The following is written by student worker Jack Menzies
Thor Rinden was an artist born in Marshalltown, Iowa in 1937 and studied at the University of Iowa before attaining his Master of Arts at Hunter College, New York, NY. Living with his wife, Jane,the couple spent decades renovating their home in Brooklyn, which garnered substantial media attention and brought focus to his artwork.
Combining elements of geometry and architecture with the organic influence of his Iowa roots, Thor Rinden created little worlds within his pieces. Employing differences in texture, as can be seen in his “wovens,” interlocking strips of canvas and other materials to create textured designs, and “slab paintings,” in which smaller canvas paintings are placed within a larger canvas frame, his work invites viewers to not only view the art but interact with it and unfold its meanings. Check out examples of woven and slab paintings on the Thor Rinden website.
The combination of mediums with which he worked perfectly marries his Iowa origins and appreciation for New York abstraction. Farmland scenes and quiltlike patterns juxtapose with the clean lines and sharp angles of a modern skyline. To better understand the artist, I took the opportunity to talk with Thor and Jane Rinden’s close friends Samuel Scheer and Rosetta Cohen, who helped shed more light on Rinden’s work. Scheer described Rinden’s art as “lucidly geometrical,” a study in how things are exquisitely and imperfectly joined in the world. His work is deliberately imperfect and showcases his humorous side, thus showcasing humanity alongside mechanical precision.
Though Rinden loved his homes in Iowa and New York, he was an avid world traveler, and his travels hugely impacted his work. He was especially influenced by his experiences in Asia and his introduction to Buddhist culture. Though not quite mandalas, his woven work showcases some similarity with the intricate sand paintings created by Buddhist monks. Creating art was a spiritual experience for Rinden, and that spirituality can be seen within the inter-animated aspects of his paintings and wovens. He appreciated both agrarian and industrial development and his work showcased his dual appreciation. Much of his work can be plotted as grids, like neat Iowa cornfields or the network of New York streets, perfectly exemplifying his desire to portray the interconnectedness of all things and places.
Some of Rinden’s work has come back to Iowa and is housed at theStanley Museum of Art.His collection here at Special Collections & Archives contains 25 sketchbooks that include his blueprints for paintings, many sketches and life studies, plans for his renovations, and poetry. A common factor with all of these is his connection to Iowa and its landscapes. His collection will resonate with anyone who feels a connection to their homes and those who are moving into a new phase in their lives. His collection speaks to the integral and involuntary connection we have to our origins and invites people to carry their roots with them even as they move out into the world. It asks the question, “What will you bring with you as you enter the world?”
Also included in the collection is a book of his poems titled Subway Seizures: Poems. The poems are accompanied by sketches, and they showcase the humor and left-handedness of Rinden’s character.His poetry can be seen as a dialogue with his wife Jane, who was a poet herself and an English teacher. Subway Seizures is seen as a “language of love” in which he embraces her love of language. As his friends describe, when coupled with the originality and innovative artwork, his poems reveal satirical elements within his paintings and open new ways of approaching his work.
While Rinden never created art with the specific intent of showcasing it at museums and exhibits, several of his paintings were showcased during his life, and over 20 pieces have been placed in museums since his death in 2009. Rinden was an artist who created out of need to express himself, not desire for acclaim or recognition. However, his work deserves to be shared and perfectly captures the ideas of home and forward progression.
The following is written by Olson Graduate Research Assistant Matrice Young
Special Collections & Archives recently acquired two artists books from Monica Ong, a second generation Chinese-Filipino American woman born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Her family history, like many Americans, is a complex one. During World War II, her grandparents left Fujian, China and immigrated to Manila in the Philippines. There, both of her parents were born and raised. Her father, a medical resident, moved to the US in the early 1970s with his family to settle down.
