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 (

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

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

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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 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.