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
A nine-volume diary, started by a fifteen-year old boy was one of my assignments to research and catalog. I began to read the idyllic day-to-day life of Jacob Edward Schmidt (1891-1986) known as Edward living in Lebanon, Pennsylvania with his parents and brother above the family jewelry shop J. C. Schmidt, Jeweler and Optician. (For more information on the J. Edward Schmidt diaries, see the finding aid). I expected to skim through the pages and read what would be a daily report of weather, school, siblings, and parents. If I was lucky, maybe I would encounter some teenage angst. I learned quickly Edward was serious about his diary. He began writing it on his fifteenth birthday 18 March 1906, and included a “Preface” at the end of the first volume about the responsibility of keeping a diary. Edward wrote: “Maybe the rear end of a book is not the proper place for a preface, but in this case it can’t be helped . . . The keeping of a journal or diary is not the easiest thing in the world, for it is often very troublesome to attend to it correctly . . .”
Edward was faithful in his daily entries. He recorded everything about his day. His interactions with his parents and brother, the daily chore of waking early to open the jewelry shop his father ran and one day he would inherit. He wrote of attending school and going to church on Sundays. Edward loved photography and wrote of taking and printing photographs. He also talked of the weather and activities of the seasons, spending summers at Mt. Gretna and Exmoor, Pennsylvania. The one thread throughout diaries that compelled me to read more was his Mary.
Before Holly and Regan gave me my newest project at the SCPC, I had never been to Dietrich before. The first time I walked in (pushing the door open with the strength of Thor) I was with Holly, Regan, and Lauren, and we did a quick tour of the place for my sake. I was overwhelmed with just how many collections were back there. I’m still overwhelmed by how many collections are back there. It’s honestly like walking through history, and my hands were itching to read nearly every little thing that was back there.
As we, like almost every other repository in the country, struggle with space issues, my newest little (okay, a bit bigger than little) project is to go back through our archived collections and condense them on the shelves in order to make room for even more history! Basically it’s every re-organizer’s dream, and I’m loving it. Not to mention that I get to see collections that I might not usually encounter every day.
The problem with Dietrich arose on my first day up there. Alone. At nine in the morning. When the reading room hadn’t opened yet. And no one had turned the lights on.
Dietrich is scary when you’re alone.
Or maybe that’s just me. But Dietrich does feel a little bit like a horror film set when all you can hear is the whirr of the climate control system and the squeaking of the service elevator going up and down. One day, close to Halloween, the place had an incredibly appropriate flickering light, as if I hadn’t already been on edge. And then there was the crippling fear that the compact shelving was going to start collapsing in on me on its own while I was in between stacks. I couldn’t listen to music for a while when I started my time up there for fear that someone wouldn’t know I was there and accidentally crush me as if it were a little historical panini press. Needless to say, I had a lot to overcome.
Once I got into the swing of things, I realized how fantastic Dietrich actually is. Like I said before, there is so much stuff back there! It’s amazing, really, just how much history is stored there, and in every form imaginable, too! Prints, manuscripts, rare books, audios, musical instruments, sculpting kits (I’ve handled that one myself and yes, it is as cool as it sounds!) you name it, Dietrich has it.
It really is wonderful getting to work up there and just to be in the presence of all that history. My little make-shift office is basically my stock pile of different sized boxes and folders and acid-free paper that I had brought there myself (juggling five boxes, panting for a little bit, saying ‘hi’ to Tom who sees me walk through the doors about twelve times a day, swiping my card like a secret agent, pushing the door open like I am Aragorn bursting into the Great Hall of Meduseld (O, would that Dietrich had double doors!), and trying not to drop the five doc boxes everywhere) but it’s my little make-shift office surrounded by loads and loads of cool things. It makes my job even better than it already was.
You never quite get over the sheer amount of history that constantly surrounds you up there. Setting aside the whimsy and the humor of this particular blog post, working in the SCPC has been a wonderful experience. There is so much to be said about working as a processor and how it is much more than many may think. We really care about the collections here, take the time to sit with them and put them into a nice, neat little order. It’s refreshing to know so many people who just ‘get’ the importance of history and the need for places like Dietrich – the need for a room where history can be organized on shelves but not ever really forgotten about. There are many components that make the SCPC, the Reading Room, and Dietrich just click, and I feel lucky that as a student worker I get to see every part of the process.
