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Sense and Sensibility

It has been two hundred years since a book was published in England “By a Lady,” entitled Sense and Sensibility. On October 30, 1811, Jane Austen’s first novel was published, creating a literary phenomenon that continues to this day. Join us in the Special Collections reading room on the third floor of the Main Library on Friday, October 28 from 4:00pm to 5:00pm, when we will celebrate this event with an informal gathering. Our copy of the first edition of Sense and Sensibility will be out for viewing, along with a few other Austen pieces. End your week with some good books and good company.

Collaboration in Comics: Tradition and Experimentation

As a virtual supplement to our exhibit The Comics Continuum (on view in the Main Library 3rd floor hallway, now through November) this fall we are featuring items from our comics collections on the Special Collections & University Archives blog. Below we’ve described two examples of collaboration in comics from the exhibition, but please explore our collections on your own! Comic Books in Special Collections is a good place to start online, or come into the reading room and check out the cart of comics material we’ve pulled out of the stacks.

While many comics from idea to finished product are the work of a single artist, collaborative work is an important part of the history of comics, both in the mainstream and experimental realms.

Dick Tracy storyboard
Max Allan Collins’ notes, including dialogue and textual description of the illustrations to come, for a Dick Tracy Sunday comic strip from the 1980s.

The Papers of Max Allan Collins, a UI alumnus, screenwriter, and novelist, contain records of Collins’ correspondence, notes, and writing as he created comics with collaborators who contributed ideas and characters (including Mickey Spillane, for Mickey Spillane’s Mike Danger), art (including Terry Beatty, for Ms. Tree), and lettering.  Collins also has worked to adapt/revive existing comics, as well as the expectations of their fans, in the case of Dick Tracy and Batman.  His papers provide insight into both of these processes, including research and analysis of a comic’s themes and style and creating new stories and sketches that appeal to a contemporary audience and meet the approval of the publisher.

In a letter to the Dick Tracy artist Rick Fletcher from 1980, Collins describes some of the difficulties and compromises inherent in collaborative work:

“Will do my best to describe wardrobe, situations, ‘up front’ – I try to be very specific in my panel descriptions and at the same time not hamstring you; a delicate balance. Occasionally this sort of thing is bound to happen, considering we collaborate largely by mail.”


Another item in the exhibition that features collaboration is C Comics No. 2. This 1965 publication is one of only two issues produced as a continuation of C: A Journal of Poetry, which was edited by the poet Ted Berrigan. C Comics is the result of collaborations between visual artist Joe Brainard and a number of poets associated with the New York School including Berrigan, John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, and Kenneth Koch. Much of Brainard’s other artwork uses comic conventions or existing comic characters like Nancy, and in C Comics the combination of semi-abstract images, re-appropriated characters, unusual layout, and the language of the New York School of Poets creates an innovative form of comics, a precursor to modern experimental and artistic comics of all types.

C Comics "The Earth Machine"
from "The Earth Machine" by Kenneth Koch and Joe Brainard, C Comics No. 2, 1965

Rather than set existing poetry in comic form, as others have done, Brainard drew the graphic parts of the comics (sometimes straightforward, sometimes abstract or absurd) with blank spaces and asked his poet collaborators to fill them in with words. In addition to this issue of C Comics, Special Collections has a number of books on Brainard, including Ron Padgett’s Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard, in which he describes a later comics collaboration between artist and poet:

“Knowing that Joe preferred not to do the kind of messy, spontaneous, simultaneous collaborations that we had done [earlier], I wrote a text–a pseudo-professorial statement–that I thought could be adapted to the comic strip form. Then Joe and I set about looking through his … postcard collections, selecting images that jumped out at us. We quickly put them in a sequence, sometimes matching image and text, sometimes going against an overt connection. In light of the images, I made a few final revisions of the text. Joe then redrew everything in black and white, and I lettered in the words” (163).

Civil War transcription – The Winslows

As part of the roll-out of our expanded Civil War transcription project (see the announcement here) we tweeted a letter written by Ferdinand S. Winslow to his four year old son, William Herman. Several of our readers have wondered what became of the Winslows after the war, and the story is actually quite interesting.

