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Friday, October 30, 2015

Need a last-minute Halloween costume idea?

If you're still wondering what you'll be for Halloween this year--and if our recent slate of Alice in Wonderland exhibitions hasn't inspired you to go as the Queen of Hearts or the Cheshire Cat--here are some other random costume ideas drawn from creepy, silly, or just bizarre objects in our collections:

Standard pirate costumes are so 18th-century!  Try something different, like a monster pirate.  Or better yet, an historical monster pirate like Davy Jones.  Disney's recent Pirates of the Caribbean films may have portrayed him as a slimy monster of the deep, but George Cruikshank's old school Davy Jones from 1837 is far more fiendish.  You'll need a standard pirate costume but with some horns on your head, a pointed tail if you can manage it, and some gnarly teeth.  The ability to shoot a beam of fire from behind your eyepatch might impress your friends but think of all the candy you'd melt. 
George Cruikshank, "Jack Outwitting Davy Jones."  Etching from the serial Nights At Sea in Bentley's Miscellany, 1837-8.  The Rosenbach, 1954.1880.3581.
In that same vein (harhar), why dress as a vampire (cape, fangs, lots of eyeshadow) when you could dress as an historic vampire?  Well, maybe... We still don't know exactly how much Bram Stoker knew of the historical Vlad "The Impaler" Tepes or what motivated him to turn the 15th-century Wallachian nobleman into a vampire, but the bloodthirsty deeds of Vlad were well documented during his time, as in this German pamphlet titled Dracole Waida.  The portrait of Vlad on its frontispiece would make a great Halloween costume: that fantastic hat, the long dark locks of hair, the leather collar and fur mantle.  Don't forget an aggressively horizontal mustache.  Fangs optional. 

Color woodcut frontispiece to Dracole Waida (Nuremberg: Peter Wagner, ca. 1488).  The Rosenbach, Incun488d
The "Wild West" is another tried-and-true costume theme, so here's Wild Edna the Girl Brigand, aka. Old Avalanche, aka. The Great Annihilator.  Make sure you announce each of those nicknames before saying "Trick or Treat."
Edward Wheeler, "Old Avalanche, or The Great Annihilator; or Wild Edna, The Girl Brigand."  In The Deadwood Dick Library Vol. 1 No.8 (March 15, 1899).  The Rosenbach, DN57.

Or for a group costume you could try this neckless trio, drawn by a very young Charles Dodgson (aka. the future Lewis Carroll) in a kind of homemade magazine to amuse his family.  You can see this in our current exhibition Wonderland Rules: Alice @ 150.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.  Manuscript picture book.  [184-]  The Rosenbach, EL3 .D645 MS2. 

If you want a costume that's really out there, you could shoot for an homage to William Blake's Great Red Dragon in The Number of the Beast is 666.  Blake's patron Thomas Butts commissioned him to do a series of Biblical watercolors, and this one is based on the New Testament's Revelation 13: "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy."  I see a lot of red cellophane in your future if you attempt to make those wings...

William Blake, The Number of the Beast is 666.  Watercolor.  Ca. 1805.  The Rosenbach, 1954.0011.
 Now, if you fear confused looks or closed doors from your neighbors as you stalk the streets as any of the above monstrosities, not to worry--the Rosenbach welcomes such outlandish costuming at our Literary Costume Party this Saturday from 6-9 (more details here)--we'd love to see you there! 
Christina Doe raising the art of webbing to new heights. 

Patrick Rodgers is a curator and cryptkeeper at the Rosenbach.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The White Gloves Gang Strikes Again!

This week the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums (MAAM) hosted its annual conference here in Philadelphia. The fine museum folks who attend the conference also have an opportunity to help out local institutions through the "White Gloves Gang," organized by the Registrars Committee of MAAM. Five years ago we hosted a visit from the White Gloves Gang, who helped us refolder and organize our collection of newspapers. I posted about their visit way back then, and in revisiting the post today I realized that one of the volunteers was Jobi Zink--now our very own Rosenbach registrar!

A blast from the past: Jobi was always eager to help out the Rosenbach--even before she became a staff member!

This year we were again lucky enough to get the gang back together (so to speak). We tackled two White Gloves projects: continuing to chip away at our shelf-reading inventory (which Jobi blogged about a few months back) and starting to rehouse some of the vast Marianne Moore object collection.  Given the nature of these projects we only could use a couple of volunteers and we were thrilled to have a pair of wonderful folks.

