Japanese Lucky Almanacs and Their Knockoffs


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Earlier this year, the Penn Libraries began accessioning the collection of the late Reverend Shojo Honda (1929-2015), generously donated to the University of Pennsylvania by his son Tamon Honda. Rev. Honda’s collection is a mix of Japanese and English publications focusing largely on Shin Buddhism, but it also covers topics as diverse as Sanskrit language study, Japanese flower arrangement (ikebana), the works of author Shiba Ryōtarō, and local histories of Takatsuki, Osaka—the city in which Rev. Honda spent part of his youth. Many of these books are owned by no other library in the world. Some, like his mimeographed adaptations of short stories by Akutagawa Ryūnosuke and Ogawa Mimei, are not just unique bibliographic treasures, but also a direct window into Rev. Honda’s life and interests. And some of the items from the Reverend’s library were utterly unanticipated.

Covers and sample spreads from Rev. Honda's lucky almanacs.

Covers and sample spreads from Rev. Honda’s lucky almanacs, opened up to his Nine Star Ki profile, “Eight White Soil Star”.

Among these are two fortune-telling almanacs (koyomi 暦), dating from 1995 and 2011 respectively. These almanacs are filled with precise and elaborate octagonal diagrams outlining the lucky and unlucky directions of the compass rose according to one’s “Nine Star Ki” profile—something like a zodiac sign determined by the year of one’s birth—and daily calendars listing the luck predictions for those zodiac signs. The earlier work Heisei 7-nen Takashima-reki 平成七高島暦 [“1995 Takashima almanac”] has a quasi-religious copyright holder (or zōhan 蔵版) declared on the cover: Shinseikan 神正館, perhaps anglicizable as “The Hall of Divine Righteousness”. The latter Heisei 23-nen unseireki 平成二十三年運勢暦, or 2011 Calendar of Good Fortune, on first glance appears to be the work of a more academic institution, Kōzan Rekishokan 黄山歴書館, or the “Huangshan Historical Library”. The names of their editorial bodies are also similar, invoking the family name Takashima. Despite their visual similarity, the economic forces behind the books appear vastly different. The 1995 Takashima-reki is a 32-page book that looks more like a giveaway than anything else; the 2011 Unseireki is an unmistakably commercial publication with a product code and a price of ¥100 published by Daiso, a well-known chain of 100-yen shops.

As with our recent collection of Japanese cruise books, we knew there was a hidden history here, and we immediately set out to acquire more exemplars of these fortune-telling almanacs: 33 in total. Curiously, none of these were published for years earlier than 1946, the first calendar year after Imperial Japan’s surrender to the Allies of World War II. But the history of almanacs in Japan dates back centuries (if not quite millennia).

Along with the increasing spread of print culture in the Edo period (1600-1868), so grew the means to publish calendars of practical information like the months and tides, and of less practical information like which days were lucky for what events. Writing about the illustrated ukiyoe almanacs (egoyomi 絵暦) of the Edo period in a 1929 issue of the Apollo, William H. Edmunds provides the following eurocentric takedown of their content:

[…] how little importance was time in the olden days of Japan. Second or minutes were unknown, […] days pass, but there were no weeks, and the months were just moons, numbered and named after the zodiacal signs, or by fanciful names indicative of a seasonal or festive observance […]. Years were not counted in continuous sequence, but according to certain nengō, or year names, appointed by the Emperors arbitrarily, sometimes to commemorate an auspicious occasion or to ward off some malign influence; hence none could answer off-hand the number of years that had intervened between one period and another.

Assuming the purpose of almanacs is simply to provide the mathematical precision required to calculate dates, then Edmunds is correct in his assessment. But the “fanciful names” and “seasonal observances” are essential to Japanese calendars and their various overlapping customs and superstitions. In a far less judgmental tone, Edmunds notes that official almanacs (honreki 本暦) were published in Ise, the seat of one of Japan’s most important Shinto shrines. Outside of the Ise region, specially licensed printers allowed to produce and distribute these products throughout the country. These honreki, however, did not suit everyone’s purposes. For one, they required a level of literacy not widespread. Secondly, they didn’t include information necessary for certain types of divination necessary for folk customs.

Thus underground presses secretly publishing obakegoyomi お化け暦, or “ghost almanacs” also operated. Some of these ghost almanacs were purely visual for the illiterate, like egoyomi featuring illustrations by the likes of artist Suzuki Harunobu 鈴木春信 (1725?-1770). While Harunobu seems to taken advantage of a period in which publishers of ghost almanacs were tolerated, by the early years of the Meiji period (the mid-1870s), the Japanese government had renewed their commitment to a standardized almanac, this time based on the solar calendar. In eliminating the lunar calendar upon which so much of farm policy and folk custom relied, the Meiji government’s monopoly on calendar production once again invoked the specter of ghost almanacs. Titles like Nōka benran 農家便覧 [“The Farmer’s Handbook”] (1894) bundled in Nine Star Ki and lucky day divination. Publishers like Fukunaga Kahē 福永嘉兵衛—a name as fictitious as it is auspicious—began haunting the world of underground publishing.[1]


Six postwar lucky almanac titles published from 1946 through 1962. Five different publishers are represented.

Six postwar lucky almanac titles published from 1946 through 1962. Five different publishers are represented.

The official adoption of the solar calendar was just one of many steps Japan took to place itself on equal footing with the industrializing West. But modernization didn’t reject the custom and superstition wholesale. In fact, some profited immensely from it. Enter Takashima Kaemon 高島嘉右衛門 (1832-1914), an entrepreneur who would effectively become a patron saint of fortune-telling. Takashima’s lifetime interest in fortune-telling was centered largely around the I Ching, or Book of Changes, and the interpretation of its 64 hexagrams. Takashima profited from his successful predictions, investing heavily in timber before the great earthquake of Ansei 2 [1855]. His fortunes didn’t last long, as heavy debts and his attempts to overcome them through illegal dealings with foreigners landed Takashima in prison for seven years. During his imprisonment, he redoubled his commitment to studying the I Ching. After his release from prison, Takashima’s fortunes once again grew, and he found himself financially supporting the ambitions of men in high places like Itō Hirobumi, a statesman who would go on to become Prime Minister.

Financial support wasn’t Takashima’s only goal. In Meiji 19 [1886] he had self-published a ten-volume edition of his own interpretation on the I Ching called Takashima ekidan 高島易断 [“Takashima’s Judgements on the Book of Changes”]. Several revised editions followed. An English translation, The Takashima ekidan, was published in 1893. The book was clearly a hit, and people of influence sought advice from Japan’s preeminent fortune-teller, who divined everything from cholera outbreaks to colonial upheaval through I Ching cleromancy. In his dual position as industrialist and soothsayer, Takashima never profited directly by selling his fortunes as a trade. His name has become associated with the playful aphorism Uranai wa uranai 占いは売らない: “Fortune-telling is not for sale”.

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July 5, 1776

While the Continental Congress gathered in Philadelphia 240 years ago to decide the future of the 13 colonies,  ministers and officials in Lisbon several thousand miles away also met to discuss what to do about the rebellious colonists. Long allied with the British, worried about the example of a rebellious overseas colony, and hoping to enlist greater British military aid against the Spanish, the Portuguese government decided on July 4, 1776 to ban all Portuguese trade to the 13 colonies. The following day, not knowing of the Declaration of Independence on the other side of the Atlantic, the edict was announced publicly and Portugal became one of the first foreign powers to take official action against the colonies [1].

Benjamin Franklin Papers, UPenn Ms. Coll. 900, Box XII, no.1

I had never heard of the Portuguese edict published on July 5th [printed English translation] until I saw a manuscript translation in the collection of Benjamin Franklin’s papers here at Penn. Possibly originating from his time in France as ambassador, the manuscript translation bears the dateline “London Aug. 16 1776” presumably when this particular English translation appeared in  London newspapers, though its exact origin and context is unclear[2]. I was excited then to acquire recently for the libraries one of the printed copies of the Portuguese decree published on July 5th.

