Esther B. Aresty collection

Four books written by Esther B. Aresty: The Grand Venture (1963), The Delectable Past (1964), The Best Behavior (1970), The Exquisite Table (1980)

Four books written by Esther B. Aresty: The Grand Venture (1963), The Delectable Past (1964), The Best Behavior (1970), The Exquisite Table (1980)

Esther B. Aresty (1908-2000) was a cookbook collector and culinary historian who wrote on cuisine, cooking, cookbooks, and etiquette. Aresty and her husband, Julian Aresty, donated her exceptional collection of rare cookbooks and manuscripts to the University of Pennsylvania in 1996 shortly before they passed away in 2000 and 1999, respectively. This collection formed the nucleus of the University of Pennsylvania’s comprehensive collection of cookbooks and books on the culinary arts. Her own publications include The Grand Venture (1963), The Delectable Past (1964), The Best Behavior (1970), and The Exquisite Table (1980), and a number of pieces of non-fiction and fiction. Additionally, she composed and published the teen romance novel, Romance in Store (1983) under the pseudonym Elaine Arthur.

Culinary themed auction and dealer catalogs, 1937-1989

Culinary themed auction and dealer catalogs, 1937-1989

Aresty’s rare cookbook and manuscripts collecting activities are best represented by her accumulation of auction and dealer catalogs, some correspondence from individuals and organizations regarding Aresty’s expertise in the culinary arts, civic activities in which Aresty took part, in addition to some personal associations and activities, and lecture notes that discuss her history as a collector and her exhaustive knowledge of the culinary world. Additionally, the Esther B. Aresty papers contains incoming correspondence from the American Institute of Wine and Food (founded in 1981) pertaining to her position on their board of advisors. This material includes early administrative paperwork such as its statement of purpose, bylaws, membership forms, agendas, newsletters, and other documentary evidence of the organization’s early life.

The Best Behavior: Drafts and research notes, circa 1970

The Best Behavior: Drafts and research notes, circa 1970

The collection also contains records of her writing career, through correspondence with a variety of publishers, drafts of books, other publications, and unpublished work, and research materials. The publications that are most well-represented in terms of drafts and research materials are her books The Delectable Past (1964)–the fruit of her research into her own vast collection of rare cookbooks and manuscripts, which she describes as “the joys of the table-from Rome to the Renaissance, from Queen Elizabeth I to Mrs. Beeton. The menus, the manners-and the most delectable recipes of the past, masterfully re-created for cooking and enjoying today” (Aresty, 1964)–and The Best Behavior (1970), which deals with “the course of good manners-from antiquity to the present-as seen through courtesy and etiquette books” (Aresty, 1970). There is also documentation of a variety of other publications, including drafts and research materials for books The Grand Venture (1963) and The Exquisite Table (1980), and a romance novel written under the pseudonym Elaine Arthur, called Romance in Store (1984), and a number of drafts of articles, chapters, and other shorter writings.

While this collection doesn’t provide records of activities beyond of her personal, collecting, and writing endeavors, it is interesting to note that Aresty was quite productive in her professional life. Among her many achievements, besides a career in advertising and promotion, was her role as writer/producer of Elsa Maxwell’s radio show, Elsa Maxwell’s Party Line. Interestingly, Maxwell was not only a gossip columnist and author, songwriter, and professional hostess renowned for her parties for royalty and high society figures of her day, but an accomplished pianist and culinary expert, like Aresty’s mother, who was born in Keokuk, Iowa, a mere 150 miles from where Aresty was raised in Chariton. As an accomplished woman in the thick of New York intellectual and cultural life, Aresty developed friendships with the well-known cookbook and magazine writers of the day. These associations enhanced her already outstanding reputation and widened her circle of influence.


Aresty, E. B. (1964). The Delectable Past. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Aresty, E. B. (1970). The Best Behavior. New York: Simon and Schuster.


The Dorothy M. Spencer papers

At the end of my last post on the Stewart Culin collection of advertisements, I openly wondered if the Spencer collection of notes on the Munda tribesmen of India would be my last here at Penn.  Happily, that has not proven the case, as I have finished the Spencer collection with about a month to spare!  The collection’s finding aid may be found here.  Now, join me on yet another journey back in time, this time to the Chota Nagpur plateau of India’s Jharkand state in the mid-20th century.

