Rare Book Highlights: plants, sex, and poetry with Erasmus Darwin

Painting of a man with shoulder-length light brown hair wearing an eighteenth dentury brown coat and cravat and holding a quill pen.

Portrait of Erasmus Darwin by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1792.

From out of 18th Century England, at the crossroads of the Enlightenment and the Romantic Era, comes a curious work that weds poetry and science in flowery rhyming couplets, heavy with metaphor, and laden with scholarly footnotes. The work is The Botanic Garden (1791), a poem in two parts by Erasmus Darwin, grandfather to the more famous Charles Darwin.

Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) was a physician by trade and a natural philosopher and poet by avocation. He was taken with the recent work of Carl Linneaus (1707-1778) on plant taxonomy, which divided plants into classes and orders based on the number of male and female sexual organs in the flowers, and determined to work this system into poetry in “The Loves of the Plants,” Part II of The Botanic Garden.

While many Englishmen of the time were scandalized by the sexual nature of Linneaus’ taxonomic system, Darwin embraced it, using suggestive images in his floral descriptions, writing of blushing virgins, handsome swains, and deceitful harlots. Take, for example, his description of the genus Gloriosa, which he describes in a footnote as having “Six males, one female. The petals of this beautiful flower with three of the stamens, which are first mature, stand up in apparent disorder; and the pistil bends at nearly a right angle to insert its stigma amongst them. In a few days, as these decline, the other three stamens bend over, and approach the pistil.”

Engraving of Gloriosa Superba with six stamens and one pistil.

When the young Hours amid her tangled hair

Wove the fresh rose-bud, and the lily fair,

Proud GLORIOSA led three chosen swains,

The blushing captives of her virgin chains.–

—When Time’s rude hand a bark of wrinkles spread

Round her weak limbs, and silver’d o’er her head,

Three other youths her riper years engage,

The flatter’d victims of her wily age.

 

“The Economy of Vegetation,” part I of The Botanic Garden, is vast in scope, describing both natural phenomenon and the progress of civilization. In the verses below, despite their references to God, the description of the creation of the universe is more reminiscent of the Big Bang theory than Genesis:

_LET THERE BE LIGHT!” proclaim’d the ALMIGHTY LORD,

Astonish’d Chaos heard the potent word;

Through all his realms the kindling Ether runs,

And the mass starts into a million suns;

Earths round each sun with quick explosions burst,

And second planets issue from the first;

Bend, as they journey with projectile force,

In bright ellipses their reluctant course;

Orbs wheel in orbs, round centres centres roll,

And form, self-balanced, one revolving Whole.

_Onward they move amid their bright abode,

Space without bound, THE BOSOM OF THEIR GOD!

Darwin describes new inventions, like the steam engine, in heroic terms and envisions its many future uses, in boats, cars, and even flying machines:

NYMPTHS! You erewhile on simmering cauldrons play’d,

And call’d delighted SAVERY to your aid;

Bade round the youth explosive STEAM aspire

In gathering clouds, and wing’d the wave with fire;

Bade with cold streams the quick expansion stop,

And sunk the immense of vapour to a drop. —

Press’d by the ponderous air the Piston falls

Resistless, sliding through it’s iron walls;

Quick moves the balanced beam, of giant-birth,

Wields his large limbs, and nodding shakes the earth.

Soon shall thy arm, UNCONQUER’D STEAM! afar

Drag the slow barge, or drive the rapid car;

Or on wide-waving wings expanded bear

The flying-chariot through the fields of air.

 

I was surprised to discover that “The Economy of Vegetation” was illustrated in part with engravings by none other than William Blake, known for his own illuminated books of poetry. His engraving, “Tornado” accompanies this verse:

Black and white engraving of a nude man's body with a face like a man's but a mouth and main like a lion. Entwined around one leg is a dragon's tail, while the head rests on top of the man's head, and the wings spread out behind the man's arms. One arm holds onto a fork of lightning. The entire form floats above ocean waves.

“Tornado” by William Blake.

You seize TORNADO by his locks of mist,

Burst his dense clouds, his wheeling spires untwist;

Wide o’er the West when borne on headlong gales,

Dark as meridian night, the Monster sails,

Howls high in air, and shakes his curled brow,

Lashing with serpent-train the waves below,

Whirls his black arm, the forked lightning flings,

And showers a deluge from his demon-wings.

