A Travelogue to the Holy Land: CAJS ms. 477

CAJS RAR Ms 477 caught my eye in December, and when I cataloged it I realized that it is a manuscript which is very multi-faceted and stands out in a number of ways.

The title of the manuscript is Hibat ha-kodesh, which is translatable as “the affection for the holy”. This is the title written on the title page, and it resounds with the tone of the writing; Feivush Friedmann, a “hasid” of the dynasty of Sadigur, embarked on travel from his hometown in the Ukraine to the Holy Land, and after a long and arduous journey settled in Safed in the Upper Galilee, today in Northern Israel.

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Some Things About Joseph Eyer

In 1974, a doctoral student at the Penn Biology Department named Joseph (Joe) Eyer was in the process of crossing disciplinary borders in his scholarly work on social causes and health effects of stress. His research reflected an eclectic fusion of natural and social sciences. However, it is his unpublished personal essay (Jeremy Brecher collection of Joseph Eyer papers, Box 2, Folder 8, “Some Things About Myself,” undated) during his time in graduate school that leaves one in awe of the uniquely reflective nature of this individual. Below you may see a graph of Eyer’s life, in which the vertical axes represent “up” or as he identifies it with enthusiasm, attraction, fulfillment versus “down” or frustration, anger, depression. This graph is a perfect illustration of how he used his natural sciences background to reflect on the personal.

His essay gives a glimpse into his childhood, his struggles with mourning and mental health. In this writing, Eyer provides the reader with a multi-faceted perspective on his parents, in particular, how their genders and political beliefs affected their lives. He certainly also tried to provide a complex picture of his life, particularly, as he navigated his depressive and manic episodes. He mentions a learning curve of how he dealt with his bipolar disorder, how he used to resort to anger and passive-aggressive behavior when interacting with others. He writes that it required courage to strive to be alive and open. This desire to persevere seems to have inspired a series of his fascinating academic works, which tackled how socio-economic conditions affected one’s health, as well as his creative writing and poetry.  The Jeremy Brecher collection of Joseph Eyer papers includes published and unpublished works on a wide range of topics, from infant mortality to the effects of capitalism on one’s health, as well dozens of letters between him and his colleagues and friends.

An appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia

Earlier this year, we acquired the Monument Lab records … a fairly small, but truly powerful collection largely documenting a project that asks, “what is an appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia?”  There are 45,000 answers in this collection, but more than that, this collection answers other questions: Who are Philadelphians? Of what are we proud?  What do we want to change?  And what makes us and this city unique?

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Heroines Behind the Scenes of War

World War II provides much of the lore and mystique which fuels the modern American culture.  From movies, books, and television documentaries, it is hard to escape the particular monopoly this time period has on popular media.  When it comes to women of World War II, media tends to focus on those who have driven ambulances onto battlefields, stitched up patients on bloody stretchers, or spied behind enemy lines; but women served heroically in many ways, on the home front and overseas.  The Jane Wright Proctor Wallis family papers (Ms. Coll. 1310) tells one such story.

HoneyinmaskWhen the United States entered World War II, many families and individuals answered the call to serve anyway they could.  One such person was Honoria Wallis (Honey), the eighth child in the Wallis family, who after college, was working as a social service worker in Philadelphia. Upon joining the Red Cross Medical Corps, Honey was trained at the 46th General Hospital at Fort Riley, Kansas, from September 1942 to June 1943.

In July 1943, Honey was sent overseas, eventually serving “somewhere in North Africa,” in England, and “somewhere in Italy” as head medical social worker, where her job including “writing letters and securing comforts for sick and wounded soldiers to wrangling a circus tent for use as a recreation center.”

ms1310 nursing crew 1

Honey wrote to her mother whenever she was able, offering what news she could share, as well as her impressions of her surroundings. In addition to reassuring her family of safety measures for the social workers and describing eating out of mess kits, “a system which should have been organized in [her large] family years ago,” Honey wrote requesting light and diverting reading material to be sent for the injured soldiers (“western, mystery, and detective stories are badly wanted!”).  A letter from January 15, 1944  reads:

“We continue to be exceedingly busy, going as many hours as we can hold out…Our days are spent in the wards, giving out comfort articles which the men need.  Both sick and wounded, they come in from the front without any of their personal articles.  Many men cannot write their own letters.  We wrap and censor packages for mailing.  We help them with necessary telephone calls or telegrams.  We read to them and give any comfort and sympathy in our power.”

Typical nursing scenes

A scrapbook page documenting time in Naples, Italy 1944

Honey’s letters are fairly cheerful, but she clearly experienced hardships.  She writes of bad weather tearing down tents, illness, lack of sanitary facilities, long hours, and, of course, watching patients suffer.  In addition to the general miseries of war, some of Honey’s friends were killed in a plane crash and others were sent home with tuberculosis.  By the end of the summer of 1944, only Honey and one other woman from her Fort Riley class remained.  Despite all the difficulties, Honey stated, “I have never worked so hard nor been so happy in all my life.”  Although Honey “preferred to work directly with patients,” she was promoted to hospital supervisor, and she was assigned to hospitals in Naples and Rome until the end of the war.

After the war in Europe was over, Honey was Acting Field Director at Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver, Colorado, which treated mostly tuberculosis patients, many of whom were released from Japanese prison camps. Honey was no doubt seen as a great hero to the bored and lonely patients recuperating in military hospitals.  With books, music, movies, puzzles and recreation centers, she provided diversions from terrible memories and brought laughter into the dark world of war.