Dom José por graça de Deos rey de Portugal…as colonias da America Ingleza por hum acto emanado do congresso…não só se declaráram inteiramente apartadas da sujeição á Coroa da Grão Bretanha (Lisbon, 1776) f1r&v. UPenn copy.

This decree was ordered “to be printed and set up in all public places of Lisbon and the Ports of this Kingdom.” The printed edict survives in at least two different editions today (the JCB, for example holds this variant) providing evidence perhaps of the wide circulation and posting of Royal decrees [3].

Copies of the decree reached London by late July, and one British official sent the British ambassador in France a copy on the 26th [4]. An English translation first appeared in the London press the next day. The decree seems to have first reached American audiences in the fall of 1776 when it was published in newspapers in Philadelphia and elsewhere. The Continental Congress took action by December when they ordered their commissioners in France to approach the Portuguese ambassador as well as offer American support to the Spanish by declaring war on Portugal [5].  In the spring of 1777, Franklin and his colleagues then in Paris on their diplomatic mission, wrote formally to the Portuguese ambassador there to protest the edict and seek its revocation [6]. Interestingly, they began their letter by noting that no official copy of the decree had been sent to the continental congress and that they had seen only newspaper copies, suggesting that the printed edicts like the one above didn’t circulate far outside Portuguese territories.

“The Congress of the United States of America have seen a paper purporting to be an Edict of his Portuguese Majesty, dated at the Palace of Ajuda, the 4th. of July, 1776…But as this Instrument has not been communicated to the Congress with any Circumstance of Authenticity…”

The history of Portuguese-American relations during the Revolution is told in full elsewhere but it Franklin was one of the key players in the diplomatic relationship between the two countries [7]. If he did not already have the manuscript copy now at Penn in 1777, he likely did by 1783 when he was in the midst of negotiating a commercial treaty with Portugal [8]. The Portuguese Crown repealed the 1776 edict on February 15, 1783, officially opening ports to American shipping. Finally, after several tries, a version of Franklin’s proposed treaty was signed by the two countries in 1786.

The spread of this short July 1776 decree, from printed sheets distributed in Lisbon, to newspaper printing in London and America, and then in manuscript to Franklin and others, provides a window on the movement of information and the material forms it took in the larger 18th century Atlantic world.


[1] For the best recent discussion of Portuguese-American relations during the Revolution see Timothy Walker, “Atlantic Dimensions of the American Revolution: Imperial Priorities and the Portuguese Reaction to the North American Bid for Independence (1775-83)” Journal of Early American History 2.3 (2012), 247-285. See page 263 for a discussion of the July 4th/5th edict.

[2] Penn’s collection of Franklin papers were acquired in bulk from the residue of William Temple Franklin’s papers owned by the Fox family at their Champlost estate after the bulk had gone to the American Philosophical Society. They were organized in the early twentieth century and the original context for this document has been lost.  The first translation of the edict I can locate occurs in the London Gazette on July 27, 1776 (issue no. 11686).

[3] Royal decrees and orders appear to have been printed by a variety of different printers in Portugal in a number of different states, take for example these two different printings of a 2 May 1768 decree at Penn: Lea Folio DS135.P7 P712 1768 and KCAJS Folio DS135.P7 P713 1768. The JCB copy of the July 1776 edict is printed on only one side of a sheet and has a different woodcut initial, it is listed in Valeria Gauz, Portuguese and Brazilian books in the John Carter Brown Library 1537 to 1839, (Providence, 2009), 776/4. The newly acquired Penn copy was clearly removed at some point from a sammelband. A third variant very similar to the Penn copy was recently sold at auction in Brazil: http://www.dutraleiloes.com.br/2016/l132/images/lote562.jpg

[4] Weymouth to Stormont, 26 July 1776. p. 361 (no. 1341) in B.F. Stevens, Facsimiles of manuscripts in European archives relating to America, 1773-1783. Vol. 13 (London, 1892).

[5] See the Journals of the Continental Congress for 23 December 1776 (pp. 1035-6) and 30 December 1776 (p. 1057). For an early American newspaper printing of the decree according exactly to the English translation in the Franklin papers see the Pennsylvania Evening Post for 21 November 1776.

[6] “The American Commissioners to [the Conde de Sousa Coutinho], 26 April 1777,” http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-23-02-0420. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 23, October 27, 1776, through April 30, 1777, ed. William B. Willcox. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1983, no pagination.]

[7] In addition to Walker’s excellent “Atlantic Dimensions of the American Revolution: Imperial Priorities and the Portuguese Reaction to the North American Bid for Independence (1775-83)” see Dauril Alden’s older
“The Marquis of Pombal and the American Revolution” The Americas 17.4 (April 1961), pp. 369-376.

[8] For documents and discussion of Franklin’s role in treaty negotiations see “From Benjamin Franklin to [the Conde de Sousa Coutinho], 7 June 1783,” http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-40-02-0072 and “Portuguese Counterproposal for a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, [c. 7 June 1783],” http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-40-02-0073. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 40, May 16 through September 15, 1783, ed. Ellen R. Cohn. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2011, no pagination.]

Japanese Naval Cruise Books and the Renshū Kantai


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Some of the Penn Libraries’ unique Japanese holdings, like our set of Okinawan Bibles or our collection of early 20th century pulp historical fiction, are legacy items donated decades ago and just recently rediscovered. Others, like the corporate history resource Mieki (a magazine dedicated to a brand of industrial soy sauce additive), have been purchased specifically for our community of researchers. But rarely do we have the opportunity to work directly with those researchers to acquire bibliographic treasures that document Japanese history.

"Scrap book : Teikoku Renshū Kantai Shōwa 11-nen Tobei Shiryō"

“Scrap book: Teikoku Renshū Kantai Shōwa 11-nen Tobei Shiryō” 帝国練習艦隊昭和十一年渡米資料 (“Resources from the Imperial Training Fleet’s Trip to the Americas, 1936”)

In 2015, Penn Ph.D. candidate Robert Hegwood, a scholar of Japanese/American cultural relations in the mid-20th century, purchased a rather innocuous looking “Scrap Book” at a used book store during a stay in Tokyo. Inside this commercially-produced scrapbook is a collection of postcards, welcome booklets, travel ephemera, and training documents collected by an unidentified Japanese sailor of the Renshū Kantai 練習艦隊, the Japanese Imperial Navy’s Training Fleet, during a 1936 voyage to the United States. From 1903 to 1940, the Renshū Kantai took such training deployment cruises almost every year, with graduates of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy, the Naval Engineering Academy, and the Naval Paymasters Academy spending several months traveling around the Pacific Ocean, occasionally venturing as far as the Mediterranean Sea or the East Coast of the United States. The 1936 cruise (lasting from June 9 to November 3) saw Vice-Admiral Zengo Yoshida commanding the ships Yakumo and Iwate as they sailed across the Pacific Ocean from Yokosuka to Seattle, down along the West Coast and up through the Panama Canal as far as New York City.

Unfolding "Scrap book: Teikoku Renshū Kantai Shōwa 11-nen Tobei Shiryō". Animation and hand modeling courtesy of Chris Lippa.

Unfolding “Scrap book: Teikoku Renshū Kantai Shōwa 11-nen Tobei Shiryō”. Photography and animation courtesy of Chris Lippa.

The scrapbook is a fascinating specimen of early 20th century history and militarism, and of cultural relations between Japanese living in the United States and those in Japan. We just had to find more to contextualize this one-of-a-kind item. After a targeted shopping spree on Nihon no Furuhon’ya, one of the best places to find used and rare Japanese books, we found ourselves in possession of 21 new titles relating to the Renshū Kantai. Most of these are well-preserved “cruise books,” defined in the Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials as “pictorial publications that document a voyage of a particular ship and are distributed to the ship’s crew.” The same record includes a source note that they are “usually amateur in nature.”

