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Friday, October 24, 2014

The Adventures of "The Adventure of the Empty House"

If you haven't been on our "Sleuths and Spies" hands-on-tour, you may not know that the Rosenbach owns Arthur Conan Doyle's manuscript for the 1903 Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Empty House.

Arthur Conan Doyle, The adventure of the empty house: autograph manuscript. 1903. EL4 .D754e 903. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

The Empty House is famous as the story that brought back Sherlock Homes from the dead. Six years after publishing his first Holmes tale, A Study in Scarlet, Doyle felt that Holmes was a distraction from other writing projects and so in 1893 he killed off the popular detective in a struggle at Reichenbach falls. The public was quite disappointed, but they would have to go for nearly a decade without Sherlock. In 1901, faced with financial encouragement from his publishers, Doyle began serializing The Hound of the Baskervilles, but this story was set prior to Holmes's death. It was The Adventure of the Empty House, published in 1903, that truly revived Holmes; it picks up 2 years after Holmes's supposed death and explains that he did not in fact die, but escaped and spent the interim time traveling.

Doyle was handsomely recompensed for resurrecting the detective. As The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle explains, for the thirteen stories (beginning with Empty House) that make up The Return of Sherlock Holmes, Doyle received £100 per thousand words from The Strand magazine for the British rights and the American magazine Collier's offered $45,000 for the American rights.

The manuscript for The Adventure of the Empty House is written in a series of composition books, which are bound together in a white vellum cover, signed by Doyle at the upper left.

Arthur Conan Doyle, The adventure of the empty house: autograph manuscript. 1903. EL4 .D754e 903. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

Given the story's significance in the "life" of Sherlock Holmes, The Museum of London asked to borrow the manuscript for their major exhibition Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die, which opened last Friday. Here's the super-cool logo for the show.

Three weeks ago I escorted the little book across the Atlantic  and supervised its installation in London. I was accompanied by Janine Pollock of the Free Library, who was couriering the manuscript of Edgar Allen Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue from the FLP Rare Book Department. Our manuscript joins a number of other Doyle manuscripts in the exhibition, including notes for A Study in Scarlet in which the dynamic detecting duo are tentatively named J. Sherringford Holmes and Ormond Sacker.  The website has pictures of this and the other manuscripts in the exhibit and a handy page comparing the Study In Scarlet notes with the final version and with Rue Morgue.

When I was there in early October much of the exhibit was not yet installed, but what I could see looked great. I was interested to see that other Doyle manuscripts were bound in vellum covers like ours. The show includes much more than just manuscripts: it includes homage to film and television versions (including some Benedict Cumberbatch items) and a fantastic section showcasing artifacts of London of the period, drawn from the Museum of London's outstanding holdings. The exhibit has been getting great reviews from both the press and Holmes enthusiasts (I like the fact that both of these reviews mention or show our manuscript.) So if you're in London between now and April  12 you might want to stop by and check it out!

If you are in Philadelphia, you might want to check out our Sleuths and Spies tour. Even before the manuscript returns in April the tour is chock full of goodies from Poe to Dickens to Conrad--did you know that Dr. Rosenbach bought Doyle's crime library in 1930 and that we still have one of his books? Don't go to 221B Baker Street but 2008 Delancey Place!

Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fiasco! Act III

Act III: All Apologies

Opera [Works] of Apuleius.  Rome: Petri de Maximo, 1469 (edition princeps).  The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia, Incun469a. 
Within this fiasco-themed mini-series we've so far looked at collections that hint at theatrical and political debacles. This final act concerns a legal fiasco, and this one goes back to the ancient world—Roman North Africa, precisely.  Not far from Tripoli a famous trial took place in the second century CE.  The plaintiff was one Aemilianus.  He was a member of a family that believed they had been aggrieved by a young man who had married Aemilianus’s sister-in-law, Pudentilla, then a widow.  The young man and the defendant in the suit was Apuleius of Madaurus, an educated Roman citizen, Platonic philosopher, and author of The Golden Ass, the only surviving ancient novel in Latin.  While the latter is Apuleius's best-known work and probably his most significant, his court defense--known as his Apologia--is an overlooked literary gem.  It was first printed in Rome in 1469, as you can see from this edition in our collection of incunabula.  The Apologia is a witty and spirited defense, which proved a disaster for Aemilianus and his co-plaintiffs.  The background of the case is exceedingly complicated, but it came down to who would inherit Pudentilla’s wealth: her sons (backed by their late father’s family, including Aemilianus, as well as their in-laws), or her new husband Apuleius?  To keep the wealth in the family they needed to undermine Apuleius, so Pudentilla’s sons and in-laws accused him of bewitching her with magic spells and potions.  They presented their first piece of evidence to an indignant populous in the forum, reading a fragment of a letter that Pudentilla had written mentioning that, “Apuleius is a magician.  He has bewitched me and I love him too much.”  Pudentilla's in-laws used this as the pretext to charge Apuleius with being a magician.  They promptly presented evidence that Apuleius had committed various sorceries against several different people. 
The beginning of the Apologia.  The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia, Incun 469a. 
Why does this ancient Roman courtroom defense qualify as a fiasco?  Because a key ingredient in any good fiasco is ridiculousness, and Apuleius found the proceedings against him to be utterly ludicrous, so he decided to fight fire with fire.  His defense is a bitingly sarcastic, disdainful, and hilarious dismantling of his opponent's charges word for word.  Nothing escaped Apuleius’s scorn, not even the brief remark in the opening arguments that he was a “handsome philosopher.”  Apuleius rebutted that he isn’t really that handsome: “This hair, which they, with falsehood so manifest, affirmed that I had allowed to grow to such a length, in order to add to the allurements of my beauty—you see how far it is from being handsome and neatly arranged—all clogged and matted together, like the rope of a twisted tow, shaggy and uneven… .  The charge, then, as to my hair, which they have made as it were a capital count in the indictment, has, I fancy, been sufficiently refuted." (I'm quoting from a 1878 English edition by an anonymous translator printed in London by George Bell & Sons).  

His opponents tried to use Apuleius's own poetry against him, pointing out verses that they felt had lascivious or shameful connotations.  They didn't pick particularly damning poems, however.  One of them had to do with dentifrices--tooth powder!  Apuleius seizes on this to deliver a mocking oration on oral hygiene, which reportedly sent the crowd of spectators into hysterics and which he ended with, "If, indeed, a person, like yourself Aemilianus, will hardly ever open his mouth except to utter calumnies and revilings, I am clearly of the opinion that he ought to bestow no attention whatever on his mouth, nor to clean his teeth with powders brought from abroad, when he might much more appropriately rub them with charcoal snatched from the funeral pile."  

Apuleius spun outrageous comedy out of the most absurd assumptions of his accusers, discoursing on such topics as mirrors, fish, napkins, and whatever other subjects he could use to insult his accusers and expose their ridiculous charges.  In this way, Apuleius's defense was his best offense, essentially prosecuting his accusers for slander, stupidity, illiteracy, and bad taste.  The crowd loved it and the Roman proconsul who acted as judge in the trial duly acquitted Apuleius of being a nefarious magician.  For Aemilianus and his scheming family, the trial was truly a fiasco; for us, it's some of the most entertaining courtroom drama you could ask for!  
Apuleius's closing argument: "To each of your innumerable charges I answer in a couple of words.  'You clean your teeth'--Pardon my cleanliness.  'You look in a mirror'--A philosopher ought. 'You compose verses'--Tis not unlawful to do so.  'You examine fishes'--Aristotle teaches me.  'You make Gods of wood'--Plato advises it. 'She is older than you'--No uncommon thing... "  From Incun 469a. 

