits of members of the book trade. Today’s post is a little different, because now we’re giving you access to hundreds of images of printers, booksellers, bookbinders, etc. through a new online resource: The Updike Collection Book Trade Portraits Database (beta).

Screenshot_1

 

This collection of over 500 portraits (of more than 250 members of the book trade) resides in four large binders in our Daniel Berkeley Updike Collection, and now it resides digitally online at http://www.pplspc.org/portraits . You can search and browse in a number of different ways, or just pick a random portrait and see who turns up. And you can get a printed broadside depicting some of the all-stars of the book world to hang on your wall if you so choose.

One important note: This is very much a work in progress, so there’s still a lot of proofreading and tweaking to do. Please send suggestions, or a note about the errors you’re inevitably going to come across to jgoffin@provlib.org.

Thanks to Rick Ring, Janaya Kizzie, Robin Camille Davis and Zachary Lewis, who began work on the project a long while back.

Portrait Double Feature

Since the weekly portrait series has been quiet recently, we’re offering two portraits today, both nautically themed.

1: “Lord Bateman”

Lord BatemanThis drawing appears in the logbook of the whaling ship Martha, during an 1838-41 voyage.

2: The mailman

page016

 

Alright, maybe not the actual mailman. But this letter-deliverer was intended to proudly decorate the bow of a 19th-century ship. The image comes from an amazing item in our Brownell Collection, the pattern book of a figurehead carver named R. Lee. You can read more about Lee in volume 2, issue 3 of Occasional Nuggets, but if you’d like to view the pattern book in it’s entirety, it’s now available online.

 

More Transcription

If the George Turner letters mentioned yesterday aren’t enough for you, you can now also read the text of a 19th-century whaler who abandoned his ship.

Back in February we had a visit from some Fulbright scholars who began the process of transcribing the Daniel Mowry letters in our Nicholson Whaling Manuscripts Collection. We haven’t yet had a chance to digitize the letters, but we wanted to make the transcriptions available, and you can now find the text of all of them on one page. These are some pretty illuminating letters telling a great story.

Civil Warrior of the Week #15 (Special Edition): George Turner

George Turner in a tent

The image above is a sketch from a letter written by George Turner, a Rhode Island Civil War soldier whose correspondence has recently been scanned and transcribed by URI student Michaela Keating. The online collection (available here) includes nearly 200 letters, mostly sent by Turner to his parents at home in Rhode Island, dating from 1861 to 1864. Taken together they offer an evolving portrait of one soldier’s daily life over the years of the war and his developing attitudes toward race, the South and the purpose of the war.

Turner wrote the letter from which the image above was taken in December of 1861, not long after the Union capture of Fort Wells in Hilton Head, South Carolina, where Turner spent the majority of his time during the war. In the letter, Turner describes his entry into the fort and the circumstances of his drawing:

Soon after entering the Fort we were allowed to stroll around and look about. And during my stroll I cam across a gun carriage that was completely smashed up and while I was looking at it I picked up picked up part of a man’s ear and some teeth and while looking at it come to conclusion that this man had changed his southern views and gone to another land. And now that I think of it of will give you another drawing [sketch of two figures in a tent with "Traveller's Rest" written on the side of the tent] The picture which I bring before your view this time represents your humble servant writing a letter to his Rhode Island friends while one of his mess mates lays on the ground smoking. The name which you see marked on the tent is marked with a led pencil. But I pity the poor fellow who comes there for rest if he does not belong there. Now I have lived in just such a house as you see just four months on the 20th this month, and during that that time I have not taken off my pants olny when I change my under clothes or to wash all over. And I am just as tuff as a birch I am fat rugged and saucy. I can swallow a roast turkey at one gullup. Yesterday we had the first white bread we have had since the 23 day of Oct and when we got our loaf we went about looking at it like so many boys with a new year’s present. But after a while we came to the conclusion to eat it and the way it went down my illustrious gullet was a caution to lookers on.

The letter is typical in its attention to the daily details of camp life. Also typical is the discussion that takes place just prior to this excerpt in which Turner displays antagonism toward the “contraband” freed slaves present at the fort. It’s a theme that develops throughout the course of Turner’s letters, as he grows to despise the former slaves he feels are being better treated than the soldiers.

For more information about the George Turner correspondence, visit our online exhibition, which provides background information about Turner and some of the major themes of his letters. And visit the digital collection to read the letters yourself. As of now over 100 letters have been transcribed, with more to come. And if you’d like to take part and try transcribing some of the letters yourself, just click the “Transcribe this item” link at the bottom of an item and then click the “edit” button.

