April, “the cruellest month”, is also National Poetry Month!

“April is the cruellest month.” Thus begins one of the most important pieces of modern poetry ever written: T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.  Characteristic of Eliot’s work, this poem invites readers to question their own knowledge by putting forth information in multiple languages. The Waste Land’s epigraph, written in Greek, details the fable of Apollo’s gift of eternal life to the Sybil and her mistake in forgetting to also ask for eternal youth. The Sybil’s careless choice of words exemplifies T.S. Eliot’s and the modernist literary movement’s belief that every word within a text holds its own importance.

Published in 1923, The Waste Land was written during a time of great trouble in Eliot’s life. His marriage was failing, he was suffering from a nervous disorder and his disillusionment with the post-war world was increasing. Critics of Eliot have sometimes commented on the poem’s seeming obscurity.

During a trip to Europe, Eliot and his wife stayed with author Ezra Pound in Paris, France. Having been advised to seek treatment for his nervous disorder in Lausanne, Switzerland, Eliot spent his time there writing. Upon his return to Paris, he presented his 19-page manuscript to Pound, who made significant and detailed comments and cuts. Eliot would later dedicate this poem to Pound.

The poem was originally published in the United Kingdom in the first issue of The Criterion, a literary magazine founded and edited by Eliot, in October of 1922. Its first appearance in the United States came one month later in November of 1922 in The Dial magazine, followed by a volume including the author’s notes by Boni and Liveright, in December of 1922. In September of 1923, Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press,  published the first UK book edition of the poem in a run of 450 copies handset by Virginia Woolf.

Eliot, T.S. The Waste Land 811 Eℓ4w1923

Eliot, T.S. The Waste Land
811 Eℓ4w1923

Eliot’s most famous work went through several different titles in its many different manuscript forms. The poem’s original title was He do the Police in Different Voices, a reference to Charles Dickens’s novel Our Mutual Friend, in which Betty Higden says of her son Sloppy, “You mightn’t think it, but Sloppy is a beautiful reader of a newspaper. He do the Police in different voices.” Eliot’s final title may also allude to other published works: Jessie L. Weston’s From Ritual to Romance which outlines the Grail legend, the wounding of the Fisher King and the following sterility of his lands, or possibly Madison Cawein’s Waste Land, another poem similar in theme and language, published in 1913.

“April is the cruellest month” because winter has ended and yet the first signs of spring have not yet broken through the mud and sludge. However, April also represents the beginning of a new growing season. T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land is a perfect topic for our final blog post of April, as we conclude this year’s National Poetry Month and our campus finally shows signs that spring has arrived! -NC

Eliot, T.S. The Waste Land. (Richmond, Surrey: Printed and published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, Hogarth House, Paradise Road, 1923) 811 Eℓ4w1923: http://vufind.carli.illinois.edu/vf-uiu/Record/uiu_3602870/Description

Read The Waste Land on the Poetry Foundation’s website: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176735

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Paul Laurence Dunbar illustrated bindings

We’ve talked in past Tumblr posts about the history of bookbinding. In the early years of book production it was incumbent upon an owner to have the book bound after purchase, but by the 1800s publishers were issuing books in pre-made, plain-cloth bindings. Some bindings were more extravagant, with gilt accents and blind-tooled designs on the covers. These more elaborate bindings reached their epoch between 1870 and 1930. Designs were rendered in full color on front covers and spines, and often reflect the aesthetic trends of the era: Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco. The illustrations can be pictorial in nature as well, featuring people and animals. They also frequently include the monogram of the artist. In fact, some artists were so popular that publishers even used their names to market books.

4-14-15 MEINE Paul Laurence Dunbar_2

These three poetry collections by poet Paul Laurence Dunbar exemplify illustrated publishers’ bindings. The colors are eye-catching and vivid, the floral designs symmetrical. Gilt offsets the titles and the author’s name. Publishers’ bindings are noteworthy as an industry in which women predominated. The bindings for Candle-Lightin’ Time and When Malindy Sings are by artist Margaret Armstrong, who produced over 150 illustrated bindings. Her distinctive MA monogram can be glimpsed in the upper-right corner of When Malindy Sings. The binding for Poems of Cabin and Field is by Alice Cordelia Morse, who once worked for Tiffany studios. Morse designed approximately 80 bindings over the course of her career. The illustrations do not appear to have any particular link with the theme of Dunbar’s books, since similar designs can be found for a variety of literary works.

