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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

tiny book perched on a fingertip

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.

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1878 Dante: Smallest Movable Type

Miniature book resting on the palm of a handThis is the first of a long string of announcements of new acquisitions that we will be announcing, so follow our blog to hear all the latest!

Tiny is the only word to describe this 58mm volume LinkLa divina commedia di Dante.  This is the second smallest edition of Dante ever printed and is notable for using the smallest movable type ever cast.  It was printed in Milan in 1878 by Ulrico Hoepli.

If you want to test your eyesight, stop by to give this one a try.

Miniature2

 

 

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Leigh Hunt’s Fireplace

Last week we opened, for the first time, a wooden shipping crate that had been stored in the department for many years. It had been sent to the Libraries in 1986 by Desmond Leigh-Hunt, the great-great-grandson of the Romantic poet and editor Leigh Hunt. Desmond Leigh-Hunt described it in correspondence as the fireplace surround from the last home Leigh Hunt lived in, at 16 Rowan Road in Hammersmith, London. He included a document signed by Rodney Tatchell, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, asserting its authenticity and dating it to the early 1840s. After it arrived the crate was stored, unopened, primarily in the basement of the Main Library.

In 2012 we moved all of our departmental collections out of the basement to the third floor, including the 300 pound crate. We resolved to open it and examine its contents, and the winter doldrums of January seemed the perfect time to do so. The opening and unpacking is well documented in photos, which can be viewed on Flickr.

We have managed to arrange some of the pieces into an approximation of what the fireplace surround might have looked like, but what does this piece tell us about Leigh Hunt? Does it bring us closer to the real person whose books and manuscripts line our shelves?

To tell the story, we start back in the presence of Rodney Tatchell, whose signature affirms the statement about the fireplace surround at the time of its removal from the house. Tatchell was a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and he lived at 22 Rowan Road, the same street as Leigh Hunt’s old house. His wife, Molly Tatchell, shared his interest in their historical neighbor—in 1969 she published a book through the Hammersmith Local History Group entitled Leigh Hunt and His Family in Hammersmith. Her book provides an account of the final years of Leigh Hunt’s life, and includes detailed descriptions of his house at 16 Rowan Road (known as 7 Cornwall Road in Hunt’s time):

“[Regarding the cottages] no two are exactly the same. One type has two small reception rooms on the ground floor divided by a passage with staircase, the other has two larger rooms connected by double doors, so that they can be thrown into one: Leigh Hunt’s was one of this type. They have three or four bedrooms, the small one over the kitchen now being usually converted into a bathroom. The houses originally had, of course, no bathroom, and the privy was situated outside, near the back door.

“Such was Leigh Hunt’s simple, but not undignified, last home. Some of his visitors were to describe it in unflattering terms, but from what we can see of it today, and from what we know of its surroundings in the mid-nineteenth century, it cannot have been an unpleasant place in which to end one’s days.”  [p. 10]

Leigh Hunt and his wife Marianne moved to Hammersmith in 1853, leaving behind a house in Kensington steeped in the memories of a deceased son, and into a house near other family already settled in the area. Leigh Hunt was 69, had made peace with many of his former foes, and finally could rely on a relatively secure income. Marianne, however, was by this time entirely bed-ridden, and remained so until her death in 1857. As he aged, Hunt took on the air of an esteemed elder statesman of letters, in contrast to his youthful rebellion. He welcomed visitors to the house at 16 Rowan Road, including those who travelled from afar to see him, such as Nathanial Hawthorne.

One of Hunt’s visitors in Hammersmith was Charles Dickens, who had bitterly wounded Hunt with his portrayal as Harold Skimpole in Bleak House. The two had reconciled their differences, however, and Dickens visited Hunt on July 3, 1855. The following day, he wrote to his longtime friend Charles Ollier:

“I had got my new book ready packed to bring you, and the volume containing the passage about Watteau, and an account of some delightful hours which Dickens gave me here yesterday evening; and at a quarter to six o’clock, was obliged to give all up. “

“P.S.—By a curious effect of the evening sunshine, my little black mantle-piece, not an inelegant structure, you know in itself, is turned, while I write, into a solemnly gorgeous presentment of black and gold. How rich are such eyes as yours and mine, how rich and how fortunate, that can see visitations so splendid in matters of such nine-and-twopence!” [The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt, 1862, p. 203]

Now the pieces of black slate with inlaid marble here in Special Collections are tied directly back to Leigh Hunt. He would have been in the front room of his house, the window facing west, allowing the late afternoon sun to shine in and strike the fireplace surround. Curiously, it seems as though we have two complete fireplace surrounds, suggesting that there could have been openings in two rooms sharing a common chimney. This might be reasonable given Molly Tatchell’s description of the house’s layout, “two larger rooms connected by double doors, so that they can be thrown into one.”