Dorothy M. Spencer was born rather close to us in Chester, Pennsylvania in 1907.  She matriculated at the University of Wisconsin where she received her A.B. in 1930 right at the beginning of the Great Depression.  Just as Culin’s interests led him to ethnography, Spencer’s led her to the sister field of anthropology.  Fresh out of America’s Dairyland, Spencer returned to the good old Keystone State where she undertook studies for an M.A. here at Penn.  She earned her Master’s in 1933.  To relate this to another of our India-centric collections, Spencer’s M.A. studies occurred at the same time as the bulk of the correspondence between Richard Gregg and the leaders of the Indian independence movement.  Although this collection consists of materials from Spencer’s fieldwork in India, her initial interests lay in the South Pacific, and her M.A. thesis “The Dual Organization and Regulation of Marriage in Melanesia” is housed here at Penn.  This thesis and her work in the M.A. program was evidently enough to impress her professors, as she went on to earn a PhD here at Penn in 1937.  Following a short stint as a lecturer in anthropology, she traveled to India in 1939.  In the tradition of Frank Hamilton Cushing, whom you may remember from my last post as Culin’s friend and daring anthropologist who lived among the Zuni for years, Spencer became a participant observer among the Mundari-speaking people of the Chota Nagpur plateau in the Jharkand state of eastern India, living with them and observing their daily habits.

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Curtis W. Davis collection on Leopold Stokowski

The University of Pennsylvania already houses a wealth of material related to the orchestral conductor Leopold Stokowski. His papers are preserved in Ms. Coll. 381, his musical scores, transcriptions, and arrangements in Ms. Coll. 350 and Ms. Coll. 351, and the research materials of his biographer Oliver Daniel in Ms. Coll. 382. With the Curtis W. Davis collection on Leopold Stokowski, 1936-1992, the library can now boast five collections on this towering musical figure.

Stokowski is a name that will no doubt still be familiar to many. He is remembered by lovers of orchestral music as the man responsible for bringing the Philadelphia Orchestra to fame, and who left behind numerous recordings that continue to attract listeners to this day. Many others may also remember him from their childhood, as the silhouetted figure who shakes Mickey Mouse’s hand in Disney’s Fantasia, for which he conducted the orchestra. Information about him and his life is also not difficult to find. For this reason, I’ll give only the briefest of biographical sketches here (those who are curious for more might take a look at Oliver Daniel’s biography, available in the library at ML422.S76 D3 1982).

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Padraic and Mary Colum Papers

Among the many surprising finds in the Gotham Book Mart collection acquired by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 2008 was a trove of papers of Irish literary figures Padraic and Mary Colum.  Padraic Colum (1881-1972) was a poet, playwright, novelist, biographer, and folklorist, known primarily for his collections of myths and folktales for children, his novels Castle Conquer and The Flying Swans, a volume of collected poetry, and several plays.  Mary Colum (nee Maguire) (1884-1957) was a literary critic known for her memoir, Life and the Dream, the posthumously published Our Friend James Joyce, as well as contributions to such magazines as Scribner’s, The Saturday Review of Literature, and The Forum, where she also served as literary editor.  Born in Ireland, both were associated with William Butler Yeats and other figures of the Irish Literary Revival of the early twentieth century.  Both were involved in the founding of The Irish Review, and Padraic Colum was involved in the founding of the Abbey Theatre.  The couple married in 1912 and moved to New York City in 1914.  Residing in the United States for the majority of their lives, Mary Colum taught literature at Columbia University beginning in 1941, while Padraic Colum served as president of the Poetry Society of America from 1938-1939 and as president of the James Joyce Society in the 1960s.


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Page from an early draft of Padraic Colum’s novel, The Flying Swans

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Two versions of “Briar Blossoms,” a poem by Padraic Colum.

The Colum collection contains materials that will be of interest to anyone interested in Irish literature and poetry, early twentieth century literary criticism, or the Colums themselves.  Much of Mary Colum’s correspondence is substantive and lively, and the correspondence files most notably contain more than twenty-five letters written to Mary Colum by the poet John Hall Wheelock while he was working at Scribner’s.  Series III and IV contain manuscripts and typescripts by both Mary and Padraic Colum, many of them containing handwritten marginal comments and corrections.  Series III also includes several sets of galley proofs of Mary Colum’s Life and the Dream, again often including marginal notes and corrections.  We were especially excited to uncover several boxes worth of bound notebooks containing early drafts of Padraic Colum’s The Flying Swans, various plays, and miscellaneous prose and poetry.  This material documents the writing process of both authors from original drafting through revisions and final touches.  In a few cases, different variations of a single poem can be traced from the original written form in a notebook to annotated typescript to final, published version. Continue reading

The Stewart Culin collection of advertisements

One of the 93 loose advertisements in the collection, with the original date penciled in at the top-left.  I wish grocery prices were still this low.

One of the 93 loose advertisements in the collection, with the original date penciled in at the top-left. I wish grocery prices were still this low.

Before the conclusion of my final semester at Penn I had the pleasure of working on the Stewart Culin collection of advertisements.  This collection consists of two scrapbooks and 93 loose advertisements, largely for products which were sold at businesses located in Philadelphia, collected between 1884 and 1886 by Mr. Stewart Culin, an unorthodox and trailblazing figure in the fields of anthropology and ethnography.  All of the loose advertisements have been organized according to genre (i.e., consumer services, foodstuffs, tobacco products, pharmaceuticals, etc.) and housed in an archival box separate from the scrapbooks.  Progress on this particular project was split up by the end of the term and my month-long dig in Italy, hence the comparative tardiness of this blog post.  Upon my return to Philadelphia I finished off the remaining work and now happily commend this colorful collection of cards from copious commercial categories to collegiate consumers.  Posthumous apologies to Mr. Culin for using the first letter of his surname to create an alliterative string.  The collection’s finding aid is up and running.

An early Wanamaker's ad.

An early Wanamaker’s ad.

The collection contains a bevy of colorful and oftentimes humorous advertisement cards, broadside posters, and clippings.  One informing the general public of a cartography office’s change of address features a list of facetious rules advising clients and workers to smoke constantly in the office, lean back in their chairs, chatter frequently with their deskmates, not hang up their hats and coats – in short, to do all the things they should in fact not do!  The card with equal facetiousness advertised how long appointments would last with certain categories of people such as “life insurance salesmen” – 0 minutes! Continue reading

The marvelousness in Mauchly’s papers

I am still processing John Mauchly’s amazing papers (see previous posts on this collection) and keep discovering items that make me love Mr. Mauchly just a bit more.  As I sift through the many boxes of material that document his work with early computers, I am always most drawn to the material that documents Mr. Mauchly as a human being.

Today, I would like to share one of my favorite things I have ever found in an archival collection.  For those who have not read other posts on Mauchly, these are a few things that he loved:

  • data
  • lists
  • comments about and interpretation of data and lists

(please note that I have provided this information as Mr. Mauchly would have).  His love of data and lists was not limited to his professional life, and throughout his collection one finds many, many delights, including this one about possible names for his new baby girl who was born on April 30, 1951.  No other comments are needed–but please, do read all the way to the bottom of his note!


Fact:  This baby was eventually named Kathy (according to information I found online, she was Kathleen (after her mom) rather than Katherine on the list)!

Telegraph Books collection

Patti Smith's "Seventh Heaven": A draft, unfolded cover, alternate photograph and a published copy.

Patti Smith’s, “Seventh Heaven”: A draft, unfolded cover, alternate photographs and a published copy.

Telegraph Books (circa 1970-1972) is a shining example of an early 1970s poetry and prose publishing company, founded in Philadelphia by Victor Bockris, Aram Saroyan, and Andrew Wylie. Bockris, a 1971 University of Pennsylvania graduate, cites the modest promulgator of poetry and prose as having been, “[a] small concern that proudly put out a few things like Patti Smith’s first books Seventh Heaven and Kodak,” (Amorosi, 1995) amongst other books by authors including Tom Clark, Gerard Malanga, in addition to work by Bockris, Saroyan, and Wylie.

Young poets ruminate on Ezra Pound during the "Mignon Poetry Workshop" in the early 1970s

Young poets ruminate on Ezra Pound during the “Mignon Poetry Workshop” in the early 1970s

While the Telegraph Books collection is represented by a mere four boxes of material, it boasts such artifacts such as day-to-day publisher records including correspondence between the administrators of the company and a variety of authors regarding their then-future-publications, mock-ups, and drafts, to more colorful records, such as the  lamenting poetic verses on Ezra Pound crudely written by 5th and 6th graders, the result of Bockris’ “Mignon Poetry Workshop,” a program revolving around the processes of writing and publishing poetry.

John Pollack proudly holding an artifact of the Telegraph Books collection: a hand-painted sign!

John Pollack proudly holding an artifact of the Telegraph Books collection: a hand-painted sign!

While I was in the throes of finishing up the finding aid for this collection, John Pollack (Library Specialist and Public Services for Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts) informed me that there was an artifact from the collection separated because of its format floating around somewhere in the Van Pelt Library. Not fifteen minutes later, his memory served him correctly and he produced the crown-jewel of the collection: a hand-painted Telegraph Books sign!


Amorosi, A. D. (1995, October 26 to November 2). Mr. International Velvet. Philadelphia City Paper. Retrieved from


The Telegraph Books collection finding aid can be found here.



Joseph Blotner Collection on Thorne Smith

James Thorne Smith (1892-1934) was an American author of comedic supernatural fiction known for his rapier wit and heavy drinking. Born in Annapolis, Smith briefly attended Dartmouth College before moving into advertizing. After a spectacular literary success in 1927, he moved to the town of Free Acres, the experimental village founded by Bolton Hall. His most popular works were his two Topper novels, Topper and Topper Takes a Trip. Smith’s humorous ghost stories influenced many later works of the 20th century, from Casper the Friendly Ghost to Ghostbusters and Beetlejuice. This collection, the Thorne Smith papers, contains two distinct subsets of material, both interesting.

The first set of material is a series of correspondences between Joseph Blotner, then a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, and a number of individuals in the literary world as well as Smith’s personal friends. Blotner was working on a paper that would eventually become his dissertation, “Thorne Smith: A Study in Popular Fiction.” From Smith’s various publishers and publicists to noted authors such as Ogden Nash and H. L. Menken, the correspondences span a wide range of individuals. Blotner would go on to become one of the most respected scholars of William Faulkner, befriending the author and publishing the definitive Faulkner: A Biography in 1974.

Topper Manuscript Page

The first page of Smith’s manuscript for Topper

The second set of materials is comprised of Smith’s own handwritten notes and manuscripts for a number of short stories and novels, nine in all, including both Topper and Topper Takes a Trip. Additionally, there are a number of typescripts for these same novels. Topper, sometimes known as The Jovial Ghosts, is the story of what happens when banker Cosmo Topper, who is trapped in a boring marriage, buys a used car only to discover that the car is haunted by its previous owners. A ghostly couple, George and Marion Kerby, died when they crashed the car into a tree. The friendly spectres take Topper on a whirlwind of zany adventures, vowing to liven up his dreary existence for good. The Topper novels were so successful that they led to a film version starring Cary Grant, which blossomed into a trilogy and a television series written in part by Stephen Sondheim as well as a radio drama.

Thorne Smith suddenly died of a heart attack while vacationing in Florida. It is unknown whether or not he became a humorous ghost like those in his books.

The John Scott collection of letters

After finishing the Rosengarten collection, my next project was a small assemblage of letters from the papers of John Scott, the finding aid for which can be found here.

Mr. Scott was a Pennsylvania native son with a storied family.  His father, John Scott Sr., was born near Gettysburg in 1784 and made his living as a tanner and shoemaker.  He served his country both on the field in the War of 1812 and in the halls of power as both a Pennsylvania and United States Representative.  His brother, George Washington Scott, moved to Florida where he became a successful plantation owner and businessman, and served the Confederacy as lieutenant colonel of the Fifth Florida Cavalry Battalion during the Civil War.  After the war, Scott established a successful business in phosphates and manufacturing, and became the primary benefactor of the Decatur Female Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, which then took the name of his mother Agnes in honor of his gift and thrives today as the Agnes Scott College.  John Scott Jr. remained in the Union during the war, practicing law in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania and followed his father into politics.  In 1862, he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where he remained until 1868, when he was appointed to represent Pennsylvania in the United States Senate.  As a Republican, he was embroiled in the politics surrounding Reconstruction, including a Congressional investigations into the outrages of the Ku Klux Klan and the overall progress of southern reintegration and African American enfranchisement.  He was not up for re-election in 1875, and worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad as legal counsel until the final year of his life.  If you’d like to visit him today, you can find his grave in our own Woodlands Cemetery next to campus.

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Making a good marriage in the French bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century

The Napoleonic Civil Code (1804) states the total legal incapacity for French women, who move from their father’s to their husband’s guardianship. From then on, it is necessary for women to make a good marriage, and their education focuses on making them good wives and mothers. In Claire Sallard’s notebooks, circa 1824-1836, which are principally composed of short stories dictated or commissioned by her tutor, the morals of the French bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century and the way of thinking they imposed on women show through.

The short story entitled Les trois mariages [The three weddings] is typical of the state of mind that prevails in these notebooks. The moral of the story could be summarized in one major statement: marriages of convenience, acceptable both to family and society, are the most successful unions. The first young lady in the story, Hortense, weds a rich and miserly man, who suits her family but lives on the fringe of society because of his cupidity, so she ends up jilted and sad. The second one, Eudoxie, falls in love with a young good-looking aristocrat who is used to gambling, and she marries him, with her mother’s blessing, but in spite of her father’s advice. In the eyes of society, it is a brilliant marriage, but their love fades and their life together turns into a nightmare. Finally, the third young lady, Cécile, who proves to be the heroine, despite her love for a young and pleasant aristocrat, chooses to marry an honest and virtuous man whom her father likes and who fits her late mother’s guidance. They enjoy “a calm happiness, free from the happy and sad torments coming from the turmoil of deep passions”. Claire is the model of the type of woman whom the reader is invited to follow.Sallard

The three weddings, like other short stories in Claire Sallard’s notebooks, are somewhat reminiscent of the novels Balzac writes in the same years. Les Mémoires de deux jeunes mariées [Letters of Two Brides] and La Maison du chat-qui-pelote [At the Sign of the Cat and Racket] offer very similar reflections.

By the way, what happened to Claire Sallard? Whom did she marry? In 1843, at about twenty-three, she married the forty-year-old landscape painter Paul Huet, and they seem to have been a close couple.