Selected pages from USS Marcus Island (CVE 77) World War II Cruise Book, 1944-45, hosted at navysite.de.

Selected pages from USS Marcus Island (CVE 77) World War II Cruise Book, 1944-45, hosted at navysite.de.

This certainly seems true of cruise books produced by ships of US Navy. Thoralf Doehring’s US Navy Cruise Books, a massive digital trove of over 900 US Navy cruise books, asserts that “[t]his tradition dates back to the late 1800s” and that “10,000 different US Navy cruise books have been published.” The oldest item on Doehring’s site is the cruise book of the USS Marcus Island from 1944-1945—right in the thick of World War II—which nevertheless aims not to “cramp anyone’s style when telling ‘sea stories.’” The book is indeed charmingly amateurish and light-hearted, with illustrations and photo layouts not unlike those of a student-produced yearbook.

But the cruise books of the Renshū Kantai are much more official in tone, featuring celebratory calligraphy commissioned for the publication, staid portraits of commanding officers, and decorated gilt edges. The colophons of these books generally lack formal publishing statements in favor of printing statements, a technique common in Japanese self-published works. Many declare themselves hibaihin 非売品—“goods not for sale”. It’s unclear how these books were financed and distributed, but perhaps like shashi, Japanese corporate history books, they were part of the fleet’s budget and even purchased by the sailors themselves as souvenirs.

Cruise books like the 1936 edition are certainly detailed, official-enough records of the Renshū Kantai’s annual itineraries, highlighting milestone events at different ports-of-call with photographs of ceremonies and reprints of speeches of dignitaries. The 1936 book even shows some photographs of the ship’s physician in action, and of a line-crossing ceremony held at the Antimeridian. But these books don’t show the full scope of life on on the sea for newly-minted Japanese Naval cadets. They don’t reprint, for example, selections from “ship newspapers” like the Yakumo Shinbun, an internal newsletter produced in new editions each time a ship was deployed.[1]  They also don’t attempt to capture the experience of being a tourist abroad.

Selected pages from Shōwa Jūichinendo Renshū Kantai Junkō Kinen (1937).

Selected pages from cruise book Shōwa Jūichinendo Renshū Kantai Junkō Kinen (1937). Note the appearances of West Point and Philadelphia’s Independence Hall as tourist destinations during the fleet’s stopover at New York in late summer, 1936.

The 1936 scrapbook, on the other hand, is a snapshot of what might be a typical sailor’s experience as told through ephemera. Picture postcards of scenic and historic sites are interspersed with commercial guidebooks and even mimeographed documents to teach sailors about Cuban culture. Of particular note, are the Japanese-language welcome materials produced by local Japanese associations in the US to celebrate the arrival of the fleet, like Renshū Kantai Kangei Seito Sakubunshū 練習艦隊歡迎生徒作文集—collected student compositions of the Tacoma, Washington Japanese Language School—or Teikoku Renshū Kantai Kangei Kinen 帝国練習艦隊歓迎紀念—a guide to the history of Los Angeles and a directory of Japanese citizens living there.[2]  The bilingual Rafu Shimpo: L.A. Japanese Daily News 羅府新報, released a commemorative number welcoming the Renshū Kantai, also revealing some of the cultural misunderstandings their arrival created. Prominently featured on page one of the July 15, 1936 issue is a brief article about how American women invited to tour the Yakumo and Iwate had mistaken the uniformed sailors as “elevator boys, chauffeurs, and houseboys,” even trying to offer the sailors cash tips.[3]

For many of these Japanese living in the United States, the chance to mingle with compatriots from abroad would be irresistible, as the Immigration Act of 1924 had prohibited Japanese immigration to the US. Barred from citizenship because of their race and separated from their homeland by the immensity of the Pacific Ocean, local Japanese gave the best welcome they could to the men of the Renshū Kantai. These enclaves of the Japanese in the US, in fact, almost appear as quasi-colonies in the Renshū Kantai’s cruise books. Los Angeles is often represented in Chinese characters as “Rafu” 羅府, and San Francisco as “Sōkō” 桑港, somewhat akin to how the Japanese Empire had redubbed Seoul, Korea as “Keijō” 京城.

"Welcome Midshipmen of the Japanese Training Squadron". Headline from the Californian newspaper Rafu Shimpo, July 15, 1936.

“Welcome Midshipmen of the Japanese Training Squadron”. Headline from the Californian newspaper Rafu Shimpo, July 15, 1936. Image courtesy of Robert Hegwood; original material from the Kasai Family Papers held at UCLA Library.

These fledgling cultural colonies were soon to be abandoned by their empire. The year 1936 would be the last visit of the Renshū Kantai to the continental United States, though the Iwate and Yakumo would return to the pre-statehood Hawaiian Islands in late 1939 in the fleet’s penultimate cruise. The final voyage of the fleet occurred between August 7 and September 28 of 1940, concluding just one day after the Tripartite Pact was signed by Germany, Italy, and Japan. With the Axis now fully tilted against the Allies, there was no time for training cruises or tourist scrapbooking for Japan’s naval forces.

Meanwhile, many of the Japanese who had so warmly welcomed their compatriots in previous decades would soon become prisoners of war, stripped of their property and placed in internment camps—citizens of nowhere. While the imprisonment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans is a dark and shameful chapter in American history, those interned were far from broken. They even compiled scrapbooks of their own experiences, like the Kooskia Internment Camp Scrapbook held at the University of Idaho Library.

After Japan’s defeat at the end of the Pacific War, the Navy and its Training Fleet were officially abolished, with Japan renouncing “war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes” in Article 9 of the 1947 Constitution. This did not, however, prohibit the creation of a well-trained military force for defense purposes, and in 1954 the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, or Kaijō Jieitai 海上自衛隊, was formally established. This new not-quite-Navy has its own “Renshū Kantai,” which as of this blog post’s publication is on its 60th voyage. Their 20th anniversary publication, Enkō Nijūnenshi 遠航二十年史 (“Twenty Years of Voyages”), makes no reference to their imperial predecessor, rewriting the history of Japan’s military presence on the seas as one of a peacekeeping force. The Penn Libraries, however, will continue to expand this unique collection, and make the history of the Renshū Kantai accessible for generations to come.

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A passage from a lost play

[Ed. note: Today’s post is by Andrew S. Keener, a Ph.D. Candidate in the English Department at Northwestern University who recently spent time researching in our collections]

“Doo Comedies like you wel?” asks a speaker on the first page of John Florio’s bilingual conversation guide First Fruits (1578). Such a question is hardly out of place among this book’s two-columned Italian and English dialogues, which scholars from time to time have labeled as “theatrical” or “dramatic.” Indeed, critics have often located Florio, a language instructor, translator, and lexicographer, in relation to the world of Renaissance drama. One tradition, for instance, holds that William Shakespeare fashioned Florio into the pedantic Holofernes for his comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost; according to Frances Yates, this character “spoke in a way which the audience would recognize as Florio’s very voice and manner”[1].

The Holofernes connection remains speculative, but the more we know about surviving copies of books like First Fruits, the more we might learn about the connections between these supposedly “theatrical” language-learning dialogues and works of early modern drama. To this point, an annotated copy of Florio’s book at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts features an early reader’s handwritten transcription of a prologue from a seventeenth-century play. In striking terms, the speaker reprimands an antsy audience before the play begins:


Florio his first fruites (1578). UPenn Furness PC1121.F78 1578

Transcribed for legibility, the text reads:

You who sitting heare, do stand
To see our play, which must this
Night, be acted heare to day –
Be silent, pray, tho: you allowd
Do tallke, sture not a jott, tho vp
And down you walke, for every silent
Noyes the players see, will make them
Mute & speake: full angerly, o tarry
Heare vntill you doe departe,
Gentl[i]e your smileing frowns
Do vs impart, and then wee
Most thankless, than[k]fulle will
Apeare, and waite vpon you
Home, but yett stay heare

Intriguingly, this prologue belongs to a lost play, and it does not seem possible to identify the work of drama at all, by title, playwright, or company. However, this passage does appear elsewhere in seventeenth-century print. “Comfortably inside books of poetry and miscellanies, ‘severed’ prologues find a new life as ‘poems’ amongst other poems, or as jests amongst other jests,” states Tiffany Stern, who refers specifically to this case[2]. To name just two examples, The Booke of Bulls (1636) situates this prologue under the header “A Bull Prologu [sic], to a foolish audience,” while a volume entitled VVit and drollery (1656) includes the passage simply as “A Bull Prologue.”

