CAJS Rar Ms 481: A Kabbalistic and Polemical Manuscript Fragment from 1605 Egypt, with Provenance

I cataloged a manuscript fragment (or, what originally appeared to be a fragment) of a polemical nature, dated to the first decade in the 17th century in Egypt. The manuscript contains writing from possibly a number of hands, and may have even been partially a letter written by a scribe or transcribed by a scribe for a response, as is the nature of polemics.

David Roberts (1796-1824), The Gate of Metwaley, (Cairo). Wikimedia Commons. For illustrative purposes.

The manuscript is 7 folios, unbound but sewn into a gathering. There are two (at least) scribal hands, already identified by Mosheh Hillel in “Ginze nistarot,” in Meḳabtsi’el vol. 38 (Ṭevet 5772), 55-88. Hillel also transcribes the manuscript.

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Down on the Weisberger Farm

Where do booksellers go when they retire from the trade? Lawyers become consultants (ditto for doctors) and the academy has been known to accept tradespeople from all walks of life on an adjunct basis. But bookselling is not a popular college course, and the range of industries looking for freelance advice from hardened paper-traders is, so to speak, limited. Furthermore, what sort of job would be fitting for the archetypical bookseller’s personality? No other industry combines intellectual contemplation with the thrill of acquisition on such an integral, daily basis.

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“You’re so vain, you probably think the Song of Songs is about you!”: An Illustrated 16th-Century Bible

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Hans Holbein, “Expulsion from Eden” (Genesis 3)

Adam and Eve are having a bad day: they disobeyed God, got caught, and are being run out of Eden by an angel with a flaming sword. Undoubtedly they’re in no mood to appreciate the invention of death metal, pace the skeletal guitarist shredding the soundtrack to their misery.  Judging by his grin, though, he doesn’t care, certain that eventually they’ll notice his riff’s got a good beat and they can dance to it—that, in fact, they must dance to it …

This woodcut from Hans Holbein‘s Dance of Death and Icones Historiarum Veteris Testamenti (both produced ca. 1523-1526) also illustrates the third chapter of Genesis in an edition of the Vulgate (Paris: Guillard and Desboys, 1552) annotated by the French theologian Jean Benoît (1484?-1573), a copy of which was recently acquired by the Penn Libraries as part of the Peter Way Collection of Early Modern TextsContinue reading

A New Year Resolution from Clement Winston

There are no words to describe how much I love Clement Winston, budget analyst, artist, author, family man, and account keeper.  His papers are both informative and delightful–and happily, we have received a few additions that will be added to the collection this year.

In the meantime, for those of you who may be struggling with your new year’s resolutions as well as any left-over weight gain from the holidays, perhaps you (as I have) will take comfort in Clem’s words of wisdom.

Happy New Year, friends!

An Uncommon Proof

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Tail-piece from leaf A4v of printer’s proof of Quadt’s Gründlicher aussführliche vnd warhaffte Verantwortung vnd Bericht

Catalogers are no less tempted than anyone else to put off ’til tomorrow what they’d rather not do today. (Sorry, Ben!) But fortunately we have curators to poke through the resulting backlog of curious items, which is how a seventeenth-century German folded quarto sheet purchased for the Penn Libraries in 1959 landed on my desk in 2018.  (Thanks, Mitch!)  A search on the title—Des Edlen, Ehrnuesten vnd Mannhafften Heinrich Quaden von vnnd zu Eisengartten, Obersten, Gründlicher aussführliche vnd warhaffte Verantwortung vnd Bericht, auff etzliche vnterschiedliche Articul—in the VD17 database of seventeenth-century German imprints quickly brought up an entry and a link to a digitized version of the copy held at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, Germany.  And that’s when I realized I was looking at something more interesting than the disjecta membra of a late Renaissance pamphlet:  a copy-edited proof of four pages of a late Renaissance pamphlet, printed on a scrap sheet from an entirely different work.

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Santa … a powerful parental tool for more than 100 years!

