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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Happy Birthday to the National Parks

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, which was created on August 25, 1916. In celebration, here are two great National Park items from our collection.

Yellowstone was established in 1872 as the first National Park (there were individual parks before the system to administer them was created). Drawing on the precedent of Yosemite, which had been created as state park in 1864,  the federal government stipulated that "the headwaters of the Yellowstone River … is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale … and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” In 1875 Gen. William Strong was invited by Secretary of War William Belknap and Gen. James Forsyth to accompany them on a 53 day trip to the new park. As he explained "I gladly accepted, believing it to be 'the chance of a lifetime'"

William Strong, A Trip to the Yellowstone National Park July, August, and September, 1875. Washignton, 1876. A 876tr. Collection of the Rosenbach.
Strong then published an account of the trip, drawn from his journals since "very little has been written on the wonders and beauties of the great Yellowstone park." The book seems to have been printed in a small edition of fewer than 100 copies, intended primarily for this friends.
William Strong, A Trip to the Yellowstone National Park July, August, and September, 1875. Washington, 1876. A 876tr. Collection of the Rosenbach.

There were no amenities in the new park so it was necessarily a camping trip, with supplies carried in by a train of pack animals. He described the sights he encountered, such as "Soda Mountain Springs or Mammoth Springs as they are sometimes called, is a great white mountain of soda and magnesia, surrounded by an immense number of boiling springs, which continually send up columns of sulphurous vapor...[The mountain is terraced into basins and] The edges and rims of many of the smaller basins are beautifully colored--pink, blue, and yellow predominating, and the incrustations on the sides and bottoms are exquisite in design. Nearly all visitors to the Mammoth Springs bathe in these scalloped basins and as the temperature of the pools varies form sixty to two hundred degrees, they have no difficulty  in selecting the temperature that suits them best."

He visited the canyon of the Yellowstone and claimed "the beauty of the falls of the Yellowstone, with the canon, just below the lower leap,  and the view one gets, even from above, surpasses a dozen Niagaras. And of course there was Old Faithful "the grandest spectacle I ever beheld. A great cauldron, extending into the very bowels of the earth, for aught we knew and heated by unknown fires, bubbling, boiling, and every sixty minutes emitting a column of water three by seven feet, to the height of one hundred and fifty feet."

Strong also commented on the game in the park, decrying the fact that the large game animals were being decimated by professional hunters, which he thought boded poorly for the generations of sport hunters (such as himself) to come.

The book is illustrated with photographs of the members of the traveling party and with sketches of some of the sights they encountered, including these images of lunch at Yellowstone Lake and a mud volcano.

William Strong, A Trip to the Yellowstone National Park July, August, and September, 1875. Washington, 1876. A 876tr. Collection of the Rosenbach.

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William Strong, A Trip to the Yellowstone National Park July, August, and September, 1875. Washington, 1876. A 876tr. Collection of the Rosenbach.


Mount Rainer Park was the fifth national park to be established; it was created from a national forest in 1899. Marianne Moore visited the park twice, in 1922 and 1923 during trips to see her brother who was stationed as a Navy chaplain stationed near Seattle. The park is the setting for one of Moore most significant poems: the 230-line long "An Octopus", published in The Dial in December 1924. (Poet John Ashbery described it as the most important poem of the 20th century)

Department of the Interior. Rules and Regulations. Mount Rainier National Park Washington. 1922. MML 1915 (photocopy) Collection of the Rosenbach.
The poem incorporates quotations from many texts about the park, including this National Park Service book of Rules and Regulations, which  described the mountain as "a glacial octopus," text which inspired the opening line of Moore's poem.

Department of the Interior. Rules and Regulations. Mount Rainier National Park Washington. 1922. MML 1915 (photocopy) Collection of the Rosenbach.


You can read much more about  the poem, and the circumstances of its creation, in former Rosenbacher Pat Willis's article "The Road to Paradise: First Notes on  Marianne Moore's An Octopus."



Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster for the Rosen-blog.



Friday, August 19, 2016

An American-Born Faith

The past year has been a busy year for religious events in Philadelphia. Last September the city hosted the World Meeting of Families, capped off by the pope's visit, and now the Latter-day Saint community is welcoming thousands of visitors to an open house in advance of the September dedication of its new Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple. These events have offered great opportunities to explore our collections: last fall saw the Rosenbach's "Catholics in the New World" exhibit while this past Monday the Rare Book Department at the Free Library opened "An American-Born Faith: Writings from the First Century of Mormonism." 