Patrick Rodgers is Curator of the Maurice Sendak Collection at the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fiasco! Act II

Following on last week's post about fiascos from our collections, we now bring you act II:

Act II: Fire Ball
Charles VI of France in an engraving from a later book on French kings.  In The Rulers of France, MS f.233/22, The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

A document written by Charles VI during one of his more lucid periods.  In The Rulers of France, MS f.233/22, the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Charles VI of France was king during a pretty rough time, reigning from 1380-1422.  Europe was still recovering from the Black Death while France was in the midst of fighting the Hundred Year's War against the English and suppressing widespread civic unrest within the kingdom.  To top it off, Charles also suffered bouts of insanity and paranoia.  Still, his court tried to maintain appearances and to put up a brave front.  In 1393, one of Queen Isabeau's ladies-in-waiting was to be remarried, and an occasion that could have been an elegant celebration turned into a major fiasco, if not worse.  The problem had nothing to do with political intrigue or the King’s psychosis, although by this time Charles suffered longer spells of delirium and had been advised to leave the stressful matters of state to his councilors to pursue more leisurely activities.  And so the King and some of his close retainers decided to enliven the wedding by turning it into a masquerade and disguised themselves as “wild men,” semi-mythical forest-dwellers who figure in many medieval legends.  The idea was to make themselves look hairy, so they used a kind of wax or pitch to stick stringy, scraggly flax fibers all over their costumes.  Thus attired, they danced around wildly to the amusement of the guests and surely the embarrassment of the Queen and her ladies, encouraging the revelers to guess their identities.  Charles ordered the torchbearers to the far sides of the room just to make sure there were no incendiary accidents.  It might all have come off as an embarrassing wedding moment had not the King’s brother, the Duke of Orleans, arrived late to the party.  Since he had no idea who these hairy wild men were, he tried to get a look at their faces…using the torch he brought with him to see them better.  Before anyone could shout a word of warning, the forbidden torch was close enough to catch the flammable pitch and fibers on one of the wild men, and within seconds all five men, including the King were burning.   
The Bal des Ardents in Jean Froissart's Chronicle (vol. 4, part 2), c.1470-1472.  In the British Library, Harley 4380.
One of them succeeded in dousing himself (either with a tub of dishwater or—and many medieval chroniclers prefer to picture this—by jumping into a wine vat), while other courtiers were badly burned themselves trying to put out the other wild men.  Credit the Duchess of Berry with being smart enough to realize she could smother the flames with the train of her gown, which actually saved the King’s life.  The other three wild men died of their injuries.  The bal des ardents (“The Ball of the Burning Men”), as it is known, wasn’t just a tragedy for the court—it proved a fiasco for the French monarchy, eroding whatever trust remained in Charles VI’s judgment.  His relatives at court stripped him of most of his powers to govern.  The political fragmentation that followed weakened France to the point that civil war broke out between rival duchies and the English exploited the crisis to invade, crush the French at the Battle of Agincourt, and force a humiliating treaty.  

Stay tuned for next week's final fiasco!

Patrick Rodgers is Curator of the Maurice Sendak Collection at The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Fiasco! Act I

Kathy is away this week working on something Sherlockian (which I’m sure you’ll read about here soon).  In the meantime, this week’s blog post is motivated by perhaps the most notorious episode of NPR’s This American Life, which was the topic of lunchtime conversation recently at the Rosenbach.  The theme: fiascos.  If you want to hear about the worst production of Peter Pan ever staged or how a minor change in a local radio program turned into a state-wide cultural throwdown then give a listen to the episode.  If you want to know which fiascos are hidden behind the covers and enclosures of objects in this museum…well, that’s what I’m here for.  Consider me Mr. Fiasco.  I’ve got three stories of fiascos related to objects in our collection, which I’ll post separately to avoid any single post becoming an outrageously long…well, you know.  

