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The Individuals in History

I cannot begin to tell you how I got started working with the Sterns Family Papers.  But I can tell you that before opening those three boxes, I had a below-average interest in the civil war.  Having gone through the American public school system, I learned about the civil war at least once every school year until about the 11th grade.  It was as if each teacher was afraid that somehow, that lesson had been skipped the previous year.  While there was certainly some more information added to the lesson each year (like that dark time when we learned it was really all about the economy), the lessons surrounding the civil war largely stayed the same.  North vs. South, freedom vs. slavery, brother vs. brother.

Enter, Thomas Rescum Sterns: a real, live, Civil War soldier who fought for the Union.  Sure, he’s no Abraham Lincoln, but he was a citizen of the United States with a farm, a family, and a job, teaching the third grade in Wisconsin.  Thomas wrote letters to his wife, Lavinia Sterns, during his time as a soldier, and these are being preserved in our civil war letter collection.  When I stumbled across these letters, I became absorbed by them.  I couldn’t stop reading.  Here were letters written by someone who was experiencing the events, firsthand, that I had only read about in textbooks.  It was like watching a movie, or reading a novel about the civil war, except it was real, interesting, heart wrenching, and hilarious.

“I take the pleasure of writing a few lines to you…” is how Thomas Rescum Sterns started his lengthy series of correspondence to his wife.  Thomas wrote about the sickness he observed, and later experienced, in the camp at which he was stationed.  He wrote about the progress of the war, and how, due to his location, Lavinia probably knew more about it than he did.  But most importantly, he wrote about hardtack: that stale bit of cracker they were all subsisting on, and Thomas took it in stride, but didn’t hesitate to crack a few jokes about the civil war staple.

rescum blog“Oh! yes a few words about our fare. As I told you in my other letter our bread is principally crackers. A day or two ago Dolph had been to dinner eating crackers of course. We found one that was marked 1801 and another the date being still earlier. It being made in Nazareth B.C. 36. You may judge whether they are old and hard or not. You need not be afraid of my getting killed by the enemy’s bullets for this reason. Just before I go into battle, if such may be the case, I shall fill myself as full as possible with these crackers which of course are hard and then I shall oil my belly and of course if the bullets strike me then glance as though they had struck an ironclad gunboat” (Nov. 12, 1862).

 

So why should we care what Thomas Rescum Sterns thinks?  Sure, his thoughts on hardtack may not be the most historically significant, but those few lines prove that Thomas Rescum Sterns wasn’t just another statistic.  He was a real person, with real thoughts, and a very real sense of humor.

And I suppose that’s how I fell in love with this collection.  Thomas Rescum Sterns reminded me that history is about the individual.  The ability to personalize history is such an incredible opportunity provided by our collections, and it has truly reignited my interest in our past.

So if you feel like you’re in a historical rut, check out this collection, and more on the Iowa Digital Library’s website.

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A display in the reading room about the life of Thomas Rescum Sterns

And if you’d like to see more about Thomas Rescum Sterns, check out our Tumblr series, or this great article written by a former head of Special Collections and University Archives.

 

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The Detroit News Menu Cook Book

 

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In August of 1920, a radio station under the name “8MK” was launched for The Detroit Evening News. Later named “WWJ”, it was the first radio station with daily programs. Less than a year after the station was launched, the radio show “Hints to Housewives” was created and later, “Tonight’s Dinner by Radio”. The show aired every morning, except for Sundays and holidays, and included ideas for evening meals and table service. Recipes for the dishes on the show were then published in the Women’s Pages of The Detroit News. However, many listeners and readers wanted a more permanent form of the recipes, so in 1933, The Detroit News published The Detroit News Menu Cook Book.

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This cookbook includes four weeks of dinner ideas for each of the four seasons, as well as meal ideas for a few major holidays, like Christmas and Thanksgiving. There is a wide variety in the menus included, from “Meat Loaf with Scalloped Potatoes and Mashed Turnips”, to “Calf Hearts with Onions and Parsley Potatoes”. The book even includes a recipe for “Baby Porcupines”, which do not actually contain any porcupine, but appear to be meatballs rolled in rice. Everything from Brussel sprouts to apple soufflé can be found in this book. In the back of the book is a section titled “CleaningHints”, which includes suggestions for removing stains from clothes, removing mildew spots, and even how to clean oil paintings.
Even though it is over eighty years old, this adorable purple with white polka dot cookbook could be found useful today.

