A Founder’s Book


Initial Z from Kallimachou Kyrēnaiou Hymnoi. UPenn Call# PA3945 .A2 1532

Two weeks ago, the Penn Libraries hosted the annual Rosenbach Lectures in Bibliography featuring the book history scholar Ann Blair who has done fantastic work on the history of annotation and reading practices. Inspired by Blair’s lectures I thought I would share a new acquisition here at the Kislak Center. My colleagues and I spotted this item at auction recently and we were able to acquire it in January.  A 1532 Froben edition of the Greek poet Callimachus,our interest was primarily based on the prior owner of the book, James Wilson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and founder of the Penn Law School. Wilson (1742-1798) was born in Scotland and moved to Pennsylvania in 1765 when he was 23. He went on to become a successful lawyer, inaugural law instructor at the fledgling University of Pennsylvania, early American patriot, and one of the first justices of the new United States Supreme Court. For all of Wilson’s importance and his role at Penn, until acquiring this volume we held no books identified as being in his library [1].


James Wilson’s ownership inscription in Kallimachou Kyrēnaiou Hymnoi. UPenn Call# PA3945 .A2 1532

Wilson came to the North American colonies in the fall of 1765 and quickly became a tutor in classics at Penn. This volume is of special interest then as it dates from the first year of his time in Philadelphia. I have to especially thank our brilliant cataloger Liz Broadwell for her insight into Wilson’s inscription. What I had assumed was some corruption of “Ejus Liber” (his book) she masterfully read instead as “Ejus Lebetes” referring to a kind of Greek pot often presented as a prize (also a quote from the Vulgate Leviticus 27:3). This kind of classicist pedantry is just the kind of complicated allusion that would appeal to a young Greek instructor struggling to teach his students the ins and outs of a 4th century BC poet.  After his time at Penn Wilson of course became one of the first U.S. Supreme Court justices but the last few years of his life were difficult ones and he died a debtor in 1798. In the course of settling his estate Wilson’s administrators sold his possessions to the highest bidder. Last week I went to look through this rather sad list of sales in the records of the Philadelphia register of wills [2]. Among the lists of old linens, and a judicial robe sold to Samuel Chase is an inventory of Wilson’s books. Unfortunately the Callimachus described here is not on the list, perhaps sold earlier or retained by a family member, indeed the list of books sold consists almost entirely of legal works.


Entry for $17 received by the Wilson estate for his judicial robe (Philadelphia Administrations 1799-66).

After the volume left Wilson’s hands it went to a J.M. Duncan whose inscription is dated 1807. This is perhaps  John Mason Duncan who had graduated from Penn two years prior [3]. It then ended up in the collection of the

Signature of J.M. Duncan dated May 15, 1807

Signature of J.M. Duncan dated May 15, 1807

businessman and collector John Gribbel  (1858-1936) and was sold in the massive auction of his library in the 1940s [4]. Though there are a few eighteenth-century notes taken on the preliminary leaves of the volume, perhaps in Wilson’s hand, he and later readers appear to have added little in the way of marginalia. However, looking through the text I found my eyes drawn to the faint but voluminous traces of an earlier reader. These copious transliterations and notes taken between lines in the Greek text and in the margins are typical of early modern instructional practice. They suggest perhaps an early schoolboy reader, especially as the annotations exist only for certain portions of the text, indicative of lessons on particular chapters or poems. Though nearly impossible to photograph in natural light, under blacklight they come to life and overwhelm the page. I can’t say for sure, but I think it’s entirely possible

Annotations on flyleaf of UPenn Call # . Possibly in Wilson's hand.

Annotations on flyleaf of Kallimachou Kyrēnaiou Hymnoi. UPenn Call# PA3945 .A2 1532

given the state of the annotations that they were intentionally washed by a later owner or book dealer, perhaps in the 19th century. Whereas in its original state, and indeed to Wilson in 1766, the book had value primarily as an excellent Greek teaching text, by the 19th and 20th centuries its value shifted to its association with Wilson and a new focus and fetishization of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It’s truly exciting to have this volume and its many layers of use in the collection and I hope it will inspire interest for generations of students to come.


[1] Thanks to the work of Jeremy Dibbell and others with the early American Libraries project we know of a few other books with his provenance that have appeared in the trade. In addition both the Kislak Center and the Biddle Law Library at Penn hold manuscript material relating to Wilson. See here for Kislak mss., see also Biddle Ms 016

[2] Papers related to Wilson’s estate are available at Philadelphia City Hall as Administrations 1799-66 (James Wilson). They are in extremely poor condition and covered with black mold. Photostatic and later photocopy surrogates are also available in the file. I have made a preliminary transcription of Wilson’s books from this inventory available.