Ong studied studio art as an undergraduate at New York University and earned her MFA in digital media from the Rhode Island School of Design. She currently works as the user-experience designer at the Yale Digital Humanities Lab at the Yale University Library in Connecticut. Ong was also a literary fellow with the organization Kundiman: which seeks to create a mentorship and community space for Asian Americans exploring their creative craft, artistic freedom, and the challenges within the Asian-American diaspora. When it comes to her influences, some of them include Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Claudia Rankine and Barbara Kruger, Daisaku Ikeda, her family, and learning and connecting more with her own cultural history and heritage. Monica Ong is also a Bodhisattva, and Buddhism has influenced her work and her personhood, which you can learn more about from her interview on the podcast Buddhability, “Episode #30: How to overcome resistance in creative work.”
Her first book, Silent Anomalies, is a combination of her visual art and poetry that touches on many subjects of her life and family history. The poems speak on Chinese and Filipino history, politics, and identity from her perspective and understanding. She also speaks on social norms, cultural silence, and the “medical-emotional family diaspora” of her family which extends from China to the Philippines to the United States.
Ong spoke in an interview on Off the Shelfwith Yvonne Wolfe about how ashamed her grandpa was at having 5 daughters, as in their culture, having sons was considered a true blessing. As a result, her grandfather dressed her mother as a boy for family portraits for several years, and Ong saw how that made her think about the cultural narratives of women’s bodies, the shame and negative values placed upon them.
She then spoke about her maternal aunt who struggled with mental illness, and how her dad, trained in Western medicine, attempted to help her but was at odds with Ong’s grandmother who was superstitious and said her daughter was possessed as a way of saving face in a world that did not understand, and still struggles with, mental illness. As such, Ong’s aunt remained undiagnosed and untreated for most of her life. Ong’s mother and aunt’s experiences were two crucial moments in her development of what she wanted to accomplish in Silent Anomalies. She wanted to think of art as a safe space to create and entertain dialogue about health issues, particularly where health and culture intersect.
Ong’s latest work, the exhibition Planetaria, is full of visual poetry inspired by astronomy, where text is integral to her artistic creation. The works in her exhibition has many different forms: shadow boxes, slideshow reels, and book carts are a few. Her pieces combine different representations of cosmological forms and celestial bodies, examples being tarot cards and Chinese astronomy.
Ong’s interest stemmed from wanting to know more about astronomy and Chinese cosmology. In an article for the New Haven Independent, she mentions how she was only semi-familiar with the Chinese system of constellations as a child. “Every fall we would have a moon festival and my family would get together, play games, and have a feast, and then there would be the story about a woman who drank a potion for everlasting life, and she went to the moon, but her lover stayed on Earth.”
When she became an adult and a parent, she wanted to pass her cultural heritage down to her son, so she began learning more about Chinese cosmology. She learned that some of the constellations in Greek cosmology appear in Chinese cosmology, as do some of the same star forms, but they are interpreted differently. For example, the stars that make Orion’s belt are three Gods of fortune in China. “There’s a lot less emphasis on mythical gods,” Ong said. “It’s a lot more a reflection of the hierarchy of society. So there are asterisms for accountants and archivists, as well as the king’s chariot drivers, and empty wells and fields. It’s a geography of the way the Emperor saw life (New Haven Independent).”
As Ong learned more about Chinese cosmology, she saw how it, like the Greek system, is “centered around male power.” She sought to change that in her work by using a feminist and personal narrative. She does this by using womanhood, the body, female scientists, and female cosmonauts. Her exhibition pieces also include her family’s ancestral history and immigration stories. Ong states that “What’s empowering about being an artist is that you can say, ‘how can we flip the script and write from a different point of view that centers the reader? How can we rethink our stories in a way that’s more inclusive for everyone?’ The palace is not up there; it’s actually your own life.”
This flipped script can especially be seen in the pieces here at Special Collections & Archives. The Star Gazer: Planisphere Poetry depicts the Chinese night sky from the northern hemisphere. It is based on the Soochow Astronomical Chart of 1193. This star chart holds small phrases of beautiful prose weaved around constellational lines to form the poetry within this piece. Taken directly from her Proxima Vera site, there are a few steps to read this structured poem:
“To view the stars, turn the disc to align the desired date with the hour of night. Face south and hold the planisphere overhead with the corner marked North facing north. The map will reveal a celestial poem that awaits you among the asterisms. Let the eyes wander and read aloud to someone dear.”