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-Emily

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Looking for Love in the Library

Have you been searching for a good book with which to spend Valentine’s Day?  Want to use your card game skills to attract a mate?  Looking for a rare book to discuss over dinner with that special someone?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should stop by the UI Main Library this week to check out some of our Valentine’s Day events!

Pants 4 U "My heart pants 4 U," August 1, 1907

Pants 4 U
“My heart pants 4 U,” August 1, 1907

Play with Hearts–Tuesday, February 10th

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Come to Group Area D (across from Food for Thought Café) to learn how to play the game, Hearts.  You can also enjoy some vintage baked goods made from recipes from special collections’ historic recipe collection.  There will even be recipes available for you to plan your own Valentine’s meal!

Blind Date with a Book–Wednesday, February 11th

12:00pm-2:00pm

Stop by Group Area D to check out a book.  But this time, there will be no judging by the cover.  We’ll set you up with a blind date that you get to take home with you for some Valentine’s reading.  A Spinster’s Tale or Love in the Time of Cholera: Which one will you take home tonight?

Love in the Stacks—Thursday, February 12th

12:00pm-4:00pm

Drop into Group Area D and we’ll help you out with some Valentine’s gifts!  View items from the University of Iowa Special Collections and University Archives while you make buttons from prints of our more romantic books, or send an e-card  to your loved ones.

 

You never know where love will find you, but you do know where to find us.  We’ll see you in Group Area D!

 

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Aldus Manutius: A man with a plan, a printshop, and a pretty sweet colophon

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Aldus Manutius was born in Italy during the Italian Renaissance.  He became the leading printer of his time and is responsible for many literary accomplishments, including the invention of italic type for use in a printing press and the semicolon.  Most importantly, Manutius was one of the first people to publish small, pocket editions of books that more people could actually afford.  This month, we’ll be featuring a few of the books in our collection which were published by this incredible scholar on our Tumblr, so we thought we would give you all a little more background information.

Manutius’ goal was to preserve ancient Greek literature by printing personal, usable editions for everyone to own.  He accomplished this by organizing the famous Aldine Press.  Through the Aldine Press, Manutius was able to produce the first printed editions of many Greek and Latin classics.  These included works such as The Odyssey, The Iliad, and The Divine Comedy.  Aldus Manutius’ work is always recognizable by the colophon (or inscription, which gives details about the book, usually found at the end of a work), which pictures a dolphin wrapped around an anchor.

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Here at the University of Iowa Special Collections and University Archives, we are honored to house such an incredible collection of his works.  Keep an eye out for posts about Manutius on our Tumblr, as well as other social media.  If you have any questions about these items, feel free to ask us on our social media, or email us at lib-spec@uiowa.edu.

-Kelly

*Photo of Manutius from www.aldussociety.com

**Photo of Colophon taken from the UI Special Collections and University Archives edition of The Odyssey

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First Edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit

First edition, first issue, privately printed in 1900, issued in 1901

First edition, first issue, privately printed in 1900, issued in 1901

July 28th marks the 148th birthday of Beatrix Potter:  illustrator, natural scientist, conservationist, and, of course, world-famous author of  The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Here at the University of Iowa, we are fortunate enough to have a copy of one of the first printings of this charming tale, which according to our acquisition papers, was previously owned by Potter’s niece. The provenance is not the only thing that makes this copy special, but the condition alone is enough to impress any Beatrix Potter collector. Children’s books were often avidly read and handled, hence, finding this famous piece of children’s literature in such good condition is quite remarkable. When placed next to a 1993 facsimile, only the size and slight difference in the color can distinguish the two.

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The Tale of Peter Rabbit in it’s custom-made box which was likely made around 1948.

