Thursday, April 29, 2010
Anne Bradstreet immigrated to America in 1630 with her husband and parents on the ship Arbella and she was one of the original settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She bore eight children, beginning in 1633 (five years after her marriage to Simon Bradstreet) and wrote her poetry while juggling her domestic duties of raising a family in a new and unforgiving environment. She circulated her poems among her friends and neighbors and it was her brother-in-law who took them to England and had them published as The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America. This was the first published book of poetry by an American and also the first book published by an American woman. The title, The Tenth Muse, which adds Anne herself to the classical nine muses, was not her choice but that of the publisher. Anne died in 1672 and the first American edition of her poems, greatly expanded from Tenth Muse, was published in Boston six years later as Several Poems Compiled with Great Wit and Learning. (We have a copy of that one as well)
In terms of poetry, The Tenth Muse can be slow going. Anne was strongly influenced by the French poet Guillaume du Bartas and the poetry published in 1650 is fairly conventional and dry, by modern standards. But she improved over time and her later poems involve much more emotion and, most scholars agree, are much more interesting. I have to confess that my appreciation of Anne Bradstreet was initially retarded by a not-very-good musical setting of one of her poems that I had to sing in high school. But I've moved past that. Her most famous works are the love poems she wrote to her husband. She wrote him poems not only while he was away, but also when he was at home; these pieces were only published posthumously."To my dear and loving husband" is probably the best known:
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
I'm out of time for this post right now, but you can find out more about this poem, and about Anne more generally, here and here. Enjoy!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Today's post, on this beautiful, sunny day, is in celebration of Earth Day. Founded 40 years ago, Earth Day was created as a day for us to think about our planet and how we treat it. Here at the Rosenbach we've been enjoying our proximity to Rittenhouse square, which is in full bloom. Nature has had a profound effect on artists and writers throughout history, from old favorites like John Muir, Henry David Thorough, Emily Dickinson(some of whose letters we are lending to an exhibit at New York Botanical Garden) and our good friend, Marianne Moore, to contemporary authors, as well. Though Dr. Rosenbach did not collect natural history books in particular, I thought today we could take a peek at some of the items in the Rosenbach collection that describe and illustrate the natural world.
Back when an understanding of botany and geology was a required part of any proper education, there was a market for general natural history instructional books and botanical texts. The demand for practical knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants was one key motivator for the publication of such botanical guides, like “The Youth’s Cabinet of Nature” and Thomas Short’s “Medicina Britannica," published in 1751.
The "Medicina Britannica" edition we have at the Rosenbach was published in Philadelphia by Franklin and Hall and contains an introduction by noted Philadelphia botanist John Bartram in addition to his notes on similar American plants. If you're near Philadelphia, you can visit Bartram’s Garden to learn more about Bartram’s role as the father of American (Linnean) botany.
Poets and writers often look to nature for inspiration and use precise description and specificity to great effect. The Marianne Moore collection at the Rosenbach includes more than just her papers and personal library. Much of Moore’s memorabilia (she was quite a collector) has become part of the Rosenbach’s collection and was featured in the artist's project by Sue Johnson that will be on display until June.
Some shells in Marianne Moore's shell collection. 2006.4137.002-060
Finally, here is just one of the beautiful hand colored illustrations in the Comte de Buffon’s encyclopedia of the natural world: a toad, for Miss Moore. This encyclopedia was a massive undertaking of 56 volumes covering all the creatures Buffon could think to incorporate. He was in charge of the project but sadly died before its completion. Our edition is unique in that it shows the engraved plates in avant-lettre state and then in their completed and hand-colored form. I think the illustrations are the best part of these books, but my then again my French isn't good enough to really judge the text. They're a real treasure of the Rosenbach collection, so come visit us to check out the whole series!
Interested in learning more?
... on Nabokov at the
... onEmily Dickinson: her poem from Part II: Nature, LVII.
One of the items in our current Friend or Faux exhibition is a Ford's Theatre playbill, accompanied by a sworn and notarized affidavit from John Ford (the theater owner) himself, claiming that he picked up this program was near the President's chair and gave it to it to A. K. Brownell.
