Jamaica, a Poem in Three Parts

You know how sometimes you see something and a little bell goes off in your head reminding you that this is something you’ve heard of before? Maybe you can’t pull up the reason, but there it is: something to pay attention to.

Happened to me last Friday.

It was almost the end of the work day and I was glancing at the shelves of uncataloged Pamphlet Volumes in our “old” stacks room. One volume on one shelf was taller enough than its fellows that it was shelved spine down. So I pulled it out to see what it contained, perhaps to catalog them this week.

Where I opened the volume was clearly something from the 18th century. So I flipped back to its title page. And there I read:

Jamaica, a poem, in three parts. Written in that island, in the year MDCCLXXVI. To which is annexed, A poetical epistle, from the author in that island to a friend in England. London : Printed for William Nicoll, at No. 51, in St. Paul’s Church Yard, MDCCLXXVII.

There went that bell for some reason. So I looked around. The 9th edition of the online Mitchell’s West Indian Bibliography; Caribbean Books and Pamphlets From 1492 to the Present : English Language Non-Fiction of the West Indies. < http://books.ai > describes the 43 page pamphlet as “exceptionally scarce”. So be it. OCLC’s WorldCat only shows 4 copies in the United States and one in Australia.

Well, now OCLC shows 5 copies in the United States: NY Public, Columbia, Trinity College (Ct.), Rice, and the State Library of Pennsylvania.

The listing in Sabin mentions “See ‘M. Rev.’, LVIII. 142”. That would be the “Monthly Review” published in London 1749-1816. And, believe it or not, we also have that on our shelves. The 3 page review in the February 1778 “Monthly Review” is mixed: “We applaud this young gentleman’s humanity more than his poetry.”

I, too, found the poetry a little tough sledding. The “humanity” part refers to the anonymous poet’s description of the harshness of slavery and his nascent abolitionism. The reviewer takes an interesting tack on this, though, by drawing a favorable comparison between the lot of a Jamaican slave and a common laborer in London. In short, he writes that slaves don’t have it so bad in comparison.

Thomas Warren Krise wrote a dissertation at the University of Chicago in 1995 in which he provides notes about the text. I’m waiting for an inter-library loan copy to arrive.

In all, it’s nice to be able to claim a copy of this early anti-slavery publication. And I hold it up as an example of the kind of treasure yet to be uncovered in our cataloging backlog. (Though I still don’t know why the title rang a bell with me.)

Published in: on 5 May 2008 at 1:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Depressive School Laws and the Plain People

Reecntly I cataloged an item into the collection that appears to be fairly rare.  I only found one other library in the OCLC WorldCat describing it as I had it — though there are seven libraries that have a very similar item (their pamphlet has a publisher, while ours does not).  Still, only nine libraries worldwide reporting this document isn’t very many.

The item carries the title: A Brief history of educational standards from the early Bible days to the present.  It carries no publisher, but is dated 1939.  (And, just for completeness, the other version on WorldCat has the imprint “New Holland, Pa. : New Holland Clarion.”)

 Now then, what makes it topical for this blog is that it comes with a cover title “Report of committee of Plain People making pleas for leniency from depressive school laws” and the second part has the title “Report of action taken by the Plain People, asking the authorities for leniency in school matters, together with related historical data assembled by the committee.” 

Back in the 1930’s the commonwealth had not worked out its religious exceptions to compulsory school attendance laws as quickly as the ‘Plain People’ (i.e., the Amish and conservative Mennonites) had worked out the exceptions they wanted to be granted.  The only other Pennsylvania libraries reporting copies of this 103 page pamphlet are Franklin & Marshall College, and Penn State.  It’s a good piece of local Lancaster County, PA history that had — and has — wider implications.  Our call number is: Rare Collections Library 379.23 P691 1939.

