Last night a meteorite slammed into the Russian countryside, as captured in many videos and photographs. 138 years ago in 1875, nearly to the day, a very similar event occurred in Iowa, when a meteorite disintegrated almost directly above Iowa City. It was documented by C.W. Irish, a local surveyor and astronomer. These images are from a document he published, An Account of the Detonating Meteor of February 12, 1875, printed by the Daily Press Job Printing Office on Dubuque St. in Iowa City. He wrote, “the length of the train was variously estimated…from seven to twelve miles, as seen from Iowa City. From three to five minutes after the meteor had flashed out of sight, observers near to the south end of its path heard an intensely loud and crashing explosion, that seemed to come from the point in the sky where they first saw it.”
Ask three different people why we remember William Morris, and you just might get three different answers. The social activist might mention his work in leftist politics. The designer might recall—with varying degrees of affection—his vivid wallpapers. The literature professor might quote a few lines of verse from the man who, upon the death of Tennyson, politely refused his country’s Poet Laureateship.
Those of us in special collections, however, best remember William Morris for his pioneering work with the Kelmscott Press. And pioneering is just the word. Morris bemoaned the state of bookmaking in Victorian England. (To be sure, he bemoaned just about anything made by machine.) Put off by the industrialization of book production, he returned to the roots of his craft, adopting as role models some of Europe’s earliest and greatest printers, and even tapping into the manuscript tradition that preceded them. His books were produced entirely by hand. In bucking the machine-made trend, Morris founded what has come to be called the fine press movement.
As you might imagine, Morris was a meticulous printer. Lucky for us, Special Collections recently acquired a rare witness to his attention to detail: twenty-two pages of proofs for his Poems by the Way. A proof is a copy of a text run off the press before the first printing intended for publication. Printers and authors would review the proofs and make needed changes. In this case, William Morris was both printer and author. Poems by the Way was only the second book to come off his Kelmscott Press, and the first in which he used both black and red ink.
Some changes aren’t surprising: a typo corrected, an ampersand spelled out. Others betray a much more careful attention to detail. Compare, for example, the decorative initials below. The letter used in the proof (on the left) and that used in the published version (on the right) are remarkably similar. But to a craftsman like Morris, those nuances were the difference between a good book and a great book. Subtle though they are, the changes we see between the proof and the published text offer a rare glimpse into the process behind some of Morris’s earliest book design.
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.
The U.S. launched its first satellite, Explorer I, on this day 55 years ago, on January 31, 1958. Under the direction of Prof. James A. Van Allen of the University of Iowa’s Department of Physics, the satellite carried a payload of data-gathering equipment which eventually revealed the presence of radiation belts encircling the earth.
Our observation of this anniversary is bittersweet this year, as one of the Explorer I team’s most dedicated developers, George Ludwig, died at his Winchester, Virginia, home on Jan. 22 at the age of 85.
George Ludwig was a doctoral candidate working on the project with Prof. Van Allen at the time, and he kept a journal chronicling the events. In his entry made at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 1, 1958, he declared:
“Success!! The first U.S. satellite is in orbit. It looks like a good one. … At about 12:41 (Eastern Standard Time) west coast stations started reporting signals. So it was around the earth once! … And so to sleep – the end of a beautiful day.”
Mr. Ludwig, a Johnson County, Iowa native who completed his doctoral dissertation in 1960, went on to a distinguished career with the Goddard Space Flight Center, and later helped lead the effort to establish the National Earth Satellite Service during the 1970s. In 1981 he became director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Environmental Research Laboratories, a position he held for two years before returning to NASA. He retired in 1984.
His papers are now housed in the University Archives. In addition, the original data he gathered and analyzed from Explorer I, the first scientific data ever transmitted from space, is being digitized and will be made available online in its original raw form. Mr. Ludwig was part of a small, select group of space exploration pioneers whose research laid the foundation for today’s understanding of our planet, our solar system, and beyond.
By Denise Anderson
Round the World with Nellie Bly is a Victorian-era board game housed in Special Collections & University Archives. McLoughlin Bros., New York, published the game in 1890 in celebration of her circumnavigation of the globe in record time, made from November 14, 1889 to January 25, 1890, exactly 123 years ago today.
Nellie Bly was the pseudonym assumed by Elizabeth Cochrane (1864-1922), a reporter for The New York World newspaper. Bly proposed the journalistic stunt to Joseph Pulitzer, owner of The World, because she preferred to report on this journey rather than be relegated to write the “ladies” page of domestic topics. She was inspired to propose the journey after reading Jules Verne’s 1873 novel, Around the World in Eighty Days, and set out to beat the record of the fictional character, Phileas Fogg.
The public invested in her success by submitting their guesses of her final time in a contest held by Pulitzer, as well as through purchasing The World to read the progress reports she had telegraphed to the news office.
We can follow Bly’s journey on the board game as she steamed from New York harbor (some sources cite New Jersey) to England and on to Amiens, France, where she was personally encouraged by Jules Verne. From there she travelled by train to Italy. Next, she steamed through the Suez Canal to Pakistan and Ceylon, then to Hong Kong and Japan, before sailing to San Francisco. The board depicts the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway engine and single car Pulitzer hired to whisk her from San Francisco to Chicago in the record time of 69 hours. Her slower modes of transportation included rickshaw and camel. The gamers of 1890 would spin the dial and hope to avoid certain squares on the board which saddled them with delays similar to those Bly encountered, such as waiting for a ship to depart.
