Archive for October, 2011

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William Henderson Civil War Diaries

The first of several new Civil War acquisitions arrived yesterday: 11 diaries written by William Henderson, who served as part of the “University Recruits” in Company C, 12th Iowa Regiment. He and his fellow students from Upper Iowa University mustered in Oct. 4, 1861. He went on to serve at Fort Donelson, Corinth, Vicksburg, Jackson, and others.

Henderson’s entry from 150 years ago today, October 26, 1861: “Dubuque Co. Iowa. I was released from Guard duty at 9 o’clock. It reminded me more than anything else of the responsibility of our position and the stern realities of war.”

We will be posting more about this collection in days to come, and all of the diaries will be scanned and added to the Civil War Diaries & Letters digital collection.

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Sense and Sensibility

It has been two hundred years since a book was published in England “By a Lady,” entitled Sense and Sensibility. On October 30, 1811, Jane Austen’s first novel was published, creating a literary phenomenon that continues to this day. Join us in the Special Collections reading room on the third floor of the Main Library on Friday, October 28 from 4:00pm to 5:00pm, when we will celebrate this event with an informal gathering. Our copy of the first edition of Sense and Sensibility will be out for viewing, along with a few other Austen pieces. End your week with some good books and good company.

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Collaboration in Comics: Tradition and Experimentation

As a virtual supplement to our exhibit The Comics Continuum (on view in the Main Library 3rd floor hallway, now through November) this fall we are featuring items from our comics collections on the Special Collections & University Archives blog. Below we’ve described two examples of collaboration in comics from the exhibition, but please explore our collections on your own! Comic Books in Special Collections is a good place to start online, or come into the reading room and check out the cart of comics material we’ve pulled out of the stacks.

While many comics from idea to finished product are the work of a single artist, collaborative work is an important part of the history of comics, both in the mainstream and experimental realms.

Dick Tracy storyboard

Max Allan Collins’ notes, including dialogue and textual description of the illustrations to come, for a Dick Tracy Sunday comic strip from the 1980s.

The Papers of Max Allan Collins, a UI alumnus, screenwriter, and novelist, contain records of Collins’ correspondence, notes, and writing as he created comics with collaborators who contributed ideas and characters (including Mickey Spillane, for Mickey Spillane’s Mike Danger), art (including Terry Beatty, for Ms. Tree), and lettering.  Collins also has worked to adapt/revive existing comics, as well as the expectations of their fans, in the case of Dick Tracy and Batman.  His papers provide insight into both of these processes, including research and analysis of a comic’s themes and style and creating new stories and sketches that appeal to a contemporary audience and meet the approval of the publisher.

In a letter to the Dick Tracy artist Rick Fletcher from 1980, Collins describes some of the difficulties and compromises inherent in collaborative work:

“Will do my best to describe wardrobe, situations, ‘up front’ – I try to be very specific in my panel descriptions and at the same time not hamstring you; a delicate balance. Occasionally this sort of thing is bound to happen, considering we collaborate largely by mail.”

 

Another item in the exhibition that features collaboration is C Comics No. 2. This 1965 publication is one of only two issues produced as a continuation of C: A Journal of Poetry, which was edited by the poet Ted Berrigan. C Comics is the result of collaborations between visual artist Joe Brainard and a number of poets associated with the New York School including Berrigan, John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, and Kenneth Koch. Much of Brainard’s other artwork uses comic conventions or existing comic characters like Nancy, and in C Comics the combination of semi-abstract images, re-appropriated characters, unusual layout, and the language of the New York School of Poets creates an innovative form of comics, a precursor to modern experimental and artistic comics of all types.

C Comics "The Earth Machine"

from "The Earth Machine" by Kenneth Koch and Joe Brainard, C Comics No. 2, 1965

Rather than set existing poetry in comic form, as others have done, Brainard drew the graphic parts of the comics (sometimes straightforward, sometimes abstract or absurd) with blank spaces and asked his poet collaborators to fill them in with words. In addition to this issue of C Comics, Special Collections has a number of books on Brainard, including Ron Padgett’s Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard, in which he describes a later comics collaboration between artist and poet:

“Knowing that Joe preferred not to do the kind of messy, spontaneous, simultaneous collaborations that we had done [earlier], I wrote a text–a pseudo-professorial statement–that I thought could be adapted to the comic strip form. Then Joe and I set about looking through his … postcard collections, selecting images that jumped out at us. We quickly put them in a sequence, sometimes matching image and text, sometimes going against an overt connection. In light of the images, I made a few final revisions of the text. Joe then redrew everything in black and white, and I lettered in the words” (163).

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Civil War transcription – The Winslows

As part of the roll-out of our expanded Civil War transcription project (see the announcement here) we tweeted a letter written by Ferdinand S. Winslow to his four year old son, William Herman. Several of our readers have wondered what became of the Winslows after the war, and the story is actually quite interesting.

Ferdinand Winslow was a Quartermaster during the war, serving at various ranks and taking on progressively greater responsibilities. He also seems to have been a dedicated family man, as the letter to “Herman” demonstrates. During the war Ferdinand and his wife Wilhelmina conceived another child, and Ferdinand was so eager to be with his family when the birth was imminent that he attempted to resign his post multiple times, writing with increasing desperation to Mina in hopes that he would join her soon. Unfortunately, the letters in our collection stop just before we learn if he was successful. The child was born in 1863 while the family was in St. Louis. Two more children came in 1866 and 1868—sadly, all three of these children died before reaching age 10. Ferdinand seems to have lived on for a good many years–there is some evidence he eventually settled in New York City.

William Herman, who received the letter from his father with the ring to kiss, went on to form a company with his brother, Francis, called Winslow Brothers Ornamental Iron Works. They were responsible for much of the decorative iron work that can still be seen around Chicago today, such as the façade to the Carson Pirie Scott building. William Herman Winslow, through his association with Louis Sullivan, befriended a young Frank Lloyd Wright, and commissioned Wright to design his home in River Forest, IL.  Winslow and Wright set up a printing press in the basement and produced several private press books, including the significant piece House Beautiful, designed by Wright. The house is still standing today, a testament to a remarkable family that persevered through the Civil War and took part in the building of Chicago.