Behind the Scenes–in person and virtually

On October 17, 2017, the catalogers of the Special Collections Processing Center had the chance to show off some of their favorite items! This year we offered tours of SCPC so that visitors could learn what happens to a book or collection “behind the scenes”–from the time that it is purchased or gifted, right up until it is publicly available.

The Behind the Scenes tours were in-person only, but in case you didn’t make it to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, you can discover online the invisible sights and unheard sounds of the moments before the big moments … before the counter-attack is launched, the play performed, an execution ordered, a new bestseller published.  And you might just discover why the catalogers in SCPC love their jobs so much!

 

Save the Date for Behind the Scenes: Archives Month 2017

The hurried scratching of pencil on paper as a code-breaker races against time…
The nervous pacing of an actress…
Sibilant whispers of advice into the ears of the powerful…
The crumpled publisher’s rejection letter, together with an annotated and crossed out draft…

These are the invisible sights and unheard sounds of the moments before the big moments … before the counter-attack is launched, the play performed, an execution ordered, a new bestseller published.

Catalogers are always behind the scenes, where they delight in finding previously lost or hidden secrets and making them available to the public.  Join the catalogers of the Kislak Center to learn about their favorite behind-the-scenes moments found between the covers of rare books and deep in the folders of archival collections.

Linger over our selections on October 17, 2017 from 5:30 to 7 pm at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, located on the 6th floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center at 3420 Walnut Street.

Free and open to the public (bring photo id to get into the library)!

Janeites unite to remember an amazing woman!

Almost every day as I drag myself out of bed (I am not a morning person), I wish that I could spend the day curled up with a book and a lovely cup of coffee. Today, however, I am recommending that we all take at least a few moments, select our favorite Jane Austen novel (everyone should have at least one!!!), and drink a cup of tea to celebrate and remember this extraordinary woman who is still so very much alive 200 years after her death on July 18, 2017.

From films, tv shows, to new novels based on or inspired by her originals, the lovely Jane is very much present in our world.  You can join a society and you don’t even have to live in the UK to do so … the Jane Austen Society of North America even has an Eastern Pennsylvania Region chapter.

Here is a watercolor portrait, presumably of Jane Austen … we don’t know who painted it or when, but it was found in Volume I of a three-volume edition of Emma (London: J. Murray, 1816), held by the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. (call number: PR4034.E5 1816).  The watercolor can be found in box 1, folder 35 in our Miscellaneous Manuscripts collection.

Survivors of War: Albert D. Hequembourg and his diary

Hequembourg’s ID card

Today on the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I, I would like to tell the story of Albert D. Hequembourg and his two-volume diary, both of whom happily survived his service overseas in Belgium and France in 1918.  Hequembourg, a 1908 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, was a dental surgeon who volunteered for service shortly after the United States declared war.  He served most of his first year on American soil, providing dental care for soldiers who were training for duty in Europe.

July 7, 1918 entry

On June 5, 1918, Hequembourg left New York City and traveled to France aboard the S.S.  Mauretania; landed in Liverpool, England; traveled south by train to Southhampton; and took Channel transport to Havre, France, arriving there on June 14, 1918. During his time overseas, he was “in action from close to Ypres, Belgium to Amiens, France,” (inside front cover, Volume 2).  In an entry written on July 7, 1918, somewhere in France or Belgium, Hequembourg describes examining the teeth of 348 American soldiers.  He does not appear to have treated injured soldiers–instead, he was performing typical dental work:  “getting patients ready to go to front, filling root canals and putting treatments in to hold over till they get back.”

Front line dental office

Hequembourg appears to have been a keen observer who was aware of the historic impact the War would have on the world.  As such, he seems to have taken advantage of opportunities to see the front and he describes in great detail being caught in a German air-raid, living in a dug-out and working in a dental office in “a corrugated iron shed camouflaged with branches,” and seeing a field hospital. It seems that Hequembourg and his fellow soldier Lt. Rhea traveled with transport and were often in the midst of shelling.

Inside front cover of Volume 2

In the midst of one such shelling, his belongings were struck by German artillery fire (resulting in the mud on the front cover) and he thought he had lost the diary … but it turned up, albeit missing the key to the locations he describes in the diary!  As a result, we have an amazing resource for people studying first-hand non-combat experience to life on or near the front lines of World War I.   Before processing this collection, I never once thought of dentists serving during World War I and I never once thought of the American Expeditionary Forces having their teeth cleaned or having potentially painful problems with their teeth being treated.  One of the many things I absolutely love about my job is the constant exposure to new perspectives on “old history.”