Her other work in our collection, Lunar Volvelle, also demonstrates how science, family, and poetry can weave together. Based on a device from the medieval era, Ong’s volvelle includes fragments of poetry along with an image of her paternal grandmother, whose image waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon. Ong explains her design on Proxima Vera stating, “During the full moon, my father’s mother will watch over you.”*
Overall, Ong’s work has been an exploration, a dive into family and research, connections and experiences, and solving the mysteries of what she wishes to learn more about.
Monica Ong is a visual poet, an artist, a mother, a sister, a daughter. She’s a driven Asian American woman who speaks her story, her family’s story, the story of women, particularly Asian American women, the story of immigrants and their families, cultural politics and traditions, and what it means to bean Asian American woman living in today’s society. You can check out her works at the Special Collections & Archives, and her book Silent Anomaliesfrom our Main Library! Happy Explorations, everyone.
*Correction on description of Lunar Volvelle made 1/13/2022. Original content said piece contained multiple images of family members. Imagery in piece does not include multiple faces as described before, but one, Ong’s paternal grandmother.
Aidasani, S. (2018, November 24). Monica Ong: Capturing poetry’s healing power – positively Filipino: Online magazine for Filipinos in the Diaspora. Positively Filipino | Online Magazine for Filipinos in the Diaspora. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from http://www.positivelyfilipino.com/magazine/monica-ong-capturing-poetrys-healing-power
Bigelow, K. (2021, April 15). 2021 cover artist: Monica Ong. Dogwood. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://dogwoodliterary.com/2021/04/15/2021-cover-artist-monica-ong/
Institute Library Press Release (2021). The Gallery Upstairs at the Institute Library presents: Monica Ong: Planetaria. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://institutelibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/planetaria-PR-final.pdf
Posted on July 2, 2021. (2021, November 9). Episode #30: How to overcome resistance in creative work. buddhability. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://buddhability.org/podcast/monicaong/%C2%A0%C2%A0
Slattery, B. (2021, June 15). Art exhibit traces a path to the stars. New Haven Independent. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/planetaria/
Yau, J. (2021, August 6). A poet-artist looks to the stars. Hyperallergic. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://hyperallergic.com/667278/monica-ong-poet-artist-looks-to-the-stars/%C2%A0
The following is written by graduate student Bailey Adolph, who is processing the Sam Hamod Papers.
“Thus, we gain richness from our heritage—but we should not be limited as writers by our ethnicity.”
—Sam Hamod, “Ethos and Ethnos: The Ethnic Writer in the USA”
At the beginning of the summer, the University of Iowa Special Collections & Archives acquired the papers of Sam Hamod, a revered Arab American poet and graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Hamod is known for his unique perspective that comes through in his poetry and gives the reader insight into the Arab American experience.
The papers came in eight boxes, and once staff started to unpack and organize them into sections, Hamod’s rich story began to be revealed. Though the collection mostly consists of poetry and prose, several documents shed light on all parts of his life: his childhood, his college days, his time as a professor, and his experiences in the Arab American community. There is much more to be uncovered, but the following is intended to serve as a foundation for further discussion of Sam Hamod as a poet and member of the community.
Sam Hamod was born in a boarding house hotel, owned by his parents, in Gary, Indiana in 1936. His father immigrated to the US from Syria sometime between 1914 and 1920, and his mother was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa to parents who immigrated from Syria to the US around 1905. He states that “my earliest recollections are of my father, mother and maternal grandfather, plus a lot of guys who roomed at the hotel and ate with us— gandy dancers, railroad firemen and engineers, open hearth workers— everything— and from every nationality in the world.” Men would come to stay at their boarding house hotel while they worked in the steel mills and railroads around Gary and Chicago which allowed him to hear different languages and dialects throughout his childhood. In one of his writings titled Growing Up In Iowa: Days of Arabs, Apple Cider and Dreams, he describes an incident in which he did not know how to fix something on a car, but his cousin did, which embarrassed him. However, he goes on to state:
“I always felt bad, but later I rationalized, or maybe it was the truth, that my cousin was raised in that business and liked it and therefore knew more about cars– and he did know a lot more than I did. As for me, I felt I knew more about people than cars, partly because I’d been raised my first four years in a boarding house hotel, and because I enjoyed talking with people more than fixing cars.”
