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 completionism 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 (1993-2012), 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.

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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

Delivering Justice in the Mail: 6 Postcards on the Dreyfus Affair

Beitler Collection Postcards, PC162 to PC167

Beitler Collection Postcards, PC162 to PC167

[Editor’s note: Today’s post is by David Murrell, a rising junior at Penn studying History and Political Science. Fascinated by all things French, he has spent this summer interning at the Kislak Center and happily sifting through piles of Dreyfus Affair postcards]

At first glance, postcards don’t appear to be particularly unique. Mass produced and intended for broad public consumption, they’re certainly not as rare as, say, the handwritten almanac that was recently featured on Unique at Penn. But that’s not to say that postcards shouldn’t be examined just as carefully. Indeed, with their unique handwritten messages and variety of printed designs, postcards provide a fascinating glimpse into the world from which they were sent.

The Dreyfus Affair (which began with the French captain Alfred Dreyfus’ false conviction for treason in 1894 for sending military secrets to the Germans) corresponded with a dramatic rise of the postcard in popular culture.  First invented in the late 1860s, by the time of the Dreyfus Affair postcards were both an exciting and novel method of communication for the masses. The Dreyfus Affair only reinforced the postcard’s popularity, as it led to the production of thousands of different political cards documenting the twists and turns of the Affair. By 1906, the year Dreyfus was finally exonerated by the French military, postcards were ubiquitous. In Great Britain alone, over 2 billion postcards were purchased that year — in other words, given Britain’s population of 40 million, every British citizen purchased an average of 50 postcards in just one year [1].

The Dreyfus Affair may have actually reinforced the postcard’s popularity: thousands of different political cards documenting the twists and turns of the Affair were printed in France and other countries. Indeed, one observer at the time of the Affair estimated that over a period of 18 months, more than six million Dreyfus Affair postcards were printed [2]. The Kislak Center holds a large collection of over 200 Dreyfus postcards in the Lorraine Beitler Collection of the Dreyfus Affair.

But how many of these postcards were actually used—written on and mailed? We can group the collection’s postcards into four main categories:

  • cards that were never sent
  • cards that were sent but have no written text
  • cards that have with writing that is unrelated to the Dreyfus Affairs
  • and cards that have writing that makes explicit reference to the Affair.

For this post, I’d like to focus on this final category. In the Beitler Collection there is a series of pro-Dreyfus postcards, sent to and from Brussels in 1900, that provides a brief history of the Affair from the perspective of a Dreyfus sympathizer. While we normally think of the postcard as a unitary item that can stand alone on its own, these cards were printed in a series, as were a number of other sets of cards during the Affair. In addition, the owner and writer of this set spread his or her message across the multiple cards in the set. Each card is thus a piece of a larger puzzle, each one contributing to the overall message. What I present here is a fascinating—and certainly atypical—case where we can follow a Dreyfus supporter, acquiring a series of pro-Dreyfus postcards and then writing a pro-Dreyfus message on them, and mailing the group to someone with similar sympathies.

Even if we momentarily ignore the postcards’ written text, it is clear from their printed drawings that they are the work of Dreyfus supporter. For example, in the first postcard, we see an image of the novelist Émile Zola, an ardent Dreyfus supporter, spraying figurative  “justice” on a crowd of anti-Dreyfusards. The crowd’s anti-Dreyfus beliefs are revealed by the men’s hats, which have on them the names of France’s most virulent anti-Semitic newspapers, including Édouard Drumont’s famously vile “La Libre Parole.”


Beitler PC162

Similarly, in the fourth postcard, the French press is depicted as an old woman, a kind of monster that barely resembles a human. The figure is attempting to keep the lid on a coffin labeled “Dreyfus Affair” in order to prevent Dreyfus, whose hands are shown holding two pieces of paper labeled “humanity” and “justice,” from escaping his coffin. The powerful image inspires sympathy for Dreyfus, while also vilifying the media for its attempts to suppress the truth.