I feel as if, at some point, I should stop being surprised by how much has survived and is available for use today in the amazing libraries and archives across the world.  If you are interested in some of our other amazing World War I collections, may I personally recommend a few of my favorites:

David Rosenblum World War I letters,1918-1919, Ms. Coll. 1262
R. Norris Williams collection of World War I material, 1914-1988, Ms. Coll. 956
Dorothy E. Withrow collection of World War memorabilia, 1892-1951, Ms. Coll. 930

Atha Tehon: Loved much more than “a cat’s whisker”

I knew I was going to love Atha Tehon from the moment I started my research on her—before I ever even opened a box of her papers.  As always, I started with a simple google search and one of the first results was “Syracuse woman adopts four cats with $50,000 trust fund.”  Turns out, those four cats belonged to Atha Tehon, a book designer and art director for children’s books.  She had lost her husband and lived alone—and for the first of many times during the processing of her papers, I was struck by her thoughtfulness and caring—not just of her concern for the well-being of her pets after her death, but also the financial burden four cats would put on the good soul who adopted them.

I started with her correspondence thinking I would separate her professional correspondence from her personal correspondence; but  I quickly discovered that this was impossible—professional colleagues soon became treasured friends who  communicated long after a project was completed.  As I scanned the contents of her letters, it was clear that she was beloved—every letter was full of respect and love. In one letter, Guy Fleming, writing to someone who forwarded a copy to Atha, stated “I remember Atha perfectly well:  … there she’d be, center of a circle of peace and calm,” (box 3, folder 1) which seemed to accurately put into the words the woman I was quickly getting to know and love.

As I moved on through the remainder of her papers, I determined that she was peaceful and calm because she put herself in order through the EXTENSIVE use of post-it notes … I suspect that there was a fairly large number in the budget line for post-its at Dial Books for Young Readers where Atha worked for thirty years.  She may have been calm, but there is absolutely nothing calm about her calendars which show what her day-to-day life must have been like.  She seems to have had her hand in many of our most beloved children’s books and worked closely with any number of extraordinary authors and illustrators including Tom Feelings, Jerry Pinkney, Maurice Sendak, William Steig, and Margot Zemach, to name only a few.

This collection is nothing short of a visual delight—pretty much every folder contains copies of beautiful illustrations for children’s books in every possible state of completion.  Sometimes there are rough sketches, sometimes the finished product, and occasionally, you can really see how a book started, evolved, was revised, evolved again, and was completed.  But her book projects are not the only place in the collection that we find art.  Atha Tehon, herself, was an accomplished artist and the collection holds sketchbooks, pencil drawings, Christmas cards of her own design, photographs of her paintings, etc. She was also friends with a whole host of creative people who sent her artwork, illustrated letters, and beautifully handmade Christmas cards.  The entire time I worked on this collection, I was in heaven.

When I came to the end, I was sad … I had truly enjoyed the company of Atha Tehon and I thought I knew her pretty well, but I was wrong. I saw the humble, beautiful woman she was, certainly, but it was only once I read  the letters and notes people sent after she died, that I truly understood what an amazing woman she was and how far-reaching her influence.  The folder of memorial information came to me late in the processing stage (it was not part of the papers that came to us after her death), but as I sat reading, I had tears in my eyes.  It was only here, in words of others, did I learn how many people credited her with the success of their careers in publishing, design, and illustration and how much they learned from her.  It was here that I learned that she was known for “Athaisms” and for inventing “a measure for that huge gap between a hairline and a ½ point space—the ‘cat’s whisker.’” (box 2, folder 10).  Jerry Pinkney stated that “she had the rare gift of a critical eye as well as an uncanny ability to gently support, nurture, and inspire illustrators to create their best work,” and Sara Reynolds, senior designer for Dial Books for Young Readers from 1984 to 1987, wrote in “A Tribute to Atha” that “Atha cared about those who worked with her as much as she cared about every detail in a book.  She was kind, patient, thoughtful, and always ready to listen.  When we worked with Atha, we were a family, and after we left her staff, we were still a family … Atha seemed ageless, and now we grapple with the knowledge that she wasn’t.  But her voice, vision, and legacy live on in thousands of books, hundreds of illustrators, and scores of editors, designers, and art directors who benefited from her wisdom, taste, sensitivity, and support.”

Who would not wish to be remembered in such a way?

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

We frequently find delightful items in our collections, and sometimes they are incredibly timely!  Elsa stopped by with these four images from the magazine Christopher Street. You’ll find these specific images in Vol. 2, No. 8 from February 1978, on the cover and pages 33, 36 and 37.