4-14-15 MEINE Paul Laurence Dunbar_1  4-14-15 MEINE Paul Laurence Dunbar_3
Paul Laurence Dunbar, born in 1872, published over fifteen books before his death in 1906, and received acclaim from personalities such as poet James Whitcomb Riley, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and William Dean Howells, who praised Majors and Minors, a volume of poems written both in standard and dialect English. For more on Dunbar, see http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/paul-laurence-dunbar and http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/paul-laurence-dunbar.

These books are drawn from the expansive Meine Collection, profiled recently. The Meine Collection includes numerous examples of illustrated publishers’ bindings, as well as other works by Paul Laurence Dunbar. SL

Dunbar, Paul Laurence. Candle-Lightin’ Time. (New York : Dodd Mead & Co., 1901)
MEINE 811 D91c: http://vufind.carli.illinois.edu/vf-uiu/Record/uiu_4036915/Description

Poems of Cabin and Field. (New York : Dodd, Mead & Co., 1899)
MEINE 811 D91p: http://vufind.carli.illinois.edu/vf-uiu/Record/uiu_3003862/Description

When Malindy Sings. (New York : Dodd, Mead & Co., 1903)
MEINE 811 D91w: http://vufind.carli.illinois.edu/vf-uiu/Record/uiu_2917397/Description

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The Pamphlet: America’s First Social Media

Today, social media is king. According to a Pew Research Center study, nearly one in three Americans get their news from social media.1

How, though, did colonial Americans get their information? While newspapers were the main source of news, their content was often limited to local happenings and news from London. Pamphlets filled the gap. Ranging from five to forty-eight pages, pamphlets flew off the earliest presses in the American colonies and covered just about any topic. From weather to advice on planting crops to discussions of politics, pamphlets were a vital communication tool. Should a merchant in Boston want a slave trader in Charleston to know his opinion, for example, he published a pamphlet.

In the American colonies, pamphlets became especially popular after the end of the French and Indian War in response to parliamentary and royal actions. The Sugar Act, the Proclamation of 1763, or the much-hated Stamp, Townshend, and Tea Acts became hot topics. Colonists up and down the Atlantic published pamphlets to vent their anger and rally others to their cause.

Alex-Short History of Conduct

With the outbreak of war in 1775, independence became a very popular topic. Anyone could to make their opinion known through pamphlets. The most famous, of course, was Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. Published anonymously on January 10, 1776, it was an instant success. According to Paine, it sold 120,000 copies in three months. Paine hoped that its wide circulation would allow the two and a half million American colonists to hear his message. George Washington even had it read to all the soldiers of the Continental Army. Once exposed as the author on March 30, 1776, Paine donated all royalties to Washington’s Army. Eventually Paine would allow anyone to reprint Common Sense, ensuring an even wider readership.

Alex-Paine-Common sense

Just as social media today is used to influence politics, so, too, did the pamphlets of the Revolution get the word out—they even went “viral” sometimes, as Paine’s huge success illustrates. Pamphlets from America influenced both England’s Parliament and the Continental Congress. Widely-read pamphlets against the Stamp Act (combined with the violent ‘tarring and feathering’ of officials!) convinced Parliament to repeal the act. Paine’s Common Sense is seen by some as the greatest piece of political writing in what would become the United States and is often cited as one of the key factors in America’s declaration of independence in July 1776.