I recently completed working on the Harold Dies papers and they are almost entirely related to Theodore Dreiser’s literary estate and the Dreiser Trust.  However, as is the case with many archival collections, I found a few unexpected treasures buried inside envelopes and tucked into folders.  The Dreiser and Dies family trees rival the Biddles when it comes to complexity.  Lots of cousins, lots of siblings, lots of complications.  But this little story below has to do with Theodore Dreiser’s brother Paul Dresser, his sister Emma, and Emma’s two children, George and Gertrude.

Paul Dresser was a singer, songwriter, and actor, in addition to a well-intentioned uncle. It appears that his nephew, George, was a bit on the naughty side … there are several letters written in which Uncle Paul instructs George on good behavior, which includes going to church (EVERY Sunday) and not giving his parents trouble.  It appears that George didn’t listen to Uncle Paul, so, as December rolled around, Uncle Paul did what so many adults faced with naughty kids do: he threatened him with … SANTA CLAUS. Who knew that was a thing as far back as 1903?

Uncle Paul wrote a few delightful letters to his sister Emma and her children, George and Gertrude who in 1903 would have been about 11 and 9 respectively.  In this letter, dated December 5, Paul writes to Gertrude in response to a letter in which she appears to have tattled on George.  He writes,  “I am really surprised at George.  I thought he was a pretty good boy–but from what you say it seems he is not. Well, all I can say is that Santa Claus called on me last night and wanted to know all about you and George.”

The letter ends with a note: “Tell Geo. to behave or Santa will make trouble.  I love this … usually Santa punishes passive aggressively by not bringing gifts, but here … he is going to make trouble!  There is no evidence as to whether Uncle Paul’s threats worked and George decided to be good until December 25.  Sadly for George and Gertrude (and his sister, Emma, to whom he wrote a number of encouraging as well as instructive letters about the children’s behavior), Paul died only three years later and was not around to keep all of them on their toes.

Despite the humor of the contents of these letters, it is easy to see the family’s dynamics, even in just a few pencil-scrawled words.  Paul was Emma’s older brother by six years and his protectiveness of her is evident in every single letter … the message to her kids is that they should always treat her well and make life as easy as possible for her.  His message to his sister is that she should make the kids treat her well and do their part to make her life easier.  The letters are lovely reminders of how family members look out for each other … and how they use any tools at hand to promote their cause.

 

Best Wishes to Students during Finals!

Every time we step outside our office, just now, we can feel the pressure and stress on our dedicated, smart, and awesome student body as they are busily studying and preparing for their final exams and madly writing papers.

So, the catalogers of Penn’s Kislak Special Collections Processing Center send you an encouraging message (painted on silk)  from Mamie A. Jones, a young Philadelphian who we believe was probably a student at Friends’ Central School in the 1870s.  Her sketchbook holds a number of similarly beautiful drawings that she did during the early 1880s.

Good luck, students, at Penn and in schools, colleges, and universities everywhere!

 

History in the Rough–Pondering the Imponderable

Clement Winston was an economist who worked for the United States Bureau of Budget—which doesn’t sound too exciting, right?  WRONG!  It turns out “Clem,” as he was known, is one of the most delightful fellows out there!  A Russian immigrant who arrived in the United States as a youngster, Clem considered himself an American through and through; yet, somehow America did not necessarily agree.  Because of his Russian heritage, Winston was questioned at a hearing before the Loyalty Board for the Department of Commerce in the early 1950s.  Despite this immensely stressful time in his life, Clem was full of creativity, humor, and love for his family.

Join Kislak catalogers at History in the Rough, a pop up exhibit on December 6, from 11:30 to 1:30 in the main floor lobby of Van Pelt Library, to become acquainted with Clem!

Happy Snarky Thanksgiving, 1918

Thanksgiving is all about food … so I love to find Thanksgiving menus of the past.  One hundred years ago, the Americans “celebrated” in Paris, following the Armistice.  This marvelous bit of silliness can be found in the R. Norris Williams collection of World War I material, which is filled with absolute delights.  I think of Williams as a magpie who walked through war-torn Europe and picked up non-shiny bits of history.  His collection is full of ephemera that was probably never meant to last; but thanks to his collecting and preserving, we are gifted with the most amazing array of propaganda leaflets and toilet paper, trench papers, sketches, event ephemera, and notes.

So, with memories of 1918, Happy Thanksgiving, 2018 … hopefully caster oil is not on your menu!