Penn’s copy of First Fruits features a fascinating, and previously unknown, manuscript witness to this lost play’s prologue (including a textual variant that seems to appear nowhere else in print, “tarry”). We can also attribute the inscriptions with confidence to Richard Parsons (1641/2 – 1711), an ecclesiastical judge and antiquary who signs his name in the same hand elsewhere in the volume. Known as a cantankerous suppressor of dissent, perhaps Parsons found something appealing in this prologue’s censorious language. Could he have brought First Fruits with him to the theater, copying down the verses as he heard them, or shortly thereafter? What makes Florio’s book a good place to record a dramatic prologue? How does this dramatic extract square with Parsons’s other inscriptions, both on this page and elsewhere in the book? Clearly, the Penn copy of First Fruits poses a number of questions. Whatever the answers, the book encourages us to consider the ways in which language-learning dialogues mingled with drama in a broad economy of seventeenth-century language and literature.

[Ed. note: This post has been updated from its initial publication of June 1]

[Author’s note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly linked this prologue to John Tatham’s The Whisperer. Like Tatham’s prologue, the one in question here belongs to a lost play, seems to have been acted at the Red Bull, and surfaced later on in verse miscellanies, but its completely unknown origins render Penn’s copy of First Fruits all the more mysterious and fascinating.]


[1] Frances Yates,  John Florio; the life of an Italian in Shakespeare’s England (Cambridge University Press, 1934), p. 335.

[2] Tiffany Stern, Documents of performance in early modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 99.

Alexander Hamilton’s working papers


Copy in Alexander Hamilton’s hand of a resolution of the Continental Congress on public lands. (UPenn Folio HJ8105 1790, v.2)

On Monday, Penn hosts Lin-Manuel Miranda who will be giving this year’s commencement address. His acclaimed musical retelling of Alexander Hamilton’s life has sparked enormous interest in the first Secretary of the Treasury. A few months ago, in reading through scholarship on our collections, I came across a 1941 article describing a set of bound volumes here at Penn which seem to have once belonged to Hamilton himself [1]. I quickly realized that the two volumes had become separated in our collection, housed in different places and not cataloged as a set or in any way associated with Hamilton.

Our excellent catalogers Liz Broadwell and Amey Hutchins got to work and now I’m happy to report that we know a lot more about these volumes. They consist of 48 printed documents from the young United States government dating from 1785 to 1794, as well as two manuscripts, including one possibly in Hamilton’s hand (above), relating to the sale of land in the trans-Appalachian west. (For a full listing see here).

It might be tempting to snooze at the thought of a compilation of government documents, but we know from a table of contents which has been identified as being in Hamilton’s hand by one scholar* that these were likely part of his working library and as such reveal the documentary work of governing the new United States.


Manuscript table of contents of the first bound volume, Likely in Hamilton’s hand. (UPenn Folio HJ8105 1790 v.1)

The volumes arrived at Penn sometime before 1899 when they were first inventoried. They were subsequently rebound in a modern library binding and the connection between the volumes was lost for a time.

The primary evidence for these having been owned by Hamilton are the table of contents written in what seems to be Hamilton’s handwriting at the rear of the first compiled volume, as well as a manuscript copy of a government document also likely in Hamilton’s handwriting in the second volume. The strongest association though for these documents is to one of Hamilton’s assistants at the Treasury Department, Henry Kuhl (1764-1856), chief clerk of the comptroller’s office. His signature appears on the first document in the set and as he was involved with the early University of Pennsylvania it seems likely this set came to us from his family sometime before 1899.

Title page of the first printed report in the first volume of the collected documents. Signed by Henry Kuhl. (UPenn Folio HJ8105 1790 v.1)

Title page of the first printed report in the first volume of the collected documents. Signed by Henry Kuhl. (UPenn Folio HJ8105 1790 v.1)

The work of managing the financial affairs of a new country was not easy, the 50 documents in the collection all testify to its complexity. Among them are a series of tables giving trade statistics, a host of reports on the payment of state debts, Jefferson’s report on establishing uniform weights, measures, and coinage in the US, and a set of documents on selling western land to benefit the treasury.


Printed statement of finances in the US Treasury submitted by Hamilton to Congress in 1794. (UPenn Folio HJ8105 1790 v.2)

The statements of finances and lists of goods exported from each state highlight both the large debts carried by the new nation as well as a different scale of federal expenditure and governance than we might be used to. The main sources of revenue for the nation being customs and import duties which barely covered the salaries of government employees and the costs of the military, to say nothing of the country’s debt obligations [2]. Continue reading

The Materiality of Reading: A Victorian Woman’s Commonplace Book


This little notebook, covered in marbled paper, was clearly well-used. It once belonged to a young woman named Adelaide H[oratia] E[lizabeth] Seymour and is now UPenn Ms. Codex 1757. While the notebook itself is common, its contents provide a fascinating look at Victorian reading practices, consisting of “Extracts from Novels etc.” which Adelaide read over a period of three years, between 2 September 1848 and 26 October 1851. It is a manuscript commonplace book, in which she copied out sentences, paragraphs, and extended passages from the works she was reading, extracts which clearly must have struck her as useful or important for what they had to say about good and evil, life, death, and love. Her reading material is primarily fiction, mainly contemporary novels written by women, though the notebook also contains entries from earlier novels such as Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley and Madame de Staël-Holstein’s Corinne, ou L’Italie, along with a handful of non-fiction works. While most of her reading material is in English, some novels, like Corinne, were read in French.


Adelaide Horatia Elizabeth Seymour (27 January 1825- 29 October 1877) was the daughter of Colonel Sir Horace Beauchamp Seymour (1791-1851), a member of Parliament from 1819 until his death, and his first wife Elizabeth Malet Palk.  She was the second wife (married 9 August 1854) of Vice-Admiral Frederick Spencer, 4th Earl Spencer (1798–1857), making her Countess Spencer, and bore him two children, a daughter, Victoria Alexandrina, and a son. Her son, Charles Robert Spencer, 6th Earl Spencer (1857–1922), was the great-grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales, making Adelaide Diana’s great- great-grandmother. That makes her the great-great- great-grandmother of Prince William and the great-great-great- great-grandmother of William’s son, Prince George.

First opening

Adelaide was twenty-three when she began this commonplace book. The last entry is from 1851, three years before her marriage. During this period she travelled regularly, and the entries often mention the locations where she is staying when she copies them out. These include Stoke, Hampton Court, Cowes, Torquay, and London. She often includes the volume for a multi-volume work and sometimes the page number as well. Lettice vol&page

Clearly this is the reading of a well-connected young lady with time on her hands. Given the amount of contemporary literature that she was reading, one wonders how she gained access to the books. Was it through book shop purchases, loans from friends she was visiting, or from one or more circulating libraries?  Perhaps a mix of all three. The dated excerpts are in chronological order, except for the period between April and August 1850, when the dates of the extracts go from July to April to August to July, and then back to August. This commonplace book appears to be a fair copy, and Adelaide may well have written the excerpts on separate sheets of paper, only to copy them into her notebook at a later date.