Jessica Bellingham is attending MAAM from all the way across the country; she lives in Seattle where she used to work at the Burke Museum of Archaeology and just started a job as a registrar for Microsoft's art collection. I bet you never thought about how private companies track and manage their art--they need collections professionals too!  Here Jessica is having fun (and working hard) with Judy Guston, our Director of Collections.


Anastasia Matijkiw didn't have to travel nearly so far--she works at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and used to be an even closer neighbor when she worked at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts. Here she is doing her part in the shelf-reading work.

Here are a few pictures from the afternoon's Moore collection rehousing. As you can see, our volunteers really enjoyed getting to see and learn about Miss Moore's collections, especially her menagerie of animal figurines.

The White Gloves organizers were also kind enough to organize donations of some wonderful archival trays and boxes--with dividers!!!--that will help keep the Moore objects safer while making them easier to access and use.

Here I am assembling some dividers for a box that will hold long thin objects such as pens, letter openers, etc. I should note that Jobi took all the pictures, so she is not in them, but she was the organizing force behind our White Gloves day, so kudos to her.

 As we moved objects into new homes, we were very careful to record what went where, so we can update our electronic records. Here Jessica is checking an object tag to make sure our lists are correct. All of the old location information will also be retained in the files, in case we ever need it.

It was a hard, but very productive day of work, so many thanks to our intrepid volunteers, to the MAAM folks, and to our staff that made it possible.

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Carroll is Everywhere

Today marks the opening of our Down The Rabbit Hole exhibitions, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland. I think Lewis Carroll would be very pleased that his book has had such staying power. In our "Wonderland Rules" show, exhibit curator Leonard Marcus points out:
Alice has had one of the most extraordinary of all literary after-lives, a worldwide response encompassing scores of re-illustrated editions, more than 170 translations, and a host of literary and pictorial-art homages and parodies, musical treatments, stage and film adaptations, fashion and advertising pastiches, toys, collectibles, tea towels, and more. James Joyce, RenĂ© Magritte, and the creators of Batman all drew inspiration from Carroll’s endlessly evocative creation, while pundits in search of the perfect headline or punch line have had no further to look than to such Alice aphorisms as, “We’re all mad here,” and “Curiouser and curiouser!

As part of our celebration, this week we are also hosting the original manuscript of Alice in Wonderland, which has garnered some wonderful press attention, still further proof of the enduring appeal of and fascination with the tale. You can read the write up in the Philadelphia Inquirer, see a clip on CBS 3  and there may yet be more to come.

But even beyond the enduring power of Alice, there are other hints of Lewis Carroll everywhere. Just two weeks ago, the New York Times crossword puzzle for October 1st  featured a word ladder running from the upper left to lower right of the puzzle. Where do word ladders come from--Lewis Carroll of course! He invented the game as "Doublets" in the 1870s and its one of the games featured in our exhibit "Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk: Lewis Carroll's Puzzles and Games."

Then this past Monday, an op-ed piece in the New York Times focused on "The Importance of Recreational Math". The piece was an homage to puzzle creator Martin Gardner, but I think Carroll was lurking in the background and would have been pleased that someone was making a plea for the relevance of puzzle math. Carroll, who taught mathematics at Oxford under his real name Charles Dodgson, loved games and puzzles and was a pioneer in recreational mathematics. He definitely inspired Martin Gardner, who wrote and edited a number of works on Carroll, including The Annotated Alice and The Universe in a Handkerchief: Lewis Carroll's Mathematical Recreations, Games, Puzzles and Word Plays. The Times piece included some great links to contemporary puzzle math sites such as Puzzle Playground and you can learn more about the mathematical underpinnings of Carroll's own games in our exhibit.

So here's to 150 years of Alice in Wonderland and to the inventive mind of Lewis Carroll that gave us Alice and so much more!

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

Friday, October 09, 2015

Harvard/Yale Humor: 18th-Century Style

Fall is upon us, when the students are back in school and alumni spirit runs high, so it seemed an apt time to highlight an early piece of Harvard/Yale humor: Father Abbey's Will.