His upbringing in the boarding house, and later in his father’s tavern, allowed him to be around people all the time, setting the foundation for his writing as an adult.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Hamod spent many summers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, working for the family business and going to the Islamic Mosque to learn Arabic and about his parents’ religion. He went on to pursue his education by getting his bachelor’s degree in communications and business in 1957. Though he initially started law school, Hamod left and returned to Gary, Indiana to own and run the Broadway Lounge from 1958 to 1959. However, after two years, he gave the bar to his father and pursued a master’s degree from Northwestern University. When describing his experience and the Broadway Lounge itself, Hamod states that it was, “a roughhouse type of place, but big and fast, and I had B.B. King and Muddy Waters play on weekends. Even old Redd Foxx told his dirty jokes there. But it got to be too much hassle, so I went back and earned an MA then began teaching at universities. During this time I also did some traveling in and over the world, got married, and had two children (David and Laura).”
Hamod returned to Iowa when he started at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, graduating from the program in 1973. He has said that his poetry did not really come alive until he started the program and met certain individuals.
“Anselm Hollo, Jack Marshall and some other friends believed in me, and after some crucial things happened in my life, some good poems came out on paper. Also meeting David Kherdian, and hearing him talk through his big, black, bushy mustache— the meeting of the Arab poet with the American poet— once again proved to me that my blood was an important source for my poetry.”
Since the 1960s, he published several books of poetry and appeared in dozens of anthologies. Additionally, he was nominated for two Nobel Prizes, once in Literature and once in Poetry, and his book, Dying With the Wrong Name, won the Ethnice Heritage Award in 1980 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He also taught at several universities including Howard University, the University of Michigan, Rider University, and Princeton University, where he would teach creative writing as well as lectures about the Middle East and Islam.
The following is written by Public Services Librarian, Lindsay Moen
Today marks the 155th birthday of renowned children’s book author, Beatrix Potter. Potter was best known as the author and illustrator of cherished tales such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, and The Tailor of Gloucester. While Peter Rabbit might be the primary character people recognize today, Potter has many additional works credited to her name, which emphasizes her literary accomplishments.
At University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections & Archives, we are fortunate enough to hold a few treasures from the Beatrix Potter catalog. First and foremost is our copy of Potter’s privately printed The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which she published independently in 1901 after being turned down by at least six publishers. You can read more about our copy here.
As we commemorate Potter’s 155th birthday, our department has another reason to celebrate as we have welcomed some wonderful new Potter additions to our holdings. These new materials come from the personal collection of Kara Sewall, a longtime member of the Beatrix Potter Society and expert on Potter collectibles and merchandise. Longtime friend and fellow Beatrix Potter Society member, Kathy Cole, reflects that Kara “devoted her own time and resources to sharing her love of Beatrix Potter with others. She did this well before the days of the internet by typing and posting a ‘Potter-gram’ to update collectors of new items that became available.” (1)
Sewall passed away in February 2020, leaving behind a legacy in the Beatrix Potter world. We at Special Collections & Archives are very fortunate to hold a selection of materials from her personal collection. We know these materials will be appreciated by Peter Rabbit fans and researchers for years to come.
Sewall’s donation includes a lovely selection of new materials, but some highlights include copies of Sister Anne, and first editions of The Pie and the Patty Pan and Ginger and Pickles.
Sister Anne is Beatrix Potter’s version of the story of Bluebeard and is one of her lesser-known tales. This is primarily due to the book being illustrated by Katharine Sturges, rather than Potter herself. At the time of publication, Potter was 66 and her eyesight was too poor to complete the illustrations. This book was only published in the United States by David McKay Company in1932 and was the last of Beatrix Potter’s stories to be published in her lifetime. (2)
The first editions of The Pie and the Patty Pan and Ginger and Pickles are also wonderful additions to Iowa’s collection. These are prime examples of the variety involved in collecting Potter’s works. Both titles went through various publication changes. For example, for The Pie and the Patty Pan, the early printings have plain, mottled lavender endpapers, which were shortly replaced by an endpaper design featuring the pie and the patty-pan. The cover picture was then changed from a cat in a small circle, to one of Ribby, the cat sitting by the fire in a large circle. Our newly acquired copy is a first edition, and therefore features the cat in the portrait circle. (3)
We hope fans of Beatrix Potter and children’s books alike will enjoy these new additions to our collection.
Special Collections & Archives would like to thank Kathy Cole for facilitating this donation.
“Obituaries”. The Beatrix Potter Society Journal and Newsletter No. 152. The Beatrix Potter Society, May 2020, pp. 33.
2. Linder, Leslie. A History of the Writings of Beatrix Potter. Frederick Warne & Company, 1971, pp. 324-326.
3. Linder, Leslie. A History of the Writings of Beatrix Potter. Frederick Warne & Company, 1971, pp. 425.
The following is written by Asian Alumni and Student Oral History Project Intern Jin Chang
Since the start of the pandemic, prominent leaders have stood in front of crowds of American people calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” and “Kung Flu.” As a result, Chinatown businesses closed as tourists continued to avoid Chinatowns across America and racially charged attacks increased against Asian elders, including a mass shooting in Atlanta specifically targeting Asian Women in the massage industry. Unfortunately, all these moments had precedents in the past. The Chinese Exclusion Acts of 1882, which barred the Chinese from immigrating to America, was one of many policies motivated by Yellow Peril, a racist characterization for the fear of Asian people. This racist belief that East Asia and their people pose an existential threat to America influences the belief that Chinatowns are a uniquely dangerous spot of disease. Before COVID-19, Chinatown and Chinese people were blamed by many Americans for smallpox and cholera in the late 1800’s, the bubonic plague in the early 1900’s, and the SARS epidemic as recently as 2003. For the direct violence against Asians in America many of the wars in Twentieth Century American history have been against Asian countries, teaching Americans to view Asians as the enemy.
This longstanding history of Sinophobia, anti-Chinese sentiment, and the belief in Yellow Peril reveals the racism following COVID-19 is not some bizarre aberration. It is America’s history. While many of these notable early instances of racism against Asian people came from areas with heavy Asian populations such as California, Asian and Asian Americans have long lived in Iowa, and the population continues to grow in the present. As a Korean-American myself, I believe our experiences with navigating race and racism here in Iowa follows national trends, but I also believe there are many unique elements that come from reconciling race and racism as an Asian or Asian American in Iowa that is missing from the national discourses of today.
For the University of Iowa specifically, we are lucky to have the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center (APACC) as a space of community, healing, and empowerment for Asian Americans in the University. However, APACC began in 2003, and Asian and Asian Americans have long been forming communities in the University of Iowa. One group established in 1999, the Asian-American Coalition, served as a consolidated voice for many Asian Americans, and as one of the leading voices in the founding of APACC. Another group, the Asian American Women’s Group sought to address the specific needs of Asian American Women and predates the Asian American Coalition as it was established in 1993. Prior to the 1990s, many Asian international student groups existed on campus such as the Korean Student Association, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and PERMIAS an Indonesian Student Association.
Many of these student groups are underrepresented in the University Archives. The lifecycle of student organizations also means that new iterations exist on our campus to serve Asian and Asian American students today, making it a challenge to capture organizations that have come and gone. While collecting materials from Asian and Asian American groups’ is a priority for the University Archives, the Special Collections & Archives team has also recognized the importance of collecting the stories of communities through oral history. Thus, over the course of the next year, the University Archives will be collecting oral histories of Asian and Asian American students and alumni from the University of Iowa. By capturing our stories and narratives through oral history, we have an opportunity to have our histories recognized and to create a genealogy for future Asian and Asian American students here at the University of Iowa.
If you wish to have your story included in the oral history archive, please contact Jin Chang at email@example.com.
The following was written by Curator of Books and Maps, Eric Ensley
Iowa’s Medieval Manuscripts Collection has gone to the dogs, or at least to a new book with dog-themed decoration.
