Today’s post again turns from the treasures in our special collections stacks to our general collections to provide a glimpse at a unique volume. As with the annotated Mussolini book from a few weeks ago, this item is not unique in the sense that it is the only known copy of a text but rather for what it reveals about a long history of use and reading.
The particular book pictured above is Francis Grund’s Die Aristokratie in Amerika published in 1839 in Stuttgart and the same year in English as Aristocracy in America . Grund was a German-American journalist and author who lived in Philadelphia for much of his life . Unlike Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous Democracy in America (1835-40), Grund’s similar work of observations, anecdotes, and reflections on American life is largely forgotten today. Nonetheless, copies in English and German of Grund’s work abound in libraries across the US and Europe. In fact the ubiquity of the text is what makes the Penn copy all the more interesting.
When Grund’s book came out in London and Stuttgart it contained several engravings of American political figures featured within. Among these was a featured portrait of president Andrew Jackson. In fact, the German edition of the book even proclaimed on its title page Mit dem Bildnisse des Generals Jackson (“With the portrait of General Jackson”). If you look at the title page spread above you can see quite clearly the portrait of Andrew Jackson in Penn’s copy – most readers will notice that there seems to be something a bit odd about it. Continue reading