John Seccombe (1708-1792), “Father Abbey’s will.” [Boston ?, ca. 1780] A 780f
 This broadside consists of two comic poems. The one on the left is the supposed will of Matthew Abdy, a real-life Harvard College housekeeper. Abdy was appointed the College Sweeper and Bedmaker in 1718 and served until his death in 1730 or 31. The poem listing the contents of his estate was written by Harvard alum Rev. John Seccombe and it first appeared anonymously in Boston's Weekly Rehearsal newspaper on January 3, 1732:

To my dear wife, my joy and life,
I freely now do give her,
My whole estate,
With all my plate,
Being just about to leave her.

My tub of soap,
A long cart rope,
A frying pan and kettle,
An ashes pail,
A threshing flail,
An iron wedge and beetle.

Two painted chairs,
Nine warden pears,
A large old dripping platter,
This bed of hay
On which I lay,
An old saucepan for butter.

A little mug,
A two quart jug,
A bottle full of brandy,
A looking glass
To see your face,
You ll find It very handy.

A musket true,
As ever flew,
A pound of shot and wallet,
A leather sash,
My calabash,
My powder-horn and bullet.

An old sword blade,
A garden spade,
A hoe, a rake, a ladder,
A wooden can,
A close-stool pan,
A clyster-pipe and bladder.

A greasy hat,
My old ram cat,
A yard and half of linen,
A woollen fleece,
A pot of grease,
In order for your spinning.

A small tooth comb,
An ashen broom,
A candlestick and hatchet,
A coverlid
Strip d down with red,
A bag of rags to patch it.

A ragged mat,
A tub of fat,
A book put out by Bunyan,
Another book
By Robin Rook,
A skein or two of spunyarn.

An old black muff,
Some garden stuff,
A quantity of borage,
Some devil s weed,
And burdock seed,
To season well your porridge.

A chafing dish,
With one salt fish
If I am not mistaken,
A leg of pork,
A broken fork,
And half a flitch of bacon,

A spinning wheel,
One peck of meal,
A knife without a handle,
A rusty lamp,
Two quarts of samp,
And half a tallow candle.
My pouch and pipes,

Two oxen tripes,
An oaken dish well carved,
My little dog,
And spotted hog,
With two young pigs just starved.

This is my store,
I have no more,
I heartily do give it,
My years are spun,
My days are done,
And so I think to leave it.

Five weeks after the Harvard poem ran,a second poem appeared in the February 7, 1732 issue of the Weekly Rehearsal, purporting to be a love letter to the Harvard sweeper's widow, from the Yale Sweeper. This poem has at times been attributed to a Connecticut physician named John Hubbard, but it is more likely that the new verse was itself also by Seccombe. It appears on the right side of our broadside (the last two lines are part of an epitaph that was added later and doesn't appear in Seccombe's original rendition of the poem.)

Mistress Abbey, To you I fly,
You only can relieve me,
To yon I turn,
For you I burn,
If you will but believe me.

Then, gentle dame,
Admit my flame,
And grant me my petition,
If you deny,
Alas ! I die
In pitiful condition.

Before the news
Of your dear spouse
Had reached us at New Haven,
My dear wife dy'd,
Who was my bride
In anno eighty-seven.

Thus being free,
Let's both agree
To join our hands, for I do
Boldly aver
A widower
Is fittest for a widow.

You may be sure
Tis not your dow'r
I make this flowing verse on ;
In these smooth lays
I only praise
The glories of your person.

For the whole that
Was left by Mat.
Fortune to me has granted
In equal store,
I've one thing more
Which Matthew long had wanted.

No teeth tis true
You have to shew,
The young think teeth inviting ;
But, silly youths !
I love those mouths
Where there s no fear of biting.

A leaky eye,
That s never dry,
These woful times is fitting.
A wrinkled face
Adds solemn grace
To folks devout at meeting.

Thus to go on
I would put down
Your charms from head to foot,
Set all your glory
In verse before ye,
But I've no mind to do it.

Then haste away,
And make no stay ;
For soon as you come hither,
We'll eat and sleep,
Make beds and sweep
And talk and smoke together.

But if, my dear,
I must move there,
Tow'rds Cambridge straight I ll set me
To touse the hay
On which you lay,
If age and you will let me.

Thus father Abbey left his spouse,
As rich as Church or College mouse,

Needless to say, Abdy's widow Ruth didn't take up the offer. Some sources indicate she herself became sweeper upon Matthew's death; she died in Cambridge in 1762. The pair of comic poems proved quite popular; they were printed in newspapers and about 25 broadside printings (like ours) are known, dating up thorough the beginning of the 19th century. Our copy dates from around 1780.

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