Just in time for the tulips blooming across Iowa, our newest medieval book, a beautifully decorated book of hours, comes to us from late medieval Holland. In short, a book of hours is a collection of prayers and liturgical offices that may have been owned by a layperson or a member of the clergy. Books of hours are among our most popular requests for classes and one glance will tell you why— these books are often elaborately decorated with flora and fauna drawings, gold leaf, and even donor portraits in some deluxe copies.
Yet our new book of hours is a bit more restrained than other fifteenth-century examples. There’s no gold leaf and major decoration is limited to only four pages, where elaborate penwork and coloration lends the book an almost cartoon-like quality. The relative restraint of this book and its localization to the Netherlands—more on that in a moment—suggest it may be emblematic of the Devotio moderna, a late medieval movement in Northern Europe that emphasized piety and asceticism in lifestyle and possessions.
Books of hours are fascinating testaments to the growth of book ownership among laypeople in the later Middle Ages. Though still owned by a very small and wealthy subset of society, books were often prized possessions used to showcase wealth and piety. Despite being prized possessions, many books made at this time lack exact dates and location of production. However, we can still “localize” or try to get an idea of where a book of hours is from by looking at several clues. For example,. books of hours typically include calendars that may call for veneration of local saints. Likewise, every book of hours has a “Use” that subtly shifts the wording and order of liturgical office based on the diocese in which it was used. Books of hours from late medieval England, for example, can be either Sarum Use—the Use of Salisbury—or the less common Use of York.
Our book of hours can be localized to Holland based on some of the saints that appear in the calendar, e.g. Saint Pontianus, patron saint of Ultrecht, in January and the Feast of the Translation of Saint Martin in July both point to the Use of Utrecht. Then, the cartoon-like decoration is unique among books of hours that comes almost exclusively from the city of Delft. Finally, our book of hours contains several ownership marks, including “Jan Kerstants” and “Robert Ghilet, 1629,” both of which are Dutch names.
But what about all the dogs? This book of hours has a full-page decorative ensemble depicting dogs with foliage extending from their mouths. Likewise, the contemporary panel-stamped binding depicts the story of Saint Roch, who cared for plague victims and contracted the plague himself. According to the story, Roch flees to the forest after becoming ill, where he is brought food and has his wounds licked by hounds, perhaps suggesting that the canine motif of the binding is also present in the decorative program within the book. Saint Roch is also the patron saint of pilgrims, and one might contemplate a diminutive book of hours such as this accompanying a pilgrim as he or she traveled—perhaps with a canine companion of his or her own!
Many thanks to Dr. Scott Gwara and Dr. Ed van der Vlist, Curator of Medieval Manuscripts at the National Library of the Netherlands for their aid in identifying this book of hours.
Once cataloged, the call number for this lovely little book will be xMMS.Bo11.
At the end of January of 2021, NBC News Anchor and Correspondent Tom Brokaw announced his retirement after a remarkable 55 years of journalism.
Brokaw started his television career right here in Iowa, working at KTIV in Sioux City. He moved on KMTV in Omaha, Nebraska and then to WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia. By 1966, Brokaw joined the NBC News team reporting out of Los Angeles for KNBC. This move would launch of a long and successful career for the journalist.
By 1973, NBC made Brokaw a White House correspondent, just in time to cover the historical Watergate scandal and follow the resignation of President Nixon. After three years, NBC made him co-host, along with Jane Pauley, of the Today Show.
Brokaw would remain cohost of the Today Show until 1981, when he was moved to co-host Nightly News with Roger Mudd. However, Brokaw was made sole anchor a year later in September of 1983. While with Nightly News, Brokaw covered some of the largest stories of modern history, including the Challenger disaster, EDSA Revolution, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Clinton’s Impeachment, and 9/11.
After the 2004 Presidential Elections, Brokaw stepped down as anchor of Nightly News. During his time as anchor, he had made the program the most popular news network in the United States, ranking first in the Nielsen ratings since 1996. He stayed on as an analyst for NBC News and anchored and produced various documentaries for the network.
Brokaw, who turned 81 in February, is the only NBC reporter to led all three of NBC’s primary news shows: Nightly News, Today Show, and Meet the Press. Brokaw hosted Meet the Press on an interim basis after colleague and friend Tim Russert suddenly passed away in 2008.