An American-Born Faith was co-curated by Alison Freyermuth, head of the Free Library's Rare Book Department, and Kathy Haas, associate curator at the Rosenbach, and the exhibit features materials from across the Free Library and Rosenbach collections. As one might expect, both collections include first editions of the Book of Mormon, which was published in 1830 (one of the Rosenbach's two copies is shown below).


The Book of Mormon: an account written by the hand of Mormon upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi. Palmyra [N.Y.]: Printed by E.B. Grandin for the author, 1830. Collection of the Rosenbach, A 830a copy 2

There are other rare copies of the Book of Mormon in the exhibition, including the Rosenbach's copy of the second edition, printed in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1837 (which Rosenbach Company catalogs noted is even rarer than the first) and Rare Book Department's copies of editions printed in Hawaiian (1855) and Deseret alphabet (1869). If you're not familiar with the Deseret alphabet, it was a phonetic alphabet developed by the Mormons in the mid-19th century. It was described as being an aid to foreign-born converts, since English is notoriously difficult to spell. If you are intrigued, you can play around with the online Deseret Alphabet Translator and see how your name or favorite phrase would come out.

Only four books were printed in Deseret, of which the Rare Book Department has three. The alphabet was also promoted through other printed pieces like the Deseret News, as in this copy below from the Rosenbach's collection. (As an aside, the term Deseret, which the Saints used as the name for their Utah settlement, comes from the Book of Mormon and means "honeybee")


Deseret News. Salt Lake City, 23 February 1859. Collection of the Rosenbach, AN .D451

The Rosenbach actually owns many issues of the Deseret News, which are scattered throughout the exhibition; as the first newspaper printed in Utah it appealed to the book collector's love of "firsts." Other Rosenbach items in the exhibition range from printed pioneer journals (including that of Howard Egan, who is shown below) to text by Mormon evangelist Parley Parker Pratt to Catholic missionary Pierre-Jean de Smet's critical description of the Mormons.


Howard Egan. Pioneering the West, 1846 to 1878: Major Howard Egan's diary

Richmond, Utah: Published by Howard R. Egan Estate, 1917. Collection of the Rosenbach, A 917p
The items I've highlighted here are only the tip of the iceberg; the exhibition uses a wide variety of Mormon and non-Mormon texts to provide a look at the 19th and early 20th-century history of the Latter-day Saints and the range of Americans' reactions to the new faith. If you are intrigued, be sure to stop by the 3d floor of the Parkway Central Library; the exhibition is free and is open 9-5 every day except Sunday.



Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster for the Rosen-blog.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Confessions of an Intern: Book Arts & Confessio Amantis

Greetings bibliophiles! My name is Sony Mathew, an intern who has been working in the collections department at the Rosenbach as part of the Arts Intern program hosted by Studio in a School. The program allows undergraduate students such as myself to experience what it would be like to work at a museum. This summer I was tasked to develop a hands-on-tour on Book Arts, where visitors could get the chance to learn about medieval manuscripts, traditional book-making processes, and see aesthetically appealing features of some of the rare books in our collection.

Sound familiar? Our associate curator, Kathy Haas (and my supervisor) wrote a blog post about it last week and included the French Book of Hours showcased in the tour. Last Sunday (8/7) was the grand opening of the tour to the public, given by yours truly, and I am proud to say we had an amazing turnout!

For this week’s blog post, I thought it would be cool to share a bit about yet another book that was shown in my tour – a 14th century Middle English poem titled Confessio Amantis, or the Lover’s Confession, by John Gower.

In at least 31,000 lines, this poem delves into the sorrows of an aging lover who upon summoning the goddess of love, Venus, discovers he is dying from lack of love. Venus summons her chaplain, Genius, who hears the lover’s confession and guides him through a series of medieval courtly love traditions using seven deadly sins as narrative frameworks throughout the course of the confession.

Confessio Amantis by John Gower, manuscript on vellum, England, 1450. MS (1083/29). Collection of the Rosenbach.