[3]For a brief biography of Duncan see Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit (1869), pp. 145-6.

[4] Autograph letters, manuscripts and rare books, the entire collection of the late John Gribbel, Philadelphia (New York: Parke-Bernet Galleries, 1940-45).

Reading Chaucer through Dryden’s Eyes

[Ed. Note: Today's post is by Simran Thadani who received her Ph.D. in 2013 from Penn's Department of English with a specialization in book history and special collections]

John Dryden, perhaps the most prolific seventeenth-century English poet, playwright, and commentator, is well known for his adaptations of older texts. In his last work, Fables Ancient and Modern (1700), Dryden translated works by Homer, Ovid, Boccaccio, and Chaucer. But although Dryden styled Chaucer the “Father of English poetry,” and reprinted Chaucer’s original Middle English poems in the Fables,[1] one might suspect that Dryden’s eighteenth-century readers didn’t think Chaucer a worthwhile subject of study.

I make this claim based on two readers’ manuscript annotations in Penn’s copy of the Fables (Kislak Center, RBC Folio PR3418 .F3 1700). The unidentified readers, whom I’ll call A and B, engaged broadly with Dryden’s text. Here are some different things they wrote while reading:
Definitions: Reader A looked up the meanings of several unfamiliar terms. For instance, the word “horoscope” is defined as the “configuration of the planets at the hour of Birth,” while a “Quartil” is explained as “when planets are 3 signs distant = to one quarter or 90 degrees” (sigs. C1v, D2r).


Other specialized terms come from fields like fencing—to “foin” is “to push in fencing”; armory—a “Morion” is a “helmet, armour for the head”; and botany—“Fumetery, Centaury, and Spurge” are “an herb,” “a plant,” and “laurel or mezerion,” respectively (sigs. E4v, K1r, 2G3v; all definitions from the OED).

Thadani3Thadani4Thadani5Almost all these words originated in the medieval or Renaissance periods: the OED says “horoscope” was first used in 1050 CE (and then in Chaucer’s Astrolabe), “quartile” in 1500, “foin” in about 1450, “morion” in 1547, “centary” in about 1000 (and then in Chaucer’s “Nun’s Priest’s Tale”), and “spurge” in 1387. But none were in common use in 1700, so Dryden’s use of Chaucer’s idiom, while serving as an evocative tribute to the older poet, was obviously hard for Dryden’s readers to navigate. This reader was evidently more comfortable with Dryden’s classical and Biblical sources than his medieval vocabulary, for very few allusions—such as to Samson, Solomon, Medea, or Circe—are glossed.

Corrections to typographical errors: It’s hard to say which reader made these corrections from the handwriting alone, since the marks are so small and generic. Here, “chast” and “hast” are given terminal “e”s, with commas inserted to clarify the syntax (sig. 3Q1r):

Thadani6In a more substantive correction, the word “Orphans” in Dryden’s triplet is emended to “Orpheus,” restoring the correct allusion to the musician, his “Wife” Eurydice, and the “Tyrant” Pluto (sig. 2I3v).

Thadani7Classical quotations: Reader B explicitly links Dryden and his sources. This reader quotes both Horace and Ovid in connection with a dream Arcite has “at Break of Day” (sig. D2v):


“Post mediam noctem visus, cum somnia vera,” from Horace’s tenth Satire, is a description of Romulus “appearing … after midnight, when dreams are true.” Similarly, “Namque sub auroram, jam dormitante lucerna, / Somnia quo cerni tempore vera solent,” from Ovid’s Heroides, refers to the time “just before dawn, when the star is sinking, / A time of sleep when true dreams are often experienced.”

Dryden’s “Love’s a Malady without a Cure” has a more direct precedent, “nullis amor, est medicabilis, herbis,” although the reader does not provide the source (Ovid’s Metamorphoses) (sig. E3r).


Ovid’s Ars amatoria is the source for the note “Jupiter ex alto, perjuria videt amantum,” which follows the comment that “Jove but laughs at Lovers Perjury” (sig. E3v).


The reader was obviously familiar with unattributed Latin proverbs, too, citing “amare et sapere vix deo conceditur” next to Dryden’s “to be wise and love, / Is hardly granted to the Gods above” (sig. F3v).


Extended critical notes: Reader B copied out lengthy passages from the critic Joseph Warton’s Essay of the Genius and Writings of Pope (1756) [2] (sigs. G2v, G3r):


Crucially, neither reader goes back to Chaucer’s originals, which boast no annotations at all. Of course, blank margins don’t necessarily mean an ignored text, but still, they give us no evidence of these readers’ engagement with Chaucer, and in fact suggest a lack thereof, given how much manuscript material is to be found in Dryden’s text by comparison. It doesn’t help that Dryden doesn’t even mention the Chaucerian originals.