Liz found, in a copy of Cuckoo of the log raft by Bessie Marchant (London: George Newnes, [not before 1931]) (Schimmel Fiction 3036), that the former owner, Anne M. Noble, kindly added a “Boys I love” note!  We are particularly delighted that the “boy in grey” is included. My college crush was “the boy in the basement” so I totally get it!

 

Party like its the 1920s

Here’s hoping that your office holiday party is half as fun as Burton Rascoe’s!  This photo is clearly from a newspaper office’s holiday party in the early 1920s.  I think it is the New York Tribune, but I cannot be sure.  Regardless, everything about this party is positively delightful–from the general messiness of the office, to the “interesting” decorations, to the fashions of the day!.

rascoestaffpartyfrom the Burton Rascoe papers, 1890-1957 (bulk: 1920-1957), Ms. Coll. 1145
Box 26, Folder 9

All my new friends are dead–2016 edition

Not long ago, I was telling a loved one how difficult I find it to make new friends as an adult.  I was told quickly, and emphatically, that I was being ridiculous–that I make new friends all the time–it’s just that almost all of them are dead.  Instantly, I was filled, absolutely filled, with what A.S. Byatt beautifully describes as “pale gold goodwill.”  Because this is true–I do make new friends all the time and, because I am an archivist, most of these new friends are, indeed, dead!  But this does not make them any less dear to me, and in fact, I often spend more waking hours in the company of my dead friends than I do with my living friends!

burton2016 has been a very good dead-friend-year for me. I was lucky enough to become acquainted with Burton Rascoe and his snarky humor–I chuckled over his letters as if he was sitting beside me; I admired the smooth flow of his language; and I nostalgically and wistfully enjoyed his 1920s parties. depreistprayers I also experienced the gentle kindness of James DePreist, a renowned conductor and the nephew of Marian Anderson.  I read the prayers he penned on post-it notes and hotel stationery before his performances and felt that I better understood him as a man and as a musician.  And then, I met Corneille, who I desperately wish was still alive (she would be about 116 years old today) because I really, really want to hang out with her.

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Happy Halloween (from the most fabulous witch EVER)

Happy Halloween to one and all!  If you are looking for a truly fabulous costume, we have the perfect volume! Fancy dresses described, or, What to wear at fancy balls, by  Ardern Holt, is an 1887 book containing gorgeous color plates and the description of costumes to be worn to fancy dress parties.  Here is the most traditionally Halloween of the costumes, but every one is absolutely amazing!  You would be the envy of every Halloween-er should you dress from this book!

2016-10-26-14-52_page_24

Celebrate People’s History

2016-10-11-11-45_page_10One of the best parts about preparing for our Archives Month Philly Event (this year our event, “By the Book:  Making–And Breaking!–The Rules,” is on October 25) is looking at my colleagues’ favorite finds.  This year, Abby Lang suggested an amazing collection of posters, Celebrate people’s history, compiled by Josh MacPhee, a designer, artist, and archivist who is a founding member of both the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative and Interference Archive.  He is also an author and editor and clearly interested in social justice.

2016-10-11-11-45_page_11According to the Justseeds Artists Cooperative website, “this cloth-bound box set documents the first 18 years and 100 posters in the Celebrate People’s History Poster series. The posters are rooted in the do-it-yourself tradition of mass-produced and distributed political propaganda, but detourned to embody principles of democracy, inclusion, and group participation in the writing and interpretation of history. It’s rare today that a political poster is celebratory, and when it is, it almost always focuses on a small canon of male individuals: MLK, Ghandi, Che, or Mandela. Rather than create another exclusive set of heroes, I’ve generated a diverse set of posters that bring to life successful moments in the history of social justice struggles. To that end, I’ve asked artists and designers to find events, groups, and people who have moved forward the collective struggle of humanity to create a more equitable and just world. The posters tell stories from the subjective position of the artists, and are often the stories of underdogs, those written out of history. The goal of this project is not to tell a definitive history, but to suggest a new relationship to the past.”

2016-10-11-11-45_page_08Each poster is offset printed and the box set includes a letterpress printed half-title sheet with curator’s statement.  One of the amazing things about these posters is that despite the date of the event, so many of them are completely relevant today.  We still worry about the same issues:  African American rights, Native American rights, gender equality, workers’ rights, environmental issues, and animal rights.  Every single poster is beautiful, powerful, and educational.

Researchers–come to the reading room to check out these images; students–use these images in your papers and projects, and everyone–come to see just one of these beauties displayed at our Archives Month event as an example of people who challenged the rules!