In the prologue of the book, it is revealed that Gower wrote the Confessio Amantis in English as a request from King Richard II who was concerned that very few books were written in the vernacular tongue – and rightly so, considering that most medieval texts were written in Latin for liturgical purposes. This work is considered to be an important contribution to secular and courtly love literature in English, and Gower, who was also a friend to Geoffrey Chaucer, may have influenced him to write the Canterbury Tales in Middle English as well.

We at the Rosenbach have a 1450 copy of Confessio Amantis, however, it was not always complete; the final leaf of the manuscript containing the last 56 lines of the poem went missing. So its previous owner, the Earl of Aberdeen, commissioned the calligrapher Edward Johnston to recreate the missing leaf by imitating the same style as the rest of the book.

Confessio Amantis by John Gower, manuscript on vellum, England, 1450. MS (1083/29). Collection of the Rosenbach.
In his colophon (a note at the end of the manuscript) Johnston reveals that he copied the last verses from a modernized edition of the text by G.L. Macaulay and signs his name and the date at the end, placing his mark on the newly added manuscript leaf.
The rest of the book is filled with beautiful gold illumination, paint, and miniature illustrations in the prologue, including an image of Gower himself.

There are so many books I’d love to post about, but if you are interested in seeing or hearing more, you can look forward to another run of the Book Arts tour sometime in the month of November.

It was a great experience for me to be able to create this tour during the course of the eight weeks I’ve interned at the Rosenbach, and I could not have done so without the guidance and support of the Rosenbach staff – so a big thank you to them!

Sony Mathew is a Collections Intern at the Rosenbach and rising senior at Lafayette College, majoring in English and Art.

Friday, August 05, 2016

New Book Arts Tour on Sunday!

Do you know what a rubricator does? Or what a morocco binding looks like compared to Russia leather. Have you ever gotten up close with a medieval manuscript or a Kelmscott Press book by William Morris? All this and more is part of our new Book Arts Hands on Tour, being offered for the first time this Sunday (8/7) at 3 PM. I don't want to give away all our surprises, but I thought I'd offer a quick preview of one of the items in the tour:  a fifteenth century French book of hours.

The book of hours was the most popular prayer book used by the laity during the Middle Ages and is the most common type of illuminated manuscript to survive today. The books centered around the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, a set of hymns,psalms, and readings to be prayed at the seven prayer times or "hours" of the church. In keeping with their Marian focus, books of hours were frequently illustrated with scenes from Jesus' birth and infancy narratives, such as this image of the Annunciation.

Horae, Paris use: manuscript on vellum. France, 15th century. MS 1057/29. Collection of the Rosenbach.
Mary is depicted in prayer with a book open before her, a very standard set of iconography that emphasized her piety and learning and demonstrates the close association between prayer and prayerbooks in the late medieval period.

Images of the Evangelists were also standard in books of hours and typically showed them writing or holding the books they authored. This picture depicts Mark with his traditional lion. (As a personal aside, I love looking at medieval images of lions, which are often quite removed from actual lions--I'm sure someone has written a book on this)

Horae, Paris use: manuscript on vellum. France, 15th century. MS 1057/29. Collection of the Rosenbach.

These illustrations would have been done by a separate artist from the scribe who wrote out the text and definitely added to the cost and luxury quality of the books; some of the pigments (such as gold and ultramarine blue)  used for decorating and illuminating were quite expensive in their own right.

Hopefully this brief preview has piqued your interest; this is only one of the many fascinating books we'll be exploring in our books arts tour. To find out more, come on over on Sunday; or, if you're totally booked for this weekend, look for the tour to come around again in our rotation of hands on tours once we get our fall schedule in order.




Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster for the Rosen-blog.



Friday, July 29, 2016

Coffee Break

I am not a coffee drinker, but many of my colleagues at the Rosenbach definitely enjoy a good cup. So when I was paging through issues of the Oregon Statesman looking for possible references to the 1859 Pig War (more on that another time) and ran across a front-page tidbit entitled "Coffee," it caught my eye.

"Coffee," Oregon Statesman. 20 September 1859. collection of the Rosenbach. AN .O663
The article, which covers both coffee and tea, claims to be extracted from " a new work by Dr. Bigelow of Boston." This seems be his book Nature in Disease, published in 1854. But what really fascinated me was the way in which, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For example, one of the passages notes that:

It is well known that coffee is strongly promotive of watchfulness and enables us to resist for a long time the approaches of sleep. Students, whose lucubrations occupy a considerable portion of the night, find a great increase of the vigilance and vigor of their faculties, derived from the use of both coffee and tea. 

