A splash of color against a black and white background is always visually arresting, whether it’s the world of Oz outside a Kansas farmhouse door or a nineteenth-century chromolithograph tucked inside a sixteenth-century Bible. This brilliant commemorative print issued during the 1891 exposition of the Heilige Rock (Holy Coat) of Trier fairly leaped out at me from between the leaves of a 1573 French edition of the Vulgate presented to the Penn Libraries as part of the Peter Way Collection of Early Modern Texts. The Heilige Rock, which has been identified with the seamless robe (Greek χιτών) of Jesus Christ described in the gospel of John (19:23), is one of the Christian relics reportedly discovered by Saint Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine, during her pilgrimage to Palestine in 326-328. Medieval Trier, following a tradition first recorded in the ninth century, claimed Saint Helena as one of its own—indigena civitatis Trevericae, in the words of the twelfth-century Inventio S. Mathiae (quoted in Pohlsander 120)—and the seamless robe of Christ as her gift.¹
Early Soviet posters aimed to end the Old Regime in every way, and that included religion. The poster above is a part of the collection of 48 Soviet propaganda posters from the 1920s and 1930s. This fascinating collection includes anti-religious and anti-capitalist messages, as well as instructional posters on the new ways of Soviet childcare and parenting. Many of them explicitly criticized the clergy, blaming them for clouding the minds of the masses with distracting messages.
The previous version of the finding aid for this collection included a note for Poster #5 (P-05), the first image in this post, describing it as “Image of God creating pests.” However, it is unlikely that this man was meant to be God. It was not common for Soviet posters to do so, since according to Soviet communism, there was no God. So any form of religion and faith was depicted as the clergy or figures that that religion itself used, like Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and angels. Sometimes propaganda portrayed it as Jesus riding on a tank, see the image below.
So considering that the majority of the posters in this collection condemned Orthodox Christianity specifically, could the man from Poster 5 be a priest? Do the insects represent enemies of the people or God’s punishment? Or does the poster literally refer to bad harvests? Most of the time these posters portray religious authorities as conniving, as opposed to this whimsical-looking man. Or could it be God in general? Bezbozhnik newspaper sometimes portrayed a somewhat similar-looking man as God. Could this be a scene from some religious text or does this deal with collectivization? Share your thoughts with us!
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 Texts. Continue reading
The Common Press was founded at the University of Pennsylvania on January 17, 2006, the 300th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s birth. As such, you would be right if you guessed that the “Ben” below is, in fact, in reference to Benjamin Franklin (2006, created by students at the Common Press).
The Common Press was conceived as an interdisciplinary project by the Kelly Writers House; the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts; and the University of Pennsylvania Fine Arts program, to create an environment encouraging collaboration among students with an emphasis on working among digital and analog design, writing, and image making. Located in the printmaking facility of the Fine Arts program, the press houses equipment spanning over two centuries including several antique presses, lead and wooden type, and wood cuts and photogravure plates.
Common Press printed projects and ephemera, 1998-2016, Print Coll. 37, includes broadsides, posters, flyers, postcards, cards, and chapbooks, and the projects were created using a variety of printing processes and techniques. Event posters include the one below, printed using charcoal (2010, created by Sophie Hodara and Matt Neff).
Over the years, the press has formed long-standing relationships with local institutional partners including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Wharton Esherick Museum, the Print Center, and the Institute of Contemporary Art– an example of which is shown below (2012, created by Mark Owens).
The projects show a variety of printing techniques and image styles– see details below of two striking examples from 2010 (at left, created by students at the Common Press), and 2007 (at right, created by Matt Neff).
The projects also feature pieces of captured language, as well as famous sayings, as in the two examples below– at left (2006, created by students at the Common Press), a bit of wisdom from Benjamin Franklin, and at right (2008, created by students at the Common Press), a snippet of overheard conversation.
If these images have inspired you to embark upon your own letterpress project, I’ll leave you with this final sentiment, below (2012, created by Marianne Dages).
This collection is now open for research use.
I recently processed the Etta Winigrad papers, 1968-2016, a collection of slides and photographs of artwork, correspondence, and exhibition records belonging to Philadelphia-based sculptor, and University of Pennsylvania graduate, Etta Winigrad.