Act I: A Solemn Mockery. 
Henry II, a "newly discovered" Shakespeare play forged by William Henry Ireland.  The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia, EL3 f.I65i MS4.
Shakespeare is always good fodder for a fiasco.  So many of his plays draw their life force from them—even plays he didn’t write!  That’s where William Henry Ireland comes in.  This late 18th-century law clerk’s specialty was forging documents supposedly in Shakespeare’s hand (no authentic hand-written documents by Shakespeare are believed to have survived apart from a few signatures, and forgers do abhor a literary vacuum).  He supplied the world with letters and declarations by Shakespeare, fragments of King Lear and Hamlet in manuscript, even a lock of Will's hair (so that’s where all the hair went!)—all supposedly discovered within a vast trunk of documents belonging to a friend, Mr. H., who wished to remain anonymous.  The thing about a fiasco is the snowball effect of rolling disaster that it creates, and around 1795 Ireland’s fiasco began to roll downhill.  Droves of people came to the Ireland family home to lovingly inspect the documents, many of them exhibiting an almost religious fanaticism.  Samuel Ireland, William Henry’s stern father and Shakespeare enthusiast, was so enraptured by his son’s discoveries that he couldn’t help himself—he had to know more about Mr. H.  So William Henry then had to impersonate Mr. H. in a lively correspondence that he kept with his father, all the while forging his magnum-opus, a lost tragedy called Vortigern and Rowena.  When news of that play’s “discovery” reached the ears of theater impresario Richard Sheridan he knew he had to put on the first “new” Shakespeare play in more than a century.  Meanwhile, the first voices of dissent made themselves heard. 
Transcription of Ireland's forged Vortigern.  The Rosenbach of the Free Library, EL3 f.I65i MS3.
Sheridan bought the rights to perform Vortigern at Drury Lane theater, with the famous J. P. Kemble in the starring role (despite the actor's skepticism of the play).  Just before the first performance of Vortigern on April 2, 1796, Shakespeare scholar Edmond Malone dropped the gauntlet, publishing a widely-read criticism of Ireland’s supposed Shakespeareana as a vile hoax. 
A hand-bill distributed during the performance refuting Malone's claims.  The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia, EL3 f.I65i MS3. 
The night of the performance Drury Lane was a powder keg.  Supporters of the Irelands and their discoveries, as well as doubters who agreed with Malone’s assessment packed the theater.  The audience gave the play a chance to prove itself, listening without much quarrel to the first few acts.  It was Kemble himself who gave vent to the simmering tensions of the dissenters in the crowd when he pronounced these lines—mockingly addressed to Death—towards the end of the play: "Thou clapp’st thy rattling fingers to thy sides; And when this solemn mockery is ended—"  
The "solemn mockerye" passage from William Henry Ireland's forged Votigern play.  The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia, EL3 f.I65i MS3. 

You had to be there: the way that Kemble spat the last line at the audience apparently left no question at which mockery he was addressing.  The crowd picked up on it and started jeering and whistling.  Kemble let this go on then fired his second torpedo, repeating the line with an equal measure of disdain for the same reaction.  When the play finally ended, it was announced that Vortigern would be shown again the following Monday, which was greeted with loud booing from the crowd.  Tempers were so high by then that a fight broke out in the pit between the booers and the play’s supporters.  Chaos ensued.  The sanctity of the Bard was at stake and the theater became the battleground for this holy war.  Kemble hastily took the stage to say, on second thought, they’ll do a different play on Monday.  
The fight eventually broke up and everybody went home, but the Vortigern fiasco continued in print.  Newspaper reviews and much word-of-mouth excoriated the production and largely blamed the pretentious Samuel Ireland for the forgeries.  Samuel refused to renounce them, and instead published a critique of Malone.  This put immense pressure on William Henry Ireland to confess and clear his father's name.  He eventually did, though his father never believed that his son had the talent or intelligence to play at being Shakespeare for as long as he had, and the critics assumed it was some sort of trick Samuel had forced his son into doing.  Not surprisingly, after his exposure William Henry's reputation was in the gutter.  But since he was known as a forger, why not make the most of it?  He began to copy his own forgeries and sell them as the original forgeries.  You can see them here, including his copy of Vortigern—is a forgery of a forgery a fiasco?  