The annotations to Dryden’s Fables, then, start to seem like evidence of Chaucer’s obsolescence, and testimony to Dryden’s success in rendering the past legible for his readers.

[1] It was likely that Dryden had some say in the decision to reprint Chaucer’s original poems in the Fables; he had worked closely with Jacob Tonson, his publisher, for some time by then. None of the other three poets’ original works were included, so at least Chaucer was special in that context. But his Middle English texts were stripped of all notes and scholarly apparatus, relegated to the back of the volume where they could easily be overlooked or forgotten, printed in smaller type than Dryden’s text, and not even mentioned in the table of contents! Why would they have been included at all, then, since the cost of printing them would obviously have increased Tonson’s expenses and decreased his profits?

[2] Needless to say, the publication date of Warton’s essay provides a terminus post quem for Reader B’s annotations, which cannot have been made before 1756. It is worth noting that (a) Warton discusses not Chaucer himself, but Pope and Dryden’s versifications of Chaucer, and (b) the second excerpt from Warton also contains a reference to Spenser—again ignoring the fourteenth-century poetry in deference to its successors.

Fabulously Illustrated and Easy to Carry

Just a quick post to direct readers to my colleague Nancy Shawcross’s write-up of a fascinating new acquisition here at Penn:



In the last decade of the eighteenth century–amid some of the most tumultuous political times in the history of France–Pierre-Étienne Janet publishes an almanac of love songs in a richly-decorated binding. There is nothing in the text, the plates, or the hand-wrought covers that bespeak the Revolution, the execution of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, or the war being waged against Austria. The miniature book for ladies offers love poems–to be sung to existing tunes–interspersed with engraved plates, some of which evoke classical or medieval themes…

Always check the endpapers

ChinneryfullFor years scholars (including many from Penn!) have reminded us that print and manuscript cultures are far from exclusive. Printed forms with handwritten additions, handwritten diaries within printed borders, printed books interleaved with as much manuscript as printed text, are just some examples of this inter-mixing. Despite this knowledge though, I’m always delighted to find print nesting within what we tend to describe as manuscript and vice versa. I was browsing through one of our eighteenth-century manuscript commonplace books (UPenn Ms. Codex 782) a few months ago trying to identify the text when I noticed several printed pieces pasted onto the endpapers and rear board of the manuscript. I snapped some pictures and moved on. Later, looking back at the picture and reading the text, I realized we had two remarkable and unique pieces of print.


UPenn Ms. Codex 782. Rear pastedown.

The first of these is a handy guide to arithmetic and weights and measures  engraved by William Chinnery in 1744 [1]. It was “design’d to be bind up with Cyphering Books” to assist a scribe with difficult calculations and to serve as a reference. Given the dual content of this manuscript book, primarily a copied text of the Philosophical Transactions but with accounting leaves excised at the end, it’s possible that it was sold with the printed Chinnery sheet already pasted in.

An unrecorded engraved sheet doesn’t come around every day but I found myself even more fascinated by the second set of printed inclusions pasted in the manuscript. What first appeared as newspaper clippings turned out to be a typefounder’s advertisement or specimen. In the age of digital fonts and typesetting we often take for granted what a big deal a new type design could be in the hand-press era. In other words, type had to be physically created and designed mould by mould.


This particular type specimen comes from the type founder Joseph Jackson (1733-1792) who was especially known for his development of new typefaces to print Persian and Devanagari scripts, reflecting the growing interest in disseminating works in those languages from the British territories in South Asia.


Specimen of Devanagari type published by Joseph Jackson in 1785. ESTC T193655. Cambridge University copy (ECCO).

The specimen pasted into the manuscript here at Penn, though not of one of Jackson’s South Asian types is not in James Mosley’s list of British type specimens and is otherwise unknown. Continue reading

Indian diaries at Penn


Illustration of Payne & Co. warehouse in Calcutta (1866). UPenn Call# CT9999.P39 1866

The Penn Libraries have important holdings in both the history of British India and 19th-century diaries. To add to this collection,  the Libraries have acquired an additional three personal diaries in the past year, all from the British colonial period. These diaries provide different glimpses into the world of the British Raj.