(If you’re interested in Turner you might also want to check out the Summer/Fall 2012 issue of Rhode Island History (vol. 70.2), which features an article by Kirsten Hammerstrom on Turner titled “Souvenirs of War” (pp. 74-86).

The Updike Autograph Collection Is Now Open For Use

(The following post is contributed by Ramon Cartwright, a RISD graduate and one of our fantastic volunteers. Ramon recently finished processing a collection of over 800 important and wide-ranging manuscript items. Items from the collection have been mentioned on this blog before (here, here, here and here, for instance) but this is the first time the collection has been fully listed online. Upcoming posts will highlight other items from the collection and conservation efforts to preserve it.)

The processing of the Daniel Berkeley Updike Autograph Collection has been completed. Although there is evidence that the collection was initially comprised of New England names, the collection has now grown to reflect a more diverse grouping. A selection of the material, much of which had been culled from the correspondence and papers of Wilkins Updike, includes the names of men involved in politics. Eleven presidential signatures are included in the collection. Also included within the miscellany is a letter from Edgar Rice Burroughs, a poetic excerpt from Sarah Helen Whitman, and a series of fervid letters from a Union soldier to his parents.

During the processing of the Daniel Berkeley Updike Autograph Collection I encountered a 12 page manuscript by Agnes Repplier (1855-1950), titled “What Pessimism Is.” Repplier was a Philadelphia born essayist, biographer and occasional poet published regularly within the pages of The Atlantic Monthly. Her numerous essays were also published in Life, Harper’s, Monthly Magazine, The New Republic, McClure’s, and The Yale Review. “What Pessimism Is” expands upon and clarifies Repplier’s criticism of the poetry of Robert Browning. In an earlier analysis, also published in The Atlantic Monthly, Repplier had classified Browning’s poetry as “of the pessimistic order.” A controversy ensued. Browning enthusiasts found fault with the criticism and surmised that Repplier had failed to grasp Browning’s meaning. “What Pessimism Is,” offers her defense of the initial appraisal using examples of the poet’s works. The essay was published in The Atlantic Monthly Vol. LXII, 1888. Below the reader will find the first four pages of the manuscript. The pages illuminate the background to the article’s origin. Her wit and erudition, for which she had been known, are evinced in these first few pages.

Also included in the Updike Autograph Collection is a leaf from Henry David Thoreau’s essay “October, or Autumnal Tints.”  Originally published in the October 1862 Atlantic Monthly, the essay offers Thoreau’s extended meditation on the changing color of New England autumnal foliage. Among the tints that Thoreau focuses upon, the reader will find poetic descriptions of Sarsaparilla, Pokeweed, Red Maple, the Elm, Scarlet Oak, and more. The brief explication on each tint is presented in the order in which the brightest colors are displayed. The manuscript focuses on ripeness, as it is evinced in the brighter hue flowers assume prior to falling. The extract includes passages that were later revised prior to publication.  The leaf is float mounted on an 8 3/4 x 10 1/4 sheet of paper.

The Crane Takes Wing

 

The latest Occasional Nugget is now on it’s way to mailboxes. If yours isn’t on the list, now is the time to subscribe to the next volume (or buy back issues). This issue features an essay by Kim Nusco on a beautiful manuscript volume created by Walter Crane for his son Lionel. And as a complement to the issue, we’ve digitized the entire book and made it available online in two forms. You can either:

flip through the book’s virtual pages

or

view individual, high-resolution images.

You can read the first section of Kim’s essay here.

Magician of the Week #17 (Extended Edition): John H. Percival

This is a very special edition of the Magician of the Week, because our featured magician’s personal collection is now cataloged online for the first time ever:

John Percival, with card up sleeve

John Percival spent nearly eighty years practicing his magic in Providence and building an excellent collection of books on the topic in the process. Now, thanks to volunteer Elise Petrarca, that collection of over 1,200 books plus ephemera and manuscripts is cataloged in its entirety online. You can find the books in the Library’s online catalog* (you’ll find most — and soon all — of them by doing a call number search for “John H. Percival”) and the description of the ephemera collection on our website. (Elise managed all of that work over the course of the last semester.)

And if you’d like to find out more about Percival and get a quick tour of the collection with a selection of images, you can find that online at http://www.provlib.org/exhibitions/percival. If you’d like to see this terrific collection in person, don’t hesitate to visit.


* Alright, there are a few books scarce enough that they’ll take a little longer to catalog. And  a small collection of Percival’s letters still needs a finding aid. But they’ll be along soon.