Now Tom Brokaw is taking the time to rest and enjoy retirement. Although, Brokaw continues to be on boards of several organizations, is still writing, and continues to work on projects for various organizations.
In 2016, University of Iowa Libraries became home for the Tom Brokaw Papers, residing in Special Collections & Archives. Along with the news of this retirement, Special Collections & Archives has received more items from Brokaw’s NBC office that will join the his papers and collection, continuing the story of this historic career. The items include date books, photographs from in the field as well as his time on Meet the Press, election guidebooks from the 2000s, and several records of various events and projects Brokaw was involved with. Arriving with these new materials are also 5 of Brokaw’s Emmys (he’s been nominated 39 times for an Emmy, winning 10 and receiving 1 honorary).
The new material is being processed and will soon be open to the public. As we go through the items, though, we are reminded of the 55 years of history passing from Brokaw’s hands to ours.
The following is written by Curator of Books and Maps Eric Ensley
March is women’s history month, and it feels appropriate to turn towards the work of a great writer from the early twentieth century, Djuna Barnes.
Barnes is well known to students of gender and sexuality, particularly for her literary work that broached the topic of homosexuality in ways that ran afoul of censorship laws in the United States in the early half of the 20th century. Born in New York in 1892, she spent most of the 1920s in Paris, where she befriended author James Joyce and enjoyed some success as an author herself, though her now-celebrated novel Nightwood did poorly at the time.
UI Libraries Special Collections & Archives has recently acquired a first edition copy of Barnes 1928 roman à clef, Ladies Almanack. The first edition had a run of 1,050 copies, which it appears the author and her friends handed out on the streets of Paris. They even smuggled it into the United States, where the book’s overt description of lesbian relationships defied decency laws. Even the book’s printer, Edward Titus, blocked out his name on the novel’s title page, either to protect himself from the possibility of legal reprisal for the previous reason, or in fear of legal reprisal by members of the elite lesbian circle surrounding Natalie Clifford Barney that the book obliquely describes.
The novel is told through the genre of an almanac, with careful attention to time and seasons and their relationship to the female body. The illustrations, all created by Barnes herself, are meant to resemble the woodblock prints of early almanacs. Likewise, the illustrations often depict the labors of the month, tying them to a long tradition of guidance books showing the appropriate actions at a given moment—such a use of illustrations goes back to books of hours and their miniatures of the labors of the month. Author Lindsay Starck, in the summer 2019 issue of Modern Fiction Studies, argued that this attention to the rhythms of the year serves to highlight early twentieth-century sexologists arguing that homosexuals were out of step with the appropriate rhythms of nature.
Barnes and her work did not enjoy widespread success during her lifetime or enter the mainstream of literary conversation —this is in large part due to the repression of her work and bigotry against her due to her homosexuality. The first edition of Ladies Almanack has an important story to tell in its reminding us that book history often takes center stage in the history of censorship and repression. I hope as you look at this book you’ll imagine Barnes surreptitiously and illegally carrying this little volume with its covered printing statement, full of “dangerous” ideas, across the border into the United States.
The following was written by Curator of Books and Maps Eric Ensley
As the snow begins to melt away in Iowa City, happily we begin to think of nature and adventures along the hills and riverbanks of the countryside. This desire for spring is felt all the more as we live through times of loss and global catastrophe. I suggest that it is this same yearning for bucolic settings that drove English author and artist Ida Bogue to make our newest edition to the collection, The Loiterers, at the height of World War II.
I should first say that no words I can write can quite do this manuscript justice—it is a stunning work of art, from its over 800 handwritten pages, 30 handmade watercolors, and the decorative binding made by Bogue herself. The book tells the story of two young boys who go on adventures through the English countryside and meet a cast of characters, many of whom are illustrated in the watercolors. Also included are a number of objects pertinent to the story tucked into the binding, including a leaf and several nineteenth-century washing service cards from Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Bogue may have intended the book as a gift for her young nephews, no doubt suffering through the war. It’s difficult to say, however, as Bogue was a reclusive figure, having never reached authorial fame, having no children of her own, or any sustained relationships as far as can be see. In her lifetime she apparently wrote six different manuscripts stories like this. One, a fairy story called Child-Hazel, is still owned by the family and appeared on an episode of Antiques Roadshow in the early 2000s. It is likely that Bogue’s family also has another one of these manuscripts stories as well. A third story was sent by Bogue as a gift for the young princesses Margaret and Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace. The other three were assumed lost—though our manuscript is believed to be one of these three.