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This particular book was one of 250 that were privately printed by Potter, as she was initially rejected by multiple publishers for commercial printing. It is widely believed that the first edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit was printed in December 1901. However, our copy’s acquisition papers show that Potter’s records indicate it was privately printed in 1900, and then later issued in 1901.

Acquisition papers from 1948 stating this book was printed in 1900.

Acquisition papers from 1948 stating this book was printed in 1900.

After a second printing of 200 first editions of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in February 1902, the story started to gain some popularity. Eventually, after some textual alterations and the addition of color images, Frederick Warne & Co. published 8000 copies of the first commercially sold edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in October 1902. Some of the changes to later productions were to omit pages that were deemed “unsuitable for children”.

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One set of these omitted pages show how Peter Rabbit’s father was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor (this made it into the first commercially sold edition).

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Another set of omitted pages show a rabbit smoking a pipe of tobacco (which only appears in the privately printed editions).

Along with many related Peter Rabbit books, such as The Peter Rabbit Pop-Up Book, Peter Rabbit’s Cookery Book, and Yours Affectionately, Peter Rabbit (currently on display in our reading room), we also have a 1910 edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. This cover style, which began with the first commercially printed edition in 1902, can be seen in contemporary publications.

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1910 edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Beatrix Potter has thirty-three titles to her name, twenty-three being similarly written tales to accompany The Tale of Peter Rabbit. We have many of these wonderful tales in our collections, and audiences of young and old are welcome to take a look!

Can’t make it to to the collections? Check out a fully digitized version of the first edition, first printing of The Tale of Peter Rabbit here!

Beatrix Potter aficionado, Lindsay Morecraft

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Spring Break Class Solving Research Mysteries

Today a team of librarians, archivists, and museum professionals from around campus including University Archivist David McCartney again begin teaching a week long Spring Break class, “The Continuing Role of Real Collections.” The students have been researching mystery items as part of the class and often come up with very surprising revelations!  What follows is a post from a student from last year’s class, Lindsay Schroeder, and the surprising story she unearthed:

The Mystery Portait

The Mystery Portrait

During spring break of 2013 I took Topics in Museum Studies:The Continuing Role of Real Collections, taught by David McCartney with many prominent guest speakers within the museum and library fields. We were given a project to research artifacts within the University of Iowa that had little to no information connected to them so little is known about what they are. I chose a large painted portrait of a man with a wood, ornate frame and held only one clue, the artist’s signature. This mysterious artifact was found in the University of Iowa’s Museum of Natural History’s attic storage cabinet, hidden between large animal hides this spring.

The artist’s name was Marie Koupal, dated 1882. I researched her name and found an article within the Daily Iowan, dating November 19, 1920. It was about a man named Dr. Mark W. Ranney and his cherished book collection that stood in the Ranney Memorial Library at the University. The article concluded with a major clue, “Besides the books there are about twenty pictures on the walls that belong in the collection. Most of these are portraits…A portrait of Dr. Ranney stands on an easel in one corner of the room. This was done in 1882 by Marie Koupal and is framed in a fine hand made frame of several kinds of wood” (Daily Iowan). This was the same portrait, of Dr. Mark W. Ranney. This object’s original purpose had to be a memorial piece done by Koupal, because on January 13, 1882, Dr. Ranney died of acute pneumonia.

Special Collections has information in their collection guide pertaining to the Dr. Mark Ranney papers, with an additional link to a biographical report written by Margaret Schindler Bryant, in Books at Iowa, Issue 30, April 1979, about Dr. Ranney. This report gave me a lot of information regarding Dr. Ranney and his passion for collecting rare books along with other artifacts. Bryant’s report gave great insight to who this man was and why his portrait was originally located in the library during the 1920s, commemorated on an easel. Dr. Ranney’s wife bequeathed his entire collection to the University of Iowa after her death on July 18, 1907. She left a trust that created the “Mark Ranney Memorial Fund”. This established the Mark Ranney Memorial Library that was located in room 305, Schaeffer Hall.