Ford's Theatre Playbill. [Washington: 1865] A 865f
It's a nice story, but one that can't be true. This playbill was not printed until after Lincoln's death. It is an example of a so-called "Buckingham reprint" made shortly after Lincoln's death on the same press and using the same fonts as the genuine pre-assassination playbill. It can be distinguished from a genuine playbill by the marred printed along the right edge (check out the E in Keene) as well as some textual changes.
The definitive survey of Ford's Theatre playbills is The Ford Theatre Lincoln Assassination Play-bills : A Study which was written by Walter C. Brenner and published in 1937. Our copy of the playbill is actually referenced in this work, although, of course, at the time it was privately owned by Dr. Rosenbach. It turns out that there are two authentic variants of the actual Ford's Theatre playbill for the fateful night. The Buckingham version imitates the first variant, but after word arrived that Lincoln would attend that night's performance a second authentic playbill was printed up, which included a patriotic song to be sung at the end of the second act. You can see an example of this variant that was auctioned off at Sotheby's; the Sotheby's copy is also accompanied by a family legend of having come from next to chair of President Lincoln. After Lincoln's death there were a plethora of Ford's Theater imitations; Buckingham's was one, another was printed by L. Brown and added a line stating that "THIS EVENING | The Performance will be honored by the presence of | PRESIDENT LINCOLN" version was created that included a patriotic song to be sung at the conclusion of the second act.
Of course there is much more faux Lincoln floating around out there than just the playbills. One of the most famous forgers in history was a man named Joseph Cosey, who created numerous Lincoln manuscript forgeries in the 1930s along with forgeries of Franklin, Mary Baker Eddy, Poe and others. Check out the full story in this fun New Yorker article. We don't have any Cosey Lincoln forgeries, but we do have a forged Poe manuscript by Cosey, which was in Friend or Faux until the gallery rotation in March. Another Lincoln scam of the 20s and 30s was perpetrated by Eugene Field II and Harry Dayton Sickles. PBS's History Detectives did a segment on this scam, which enlisted Lincoln's aged coachman as an unsuspecting dupe.
None of this helps me figure out why John Ford notarized our faux playbill. Was he knowingly lying? Was he genuinely confused about the playbill--after all the affidavit was sworn in 1879, 14 years after the fact. Why were the notarized statements taken? So far, I don't have any answers. Come by Friend or Faux, take a look for yourself, and draw your own conclusions.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
So imagine my delight when I found this in our collection:
The "remains of a fossil extinct reptile" mentioned on the cover are those of the famous Hadrosaurus Foulkii, which was the first substantial dinosaur skeleton (i.e. more than just a couple of teeth) found in North America. They were dug out a marl pit in Haddonfield, New Jersey, which happens to be only a ten minute walk from my current house. Here's what the site looks like today--it was first spruced up as an Eagle Scout project in the early eighties and is now a National Historic Landmark (image by ourlouisiana on Panoramio):
What the picture doesn't show you is the bench of dinosaur toys left by visitors, which is the real reason for visiting the site, as my 5 year old and 3 year old will attest.
Anyway, back to our pamphlet. The fossils were found on the land of Mr. John Estaugh Hopkins, who had dug up a few bones in 1838 and put them in his home as curios. Twenty years later, in 1858, William Parker Foulk, a Philadelphia lawyer and fossil hunter, saw the bones and asked for permission to dig for more. He enlisted the help of his friend Dr. Joseph Leidy, at the Academy of Natural Sciences, to research and make sense of the fossils, and it was Leidy who named the species. The Rosenbach pamphlet is a reprint of a portion of the Proceedings of the Academy for 1858, which describes the discovery, provides a detailed description of the bones that were found,etc. This extract was apparently prepared in pamphlet form so it could be distributed to people who might be digging marl, as a way of alerting them to the potential for scientifically important discoveries and to enlist their cooperation in securing and preserving anything that might turn up. They also hoped they might be able to locate some of the bones from the original 1838 find.
The Hadrosaurus would go on to become the first mounted dinosaur skeleton in the world (see below) and is now the official state dinosaur of New Jersey.
To find out more, the Academy of Natural Sciences did a great exhibit about the Hadrosaurus last year and you can still access information on its website. I'm just excited that the Rosenbach has a connection to this little piece of dino-history.