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Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Rosenbach Can Boost Your Quizzo Score

Quick, what 1885 poem by Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley was the namesake of a comic strip that debuted in 1924? This exact question came up when I was playing Quizzo with some friends on Tuesday night. (If you are not familiar with it, Quizzo is a bar trivia game played on teams) It was a clutch situation and I would never have known the answer, except that just that very morning I had installed a excerpt of that exact poem, written out by Riley, in the partner desk in the 3d floor library. How's that for coincidence? The answer, by the way, is that Riley wrote the poem "Little Orphant Annie."

Riley's poem does not feature red-headed girls with mutt dogs. Instead it is a rather spooky poem, consisting of tales told by the orphan girl Annie after her housekeeping work is done:

Little Orphant Annie's come to our house to stay,
An' wash the cups an' saucers up, an' brush the crumbs away,
An' shoo the chickens off the porch, an' dust the hearth, an' sweep,
An' make the fire, an' bake the bread, an' earn her board-an'-keep;
An' all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an' has the mostest fun
A-list'nin' to the witch-tales 'at Annie tells about,
An' the Gobble-uns 'at gits you
Ef you
Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn't say his prayers,--
An' when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an' his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An' when they turn't the kivvers down, he wuzn't there at all!
An' they seeked him in the rafter-room, an' cubby-hole, an' press,
An' seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an' ever'-wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an' roundabout:--
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

An' one time a little girl 'ud allus laugh an' grin,
An' make fun of ever' one, an' all her blood-an'-kin;
An' wunst, when they was "company," an' ole folks wuz there,
She mocked 'em an' shocked 'em, an' said she didn't care!
An' thist as she kicked her heels, an' turn't to run an' hide,
They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin' by her side,
An' they snatched her through the ceilin' 'fore she knowed what she's about!
An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you

An' little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
An' the lamp-wick sputters, an' the wind goes woo-oo!
An' you hear the crickets quit, an' the moon is gray,
An' the lightnin'-bugs in dew is all squenched away,--
You better mind yer parunts, an' yer teachurs fond an' dear,
An' churish them 'at loves you, an' dry the orphant's tear,
An' he'p the pore an' needy ones 'at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns 'll git you
Ef you
So that's my tale of Rosen-knowledge put to good use. Anyone else have any good stories of Rosenbach to the rescue?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's Coming...

Exile Among Expats: James Joyce in Paris opens next Wednesday and we're hard at work...

While you're waiting for Joyce, here are a couple random news tidbits to keep you busy:

Last week, marine archaeologists in Hawaii announced that they'd found the shipwrecked remains of the whale ship Two Brothers, captained by George Pollard. Why is this relevant to the Rosenbach? Pollard's first ship, the Essex, had been attacked and sunk by a sperm whale, a tale which later inspired Herman Melville in his writing of Moby Dick (see, I promised there was a connection). Rescued after a truly hellish journey (let's just say that it involved cannibalism) Pollard bravely set sail again in the Two Brothers, which also sank. That's the ship that's just been found--check out the New York Times story for more details. And if you're interested in the story of the whale-sunk Essex, I read Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea about six months ago and found it to be a real page turner.

Or if you really want to waste your time, check out the Great Gatsby video game, which is the hot new internet sensation. It's an old-fashioned Nintendo-style game (in fact, the site claims that it was a real Nintendo game, which some folks doubt), but instead of Mario and Luigi, it's Nick jumping around to collect coins. Not terribly literary, but fun.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February 10: A Bad Day for Mary Rowlandson

Just after sunrise on February 10, 1676 the town of Lancaster, Massachusetts was attacked as part of King Philip's War. (At the time it would have still been considered 1675, since the new year did not begin until March 1) The town's minister, Joseph Rowlandson, was away in Boston seeking defense aid from the colonial government but his wife, Mary Rowlandson, was still in Lancaster. The attackers set fire to the Rowlandsons' house, which was fortified and used as a garrison; her sister, brother-in-law, and nephew were killed and Mary was shot, wounding both her and the child she was holding. About fifty settlers were killed in the attack and about twenty, including Mary and her three children, were taken captive by the Indians.