Finally, 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes, and 14 seconds after she embarked on her strenuous journey, Bly was mobbed in New York by a crush of revelers on January 25, 1890. Perhaps the game was published prior to Bly’s arrival in New York, because day 72 has her situated in Chicago. The person with the winning entry received a trip to Europe. Nellie received her place in history – for this feat as well as other impressive accomplishments.
Romeo and Juliet (Naughty Dog Press) is a new book from Emily Martin, who teaches bookbinding and book arts classes here at the Center for the Book. Romeo and Juliet includes one line of dialogue to represent the story being told in each of the five acts, emphasizing the timelessness of the play through repetition of the chorus, and insertion of modern equivalents for Verona. This carousel book uses a format that Emily Martin devised to allow for scenes and separate text panels. The spine tabbing, also of her devising, functions both to hold the book together and to balance the thickness at the fore-edge. The text lines were letterpress printed onto Mohawk Superfine 100 lb Text paper. The images were made with an ink transfer monoprinting technique. The covers are printed on a handmade flax, abaca and linen paper from papermaker Mary Hark. Edition of 9 with one artist’s proof. (Adapted from the artist’s colophon).
Nest of Patience is a new acquisition from Kristin Alana Baum (Blue Oak Bindery) and Cheryl Jacobsen, calligraphy instructor at the Center for the Book. A collaboration based on a medieval girdle book, Nest of Patience is a contemporary Book of Hours contemplating the concept of patience by way of words, poetry, fortunes, and nature. The book begins with a spiritual calendar of days and proceeds with eight sections, each headed with a totem animal. Full vellum text block includes hand-stitched indigo-dyed slunk panels, hand-lettered texts, illuminations, and sewn-in found objects relating to patience. Wooden board binding, sewn on hemp cords and laced into beech boards.
Nest of Patience is currently on the New Acquisitions shelf in the Reading Room and Romeo and Juliet will be joining the shelf just after Christmas. Stop by to enjoy these two new works from U of I faculty!
By Denise Anderson
During this week of final exams, perhaps a more enjoyable test to engage in might be one that measures your artistic ability? Professor Norman C. Meier, of the UI Department of Psychology, developed the Meier Art Tests, which evolved from his Ph.D. dissertation at Iowa in 1926, “The Use of Aesthetic Judgment in the Measurement of Art Talent.”
Meier became well known for the tests he designed for assessing artistic aptitude. These were devised, in part, through his study of 100 artists from eight countries. His areas of research were psychology of art, and social and political behavior. Meier’s research in the latter field resulted in methods of measuring audience response to theatre and broadcast programs. He also studied mob behavior and crowd control. George Gallup was a student of Dr. Meier, who later developed a successful public polling organization, and his papers also recently came to the University of Iowa.
An example question “Meier Art Tests: I. Art Judgment ” (1940) is presented below. Which seems like the better image to you?
The University of Iowa was a primary contributor to the development of aptitude testing in the early 20th century. The Iowa Testing Programs led to Meier and Gallup’s work as well as the widely used American College Testing Program (ACT). You can read more about this time in The Iowa Testing Programs: The First Fifty Years, by Julia J. Peterson, which describes the birth of a testing program within the University of Iowa College of Education in 1928. Norman Meier’s Papers are part of Special Collections & University Archives (RG 99.0163) and you can view the Collection Guide here: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/archives/guides/RG99.0163.html. George Gallup’s Papers are currently being processed so watch for updates soon.
We depend on weather satellite images daily for our forecasts and travel plans. Without the groundwork laid by the National Earth Satellite Service beginning in 1972, though, these images would not be possible today. A distinguished UI alumnus, George H. Ludwig (BA ’56, MS -59, Ph.D. ’60) was a founding director of NESS and led its operations throughout the 1970s. It is part of Mr. Ludwig’s long and significant career in physics and environmental research, now documented in his papers recently donated to the University Archives.
Mr. Ludwig, a native of rural Johnson County, Iowa, was a graduate student under James Van Allen during the pioneering Explorer space exploration missions in the late 1950s. He was the principal developer of the cosmic ray and radiation belt instruments for the successfully launched Explorers I, III, IV, and VII. He was also a research engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California for a five month period following the 1957 launch of Sputnik I by the Soviet Union.
His papers chronicle his research in physics as a doctoral candidate at UI as well as the many projects he supervised or consulted while with NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other organizations throughout his 40-plus year career. The guide to his papers is at http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/archives/guides/RG99.0004.html; the guide does not yet account for the most recent materials received by the Archives.
George Ludwig’s contributions to space exploration and environmental research are invaluable, and the University Archives is honored to document his achievements.
You can see a remarkable image of George Ludwig with his Cosmic Ray detector on NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab web site: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/details.php?id=5873#3
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was an instant publishing success, and it remains a beloved piece of literature today, celebrated during the Christmas season around the world. The first edition, printed in 1843, includes four hand-colored steel engravings by John Leech. Our copy of this work comes from the collection of James Wallace, a collector of children’s books with a fine eye for condition and rarity. Several of the high points in children’s literature from our collections were obtained by Wallace.
Thoughout the month of December we will be consecutively displaying each of the four hand-colored illustrations. Stop by Special Collections on the third floor of the Main Library where it will be on display in the case just inside the doors.