Bogue’s life is difficult to research, and she no doubt did not achieve the acclaim she deserved in her lifetime. One of the pages of her book is inscribed with a haunting command: “Remember Me.”
Though it comes too late, we invite you to witness Bogue’s masterful art and remember her among the numerous women whose art has gone unwitnessed and undiscussed.
We hope to have this work digitized so that all may enjoy Bogue’s craft and will notify our readers when we do. If you have any information that might aid in reaching the family of Ida Bogue, please contact the curator of rare books, Eric Ensley: firstname.lastname@example.org
The following comes from Book and Maps Curator, Eric Ensley
A perennial question for students of the Middle Ages is how and what did women read. The newest addition to our collection of medieval manuscripts answers this question at least in one place and moment. This diminutive book from the first half of the sixteenth century was designed to be carried by the nuns of the royal and aristocratic Dominican Abbey of Poissy, just outside of Paris. Small books of music and prayer like this comprise a genre known as the “Poissy Processional,” of which around thirty are known to exist. University of Iowa’s volume is a previously unknown addition to these thirty.
Processionals are a type of book that contain the music and words necessary to chant the complicated and varying processions that accompany the Catholic Mass and the repeating daily prayers known as the Office. The nuns of Poissy would have need for books like these as a large portion of their day was given over to prayer—nearly around the clock as the Matins prayers occurred at around 2am and Lauds around dawn. Nuns would make processions with these books, singing from them as they went. Each sister had her own book and it is perhaps unsurprising then that they would be passed down to family members and friends as heirlooms.
The Abbey of Poissy was built starting in 1304 on the birthplace of the king and saint, King Louis IX. It was originally opened to only aristocratic families, allowing the abbey to enjoy strong connections with the royal court and become one of the wealthiest abbeys in France. Life for the nuns at Poissy, however, was austere and sheltered, living entirely in the walled abbey where their daily schedule consisted of prayer, silence, more prayer and more silence. Despite the seclusion, the abbey still captured the literary imagination of authors. Famed medieval poet Christine de Pizan placed her daughter in the abbey and even wrote a major poem about it, Le Dit de Poissy. The abbey’s library and books remained intact until the French Revolution, when the group was disbanded and the books sold off or stolen.
University of Iowa’s Processional is fascinating on several levels beyond that it escaped inclusion in Joan Naughton’s 1995 dissertation on the books, which is held at the authoritative source on the topic. This copy went unnoticed likely because the great majority of the thirty other copies are in institutional hands, while ours appears to have come from the library of Jacques Laget, a well-known French bibliophile who retired in the 2000s.
Books were not cheap in the later Middle Ages and even into the early modern period, but the abbey’s connection to France’s wealthier families allowed their library to grow. The book easily fools a viewer with its medieval appearance. Even in the early 1500s, the makers of these books were copying exemplar manuscripts that retained the appearance of fourteenth century books—a real throwback! Some have even argued that the nuns themselves made their own books for the abbey, though this argument is contentious since the books have a look similar to those produced in Paris workshops. Indeed, our little volume includes attractive initials in gold leaf with interior decoration in red and blue pigment and more elaborate penwork initials throughout.
Somewhat unusually, our Processional includes many of the texts and offices that center around the death of a nun and the proper care of soul and body as the end approaches, including: the Office of the Dead, Anointing of the Sick for a Nun, Litany for the Dying, the Office for Burial, and the Commendation for the Dying. Many of the texts include gendered Latin endings suggesting the book should be used by a woman. Likewise, many include rubrics or instructions on what one should do and think while dying or while burying the body of a sister.
We hope the Iowa Processional inspires you to contemplation or singing in the classroom or reading room…quietly. It will be available soon for use under the call number: MSC0542, xMMS.Po1.