The excerpts are from the following novels, in order of their appearance in the notebook, with the date of their first publication. Fourteen of the eighteen are by women, and nine of the novels were first published during the same three-year period that this commonplace book received its entries:

  1. Emily Charlotte Mary Ponsonby (1817-1877), The Discipline of Life: Isabel Denison (1848)
  2. Elizabeth Missing Sewell (1815-1906), Amy Herbert (1844)
  3. Harriet Lister Cradock, Hon. (fl. 1834-1881), Anne Grey: A Novel (1834)
  4. Elizabeth Caroline Grey (1798-1869), The Rectory Guest (1849)
  5. Barbara Holfland (1770-1834), Self-Denial: A Tale (1827)
  6. William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), The History of Pendennis: His Fortunes and Misfortunes, His Friends and His Greatest Enemy (1848-1850)
  7. Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855), Shirley: A Tale (1849)
  8. Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein (1766-1817), Corinne, ou, L’Italie (1807) [extracts in French]
  9. Menella Bute Smedley (1820-1882), The Maiden Aunt (1845)
  10. Gore (Catherine Grace Frances) (1799-1861), The Débutante; Or, The London Season (1846)
  11. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), Hyperion: A Romance (1836)
  12. Elizabeth Caroline Grey (1798-1869), Aline, An Old Friend’s Story (1848)
  13. Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), Waverley (1814)
  14. Felicia Skene (1821-1899), Use and Abuse: A Tale (1849)
  15. Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (1846) [extract in French]
  16. Anne Caldwell Marsh (1791-1874), Lettice Arnold: A Tale (1850)
  17. Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (1826-1887), The Ogilvies: A Novel (1849)
  18. Julia Kavanaugh (1824-1877), Nathalie: A Tale (1850)

Waverley excerpt

Some continue to be read today, like Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley and Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley, while others like The Rectory Guest and The Maiden Aunt are nowadays little known, let alone read.

Adelaide is clearly reading novels not just for plot, but more importantly for the insights they provide into the human condition. Novels were a place in which religious, philosophical, and moral conundrums could be explored by female authors as well as male and the thoughts generated by their exploration made available to readers of both genders in an acceptable vehicle. The following are some short examples of what she was extracting from these novels:

Amy Herbert excerpts

From Amy Herbert: “Feelings are like the horses which carry us quickly & easily along the road, only sometimes they stumble, & Sometimes they go wrong, & now & then they will not move at all: but duty is like the coachman who guides them, & spurs them up when they are too slow, & brings them back when they go out of the way.”

From the second volume of Shirley (noted as being on page 208 in the edition she was reading): “Most people have had a period or periods in their lives when they have felt thus forsaken; when having long hoped against hope, and still seen the day of fruition deferred.”

From Agnes Grey (volume 3): “There are moments when we feel the want of a comforter, of some one to whom we can confide, our feelings, our sorrows, our hopes. Yes, our hopes!”

Many of the non-fiction entries in this volume are similar in nature to her entries from novels, dealing with religious and moral issues, while the others, like the list of Saxon words and the endings for French letters, were clearly noted for other reasons:

  • Extract from Rev.d Robert Anderson, A Practical Exposition of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (1833)
  • Extract from Hannah Mary Rathbone (1798-1878), Some Further Portions of the Diary of Lady Willoughby: Which Do Relate to her Domestic History and to the Events of the latter Years of the Reign of King Charles the First, the Protectorate and the Restoration (1848)
  •  “Epitaph in Harrow Church Yard,” which Seymour writes was “sent to me by Althorp after seeing it at Harrow, October 1849” [Note: Althorp is the name of a home and estate held by the Spencer family for over 500 years. Moreover, John Poyntz Spencer (1835-1910), the 5th Earl Spencer, was known as Viscount Althorp from 1845 to 1857, when his father died. He was educated at Harrow and would have been there in 1849 (age 14 when he sent her a copy of this epitaph for a slightly older student), which explains this entry in the commonplace book. Clearly Seymour would have known the family, including the children of her husband’s first wife, Georgiana Poyntz, who died in 1851.]

Saxon words

  • A list of “Saxon words and their English significations”
  • “Prologue spoke by Mr. Frederic, and written by the Lady Rachel Russell before the Play of “Who Speaks First” acted at Braddon’s Tor, March 5th, 1850” [Note: Lady Rachel Evelyn Russell (1826-1898), third daughter of John Russell, sixth Duke of Bedford, married James Wandesford Butler in 1856. She was likely a friend of Seymour’s, as they were close in age and both readers, as this portrait of Russell clearly demonstrates.]
  • A passage “from Julia Ponsonby” which shows up in Etienne de Jouy, L’Hermite La Guiane (1816) and is reprinted later on in Lady Sarah Davison Nicolas, The Cairn: A Gathering of Precious Stones from Many Hands (1849), probably the source for it here.
  • Six extracts supplied by Louisa Hardy [a friend?] in 1851
  1. These words appears to be from Sarah Lewis, Woman’s Mission (1st 1839), which went through numerous editions into the 1850s. Parts of it were often reprinted in the newspapers and magazines of the day.
  2. The second is attributed to “Rev’d R Cecil’s letters”—it is from a letter by the Rev. Richard Cecil to his wife, printed in The Works of the Rev. Richard Cecil (1st, 1811).Jeremy Taylor quote
  3. This is from Jeremy Taylor, Christian Consolations Taught from Five Heads in Religion, reprinted in The Whole Works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor.
  4. This is attributed to Massillon, “On the small number who will be saved” and appears to be from an English translation of a sermon by the French Catholic bishop Jean-Baptiste Massillon (1663-1742).
  5. “Fragment de letter du Pere Lacordaire” is presumably from a work by the Dominican Jean-Baptiste-Henri Lacordaire (1802 – 1861). [extract in French]
  6. She here quotes four lines, beginning with “L’avenir, c’est le but! l’avenir, c’est la vie!”, are from the poem “Une course au Champs de Mars” by Sophie d’Arbouville (1810-1850) [extract in French]
  • A list of “Endings for French Letters”

This little notebook will surely be of interest to those studying women’s reading practices of the nineteenth century. In the future, we will contribute information about Adelaide and her commonplace book to the Reading Experience Database, 1450-1945 (http://www.open.ac.uk/Arts/reading/).

Race and the Haitian Constitution of 1805


Constitucion politico del imperio de Hayti UPenn Misc Ms. Box 22, Folder 1.

[Ed. Note: Today’s post is by Julia Gaffield, a professor of history at Georgia State University and expert on early independent Haiti. Her new book on the subject Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World was published in October by UNC Press.]

At the heart of the Age of Revolutions were complex debates about individual and collective identity. While the American and French experiences focused on the meaning of concepts like liberty and fraternity within dominant cultures, Haiti’s Declaration of Independence on January 1, 1804 set the stage for intense and enduring controversy about racialized definitions of civic membership. Prior to the world’s only slave revolution, the French colony had been the most profitable in the world because about 465,000 enslaved men and women labored on sugar, coffee, and indigo plantations and in the houses of their masters as well as in Saint-Domingue’s port cities. The free population of the colony (about half white and have free people of color) was only about 60,000. Few white people remained in the colony after the Declaration of Independence. Because of this and because of the fact that the country’s leadership was either black or mixed race, Haiti was often referred to as “the black republic” (even when it was not a republic) [1].

The Haitian Declaration of Independence proclaimed the “state of Hayti,” rather than a republic, and Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared himself emperor (Jacques 1er d’Hayti) of the Empire of Hayti in October 1804. The 1805 constitution is therefore an imperial constitution. After Dessalines’s death in 1806, the country divided in civil war with a republic in the South and “the state of Hayti,” in the North. Henry Christophe, the president of the northern part of Haiti, soon proclaimed the Kingdom of Haiti and took the title King Henry of Haiti. The country was reunited in 1820 under the republican constitution of the south.

"Black Republic of St. Domingo," Farmer's Cabinet, Amherst, New Hampshire, 10 April 1804, page 3.