The first of these diaries was commercially produced for the year 1866 by Payne & Co. in Calcutta, and carries handwritten diary entries that note the weather, the author’s health, and social engagements. In addition, there are scores of advertisements of establishments in Calcutta, which offer an exciting view of the period in this erstwhile capital of the Indian Presidencies. The diary has the autograph of someone named “Trevelyn[?]” and numerous scattered contemporary diary entries in ink in the same hand between March and July, recording the weather and the author’s state of health, familial and social engagements, and religious reflections. It also includes a very early railway map and a brief almanac.


Page from Cockshott diary describing his visit to Calcutta. UPenn Ms. Coll. 938

The second diary takes a different form, instead of a pre-printed book, it is what we might think of as a blank book used by the author to record his travels. The volume, now UPenn Ms. Coll 938, was used by Alfred E. Cockshott from 1880 to 1936. The youngest of eight children born to Francis P. Cockshott and Jane A. Cockshott, of Islington in London, Alfred married Ada Martha Read in 1899 and they had three children. Cockshott most likely worked for the renowned insurer Lloyd’s of London. Preceding the first entry in the diary Cockshott provides a half-page list entitled “summer holidays” spanning 1867 to 1879 with a city next to each year. The journal continues with short, descriptive daily entries of each trip Cockshott took throughout his life. The first journey he recorded was in August 1880 when he was just thirteen years old and on a summer vacation with his family. Cockshott provides almost daily entries of his trips. He chiefly travels with family members, mentioning his mother, father, and brothers. In later years he traveled with his wife referring to her by her initials A. M. C. Many of his journeys are to Scotland and places within the United Kingdom. He did however also travel further afield visiting the continent as well as India. One personal note by Cockshott was written while he was in India. He discusses his brother Frank’s illness and recovery from dysentery. The last entry in the journal records a trip to Scotland in 1936 and includes three additional leaves laid in. Occasionally there are notations regarding costs of hotel stays or travel. The diary is written in ink and almost half of the journal is blank.

The third of the diaries was kept in 1932 by Rai Sahib Radha Mohan Lal, a judge for the chief court in Jaipur, India. Now UPenn Ms. Coll. 913  The diary is written in a daily-paged calendar displaying the Gregorian date as well as the Sambat, Fasli, and Hijri calendars. The title page features an attractive paper label reading “The Gents’ Diary, 1932.”  The pre-printed portion of the diary includes advertisements on the end papers and a table of contents with common reference information preceding the calendar.


Lal’s daily entries record his work schedule, days he is in court hearing cases, or at home writing decisions. He writes of marriage arrangements, obtaining gold pieces, and banking. He also includes details of the travels of his family (including his wife and sons) and friends, their education, and health status, and visits to the hospital. Lal also records the Hindu holidays and some details of the celebrations. The diary also includes quotidian details about his life, including the receipt of fresh fruit and mangoes, tidbits about his home garden, and news that his cow successfully calved.

Lincolniana and the Electoral College


Petition dated May 28, 1864; signed by Lincoln June 15, 1864. UPenn Ms. Coll. 941 Box 1, folder 17.

As this week marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address it’s only fitting to highlight a collection here at Penn which is full of material relating to Abraham Lincoln for which we just completed a new online guide.

The Gordon Block Collection of Lincolniana (Ms. Coll. 941) was compiled by the Philadelphia lawyer and Penn alum Gordon Block (1885-1964) who bequeathed it to the university in his will. The collection includes over twenty documents signed by Lincoln or in his hand. Many of these date to his presidency, including a variety of notes with instructions to cabinet officials made on the back of petitions and orders. On the right is one of my favorites, written on the reverse of a petition by a group of citizens from Jeansville, Pa. asking that a 57 year-old man from their community be pardoned from his conviction by a military commission of obstructing the draft. Lincoln writes here a note passing along the document to Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War, in which he notes that the prosecutor in the case also recommends a pardon and agrees that the man in question should be pardoned for the remainder of his sentence.


Printed mourning invitation, April 19, 1865. UPenn Ms. Coll. 941 box 1 folder 49.

The Block collection is also notable for its wide array of material related to Lincoln’s assassination and death including pieces of mourning ephemera like the pass on the left which admits the bearer to the White House four days after the president’s death.


Carte de visite of Lincoln “Photographed by A. Kientzle no. 155 North Sixth Street, Philadelphia” UPenn Ms. Coll. 941 box 4 folder 10.

Researchers may also be interested in the large collection of visual materials depicting Lincoln made both during Lincoln’s life and as commemorative items later. Among these are several carte de visite photographs of Lincoln. The one on the right is exceptionally rare and was made by Alexander Kientzle of Philadelphia. Block’s gift also included a substantial number of printed books and pamphlets relating to Lincoln, several of which are in foreign languages (including Hawaiian, Dakota, and Chinese).  In addition, Block also donated three volumes from the president’s own library including one law text used when he was an attorney in Illinois.