Ferdinand Winslow was a Quartermaster during the war, serving at various ranks and taking on progressively greater responsibilities. He also seems to have been a dedicated family man, as the letter to “Herman” demonstrates. During the war Ferdinand and his wife Wilhelmina conceived another child, and Ferdinand was so eager to be with his family when the birth was imminent that he attempted to resign his post multiple times, writing with increasing desperation to Mina in hopes that he would join her soon. Unfortunately, the letters in our collection stop just before we learn if he was successful. The child was born in 1863 while the family was in St. Louis. Two more children came in 1866 and 1868—sadly, all three of these children died before reaching age 10. Ferdinand seems to have lived on for a good many years–there is some evidence he eventually settled in New York City.

William Herman, who received the letter from his father with the ring to kiss, went on to form a company with his brother, Francis, called Winslow Brothers Ornamental Iron Works. They were responsible for much of the decorative iron work that can still be seen around Chicago today, such as the façade to the Carson Pirie Scott building. William Herman Winslow, through his association with Louis Sullivan, befriended a young Frank Lloyd Wright, and commissioned Wright to design his home in River Forest, IL.  Winslow and Wright set up a printing press in the basement and produced several private press books, including the significant piece House Beautiful, designed by Wright. The house is still standing today, a testament to a remarkable family that persevered through the Civil War and took part in the building of Chicago.

Beyond Superheroes: Exhibit on “The Comics Continuum”

How long have comics been around? Do comics reflect or shape our society? What was the Comics Code Authority? How do comics build community?

 Poster of comics exhibition


As a spinoff of the upcoming symposium on graphic language, Special Collections and University Archives presents The Comics Continuum, an exhibit from our collections available for perusal, research and teaching to the university community and beyond. Our exhibit places comics in a continuum of graphic narrative which encompasses the amateur, commercial, and the artistic, and illustrates their appropriation by countercultures, artists, fans, educators, social movements, and even the U.S. government. Besides placing in their historical context some of the mainstream icons like Wonder Woman and Captain America, the exhibit shows how comics make communities through their production, circulation, consumption and collection.

The exhibit will be open on the 3rd floor of the Main Library from the end of September through November 2011. While viewing the exhibit, please see the labels for any collection numbers (MsCs) that you may be interested in browsing. Once you are done with the exhibit, we encourage you to move beyond the glass cases, come in Special Collections, and request to look at some of our comics collections in the Reading Room.

For more on our specific collections of comics and graphic narrative art, see

For our Reading Room policies, see


‘Now Do Not Let Your Courage Fail’: Voices from the Civil War


An illustration of Civil War camp life from a contemporary magazine

University of Iowa News Release
May 5, 2011


University of Iowa Libraries has launched a new exhibition and digital collection to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and it’s enlisting the help of a few good men and women (well, lots, really) to help make the collection even more accessible and useful.

The exhibition, “‘Now Do Not Let Your Courage Fail’: Voices from the Civil War,” on display at the UI Main Library through July 30, includes letters and diaries from three manuscript collections held by Special Collections & University Archives that offer intriguing perspectives on the war. The experiences of Ferdinand Winslow, an officer in the Union army; Thomas Rescum Sterns, a soldier in the Union army; and Amanda and Mary Shelton, nurses who cared for soldiers through the Christian Commission, bring to life the everyday reality of the conflict.

Accompanying these manuscripts are artifacts from the war, including two Civil War-era quilts from a private collection and a dress worn to a wedding that is on loan from the Kalona Quilt and Textile Museum.

While viewing the exhibition in person, visitors can access digitized versions of the letters and diaries by scanning codes under each piece. This allows viewers to see pages from these collections that are not on display and follow the stories told through the letters.

The digital collection, which was scanned by UI Special Collections & University Archives, is also available online from any computer through the Iowa Digital Library at

But the 3,000-plus diaries and letters are digitized images — effectively photographs — that require viewers who want to read them to interpret the handwriting of hundreds of different writers. It also means users cannot search the text for particular words or phrases.

To transcribe that much documentation could take decades and thousands of dollars. But UI Libraries is experimenting with “crowdsourcing,” or collaborative transcription of manuscript materials, in which members of the general public with time and interest conduct the transcription and check one another for accuracy in much the same way contributors to Wikipedia help create a collection of data, information and knowledge.