Published in: on 31 October 2007 at 12:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

M. Vattemare Also Gave to Pennsylvania

The August 2007 issue of American Libraries has an article about the 19th century Frenchman Monsieur Alexandre Vattemare, ventriloquist and library supporter.  It describes the man’s interesting career, and focuses on his having pretty well founded the Boston Public Library.

Vattemare supported other libraries in the United States, as well, including the State Library of Pennsylvania.  Just two days before the issue of AL arrived at my home, I was looking at the “Report of the State Librarian to the Legislature of Pennsylvania, with a Catalogue of Books, for the year 1854” and serendipitously saw mention of “A catalogue of books received in exchange from M. Vattemare.”  Remembering that when I read the article, I went back to look more closely at the Librarian’s report.

Here’s what State librarian Wm. R. De Witt had to say about the exchange:

“Several years since, M. Vattemare, the agent for “international exchanges,” sent to the library, in exchange for books received, a number of books in the French, German and Latin languages.  So far as the Librarian can ascertain, there was no list kept of the books given or received.  He has, however, collected all he could recognize as received from M. Vattemare, and herewith sends a catalogue of them.  Other Librarians have acknowledged their indebtedness to M. Vattemare’s agency in adding to their libraries the most valuable productions of the foreign press.”

(The State Librarian then goes directly into suggesting the use of duplicates from the Library’s collection as the foundation for a further exchange program, and the need for a larger acquisitions budget.)

The printed list includes several hundred volumes received, about half of which are identified as “documents” and half as “miscellaneous.”

The oldest dated item in the ‘catalogue’ is Mariale eximii viri Bernardini de Busti ordinis seraphici fracisi …. printed in Lyon by Johannis Cleyn in 1511.  Our call number for the item is RB 232.931 B969m 1511.  It looks like there are several earlier editions of this work and at least two later editions, and that the only other OCLC library holding a copy of this particular edition is the Newberry.  Our copy can be a wonderful teaching tool in a class on the history of the book.

Thank you, Monsieur Vattemare!

Published in: on 17 August 2007 at 8:17 am  Leave a Comment  

A Peek at our Pamphlet Volumes

We have a collection of 2,670 bound volumes of pamphlets, each volume containing 8-30 items or so (the number varies widely).  There was a time in library history when it was deemed wise to bind together pamphlets in order to give them some physical strength so that the items could withstand the rigors of shelving and use.  So they were bound.  In rather random order.  One of the down sides to this practice is that identification and retrieval of the individual items became a problem, especially when the rudimentary cataloging these pamphlets had in our card catalog did not get transferred to our online catalog. 

At the State Library we are now cataloging the individual pamphlets so that they are under intellectual control and become retrievable.  We regularly discover individual pamphlets that are not recorded in OCLC’s WorldCat.  All the volumes are in the Rare Collections Library because of their age and scarcity. 

Here are the contents of one such volume of pamphlets – one that I pulled today for a researcher who was only interested in a single item therein:

The Confederate Defence of Morris Island, Charleston Harbor, by the Troops of South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina, in the Late War Between the States, with a Map of Morris and Part of Folly Islands, and a Plan of Fort Wagner; Prepared from Official Reports and Other Sources / by Maj. Robert C. Gilchrist. 1884. (55 p.)

Catalog of the Kansas Territorial and State Documents in the Library of the State Historical Society, 1854-1898 / Prepared by Miss Zu Adams. 1900. (93 p.)

Of the Law and of Economics ; Address / Delivered by James W. Latta before the sixteenth annual convention of the National Association of Officials of Bureaus of Labor Statistics.  1900. (14 p.)

The Brief of the American Free Art League in Favor of the Removal of the Duties on Works of Art ; Submitted to the Ways and Means Committee, Washington, D.C. Nov. 28, 1908 / by The Executive Committee of the League.  1908.  (246 p.)

Address of Col. Charles Marshall, (Formerly Private Secretary and A.D.C. to General Robert E. Lee), of Baltimore Before the Va. Division of the Army of Northern Virginia at their Annual Meeting, held at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., October 29, 1874.  1875.  (23 p.)