Beitler PC166

Finally, the fifth card, captioned “Close the boxes, damn it!” depicts a French soldier scrambling to literally keep the lid on the various scandals that troubled the military during the Dreyfus Affair, ranging from General Picquart’s wrongful forgery conviction, to Zola’s libel trial, to Dreyfus’ multiple sham trials. All of these events and their backstories were linked to Dreyfus and threatened the military’s cover-up. It is interesting to note that despite this drawing’s bitter and critical tone, there remains a slight glimmer of hope — indeed, there are so many boxes in the picture that it would seem impossible for them to all be covered up by one soldier. This postcard would in fact prove to be quite prescient — though it was only sent in 1900, by 1906 the army could no longer cover up Dreyfus’ innocence, and he was finally exonerated.

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Return of the Prodigal Book

In 2008 the Kislak Center acquired a little pamphlet for its collection on the Dreyfus Affair, one of many works that had belonged to Emile Zola and passed through his family. This pamphlet, concerning Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, the true villain in the Dreyfus Affair, was mailed from Strassburg on January 13, 1898. It was simply folded and addressed to “Monsieur Emile Zolo, homme de lettres, Paris” and, after arriving in Paris the following day, was delivered to Zola’s home. In this day and age it’s hard to imagine a similarly addressed mailing arriving at its proper destination.

Yet, just such a thing happened the other day, much to the surprise of Darin Prey-Harbaugh, a Bibliographic Assistant in Serials, who was opening some of the onslaught of mail sent regularly to the Information Processing Center of the Penn Libraries. In the midst of the pile, he came across an envelope addressed “University of PA./Philadelphia, PA,” with the word “Library” written in the bottom left corner of the envelope. The envelope is white and the writer looks to have used a ball point pen, both of which lead one to think it was recently addressed. Envelope1However, even more amazing than the address was the stamp, a three-cent stamp commemorating Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross. It has been a long time since first class postage was three cents; it turns out to have been the rate for first class letters up to one ounce between July 6, 1932 and July 31, 1958. The Barton stamp was first issued on September 7, 1948, making it nearly seventy years old. In addition, while the stamp was not cancelled, there is indication of some intervention by the United States Postal Service (USPS), in the form of a fluorescent orange bar code added by the Facer-Canceller machine that processes letters, making this mailing even more of a mystery.

EnvelopeStampWhen Darin opened the letter, he found a small volume inside. It looked old, really old, so he decided to visit his colleagues in the Kislak Center and see if they were interested in this little volume.

EnvelopeBookFrom the binding and the markings, it had clearly belonged to the Penn Libraries, containing its accession number and its Dewey call number, though it would appear to have gone missing decades ago.

This little volume, consisting of four leaves or eight pages, is titled Disz Lied Sagt von Lucretia and is by Ludwig Binder, who wrote a number of songs about ancient heroes and tyrants that were popular at the time. It has a lovely little woodcut on its title page, showing men eating at a table.


There are no recorded copies of this edition in WorldCat, though there is a brief bibliographic record for what appears to be the same work. Liz Broadwell, who just cataloged this work, notes that there is supposedly one other copy, according to the GVK (Gemeinsamer Verbundkatalog or Union Catalog of libraries in Germany and Austria), and it is in the Rostock University Library. The Penn copy is thus an incredibly rare survival, not surprising given its size. Continue reading

Interactive Diary of Hollywood Lyricist Ray Evans

Diary of Ray Evans, 1939-1945

The Diary of Ray Evans, 1939-1945, has been digitized and transcribed, and is presented in the form of an online flip book.

The papers of Hollywood lyricist and University of Pennsylvania alumnus Ray Evans (Wharton class of 1936) were donated to the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts in 2011 by the Ray and Wyn Ritchie Evans Foundation. Among the treasures in the collection is the songster’s diary, kept during the war years of 1939-1945. Written in pen on looseleaf notebook paper and bound by a small three ring binder, it may have been one of several diaries kept by Evans, but today it is the only one that survives.

Ray Evans is best known for producing with his songwriting partner Jay Livingston (Penn class of 1937) hit songs such as “Mona Lisa” (famously sung by Nat King Cole), “Que Sera Sera” (Doris Day), and the holiday favorite “Silver Bells” (made famous by Bing Crosby). These tunes were featured in movies of their day, winning Academy Awards for “Mona Lisa” and “Que Sera Sera” as well as their earlier song “Buttons and Bows.” How Ray Evans got to this point may be traced back to his years as a struggling songwriter, first in New York and then in Hollywood.

