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Friday, May 29, 2015

Moore on Vinyl

Marianne Moore listening to playback of her recording in Caedmon's studio in New York, 1956.  From the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia, Moore XII:28:07, 2006.7542.

Did you know June is Audio Book Month?  I had no idea, but I'm a late adopter: it took a 13-hour drive to Charleston last summer for me to realize the crucial niche audio-lit fills in one's sanity cultural life.  In any case, it turns out that even a collection as historic as the Rosenbach's has some surprises from the analog era.

A little history here: audio books weren't really viable products until the production of LP records in 1948.  Spoken-word recordings were produced on shorter formats before then, but those records only allowed a few minutes of play time.  The smaller, finer grooves of vinyl LP records allowed for at least 40 minutes of play (20 minutes per side)--enough for a suite of poems, some short stories, or a novel recorded in parts.  The first big breakthrough in spoken-word LP records came with Dylan Thomas's 1952 recording of his story A Child's Christmas in Wales, a surprise hit for Caedmon Records that did much to popularize their label, Thomas's Christmas tale, and spoken-word LPs in general (for more on that recording, this page from the Audio Publisher's Association will give you the full story). 

In more recent times fiction and non-fiction have claimed the lion's share of the audio book market but poetry has a longer history of audio production going back to Edison's recital of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on the first phonograph.  Poetry is fun to read but it begs to be heard, especially in the author's own voice.  Record producers were quick to exploit the LP format to produce full-length records of poets reading from their works.  Marianne Moore, whose archive is a mainstay of the Rosenbach's collection, was among the vanguard of modern poets whose work entered the audio age.  A 1950 LP published by Soundmark Records titled Pleasure Dome: Audible Modern Poetry Read By Its Creators featured Moore reading her "In Distrust of Merits" alongside poems written and read by Dylan Thomas, Ogden Nash, T.S. Eliot, and William Carlos Williams.  Moore's clear, measured, warm voice gives nuance to the text and its rhythm.  Give it a listen: you can find it today along the digital frontiers for audio books, such as ITunes and Spotify

Here's some more vinyl from Moore's own record collection:


The Library of Congress's Recording Laboratory recorded Moore's small selection of poems here in 1949, eventually publishing them as part of a multi-volume LP set of modern poets reading their work.  From the Marianne Moore Library, The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Moore recorded the first session for this record in June 1954.  Marianne Moore Reading Her Poems and Fables from La Fontaine, Caedmon, 1955.  From the Marianne Moore Library, The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia. 
Poet and audiophile Lee Anderson recorded hundreds of English and American poets reading their work for the Library of Congress and the Yale Collection of Historic Sound Recordings.  He recorded Moore in 1951.  Later that decade, Yale produced a series of LPs from this collection, choosing George Platt Lynes's iconic portrait of Moore for the sleeve of her record.  From the Marianne Moore Library, the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia. 
Spoken Arts published a treasury of American poets beginning in 1969, which included Moore, as did this later record.  From The Marianne Moore Library, The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

If only there were some event satisfying to audiophiles at the Rosenbach where you could hear more mind-blowing literature read aloud!  A free event, with dozens of enthusiastic, skilled readers.  Something, let's say, in June--perhaps June 16




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

Friday, May 22, 2015

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd

This week marked the end of the four-and-a-half year run of our "Today in the Civil War" blog and this weekend is also the final weekend of our Oscar Wilde in Philadelphia exhibit, so what better way to celebrate both of these occasions than with a poem by Walt Whitman about the death of Abram Lincoln.
Walt Whitman, President Lincoln's Funeral Hymn. London; Essex House Press, 1900. FP E78 900w. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

Somehow, despite all the work I've done with our Civil War and Lincoln materials over the past seven years, I had never run across this beautiful little edition of "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd."

The poem is Walt Whitman's elegy for Lincoln, whom he describes in the second stanza as "O powerful western fallen star!...O great star disappear’d." It was written in the summer of 1865 and incorporates a description of Lincoln's funeral train which wound its way through the northern states, conducting multiple funerals in cities along the way:

Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
Amid lanes and through old woods, where lately the violets peep’d from the ground, spotting the gray debris,
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes, passing the endless grass,
Passing the yellow-spear’d wheat, every grain from its shroud in the dark-brown fields uprisen,
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the orchards,
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
Night and day journeys a coffin.

Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night with the great cloud darkening the land,
With the pomp of the inloop’d flags with the cities draped in black,
With the show of the States themselves as of crape-veil’d women standing,
With processions long and winding and the flambeaus of the night,
With the countless torches lit, with the silent sea of faces and the unbared heads,
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong and solemn,
With all the mournful voices of the dirges pour’d around the coffin,
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs—where amid these you journey,
With the tolling tolling bells’ perpetual clang,
Here, coffin that slowly passes,
I give you my sprig of lilac.


"Lilacs" was first published in Sequel to Drum Taps, a collection of Whitman's war poetry, in the fall of 1865. It would be incorporated into his ever-changing Leaves of Grass beginning with the 1867 fourth edition. But the book that caught my eye when I stumbled across it this week was a fine press edition, entitled President Lincoln's Funeral Hymn, from C.R. Ashbee's Essex House Press.

Ashbee, an architect and designer, was the founder of the Guild of Handicraft. The guild produced metalwork, furniture, jewelry, and enamel in a cooperative workshop housed in Essex House, the 18th-century mansion whose entrance is shown in the Funeral Hymn colophon below. In 1898 they added a press when Ashbee purchased the Kelmscott Press's Albion presses and hired some of their staff after the death of William Morris. 