In addition to her amazing art (see above), I was struck by how many things Etta Winigrad did right in terms of organizing and collecting her papers. I mentioned this to a couple of my friends who are visual artists and they immediately asked me about best practices for storage of their own papers. While a short blog post absolutely cannot replace a proper workshop, class, or consultation with an experienced archivist, I thought it might be helpful to outline a few basic tips for artists organizing their archives. Please note that these tips are intended for straightforward archival collections such as loose papers and notebooks, and not for complex artworks in various mediums and materials which are better preserved in museum settings by art conservators and archivists. This blog post only addresses paper files and not born-digital files or files on media such as DVDs, CDs, VHS, etc. (See the end of the post for additional resources.)
First off, you may be thinking to yourself: I’m an active artist, but I don’t think that I’m going to be famous enough for anyone to want to collect my archives! Without going too deeply into this issue, I will say that there may be an interest in your archives for their historical/research value, even if you’re not the next Andy Warhol. For instance, the university you attended may be interested in acquiring your archives for your connection to their school. And, at the very least, you may want to leave your archives to a member of your family as a piece of family history.
Archiving for Artists: A Few Basic Tips
Keep your papers out of direct sunlight and in an area of relatively low temperature and humidity. Basements, garages, and hot attics are not good locations for your papers. Dust, moisture, and bugs/pests will damage your papers, so you’ll want to store them in containers of some sort (see next item).
If you prefer to pile your papers, use storage boxes to organize them. If you prefer to file your papers, a filing cabinet may be best for you. Whatever container you use—whether it’s a metal file cabinet, a cardboard Banker’s box, or a plastic tub, to offer a few examples—make sure that your files are protected from dust, moisture, and bugs/pests. You may have heard about acid-free folders and boxes, which archivists use for storage, but these boxes are pricey and only necessary for long-term storage. If you donate/sell your archives to an institution, the archivist who processes your collection will transfer everything into acid-free housing, so you shouldn’t worry about this for short-term storage. As most artists already know (hello, flat files!) it’s best to store paper flat, rather than rolled, and never folded, as the folds will damage the paper and, over time, the paper will begin to tear at the folds.
Dates and Labels
Whether you place your papers in folders or boxes, do make a habit of dating the folders, boxes, or pieces of paper themselves. Etta Winigrad, as an example, was very diligent about dating the files containing her exhibition records, which was immensely helpful in processing her papers. Remember also to date your sketchbooks and notebooks (not necessarily for every sketch or note, but intermittently throughout the book is helpful, especially since they usually cover a large span of time). Labels that identify your artwork or the exhibition that the artwork was shown in are also very helpful for your future archivist. Etta Winigrad has many slides in her collection, for instance, and the slide boxes are labeled with the titles of the artworks shown on the slides (see above).
Adhesive tape is the enemy. Over time, the glue on the tape will become yellow and gummy, marking the papers, and the tape itself will become brittle. Paper clips and staples are also problematic, as they damage papers both mechanically and by rusting over time. Processing archivists are usually working with backlogs and do not have time to remove staples and paper clips from every collection and, even if they do, the staples and paper clips will have already damaged the papers to some extent. Plastic paperclips, while they avoid the rust issue, can also damage the papers they fasten. Rubber bands rot over time and may attach to the papers as they disintegrate. The solution? There is no simple one. If you can go without a fastener, you should, especially if the papers are already grouped together in a folder. And fasteners should never go on top of original artworks like photographs or drawings.
You may have heard of LOCKSS, or Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe. If your work appears in an exhibition, keep more than one copy of the exhibition flyer or program, as Etta Winigrad did. Keeping more than one copy ensures that, if something happens to one of the copies, another is available as back-up. As another great example from the Etta Winigrad collection, one of Winigrad’s essays appears in an issue of Ceramics Monthly. One copy of the magazine, while still legible, has water damage, but she kept another copy of the same magazine issue, as well as a printout of the article. (Keeping multiple copies is especially important for digital files which, again, we won’t go into here.)
