Subscribe to the Rosenblog!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Dos-a-dos, It's Not Just for Square Dancing

The books in the Rosenbach's collection are fascinating for many different reasons, but this little gem has one of my favorite bindings. It is actually two separate texts bound together in what is known as a dos-a-dos binding.


The New Testament of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ. Cambridge: Printers to the Universities, 1628 bound with The book of common prayer and administration of the sacraments and other rites and ceremonies of the Church of England. London: Bonham Norton and John Bill, 1629. EL2 .B582 628. Collection of the Rosenbach.

Dos-a-dos means "back to back" in  French and that is exactly what this type of binding is. The two volumes are bound back-to-back, with the spines facing opposite directions and a shared board between them. (Interestingly, the French actually use the term "les reliures jumelles" for this type of work--jumelles means "twins")

The New Testament of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ. Cambridge: Printers to the Universities, 1628 bound with The book of common prayer and administration of the sacraments and other rites and ceremonies of the Church of England. London: Bonham Norton and John Bill, 1629. EL2 .B582 628. Collection of the Rosenbach.

Glaister's Glossary of the Book explains that "A typical pair of books linked in this way was the New Testament and the Prayer Book with Psalms, probably because since they were needed together in Church." Ours is, in fact, a 1628 New Testament bound with a 1629 Book of Common Prayer. Glaister also notes that this unusual style reached the height of its popularity in England from 1600 to 1640; again, our example fits neatly into this range.

The New Testament of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ. Cambridge: Printers to the Universities, 1628 bound with The book of common prayer and administration of the sacraments and other rites and ceremonies of the Church of England. London: Bonham Norton and John Bill, 1629. EL2 .B582 628. Collection of the Rosenbach.

In addition to its interesting form, the book's embroidered covers are simply beautiful objects. According to  ABC for Book Collectors, the fashion for embroidered bindings also reached its peak in the first half of the the 17th century. Ours has the same stylized floral design, executed in silk and metallic threads, on both sides. If embroidered bindings pique your interest, The Folger's "Collation" blog had a great post a while back about some theirs, including one with a scene of David holding the severed head of Goliath.



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


Friday, February 19, 2016

Oak and Ivy

Most of us are probably familiar with Maya Angelou's famous autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. But did you know that the title came from a nineteenth-century poem by the African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar? It is from his poem "Sympathy,"  published in the 1899 collection Lyrics of the Hearthside.  Its final verse reads:
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,  
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!
Our own American literature collection includes a copy of Dunbar's first book of poetry: Oak and Ivy, which he self published in 1893.

Paul Laurence Dunbar, Oak and Ivy. Dayton: United Brethren Publishing House, 1893. AL1.D899o

To provide a bit of background for those unfamiliar with Dunbar, he was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1872. His parents (who separated when he was young) were both formerly enslaved and his father had escaped and served in the 55th Massachusetts regiment during the Civil War. By high school, Paul's writing acumen was already apparent; he was editor of the school paper and president of the literary society at Central High, where he was the only black student.

After graduation he took a job as an elevator operator; on the side he sold stories to the newspaper, gave poetry readings, and had a stint editing the short-lived African-American newspaper the Dayton Tattler, printed by his friend Orville Wright (yes, that Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio).

Paul Laurence Dunbar, Oak and Ivy. Dayton: United Brethren Publishing House, 1893. AL1.D899o

In 1893, only a couple years out of high school, Dunbar self-published his first volume of poetry: Oak and Ivy. He paid $125 for it to be printed at the United Brethren Publishing House and sold copies himself for $1 apiece, including offering them to the audience riding his elevator. During the Columbian exposition he  headed to the fair in Chicago where he sold copies of his book,  got a job working as a clerk for Frederick Douglass, and was invited to recite his poetry.

Our copy of Oak and Ivy is inscribed with a verse of poetry in Dunbar's hand. There is no addressee, but the date indicates that it was before his trip to Chicago.

Paul Laurence Dunbar, Oak and Ivy. Dayton: United Brethren Publishing House, 1893. AL1.D899o


Dunbar's poetry covers a wide range of subjects, but is especially remembered for his poems exploring his racial heritage. On these flanking pages he writes a tribute "To Miss Mary Britton", an African-American teacher in Lexington Kentucky who spoke out against segregated railcars, and an ode to the departed poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier.

Paul Laurence Dunbar, Oak and Ivy. Dayton: United Brethren Publishing House, 1893. AL1.D899o

Dunbar chose to open Oak and Ivy with a poem entitled "Ode to Ethiopia."

Paul Laurence Dunbar, Oak and Ivy. Dayton: United Brethren Publishing House, 1893. AL1.D899o

O Mother Race! to thee I bring
This pledge of faith unwavering,
This tribute to thy glory.
I know the pangs which thou didst feel,
When Slavery crushed thee with its heel,
With thy dear blood all gory.

Sad days were those-ah, sad indeed!
But through the land the fruitful seed
Of better times was growing.
The plant of freedom upward sprung,
And spread its leaves so fresh and young-
Its blossoms now are blowing.