Shadows of Midnight Blue

Documents from the Ray Evans papers, such as the sheet music for the Livingston and Evans song “Shadows of Midnight Blue” are linked at appropriate places within the online diary.

As a means to encourage exploration of these formative years, Evans’ lyrics and music in general, and his collection of personal and professional papers here at Penn we have transcribed and digitized the diary, presenting it as an online flip book. Images of the diary pages and a transcription for easier reading are presented side by side. And supplemental material from the papers has been scanned and linked to the diary pages for further exploration.

Simply trying to make ends meet, the young Ray Evans is often conflicted about his future. Should he continue to pursue a dream of “making it” in show business or should he buckle down and put his college degree in business to work? For a time, neither course seems to offer much hope, and Ray is revealed through the early pages of the diary to be dejected and feeling blue. Ray also has poor luck with women and his friendship and working relationship with Jay Livingston is often strained.

Opening of the Diary

In the online flip book, names and places link to entries in Wikipedia. Online audio and sheet music of Evans’ songs are linked when available too.

The song-writing team put forth a good bit of energy to make connections in the New York music scene. In the fall of 1939 they met the producers Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson, who starred in their own Broadway review, Hellzapoppin’, at the Winter Garden Theater. Jay and Ray auditioned for the pair and eventually received several commissions for songs that appeared in the show and in other productions. One of their first commercial successes was the song “G’Bye Now,” which made the Hit Parade in 1941. Continue reading

David Rittenhouse’s teenage almanac?

MoonFigureThe start of a new month (rainy and cold here in Philadelphia) has reminded me to write about a new almanac fragment here at Penn. In November of last year, the Penn Libraries purchased a unique and somewhat mysterious eighteenth century manuscript. Consisting of a single bifolium (a sheet folded to make four pages) it was likely produced in Philadelphia (or somewhere else of a similar latitude) in 1746/7. It appears to be part of an almanac containing eclipse charts, predictions for weather, and astrological signs, removed from what must once have been a larger manuscript volume. Astronomical and almanac manuscripts from colonial Philadelphia are not common though there was a robust trade in print almanacs and lunar charts throughout the city in the period with at least four different almanacs each year by mid-century [1].

What initially drew my attention to the manuscript was its attribution to David Rittenhouse, the famous Philadelphia astronomer, inventor, and treasurer of the Continental Congress. His masterful 1771 Orrery is today here in the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. To be clear, the attribution of this manuscript to Rittenhouse is decidedly uncertain. There is a small pencil annotation of unknown date on the side of the bifolium listing him as the author.


Arguing against the attribution is the fact that the manuscript contains the lunar tables and almanac for 1747 indicating likely creation in 1746 when Rittenhouse would have been only 14 or 15 years old. The only substantial collection of Rittenhouse astronomical manuscripts is at the American Philosophical Society which holds three of his notebooks from the last quarter of the century. A look at the handwriting in these neither convinced me nor completely dissuaded me from the attribution. That Rittenhouse could have composed or copied a set of lunar tables and almanac as a teenager is not necessarily as far-fetched as it seems. Later reports of his early years noted that at the age of 14 many of the fences and plows with which he worked were covered with notations and mathematical formulas, by the age of 17 he had even constructed a fully functional clock by himself [2].

1747RittenhouseAnother, somewhat more likely possibility is that the manuscript is a copy or partial copy of a printed almanac circulating in the period. The chart for the month of January, for instance, is very reminiscent of the print almanacs of the time – beginning with an aphorism or epitaph followed by a series of predictions and notes about the days of the month. Given this,  I think it likely that at least part of the text was copied by a young Rittenhouse (or someone else) from a printed almanac.

There were at least four or five different almanacs printed each year in Philadelphia with more in New York and Boston. What’s interesting and remarkable is that the text in the manuscript does not match any of these surviving American almanacs for 1747 that I have been able to locate. Of the almanacs likely to have printed in Philadelphia for that year, only one has failed to survive in any copies, the Franklin-published 1747 American Country Almanac which has never been traced [3]. From the description of the New York issue of the American Country Almanac for that year which survives in one copy at the Huntington, it seems unlikely that this is a copy of that particular text [4].

1747 Poor Richard's Almanac. Curtis

January, from Poor Richard’s Almanac for 1747. Printed by Franklin. UPenn Curtis 345.