The day before my report and presentation was due, I was searching the Iowa Digital Library within the time frame of 1920-1940. After endless searching for more concrete information, I came across the ultimate completion of this project, a photograph from the digital database of the Mark Ranney Memorial Library with the portrait of Dr. Ranney on the easel in the 1930s. It was truly amazing and reminded me of why I am in this field of work.

Photograph of Ranney Memorial Library with the portrait visible in the room

Ranney Memorial Library, Schaeffer Hall, University of Iowa, between 1902 and 1907.

 

The Mystery Portait

Portrait identified as Mr. Ranney

Visit this photograph here

Many thanks to Lindsay Schroeder for identifying this important portrait so it could be reunited with the Ranney Collections in Special Collections!

 

 

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World War II Map of Occupied Countries

map_legend3Today is Veterans Day so we want to share this 1943 map of occupied countries, noted in gray. The legend reads: “Help erase the gray blots on this map by buying U. S. war bonds and stamps.” This map is part of the John N. Calhoun Papers. Calhoun lived in Burlington, Iowa. After earning his law degree at the University of Iowa, he served as a senator in the Iowa state legislature from 1933 to 1937. Major Calhoun served as a member of the U. S. Army in the Persian Gulf from 1942 to 1945 and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Calhoun returned to his legal practice in Burlington following the war. His papers include other materials from his World War II service, such as photographs and correspondence.  We are grateful to have received John Calhoun’s papers from his wife after his death in 1972.

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New from the International Dada Archives

Three major new acquisitions from Dada’s transitional period of 1919-1920 document that movement’s spread beyond its World War I origins in neutral Switzerland to the key cultural centers of Europe during the early postwar era.

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Francis Picabia was one of the chief agents for the propagation of the Dada movement, and his  periodical 391  was a key vehicle for spreading Dada beyond its origins in Zurich. Picabia published the first four numbers in Barcelona, then took 391 with him to New York, Zurich, and finally Paris. Special Collections owns ten of the nineteen issues, representing all four cities. Our latest  acquisition  is Number 9 (November 1919), the first issue to be published in Paris (following the single Zurich number), just as Tristan Tzara, Dada’s self-proclaimed leader, was preparing to move to the French capital. With a cover featuring one of Picabia’s famous machine drawings, and with texts by Tzara, Picabia, and future Parisian Dadaist Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, this issue anticipates the founding of the Paris Dada movement.

Published shortly after the author DS_IMG_1725 had established himself in Paris, Cinéma calendrier du coeur abstrait; Maisons (1920) completes our collection of Tzara’s three books of poetry in the series “Collection Dada.” The first two were published in Zurich, and this third collection marks the full fruition of Dada in Paris. Illustrated with nineteen original woodcuts by Jean Arp, this masterpiece of Dada book art is signed by the author and the artist.

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Die Schammade (also known as Dadameter) is the seminal publication of the short-lived branch of the Dada movement in Cologne, Germany. Edited in early 1920 by Max Ernst and Johannes Baargeld and printed on multicolored paper with magnificent woodcuts and drawings by Ernst, Arp, and others, Die Schammade typifies the international nature Dada, and includes texts in German and French, including some of the most important Dada writings of Arp, Ernst, and Baargeld.

tumblr_mt2o0qHRoS1rqo4zeo1_500In addition, we recently acquired the one issue of the Dada publication 291 not previously in the collection, making a complete set.

All four items will be scanned for the Digital Library of Dada.

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Identifying our 4mm Miniature Book

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Microminiature Bible

The University of Iowa Special Collections and University Archives is home to the Charlotte Smith Collection of miniature books with more than 4,000 tiny tomes.  Most perplexing has been this microscopic Bible that remained unidentified, likely because we lacked the tools to adequately magnify the page with the publisher’s information.  Highlighting this tiny book yesterday on our social media pages brought it to the attention of our conservator, Giselle Simon, who suggested that we try the microscope that recently arrived in the conservation lab.

Handling it safely proved to be no easy task!  With some extra sets of hands we were able to read the name of the publisher – Toppan Printing Co.  (You can see the damage on this page from earlier attempts to read it).