Of course, occasionally when someone walks into the aisle that I’m shifting boxes around in while listening to music, as if they’re a reading room ninja, I might yelp in surprise. And sure, I drop an empty shelf here or there, creating the loudest noise to ever grace the Dietrich stacks with its clamorous clatter. And alright, fine, I still wear dresses to work and find myself perched on a stool, still embarrassingly short like the Hobbit that I am, banging on a shelf and cursing its metal existence. But, honestly, Dietrich isn’t as horror-film-esque as I first thought, and my newest project is incredibly fun as well as entirely satisfying (few things are better than seeing three entire units of shelving freed up). Even though I’ve gotten some battle wounds – folders and metal shelves are out to get you, you see – I’m glad that I was given the privilege to discover Dietrich and be the pioneer of the newest renovation project at the Special Collections Processing Center.
I have a lot of tea. Like…a lot a lot. No, seriously, I won a twenty pound box of assorted loose teas a couple of years ago. It’s really a lot. So imagine my elation when I stumbled across the Bigelow Tea Recipes book in Victus Populi.
Finally, I thought, a way to use up some of that tea without having to drink all of it! I mean, as much as I love my tea (earl grey hot, please), twenty pounds at 1.5 teaspoons per cup is too much to drink, especially when you work in a food-and-drink-free zone like the SCPC (because if we were allowed to have drinks at our desk, someone (almost definitely me) would wind up spilling their drink and ruining priceless manuscripts).
When Victus Populi furnished a recipe for Earl Grey Cream Puffs, I knew what I had to do. So I did it. And it was delicious.
The recipe is actually deceptively simple, thanks to the magic of Jell-O pudding. Seriously, don’t knock it before you try it! The whole thing came together in about fifteen minutes of prep time and baked up really quickly. I used a slightly shorter cooking time because I decided to make mini cream puffs since, you know, it’s the new year, so I’m being healthy. Eating three mini cream puffs is definitely better than eating one regular sized cream puff…right?
The only other modification I made is the addition of one teaspoon of my mom’s homemade vanilla extract to the filling. I’m sure it would be delicious without it, but if I make these again (which I most certainly will will), I will definitely add the vanilla again. I might also steep the tea a bit longer or use a larger ratio of tea leaves to water, since the tea flavor was not as pronounced as I had hoped it would be. That said, the recipe as-is is an excellent dessert for tea lovers and non-fans alike. I also imagine that they would taste incredible with coffee substituted for the tea, maybe with a bit of orange zest in the batter or chocolate pudding instead of vanilla in the filling.
I’ve posted a scan of the recipe, but please feel free to try as many versions as you can dream up. I’d love to hear from anyone who makes these or tries a variation on them. Let me know how yours turned out!
One of the most fascinating things about processing an archive is discovering the hidden worlds within it. The project on which I’m currently working, the Gotham Book Mart archive, is particularly interesting this regard. The iconic New York bookstore was central in the development of Modernism and American small-press poetry throughout the 20th century, and the archive is certainly of interest for anyone exploring these worlds, but there are other – perhaps odder – universes contained within it as well: for example, a large and impressive collection of postcards.
Andreas Brown, the owner of the Book Mart from 1967 until its closing, was one of the most well-known postcard collectors (the technical term is “deltiologist”) in America. Like many of the most serious deltiologists, his collection focused on “real photo” postcards: a short-lived style that appeared in the early twentieth century, in which the front of the card was a piece of undeveloped photo paper, allowing for a customizable – and sometimes one-of-a-kind – image.
But Brown’s collection contains many other kinds of cards, as well: panoramic cards, cards that also served as paper fans, and (my personal favorite!) a series of promotional cards for a Russian production of one of Chekhov’s lesser known plays, “Ivanov.”
Taken on their own, these cards are impressive enough, but what makes them especially fascinating is the context which surrounds them. See, Andreas Brown wasn’t simply a collector; as one of the most famous collectors in America, he was also a member of a national deltiological community which, in the pre-internet world, meant he received a great number of newsletters from postcard clubs across the country: the Maple City Postcard Club; the Pacific Northwest Postcard Bulletin; and, of course, the organization which Brown himself helped found, the Metropolitan Poscard Collector.