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A daughter’s love–Helen Weiss’s courage and empathy

Sometimes, right from the opening of a box, I know that I am going to love a collection–and that was the case with the Frank Weise collection of Helen Weiss material.  This small collection packed a quick punch–as I peered in the box, I saw letters (always a favorite of mine), some music by Weiss and music-y ephemera, and some mysterious memorial material.  It was the memorial material that piqued my interest almost immediately–I kept thinking that I was reading things wrong because Helen died in 1948 when she was only 28 … adding to puzzle was the very vague description of the cause of her death (“an accident of the slightest kind, occasioned the initiation of the evil (disease) that caused us to lose her”) in an obituary written by Carlos Raygada (box 1, folder 11).

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Lifetime(s) of work

One hears of a “labor of love” and a “lifetime of work” pretty frequently, but one truly sees its meaning in the Gordon A. Wilson notes and papers relating to the works of William Romaine Newbold.  It all starts with Aristotle!  William Romaine Newbold was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who lectured on philosophy and worked extensively translating Aristotle’s Metaphysics. According to the long history of the translations, before his death in 1926, Newbold handed over his work to one of his students Hartley Burr Alexander. Alexander proceeded to work on the manuscript with one of his students, Gordon A. Wilson, until his death in 1939. And then, Wilson worked with the manuscripts until his death in 1974. In case you are worried, I don’t think it was the manuscript that finished off any of the scholars mentioned above.

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The Many Battles of Little Sparta

It seems a fair rule: artists should never respond to criticism of their work. But few artists are able to resist the temptation, and the outsized role that critics play in an artist’s success, especially in more rarified fields, makes it almost inevitable that the result will be rancorous. The critic has the privilege of print and access to a large readership. How can the artist hope to respond to opinions with which they disagree, especially when these opinions seem to present an existential threat to their reputation and livelihood?

In the case of Ian Hamilton Finlay, famous concrete poet and landscape architect—whose work I had the pleasure of archiving recently, through a collection sold by Graeme Moore, a landscape artist and Finlay’s longtime associate—the answer was a form of ideological warfare. In 1986, two architecture critics, Gwyn Headley and Wim Muelenkamp, under the auspices of the UK’s National Trust, published Follies, a guide to what they saw as eccentric buildings and gardens throughout the United Kingdom. The authors included Finlay’s Little Sparta, a garden full of sculpture and concrete poetry, in this volume. Perhaps they meant this as a harmless designation, or even a way to drum up interest in what they saw as an unfairly neglected site.

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Service and Suspicion in the Clement and Sophie Winston Papers

[Written by Rive Cadwallader. This was the last collection she processed before graduating from the University of Pennsylvania.  Congratulations, Rive!]

Clement and Sophie Winston were, in their own estimation, “not politically active individuals”. Both were engaged in service to their country -Clement as an economic analyst at the Bureau of the Budget and Sophie as a volunteer arts instructor with the American Red Cross- yet they “never joined any groups pushing particular causes.” The couple took road trips, wrote poetry, and sent handmade birthday cards to their friends. However, their respectable vocations, political neutrality, and typical middle-class lifestyle were not sufficient to protect the Winstons from suspicion under what Clement described as the “present condition of hysteria” that pervaded the United States during the Cold War. Clement’s position at the Bureau of the Budget subjected him to scrutiny under the Executive Order 9835, signed by President Truman in 1947, which required ‘loyalty checks’ for all federal employees to ensure “maximum protection… against infiltration of disloyal persons.” The Loyalty Board initially determined that Clement held “associations with particular individuals” whose political affiliations were in question, but by December 1952, it ultimately resolved that there was “no reasonable doubt” as to Clement’s “loyalty to the government of the United States.” Clement’s correspondence from this period reveals that the process of this investigation and hearing was intensely stressful and unsettling for him. He wrote to a friend, after his hearing,

“My emotions are terribly disturbed. It seems as if I have suffered a great, great loss. It seems as if someone near and dear to me, someone who was a part of me, were forever and irretrievably lost. I feel so broken and so ashamed.”

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“Heavenly Monsters”: Horace Howard Furness, William Shak(e)spe(a)re, and the Furness Libraries

Horace Howard Furness and his grandson, Wirt L. Thompson (from the Furness Theatrical Image Collections)

“You could not believe that he was true. He was as a picture, or as a character of imagination.” When author John Jay Chapman first met famous Shakespeare scholar Horace Howard Furness, he could hardly contain his astonishment. Claustrophobically surrounded by the books and Shakespeariana of his study in rural Wallingford, Pennsylvania, Furness appeared to Chapman as “the most picturesque old gentleman I have ever known.” His grey eyes, “large head,” “short and stout” figure, his “wonderful neatness and trimness… as if his clothes were made of bronze,” and above all his ear-trumpet – “more like… the ornament of a fairy king or goblin herald than a necessary instrument,” as Chapman saw it – made Furness nothing short of a “heavenly monster of picturesque bonhomie” in the eyes of his visitor.

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

CAJS Rar Ms 481, Ḳunṭres Imre emet with Ṿikuaḥ ‘al ha-R.M. di Lonzano, was recently acquired at auction, thanks to the support of the Elis and Ruth Douer Endowed Fund for Judaica Collections.

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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