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.
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 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.
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.
In addition, we recently acquired the one issue of the Dada publication 291 not previously in the collection, making a complete set.
This past spring was a good season for acquisitions in Special Collections, Leigh Hunt material not least among them. Not only did we pick up Percy Shelley’s personal copy of Hunt’s Feast of the Poets—a spectacular association copy, as Hunt and Shelley were remarkably close friends—but we acquired four Leigh Hunt manuscripts.
Two of these are copies of his most famous poems: “Abou Ben Adhem” and “Rondeau.” Perhaps the poem most beloved by posterity, “Rondeau” (more commonly known as “Jenny Kissed Me”) shares the poet’s excitement after having kissed Jane Carlyle, wife of the archetypal Victorian Thomas and neighbor of the Hunts.
The third manuscript is a draft fragment of The Palfrey. Only a few of the lines from this draft found their way into the published version, betraying the significant revisions the poem underwent at the author’s hand.
A transcript of “Velluti to his Revilers” is perhaps the most interesting manuscript in the lot. It’s not one of Hunt’s best known poems, but the transcript is thought to be in the hand of Julia, the author’s eighth child. While “Velluti” may not make the cut for the latest Norton anthology, Leigh Hunt writes at the end of these lines, “I think them the best (in rhyme) that I ever wrote—if I am old enough to be allowed to talk of my ‘best.’”
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.
Here are some featured items that have recently arrived in both Special Collections and in the University Archives. Researchers interested in the history of local radio, advertising, tuberculosis, and artist’s books should particularly take note of our recent arrivals.
The University Archives now includes additional documents from KRUI. KRUI 89.7, the University of Iowa student radio station, began as a dormitory-only service in the early 1950’s, expanding to FM in 1984. Recently the UI Archives received an additional 14 linear feet of material from the station: Brochures, staff schedules, correspondence, photographs and other documents, to add to the archives existing collection described at http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/archives/guides/RG02.02.08.htm. Dave Long, a member of the KRUI board of directors, helped arrange for transfer of the materials.
Oakdale Sanatorium was established in Johnson County in 1907 to house and care for patients diagnosed with tuberculosis. Over time, the facility accommodated patients with other needs as well. From 1945 to 1947, Ruth Harris, a dietician from Ames, IA, was employed as Director of Dietetics there. Earlier this year, Ruth Solmonson of St. Paul, MN, a relative of Ms. Harris’, donated a scrapbook to the UI Archives which contains scores of photographs, newspaper clippings, and other items depicting life at the facility. In 2011 Oakdale Hall, the original and largest structure on the campus, was razed to make way for new development, making Ms. Harris’ photographs even more valuable to researchers.
The newest arrivals in the department of Special Collections include a shipment of eleven impressive artists’ books from Vamp & Tramp Booksellers, LLC. Three of the books are highlighted below.
Body of Inquiry is from Casey Gardner and Set in Motion Press. With inspiration drawn from anatomical models and instructional documents this amusing work draws you in to discover a “corporeal codex” with intricately folded organs.
Statement from Set in Motion Press: “This book is a triptych opening to a sewn codex within the subject’s torso. It is a structure of display and intimacy. The scale is large and unfolding and the details are numerous and intricate, accurate and outlandish. The instruments on the outer panels are from the 19th- and 20th-century scientific catalogs. The rest of the images are drawings the artist made and transferred into photopolymer plate for letterpress. The scientific panels explore the miracle of our physicality and are sequenced beginning with atoms, moving to cells, and to genetic structure. The interior codex tells the story of the artist’s anatomical model and investigates the permeable borderline between material and immaterial in our bodies and life.”
Al Mutanabbi Street, March 5, from Al Hazelwood is one item that is part of a project to “re-assemble” some of the “inventory” of the reading material that was lost in the car bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street on 5th March 2007. Originally the intention was for 130 book artists to join in honouring al-Mutanabbi Street so that one artist’s work would stand in for each of the 30 killed and 100 wounded through creating work that holds both “memory and future,” exactly what was lost that day. However in the end the response was so great that 262 artists participated in the project, soon to be completed.