And, of course, Brown developed a relationship with individual collectors, too, many of whom sent him personalized cards during National Postcard Week. Besides being notable for their range of design style (and, frankly, skill), the cards are interesting for the window they give into the lives of their creators. Who can resist young Barbara Ellen, with her space-related collection? Here’s hoping that she completed sixth grade successfully!
This is what I meant by hidden worlds. It’s remarkable to think about (or, if you have the historical perspective, to remember) just how many of these small mail-order organizations there were in America – almost all of which have been rendered irrelevant by the web – and how many people’s lives were influenced by the networks they helped support. As J.P. Hartley famously put it in his novel The Go-Between, “the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” Sometimes, in the act of processing, it can be helpful to stop and consider the customs of the countries one is continually discovering, and their relation to our own.
The new year has come and gone and the holiday frenzy has finally ended. As we spend the next two months writing the wrong year on everything, we feel the chill of winter creeping its way around us as well. It’s important to stay healthy during these cold months when the first signs of winter colds develop, even if it does sound ideal to curl up on the couch in sweatpants, mug of green tea clutched in a vise grip, quilt wrapped tightly around your shoulders as you binge watch every season of Friends that Netflix so graciously gifted us this past holiday season. All that and more could be yours but without the disadvantages of sniffling and coughing.
As I prepared for the winter months and stock piled supplies like an apocalypse prepper, I thought of a pamphlet I saw in a collection I had recently worked on. The young man was named David B. Walker and I had the privilege to catalog his school notebooks. He attended several public schools in the West Philadelphia area. It was incredibly fascinating to see how education has changed since the 1920s and early 30s when Mr. Walker was in school. One of the things I came across from his school days was a ninth grade health project he made. The pamphlet really exemplifies how differently health was viewed in the 1920s as opposed to now. And rightfully so, since, you know, this was a prominent problem then:It’s featured on the very first page of the pamphlet. We have a lot to be thankful for here in 2015. But, if you, like me, are worried about the inevitable epidemic of sickness that always comes around this time of year, perhaps a few tips from Mr. Walker’s pamphlet could be of service to you.
1.) Wash food that needs to be washed, including lettuce that you’re going to put slices of pears on. And always put your food into clean bowls, especially if you’re serving your brunch guests shiny peach slices in a huge bowl. It certainly pays to insist.2.) Air your bed clothes out every day. Wave those PJs in the air like you just don’t care (to be sick, that is). 3.) If the outside of your house looks clean then germs won’t mess with you. And your neighbors will think you have your life together and your health on lock. Don’t mind the giant maids sweeping the sidewalk in the background – it was alllll you who cleaned that lawn! Go you!4.) And finally, invest in a Cleanerette. You can even “cleanerette” your clothes! It can help you out if you don’t want to wave those bedclothes around every morning. Clean those rooms once a week with your electrical appliances and let the healthy vibes flow on through.These are just a few of the tips that can be found in this pamphlet and only a glimpse at the collection itself. All joking aside, it’s always wonderful to be able to take a trip through time here at the Special Collections processing Center. Every day I get to see how people in the past thought, how they wrote, what they thought was important. The advertising was different, the colors, the art. It’s amazing to see the types of media people were exposed to and to think about how those forms shaped how they thought. So the next time I see advertisements for how to stay healthy, I’m probably going to think of this little pamphlet and how different everything is but also how it’s sort of the same. I mean, it is our own responsibility to stay healthy and we should all do our part to lead happy lives. Perhaps this will be the season and the year where we all get sick less. And if not, well, there’s always that Friends marathon…
Happy (slightly-belated) new year, reader-friends! I hope you’ve all had lovely holidays and are as excited to get back to work as I am (seriously, I love my job!!!). With the new year, of course, comes the New Year’s resolution. Research at the University of Scranton shows that the number one resolution that Americans made in 2014 is to lose weight and that 38% of Americans made some kind of weight-related resolution. The same study also shows that only about 8% of Americans succeed at keeping their resolution for the entire year. That is not a pretty statistic.