 

Although Darwin’s high style of poetry may be agonizing to many modern readers, The Botanic Garden was popular when it was first published. Its vision of scientific and cultural progress was vibrant and appealing. Associated as it was with the scientific progress and sexual freedom of the French Revolution, however, popular opinion turned against it as the Revolution turned more savage. Only seven years after its initial publication, it was satirized by George Canning in The Anti-Jacobin in the poem The Love of the Triangles. In later years the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge is famously said to have despised Darwin’s poetry.

Erasmus Darwin. The Botanic Garden. Pt. 1, 3rd edition; Pt. 2, 4th edition. London: J. Johnson, 1794-1795. Call number: QH41 D25b3


Rare Book Highlights: Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Black and white engraved head-and-shoulders portrait of a woman with hair pulled back from her face and wearing a dress with a furred or feathered collar.

Portrait of Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799), Italian mathematician, from the Scala Museum, Milano

“For, if at any time there can be an excuse for the rashness of a Woman, who ventures to aspire to the sublimities of a science, which knows no bounds, not even those of infinity itself, it certainly should be at this glorious period, in which a Woman reigns, and reigns with universal applause and admiration.”

So Maria Gaetana Agnesi writes in the dedication of her major work Instituzioni analitiche (Analytical Institutions) to Empress Maria Teresa of Austria, as translated by John Colson in 1801. It was typical for an author to dedicate a book to a monarch, hoping to win favor and patronage, but here Agnesi (although with the usual flattery and praise) also speaks as woman to woman in a world dominated by men.

Agnesi (1718-1799) is considered the first woman mathematician, born in Milan, Italy to a wealthy merchant. She was a highly intelligent child, who spoke fluent French by the age of 5, knew Latin by age 9, and by 11 added Greek and Hebrew to her classical language repertoire as well as several modern languages. Her father provided her and her younger sister with tutors, and he liked to show her off at gatherings in his home with scholars and celebrities. She presented theses on a number of subjects and then defended them in academic disputations with the scholars present. These discussions were held in a variety of languages, and she answered in the language in which she was addressed.

In 1738, she published Propositiones philosophicae, a compilation of her defense of 190 theses that she gave at a gathering as a kind of capstone to her studies. Following this publication, she announced that she wished to join a convent. At her father’s objection, she reconsidered, but insisted on living a simple life devoted to study and contemplation and free from social obligations. At this time she turned her attention to studying mathematics, and after ten years, she published Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventù italiana (1748), or Analytical Institutions for the Use of Italian Youth.

This volume, written in Italian rather than Latin, and presented as a handbook for educating young people in mathematics, was noted for its clarity and comprehensiveness. She treated not only algebra and geometry, but also the newer fields of integral and differential calculus.

Instituzioni Analitiche ad uso della gioventu Italiana Didna Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Milanese, Dell' Accademia delle Scienze di Bologna, Tomo I. In Milano, MDCCXLVIII. Nella Regia-Ducal Corte. Con licenza de' Superiori.

Title page of Instituzioni Analitiche.

She received much acclaim for the book. Maria Theresa of Austria, to whom she dedicated the book, sent Agnesi a diamond ring and letter. Pope Benedict XIV also sent a letter along with a gold medal and gold-and-gemstone wreath. He also appointed her to the chair of mathematics and natural philosophy at the University of Bologna, which she accepted as a purely honorary position. In spite of all this, Agnesi continued to withdraw from society and mathematical work and worked more and more for the church and the poor. Later in life, she became the director of a poorhouse, and held that position until her death.

Four drawings of conical sections, including figures 58, 59, 60, and 61.

Table 10 from volume 1 of Instituzioni Analitiche.

It is often noted that her fame is not due to any major mathematical discoveries of her own, but is based on her reputation for brilliance, which convinced some men of the time that women had the capacity to understand complex scientific and mathematical concepts. In fact, in John Colson’s “Introduction” to his English translation, he challenges English women to take up the study of mathematics in order not to be outdone by Italian women: “[Women] seem only to want to be properly introduced into these studies, to be convinced of their usefulness and agreeableness, and to prevail on themselves to use the necessary application and perseverance. They have here a noble instance before them, of what the sex is capable to perform, when their faculties are exerted the right way. And they may be fully persuaded, that what one lady is able to write, other ladies are able to imitate, or, at least, to read and understand.”

