Anti-Asian Racism Historically Archived

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Robert Henderson from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001).

A note from the University Libraries:  Some resources in our collections may contain offensive stereotypes, visuals, or language. Such materials serve as evidence of the time period in which they were created, and are part of the historical record. These items do not represent the views of the library or the institution.

 

Anti-Asian Racism Historically Archived

By Robert Henderson

Race and ethnic representation in the United States (U.S.) continues to be a white-centric consensus on the branding of non-white peoples. Alongside heightened scrutiny into race relations, the COVID-19 pandemic has manifested damning rhetoric blaming the Asian diaspora for the creation and spread of the virus. As hate crimes against people of Asian descent rise globally, conducting research on the struggles of race and ethnic identity within the U.S. is pertinent to understanding the continued misrepresentations of the Asian-American. With pandemic restrictions on in-person research impeded, the digital collections within the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections & Archives provide a historical account on the mass conditioning of false ethnic representation found within Iowa’s periodicals.

Editorial cartoons have long been sources of sociopolitical imagery. Reaching across populations, these caricatures have the capacity to relay information without the confines of age and literacy. Within the editorial cartoons of J.N. “Ding” Darling Collection, we see the exacerbation of ethnic discrimination through Darling’s satirical perversions on Asians in the early 20th century. A figurehead in editorial cartoons, Darling’s images can be interpreted as foundations for continued ideologies on race and ethnic relations in popular culture within the U.S. Midwest.

Referencing sociopolitical discord, Darling’s images are records of the white-American stance on international relations. Imagine being a young Asian-American child of the 21st century and coming across a cartoon window promoting racial exclusion. With the digital age of information technologies, we can research and challenge conforms of racial misinterpretation. Now, imagine being a young Asian person in the U.S. during the early 20th century and seeing oppressive imagery of your familial lineage reaching across the entirety of the immediate white populace.

Fig. 1: Ding Darling’s It tastes so different when you make it yourself, 1927

Printed in 1927, It tastes so different when you make it yourself [Fig. 1], is an example of such relays on Asian separatism. Over four decades since the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act enactment, Darling relishes in the irony of the U.S. receiving karmic retribution for such atrocious foreign legislation. Shown as satirical, the depiction of the Chinese man, taking the medicine of exclusion and feeding it back to Uncle Sam, does nothing to uphold inclusion and racial equity. In fact, many may see the child-like facial expressions and U.S. inspired mimicry to measure inferior intellect.

The proliferation of anti-Asian imagery within Darling’s cartoons spans a career from 1900-1949. During this era of world wars, reflections on Asians are incredibly perpetuated by the institution of the white-savior-complex. In 1941, Darling reflects on Nazism with Beginning to understand the Nazi philosophy [Fig.2], an editorial cartoon reflecting hostile Japanese occupation and the American intervention. Carrying a seemingly dead Asian child while hordes of Asian people grasp at his feet for help, the symbolic Uncle Sam casts a farfetched rendition of peace without acknowledging the U.S. contribution to colonial induced war within Asia.

Fig 2: Ding Darling’s Beginning to understand the Nazi philosophy, 1941

Rising to over 150% in 2020, anti-Asian hate crimes in the U.S. continue to climb. From “China virus” to “Kung-flu,” the white political platform refrains from accountability; and without accountability, there is no racial equity. As an Asian-American academic in the Midwest, the fear of violence is very real. The structural heart of white America is rooted in ethnic and racial exploitation. Understanding the roots of oppression through Iowan-created content and imagery found in Special Collections is a great step toward social repair. Until the U.S. accepts the harsh realities of its history and associated imagery, there can be no evolution to racial equity. Special Collections & Archives is a resource not to be overlooked and should be your first stop into acquiring regional archives that can teach the social structures of the region.

 

Robert Henderson is a gay Korean-American artist and activist living in Iowa City, IA.

 

Further reading:

Lee, Jennifer and Min Zhou. Asian American Youth Culture, Identity, and Ethnicity. Routledge, New York, NY, 2004.

Pak, Jenny Hyun Chung. Korean American Women: Stories of Acculturation and Changing Selves. Routledge, New York, NY, 2006.