Beyond the documents signed or written by Lincoln, one of the really remarkable parts of the collection is a series of documents relating to the presidential elections of 1860 and 1864. Most of us are familiar with the concept of the Electoral College but its actual workings I think remain much more mysterious. The documents in the Block collection shed some light onto how the process worked in 1860s Pennsylvania. The story of how the documents came to Block is almost as interesting as the items themselves. In 1930, the old Post Office in Philadelphia needed to be cleared out and the postal service hired a paper scrap dealer to haul tons of miscellaneous paper out of its cavernous halls. Amongst these papers were a set of envelopes containing documents from the Pennsylvania Electoral College, addressed to the Eastern District Court in Philadelphia. Block later acquired the items and included them in his bequest to Penn. In essence these documents record the de jure election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and 1864. In 1860, for instance, the 27 men chosen by voters in November to elect the next president met in Harrisburg on December 5th.  Below is a letter addressed that very day notifying E. Reed Myer of Bradford County, Pa. that he should report immediately to serve as an elector as another man failed to show up!


Letter notifying E. Reed Myer that he has been called to serve as a presidential elector. December 5, 1860. UPenn Ms. Coll. 941 box 1 folder 34.

Myer obviously made it in time to cast his vote as that same day he was among the Pennsylvania electors to sign a set of documents affirming that they had deliberated and voted for Abraham Lincoln as president and Andrew Johnson as Vice-President. Below is the signed certification by the electors announcing that “it appeared that Abraham Lincoln of Illinois had twenty seven votes.”


Certificate signed by 27 Pennsylvania electors on chosing Abraham Lincoln as president. December 5, 1860. UPenn Ms. Coll. 941 box 1, folder 35.

This material text reminds us that in the eyes of the U.S. Constitution the votes cast by the men above were those which counted in electing Lincoln to the presidency.*  Documents like this and the stories behind them are what make working in libraries so exciting and here at Penn we’re committed to providing as much context and information about our materials as possible in order to connect researchers and the public with resources like the Block Collection.


*Remarkably Penn also holds two pre-printed ballots from the 1956 Electoral College in its collection!

Collecting the Turkish Spring


A poster for the Occupy Gezi Park movement. It emphasizes the diversity and broad appeal of the movement.

[Ed. Note: Today's post is written by David Giovacchini, the Middle East Studies Librarian at the Penn Libraries]

At the end of May and beginning of June, 2013, first Istanbul and then all of Turkey were shaken by widespread protests, sometimes known as “the Turkish Spring”. The protests were initially sparked by the planned demolition of a beloved urban park and square in Istanbul, known as Gezi Park and Taksim Square. When the peaceful protests were broken up by police with increasing force, the protests spread throughout Istanbul and eventually to most of the country’s cities, as Turkish youth responded to the striking images flooding the media, both social and mainstream.

The government called for an end to the unrest, but the protests went on. The protesters had begun to doubt whether the Islamist Turkish government of the AK Party with its religious agenda actually represented the will of the Turkish people. Turkey has been a secular state since its creation in modern form after WWI. The Turkish protesters identified closely with the Occupy Movement, and dubbed their own movement Diren Gezi Parki (Occupy Gezi Park). As it has been in so many cases of unrest in the Middle East, social media was an important tool for the protesters. The situation was finally defused by the end of June.

The Middle East Collection at the Penn Libraries has acquired a remarkable group of items from “the Turkish Spring”, including leaflets, public opinion polls, local street papers, and even a small cotton mouth-covering to keep out tear gas. Most significant and unique is a collection of special issues from various Turkish journals and magazines about the events of Gezi Park and the protest movement. Of course, such an important national event would be the object of much discussion in the press, and the analysis of the protests in these journals runs the editorial gamut from radical feminist to literary to leftist to photographic to intellectual to semiotic to comic strips.

Currently, these journals and magazines can be seen by communicating with the Middle East Librarian, Rm 524 in Van Pelt Library. After processing, these items will be held in the Kislak Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscript Center. The Middle East Collection also has a large collection of books on the Gezi Park protests. These include almost all of the works which have been issued so far in Turkey about the protests, and are one of the most complete collections of this material among research libraries in the US. This collection will certainly grow, as new works are published.

To find a complete listing of Penn’s collection of journals, and books, as well as links to a number of important web and social media sites about the protest movement, go to the Gezi Park Protests 2013 LibGuide (http://guides.library.upenn.edu/content.php?pid=480136&hs=a).