Mr. Fiasco is Curator of the Maurice Sendak Collection at The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Men and Maps

Last week I was pleased to attend an excellent conference on James Logan and the Networks of Atlantic Culture and Politics, 1699-1751, co-sponsored by The Library Company, UPenn's McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and Stenton, James Logan's home, now owned by the Colonial Dames. Logan came to Pennsylvania as William Penn's secretary in 1699 and became one of the leading political figures in the colony, as well as a merchant, scientist, scholar and a few other roles to boot.  If you haven't been to Logan's home at Stenton, I highly recommend a trip; right now is a particularly great time to go because as part of year-long temporary exhibition they have been able to borrow back items with Logan provenance from across Philadelphia (and beyond) and it is a real treat to see them in context.

The Rosenbach has a few Logan documents, mostly laid into our massively extra-illustrated copy of Lives of Eminent Philadelphians (which would makes its own interesting post). Here is a copy of a petition Logan submitted to the Pennsylvania council, asking for a salary, since he'd served for five years as clerk of the council and secretary of Pennsylvania without payment.

James Logan, Petition: to John Evans. Philadelphia, 14 December 1705. A f.869liv v.8 p.664-5 The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
One slide that was de rigeur for a large number of presenters at the conference was the famous Scull and Heap map of Philadelphia and for those of you who aren't familiar with this map, I thought it would be fun to post our copy. The Scull and Heap map was originally published in 1752, but continued to be reissued for years. Ours is a 1777 version.

A map of Philadelphia & parts adjacent by N. Scull & G. Heap. 1777. Map G3824 .P5G46s 1777 The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Logan's home, Stenton, appears near the top center of the map, slightly southeast of German Town. It sits about halfway between two major roads:  York Rd. and Germantown Ave. You can see its original cupola (now gone) on the image.

A map of Philadelphia & parts adjacent by N. Scull & G. Heap (detail). 1777. Map G3824 .P5G46s 1777 The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Here is the section of the map showing Philadelphia. The only building marked is the court house at second and market, from which all the distances on the map are measured.
A map of Philadelphia & parts adjacent by N. Scull & G. Heap (detail). 1777. Map G3824 .P5G46s 1777 The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

A map of Philadelphia & parts adjacent by N. Scull & G. Heap (detail). 1777. Map G3824 .P5G46s 1777 The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
The image of Philadelphia on the map was more theory than reality. It shows the fully completed grid between the rivers, a la the original Holme plan, but in reality development still clustered along the Delaware river. On this William Faden version of the map, also published in 1777, the shaded areas show what was actually occupied. The Rosenbachs' home and surrounding areas west of Broad Street wouldn't be settled until well into the 19th century.
A plan of the city and environs of Philadelphia, (detail). London, W. Faden, 1777. G3824.P5A1 1777 .S3 Library of Congress Geography and Map Division

Those of you in Philadelphia or the surrounding suburbs may find it fun to find yourself on the map. I personally live in the area noted as "West Jersey," although farther inland than the few riverfront settlements it depicts.

If you are interested in historic Philadelphia maps and other geographic resources you might want to check out the Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network and Philaplace. Enjoy!

Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Sendak Tapes

For those of you who have seen Peter Dobrin’s recent articles in the Philadelphia Inquirier (both Sunday's and Tuesday's), you already know that the Sendak Collection held here on deposit since 1968 will be leaving us shortly and returning to the Sendak Foundation in Connecticut.  Our exhibition Sendak in the ‘60s will remain on view through its scheduled end-date, November 2, so be sure to check it out!  There are some amazing pieces from Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen on display, but the ‘60s was perhaps Sendak’s most varied and inventive period so there’s something for everyone in there. 

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some behind-the-scenes memories and reflections of our work with Maurice Sendak over the decades.  Tens of thousands of people have enjoyed Sendak’s work through exhibitions and programs here over almost 50 years, but (at least for those who haven’t met him) not everyone knows how generous Maurice was with his time and insights on a personal level.  He visited here often, bringing artwork with him, speaking to docents about his work, and doing lectures and signings of his latest books for visitors. 