Mary's injured child would die in her arms several days later, but Mary survived and was redeemed after three months of captivity, during which she had traveled some 150 miles and met with King Philip (Metacomet) himself. By the time of her release a kind of mutual respect had developed between Rowlandson and her Indian captors. Six years later, in 1682, she would publish an account of her captivity, entitled The Soveraignty & Goodness of God. Her title gives a sense of the book, which describes her travails in terms of the the Puritan worldview, seeing them as a moral lesson and using the Bible as an interpretive frame. The Rosenbach has a copy of the first English printing of the book, also from 1682, which was retitled "A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs Mary Rowlandson." You can find the complete text through Project Gutenberg, as well as elsewhere.

Mary White Rowlandson (ca. 1635-1711), A true history of the captivity & restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, a minister’s wife in New England. Printed first at New-England: And re-printed at London, and sold by Joseph Poole, 1682. A 682t

With its hair-raising content and strong religious message, Mary Rowlandson's book was a best seller and it ran through more than 15 editions by 1800. The Rosenbach also owns a 1773 edition, which features a woodcut on the title page of Mary attempting to defend her house from the attacking Indians.

Mary White Rowlandson, A narrative of the captivity, sufferings, and removes of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. Boston: printed and sold at John Boyle's printing office, 1773. A 773n

Even more significant than its own success was the way in which Rowlandson's narrative created the genre of the Indian captivity narratives, which constituted the first uniquely American literary genre. From 1682 through the late nineteenth century, thousands of real-life (or supposedly real-life) captivity narratives would be published, and their themes of capture and wilderness would in turn pave the way for tales of pioneers, cowboys, and Indians. Having spent so much time reading 19th-century dime novels for the Westward Ho show last summer I can certainly attest to the influence of captivity narratives on those books! So the next time you watch a western, think of Mary Rowlandson.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Roses and Rosy

It's been a good week for the Rosenbach, what with coverage about the Sendak mural from the Philadelphia Inquirer and NPR as well as lots of other great press! If the stories got you intrigued, you should stop by on Wednesdays from 12-1 or from 6-7 to see the mural conservation in action. I've had the pleasure of getting to know Cassie Myers, the conservator on the project, and she's really great--easy to talk to and down to earth, so you definitely should take this opportunity to come by and ask questions!

But the mural isn't the only thing going on around here. We've also been gearing up for our annual Romance at the Rosenbach tours, just in time for Valentine's Day. To support these great docent-led tours we've put out a new dining room installation, added some miniatures in the first floor hall, and filled the partner desk in the upstairs library with love letters, amorous offerings, and tales of scandal. But love is fleeting and the tours are only being offered for one week, so come by next week, Feb.8-13, to see for yourself--check the Program Page for daily times.

In addition to our romantic roses, I also wanted to announce Rosy, our newest online catalog. You've heard me talk about Phil, our object catalog, and Mo, our online manuscript viewer, but Rosy is our new online library catalog, named for Dr. R himself. To get Rosy up and running we've started out with the Rush-Biddle-Williams family papers and about 60% of the Marianne Moore Library, so go ahead, play around, and check it out. The next step will be to finish adding the records for the remainder of our manuscript materials, which will take a while, but we are really excited about the new system.

Getting Rosy up and running has been a huge project for our Librarian, Elizabeth Fuller, so kudos to her. Watching her slog through software upgrades, configuration issues, field mapping, nonsensical search results, user optimization and untold other issues has given me new respect for the complexity of the project and the prodigious organizational power of Elizabeth's brain. She wanted me to note that she's still working on the system, so the ways data is displayed may change a bit, and there may be some times when Rosy is unavailable (mostly at night).

I think that's a wrap for this week. See you at the Rosenbach!