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. However, 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.
When 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.
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