Maurice Sendak in 2007.  Photo courtesy of Michael O'Reilly.
When we interviewed him in 2007, Sendak remembered his first visits to the Rosenbach in the late ‘60s fondly: “I remember I would lay in Dr. Rosenbach’s room, and they would bring me in some drawings for a French novel by Fragonard and there was a big animal fur blanket and I used to lay under it with my Fragonards all around.  Hey—that was living!  Of course, they took it all back in the morning.” The Rosenbach’s first big Sendak exhibition went up in 1970, displaying much of Sendak’s work up to that point while also including works by artists who influenced Sendak that were either borrowed from his personal collection or from other area museums.  Admission then was $1.50.  In a review in Artforum, critic Selma Lanes (who ten years later would publish a compendious biography of Sendak) noted how this early retrospective lifted Sendak out of the easy-to-dismiss “kiddie-book” category to which he had often been consigned, and placed him within a continuum of inventive illustrators: “During an era when bold use of color, abstract design, outsize format and showy technical virtuosity abounded, his work has always remained low-key, curiously retrograde, and 19th-century in spirit.  From the exhibited selections, made by both the artist and Clive Driver, the Rosenbach’s young curator, Sendak clearly emerges as a conscientious and respectful student of the past, an innovator within a long tradition rather than a smasher of stylistic idols.  As Sendak himself has put it, ‘I borrowed techniques and tried to forge them into a personal language.’” 

That was the first of many Sendak shows over the next four decades.  Later exhibitions would delve into specific Sendak books (Chicken Soup with Rice or In the Night Kitchen, for example), or investigate themes and techniques in his artwork (such as Maurice Sendak, Comic Strip Technique, and Wilhelm Busch in 1993, or the 1986 exhibition Man’s Best Friend about Sendak’s dog Jennie).  Periodically—when a new exhibition went up or a new Sendak book was published—Sendak would stop by and speak with our docents.  It’s rare for educators to have access to a living artist whose work they interpret for visitors, and we’re fortunate that past staff had the foresight to record some of those sessions on cassette tapes.  Listening to them now, I’m struck by how earnest, warm, and excited Sendak sounded in those conversations.  You can hear him turning the pages of his picture books as he shows the docents particular illustrations.  He clearly wanted our docents to be well-supplied with information and insights on which to chew.  In one conversation he expounded on the distinction he saw between illustrating a “picture book” (giving Where the Wild Things Are as an example) and a “story book” (citing Higglety, Pigglety, Pop!).  He likened a picture book to an opera, where images and texts move back and forth in a kind of syncopation.  But a story book, he explained, must remain focused on the narrative, noting that the trick is to add something to the pictures; he said he tried to inject a certain “emotional coloring” to his pictures for Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Zlateh the Goat to counterbalance Singer’s dry wit in the text.  In other conversations he comments on his fellow-illustrators, like N.C. Wyeth (“Complicated feelings.  A great master... but he has somewhat the problem of Arthur Rackham, where he has one style, that N.C.-Wyeth-look.”), and Dr. Seuss (“a master and a maniac…condemned to being a best-seller”), as well as various authors like Melville (“You don’t want [your illustrations] to get in the way of him…he’s a trumpet, a noisy writer”), Randall Jarrell (“He was one of the few writers I’ve ever worked with who could…visualize what a book could look like.  Very few writers understand the business of illustrating their books.  They just want nice pictures”), and Isaac Singer (“The best part of the collaboration was him.  The worst part was him”).  And, of course, Sendak took many questions from our docents about everything from his work in theater and opera to his childhood memories and familial relationships.   

The bulk of Sendak’s artwork might be leaving the Rosenbach, but so much remains.  The authors and illustrators in our permanent collection that so inspired him (Dickinson, Melville, Carroll, Tenniel, Blake…) will still be here to inspire others.  The Rosenbach still owns a few hundred pieces of Sendak artwork, including the one-of-a-kind Chertoff mural, which is an inspiration of itself.  But perhaps most importantly, the perspectives on art and literature that Sendak shared with staff, docents, and visitors here have unquestionably left their mark on this institution.  

 Patrick Rodgers is Curator of the Maurice Sendak Collection at the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.