For now, the pieces of Leigh Hunt’s fireplace will likely be re-housed in more stable materials, perhaps stored in several boxes rather than one very heavy crate. They will join some of the letters of Leigh Hunt, or the manuscript for Old Court Suburb—other material traces of Hunt’s time in his modest home in Hammersmith, at the end of a remarkable life. Perhaps some future renovation of Special Collections will include room to properly display the fireplace surrounds—but surely that is a matter of nine-and-twopence!

Molly Tatchell’s book Leigh Hunt and His Family in Hammersmith is still available from the Fulham and Hammersmith Historical Society’s website.

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Van Allen Explorer I Data Tapes: Preservation and Digitization

Image of James Van Allen with data tapes

The UI Libraries has been awarded $200,000 from the Carver Trust to digitize the data tapes from the Explorer I satellite mission that led to the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts. These tapes were recovered from the basement of Maclean Hall through the outstanding efforts of our Preservation Dept. in 2010-2011. During that time, tapes containing the original data from Explorer I, III, IV, and a few subsequent satellites, were cleaned and transferred to the Van Allen collection here in the University Archives. We will be using the funds from the Carver Trust to digitize the data from the Explorer I tapes and make it freely accessible online in its original raw format, to allow researchers or any interested parties to download the full data set. This resource will be complemented by an immersive online site containing material from the Van Allen archive that provides historical context and interpretation for the interested general public. This material includes scans of memos, planning documents, diagrams, correspondence, and diary entries, along with photographs, video, and audio items. The site will tell the story of James Van Allen’s work and the Explorer I mission in an interactive manner, and will also provide curriculum that will harness these unique historical and scientific resources to engage a new generation of students with the possibilities of scientific discovery.
 

For more information on NASA’s recent announcements relating to renaming efforts honoring James Van Allen see the November 12th article in “Iowa Now”  and the announcement from NASA.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

This morning I was a guest on Iowa Public Radio’s Talk of Iowa program, where we discussed Thanksgiving recipes, cookbooks, and traditions. You can listen to an archived version of the program here. Below are links to some of the items from Special Collections that were discussed on the show.

Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts: http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cookbooks

DIY History: http://diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu

Mary Shelton, Dec. 7, 1865 (1865-12-07): http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cwd/id/4275

Thomas Rescum Sterns from a letter home dated Nov. 28, 1862: http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cwd/id/15325

 

Below are a few other Thanksgiving-food related images from the Szathmary collection:

The Thanksgiving table , from the Pennsylvania Cookbook: http://diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu/transcribe/scripto/transcribe/120/7344

Turkey, from the Pennsylvania cookbook, 1889:  http://diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu/transcribe/scripto/transcribe/120/7352

James Doak cookbook: The Art of Cookery, circa 1760s, Turkey recipe: http://diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu/transcribe/scripto/transcribe/116/7052

James Doak cookbook: The Art of Cookery, circa 1760s, Sauce for a Boild Turkey: http://diyhistory.lib.uiowa.edu/transcribe/scripto/transcribe/116/7074

Ginger Cakes, 1840s (page 24): http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cdm/ref/collection/cookbooks/id/2865

Of course carving the fowl is often one of the most challenging steps of the Thanksgiving meal. Look no further than this copy of Pierre Petit’s carving manual of 1647, which has been extensively modified with manuscript additions and drawings:

 

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Advertising for “The Collegians,” by Carl Laemmle, Jr.

Fabric Banner for "The Collegians"

by Denise Anderson. 

Fall classes are now in session and the football Homecoming Centennial is upon us, so what better time to examine a felt pennant which advertises “The Collegians,” by Carl Laemmle, Jr. “The Collegians” was a series of 44 two-reel films, in which the same players reprised their characters through four years of a college life full of romance and football from 1926-1929. 

This pennant is from the Ted Rehder Papers.  Ted was a University of Iowa student in 1926 when “The Collegians” series was released and likely screened in Iowa City.  He went on to work serving U of I collegians for 47 years in dormitories and in dining service until his retirement in 1976.  We are grateful to Ted for preserving this piece of ephemera.

“The Collegians” was part of Carl Laemmle Junior’s first series, his silent comedy “Junior Jewels,”  produced between 1926 and 1929 for Universal, the film studio founded by his father in 1912.  In April 1929, Carl junior was placed in charge of all film production at Universal.  Among other genres, he produced horror movies such as “Frankenstein” (1931), “Dracula” (1931), “The Mummy” (1932), “The Invisible Man” (1933) and “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935).  Production of these films broke Universal after seven years under his direction, due to the Great Depression and the amount of money he insisted on spending in order to deliver the entertainment audiences desired. 

 Check out this and other pieces of ephemeral history from campus life in Special Collections and the University Archives.