Park, Hee Sun, Doshik Yun, Hye Jeong Choi, Hye Eun Lee, Dong Wook Lee, and Jiyoung Ahn. “Social Identity, Attribution, and Emotion: Comparisons of Americans, Korean Americans, and Koreans.” International Journal of Psychology 48, no. 5 (2013): 922-34.

Rienzi, Elizabeth S. “A Part Yet Apart: Exploring Racial and Ethnic Identity Formation for Korean Transracial Adoptees Raised in the U.S. Midwest.” Dissertation, University of Oregon, 2012.

Read Behind the Lines: Recovering Deleted Verses in a 15th-century Manuscript

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Laura Moser from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001).

Read Behind the Lines: Recovering Deleted Verses in a 15th-century Manuscript

By Laura Moser

Some may know Latin as a “dead language,” but here in Special Collections & Archives it is still very much alive. It lives not only in ancient literature preserved by manuscripts and printed books, but also in centuries-old notes scribbled in their margins by past readers. A few Latin words penned in the back of a book, like that of a 15th-century Latin manuscript of Lucan’s Pharsalia (xMMs. Hi1), can open up a whole new story about an object.

A history written in verse,  Pharsalia narrates the civil war led by Julius Caesar against the Roman Republic in 49-45 BCE. As an epic poem, its literary predecessors include the works of Homer and Virgil, but its focus on historical events and grim pessimism about human nature set it apart from other poetic works at this time. Thue author, Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (better known as Lucan today), was just 26 years old when he fell out of emperor Nero’s favor and was sentenced to death in 65 AD, before the poem was finished.

Perhaps it was this grisly history that drew a young Italian schoolboy named Tommaso Baldinotti, fourteen hundred years later, to undertake the task of copying the poem. In addition to the poem, Tommaso included in the margins a detailed commentary on the text, interlinear vocabulary notes, and two hand-drawn maps depicting scenes in the narrative (see Figs. 1 and 2). Though Tommaso’s copy of Pharsalia is far from the only surviving copy of this poem, his edition offers unique insight into the reception of Latin literature and educational practices in Italy during this time period, when copying texts by hand was a crucial part of education in Latin. It is also a work of visual beauty; neatly written in humanist miniscule, the pages show careful planning and attention to detail, with a richly decorated initial marking the beginning of each of the poem’s ten sections (see Fig. 3).

Fig 3: Verso 19 of the Pharsalia, with a richly decorated “I” marking the start of Book II, rubricated capitals beginning each line, and generous marginal and interlinear notes.

But just as interesting as what was put into this book is what was removed from it—not in edits to the poem itself, but in four lines added at the end that were carefully crossed out in black ink (see Fig. 4). An occasional error in a handwritten manuscript is to be expected (as anyone who still writes by hand can attest!), but the removal of entire lines after the end of the poem is more puzzling: what had our scribe written and why was it taken out? Did the same hand write and remove these words, or was it a later reader who wished to exclude them?

Luckily, with the careful eyes of a scholar and some help from digital technology has gotten us closer to answering these questions. Classical scholar and digital humanist Samuel J. Huskey, who has worked extensively with this manuscript, observed that the final page of the manuscript was unusual in that it held more than one “colophon,” which refers in manuscripts to the brief statement (usually found at the end of a book) that records the scribe’s name and the date of the work’s completion, often among other details. In this Pharsalia, we find three such colophons. The first, following directly after the word FINIS (Latin for “the end”) in a recognizably similar color and style of handwriting, is just a single line of Latin: Hoc scripsi totum pro p[o]ena da mihi potus, which translates to something like, “I wrote all this; give me a drink for my trouble.”

The lines that follow look to have been written in the same hand and shade of red, but are obscured by two heavy lines of black ink, a clearly deliberate attempt to make the underlying text illegible. Beyond making out a few letters here and there, deciphering these lost lines might have seemed a hopeless task. That is, until Huskey was inspired to try and recover them through some unusual means; he enlisted the help of a local Criminalistics Lab, where they were able to produce infrared images of the page in question and render the excised text visible once more. What this revealed was a second colophon written in verse, similar in spirit to the first, but with a far more personal touch that can only be Tommaso’s. Huskey transcribes and translates the passage as follows:

Thommas adolescens Lucanum hunc scripsit & ipsi

De baldinoctis atque manu propria.