Pamphlets continued to impact events after the American Revolution. They played an important role in other social movements, such as Abolition, the Second Great Awakening, Workers’ Rights, Women’s’ Suffrage, Civil Rights and other social and political reform initiatives of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Whether pamphlets will survive in the age of social media remains to be seen, but the spirit of the pamphlet—now delivered electronically– certainly lives on in America. AV

1   http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/09/24/how-social-media-is-reshaping-news/

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πr², but Books are Rectangular

Pi day image 2

Pi Day image 1

Humans have long known that a special relationship exists between the diameter and circumference of a circle. As early as 2000 BCE, some had even found numbers to represent this relationship. By this date, the Babylonians knew that the circumference of a circle was always approximately 3 1/8 times larger than its diameter, while the Egyptians put the value at 4(8/9)2 (Beckmann 10). Hindu astronomy books known as the Siddhantas tell us that by 380 CE the Hindus had arrived at 3 177/1250, or 3.1416, as a constant value for the circumference/diameter ratio, and in the fifth century CE Chinese mathematicians determined that the constant must be greater than 3.1415926 and less than 3.1415927 (Beckmann 24-27). The Maya likely also knew of this ratio, and, given their sophisticated methods of calculation, had probably determined its value with a high degree of accuracy. However, it may be impossible to know for certain, as Diego de Landa, Bishop of Yucatan, burned most of the Mayas’ written records in the 1560s, believing that they were filled with “‘superstition and lies of the devil’” (Beckmann 33).

Although knowledge of the constant ratio between a circle’s circumference and its diameter—the ratio we now call “pi”—is ancient, the use of the Greek letter “π” to represent it is not. Use of the π symbol is usually dated to William Jones’ work Synopsis Palmariorum Matheseos: or, a New Introduction to the Mathematics, published in 1706 and shown above. After spending some time in the Royal Navy as the mathematics master on a man-of-war, Jones worked as an itinerant teacher and then private tutor in London, and later edited and published editions of several of Isaac Newton’s works. His Synopsis Palmariorum Matheseos consists of two major sections, the first dealing with “Numeral and Literal Arithmetick” and the second with the “Principles of Geometry.” Jones uses the π symbol several times throughout the second part, in both diagrams and equations. Although Jones is generally credited as the first to clearly set the letter π equal to the value 3.14 . . ., he may actually have borrowed this use of the π symbol from the writings of the astronomer John Machin, who had calculated π out to one hundred decimal places, and whose work Jones cites elsewhere in his Synopsis (Arndt and Haenel 166). Regardless of which man used the π symbol first, mathematicians adopted the symbol as standard only after the noted mathematician Euler used it in his writings, approximately thirty years after the publication of Jones’ work (Beckmann 141). BS

William Jones, Synopsis Palmariorum Matheseos: or, a New Introduction to the Mathematics. London: Printed by J. Matthews for J. Wale, 1706.

X 510 J72S

Selected Bibliography

Arndt, Jörg, and Christoph Haenel. Pi –Unleashed. Trans. Catriona Lischka and David Lischka. Berlin: Springer, 2000. Print.

Beckmann, Petr. A History of Pi. 2nd ed. Boulder: Golem, 1971. Print.

McConnell, Anita. “Machin, John (bap. 1686?, d. 1751).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Web. 13 March 2015.

Wallis, Ruth. “Jones, William (c.1675–1749).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012. Web. 11 March 2015.

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Three Euphonic Emmas

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library has finished processing an archival collection of French opera autographs donated by Illinois alumnus and operatic sound recording producer Robert Zarbock (’52). The Robert Zarbock collection of opera autographs [Post-1650 MS 0657] is largely composed of letters written by opera singers famous on the Parisian stage in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Also included are photographs, lithographs, and newspaper clippings, representing 47 opera personalities in total. The collection is open to researchers.

Today we highlight three well-known performers: Emma Albani (Canadian soprano, 1847-1930), Emma Calvé (French soprano, 1858-1942), and Emma Eames (American soprano, 1865-1952).

