Portals Story Event 6/6/16: A History of Future Bummers

2016 Portals Creative Fellow Walker Mettling put together an amazing, Special Collections-themed comics compilation and story night– and you’re invited!

Library Story Night

The event, coming up on Monday, June 6th, will feature stories written and read by local artists Veronica Santos, Caitlin CaliDailen Williams, Jim Frain, Keegan Bonds-Harmon, Jeremy Ferris & Julia Gualtieri. Library friend and neighbor Joe DeGeorge will provide musical interludes. This event will also feature the release of a brand new, Special Collections-themed issue of the Providence Sunday Wipeout, a large-format comics newspaper. Wow!

This not-entirely-literary evening will be hosted by Walker Mettling. See you on June 6th at 6:30 p.m. in the PPL Auditorium!

Bad Children(‘s Books) of History #25: Folly of the Beasts of the Earth

Special Collections has recently acquired an eye-popping addition to our Whaling Collection: Das Jagen, Fangen, Zähmen und Abrichten der Thiere, a 19th century German children’s  book about hunting animals. (The title translates as “The Hunting, Catching, Taming and Dressing of Animals”.)

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The book’s frontispiece shows a spectacular, full-color whale-hunting scene, complete with befuddled walrus, spectator seagulls, and a very morose whale with a baleen mustache.

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(Let’s pretend those dual arches are an exaggerated version of the southern right whale’s “characteristic double spout“, and/or that the sad whale is blocking our view of a smaller, simultaneously-spouting cetacean.)

This generally text-heavy book contains five plates, each of which bears nine tiny engravings. (I don’t recommend scrolling through the following section of engravings if you are 1) a small child, despite the fact that this is a children’s book, or 2) of a delicate constitution.)

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The engravings, as you’ve likely gathered from the above, exhibit all manner of grisly ways in which humans kill other animals (some of which I consider anthropologically suspect, but I’m not a hunting expert).

For instance, there’s the old “bear impaled on a spiky board” trick:

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There’s also the “scaring seals with weird faces over a grassy cliff onto curved spikes”  approach:

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And, lest we forget, the “whipping birds while mounted upon a galloping horse” technique:

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The digitized book can be viewed in its entirety online, either here or here. If you do look over the digital version (or come to Special Collections to view our copy in person), I challenge you to find the engraving of the sneaky person hunting reindeer while dressed in a reindeer suit. Really.

Art//Archives: International Workers’ Day

In honor of the just-past May Day holiday, we’ve pulled items representing work and workers for this week’s open research hours. Swing by before 1:00 today (or make an appointment any time) to see these in person!

Above, from L-R: image from Old London Street Cries and the Cries of To-Day (London: Field & Tuer, 1885); title page from John Gay; Or, Work for Boys (New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1864); image from an untitled Italian book of men and women dressed for different occupations (let us know if you know more about this one!).

Here’s the table of contents from Charles Quill’s The American Mechanic, published in 1838.

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Fun fact regarding this book: the Providence Public Library was founded in 1871 when members from The Franklin Society, The Rhode Island Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Industry, The Franklin Lyceum, and the Association of Mechanics and Manufacturers joined together to form a free public library (and art gallery and natural history museum). When the library first opened its doors in 1878, its collection contained a great number of books from the Mechanics’ Library. Many of those books are still here today, housed in Special Collections, and identifiable by the Mechanics’ Library stamp on the title page. Here’s the (rather faded) evidence that The American Mechanic was part of PPL’s original collection:

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For those with a deeper interest in Rhode Island labor history, I recommend checking out some of the labor-related images in our digital collections. I also highly recommend the gorgeous and heartbreaking collection of digitized photographs from the National Child Labor Committee Collection at the Library of Congress. You can search within that collection for photographs taken in Rhode Island, of which there are more than 100. (These investigative photographs were taken by Lewis Hine between 1908 and 1924, while working for the nationwide National Child Labor Committee. They’re an incredible glimpse into the lives of factory and textile workers, as well as immigrants and working class families, in the early 20th century.)