For more in-depth information, see the resources below. You may also inquire at a local archives, historical association, or library with archives and special collections holdings to see if an archivist, librarian, or curator can meet with you to answer your questions.
Thanks for your great example, Etta Winigrad! This collection is now open to researchers.
Resources for Collection and Preservation
Library of Congress – Audio-Visual Preservation:
Library of Congress – Care, Handling, and Storage of Works on Paper:
Library of Congress – Digital Preservation:
National Archives – How to Preserve Family Papers and Artifacts:
Northeast Document Conservation Center – Preservation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives – Preservation:
The Frederick P. Lee collection of World War I ephemera includes a number of eye-catching materials in a variety of formats that depict Britain’s role in WWI. Processing the collection, I was immediately struck by these World War I recruiting posters. The first one, “We will uphold the priceless gem of liberty … shall we help to crush tyranny?” shows a soldier standing at attention, framed by two Union Jacks, and was printed in Montreal by Gazette Printing Co., Limited, sometime between 1914 and 1918, according to the Library of Congress record.
The second poster, “Heroes of St. Julien and Festubert … shall we follow their example?,” shows a soldier in profile against a Union Jack and refers to the 1915 battles of St. Julien (part of the Second Battle of Ypres during which chlorine gas was used on the Allies) and Festubert (part of the Second Battle of Artois). This poster was also printed in Montreal by Gazette Printing Co., Limited, likely in 1916, according to the Library of Congress record.
What do we know about Frederick P. Lee? Well, he was an insurance agent, according to census records, and was born in 1880, in England. He immigrated to the United States in 1912 and lived in Santa Monica, California, with his wife, Olive, and son, Denis. A number of materials in this collection, including pamphlets and magazines, are stamped with the phrase, “With Compliments of Frederick P. Lee, Fellow of Royal Colonial Institute.” The collection includes serials and newspapers, such as Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly Newspaper, pamphlets reporting on the British war effort, and postcards depicting admirals of the British navy—see the portraits below by Francis Dodd (Print Coll. 33, Box 1, Folder 5).
The admiral on the bottom right looks familiar … Michael Fassbender, is that you?!
Another fascinating item included in the collection is an issue of The Wiper’s Times, a trench newspaper published by British soldiers fighting in the Ypres Salient during World War I. The soldiers used a salvaged printing press to print the newspaper, which featured a lot of humor and wordplay. It’s a fascinating story—there was a BBC series about it if you’re interested in learning more! The Penn Libraries has a complete collection of The Wiper’s Times which can be found here.
As most of the items in this collection were printed in England and concern England’s role in the war, one can surmise that Frederick P. Lee– while he was too old to have fought in the war, unless he volunteered– was interested in following his motherland’s work from abroad and encouraging US entry into the war. This collection is now open to researchers.
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
Early ms. sketch of a male figure (in military dress, armed with a shield?), a photo by Penn Provenance Project on Flickr.
Early ms. sketch of a male figure (in military dress, armed with a shield?) on verso of last printed leaf in volume.
Penn Libraries call number: GC5 K8183 529e
All images from this book
One of 4 early ms. marginal sketches in a copy of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Filocolo, printed in Venice on 24 December 1488 by Peregrinus de Pasqualibus (ISTC ib00744000):
The leaves of this copy are closely cropped at all margins with damage to each sketch. A ms. table headed “T.D.T. L. SS.” appears on leaf s4v; it records the locations of the sketches (each denoted by an initial: S, R, C, and P, respectively) in order of appearance by the folio number of the facing leaf.
Established form: Pasqualibus, Peregrinus de, Bononiensis, active 15th century
Leaf a5r of an incunable edition of Innamoramento di Carlo Magno e dei suoi paladini (Venice: Georgius Walch, 20 July 1481; ISTC ic00204000) with early ms. sketch of three male figures (two hatted and one with hat in hand), of whom two are clasping hands, a photo by Penn Provenance Project on Flickr.
Leaf a5r of an incunable edition of Innamoramento di Carlo Magno e dei suoi paladini (Venice: Georgius Walch, 20 July 1481; ISTC ic00204000) with early ms. sketch of three male figures (two hatted and one with hat in hand), of whom two are clasping hands, in tail margin.