Emma Albani performed on stages in Italy, Paris, New York, and London. Perhaps her most famous role was Isolde in Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at London’s Covent Garden in 1896, alongside Jean de Reszke (Tristan), who is also represented in the collection. Albani studied in Paris under Gilbert Duprez (also in the collection) in 1868, and performed on the Parisian stage with the Italian Opera during the 1872-1873 season. The Main Library holds her French language memoir [780.923 AL13A], and the Music and Performing Arts Library holds a recording featuring Albani and fellow Canadian singer Pauline Donalda [DISC M1505A412 E47].

Emma Albani

Emma Albani’s signature on a letter dated 5 April, 1878. Zarbock Collection, Box 1 Folder 1.

Emma Calvé is perhaps best remembered for her performance in the titular role of Georges Bizet’s Carmen at the Opéra-Comique in Paris in 1894. In 1922, Calvé published an autobiography, available in English translation in the Main Library [780.923 C13]. The Music and Performing Arts Library holds a collection of Calvé‘s known recordings [CDISC M1611C24 E46].


Emma Eames’s autograph on an undated letter addressed “Chère Madame.” Eames married painter Julian Story, and includes both her maiden and married names here. Zarbock Collection, Box 1, Folder 15.

American Emma Eames spent the first several years of her career performing at Paris’s Palais Garnier, where she debuted in 1889 as Juliette in Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. Eames also performed in New York (Metropolitan Opera), London (Royal Opera House and Covent Garden), and Monaco (Monte Carlo Opera), among other cities. The Music and Performing Arts Library holds recordings of Eames from the early 20th century [CDISC M1611 E25E57], as well as Eames’s 1927 memoir [780.923 EA62E1].


An undated letter written by Emma Calvé and addressed to “Mon cher Directeur.” Zarbock Collection, Box 1, Folder 5.

Special thanks to John Wagstaff, Head of the Music and Performing Arts Library, for transferring this collection to the RBML.
– EM

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Crypto-Judaism and the Festival of Esther.

Last week on our tumblr, we featured our copy of the Book of Esther to mark the beginning of Purim. When the Spanish Inquisition was established in 1478, many Jews outwardly converted to Catholicism but continued practicing Judaism in secret. Known as anusim, or crypto-Jews, they inserted certain Jewish traditions into Catholic practices. One such syncretism involved transforming Esther into a saint. When the Catholic Church formally recognizes someone as a saint, that person is canonized; those not canonized (like Esther) but deemed to be “completely perfect in holiness” may be referred to as saints in Catholicism. Crypto-Jews took advantage of this loophole, and continued celebrating Purim by reinventing it as the “Festival of Saint Esther.”

These two works, a collection of poems and a broadside sonnet, are examples of Crypto-Jewish commemoration of Saint Esther in Turin, Italy in the 18th century. Descendants of anusim continue their practices to this day, especially in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Latin America, and the American Southwest. NE

Cavagna 10244

Cavagna 10244Cavagna-10244 Cavagna-10244-2

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Benson Lossing: artist, historian, author

The pictorial field-book of the revolution ; or, Illustrations, by pen and pencil, of the history, biography, scenery, relics, and traditions of the war for independence. Benson John Lossing. 1840. Shelf Mark: 973.3 L89

The pictorial field-book of the revolution ; or, Illustrations, by pen and pencil, of the history, biography, scenery, relics, and traditions of the war for independence. Benson John Lossing. 1840. Shelf Mark: 973.3 L89

In nineteenth century America, the study and scholarship of history was often seen as an avocation; a subject reserved for the wealthy or members of the political and cultural elite. The United States was a young and growing nation, with not much history of its own. The great historians of the age studied the Greeks, the Romans, and the old kingdoms of France and Britain. Historians did not attempt to write long and comprehensive histories about the United States until the 1840’s, more than 75 years after the nation’s founding.

Benson Lossing was one of America’s first great historians. He was born in 1813 to a poor farmer in Beekman, New York. After losing his parents and attaining a limited public education, Lossing began an apprenticeship with a watchmaker in Poughkeepsie. There he would pick up the hobby that would direct his future and fame: a passion for history. After years of self-educating and immersing himself in history books, he took up a job as a joint editor and proprietor of the Poughkeepsie Telegraph and then became editor of the Poughkeepsie Casket. While at the Casket he began to learn another skill that would greatly influence his career: wood engraving.