In the Rare Book Room with ENGL 234

This post was written in collaboration with the students in my course, ENGL 234: Social Networks from Shakespeare to Facebook: Topics in History of the Book. Since we were all aware that seeing, examining, and handling early printed works by Shakespeare and his contemporaries might be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and is certainly a rare privilege, we decided to document this experience in a public forum.


IMG_5873Any reader of this blog will know that the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts holds many unique books, manuscripts, documents, materials, and objects. But one of the most exceptional attributes of this collection is its accessibility. The center supports undergraduate courses from across the university community by facilitating class visits and coordinating individual research assignments. This post documents the experience of one class visit to the Kislak Center on the sixth floor of Van Pelt Library.

We met in the gorgeous, Victorian Lea Library to examine rare materials related to Shakespeare and early modern literature. After John Pollack, the Public Service Specialist for the center, warmly welcomed our class, he and Marissa Nicosia, our instructor, explained the proper procedures for handling rare materials. In preparation for our visit we discussed how early modern books were printed, made, sold, marketed, and read by their earliest readers. For this particular class IMG_5876meeting we read Margreta de Grazia and Peter Stallybrass’s article, “The Materiality of the Shakespearean Text,” and the introduction to William Sherman’s Used Books.

To start, we examined the First, Second, and Third Folios of Shakespeare’s works. We compared these to printed works by Shakespeare’s contemporaries including the folio of Ben Jonson’s Works (digital images), a playbook of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher’s play A King and No King, and a collection of George Wither’s poetry The Workes of Master George Wither.

Next, each student selected a seventeenth-century edition of one of Shakespeare’s plays, or his Sonnets, to examine in greater detail. IMG_3767The books on the table challenged us to look beyond the actual content of a book, to the book as an object itself, with a unique identity and history. For example, we considered who published, printed, and sold these books and where. We also examined ownership marks and other handwritten marginalia, as well the physical condition of the books including worm-holes, burns, paper texture, decorative bindings, marbled end paper, and even the smell.

Student Responses

Rene - Furness PR2830 A1 1630 (SCETI – digital images of this item)

A visit to the Lea Special Collections library provided the opportunity to engage with multiple points of history at the same time.  Standing in a room built in 1881, touching texts from from the seventeenth century, and reading hand written notes from any time between then and now.  It made one feel truly a part of a network.pericles rene

The book examined, a 1630 copy of Pericles, offered its own insights and mysteries.  Why, for example, is the title on the title page different from the title at the top of the first page of text?  Similar, but different.  And then there is the author, referred to as Wil. Shakespeare.  Does this imply that he’s so well known that his full name is no necessary?  But what is most intriguing is th scant, but present, marginalia.  The handwriting is illegible (to me, at least), but seventeenth-century, according to Prof. Nicosia.  The same hand numbered the pages on the top right hand corner of each recto page with Arabic numbers.  The reader even drew a pointing hand to highlight one line of text.

It is exciting to have the opportunity to glimpse a small piece of the experience that someone else had in reading the text, particularly someone who may have been reading it soon after it was published.  Could it have been the first owner of the book?  Did they actually buy the book from Cheapside shop, at the signe of the Bible?  What was the purpose of highlighting and annotating those passages?  How did it fit into the context of the culture of his or her time?

The experience gave us a first hand way to consider all of the elements that converge over time to grow our idea of Shakespeare.  This will continue to morph with time.

Carolina – Furness PR2810 A1 1639 (SCETI – digital images of this item)

I found that many of the pages of The Historie of Henry the Fourth: with the Battell at Shrewsbury, between the king, and Lord Henry Percy, furnamed Henry Hotspur of the North had been trimmed, which left me to wonder if the marginal notations left by previous readers had been eradicated. The only evidence of marginality that had survived was a small notation on the title page stating “A Choice Play;” however, this leads me to hypothesize that the note only survived because to trim the play in this location would cut of the title as well. In addition, the title page was riddled with advertisements . The publisher claimed that this edition was “New Corrected by William Shake-Speare” even though he had already died years ago. Moreover, the popular character of Sir John Falstaffe was noted on the page as well. Also, while it is not usual for the bookseller to be noted, the exact location of his shop was stated. Combined, the title page’s primary role was sell you this editions and to continue your patronage with the publisher/bookseller.

Continue reading

A Taste of Recent Acquisitions

Every day the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Penn Libraries acquires new and exciting material from around the globe. To help bring these items to the attention of a wide audience, Rare Book and Manuscript Library Director David McKnight and a team of curators and exhibit specialists have put together a fantastic exhibit showcasing some of their acquisitions over the past five years. For the next three months these items will be on display in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center on the sixth and first floors. Some of these collections and materials have been highlighted here on the blog in the past, including the Fez collection of Lithographs and the Asylum for Orphan Girls Records. To encourage people to take a closer look at the exhibit I thought I would do a quick rundown of some of my other favorites now on display.