Det veniam Christus moritur cum & debita purget

Dirigat atque ipsum per loca sacra deus.

Tommaso Baldinotti, a young man, wrote this Lucan for himself and with his own hand. May Christ grant him mercy when he dies, and may the Lord forgive his debts and direct him along the path of righteousness.

Fig. 4: Verso 141 of the Pharsalia, showing the end of the poem followed by three separate colophons, including one that has been crossed out.

Whether Tommaso immediately disliked these verses, or he came in at a later age and was embarrassed by the poetic aspirations of his teenage self (something we can all perhaps relate to), or the pen which excised these lines belonged to a later reader, we will perhaps never know. But what we do know is that another manuscript copied by Tommaso includes a similar poem as its colophon, and that one evaded deletion.

The third colophon, then, is the closest thing this book has to a scribe’s signature, in including both his name (Latinized in the accusative as Tomam) and the date of the copy (January 1465). What Huskey noticed was peculiar about this, however—and easily missed by the untrained eye—is that the handwriting and ink color differ from the other words on this page, despite an apparent attempt to match them. Not only that, Huskey saw whoever wrote the colophon didn’t have the scribal skill Tommaso did (or, apparently, strong Latin—it contains at least one grammatical error). Leaving us to ask, who would have gone to such trouble to essentially forge the scribe’s signature, thus rescuing his efforts from anonymity? Huskey’s guess: Tommaso’s nephew, who inherited the book and loved his uncle too much to let his work go unacknowledged.

Maybe this kind of manuscript detective work doesn’t change how history will remember the Pharsalia. But it does tell us more about the people who have chosen to read, copy, and share these kinds of books across history. And if that’s not a reason to study Latin, I don’t know what is.

 

Further Reading:

Samuel J. Huskey, “Three Colophons in Tommaso Baldinotti’s Manuscript of Lucan,” Textual Cultures 5, 1 (2010): 99–110.

Samuel J. Huskey, “Fragments of an Anonymous Medieval Commentary in a Manuscript of Lucan’s ‘De bello civili,” International Journal of Medieval and Humanistic Studies 46 (2011): 91–110.

Armando Petrucci, “Baldinotti, Tommaso,” Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, vol. 5 (1963): https://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/tommaso-baldinotti

Eva Matthews Sanford, “The Manuscripts of Lucan: Accessus and Marginalia,” Speculum 9, 3 (1934): 278-295

Stepping into the life of Julia Booker Thompson

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Alexa Starry from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001)

Stepping into the life of Julia Booker Thompson

Alexa Starry

Cookbooks are a wonderful way to share things through time, heritage, and generations – recipes, ideas, home remedies, you name it. They are an incredibly valuable source of information for historical narratives. When you follow a recipe that was handwritten with care by someone before you, you’re keeping a piece of that person alive. Cooking can be a beautiful, shared experience throughout history, and, in that case, cookbooks can be the blueprint for interpretations of these experiences. They can help shed a light upon the past.

Through Julia Booker Thompson’s 1898 recipe and travel book, we get a glimpse into the daily life of a woman during the nineteenth century. We know she enjoyed trying new recipes, traveled occasionally, and oftentimes looked through the newspaper for home remedies. The details in the journal point to a woman dedicated to running an efficient household, something expected of many middle- and upper-class women at the time. 

Julia’s recipe collection ranges from sponge cake to pumpkin pie to potato puffs. She includes a recipe for scalloped tomatoes which consists of tomatoes seasoned with sugar, pepper, salt, and butter, then covered with breadcrumbs and baked. There are also recipes for grape juice, orange filling, ice cream, and soda mixtures. She would often leave notes in the margins of these recipes with brief personal reviews such as “fine” and “good.” Though short, these notes are an impression of Julia’s character, her tastes and thoughts. A few of her recipes are credited to a woman named Ella Churchill, and there are also recipes from an “Aunt Florence,” the namesake behind Julia’s entry of “Aunt Florence’s Chicken Pie and Biscuits.” The preservation of cookbooks like this one give us the chance to recreate ideas, such as meals, in the present day. It is a way to vividly reimagine the past in a modern context.