In 1840 he published his first work, History of the Fine Arts. In this first endeavor, Lossing’s goal was to present the facts, figures, and descriptions of the fine arts in a convenient manner, a pattern that he would follow in all of his future works. Fine Arts is dotted with Lossing’s own illustrations, but unlike some of his greatest works, it is ‘only’ 329 pages long.

Outline history of the fine arts. Embracing a view of the rise, progress, and influence of the arts among different nations, ancient and modern, with notices of the character and works of many celebrated artists. Benson J. Lossing. 1840.Shelf mark: 709 L899o.

   Outline history of the fine arts. Embracing a view of the rise, progress, and influence of the arts among different nations, ancient and modern, with notices of the character and works of many celebrated artists. Benson J. Lossing. 1840.Shelf mark: 709 L899o.

Lossing’s most famous work is his Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution, first serialized in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine beginning in 1850. Over the next three years, Lossing continued to write and travel, conducting research and drawing scenes from across the United States to illustrate this book. By the time it was published as a two-volume 1,500-page epic in 1852, Lossing had traversed some 8,000 miles across the nation. The work tells the story of the United States from the founding of the colonies through the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783.

The pictorial field-book of the revolution ; or, Illustrations, by pen and pencil, of the history, biography, scenery, relics, and traditions of the war for independence. Benson John Lossing. 1840. Shelf mark: 973.3 L89

The pictorial field-book of the revolution ; or, Illustrations, by pen and pencil, of the history, biography, scenery, relics, and traditions of the war for independence. Benson John Lossing. 1840. Shelf mark: 973.3 L89

What makes this work unique are its illustrations and stories. Lossing drew most of the illustrations in the book, either from descriptions, or from visiting the scenes and monuments in person during his years of travel. He also included scores of personal accounts from survivors and veterans of the Revolutionary War.

Lossing would produce two more war epics, a Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812 (1869), and a Pictorial Field Book of the Civil War (1866–1869). For these works he traveled over 10,000 miles to find monuments and scenes of the wars, and collect local stories from small towns and big cities. The War of 1812 volume was penned as a sequel to his earlier Revolution, while the Civil War was one of the earliest comprehensive accounts of that conflict. Like its predecessors, it incorporates new accounts never before published.

The pictorial field-book of the war of 1812 : or, illustrations, by pen and pencil, of the history, biography, scenery, relics, and traditions of the last war for American Benson J. Lossing with several hundred engravings on wood, by Lossing and Barritt, chiefly from original sketches by the author. 1868. Shelf mark: 973.5 L89p

The pictorial field-book of the war of 1812 : or, illustrations, by pen and pencil, of the history, biography, scenery, relics, and traditions of the last war for American Benson J. Lossing with several hundred engravings on wood, by Lossing and Barritt, chiefly from original sketches by the author. 1868. Shelf mark: 973.5 L89p

Lossing was the author and editor of more than forty works, some published posthumously. Some of his notable works include, Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence (1848), A History of England, Political, Military, And Social from the Earliest Times to the Present (1871), and Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History from 458 A.D to 1909, Based Upon the Plan of Benson John Lossing (1909). Lossing also served as the editor of American Historical Record and Repertory of Notes and Queries from 1872-1874, and an illustrator for Harper’s Magazine for twenty years.

From about 1870 and up to the start of the First World War, Lossing was one of America’s leading historians. His books on the Revolution and the War of 1812 were described by the New York Times as “two of the most popular historical works published in this country.” Benson Lossing used his talents as an author, illustrator, editor and publisher to bring the history of the United States to a very broad and popular readership, which helped influence the way American history was written and depicted. -AV


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Selected works of Benson Lossing available in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library:


History of the Fine Arts… http://bit.ly/187AYHO  

Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence…  http://bit.ly/1DB7QWC

Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution…http://bit.ly/1vP1VoR

Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812… http://bit.ly/1CTdNc7

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