“Black Republic of St. Domingo,” Farmer’s Cabinet, Amherst, New Hampshire, 10 April 1804, page 3.

Haitians themselves, as well as outsiders, connected race and country in defining their new national identity. The Haitian government published its first national constitution on May 20, 1805. Newspapers across the Atlantic printed portions portions of this path-breaking constitution while various copies and transcriptions circulated widely. Although few copies are known to still exist, either printed or in manuscript, the version recently purchased by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries is a contemporary Spanish manuscript translation of the document that likely circulated on the eastern side of the island of Hispaniola.[2] Formerly a Spanish colony, the eastern side had transferred to the French Empire during the Peace of Basel negotiations in 1795.

When French forces evacuated the western side of the island in 1803, a small contingent established itself in the city of Santo Domingo and claimed to be the legitimate authority for the entire island. The Haitian government, however, claimed that the entire island was within the geographic boundaries of their country.

The particular copy of the 1805 constitution now at Penn differs from the official Haitian printing of the Constitution at Aux Cayes in its organization and numbering, including the fact that it skips a few sections. The translation, however, does include Article 14, which has in recent years become such a focus of scholarly attention that this constitution might be the most cited document in Haitian history. In Article 14, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Emperor of Haiti at the time of its publication, articulated an explicitly ideological conception of race.

“Article 14: All meaning of color among the children of one and the same family, of whom the chief magistrate is the father, being necessarily to cease, the Haytians shall henceforth be known by the generic appellation of blacks.”

Constitution d'Haïti,(Aux Cayes, 1805). Article 14. Courtesy of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia. Images available at www.modern-constitutions.de.

Constitution d’Haïti (Aux Cayes, 1805). Article 14. Courtesy of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia. Images available at www.modern-constitutions.de

The fact that the preceding article in the constitution explicitly acknowledged that some “white women,” Germans, and Poles had been naturalized as Haitian citizens highlights the radical reconceptualization of race that underpinned Haiti’s entry on the world stage.

In her analysis of the profound meaning of this document, Anne Gulick argues that, “the 1805 Constitution contains what in today’s lexicon would be called a set of radical postcolonial aspirations, a community imagined, through a legal narrative, as capable of doing something none of its models had done before: identifying both blackness and humanity as the basic signifiers of citizenship.”[3] In other words, the constitution was a celebration of Haiti’s identity as a “black” country.

“Disrupting any biologistic or racialist expectations,” Sibylle Fischer argues in Modernity Disavowed, “they make ‘black’ a mere implication of being Haitian and thus a political rather than a biological category.”[4] Not only did the label erase previous racial distinctions between “black” and “white” residents, it attempted to undermine the importance of national, linguistic, and color differences within the non-white population. “This new ‘black,’” Jean Casimir argues, “encompassed the various ethnic groups that had been involved in the struggle against the Western vision of mankind. Victory in adversity gave birth to this new character, which was a synthesis not only of Ibos, Aradas, and Hausas but also of French, Germans, and Poles.”[5]

The elimination of difference was important because, as Colin Dayan notes, “the most problematic division in the new Haiti was that between anciens libres (the former freedmen, who were mostly gens de couleurs, mulattoes and their offspring) and nouveaux libres (the newly free, who were mostly black), Dessalines attempted by linguistic means and by law to defuse the color issue.”[6]

Doris Garraway highlights Dessalines’s use of what she calls “negative universalism” in the constitution—an emphasis on what Haitians were not: “it is the excluded term—whiteness—that conditions the political definition of the collectivity, seen as its opposite, the ‘black’ other that was previously reproved by white power and that now symbolizes not a biological essence but an absolute resistance to white racial supremacy.”[7]


Article 14, Constitución Política del Imperio de Hayti. UPenn Misc. Mss. Box 22, Folder 1.

The Spanish translation now held by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries promises to fuel the continuing scholarly attention to the 1805 constitution. For example, the document capitalizes “Negro” whereas the official printed copy issued by the Haitian government keeps “noirs” in lowercase. The Haitian Kreyòl word “nèg” refers to a person, regardless of skin color where as the word “blan” (derived from the French “blanc” or “white”) generally means “foreigner.” Given that Jean-Jacques Dessalines did not speak French fluently, did the 1805 constitution intend to label all Haitian citizens as “black” or as “people”? Or, did the 1805 constitution encourage the evolution of the term “noir” or “nèg” to signify the universality of all citizens?

—— Continue reading

Mieki and Japanese Corporate Magazines (PR-shi)


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While many among us have transitioned to reading news and feature articles online, the print magazine persists. As libraries too have exchanged print journal subscriptions for electronic, we nevertheless remain committed to collecting a number of magazines and other periodicals in print. This is especially true when it comes to serial items published in Japan, a country slow to abandon print for digital options. As we both maintain and expand our print acquisitions, we find ourselves looking into the past, searching for and acquiring back issues for numerous titles. It is this sense of completism that had led us to collect and to document near-obsessively such rarities as almost every single issue of the long-running men’s lifestyle magazine Brutus (1980-present), the entire run of Japanese hanga art periodical 21 Prints (1990-2012), and today’s unique title, Mieki 味液 (1956-1978), a magazine published by food and chemical corporation Ajinomoto, and dedicated almost entirely to the eponymous Mieki (“flavor liquid”) a hydrolyzed vegetable protein and industrial soy sauce additive.

Ajinomoto PR-shi Mieki.

(top) Ajinomoto PR-shi Mieki in original string-bound file; (bottom) Mieki no. 1, no. 30, and contemporary information booklet included in Penn’s acquisition.

Mieki is an exemplar of a two long-lived genres of Japanese periodicals, both of which can be essential elements of the growing discipline of the study of shashi, or Japanese company histories: shanaihō (internally aimed company periodicals) and PR-shi (externally aimed “public relations magazines”). These publication types are ubiquitous, hazily defined, and share a significant overlap, but they not too difficult to identify once you’ve got one in front of you. If you’ve ever thumbed through an issue of American Airlines’ American Way during a flight, or through a copy of Red Bull’s The Red Bulletin at your gym, you’ve had your hands on a PR-shi. Two salient features of PR-shi can be observed:

  1. They are more interested in creating positive awareness of corporate brand than in direct advertising (and as such, feature editorial content not typically present in catalogs or circulars).
  2. They are generally issued outside of traditional magazine distribution models, often for free or for a nominal price (the latter option often employed as a loophole to take advantage of discounted mailing rates).

Finding the progenitor of Mieki and other PR-shi in Japan is no easy task, and numerous candidates have been identified, such as the pharmacy-sponsored digest of pharmaceutical news Hōtan Zasshi 芳譚雑誌 (1878-1884), Maruzen Publishing Company’s Gakutō 學鐙 (begun in 1897 under the title Manabi no Tomoshibi 學の燈, and still in publication today), and Hanagoromo 花衣, begun in 1899 as both a seasonal catalogue of the Mitsui Draper’s Shop (now the international department store chain Mitsukoshi) and a literary magazine featuring Meiji literati like Ozaki Kōyō and Izumi Kyōka penning stories whose content resonated with the goods offered for sale. Hanagoromo would give rise to a series of Mitsui/Mitsukoshi PR-shi, including the monthly Jikō 時好 (1904-1908), which notably featured author Mori Ōgai and which claimed to have had a circulation of 16,000 copies. Not to be outdone, competing dry-goods seller Shirokiya Gofukuten released their own series of PR-shi like Katei no Shirube 家庭のしるべ (1904-1905), which serialized Russo-Japanese War tales, and its followup Ryūkō 流行 (1906-1918), which shifted focus from the domestic onto the stylish, and featured prominent authors like Yamada Bimyō and Shimazaki Tōson.

Two of Japan's oldest PR-shi, Hōtan Zasshi and Gakutō.