Some of the most interesting things in the book are the home remedies and newspaper clippings tucked inside, including tips on how to remove mildew, a remedy for poison ivy, how to clean silk with a raw potato, a trick to remove ink stains with a “paste of sweet milk and corn meal,” and a cure for Cholera Infantum that calls for boiled strawberry leaves. These remedies not only provide a glimpse into common ailments that might afflict a household during this time, but also a look into how people were applying their knowledge and resources to fight these afflictions. 

Another noteworthy and unique component of the book is that a short portion of it serves as a travel journal. There are notes of a trip to Montreal, followed by a quick journey to St. Paul, as well. It is a look into not only the ordinary home life of Julia Booker Thompson, but also an exciting moment in time for her. 

Though we often associate women of the nineteenth century with the home, this little book shows several facets to Julia Booker Thompson. The recipes and reviews show a woman who cared about the food she cooked, and the names with the recipes show a community of women Julia found herself a part of. Paper clippings show someone interested in furthering her knowledge of best practices for a healthy, clean, and efficient household. And the unique travel log shows a woman not just confined to one space. In fact, her recipe and travel book offers a vivid and sensorial look into the past. It has been over a hundred years since Julia wrote in this book, but we are still able to see details of a life lived, of Julia’s life, live on. 

 

Further Reading:

Driver, Elizabeth. “Cookbooks as primary sources for writing history: a bibliographer’s view.” Food, Culture & Society, vol. 12, no. 3, 2009, p. 257+. Gale Academic OneFile. Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

“Everyday Life & Women in America: C.1800-1920 / from the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture, Duke University, & the New York Public Library.” Marlborough, Wiltshire, England: Adam Matthew Publications, Marlborough, Wiltshire, England, 2006.

Robinson, Jane. Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers. Oxford University Press, 2001.

Wessell, A. “Cookbooks for Making History: As Sources for Historians and As Records of the Past”. M/C Journal, vol. 16, no. 3, Aug. 2013.

17th Century Armenian Bookbinding Traditions

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Natasha Otteson from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001)

17th Century Armenian Bookbinding Traditions

By Natasha Otteson

The University of Iowa Libraries has a number of bookbinding models available for research in its Book Model Collection, found in the Conservation Department located at the Main Library. Often utilized in Special Collections classes, this collection is used to exemplify and demonstrate the various mechanisms of books. One of these models is a reproduction of a 17th century Armenian codex Hayrapet Gospels, and was produced by Shanna Leino (Collection Number: 17a.01).

Though the printing press came to the Western world in the fifteenth century through German inventor Johannes Gutenberg, hand-written manuscripts continued to be produced in Armenia until the First World War in the early twentieth century. This was likely due to either one of two reasons. Creating a manuscript by hand was seen as a holy act, one that paid homage to the monk-scribes before them, or, as in the case with texts of religious significance, multi-colored illustrations and illuminations were of higher quality when done by hand, rather than at the press.

A flap was part of the binding to protect the pages within

There are several qualities that distinguish Armenian bookbinding traditions from others. Armenian codices were bound in either calf or goatskin leather, and the color of the leather would be a shade of brown. The surface of the leather would contain blind tooling (though never in gilt) on both the front and the back covers. Attached to the back cover was a fore-edge flap. This flap was also bound in the same leather as the cover, and it would contain tooling in the same style as that on the front and back covers. The flap was precisely the same size of the fore-edge, and the purpose of this flap was to protect the leaves from damage. The inclusion of this flap created a protective, almost box-like container for the text block. 