Walt Whitman, President Lincoln's Funeral Hymn. London; Essex House Press, 1900. FP E78 900w. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
President Lincoln's Funeral Hymn, like other Essex House books, is lovely. The slim volume containing only the single poem was issued in an edition of 135 copies, all printed on and bound in vellum. It was part of a series of fourteen poems printed by Essex House.

The cover of the book, like the other poems in the series,  is embossed "Soul is Form." As Molly-Claire Gillett explains in her wonderful "Pocket Cathedral" exhibit on the Arts and Crafts presses: "This evocative line from Spenser’s An Hymn in Honor of Beauty – “for soul is form and doth the body make” – encapsulates the Arts and Crafts concept that the best craftsmanship is informed by the thriving soul of an inspired craftsman."  

Walt Whitman, President Lincoln's Funeral Hymn. London; Essex House Press, 1900. FP E78 900w. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
On the inside of the volume, Ashbee designed the frontispiece and the custom capitals intertwined with lilacs. The hand-colored frontispiece highlights the star, the bird, and the lilac, the key symbols of the poem, picked out in color against a grey background (other copies seem to have different coloring).

Walt Whitman, President Lincoln's Funeral Hymn. London; Essex House Press, 1900. FP E78 900w. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
 For me, savoring this volume was a fitting end to our Civil War 150 commemoration and a reminder of how there are always more wonderful things to enjoy in the Rosenbach collection.




Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bike to Work Day

In celebration of Bike to Work Day, here are some wonderful images of bicycles from our collection.

George Cruikshank, Hairbrain. London, 1818.The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philaedelphia.1954.1880.0880
This image dates from around 1818, when early bicycles became popular in England. The sheet refers to the man as riding "a velocipede," a word imported from France and derived from the Latin roots for "fast" and "foot". This was only one of many names applied to this early pedal-less bike. In an February 1819 letter, Keats described the machine: "The nothing of the day is a machine called the velocipede. It is a wheel carriage to ride cock-horse upon, sitting astride and pushing it along with the toes, a rudder-wheel in hand."


George Cruikshank," London, 1818.The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia.1954.1880.0880
Another term for this early bicycle was the "Hobby Horse;" the original inventor, Baron Karl Drais, intended it as a way to move people faster than walking without expensive horses. This print depicts "The (Hobby) Horse Dealer." The buyers in the foreground are evaluating the new machine in the same way as they would a horse, while in the background the outmoded horses are alarmed  since the placard indicates that they will be sold cheap for dog meat.


George Cruikshank, Tittup, London, 1818.The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philaedelphia.1954.1880.0879
This sheet pokes fun at the fashionability of bicycles, but the woman's side-saddle pose also highlights the continuity with horses.


George Cruikshank,A P****e, Driving his Hobby, in HERDFORD." London, 1819. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia. 1954.1880.1127.
This caricature features a bicycle built for two as the Prince of Wales canoodles with Lady Hertford.


Philip Phillips, photograph of O'Connell. Dublin, 1950. Gift of Sayre P. Sheldon and Lady Richard Davies. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia. 2006.0004.051   
Moving forward 130 years from the early hobby horse, here are some 20th-century Dubliners going about their business on bicycle.

Here at the Rosenbach, many of our staff use bikes in their commute. Here is our facilities manager Christina Doe with her loaner bike (her own is in the shop). You can also see our bike rack in this picture; it's conveniently located right in front of our door so you can easily ride up and park. There is also an Indego station located at 19th and Walnut for your biking convenience.





Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

Friday, May 08, 2015

What Is It: The Big Reveal

Here are the answers to last week's mystery objects:

Spoon warmer. 19th century. 2002.0326 The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

Spoon warmer. 19th century. 2002.0326 The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
Item number one is a spoon warmer. It would have been filled with hot water and used to keep serving spoons warm so they wouldn't cool the food while serving. The nautilus form was a very common shape for this device. You can read a bit more about spoon warmers on the Home Things Past blog. (Many thanks to our intern Emily Pazar for her work on this object)

Wick trimmer. 2006.3016. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
The second item is a wick-trimmer; to keep a candle or lamp burning brightly and not smoking it was necessary to trim the wick. The small box on top of the trimmer would collect the wick scraps and if you look closely you'll notice that the trimmer sits on raised feet, which would keep it off the table when placed down, to protect the surface below it from wax. Wick trimmers are referred to in the Bible in connection with the lamps burning before the ark of the covenant, 2 Chronicles describes "the pure gold wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, dishes and censers."

Darning egg. 2006.4476. The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
This wooden device is a double-ended darning egg. A darning egg is inserted into a sock to hold it in position while making darned repairs to the toe or heel.

Joseph Thomas Vancouvenbergh, chocolate pot. Paris, ca. 1775. 1970.3The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
Finally, this beautiful silver item is a French chocolate pot. Hot chocolate was a popular beverage in the 18th-century and an important part of the drink was the froth. In order to mix and froth the chocolate a wooden stick called a moulinet (or molinillo in Spanish) was placed through the hole and whirled vigorously. The Jane Austen's World blog includes a nice discussion of hot chocolate, along with some historic recipes.

So, how did you do?


Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

Friday, May 01, 2015

What Is It?

Can you identify these objects from around Rosenbach collection? Post your thoughts and the answers will be revealed next week.

Item #1:

The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia


Here's a side view of this piece of Victorian silver.


The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
And here's a top view


Item #2:

The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
This item lives on the mantelpiece in the Marianne Moore room.

Item #3:

The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
This also belonged to Miss Moore.

Item #4

The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
This piece of 18th-century silver is on display in the dining room, so you may have seen it on a tour. The hole in the top is a big clue to its function.

Happy puzzling!



Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog