Archives Month Philly 2015: The Paper Menagerie

Rare Sightings!

‘“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly …’

Saddle up for a wild evening and join the staff of the Special Collections Processing Center for a bibliographic safari in the Kislak Center. Feathered friends, ferocious beasts, and even a cute cat or two will leap, slither, and fly off the pages of our favorite books, manuscripts, and archival materials on Thursday October 15.

cocodrilloImages of animals discovered in some of our newest acquisitions will be on display in this Abecedarium bestiary, including items from the collection of Dial Books art director Atha Tehon, and the Caroline F. Schimmel Collection of Women in the American Wilderness as well as materials from the Kislak Center’s archives, medieval manuscripts and incunabula. You will see St. Jerome’s lion, Agnes Repplier’s cat, and vultures from Penn’s sophomore class cremation ceremony in 1878. You’ll discover the winged Cocodrillo and even see a 16th-century horse wearing galoshes! All these and more will be corralled into the Class of 78 Orrery Pavillion at 5:30 pm on October 15. So grab your binoculars, put on a panama hat and make a bee-line for The Paper Menagerie: Animals on the Page in the Kislak Center’s Special Collections to see the magnificent, beautiful and sometimes bizarre beasts inhabiting Penn’s special collections.

This extravaganza is just one of many amazing Archives Month Philly events–but we do think that our event is the bee’s knees!

When: Thursday, October 15, 5:30-7:30 PM

Where: Class of 1978 Orrery Pavilion, 6th Floor;
Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts;
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center;
3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA

What you need to know: Free and open to the public (please show photo ID at entrance)

Questions? Contact us at or 215.898.7088

“I Do Not Propose To Sit Idly Down And Be Made To Suffer”: The Curious Case of the Two Mrs. Pigotts

AmonPigottDakotaGirlCoverg the volumes presented to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries by Caroline F. Schimmel as part of her Fiction Collection of Women in the American Wilderness is an inscribed copy of That Dakota Girl by Stella Gilman, a Western romance published in 1892 to tepid reviews: “The pony that always figures in stories of Western life is introduced in the initial chapter, and has its share to do with the love-making and various subordinate incidents. But the reader looks in vain for the genuine local coloring that is to be expected from the title” (Public Opinion 13 (1892): 487).  Gilman, a resident of Hudson, South Dakota, is a shadowy figure; in the biographical note to her only other book, A Gumbo Lily and Other Tales, she writes that she was born in Philadelphia and emigrated with her family to the West as a child in 1878. The Schimmel Fiction Collection copy of The Dakota Girl has a 19th-century gift inscription (“To Uncle Herbert, with The love of The Author. July 15. 1892.”) on the front free endpaper and a partially effaced autograph in a childish hand (“Mabel Lucy Pegott [sic]. 329 Chestnut, Philadelphia, Penna.”) in pencil on the verso of the back free endpaper.

PigottAutographsStella Gilman’s inscription to “Uncle Herbert” (above)
and Mabel Lucy Pigott’s autograph (below)

A little investigation discovers that Mabel Lucy Pigott, born in 1881, was the daughter of H. Herbert Pigott of 329 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. Perhaps, I thought, an inquiry into Mr. Pigott’s family might shed some light on Stella Gilman’s antecedents. Sadly, it did not¹ — but it did uncover a tale of betrayal and bigamy in the Pigott family that culminated in a dog-sled chase through the lumber camps of British Columbia, a true-life romance as fascinating as any early twentieth-century fiction. Continue reading

Photographs of Faith: A Souvenir of the 1937 Eucharistic Congress

2015-09-23 14-17This week, as Philadelphia prepares for the upcoming visit of Pope Francis, I have been researching another significant Catholic gathering: the National Eucharistic Congress of India held in Chennai (then Madras) in 1937. A beautiful scrapbook in the Kislak Center’s collection documents this event, and illuminates the magnitude of the Congress, as well as some of the history of Catholicism in India.

Pius XI, whose papacy stretched from 1922 to 1939 was invested in creating a sense of united identity and dedication in Catholics all over this world. He worked towards this end partly through the Vatican Radio, which allowed his speeches to be broadcast globally, but also through promoting National and International Eucharistic Congresses. These events, which drew large numbers of attendees and typically lasted for a few days, featured legates from the Vatican and centered around a mass adoration of the Eucharist.

Continue reading

Learning Mathematics in North America

Photo Jul 09, 3 15 13 PMThe Arnold and Deanne Kaplan collection of Americana is now available for research. Besides their fine work building the Arnold and Deanne Kaplan collection of Early American Judaica, available to researchers at Penn’s Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, the Kaplans built a small collection of American non-Jewish material as well. It includes a collection of printed books and an eclectic assortment of manuscripts and photographic material. Among the manuscripts are account books, ciphering books, diaries, letter books, penmanship notebooks, and recipe books. Each of these categories is quite interesting and can be explored further on the collection’s finding aid.

The largest grouping in the manuscript series is a collection of 22 ciphering notebooks dating from 1764 to 1870. These exemplars provide a superb view into the ways mathematics was taught in North America through the mid-nineteenth century. As outlined by Nerida Ellerton and M.A. (Ken) Clements in their book Rewriting the History of School Mathematics in North America, 1607-1861: The Central Role of Cyphering Books, the “cyphering tradition” allowed students of various ages and abilities to prepare their own ciphering books by employing formulaic presentations of mathematical rules followed by the computation of particular practical exercises. Continue reading

Catalogs, Colophons, and Curses from the Rāmamālā Library in Bangladesh


Rucistava (RLMS 1523, 1883-1892 A.D) with post-colophon curse.

Last year I began a project to create an inventory and digital sample of manuscripts from the Rāmamālā Library in Comilla, Bangladesh, sponsored by the British Library’s Endangered Archive Programme and co-sponsored by Penn Libraries’ Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS). My team and I created an inventory of close to 9,000 manuscript titles, assessed the condition of the manuscripts, and took a small digital sample (about 1%) that will all find their way into open access websites at the Endangered Archive Programme, the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts, OPenn, and Penn in Hand. The initial stage of data collection was completed between January and May, 2014, and currently I have returned to Bangladesh to work with local scholars to complete the catalog record and initiate the final stages of data absorption into the British Library and Penn systems. Continue reading

Baby, It’s Hot Outside

Scene:  Collegeville, Pennsylvania, Summer, 1934.  The windows are wide open, but there is little relief from the steamy Mid-Atlantic heat and humidity.  A brilliant young physicist sits down at the dinner table and his lovely wife places his meal before him.  He smiles and thanks her, picks up the salt shaker and upends it over his plate. Nothing happens. He shakes, and still nothing.

“Jeepers!” he cries, “There must be a way to fix this! I need a pencil!”

Okay, I made that up in my mind … there is absolutely no evidence in the collection that John Mauchly said “Jeepers” (although that is a nice authentic 1930s exclamation!) or that he was driven to say it by his salt solidifying due to the humidity.

However, there is evidence that Dr. Mauchly thought that a solution to this problem was necessary.  Residential air conditioning was not common in American homes until the latter half of the 20th century, so it is possible that Dr. Mauchly may have experienced a scene similar to the one I have depicted.  And if I know anything about Dr. Mauchly, it is that he was a problem solver and a creative thinker.  Below is his suggestion for a way to keep  salt and sugar dry in a pre-air conditioned home!

Mauchly_sugar_and_saltThere is no indication whether the General Electric Company ever implemented such a creation, but I am always amazed by the way that Mauchly thought and how diverse his interests were!

Rudolf Serkin papers, 1908-2003

serkin-faceRudolf Serkin (1903-1991) was a classical pianist who is widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest musicians. His personal papers, with a few minor additions from his wife and biographers, have now joined the Kislak Center’s archives, preserving the life and work of this incredible musical force, as well as the many musicians he knew and worked with. Represented in 182 boxes are his personal correspondence, performance records, papers relating to the Curtis Institute of Music, the Marlboro Music School and Festival, and the Institute for Young Performing Musicians, as well as a range of personal items, photographs, and a few videos and recordings. A complete listing of the collection and a fuller biography of Serkin can be found in the finding aid.

Despite his high stature, Serkin is remembered for his humble nature, both as a person and as a performer. Though he performed frequently as a solo artist, he was not above more egalitarian collaboration in the form of chamber music, and in fact actively promoted a democratic spirit of music making as the artistic director for the Marlboro Music School and Festival. (For more information about Marlboro, please see Marissa’s blog post on the Marlboro Music School and Festival records, also housed at Penn.) The origins of this can be traced to the very beginning of Serkin’s career. Serkin was born in Eger, Bohemia (today Cheb, Czech Republic) to a Russian-Jewish family, and began playing piano at the age of four under the tutelage of Camilla Taussig. When he was nine years old his family sent him to Vienna to get a more rigorous musical training with Richard Robert, Joseph Marx, and Arnold Schoenberg. Serkin become an exceptionally accomplished pianist as a child, but (thanks to his father) avoided the typical trajectory of the “child prodigy” who endlessly tours the most impressive showpieces of the solo repertoire. Instead, he travelled to Berlin, where he formed a close relationship with the violinist Adolf Busch, launching his career as Busch’s accompanist and playing as a member of the Busch Chamber players. Continue reading

Processing the Immaterial, Touching the Real: Ghosthunting in the Marlboro Music School and Festival Records


Marlboro’s founders: Marcel Moyse, Louis Moyse, Rudolf Serkin, Blanche Moyse, Adolf Busch, Herman Busch

The Marlboro School of Music has been a driving force in chamber music in America for over half a century. Every summer it draws applicants from across the globe, vying for an opportunity to spend the next seven weeks playing alongside some of the world’s most talented artists in its idyllic setting in southern Vermont. Marlboro’s influence has intertwined itself into the early music careers of such artists as cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Joshua Bell, and pianist Emanuel Ax. Under the artistic direction of pianist Mitsuko Uchida, also a former participant, the school emphasizes the intensive study of chamber music by bringing together senior artists and talented young musicians to play simply for the joy of playing. This offers a respite to professionals, both young and senior, from strenuous rehearsal and performance schedules. The school was officially founded in 1951 by violinist Adolf Busch, along with his son-in-law, pianist Rudolf Serkin, cellist Herman Busch, flutist Marcel Moyse, pianist and flutist Louis Moyse, and violinist and conductor Blanche Honegger Moyse. Its earliest years are when this philosophy of bringing together junior and senior artists in a relaxed atmosphere initially took root.

Adolf Busch relocated his family to Vermont after immigrating from Europe at the outbreak of The Second World War and the Moyse Trio had also fled Europe and came to Vermont after living in exile in Argentina. In 1950 the founder of Marlboro College, Walter Hendricks, approached them about conducting a summer music program for the nascent college. That first year had few participants and little planning, with a number of unimpressed participants, mostly string players, leaving shortly after their arrival, but a seed was planted nonetheless. The following year, the Marlboro School of Music became its own separate institution from the college and held its first official summer school and festival with over fifty participants. Continue reading

The Literary Censorship Files of the E. Sculley Bradley papers

Professor Back 'Lonigan' Books

Professor Sculley Bradley was the star witness for several important literary censorship trials in the 40s, 50s and 60s.

The E. Sculley Bradley papers are now processed and available for research. Sculley Bradley was a University of Pennsylvania English professor from 1926-1967 and vice provost of undergraduate education from 1956-1963. His papers include his personal and professional correspondence, 1923-1962, material from several literary censorship cases he testified for, corrected drafts of his manuscript for the Variorum edition of Leaves of Grass, ephemera and graphics associated with Walt Whitman, and a small amount of materials on other authors. His censorship files are some of the more interesting materials in the collection.

Material for Testimony

Bradley’s preparation was meticulous as shown by the first page of a nine page outline for one book defended in Youngstown, Ohio in 1953.

From 1948 through 1966 Sculley Bradley was involved in a series of literary censorship trials, acting as a witness on the side of the authors, publishers, and/or booksellers. His first case involved the seizure of over 2,000 books confiscated from 50 different bookstores, department stores, and newsstands in Philadelphia, PA in 1948. Among the books seized were James T. Farrell’s Studs Lonigan and A World I Never Made; Sanctuary and The Wild Palms by William Faulkner; God’s Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell; Raintree County by Ross Lockridge, Jr.; and Harold Robbins’ Never Love a Stranger. The book raids were undertaken by the Philadelphia police vice squad upon complaints of “ministers, school authorities, and others.”

Expense Account, Sculley Bradley

Bradley’s record keeping of expenses associated with his testimony was also meticulous!

Bradley was recruited to serve as an expert witness in this case and in several subsequent ones. In the files for these censorship cases, Bradley has collected correspondence concerning his testimony, newspaper and magazine clippings, receipts for his consultative charges, and in some cases copies of legal briefs. In preparation for giving his testimony, Bradley worked diligently. If he did not already have a copy of the book in question, the publishers would send him one. He read it (usually not for the first time) and wrote up detailed notes on the characters, plot, purpose, and context of each book so that he would be prepared to discuss it, and defend it, in court.

Direct Examination of Dr. Sculley Bradley

Testimony of Bradley defending Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer” in a Philadelphia courtroom in 1962.

The Philadelphia seizures actually led to more than one courtroom. A Pennsylvania State suit against five of the booksellers went to the Court of Quarter Sessions, Philadelphia, while a Federal case in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, was lodged by publisher Vanguard Press and author James T. Farrell against the Philadelphia police. Sculley Bradley testified in both trials. It isn’t completely clear how the Federal case turned out, but the State case was a victory for the booksellers. Judge Curtis Bok found that the books were not obscene and dismissed the charges against the booksellers. He wrote a thorough opinion on the matter, finalizing with “I hold that the books before me are not sexually impure and pornographic, and are therefore not obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, indecent, or disgusting.” Judge Bok’s opinion was such a hit with booksellers, that the publisher Knopf had it typeset on fine paper in a clothbound limited edition of 500 copies printed by Grabhorn Press in San Francisco!

Commonwealth v. Gordon, et al.

Judge Curtis Bok’s decision striking the Pennsylvania statute under which five booksellers were charged with peddling obscene material, 1948.

In addition to the Philadelphia cases, other censorship cases arose in Fall River, MA (focusing on the book Duke, by Hal Ellison), Detroit, MI (The Devil Rides Out, by John H. Griffin), Youngstown, OH (Down All Your Streets, by Leonard Bishop), and additional cases brought in Philadelphia, PA as well as several other cities (for The Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller). Bradley also signed on to an amicus curiae brief prepared by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in defense of Ralph Ginzburg, who published the erotic journal Eros and other works which were confiscated in the mail in 1962. Some of the cases Bradley was involved in made their way to the United States Supreme Court.

The Two Patāñjalis: Challenges of Cataloguing Penn’s Sāṃkhya Teaching


Ms. Coll. 390, Item 249 (f. 1v-2r)

Recently I received an email from Prof. Dominik Wujastyk (University of Vienna), regarding Penn’s copy of the Sāṃkhyapravacana (Sāṃkhya Teaching), Ms. Coll. 390, Item 249 (ca. 1700-1850). The Sāṃkhyapravacana is an early Hindu philosophical work that re-envisions and combines the Sāṃkhya and Yoga philosophical systems, attributed to Patāñjali (ca. 4th-5th century CE) as part of his Yogasūtra (a.k.a. Pātañjalayogaśāstra), a work well known to students and scholars of the history and philosophy of yoga. Prof. Wujastyk pointed out, however, that Penn’s catalogue record for this item mistakenly linked it to another work by a different author also named Patāñjali—that is, the Mahābhāṣya or Great Commentary, a commentary on Pāṇini’s Sanskrit grammatical system from the second century BCE. I was intrigued about how what seems like such an obvious error could have arisen and so began an investigation. . . . . Continue reading