Stement from artist Al Hazelwood: “This book is based on the car bombing of a street of booksellers in Baghdad. Beau Beausoleil, a bookseller in San Francisco, initiated this project to memorialize this attack on the culture of the book and prevent it from slipping into forgetting among the many atrocities of the Iraq War. He’s asked 130 book artists to contribute — the number of books matching the number of victims that day. This is my contribution. Three from the edition go to the project one of which will be offered to the Iraq National Library in Baghdad. My book, starts with an image of the booksellers street. The next page begins a foldout which begins with the explosion in a death head cloud. Books flying are labeled with different bookseller areas of the world”.
Shelter by Phil Zimmerman of Spaceheater Editions is an intricately constructed floating hinge format book-within-a-book.
Statement from artist Phil Zimmermann: “Shelter came out of an exploration of losing faith and questioning on of its opposites: the process of finding religion. This text came out of watching my dying father, who was never religious when I was growing up, become increasingly interested in faith and salvation as he became sicker from heart disease and cancer. I saw the desert with its unfriendly flora and harsh environment as a metaphor for the difficult world towards the end of many people’s lives. The desert is also used in many religious tracts as a place for contemplation and mortification. In this work roadside shelters and gospel ministries were used as signifiers of ways and places where people look (vainly?) to relive prospects of their approaching death.”
Donated to Special Collections in March 2012 by Linda Yanney, the Beluah Yanney Montgomery Sheet Music Collection has been processed by our outgoing Olson Fellow Gyorgy “George” Toth and is being added to our Sheet Music Collection (http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/msc/ToMsC900/MsC873/MsC873_sheetmusic.html). Covering the late 19th through middle 20th centuries, the Montgomery addendum complements our current collection of sheet music with the major themes of its songs.
Much of the popular music of the early 20th century was sentimental, and concerned topics like landscape and romance. Not so Edith Maida Lessing’s “Just as the Ship Went Down” from 1912, which remembers the sinking of the Titanic. As we are observing the 100th anniversary of this disaster, we can view this song as an early effort to memorialize the event in U.S. popular culture. Reading, playing and singing songs like this was also part of people’s coming to grips with national and historic events.
Music about the American South
The Montgomery addendum also contains a small group of songs written about the American South. These songs were often introduced by famous singers and actors like Al Jolson on the vaudeville stage and in minstrel shows, where they used African American characters to paint a sentimental picture of antebellum Southern plantations.
With today’s standards, these songs were racially charged if not outright racist towards blacks, and they presented a view of the South that culturally attempted to roll back the achievements of the Thirteenth Amendment. Even as some questioned their credibility, many contemporary Americans treated these songs as entertainment, listened to them on the popular stage, and played and sang them in their parlors.
Songs from World War One
In two years, we will be observing the centenary of World War One. After the entry of the United States, American society changed as it participated in the war effort. Popular songs from this era reflect how Americans engaged with “the Great War” – emotionally, socially, and culturally. In popular culture form these songs answered the question of ‘why we are fighting over there,’ they boosted the morale on the home front, helped American families endure the absence of their fathers, sons, brothers and husbands, and they depicted relationships between American servicemen and -women and the Europeans they encountered during the war. Americans listened to these songs in recorded form, but they also played them on the piano and sang them in their own living rooms and parlors.
Other songs in the Montgomery addendum were linked to specific stage productions. In the early 20th century, Al Jolson was one of the artists whose name sold musical plays and their sheet music like candy. Another piece, “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” comes from the Broadway production George White’s Scandals, which ran all through the interwar period and launched the career of several major figures in entertainment.
The early 20th century saw the overlapping development of old and new entertainment forms, which included the popular stage, gramophone records, the piano in the parlor, the radio, and film. Depending on their social class and wealth, Americans could enjoy many of these. For example, they could go to see a stage production of the famous Siegfried’s Follies Broadway musical, buy its music on recordings, listen to them on the radio, go to the cinema to see a film remake with Fred Astaire, and purchase its songs to play and sing them in their homes.
The Beluah Yanney Montgomery Sheet Music Collection will be an important part of our holdings of sheet music from the 19th and 20th centuries. For researchers and fans of U.S. popular culture, these songs say something about the larger American society and the ways people creatively used music for entertainment, social life, education, and emotional expression.