A Refutation of the Charges Made Against the Confederate States of America of Having Authorized the Use of Explosive and Poisoned Musket and Rifle Balls During the Late Civil War of 1861-1865 / by Rev. Horace Edwin Hayden.  1879.  (13 p.)

A Normal School President on the Use of Books, Being an Address Read as the Annual Meeting of the National Education Association held at Cleveland, Ohio, June 29-July 3, and Printed in the Library Journal, August 1908 : How Far Should Courses in Normal Schools and Teachers’ Colleges Seek to Acquaint All Teachers with the Ways of Organizing and Using School Libraries? / by David Felmley.  1908  (8 p.)

 Der Internationale Druckschriften-Leihverkehr Zwischen den Bibliotheken : Separatabdruck aus dem Zentralblatt für Bibliothekswesen Begründet von Otto Hartwig / [by] Aksel Andersson.  N.d.  (15 p.) 

In Memoriam : Joseph Casey.  [1879]  (13 p.)

That’s about how any of these volumes run. Subjects all over the place; publication dates in no particular order; extent varying widely; foreign languages; and so on.  Fun to work with because one never knows what awaits when the cover is opened for the first time.  And especially fun to be able to offer them to researchers.

Published in: on 2 August 2007 at 9:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Lithographed Translation of the Rosetta Stone

A couple of days ago I was looking at a rare book dealer’s catalog online and, seeing a listing for a Pennsylvania imprint, began to wonder whether we had this interesting-sounding item. So I checked our catalog and voila! Except that it said we had the 2nd edition … 3 copies of it … and all were supposedly “autographed and mounted.”

I got suspicious of my predecessors in cataloging.

A bit of research that led me to our copy of Adams, Randolph G., “A Translation of the Rosetta Stone,” in Bibliographical essays; a tribute to Wilberforce Eames. [Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press], 1924, p. 227-241. And there the story unfolded before me.

What we actually have are 3 copies of the 1st edition of the Report of the committee appointed by the Philomathean Society of the University of Pennsylvania to translate the inscription on the Rosetta stone. It was published in Philadelphia in 1858. And one of the neat things about it is that it is said to be one of the few books printed in America entirely by lithography.

AND as the main contributor (Henry Morton) writes at the very end of the volume:

Another circumstance in connection with our present work which may be of interest to our readers is the fact that the large sheets, containing eight pages each, on which it is printed are folded into their present form, not by human hands, as one would suppose they must be, but by the iron fingers of a machine, and that too with a rapidity and accuracy which defies the most expert human manipulation.  These machines, invented by my friend Mr. Cyrus Chambers, will fold 30 sheets per minute in any required form, with a precision which will serve to detect the least deviation in the adjustment of the forms.  The whole of our edition (400 copies) will thus occupy one of these machines less than four hours.  Three of these ‘folders’ are at work at the Harper’s establishment in New York, two at Lippincott’s of this city, two at Wrightson & Co. Cin., and some 20 others in various parts of the Union.

The text itself is also a bit of a wonder.  Three undergrads undertaking to translate the hieroglyphs of their plaster cast of the Rosetta Stone!  And then, apparently as a kind of afterthought to having submitted this report to their college club, deciding to learn how to produce color lithographs, getting the book printed and bound, selling out the first edition, and having to make up new stones for about half the pages in the second edition.  Well, why not!

Footnote: our “copy 1” has tipped in at the back the Alexander von Humboldt letter that is usually found in the 2nd edition.  Since Humboldt is responding to the appearance of the book, it is odd that it is in the 1st edition.  Neither our “copy 1” nor our “copy 3” are in the original binding, so it’s hard to say how or when the letter got in there.

I’ve also corrected our catalog to reflect what we actually have on the shelves.