January, from the Philadelphia issue of the American Country Almanac for 1748. HSP copy (Evans Digital)


January, from the Philadelphia Pocket Almanac for 1747. Printed by Franklin. UPenn Curtis 161.

One of the pleasures of working in libraries is acquiring manuscripts like this one, about which much remains unknown. I hope that this post generates interest in the manuscript and inspires a student or researcher to take a closer look and delve into its origins and what it might be able to tell us about astronomical commonplacing and almanac creation in colonial America.


For two recent excellent pieces on the place of Almanacs in the early American world see, Patrick Spero, “The Revolution in Popular Publications: The Almanac and New England Primer, 1750—1800” Early American Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Winter 2010), pp. 41-74 http://www.jstor.org/stable/23546600 and Matthew Shaw, “Keeping Time in the Age of Franklin: Almanacs and the Atlantic World,” Printing History 2 (2007).

See the Memoirs of the Life of David Rittenhouse (Philadelphia, 1813), p. 96.

In his survey of Franklin’s printing, Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia printing, 1728-1766 (Philadelphia, 1974) [no. 392] Clarence Miller lists this as possible but doubtful based on the fact that though Franklin-issued copies of the American Country Almanac survive for 1746 and 1748, he did not advertise one for 1747 and the New York copy at the Huntington does not have Franklin’s tell-tale anatomical woodcut.

With many thanks to Vanessa Wilkie and Steve Tabor at the Huntington for their help with this.

Writing about Writing in Early Modern Writing-Books


Arts glory, or, The pen-mans treasury (London, 1669), plate [9].UPenn Furness Z43.A5 C63 1669.

Starting in the 1520s, European penmen began to put out printed pamphlets that taught people how to write speedily, legibly, and beautifully. Through these so-called  “writing-books,” writing-masters demonstrated their calligraphic skills through elaborate samples in different scripts, and codified the rules of good writing too. Interestingly, this means that the explosion of (fast, multiplicative) print carried along the (slow, intensive) technique of writing by hand, rather than leaving it behind.

The most prolific writing-master in early modern England was Edward Cocker (1631-1676), who issued no fewer than 16 writing-books. Cocker’s endless productivity was matched only by his tireless self-promotion: the ubiquitous use of his signature on his calligraphic specimens, exuberant language encouraging would-be writers to attain excellence, grandiose claims to superiority on his title-pages, and frequent use of literary tropes like self-portraits and dedications, he sought actively to elevate himself from “teacher” or “scribe” to “Author.”

Of course, writing-masters like Cocker were ultimately teaching a workaday, utilitarian skill, using commonplace building blocks (pen-strokes and individual letters). And legibility was the foremost requirement for good writing—after all, there were only so many ways to write an “a” before it was no longer recognizable as one!—so masters were quite constrained in terms of how much they could innovate, especially via books that were intended (at least in theory) to be used without a teacher’s guidance. Yet handwriting was much revered at the period, and these printed calligraphic booklets have been much analyzed then and since. The ability to write could be traced back to Biblical times, and as such was considered a divine gift. Additionally, and more importantly, writing had a special hybrid status: it was considered both an art and a skill, both beautiful and useful, both natural and manmade. Take the full title of Cocker’s Arts Glory (1669): the samples, we are told, are “adorned with many curious knots and flourishes, to render them pleasant as well as profitable.” This characterization of the book as doubly beneficial was obviously intended to increase its sales appeal. As well, the title-page boasts that the work contains the “directions, theorems, and rare principles of art”—connecting “the authors knowledge” to art through science.

Let’s now look to Penn’s collections for a unique instance in which this duality comes to the surface. On the verso of the title-page of Penn’s copy of Arts Glory (Furness Z43.A5 C63 1669) appears the following six-line homage to writing:


If any Art of Nature may haue praise
Then writeings commendacion wee may raise
This makes man Mainly difer from a beast
and wisdoms gloss upon his face to rest –
It hath described mens facts & fates soe well
as if one from the graue were raisd to tell –