So, in other words, students pulling all-nighters in the 1850s drank a lot of coffee. Sound familiar? One of the noted drawbacks to coffee and tea use might also be familiar to modern readers

the long habit of drinking these articles renders us so dependent on them for the power of keeping the mind awake that a change of them to any other form of diet creates in most persons, at least for a time, a drowsiness and dullness of intellect.

The article also notes that excessive coffee intake, especially without food, can lead to "tremors, headache, vertigo, and some more serious disorders."  Despite these drawbacks, coffee, then as now, was clearly very popular. In fact, there was a great story on "War and Peace and Coffee" earlier this week on NPR, in which Smithsonian curator John Grinspan noted that in Civil War soldier journals, "The word coffee was more present in these diaries than the words "war," "bullet," "cannon," "slavery," "mother" or even "Lincoln."" He even describes rifles with coffee grinders built into the stock. I don't think I've ever seen one of those, so if anyone knows of a collection that has one please let me know!

That's it for this historical coffee break--now back to work!



Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster for the Rosen-blog.




Friday, July 22, 2016

The DNC Comes to Philadelphia--In 1936

Philadelphia is gearing up for next week's arrival of the Democratic National Convention and museums across town have been highlighting their historical and political collections. We, of course, have our Freedom Train exhibition, looking at a project that both celebrated American history and raised questions (intentionally and unintentionally) about what freedom means. The Constitution Center has an exhibit focused on how candidates run for office while the Academy of Natural Sciences has a showcase of presidential hair. The Inquirer had a nice run down earlier this week of some of the many arts and culture activities associated with the convention.

All of this is nothing new. Back in the Rosenbach brothers' time Philadelphia hosted the 1936 Democratic convention and the Free Library featured an exhibition of "Great Documents of the Democratic Presidents from the Collection of Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach."

An exhibition to celebrate the Democratic National Convention opening June 23, 1936; great documents of the democratic presidents from the collection of Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach.Philadelphia, 1936. Ro1 936d copy 2. Collection of the Rosenbach.

An exhibition to celebrate the Democratic National Convention opening June 23, 1936; great documents of the democratic presidents from the collection of Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach.Philadelphia, 1936. Ro1 936d copy 2. Collection of the Rosenbach.


The exhibition included fifty-seven documents of presidents from Thomas Jefferson to Woodrow Wilson. They were not all from the presidents' time in office; the section on Jefferson starts with a letter  written when he was still a "gay, young law student, dancing and courting" in Williamsburg, Virginia., 37 years before he was elected president.

An exhibition to celebrate the Democratic National Convention opening June 23, 1936; great documents of the democratic presidents from the collection of Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach.Philadelphia, 1936. Ro1 936d copy 1. Collection of the Rosenbach.

An exhibition to celebrate the Democratic National Convention opening June 23, 1936; great documents of the democratic presidents from the collection of Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach.Philadelphia, 1936. Ro1 936d copy 1. Collection of the Rosenbach.

As you can see in these images of the first and last pages of the list, one of our copies of the exhibit catalog was annotated by Bill McCarthy, the first curator of the museum. His marks seem to indicate which of the items from the 1936 exhibit had come to the museum ("R") and which had been sold by the Rosenbach Company in the interim. However, there are some puzzles, such as the fact that the first item in the exhibit, Thomas Jefferson's letter from October 1763, does not have an "R"  note, but it is definitely still here--in fact you can see and touch it for yourself on this Sunday's Founding Fathers hands-on tour.

Thomas Jefferson, autograph letter signed to William Fleming. Williamsburg, [ca. Oct. 1763] Ams 449/19.Collection fo the Rosenbach.
I don't know how many people, either local Philadelphians or out of town visitors, were able to stop by and see Dr. R's documents in 1936, but for all of you in Philadelphia over the next week, it should be a great opportunity to get out, enjoy the city, and check out a wide variety of politically-inspired art and history events. We hope to see you here at the Rosenbach!




Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach and the primary poster for the Rosen-blog.