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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving (a day early) to all Rosenblog readers. Since this is a time of giving thanks, let me start by thanking all of you for reading. An extra special thank you goes out to those of you who support the Rosenbach as members, volunteers, or donors. 2009 has been a tough year for all non-profits and I know I am grateful that you have made it possible for us to keep doing what we do.

In the spirit of the holiday I thought I'd feature a book from Plymouth Colony.

Nathaniel Morton, New England's Memoriall. A 669n.

Nathaniel Morton was born in England in 1613 and emigrated to Plymouth with his father in 1623 on the ship Ann. He became secretary of the colony in 1647 and nearly all of the records of Plymouth colony are in his handwriting. His history, New England's Memoriall, was published in 1669 and drew not only on his own experience, but on the manuscripts of his uncle, William Bradford, the first governor of the colony. Among the items in the book is a transcription of the Mayflower Compact, the colony's first governing document, signed on November 11, 1620. it is possible that Morton may have been working from the original document, which is now lost.

Nathaniel Morton, New England's Memoriall. A 669n.

Sadly for those interested in tracing the first Thanksgiving, Morton does not mention anything about the feast, although he does describe the horrors of the first winter in the colony ("That which was sad and lamentable, that in two or three months time half of their Company died, especially in January and February, being the depth of winter). and the settlers' gratitude the following year when they "received in their first harvest and had plenty of food and fish, to their great refreshing."

Nathaniel Morton, New England's Memoriall. A 669n.

If this taste of New England's Memorial has piqued your interest, the entire book (in a later edition) has been digitized by Google from the Harvard libraries; rather fitting given that Morton's book also chronicles the founding of Harvard, America's first college.

One other little tidbit, unrelated to Morton's book. Many folks around the country this weekend will be singing a version of the tune "Old 100th" at their thanksgiving tables or in their churches. The tune is used both for the common doxology 'Praise God from whom all blessings flow" and for a setting of the 100th psalm--"All people that on earth do dwell." If you sing or hear this tune, you might be interested to know that this tune dates back to 1551 and was one of the tunes used for Psalm 100 in the Bay Psalm Book (see last week's post for more on this book).

Here's a recording of an organ version of the Old 100th, although of course the Puritans (and Pilgrims) would not have permitted any instrumental accompaniment to their hymn singing, it was considered too Romish.

Have a wonderful holiday and if you're in town and trying to entertain your relatives, stop by the Rosenbach (we're closed Thursday, but open the rest of the weekend) to see our new Friend or Faux exhibit and all our other great stuff.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stephen Colbert and the Bay Psalm Book

So what, you may ask is the connection between Stephen Colbert, comedian and political satirist, and our copy of the Bay Psalm Book, the first book printed in the United States. (Ok, if you want to be picky, as Colbert no doubt would, its real title is "The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully TRANSLATED into ENGLISH Metre. Whereunto is prefixed a discourse declaring not only the lawfullnes, but also the necessity of the heavenly Ordinance of singing Scripture Psalmes in the Churches of God"--now you know why we call it the Bay Psalm Book)

It turns out the connection comes through the forger and murderer Mark Hoffman, whom I wrote about in a previous post. Eagle-eyed Patrick Rogers pointed out to me that Stephen Colbert appeared as an actor in the episode of Law & Order based on the Hoffman case. Our Bay Psalm Book is also connected to the Hoffman case--its ink and paper were subjected to micron milliprobe testing to determine their composition, so that a basis could be established against which to compare Hoffman's most famous forgery, the Oath of a Freeman, supposedly printed on the same press. The long and tangled tale of Hoffman, the Oath, and our book is explained in the Friend or Faux exhibit, so perhaps Mr. Colbert would care to stop by sometime?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

All That Glitters

Our newest exhibit, Friend or Faux, opens tomorrow and we'll be kicking off our programming for the show this Saturday (11/14) at noon with the first of a series of seminars on authenticity. This inaugural seminar focuses on silver and will presented by David Barquist, Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Dr. Barquist will be talking about methods of making and marking silver as well as looking at items that have been repaired or altered over the years. If you're able to join us, please drop a note to It should be great!

I must confess that silver is one of my favorite media (thanks to studying with Winterthur's curator emeritus Don Fennimore), so I thought I'd share a few tidbits from our collection, to whet your appetite for the treat to come this weekend.

Hester Bateman, egg cruet.1788/9. 1954.1813

This egg cruet is a favorite around here (just ask our curator Judy Guston about it) both because it is a beautifully made and delicate piece of silver and also because it was made by Hester Bateman, a famous female silversmith. Hester married John Bateman, a small time chain maker and silver worker, when she was fifteen and she assisted him with the business. John died in 1760, when Hester was 51 and she took over the business, greatly expanding it into a large family workshop, which she ran with her sons until she retired at the age of 81.

Myer Myers, salver. 1770-1772. 1954.892

Since David Barquist literally wrote the book on Myer Myers, I figured I'd include this handsome salver (which is, in fact, in the book). Myer Myers is notable as a Jewish silversmith; as Barquist explains, Myers "was the first native English Jew in the British Empire to complete a formal apprenticeship and establish himself as a retail silversmith since the founding of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in 1327." He was also an incredibly prolific silversmith and an exceptionally talented one. One aspect of this salver which always fascinates me is that its inscription is in Dutch, even though it was made a hundred years after New York became an English colony.

Peter Krider, tongs. 1850-1860. 1954.1849

This piece is just fun. It is one of the amazingly elaborate and extremely specialized pieces of silverware which delighted the Victorians. It is clearly some form of tongs, possibly a vegetable or asparagus server. It has the added bonus of being a Rosenbach family piece--it was given by Rebecca Polock to her daughter, Mrs. A. S. Wolf.

That's enough for now. I hope you can join us for more silver this weekend and you might also want to mark your calendars for additional seminars on January 9 (paintings); March 6 (manuscripts) and May 8 (books and prints).

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Marianne Moore throwing out first pitch in Yankee Stadium, 1968. Moore XII:17:12a

With game six of the World Series on tonight (go Phils!) I figured we should own up to having some pretty cool Yankees memorabilia, courtesy of Miss Marianne Moore. Moore was, of course, originally a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers and her poem "Hometown Piece for Messrs Alston and Reese" made the front page of the Herald Tribune on the first day of the 1956 Dodgers/Yankees World Series.

But once the Dodgers headed out to L.A. Moore found a soft spot in her heart for the Bronx bombers. Her poem "Baseball and Writing" extols the Yankees--my favorite line is her advice to 'Assign Yogi Berra to Cape Canaveral; he could handle any missile. he is no feather."Strike!. . . Strike two!" The Yankees returned Moore's affection and the collection at the Rosenbach includes not only pictures of her throwing out a first pitch in 1968, but also a Yankees jacket given to her by Michael Burke, president of the Yankees,
for her 83d birthday and a baseball signed to her for her 84th birthday by Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.



Too bad Marianne never lived in Philadelphia--it would be nice to have a poetic paean to our own hometown team. Maybe if she were around today she could find something dramatic to say about Cliff Lee and Chase Utley, even if she was duty bound to root for the opposing team.