The spine of the codex was composed of thin, vertical fillets intended to aid in opening. Armenian books were bound in the Coptic style, where the quires of the text block were sewn together through the folds. Armenian bookbinders would employ the use of “grecquage”, a technique that inserted V-shaped notches into the quires. This would allow the sewing needle to pass through the notches with ease, as well as the support cords to be recessed within the spine of the codex. Endbands were utilized to protect the structural integrity of the spine, and a chevron design was often used. [insert “Blog Image 3.jpg” photo]

Close up of the endbands

The size of the boards used in the binding are the same size as the text block of the codex. Compared to other books of this time period, the boards used are relatively thin, usually between 2-5mm thick. In a typical codex the grain of the wood runs vertically, but in most Armenian books, the wood grain of the board runs horizontally. Lastly, instead of paper, parchment, or vellum, like most other books of this era, Armenian books utilize a cloth covering on the inside of the front and back boards, usually linen. Together, these characteristics make early Armenian books a fascinating study in bookbinding techniques.

 

 

For further reading on Armenian binding practices, see:

1. Kouymjian, Dickran. Armenian bookbinding from manuscript to printed book (Sixteenth to nineteenth century). In: Gazette du livre médiéval, n°49. Automne 2006. pp. 1-14; doi : https://doi.org/10.3406/galim.2006.1715.

2. Merian, Sylvie M. “The Structure of Armenian Bookbinding and Its Relation to Near-Eastern Bookmaking Traditions”. Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1993.

To learn more about the Book Model Collection, or to schedule a time to view it, please check out the Conservation Department’s website or contact Head of Conservation, Giselle Simon (giselle-simon@uiowa.edu). 

Cookbooks, Citation, and Community

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Breanna Himschoot  from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0001)

 Cookbooks, Citation, and Community

By Breanna Himschoot

Under its bright lavender marbled binding, this handwritten American cookbook (American cookbook, ca. 1850, US32 in the Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts Collection at the University of Iowa) holds a world of community and relationships, even though the two writers of the book are unknown to us. Given the context of its recipes and handwriting, we believe this book to have been written by two women in America, in the years following 1851. Though the first page contains penned illustrations fit for a cover page, this book has no self-prescribed title or mention of the names of the women who wrote it. Yet, we can learn about these women through their interactions with the book itself.

In the hand of the first writer, the text is formatted consistently throughout, with numbered pages that leave extra room to fill in before a roughly alphabetic index relating page number to recipe. This neat and practical formatting, paired with her recipe for Harvey’s Fish Sauce (page 17) copied from Miss Leslie’s Directions for Cookery (1851), suggests that the first writer has at least some familiarity with printed books, and cookbooks especially. She also uses the pages of this cookbook to comment on her own recipes, noting her preference of one pea soup over another and adding tips based on her experience using the recipes she records.

Both hands on one page with citation, page 39

Our second writer is much less neat and is unafraid to scribble through, and write over her own writing. She begins filling in her new recipes in any space she can find before she reaches the previously unfilled pages (page 50). Though our first writer did occasionally attribute her recipes to others (Mrs. Downe’s raisin wine on page 35 and Mr. Pendrill’s rec’t when a barrel of beer turns sour on page 46 for example), our second writer is much more likely to attribute her recipes to named people. Over the course of her writing, she names the sources of at least 59 of her recipes, with a Mrs. Saward (often abbreviated to Mrs. S) having a notable number of contributions. Mrs. Saward is the citation for almost every recipe from pages 98-104, 23 in total. Could our unnamed writer have been visiting her and consulting her favorite recipes together, perhaps copying them from Mrs. S’s own cookbook? Was she a friend, mentor, or relative? These names, especially when looking at how they appear in the text, give us a sense of the community that this unnamed second writer lived in, and allow us to speculate on her interactions in this community.

Though we cannot be sure of the second writer’s relationship to the first, we can see in these pages an engagement with the recipes that the first writer recorded. From correcting her spelling of “spinach” (page 43), striking through recipes in the index, and pasting over the recipe for Hunter’s pudding with a recipe for Plum pudding instead (6), we see this text being used, updated, and commented on. Beyond its written engagements, the staining on certain pages point to this book having an active life the kitchen rather than remaining a pristine set of records. Though we may never know these women’s names, perhaps by spending time among their notes and the pages they stained, we can learn more about the community they lived in and the recipes they valued.

 

 

 

 

Further reading:

 

Theophano, Janet. 2002. Eat My Words: Reading Women’s Lives through the Cookbooks They Wrote. New York: Palgrave.