Two books bound in vellum stacked on top of each other showing leather spine labels that have been partly chipped off the spine.

Iowa State University copy of Agnesi’s 2 volume work.

The ISU library copy of Instituzioni analitiche includes the bookplate and signature of Henry Bickersteth in each of the two volumes. It is bound in simple vellum with spine labels. Henry Bickersteth (1783-1851) was an English lawyer who, in 1836, became a member of the Privy Council and was created Baron Langdale, of Langdale in the County of Westmoreland.

The bookplate indicates that Bickersteth likely acquired this book before he was given a peerage. The bookplate is simple, with no coat-of-arms, and simply the name followed by “Lincoln’s Inn.” This is, to me, a bit of a puzzle. Lincoln’s Inn is one of the four Inns of Court in London, the professional organizations for barristers in England. The puzzling part to me is that in 1808 Bickersteth was admitted to the Inner Temple, another of the Inns of Court, as a student. Why would he be a student at one, and have his residence at another? But there is more evidence that he did, in fact, live at Lincoln’s Inn. The Memoirs of the Right Honourable Henry Lord Langdale by Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy (1852) include a letter from Henry Bickersteth to his brother dated “Lincoln’s Inn, May 31st, 1827.”

Do you know why this would be? Leave a comment!

Maria Gaetana Agnesi. Instituzioni analitiche ad uso della gioventù italiana. Milan: Nella Regia-ducal corte, 1748. Call number: QA35 A27

Bibliography

Agnesi, Maria Gaetana. Analytical institutions, in four books, originally written in Italian. Translated by John Colson, London: Taylor and Wilks, 1801.

“Bickersteth, Henry, Baron Langdale (1783-1851).” Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1885-1901.

Hardy, Thomas Duffus. Memoirs of the Right Honourable Henry lord Langdale. London: R. Bentley, 1852.

Harvey, Joy and Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie. “Agnesi, Maria Gaetana (1718-1799).” The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, Routledge, 2000. 14-16.

Kramer, Edna E. “Agnesi, Maria Gaetana.” Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Scribner, 1981. 75-77.


Rare Book Highlights: Mr. Francatelli’s cookbook

Black and white engraved portrait of Charles Francatelli

By Joseph Brown (1809-1887) (signed in engraving) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Charles Elmé Francatell. Francatelli’s modern cook : a practical guide to the culinary art in all its branches : comprising, in addition to English cookery, the most approved and recherché systems of French, Italian, and German cookery… Reprinted from the 26th London ed., Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1895. Call number: TX715 F844n2 1895

 

If you have been watching Victoria on PBS’s Masterpiece, you may be interested to know that the palace chef Mr. Francatelli was a real person–and a cookbook author. Charles Elmé Francatelli, born in London in 1805, studied French cooking in Paris under Antonin Carême before returning to England. He held several positions as chef de cuisine and maitre d’hotel for wealthy noble families and various London clubs before serving as chief cook for the royal household in 184o-1842. In the television series, Victoria requests that Mr. Francatelli return as cook after the chef that replaces him serves less-than-appetizing dishes. The reality may have been the opposite: his short term working as chef for Victoria may have been because she and Prince Albert preferred plain English cooking to French cuisine.

Francatelli's New Cook Book. Francatelli's Modern Cook. A Practical Guide to the Culinary Art in All its Branches. Comprising, in addition to English Cookery, the most approved and Recherche systems of French, Italian, and German Cookery. Adapted for the use of all Families, large or small, as well as for hotels, restaurants, cooks, cake bakers, clubs and boarding houses; in fact, for all places wherever cooking is required, while at the same time, all will save money by referring to its pages. By Charles Elme Francatelli, pupil to the celebrated Careme, and chief cook to Her Majesty, Victoria, Queen of England. With sixty-two illustrations of various dishes, and a glossary to the whole work. Reprinted from the twenty-sixth London edition. With large additions, and carefully revised. Philadelphia: David McKay, publisher, 23 South Ninth Street.

Title page to one of ISU’s copies of Francatelli’s Modern Cook. Ours is an American edition, reprinted from the 26th London edition.

