John Bartram Association records relating to its foundation and early organization

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An invitation card to John Bartram’s 200th Anniversary, 1899

For those interested in the John Bartram Association, the organization responsible for the preservation of John Bartam’s former home and garden known today as Bartram’s Garden, the national historic landmark house and garden and treasure to the Philadelphia community and botanical enthusiasts across the globe, the John Bartram Association records relating to its foundation and early organization is now available for use!

This collection, dating from 1779 to 1937 (bulk 1893 to 1911), documents the association’s foundation and early administrative activities predominately through correspondence with individuals and organizations including John M. Macfarlane, Professor Emeritus of Botany at the University of Pennsylvania, the Bartram Memorial Library Committee, Philadelphia Allied Organizations, and the Fairmount Park Commissioners. The collection is accented by newspaper clippings, advertising fliers, and invitation cards that relate to Bartram’s legacy, his former home and garden, his library, and the study of botany.

John Bartram (1699-1777) was born a third-generation Quaker in Darby, Pennsylvania, who followed his father’s footsteps by becoming a farmer. However, his inquiry into the natural world went well beyond farming, into botany and horticulture. These curiosities earned him an important place in the scientific world for his discoveries and generosity in sharing knowledge of the fledgling scientific discipline of botany. Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), the Swedish botanist and originator of the system of taxonomic classification, regarded Bartram as the “greatest natural botanist in this world,” an achievement yet unheard of from his European counterparts at the time considering his American colonial roots. In 1928, Bartram purchased a 102-acre plot of land from Swedish settlers with the intention of examining its ecology. This plot of land, now known as Bartram’s Garden, was the source of much inquiry for Bartram, in addition to his explorations of the east-coast, from New England to Florida, until the end of his life in 1777.

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Correspondence from the Philadelphia Allied Organizations requesting that the John Bartram Association join the park systems alliance, 1906

The site of Bartram’s Garden was maintained by Bartram’s descendants and other enthusiasts of the natural world, beginning with his daughter, Ann Bartram Carr and her husband Colonel Robert Carr in 1777 to the formation of the John Bartram Association in 1893. By the time the John Bartram Association was formed, it was evident that the grounds were in need of care that reached beyond the ability and resources of those in charge. The John Bartram Association and the allied park system of Philadelphia negotiated the terms to transfer the care and maintenance of Bartram’s former home and garden to the city of Philadelphia. Thanks to those negotiations, the home and garden are now under the care of the Fairmount Garden System.

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A history of the “John Bartram Memorial Library” written by John M. Macfarlane, Professor Emeritus of Botany at the University of Pennsylvania, 1926

In addition to the records pertaining to Bartram’s Garden, this collection documents the development of the John Bartram Memorial Library, a collaborative effort between organizations including the John Bartram Association, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Botanical Society of Philadelphia to accumulate and house the definitive collection of American botanical literature from Bartram’s time to the early 1900s. The library found a home in the University of Pennsylvania in June 1900, only four short years after the formation of the John Bartram Memorial Library Committee.

Needless to say, this collection is a fine compliment to the John Bartram Memorial Library and should also be a welcome reminder to go visit the glorious Bartram’s Garden!

The John Bartram Association records relating to its foundation and early organization finding aid can be found here.

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.

References:

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

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

 

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!

References:

Amorosi, A. D. (1995, October 26 to November 2). Mr. International Velvet. Philadelphia City Paper. Retrieved from http://www.citypaper.net/articles/102695/article033.shtml

 

The Telegraph Books collection finding aid can be found here.