From the Classroom- Sheherezade: a flip book

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Leslie Hankins from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0EXW)

 

Sheherezade: a flip book

By Leslie Hankins

The bold imperial purple cover with the title, Sheherezade embossed in gold catches our attention; next, a cryptic graphic raises questions and disorients the viewer. What is this? A close up of fabric? a landscape? a detail from a scientific slide? Awash with questions, we open the book; the deceptively simple title page identifies the book as “a flip book by Janet Zweig with text by Holly Anderson.”

It is an Artists’ book, though paperback and perfect bound. As we begin to turn the pages, we are alerted that something odd is going on as we are drawn in to zoom in to the words of Sheherezade until the letters seem to become a maze of shapes and forms viewed through the loupe or magnifying class of a conscientious letterpress perfectionist. We are hooked. Sheherezade: a flip book by Janet Zweig with text by Holly Anderson flips our conceptions of the flip book and the artists book. In this book, the flip on the left-hand page reveals a small figure of a woman in vintage apparel removing her outer garment; this scene is repeated every 30 pages or so. That is the more traditional flip book dynamic, perhaps making a sly dig at the striptease staple of salacious flip books.

Meanwhile, the right-hand side of the text has another, more intriguing reveal. When we flip that side, we operate as a camera zoom, moving into the text, quite literally, gliding closer and closer into the letters, and into new texts that are revealed within openings in the type itself. This exploratory reveal is repeated with new texts. As we move through the text it becomes a distorted landscape in the exaggerated close up. It is as if we were one of those mini-cameras doctors use to do micro-surgery. Quite literally, then, this book takes close reading to the nth degree. As we continue flipping the pages, in the round opening of one of the letters something new begins to emerge: another whole continent-shape of more words, a story in fact, and so we continue the exploration, engaged and agog. The linear cyclical movement of the flip/strip pulls the reader in one direction, while the zoom in lures us in another. The result is a profound sense of disorientation, or vertigo.

This close reading takes the daring approach to abandon the linear, and moves through the text, tunneling or moving in portals through it, in a magical new way of reading. Innovative and mind-boggling. The book exposes and challenges our expectations about reading as a process; it rebels against linear unfolding, and invents a new tunneling-through movement. We are active agents, readers on a mission as we explore through this book, not passive.

Janet Zweig is a multi-media artist; in addition to her dozens of artists’ books, she is most known for her art in the public realm, including large works such as a sentence-generating sculpture for an engineering school in Orlando, and a kinetic installation on a pier on the Sacramento River. Her many grants and awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Fellowship, Sculpture, 1994 and the Orchid Award from the San Diego Architectural Foundation for Climate Clocks (Abstraction Devices), 2019.

 

Further Reading

The best introduction to Artists’ Books is to see examples, in UI Libraries Special Collection, on-line, or in book form:

Salamony, Sandra with Peter and Donna Thomas. 1000 Artists’ Books: Exploring the Book as Art. Quarry Books, 2012.

The Smithsonian’s blog of artists’ books

The University of Iowa webpage defines the elusive term artists’ book

For theoretical and analytical conceptualizing of the Artists’ Book:

Drucker, Johanna. The Century of Artists’ Books. New York City: Granary Books, 1995.

Drucker, Johanna. The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909-1923. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Rothenberg, Jerome and Steven Clay, eds. A Book of the Book: Some Works and Projections about the Book and Writing. New York: Granary Books, 2000.

Smith, Keith. Structure of the Visual Book. Book 95. Third Edition. Keith A. Smith Books, 1994.

From the Classroom–Business, Beer, and the Bible: The Case of the Maude’s Commonplace Books

“From the Classroom” is a series that features some of the great work and research from students who visit our collections. Below is a blog by Elizabeth McKay from Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce’s class “History of Readers and Reading” (SLIS:5600:0EXW)

 

AMERICAN COOKERY MANUSCRIPTS: MAUDE, WILLIAM & JOHN. Brewer’s Duties & Commonplace Books (2), Early 19th Century, England & Frontier America. Ink, in legible hands. Leeds, England: Ca. 1820. Narrow 4to. Ca. 124 & 50 pp. Full contemporary calf., 1820


Business, Beer, and the Bible: The Case of the Maude’s Commonplace Books

By Elizabeth McKay

William Maude was born in 1787 in England, and his son John emigrated to New England. There he worked in cotton mills before moving to Delaware County, Iowa. These notebooks found their way into Iowa’s Special Collections Culinary Manuscripts collection because of the recipes they hold. Maude recorded many recipes for beer from Morrice’s Treatise on Brewing which was published in 1802. There are more than just beer recipes, though. There are also recipes for ink, medical recipes for coughs and colds, and even a tongue-in-cheek recipe for lovesickness.