Tent Revival Banner by Clarence Larkin: Harrisburg, Pa., 1926.

Upon entering the exhibit it’s hard to miss the item above which hangs on the back wall of the Goldstein gallery. An original 1926 tent revival banner measuring more than 10 feet across and four feet high, it was produced by Clarence Larkin, a baptist minister and former professional draftsman with a knack for integrating his millenialist theology with his design background. This particular banner, used in Harrisburg, Pa., depicts Larkin’s vision of salvation history and provides a sense of how visual and oratorical cultures combined in the world of the tent revival.


Pierre Duval, Les tables de geographie, reduites en un jeu de cartes (Paris, 1669). Penn Call# GV1485 .D88 1669

Another favorite from the exhibition is this wonderful seventeenth-century uncut sheet of 52 playing cards with each suit representing a different continent  (Europe: hearts, Asia: diamonds, Africa: spades, and the Americas: clubs). The cards contain facts about locations on the continent as well as portraits of leaders and other figures. Below are several uncut cards from clubs including the three (Florida), five (New Mexico), and Queen ["D" for Dame] (Virginia). The idea of Elizabeth I representing the “Queen” of the Americas is particularly striking, especially for a game produced in France.


bookplates_001The Penn Libraries have a strong collecting interest in the history of reading and the book. The new acquisitions gallery is full of great items in this vein but one of my favorites is this collection of circulating library labels. The bookplates and labels on the left come from circulating libraries in  Reading, Liverpool, Manchester, and Dover,  and are just a small sample of a striking collection of 219 such labels acquired by Penn in 2011 with the assistance of the Allan G. Chester and Florence K. Chester fund. Circulating libraries sprang up in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to serve a growing populace of avid readers and these labels help document the spread of the libraries and their clientele. Some of the labels include detailed rules for borrowing and provide warnings against “tearing out Leaves, Prints, &c.”


Label from the Pitt Street Library in Liverpool (c.1800).


Examen Juris Canonici Juxta V libros decretalium (Vienna: Georg Lehman, 1728).

As is the case with book labels, the most interesting aspect of a book might not be its textual content but its material form. Perhaps my favorite example of this amongst the new acquisitions on display is a copy of an eighteenth-century printing of a classic of canon law (right). What sets this volume apart of course is the contemporary recessed compartment provided for a pair of spectacles! This item came to Penn recently as part of the fascinating Dr. Daniel and Eleanor Albert Medical Ephemera Collection which has a special focus on ophthalmology and the human eye.


Marble Quarry in West Rutland, Vermont (c. 1910s-20s)

The photograph on the right is one of many items from one of the most substantial new acquisitions here at Penn, the records of the Vermont Marble Company. This collection contains hundreds of linear feet of documents, drawings, photographs, and other records from the 1870s to the 1970s. On display in the gallery are pay records and company store ledgers from the 1870s, advertisements for marble and its uses, and mesmerizing photographs of quarrying work as shown here. The Vermont Marble Company supplied stone to countless building projects across the world with a special focus on monumental architecture. The National Gallery of Art, Lincoln Memorial, and United Nations Building, among others, all used marble provided by the company.


Detail of Noah’s Ark from membrane one of Penn Ms. Roll 1066.

Finally, no visit to the new acquisitions exhibit would be complete without seeing the colorful and physically impressive 15th-century Genealogical Chronicle of the Kings of England purchased by the Penn Libraries in 2007. The roll is 37 feet long in its entirety and provides a detailed if often fanciful genealogy of the English kings leading back to Adam and Eve. If you can’t make it to Penn to see the roll in person, scholars here at the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS) have made it available online in several different formats. A full facsimile of the manuscript is available both with and without annotation describing each illustration and name on the roll. In addition, SIMS has filmed a video guide to the manuscript that helps explain it in more detail.

Ed. Note: This post would not be possible without the assistance of Andrea Gottschalk and her team of exhibit specialists who mounted the exhibit and provided many of the images used here.

Come visit the exhibition which is on display in the Goldstein Family Gallery (sixth floor) (closes December 13th)  and the Kamin Gallery (first floor) (closes January 24)
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center
3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA
Goldstein Gallery hours: Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm; Wednesday, 10am-8pm (after 6pm email rbml@pobox.upenn.edu for guest pass)
Kamin Gallery hours: Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm

Printing News at the Front

A quick post today to highlight a find made in our drawers of oversized and broadsheet materials. Our talented catalogers are in the process of re-describing materials in these drawers and one of them, Elsa Varela, alerted me to a puzzling piece of 20th century history she had found.