Front and back covers of 1982 reproductions of the first issues of two of Japan’s oldest PR-shi, Hōtan Zasshi (left) Gakutō (right). Reproduced in Fukkoku Nihon no Zasshi.

Just as Shirokiya was retiring Ryūkō to launch its successor title The Shiroki Times, so were Americans coming to grips with their own PR-shi crisis. Here in the United States, so called “house organs” had enjoyed their own history, largely as advertising arms of publishers to increase book sales. Robert E. Ramsay notes “that is how such magazines as Harper’s, Collier’s, Scribner’s, and others started.” More ecumenical histories of American house organs will note, as George Dallas Newton does, “the patent medicine almanac[s] […] between 1830 and 1870,” and earlier, “the flourishing almanacs of the makers of sarsaparilla and stomach bitters.” Looking even further back, neither Newton nor Ramsay hesitate to suggest that Ben Franklin’s famous Poor Richard’s Almanack (1732-1758) was a house organ for Franklin’s printing office here in Philadelphia. But in October 1918, with a wartime need to reduce paper consumption, the United States War Industries Board drew a firm line between periodicals approved for paper use, and for house organs and other “periodicals that are not entitled to, or do not enjoy, second class mailing privileges.” By the second World War, however, house organs seemed to boom, with the 1944 Printers’ Ink Directory of House Organs listing more than 5,100 titles, some of which were even house organs about creating other house organs.

Advertisements from the 1944 Printers’ Ink Directory of House Organs.

Advertisements from the 1944 Printers’ Ink Directory of House Organs.

World War II was less kind to Japanese house organs (and to magazines in general), with resource rationing and destructive air raids disrupting the market. It wasn’t until the 1950s that Japan’s PR-shi industry would boom again with Japan’s “economic miracle”—the period of rapid economic growth between 1955 and 1961. So flourished titles aimed to look like a hybrid of popular magazines and art magazines, like the jazz-martini-age-inspired Yōshu Tengoku 洋酒天国 issued by Suntory Whiskey (1956-1964), helmed for the first 30 issues by author Kaikō Takeshi, who imbued it with a palpably Playboy aesthetic. It is a stark contrast to Mieki, launched in the same year. The disparate content of these magazines reflects not only their audiences but their methods of distribution. Yōshu Tengoku was only available at Suntory-affiliated bars, and its contents were shaped around the interests of customers: alcohol, nude women, and gambling. Repeat customers became collectors; collecting encouraged repeat business. Mieki, meanwhile, is an admixture of technical documentation, interviews, and product history. Its role in Ajinomoto’s business strategy is less clear, but the technical-yet-general nature of contents suggest that the magazine was partially aimed at in-house consumption as a shanaihō as well as semi-external PR-shi sent to wholesalers and dealers of Ajinomoto products. Still other titles like Exxon’s art-heavy Energy (1964-1974) were sent directly by its editors to “the ten thousand opinion leaders,” a mix of authors, cultural figures, and tastemakers whose addresses were gleaned from public directories.

Given these nontraditional channels, it isn’t difficult to imagine why many PR-shi are difficult to locate today. Part ephemera and part grey literature, these materials resist traditional collection strategies. No other library seems to own Mieki, and Penn could only obtain numbers 1-30 of the magazine (except for number 18). Even Ajinomoto itself doesn’t seem to own the magazine, or at least a complete run of it, as they were unable to tell me what number the final issue was. On the other hand, some PR-shi practically throw themselves at libraries. Yasuko Isono’s 1963 article describes a situation in which publishers’ PR-shi and dealers’ catalogs arrived at libraries in batches, eventually accumulating into piles destined to be thrown into the trash.

Publisher PR-shi from Japan.

Publisher PR-shi from Japan: (top) B5-sized PR-shi; (bottom) smaller PR-shi distributed within books.

The situation is largely the same at Penn, even over 50 years later. Monthly advertising bundles from our chief vendor of Japanese books are full of publishers’ PR-shi, which have historically carried the literary flavor established by their late 1800s forebears. Authors like Mishima Yukio and Enchi Fumiko, for instance, had appeared in publisher Shinchōsha’s Nami 波, founded in 1967 and still in print today. Many of these generally monthly titles are published in B5 size format, bearing a superficial resemblance to typical Japanese academic journals. But unlike those journals, PR-shi generally eschew scholarly articles for breezier features, and embrace serially published articles written by single authors as well as “relay articles,” in which a serial column passes the baton (so to speak) to a new author each issue. Some of these serial articles are eventually collected and published as single books.

It is unclear how other readers in Japan might obtain these publisher PR-shi, though some like Yoshikawa Kōbunkan’s Hongō 本郷 (1995-present) or Minerva Shobō’s Kiwameru 究 (2011-present) offer cheap annual subscriptions. Still others are dependent on physical books as their mechanism of distribution: Readers wanting to collect Fujiwara Shoten’s Ki 機 (1990-present) or Nihon Keizai Hyōronsha’s Hyōron 評論 (1976-present) must commit themselves to buying titles published monthly by those publishers, as the issues can only be found tucked within the pages of new books along with advertising circulars. These latter types of PR-shi overlap significantly in function and purpose with another uniquely Japanese periodical genre, geppō 月報, journal‐like pamphlets issued within monographic sets. Like geppō, they are easily mistaken for advertisements and often discarded by libraries, whether by accident or design.

Just as the global destruction of the 20th century World Wars hit PR-shi on both sides of the Pacific hard, so has the World Wide Web done significant damage to the house organ industry. Fumiko Sakuma narrates the decline in PR-shi since 2008 and into late 2013 concurrent with a growth in web-delivered content, but digital options are not perfect substitutes of published issues, nor do they have the trusted physicality of print magazines. That physicality, on the other hand, may be PR-shi’s greatest undoing, since corporate magazines less fortunate than Mieki may end up lost to history forever. While Penn cannot hope to collect every print title that comes our way, we can do our part to save unique titles for future scholars.

Continue reading

From Steamer Trunk to Rare Books Collection

[Ed. Note. Today’s post comes from Dr. Elisabeth Esser Braun, the donor of the book discussed here. She was born in Cologne, Germany, completed her undergraduate education in Europe, and earned a doctorate from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. She worked as a journalist at the United Nations and as an international executive. She retired in 1990 and now lives in Haverford, Pa.]

I recently came across a box of family memorabilia that included Hieronymus Oertl’s Geistlicher Frauenzimmerspiegel, published in Hanover, Germany, in 1708.


Geistlicher Frauenzimmerspiegel. UPenn BS575.O7 1708

I was intrigued and wanted to know: What is a Frauenzimmer-spiegel? Who was Hieronymus Oertl? Why and for whom was this book written? How many copies exist?

Researching the story of the Geistlicher Frauenzimmerspiegel has been an interesting quest. Scant literature on the subject exists, either in German or in English [1]. However, we know from secondary sources that this was the time of popular piety (Volksfroemmigkeit) and that these books were written as devotional and edifying guides (Erbauungsliteratur) for a female readership. Similar to Catholic prayer books and stories about the lives of saints, these books were meant to encourage Protestant women (Frauenzimmer) to lead virtuous lives as mirrored (Spiegel) in the lives of Biblical women of the Old and New Testament. The text was compiled from many sources and the books were lavishly illustrated with copperplate engravings so as to appeal through image as well as text.

The virtues highlighted in the Frauenzimmerspiegel were wide ranging. They focused on a woman’s role as wife and mother in a patriarchal society and included, among others, honesty, chastity, obedience, wisdom, courage and, more generally, strength through prayer. Even if a woman failed to conduct herself properly, all was not lost since God, in his infinite wisdom, always granted redemption through penitence and prayer. These virtues reinforced the patriarchal hierarchy of society and validated God’s orderly plan for his creation of life on earth.