“Crowdsourcing is revolutionizing the study of the humanities by making available to the public and scholars miles of documents that were previously off-limits, difficult to read or unsearchable,” said Nicole Saylor, head of Digital Library Services.

UI Libraries is inviting volunteers to take a few minutes, hours or days to read and help transcribe some of the pages of a Civil War-era diary, which will not only benefit the library and patrons, but give crowdsourcing participants a glimpse into a more personal side of one of American history’s most significant events. To learn more about this opportunity, visit


To be the first to receive updates  about our programming and holdings, please “like” our University of Iowa Special Collections & University Archives page on Facebook:

Being Biblical Through the Ages


How did versions of the Bible reflect the struggles of the European Reformation? How did the Bible “migrate” to America? What is a Cherokee Testament? How did President Lincoln use the Bible in his private and political life? Can the Bible be a comic book?

Editions of the King James Bible around the world are coming out of the woodwork to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the “Authorized Version.” You may want to keep an eye out for any King James Bible sightings in your neighborhood – all the more so because Special Collections is launching a temporary exhibition on the cultural influence of the Bible and its 1611 King James Version.

Our exhibit  follows a timeline from the 13th through the 21st century, but it also traces certain themes and developments in bibles as well as Bible-related and -inspired materials. Foremost among these is how books made for biblical performances and experiences – in church, meditation, literature, education, and political decision making. As Dr. Blaine Greteman observes, “For hundreds of years the King James Bible provided the script for life – used for weddings and funerals, swearing in presidents, and documenting family histories.”

One example:

Bible Book of Maccabees II Chapters 24 leaf recto

Special Collections call number: xfMMs.Bi3


It wasn’t merely church doctrine and Latin language that kept early Bibles out of the hands of the laity. Manuscript Bibles, produced on vellum (sheep or goat skin) were tremendously expensive to produce.  Often elaborately illuminated, they were both holy writ and objects of desire. This is a leaf of a Bible produced by the workshop of William de Brailes, a 13th Century artist who illuminated the famous “Oxford Bible,” which consists of thirty-four illuminated miniatures depicting biblical events from the fall of the Rebel Angels to the Last Judgment. This page is from Maccabees II, a book that Catholics and Orthodox Christians consider canonical, but most Protestants consider as part of the “Apocrypha.”


Please come visit our Bible exhibit in the corridor on the 3rd floor of the University of Iowa Main Library.

Library Guide on the 1960s


Image from the 1965 University of Iowa Hawkeye yearbook, University Archives.


What was it like to be a student, a professor, university staff, or a resident of a US college town in the 1960s? Special Collections & University Archives is launching a Library Guide – a collection of resources for learning, teaching, and researching the history of the 1960s at the University of Iowa, the state of Iowa, the United States of America, and internationally. The events of the 1960s and ‘70s at the University of Iowa and in the Iowa City area may serve as representative of the larger trends in the US and the world. In other words, you can use Iowa City, and the state of Iowa as case studies to compare with the larger processes and other case studies of the 1960s. This era, which scholars also call “the long 1960s,” actually started in the 1950s and stretched into the 1970s. The Sixties is an exciting period because, as of this writing, many of its participants are still with us, eager to tell us about how their youth continues to shape our present. Through their memories and the surviving documents, artifacts and cultural forms, we can better understand who we are and choose what kind of future we want to make for ourselves.

Our LibGuide is divided thematically and based on the forms and media of the information you may be looking for. As you will see , it is also “illustrated” with some photographs taken from the pages of the University of Iowa Hawkeye yearbooks of the 1960s and early 1970s.

“A Background to the 1960s” gives you a cursory overview of social and political activism in the US and the world, the ideological influences of the Cold War, and interpreting popular cultural forms as documents and expression of the larger historical context. 

“Search Terms” explains you the importance of generating phrases that serve as key words for your searches in a variety of databases, and will yield results that pertain to your project.

Our section on “Teaching Resources” enables those looking to educate students about the 1960s to get a sense of the kinds of courses taught about this theme at the University of Iowa, to browse the multitude of syllabi posted on the Internet by professors from other schools, and to survey teaching resources in other media forms such as books, conferences, and Internet portals.