Example of record keeping from Maude family

However, the primary use of these books pertained to William Maude’s job in the customs business in England. He used the notebook for calculations and charts that he would’ve copied into an official record. He also included useful reference material for work and notes on bookkeeping. Besides William Maude’s business notes, these “commonplace books” were used by his family for several generations. They continued to be used as a space for quick calculations or sometimes to practice handwriting or jot down a note.

Amidst its casual usage, the Maude family kept a record of important moves and new jobs. Other meaningful additions are a thorough scriptural index (probably copied down out of a book or periodical for the Maude’s use), hymns, fables, jokes, as well as the recipes mentioned above. These books seemed to straddle the line between holding valuable reference information and being used as a kind of collective notebook. While some entries are quick and messy, others are written in very clear and legible hand— designed to be referenced again and again.

Recipe for Brewing

It is these entries designed to be referenced that makes these volumes “commonplace books.” The term comes from a renaissance pedagogical practice of recording quotes from important works under specific sections in a notebook for memorization and reference. Scholar Ann Moss describes commonplaces as “purpose-built instruments for the collection, classified storage, and recycling of knowledge.” Commonplace books in the renaissance were defined by their “heads” that coincided with strict rules for filing quotations under their proper category. By the time the Maude family is writing, this practice is not strict at all. Today, the term “commonplace books” is used even more loosely. A commonplace book can be any sort of compiling notebook with no organizational structure. In the case of the Maude’s books, these notebooks were not used to organize their reading. Rather, they are at times just the paper at hand, at times a business record, and, occasionally, a place to store a hymn or a story. In fact, these notebooks most resemble commonplace books of old in one particular entry: the scripture index.

In the 19th century, manuals, indexes, and all varieties of textual navigation tools were published as appendixes to bibles or in separate volumes. These indexes were highly valued as reference tools to help understand the Bible. Even as the pedagogical tradition of commonplacing drifted into the past, this organizational practice remained strong as a way to understand the Bible in terms of themes. One of the Maude’s writes above the thorough index: “Select Scriptures arranged under their respective heads” — harkening to the language of an older type of commonplace book.

Portion of the religious text in these volumes

While the history of what are called “commonplace books” is rooted in educational practice and the ideal of knowledge organization. Its story throughout history is marked by a gradual decline of the ideals of organization, and the commonplace book moves more firmly into the realm of “miscellany.” This also may strike us as the story of many of our own notebooks. Beginning a new notebook with the highest of intentions, by the end, the notebook has taken on a life of its own, collecting various bits and pieces of our experiences. This seems to be the case with William and John Maude’s two volume set of commonplace books. Toward the beginning of the first volume, there is a page that reads “Contents” at the top. This attempt to categorize the contents seems to have never reached fruition— the page remains empty. The result is a delightfully messy notebook showing many facets of the Maude’s lives in the early 19th century.

 

Cited:

Moss, Ann, “Commonplace Books.” In Brill’s Encyclopaedia of the Neo-Latin World. Craig Kallendorf, Editor. <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/9789004271296_enlo_B9789004271012_0019>

Images from Iowa Digital Library

 

Further Reading on Commonplace Books:

Allan, David. Commonplace Books and Reading in Georgian England. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Finnegan, Ruth, Why Do we Quote? The Culture and History of Quotation. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2011.

Morrice, Alexander. A Treatise on Brewing: Wherein Is Exhibited the Whole Process of the Art and Mystery of Brewing the Various Sorts of Malt Liquor; with Practical Examples upon Each Species. Knight and Compton, 1802.

Moss, Ann. Printed Commonplace-Books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought. Oxford University Press, 1996.