Among the forty exemplary biblical women included in the Frauenzimmerspiegel were Eve, the mother of all living beings; Sara, the blessed one; Hagar, the exiled one; Lea, the patient one; Debora, the courageous one; Rahab, the faithful one; Abigail, the reasonable one; Esther, the devout one; Susanna, the chaste one; and Maria Magdalena, the repentant one.

Portrait of Ortel. Nuremberg, 1615. HAB copy.

Portrait of Ortel. Nuremberg, 1615. (HAB copy).

Hieronymus Oertl, the author of the Geistlicher Frauenzimmer-spiegel, was no amateur scribe.  He was born in the Free Imperial City of Augsburg and died in the Free Imperial City of Nuremberg. Although disputed, most German sources identify the year of his birth as 1543 and that of his death as 1614.

The Oertl family was well established in Augsburg. They were merchants and also served as professional bureaucrats in the administrations of four Habsburg Emperors: Charles V (resigned in 1556), Ferdinand I (d.1564), Maximilian II (d.1567) and Rudolph II (d.1612). The Oertls were quiet Protestants and had been so long before the Peace of Augsburg (1550) that concluded the era of religious strife in Germany and recognized the right of territorial princes to determine the religion of their subjects. This was popularly interpreted as promoting equal rights for Catholics and Protestants in the Imperial realm.

Little is known about Hieronymus’ education. He joined the Imperial household at age 15 and advanced from Schreibmeister (writing master), copying calligraphic manuscripts, to chronicler, author, and notary. Oertl’s name emerged from obscurity in 1578, when a group of Protestants in Vienna presented a petition (Bittschrift) to the unyieldingly Catholic Emperor Rudolf II asking that Catholics and Protestants be assured equal religious freedoms in Austrian territories, as had been sanctioned in the Peace of Augsburg in 1550.

The petition was summarily dismissed and Oertl and his companions were prosecuted as heretics. They were sentenced to death but eventually pardoned and sent into permanent exile. Oertl settled in Protestant Nuremberg, where his brother-in-law was the well-respected copperplate engraver, illustrator, and publisher Johann Ambrosius Si(e)bmacher (1561-1612). Siebmacher was also the author of a highly acclaimed Wappenbuch (heraldic book). Siebmacher became the instigator, early collaborator and illustrator of Hieronymus Oertl’s multi-volume chronicle of the Hungarian wars against the Turks (1395-1607) as well as of the early editions of the Geistlicher Frauenzimmerspiegel. Unfortunately, no copies of these early editions seem to have survived.

The Hungarian wars and the Frauenzimmerspiegel were original compendia. Both began as chronicles, reformatting writings that were readily available in Augsburg and Nuremberg as centers of commerce as well as of the printing and illustrating trade. One can assume that the period of Hieronymus Oertl’s residence in Nuremberg, from 1580 to 1614 (ages 37 to 71), was the most productive of his career [2].
The first devotional book compiled by Hieronymus Oertl and illustrated by Johann Siebmacher was published in Nuremberg in 1610, just a few years before Oertl’s death in 1614. It was entitled Schoene Bildnus in Kupffer gestochen der erleuchten berumbtisten Weiber Altes, und Neues Testaments (Beautiful Portraits Engraved in Copper of the Illustrious and Most Famous Women from the Old and New Testament) and was dedicated to the Margravine Sophia of Ansbach, a pious patroness of Hieronymus Oertl. This book, it turns out, was not for sale. However, as devotional books grew in popularity, Margravine’s copy became the template for commercial editions that were published over the next century in various German, Dutch and Swiss cities. It should be noted that, unlike today, the designation Frauenzimmer had no derogatory meaning and was commonly used for ordinary women and occasionally with sweeping poetic license.

According to a recent count, twenty-three editions of the Geistlicher Frauenzimmerspiegel published between 1634 and 1755 are extant in various European and American libraries. The 1708 edition here is in a long duodecimo format, commonly used for small devotional books in the seventeenth century. In all editions, Hieronymus Oertl was acknowledged as the originator (inventor) of the book. However, others, such as clerics and poets, edited, enlarged, and embellished the text, even to the extent of being in competition with each other, sometimes to linguistically startling effects. An electronic edition of the 1755 Zurich edition of the Geistlicher Frauenzimmerspiegel (Zurich,1755) is available at the Niedersaechsische Staats-und-Universitaets-bibliothek in Goettingen. My family’s 1708 edition is therefore one of only a few survivors.


Title page opening. Geistlicher Frauenzimmerspiegel. UPenn BS575.O7 1708

The engraved frontispiece tells us that this Geistlicher Frauen Zimer Spigel contains everyday prayers freshly composed by wise men and illustrated with copper plate engravings first used by Hieronimum Ortelium. According to the title page, this 1708 edition was to be the “last edition” offered for sale by the Hauensteinischer Buchladen in Hanover. A small engraving in the lower third of the page urges its readers graphically to strive for higher reward in paradise after death.

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What’s missing in magazines


Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. UPenn AP4 .B6 copy 3, issue 395. Paper covers

What is it that you read when you read a print copy of a magazine in a library or as a digital photograph from an online source? Though plenty of strange things happen to monographs, bindings are removed, plates sometimes missing or not scanned, fold-outs mangled, periodicals are particularly fluid material texts, often intended to be preserved in different formats than they were sold right from the start – think of those shelves of bound journals sitting in the stacks of university libraries, or even your old copy of the New Yorker missing all those annoying subscription cards.

With the advent of mass digitization projects like Google Books, the Internet Archive, and Hathi Trust, long runs of periodicals before 1923 totaling millions of pages have been made readily available to the wider world. This is especially important for those who work on nineteenth century literary culture – which, particularly in the United States and Great Britain, depended heavily on the periodical press. Many of the great books and authors of the period appeared first in magazines and journals. The various literary and political periodicals of the day had large subscription bases, sometimes publishing dual editions on both sides of the Atlantic. Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine was one of these heavyweights. Published between 1817 and 1905 (and in another form until 1980) in Edinburgh, London, and New York the magazine featured nearly all the great authors of the day including George Eliot whose Middlemarch first appeared in eight issues of the journal [1].

Long runs of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine can be found in most British and American research libraries and as such there is also a proliferation of digital copies online – 5 separate copies of each volume of the British edition and 3 of the American at my last count [2]. Yet, none of these online copies nor likely most of the physical copies found in libraries exist in their original form


Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. UPenn AP4.B6 copy 1. Row of volumes in the Special Collections stacks.

The shelves of Blackwood’s at Penn above are pretty typical. Each issue from a particular intellectual “volume” (e.g. volume 48) of the magazine has been bound up with other issues to form a physical volume. The volumes themselves are bound for ready browsing and reading in typical period style and it’s clear that many readers of the day had their own copies bound as soon as the volume was completed. Below for example you can see the final page of text for the August 1848 issue of volume 48 of Blackwood’s on the left with the text for the September 1848 issue beginning immediately on the facing page.


Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. UPenn AP4.B6 copy 1 vol. 48.


Digital images of the UC-Berkeley,Penn State University, and University of Iowa copies of Blackwood’s for September 1848.

This view of the magazine, with one month quickly transitioning to the next, in both print and digital form, represents only one view of the text. The form in which they arrived to readers in the post or at the local bookseller looked quite a bit different. Recently we acquired here a set of six issues of Blackwood’s Magazine which have survived in their original state [3]. Bound in paper wrappers individually labeled with the month of issue and bearing advertisements on the back, these issues also retain a cache of advertising and other ephemeral material excised from all other copies I’ve seen.


Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. UPenn AP4.B6 copy 3, issue 395.


Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. UPenn AP4.B6 copy 3, issue 395.

Above for example is what a reader would have seen upon opening the front wrapper for the September 1848 issue. Loosely stitched into the advertising section is a specimen of a forthcoming publication from the William Blackwood publishing house. This insert consists of twelve pages including an advertising pitch from the author dated August 7, 1848, a table of contents, and a single gathering printed from the plates for the book itself [4]. Continue reading