On every hand in this fair land,
Proud Ethiope's swarthy children stand
Beside their fairer neighbor;
The forests flee before their stroke,
Their hammers ring, their forges smoke,-
They stir in honest labour.

They tread the fields where honour calls;
Their voices sound through senate halls
In majesty and power.
To right they cling; the hymns they sing
Up to the skies in beauty ring,
And bolder grow each hour.

Be proud, my Race, in mind and soul;
Thy name is writ on Glory's scroll
In characters of fire.
High 'mid the clouds of Fame's bright sky
Thy banner's blazoned folds now fly,
And truth shall lift them higher.

Thou hast the right to noble pride,
Whose spotless robes were purified
By blood's severe baptism.
Upon thy brow the cross was laid,
And labour's painful sweat-beads made
A consecrating chrism.
In addition to his poems in standard English, Dunbar also wrote poetry in African-American dialect. Some of these, including "A Banjo Song" appear in Oak and Ivy.

Paul Laurence Dunbar, Oak and Ivy. Dayton: United Brethren Publishing House, 1893. AL1.D899o

In his second book, Majors and Minors, "majors" referred to the standard English poems and "minors" to the dialect works. The dialect pieces were among the most popular poems in his own time, but have been both praised and criticized since.

Following Oak and Ivy, Dunbar would go on to have a national reputation as a writer. He would publish another 13 poetical works, as well as four novels and four short story collections. This despite the fact that he died of tuberculosis when he was only 33. Since his death, scholars and critics have wrangled over his legacy; many have been concerned about stereotyped or sentimentalized views of African-Americans. But his writing remained inspirational to writers such as Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes and from what I read (not being a poetry scholar myself)  modern critical opinion seems to be shifting back in Dunbar's favor.

This has only been a quick thumbnail sketch and can't begin to cover the many fascinating facets of Dunbar's life or the critical discussion of his work. But perhaps it may inspire you to read and experience his poetry for yourself. You are always welcome to make an appointment to see our copy of Oak and Ivy; this helpful write-up from the University of Alabama library also includes links to online copies of most of his work.



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

Friday, February 12, 2016

North and South: Objects on the Road

This past week the Rosenbach has sent objects on loan to exhibitions at two other institutions: one traveled northward to Princeton and the others headed south to Alexandria.

The Princeton loan is one of our two Thomas Sully portraits of Rebecca Gratz (we lovingly refer to her as "Rebecca without the hat"). She is normally on display in our parlor, so if you come visit us while she's gone you'll be able to check out a portrait of her father, Michael Gratz, by Jane Sully Darley, that we've temporarily moved into her space. The Darley painting is fascinating because we also own the Sully painting it was copied from and seeing both versions of Michael Gratz in the parlor together is really interesting.

Thomas Sully, portrait of Rebecca Gratz. Phialdelphia 1831. Collection of the Rosenbach 1954.1936
Anyway, back to Rebecca. Rebecca has headed northward to participate in the Princeton Art Museum's exhibition By Dawn's Early Light: Jewish Contributions to American Culture from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War which opens this Saturday (2/13) and runs through June 12. It turns out that the Princeton folks can't resist a pretty face and if you check out their website, Rebecca is actually the poster child for the exhibit. If you haven't ever been to the Princeton Art Museum, it's well worth a visit, both for this exhibit and for its wonderful permanent collection. I hadn't been myself until a few years ago when our annual guide trip was to Princeton and I was thoroughly impressed, both by their collection and by their knowledgeable docents.

As Rebecca traveled north, two of our documents related to Civil War Alexandria headed to an exhibit at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. This is a small, but fascinating, museum located inside the famous Torpedo Factory art center. One of the items that they are borrowing is a personal favorite of mine: a letter from the Civil War spy Rose O'Neal Greenhow, with a sketch of  Fort Ellsworth (part of the defenses on Shuter's Hill) on the interior.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow , Message from Mrs. Greenhow of Washington D.C. . 1861. Collection of the Rosenbach AMs 1168/11
Rose O’Neal Greenhow , Message from Mrs. Greenhow of Washington D.C. 1861. Collection of the Rosenbach AMs 1168/11

The  Alexandria Archaeology site actually has a whole brochure on Shuter's Hill, which is great for putting this in context.

The other item we lent is a hand-drawn map, from an unknown hand, of the defenses of Arlington Heights, which includes Alexandria  and Fort Ellsworth at the lower left.
Sketch of Arlington Heights. Collection of the Rosenbach AMs 1168/11
Civil War Alexandria is getting some  extra attention right now because of the PBS drama Mercy Street, which is set in a military hospital there. Hopefully that will pique some folks's interest to check out the real historical material at the archaeology museum.

So if you are positioned to check out either of these exhibits, please do and let us know your thoughts. Either way, it's a real pleasure to be able to contribute to the work of other institutions and reach more people through these kinds of loans.




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

Friday, February 05, 2016

Dodgson Answers Revealed

Here are the answers from last week's trivia-fest.