 

Closing Out the Cruelest Month

I don’t know about all of you, especially if you’re reading this in Australia, but I’m pretty darn excited that it’s finally spring.

The flowering trees here in Providence are really doing their thing.

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Illustration from Les roses: peintes par P.J. Redoute, decrites et classees selon leur ordre naturel par C.A. Thory (Paris, 1835). Yes, I know that a rose is not technically a flowering tree.

People are throwing open their windows and doors, and flooding out onto the sidewalks.

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Frontispiece from James Thomson’s The seasons: containing, spring. summer. fall. winter (Philadelphia, 1795).

Baby animals are being small and hilarious.

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Nothing to do with Special Collections, everything to do with ducklings in ramekins, via GIPHY.

People are sweeping off their driveways, painting their fences, and pressing seeds into the ground. Here’s a 100% accurate description of me in my garden, courtesy of Henry Ward Beecher’s 1857 Plain and pleasant talk about fruits, flowers, and farming:

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When the winter lets us out, and we are exhilarated with fresh air, singing birds, bland weather, and newly-spring vegetation, our ambition is to lay out too much work. We began with an acre, in garden… By reference to a Garden Journal (every man should keep one), we find that we planted in 1840, sixteen kinds of peas; seventeen kinds of beans; seven kinds of corn; six kinds of squash; eight kinds of cabbage; seven kinds of lettuce; eight sorts of cucumber, and seven of turnips… Although we worked faithfully, early and late, through the whole season, the weeds beat us fairly.

You shall not discourage me, Henry Ward Beecher! I’m planting fifteen more kinds of peas as soon as I get home from work today.

Enjoy the warm(er) weather, dear readers, stop by Special Collections to look at historical field guides to flowers and sea shells, and stay tuned for a blog post on the most questionably-themed historical children’s book we’ve seen to date.

A Creative Fellow

If you regularly check the library’s facebook page or other social media, you may already know about Special Collections’ 2016 Creative Fellow, the inimitable Walker Mettling. Walker is working with our collections for the duration of Portals, and is using his fellowship as an opportunity to create new illustrated work related to the exhibition’s theme. Stay tuned for details on where and when you can see some of his fantastical creations!

In the meantime, here are photos of Walker reading a comics newspaper that he printed on a risograph, inspired by the large-scale format of 1860s issues of the Providence Journal that he read in PPL’s Special Collections.

 

A Christmas Present from Japan

This is a long overdue post about a terrific gift we received in early January.Japanese specimens

Big thanks to Akira Yoshino and Taro Yumiba (and others) who sent in a cache of great 20th-century Japanese type specimen books and ephemera. If you’re interested in taking a look, stop in during our open hours, or set up an appointment to visit.

 

Art//Archives Open Hours: Today and Tomorrow

Just a reminder: Special Collections has open hours every Tuesday from 10:00 – 1:00, and every Wednesday from 3:00 – 7:00. You can stop by to browse a selection of items set up in the Reading Room, or you can request items related to a topic of interest. (Have you been wanting to look at children’s books illustrated with woodcuts, or diagrams of early 20th century plumbing systems? This is a great opportunity!)

Images above, clockwise from upper left: “Sheet metal shoe for advertising” from Metal Worker, Plumber, and Steam Fitter (October 22, 1915); Kutroff, Pickhardt, and Co. advertisement with fabric samples from Textile Colorist (47.561, September 1925); “United States Weather Bureau” from Peerless Paris and Its Marvelous Universal Exhibition (Philadelphia: Universal Expo Publishing Company, 1900); “Sea Urchins and Starfish” from Research Design in Nature (Chicago: John Gilbert Wilkins, 1931).

We’re located on the 3rd floor of the Providence Public Library, at the top of the marble staircase. We’re also open by appointment; just give us a call or send us an email!