Following the trail we were able to identify the item as being a set of two books sold at the 1965 World’s Fair in New York.  In fact, the larger miniature book in the set was already in the collection, unassociated with the ultra microminiature that could not be read.

Now the two have been reunited and they will be cataloged together.

Citation as included in Anne C. Bromer’s excellent reference book, Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures from 2007.

Holy Bible, Tokyo: Toppan Printing Company, 1964.  4x4mm.  Published to coincide with the New York World’s Fair in 1965, this Bible was printed by a new process called “microprinting.”

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Strolling through a Miniature Garden

In Of Gardens, Francis Bacon praises gardening as “the purest of human pleasures; it is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man […].”  Having just moved here from Bozeman, MT, and left my garden behind to start the Library and Information Science master’s program, I have been sorely missing the simple pleasure of watching something grow.  The jar of green onions growing on the windowsill of my basement apartment window does not seem to refresh my spirits in quite the same way as Bacon intended. He says that only a 30 acre garden will do—clearly, Bacon never had to live in a basement apartment. So while the corn continues to grow to as high as an elephant’s eye and squash vines consume other people’s backyards, I have decided to scour Special Collections for gardening books in order to vicariously experience “the purest of human pleasures.”IMG_1596_b

During my search, I chanced upon Claire Lawson-Hall’s diary of a single year of gardening.  She has separated her story by season: A Spring Garden (1999), A Summer Garden (1999), An Autumn Garden (2000), and A Winter Garden (2001), illustrated by Muriel Mallows and printed at The Alembic Press, Marcham, UK. The design of each miniature evokes the season Lawson-Hall chronicles. IMG_1572_2 In A Spring Garden she describes the progress of her garden February through May.  The blackbirds, starlings, and robins have all returned and set up various camps. The bulb flowers are blooming and ladybirds(bugs) have made an early appearance. Like every other gardener Lawson-Hall must battle snails and weeds, although I have to disagree with her  unfavorable opinion of dandelions—dandelion wine and salads are delightful! The pages of this book are folded like a cootie catcher and they spring open much like the flowers in her garden. When the book covers are tied together there are beautiful floral designs on either underside.IMG_1575_2

May through August summer returns and swallows take center stage in her narrative. Lawson-Hall describes their nest making and the birth of the first set of chicks and their departure. Her orchard is in bloom and volunteer poppies have sprung up on the edges of the garden.  In August she worries about drought, like most of us now, and hints at the first signs of autumn.  To me the design of this book conjures the image of wandering around her garden as the text winds from vertical columns to horizontal and back again. I love the final image where we can see Lawson-Hall doing battle with the valerian.IMG_1581_2

IMG_1585_2In autumn the last of the swallows leave and September through November Lawson-Hall focuses on preserving her harvest and making jams.  Hedgehogs mosey about the property and mowing the lawn and raking leaves are given constants in this season. This book design might be my favorite. It works like a Jacob’s ladder and the pages tumble down and become disarranged when I try to figure out the best way to read her diary. I think this is her cleverest representation of a season; the descending pages perfectly represent the falling leaves. Where the other illustrations are colored by watercolors, this book features real fall leaves stamped onto the squares of cardboard.

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Lawson-Hall admits that winter is her least favorite season, perhaps this distaste accounts for her own tardiness when planting her broad beans and garlic. The unassuming design of this miniature also suggests that she was less inspired by the season, but I IMG_1591_2think it mimics winter quite well. The book is bound as a codex (curiously 2 gatherings have been bound out of order in our copy) which creates a more static feeling rather than the active unfolding, turning, or picking up motions involved with reading the other three works.  This more passive reading conveys to me a sense that the reader and author have moved indoors and that we are no longer rambling through the garden. The illustrations this time bear heavy plate marks which give the impression of looking through a window pane at the flora and fauna outside.

If Bacon read these little books, I am sure he would change his view that pleasure from a garden can only be derived if experienced by wandering through 30 acres or more of land.  These 3x3in. books take the reader on a memorable and tactile journey. Now I am inspired to expand my windowsill garden from just green onions in a jar to maybe some kitchen herbs too—then I will have an excuse to create my own cute garden books.