Charles Francatelli published a cookbook The Modern Cook in 1846, which was popular enough to run to twenty-nine editions. In doing so, he joined the ranks of celebrity chefs that had begun in England in the 18th century, and which carries on today. Capitalizing on his service in the Royal Household to cement his celebrity status, he writes a full-page dedication “To The Right Hon. The Earl of Errol,” Lord Steward of the [Royal] Household, under whose “liberal and judicious directions” Francatelli served as Chief Cook and Maitre d’Hotel while in the service of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

This cookbook is not for the middle class family cook, as Francatelli notes in his Preface to the First Edition–“Many dishes are obviously expensive, and can only be indulged in by the wealthy epicure…,” and later he acknowledges that “throughout this work, the Author has supposed the various dishes and preparations are required to be made for a large number of guests, with the usual resources at hand in a well-appointed kitchen; perfection and economy can only be fully attained under such circumstances.”

Take, for example, these three different recipes for Lamb’s Ears:

(Note: this is only a selection of the text shown.) 938. Lambs' Ears, a la Financiere. Procure a dozen lambs' ears, scald these, then immerse them in cold water; when cold, wipe them dry, and singe them over the flame of a charcoal fire; they must then be gently braized in some blanc (no. 235) for about three-quarters of an hour, and when done drain upon a npakin; the thin part of the ears should be carefully scraped with the back part of the blade of a knife to remove the skin, leaving the white cartilaginous part entire; this last must then be slit in narrow bands, without cutting through the ends, so that when the ears are turned down, these bands by curling over should appear like a row of loops; place the ears as they are trimmed in a deep sautepan or stewpan containing some of their own liquor, sover them with a buttered paper and the lid, and set them aside till dinner time. While the ears are braizing, prepare some veal force-meat, and fill a plain low cylinder border mould (previously buttered) with the force-meat; poach this in the usual way, and when about to send to table, turn it out upon its dish, place the lambs' ears all round the top of it and in each of these put a round ball of black truffle; fill the centre with a rich Financiere ragout (No. 188), pour some of the sauce round the base and serve. Note. -- This entree may also be served with a ragout a la Tortue (no. 189).

Recipes for Lambs’ Ears a la Financiere, Lambs’ Ears a la Dauphine; Lambs’ Ears a la Venitienne.

The end of the book includes bills of fare for dinners for every month of the year, to serve from 6 to 36 persons. There are even bills for a ball supper and a public dinner for 300! Several pages contain the bills of fare for actual dinners served for the queen on particular dates:

Her Majesty's Dinner. 25th January. (Under the control of C. Francatelli.) Potages: A la Tete de Veau en Tortue. Le Quenelles de Volaille au Consomme. Poissons: Le Saumon, a la sauce homard. Les Soles frites, sauce Hollandaise. Releves: Le Filet de Boeuf, pique braise aux pommes de terre. Le Chapon a la Godard. Entrees: Le Bord de pommes de terre, garni de Palais de Boeuf. La Chartreuse de Perdrix aux Choux. Les Cotelettes d'Agneau panees. La Blanquette de Volaille a l'eclarlate. Les Laperaux, sautes aux fines herbes. Les Petits Pates aux hitres. Rots: Les Poulets. Les Faisans. Releves: Le pudding a l'Orange. Les Omelettes Souffles. Entremets. Les pommes de terre a la Strasbourgeoise. Les Epinards au jus. La Gelee de Marasquin. Le Petites Talmouses. Les Feuillantines de Pommes. La Creme aux Amandes Pralinees. Buffet. Roast Beef and Mutton. Boiled Round of Beef.

The Bill of Fare for a dinner served to Queen Victoria on January 25th during Francatelli’s time as Chief Cook in the Royal Household.

Francatelli published three other cookbooks: A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes in 1852, The Cook’s Guide and Housekeeper’s and Butler’s Assistant in 1861, and The Royal English and Foreign Confectioner in 1862. He also married late in life (age 65) to Elizabeth Cooke, daughter of William Cooke, a hotel keeper–but don’t let historical fact disrupt your anticipation of wedding bells with Head Dresser Mrs. Skerrett!

Bibliography

Baker, Anne Pimlott. “Francatelli, Charles Elmé (1805-1876).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Edited by H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, Oxford University Press, 2004, 729.

Sherman, Sandra. Invention of the Modern Cookbook. Greenwood, 2010.