1) Which of the following words was NOT invented by Dodgson:
  • Chortle
  • Snark 
  • Galumph
  • Telarian
The answer is "telarian." Both "chortle" and "galumph" come from Dodgson's famous nonsense poem "Jabberwocky," while a "snark" is a mysterious animal in his The Hunting of the Snark: an Agony in Eight Fits. "Telarian," on the other hand, comes from the Latin word tela, or web, and refers to web-making, like a spider.

2) Which of the animals in the caucus race of Alice in Wonderland is a reference to Dodgson himself? 

John Tenniel, "Sit down, all of you, and listen to me." 1954.183. Collection of the Rosenbach

It's the dodo, a reference to his own name.  Dodgson's interest in the dodo was no doubt influenced by his visits to the Oxford Museum of Natural History, which houses the best surviving dodo specimens, as well as some iconic artistic depictions of the bird. Going back to the caucus-race image above, the duck is for his friend Robinson Duckworth, while the eaglet and lory bird are references to Alice Liddell's sisters Edith and Lorina.

3) Dodgson is famously associated with Christ Church College, Oxford, where he attended university and then became a mathematics lecturer. But which Public School did he attend before entering Oxford?

Dodgson attended Rugby for three years, beginning in February 1846. He did well academically, but did not enjoy it. Looking back in 1855 he wrote: 
During my stay I made I suppose some progress in learning of various kinds, but none of it was done con amore, and I spent an incalculable time in writing out impositions this last I consider one of the chief faults of Rugby School. I made some friends there, the most intimate being Henry Leigh Bennett (as college acquaintances we find fewer common sympathies, and are consequently less intimate) but I cannot say that I look back upon my life at a Public School with any sensations of pleasure, or that any earthly considerations would induce me to go through my three years again.
4) The Rosenbach owns Dodgson's passport, which he used on his one and only trip outside of Britain. Where did he travel?

Dodgson's trip was to Russia; he accompanied Henry Liddon, the dean of St Paul's college, Oxford. The pair spent a month in Russia and on their cross-European train trip  they also stopped in France and Germany.

 5) When Alice recites "How doth the Little Crocodile," in Chapter 2 of Alice in Wonderland, she is parodying which famous poem by Isaac Watts?

Alice is mis-remembering "How doth the Little Busy Bee", which was first published in 1715, but remained a fixture into the Victorian period.

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

How skilfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labors hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.

In works of labor or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.


6) Which of these is a pamphlet written by Charles Dodgson? 
  • On the Means of Improving the Quality and Increasing the Quantity of Food
  • Lawn Tennis Tournaments, The True Method of Assigning Prizes with a Proof of the Fallacy of the Present Method
  • Logic and Utility : The Tests of Truth and Falsehood, and of Right and Wrong; Being an Outline of Logic, the Science of Reasoning, and of the Utilitarian or Happiness Theory of Morals 
  • The Type Printing Instrument : Descriptions and Opinions of the Press
Dodgson wrote the piece on Lawn Tennis Tournaments. The other pamphlets are real Victorian creations, but not by Dodgson.

7) At the mad tea party in Alice in Wonderland the Dormouse tells the tale of Elsie, Tillie, and Lacie, who live in this unusual location.

The sisters live at the bottom of a well, a treacle well to be exact. In the Dormouse's story, "treacle" refers to a sugar syrup and Alice says that "There’s no such thing" as a treacle well.  But an older meaning of the word treacle was a healing liquid, from the Latin theriaca, and sacred wells were also known as treacle wells. There was an actual "treacle well," in Binsey, about a mile and half from Oxford. The well, known as St. Margaret's Well, was associated with St Frideswide,  a 7th century holy woman known for her cures. Here are some pictures of the treacle well as it looks today:

http://s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/02/34/71/2347122_6e452f25.jpg
© Copyright Des Blenkinsopp and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

St. Margaret's Well
© Copyright Des Blenkinsopp and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The names of the sisters are themselves references to Alice Liddell and her sisters: Lacie is an anagram of Alice; Elsie is a play on the initials of Lorina Charlotte; and Tillie refers to Edith, whose family nickname was Matilda.

8) Dodgson first used the pen name "Lewis Carroll" when he published this poem in 1856.

His poem "Solitude" was published in the magazine The Train under the pen name Lewis Carroll. Dodgson actually gave the editor, Edmund Yates, several options. Here is Dodgson's diary entry for February, 11, 1856

"Wrote to Mr. Yates sending him a choice of names: 1. Edgar Cuthwellis (made of transposition out of 'Charles Lutwidge'). 2.  Edgar U.C. Westhill (ditto). 3.Louis Carroll (derived from Lutwidge=Ludovic=Louis and Charles [Carrollus] 4. Lewis Carroll (ditto.)"

9)  Unlike the Cheshire Cat, Alice's own cat never physically appears in Alice in Wonderland, although it is referred to several times. What is her cat's name?

Alice's own cat is named Dinah.

10) Much of Dodgson's handwritten material is in this unusual color ink, which he began using in 1870.

He wrote in purple!

So, how did you do? If you want to brush up, remember our Alice in Wonderland exhibitions will be open through May 15!




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