Published in: on 20 April 2007 at 9:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Milhet’s 3 Volume Introduction to Scripture Finally Available

Another “new” old book passed through my hands this morning on its way back to our shelves.  This time it is going from the limbo of the uncataloged backlog to the paradise of cataloged frontlog … actually, I don’t think there is such a word as “frontlog” but shouldn’t there be one to contrast with “backlog”?

Anyway ….

The item in question is an old 3 volume introduction to the Holy Bible.  We apparently have the only copy in the United States; at least there are no other copies in the OCLC WorldCat.  I found a copy listed in the catalog of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, but that was it.  The book?  It is:

Notitia Scripturæ sacræ in tres partes distributa, by Arnauld Milhet. Toulouse : Peter Salabert, 1690-1691.  3 volumes.

The first volume is a general introduction, the second is on the Old Testament, and the third is on the New.  I don’t have enough Latin to discern much about the text beyond that.  And I didn’t find much of anything about the author online except that he also wrote an introduction to Aquinas.

There may well be very good reasons that there seem to be so few copies of his work around.  Maybe it’s nothing special.  But maybe it is.  And now all the scholars of late scholastic French Roman Catholic biblical isagogics can finally come inspect a copy of Milhet’s book.

Published in: on 28 March 2007 at 10:36 am  Leave a Comment  

McKenney’s “History of the Indian Tribes….”

Thomas Loraine McKenney. Not a name widely recognized these days. But he’s responsible for one of the treasures in our collection.

Beginning in 1816, McKenney was the United States superintendent of Indian trade in Washington, DC, and then head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In 1822, he hired the well-known local artist Charles Bird King to paint portraits of the Native American chiefs who came to the city. McKenney and Bird thus began a 20-year relationship during which Bird painted at least 143 portraits.

The paintings eventually made their way to the Smithsonian Institution in 1858. Their stay at the Smithsonian, however, was not long and happy. On 24 January 1865, a fire broke out in the museum and completely destroyed the 291 paintings in the gallery where King’s paintings hung alongside those of another Indian artist, John Mix Stanley.*

Happily, this is not the end of the story.

In August 1830, McKenney had left his government post (actually, he was dismissed because President Jackson was not taken with McKenney’s earlier support of John C. Calhoun). But he was able to carry out a project he had envisioned even earlier on: publishing the portraits along with biographies of the Native American leaders. It took years of borrowing the original paintings, hauling them back and forth to Philadelphia (where McKenney had settled), getting lithographs made, and doing the research for the textual material to bring the project to completion. McKenney relied on friends still in government to help with all this.

The resulting 3 volume work was published as History of the Indian tribes of North America, with biographical sketches and anecdotes of the principal chiefs. Embellished with one hundred and twenty portraits, from the Indian gallery in the Department of war, at Washington. By Thomas L. M’Kenney and James Hall. Philadelphia: E. C. Biddle [etc.], 1836-1844.

The colored lithographs are stunning, even today. Our Pennsylvania Imprints Collection happens to have one complete and two partial editions of this work. We have 2 volumes of the first edition, a 3 volume set dated 1836-44; volume 2 of a 3 volume set dated 1842-44; and a complete 3 volume set dated 1865 (published in Philadelphia by Rice, Rutter & co.).

The amazing story of these portraits and their publication is well told in The Indian Legacy of Charles Bird King by Herman J. Viola. Washington and New York: Smithsonian Institution Press and Doubleday, 1976. [State Library call number: 759.13 K58Z V8]

The Smithsonian has an online exhibit about the paintings and book.

The University of Washington has published digital versions of the text and 121 lithographs.

*[The State Library has a microfiche copy of the Smithsonian Institution’s catalog of the Stanley paintings published in 1852. (There’s also a digital copy in the Early Canadiana Online collection.) His portraits were of Native Americans from 43 different tribes. Unfortunately, as a 19th century gallery guide, there were no illustrations in the pamphlet.]


Published in: on 29 January 2007 at 11:12 am  Comments (1)