Vol. 1 No. 1 of The Stars and Stripes Friday, June 16, 1944 (Penn Call# AB9 St285 944s)

At first glance this piece of World War II ephemera seems pretty straight forward – it’s an issue of the venerable military newspaper The Stars and Stripes, millions of copies of which were printed during the war. What puzzled Elsa was that the date on this issue didn’t seem to match information available from other libraries about the paper’s publication history. Our copy, dated June 16, 1944 claimed to be Vol. 1 No. 1 of the “Continental Edition” that is, the first issue of The Stars and Stripes printed in France after D-Day. The problem was, that every other library seemed to believe that Vol. 1 No. 1 of The Stars and Stripes in France was published July 4, 1944 and looked quite different [1].


Vol. 1 No. 1 of the “true” Continental edition printed July 4, 1944 at Cherbourg. Photo of a copy sent home on July 5th by a soldier in France (http://wwii-letters-to-wilma.blogspot.com/2011/07/05-july-1944.html)

After some digging around in the literature on the newspaper and records available from the National Archives in microfilm, we determined that the June 16 issue  represents one of the few surviving mimeographed newssheets produced by The Stars and Stripes staff in the outbuilding of a Chateau in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont near Utah beach. In the days following the Normandy landings, several members of The Stars and Stripes staff, including a former sportswriter named Charles Kiley cameStarsandStripesdetail ashore to assist in disseminating information to the newly arrived troops. With no printing plants available, Kiley and others took up a mimeograph machine, popped in pre-printed letterhead marked “Continental Edition” brought from England,  and began churning out one-page news sheets for distribution to the front lines only miles away [2]. According to a note on the sheet, they “will be distributed as often as possible” until the London edition could be distributed Sources vary on how many sheets Kiley printed that first day in June, anywhere from 5,000 to 75,000 but however many did go out, very few survive today. According to Jean-Yves Simon who has written extensively on The Stars and Stripes in Normandy, there is one very torn copy of this edition at the New York Public Library [3].

The news presented in the newssheet edition at Penn focuses on developments in the war, ranging from local offensives in Normandy to the latest bombing of Tokyo and testifies to the voracious appetite for information on the part of front line GIs. As a historian  I’m very much interested in what the very existence and material production of this newssheet tells us about the importance placed on information-distribution in times of war. At first glance it’s almost incredible to imagine the commitment of the Army to landing reporters and press officials with their mimeograph machines and other equipment in Normandy and to have them driving around a war zone printing off papers and distributing them to troops. In fact, by July, the Army and The Stars and Stripes secured newspaper printing plants at Cherbourg and Carentan to print massive runs of the paper for distribution in France.

As a final coda, Penn’s copy also has a noteworthy provenance. As attested by the signatures around the edges of the issue, it was owned by Adolph G. Rosengarten, Jr. a Penn Law alum and Penn Libraries benefactor who served in Army intelligence during the war and was on Gen. Omar Bradley’s staff in Normandy. Though we haven’t identified all the signatures on the issue it seems likely that they are from Rosengarten’s fellow officers in the General Staff Corps.

[1] For a guide to Library of Congress holdings of Stars and Stripes see http://www.loc.gov/rr/news/starsandstripes.html

[2] A variety of sources shed light on the Normandy operation of Stars & Stripes. For a published account see Hutton and Rooney, The Story of the Stars and Stripes (New York, 1946), p.118. Also see Otis McCormick, “Troop information and education” Information bulletin (Magazine of U.S. Military Government in Germany), No. 134 (May 1948), p.14. The most detailed account is provided in a formerly classified July 7, 1944 interview given by Lt. Col. Llewellyn who was in charge of Stars & Stripes in Normandy now National Archives and Records Administration (College Park) RG 498 Administrative History Collection File 492S. Llewellyn noted that on “D+7,8,9,10,11, a small mimeo issue of news (with a pre-printed masthead) was also distributed.” He also recalled that about 75,000 mimeo copies were made by Kiley at Ste Marie Dumont.

[3] There are likely additional copies in the possession of veterans around the country as noted in this 1994 article. See Simon, The Stars & Stripes : Normandie 1944 : The Official Daily of the US Armed Forces = Quotidien officiel des Forces Americaines : en hommage à tous les correspondants de guerre ayant couvert la Bataille de Normandie (Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, 2004). Electronic versions of many of his thesis materials, including the NYPL copy, are available at http://www.stars-stripes.info  


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