As it turns out, this copy of Arts Glory once belonged to the calligraphy historian and collector Daniel Walter Kettle (1849?-1912?) [1]. In his privately-printed pamphlet, Pens, Ink, and Paper: A Discourse upon the Calligraphic Art (London, 1885), he notes that “In a copy of Cocker’s ‘Art’s Glory’ (1659) in my possession, occur the following lines in Manuscript upon the back of the Title, bearing upon this subject.” Despite the wrong date (“1659” instead of 1669), the idiosyncratic spellings (“writeings,” “difer”) are a strong indicator that Kettle was transcribing from what is now Penn’s copy. Continue reading

Eastward Ho! The English Bible of Germantown’s Founder Returns to Philadelphia

Pastorius Bible.Front Cover.BTLast April, a woman called the Penn Libraries from California saying she had in her possession an English Bible that had belonged to Francis Daniel Pastorius (1651-1720). Pastorius is credited with being the founder, in 1683, of Germantown (now part of Philadelphia), which became the new home for thirteen Quaker and Mennonite families who emigrated from Krefeld, Germany in search of religious freedom and economic opportunity. Pastorius also drafted and signed, with three other Quakers, on behalf of the Germantown Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, the 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery, the first protest against African-American slavery made by a religious body in the English colonies. The original 1688 Petition is now held by Haverford College and can be viewed on their website.

Pastorius was one of the few intellectuals in the Philadelphia region at this time, with a substantial library (probably the largest before James Logan, according to historian and librarian Edwin Wolf II) and a penchant for borrowing books from others. In addition to being the leader of the Krefelders, as they referred to themselves, Pastorius, who was trained in the law and practiced it regularly in service to the new settlement, also taught school and wrote numerous works. Some scholars consider his most important work to be the Beehive, a massive commonplace book in which he gathered together, like a bee, selections from the hundreds of books he had read. It has been in the collections of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania since 1949, the gift of Charles Sharpless Pastorius (1866-1950), and has recently been digitized and made available to the public as part of Penn in Hand.

The owner of the Bible, Glenda Marks, told us that she had inherited it from Lillian Pastorius Reynolds (1907-1991), whom she referred to as a “dear friend of our family for seventy years.” Ms. Marks engaged David Szewcyzk, of Philadelphia Rare Books and Manuscripts, to confirm the provenance of the Bible and appraise its value. The Bible, which is lacking the engraved title page as well as the beginning of the Old Testament, turned out to have been published in Oxford by the University Printers in 1706. It is a quarto bound as an octavo (see below for an explanation of this format), in a Pennsylvania German binding of calf leather over wooden boards, unusual for an English Bible of the period.

After the appraisal, Ms. Marks contacted Penn about acquiring the Bible for the collections. We asked for the opportunity to see it ourselves and a few days later the Pastorius Bible was delivered to the Kislak Center for our consideration. I began by unwrapping the Bible, which Szewcyzk had described in his appraisal as being “in serious need of restoration.”

Pastorius Bible.Front Cover2.BTPastorius Bible.Front Interior Cover.BTIt reminded me of the condition of the Beehive manuscript when it arrived at Penn. The Bible, like the Beehive, is reminiscent of a ruin, albeit an important and fascinating one that should not only be preserved, but also conserved, so that future generations of scholars can use it without fear of damaging it further.

photo 4

Photograph of Beehive manuscript at its arrival at the University of Pennsylvania prior to conservation.

The Life of Francis Daniel Pastorius, The Founder of Germantown (1908) by Marion Dexter Learned, still the standard biography of Pastorius, includes a list of Pastorius’s books as prepared by Pastorius himself in his manuscript Res Propriae, now in the Pastorius Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Among the books listed under Quartos is “An English Bible, printed at Oxford.” Interestingly, there is “An English Bible printed at Oxford” listed as well under Octavos. Did Pastorius have two English Bibles, both printed at Oxford? The inventory of the effects of Pastorius, made after his death, reproduced in facsimile in Learned’s biography, lists “a English Bible in 4° and an other in 8° with a combined value of 2 pounds 10 shillings.

So clearly he had two. Why would Pastorius own not just one, but two English Bibles?

Like other humanist intellectuals of the period and due in part to his legal education, Pastorius knew how to read and write in a range of languages, both classical (Greek and Latin) and modern (French and Italian), in addition to German, his mother tongue. Pastorius’s multilingualism, and a related fascination with languages and their usefulness in understanding and communicating with other linguistic, cultural, and spiritual communities, was important throughout his life.