But never fear, Victus Populi is here to help! Yes, reader-friends, that’s right. The print collection that brought you not one, but TWO full boxes of jiggly, gelatin-based desserts has an entire box marked “Healthy Cooking,” and its contents are magnificent. The items inside range from the gentle…
…to the less-than-believable…
…to the blunt…
But perhaps you have also resolved to get more in touch with your cultural heritage. Well, Victus Populi has your back there, too. You can taste your ancestral cookery and lose weight at the same time. Prepare to enter “The Fascinating World of Gourmet Eating (With Calorie Control),” which sounds much more exciting if you ignore the part in parentheses.
This 1967 pamphlet includes recipes from various international cuisines. In an attempt to get in touch with my cultural heritage, I flipped to the section on Jewish recipes, and there I found this:
So if you can’t diet without giving up your bagel with a schmear and some lox, then mazel tov! You’re good to go.
And once you’re on track with your resolution, be sure to remember that Victus Populi has fifty other boxes, including eight filled with dessert recipes, so you can reward yourself with a treat!
Or, you could just adopt this guy’s strategy:
Processing the “Adalbert Riedl collection of prayer and song leaflets” was quite enjoyable for several reasons having to do with its material qualities, and it was also relatively easy, because it had been pre-arranged and had a typed paper inventory. It allowed me to learn about a region of world I didn’t know too much about (Burgenland in Eastern Austria), made me brush off my high school and college German, and provided seemingly endless visual stimulation, what with so many great religious and secular illustrations included on most of the pamphlets. It also was fascinating from the standpoint of printing and illustration history, as it covered a wide period of time, from at least 1746 to 1929 and perhaps later.
The short story about Adalbert Riedl is that he was an Austrian teacher, politician, museum director, collector, and folklorist (for more information, please see the Biographical note in the online finding aid). After going into education and then dabbling in party politics (a stint in Dachau concentration camp seems to have taken care of that ambition), Riedl settled down to work at and eventually run the Burgenland State Museum (Landesmuseum Burgenland) in Eisenstadt, Austria. There he championed the folklore of his native region and wrote several books on the subject. While the content of the pamphlet collection is not only from this region, it is representative of Riedl’s interest in collecting the cultural production of a given area. Continue reading
Sixty years ago today, when the contralto Marian Anderson appeared at the Metropolitan Opera as the fortune teller Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, she was the first African-American to sing a solo role at the preeminent opera house. The Marian Anderson Papers (Ms. Coll. 200), one of the treasures of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, include not only photographs from that groundbreaking performance, but also rehearsal notices from the Met, the program from the performance, and responses from the press and admirers.
When the Metropolitan Opera signed Anderson the previous fall, New Yorker James Comegys sent a telegram of congratulations: “It’s edifying that Bing has sought you to honor the Met by its belated invitation; not as chicken hearted as Stokowsky who ducked you for years in Philadelphia … I can now make peace with the Met.” Four days after the New York premiere, on January 11, the Metropolitan production took the stage at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, and Philadelphians claimed Anderson as their own. William D. Wilson III wrote, “Besides seeing you in New York as Ulrica I managed to see ‘The Masked Ball’ here in Philadelphia. As you must know, we Philadelphians are very proud of our great contralto and we all look forward to seeing you perform here soon again.”
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present to you my latest collection: Victus Populi, a rather large collection of cookery pamphlets from throughout the 20th Century donated by Chef Fritz Blank.
It. Is. Fabulous.
I’ve only just started working with Victus Populi, and I am already completely enthralled. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that the first box Regan handed me was titled “Cakes.” Some of the cakes are deliciously tempting (I’m looking at you, Orange Rum Yum Cake), but my personal favorites are the ones that look absolutely ridiculous, the very best of which, in my opinion, is this layer cake featuring a small troupe of absolutely horrified gingerbread boys.
Like I said, it’s fabulous. Doesn’t that gingerbread boy look like he’s just seen something AWFUL? This would be a perfect cake for a holiday party gone terribly awry or a Christmas-themed horror movie party (yes, they exist) because it is the stuff of wintertime nightmares.
What I’m really saying is: please, somebody make this cake and post pictures of it in the comments.