“Books & Articles” gives you a list of scholarly publications about the 1960s. The library call numbers at the end of each entry enable you to locate the books at the University of Iowa Libraries. Starting here, our sections are also organized into a triad: the center column is a list of “Local (Eastern Iowa and Iowa state)” resources; the left column lists “Regional and US National” resources, while the right column is a window to the “international” sites on the 1960s.

Our “Newspapers” section lists a variety of serial publications that may serve as primary sources for the study, teaching and research of the 1960s.

The “Research Collections” section gives you a list of physical collections on the history of the 1960s, mostly in archives and libraries.

“Web Resources” gives you links to a number of virtual exhibitions and digital collections on the 1960s and related topics.

Finally, our “Museum Collections” section takes you to websites of museums that have either permanent or temporary exhibitions on themes around the 1960s. Please keep in mind that even if a temporary exhibition has already closed, sometimes you may still be able to do research on its materials in the particular museum’s holdings. For this you will need to contact the museum directly before you make plans to visit it.

The Art of the Counterculture: Talk Featuring Collection on Lil Picard


For a personal excursion into the art of the counterculture of the 1960s and ’70s, join WorldCanvass at 5:00 p.m. on January 28 in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol Museum. Among other guests of the show, the head of Special Collections & University Archives Sid Huttner will talk about the life and work of 20th century feminist artist and critic Lil Picard.  Picard was born in Germany in 1899 and worked as a cabaret actress, accessories designer and journalist in the avant-garde art scene of 1930s Berlin before leaving Germany for the U.S. in 1937.  For the next six decades she led a rich life working both as a journalist and as an artist in New York City, moving in the circle of Andy Warhol, Carolee Schneemann, Ad Reinhardt and their contemporaries.  The works in Picard’s estate, as well as personal letters, diaries, and photographs, were given to the UI in 1999 and they form the basis of the UI Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibit “Lil Picard and Counterculture New York.”  The collection and exhibit curators will give us a peek at the energy, experimentation and iconoclasm represented in the show.

For more on the Papers of Lil Picard, red our online finding aid:

Leaving No Stone Unturned: Professor’s Papers Provide Look Into 20th Century Broadcast Journalism

We are pleased to announce that the papers of Vernon Stone are now available and accessible through a finding aid. Stone served for 22 years as the research director for the Radio and Television News Directors Association, in which capacity he took innumerable surveys dealing with many facets of the news business, including women and minorities in the newsroom, electronic newsgathering, stress on the job, and careers in the news business, among many other topics.

Vernon Stone testifying on behalf of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication before the Senate Commerce Committee on the Freedom of Expression Act, January 30, 1984.

He also served on the faculties of four different universities and prepared copious notes for his lectures, which are a part of the collection. He wrote many articles on the news business based on his surveys and these form part of the collection, along with the wide-ranging research he did on his topics.

Vernon Stone with scholarship winners, Southern Illinois University, September 13, 1978


Stone was an avid researcher who collected extensively in the area of media, and this collection represents a rich source of research brought together on many topics. The clippings especially represent a collocation of materials useful to the researcher interested in broadcast media in the last half of the twentieth century.

For more information, please read our online finding aid here:

In Memory of Ming Wathne

We are sad to note the passing of Ming Wathne, who donated her extensive collection of science fiction fanzines to the University of Iowa Libraries in 2009. For many years Ming ran the Fanzine Archive, a lending library for fanzines related primarily to media properties such as Star Wars and Star Trek. Her collection has a fascinating story behind it, and we are honored to continue her work by preserving and providing access to these materials.

To explore the collection, please see our finding aid, and you can read more about Ming at her Fanlore entry.

Several fans have organized an effort to provide memorials in support of the collection. If you are interested in participating, please follow these instructions:

Gifts in memory of Ming Wathne may be made by sending your check made out to The University of Iowa Foundation to:

The University of Iowa Foundation
Levitt Center for University Advancement
One West Park Road
P.O. Box 4550
Iowa City  IA 52244-4550

Please note on your check “In memory of Ming Wathne.”

These gifts will be credited to The University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections Fund, for the growth and maintenance of her fanzine collection, and to support joint activities with the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW), whose Open Doors project to preserve fanzine history assisted in bringing Ming’s collection to the University of Iowa Libraries.