During a European tour that lasted from June 1680 to November 1682, Pastorius traveled to England. His interest in William Penn and his scheme for the colonization of Pennsylvania—a subject of heated debate in Pietist circles at the time of Pastorius’s return from his travels—may well have encouraged him to learn English, the official language of the province. When Pastorius was given the power of attorney to represent those interested in acquiring land in Pennsylvania on April 2, 1683, he translated the German document into English, revealing his increasing facility with the language at this early date. Once he arrived in Pennsylvania, while he used German to communicate with the other settlers in Germantown, he continued to improve his English, writing and publishing in both German and English and even Latin, depending on his perceived audience, which for some works was European. His New Primmer (Printed by William Bradford in New-York, and sold by the author in Pennsilvania, 1698), written, according to its title page, not only for the Youth of this Province, but likewise for those, who from forreign Countries and Nations come to settle amongst us, shows him working to unite the various groups settling in new province linguistically. Continue reading

An Occult and Alchemical Library

RainsfordPR1When acquiring early manuscripts these days libraries mostly get them one at a time. A 15th century medical compendium here, a cache of Mexican inquisition proceedings there. It was with excitement then that my colleagues and I read the catalog for the sale of some of the 12th Duke of Northumberland’s collection this past July. Amongst the treasures was a somewhat unassuming lot consisting of nearly 60 manuscript volumes from a single 18th century collector. These manuscripts had been left to the 2nd Duke of Northumberland by his friend Charles Rainsford (1728-1809).


Alnwick Castle, Northumberland. Photo by Fiona James (CC-BY 2.0). Flickr.

Since 1809 they had sat on the shelves at Alnwick Castle, seeing only sporadic use. Rainsford was not only a British general and sometime governor of Gibraltar but an avid alchemist and occultist, fascinated by everything from the philosopher’s stone to Tarot to Rosicrucianism. The manuscript library he left to the Duke of Northumberland contained works he had collected in Gibraltar and on the continent but also a number copied out in his own hand from texts he had seen or borrowed. As Penn has long been a major collector in the history of science, especially that of chemistry and alchemy, my colleagues and I thought the opportunity to acquire an entire manuscript library was too good to pass up. Thanks to the generous support of the B.H. Breslauer foundation as well as several endowments here at Penn we were able to be the winning bidder when the collection was sold at Sotheby’s.

RainsfordPR4Many people think of alchemy and occultism as having their heyday in the medieval period but there has been a recent flurry of scholarship on the importance of speculative science and the occult during the 18th-century European enlightenment. Rosicrucians, hermeticists, and alchemists were part of the social and intellectual circles of most of the great enlightenment scientists – thriving in a world where new knowledge, ideas, and speculation were welcome. Rainsford himself was a friend of the great English naturalist Joseph Banks and while looking at the collection before the sale in London I was pleasantly surprised to have this note fall out of one of Rainsford’s volumes:


Note addressed to Sir Joseph Banks found in UPenn Ms. Codex 1684 (formerly Alwnick Ms. 595).

The Rainsford collection physically arrived here at Penn in the fall and sits together as it did for decades at Alnwick. Indeed, more than any volume in particular the collection probably has its greatest value in its whole as an almost fully intact 18th century manuscript library, representing the accumulated learning of an emblematic gentleman scientist. All of the manuscripts in the collection have been given very brief records in our online catalog and are available to researchers now. In addition, however the next year our fantastic cataloging staff will be working through each volume to provide comprehensive descriptions of their contents [Here’s an example of one already completed].


The Rainsford collection in processing at Penn

The collection represents Rainsford’s wide reading and collecting interests with manuscripts in French, German, Italian, Latin, English with many snippets in Hebrew. A few of my favorites include a fantastic compilation in Rainsford’s hand while governor at Gibraltar on Judicial Astronomy, a copy of Nicolas Flamel’s supposed 1414 final testament, a treatise on summoning demons with black-and-red illustrated pages, and an Italian work on sexual health.  At least four of the volumes (and likely more) in his library came from the Jesuit College at Naples whose library was seized as part of the suppression of the Jesuits and sold in part in 1780. These manuscripts go beyond the alchemical and occult and include an unpublished chronicle kept by a Jesuit in Naples between 1668 and 1725. Continue reading


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