Rare Book Highlights: the Booker T. Washington – W.E.B. Du Bois Debate

Du Bois, W.E.B. The souls of black folk; essays and sketches. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co, 1903. Call number: E185.6 D85s

The Negro problem; a series of articles by representative American Negroes of today. Contributions by Booker T. Washington, W.E. Burghardt Du Bois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles W. Chesnutt, and others. New York: James Pott & company, 1903. Call number: E185.5 N39

 

It is the turn of the 20th century. The Civil War is almost 40 years in the past, and Jim Crow laws are passed in Southern states to enforce racial segregation, while Black Americans encounter racism and discrimination across the country. A debate is going on within the Black community about how to respond to these conditions.

Booker T. Washington and vocational education

In 1895, Black intellectual and educator Booker T. Washington gave a speech at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia, in which he urged Black Americans to temporarily accept segregation and disenfranchisement in exchange for economic opportunity and free vocational education funded by the white community. He believed that if Black men trained for vocational jobs, they could take advantage of the technological developments of the day and make economic progress. By attaining economic independence through hard work, thrift, and patience, he believed that eventually Black Americans would win the acceptance of the white community and thus be granted full civil rights. Critics of Washington’s speech dubbed it the ‘Atlanta Compromise.’

Red and black lettering reads, The Negro Problem, A series of articles by representative American Negros of to-day, contributions by Booker T. Washington, Principal of Tuskegee Institute, W. E. Burghardt DuBois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles W. Chesnutt, and others, New York, James Pott and Company, 1903.

Title page of the first edition of The Negro Problem. Our copy was originally held by the State Library for Iowa, which is why “withdrawn” is stamped across the page.

Washington’s speech was not published (though you can read the transcript at the Library of Congress), but his views on education for Black men (remember, this was at a time when a woman’s place was considered to be in the home) are captured in his essay, “Industrial Education for the Negro,” published in The Negro Problem in 1903. He writes that, following the Civil War, Black Americans tried to distance themselves from their past as slaves through higher education in the liberal arts:

There were young men educated in foreign tongues, but few in carpentry or in mechanical or architectural drawing. Many were trained in Latin, but few as engineers and blacksmiths. Too many were taken from the farm and educated, but educated in everything but farming. For this reason they had no interest in farming and did not return to it. And yet eighty-five per cent of the Negro population of the Southern states lives and for a considerable time will continue to live in the country districts. (p. 13)

He saw the loss of vocational knowledge as a loss of economic opportunity to the population, and he believed that a purely liberal education only prepared Black men for jobs that they had no opportunity to acquire. This guided his decisions as the head of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, now Tuskegee University, in designing the curriculum:

Almost from the first Tuskegee has kept in mind–and this I think should be the policy of all industrial schools–fitting student for occupations which would be open to them in their home communities. (pp. 23-24)

Critiques by W.E.B. Du Bois

On the opposite side of the debate is W.E.B. Du Bois, a Black intellectual who was born and raised in Massachusetts and became the first Black man to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Where Washington advised patience and submission, Du Bois called on members of the Black community to agitate for civil rights. He also argued that higher education, not simply vocational education, was necessary to create Black leaders that would uplift the whole Black community.

Du Bois was Washington’s most outspoken critic. His essay, “The Talented Tenth,” follows Washington’s in The Negro Problem. In direct rebuttal to Washington’s contention that liberally educated Black men cannot find jobs they are qualified for, Du Bois writes:

The most interesting question, and in many respects the crucial question, to be asked concerning college-bred Negroes, is: Do they earn a living? It has been intimated more than once that the higher training of Negroes has resulted in sending into the world of work, men who could find nothing to do suitable to their talents. Now and then there comes a rumor of a colored college man working at menial service, etc. Fortunately, returns as to occupations of college-bred Negroes, gathered by the Atlanta conference, are quite full–nearly sixty per cent. of the total number of graduates. (pp. 51-52)

Teachers 53.4 per cent, clergymen 16.8 per cent, physicians etc 6.3 per cent, students 5.6 percent, lawyers 4.7 per cent, in government service 4.0 per cent, in business 3.36 per cent, farmers and artisans 2.7 per cent, editors secretaries and clerks 2.4 per cent, miscellaneous 0.5 per cent.

Tables showing occupations of Black Americans who attended college, from Du Bois’s “The Talented Tenth” in The Negro Problem.

Du Bois’s most famous book The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of fourteen essays, includes one with the title, “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others.” He critiques Washington’s broader plan of white appeasement and the regression it has brought:

Mr. Washington distinctly asks that black people give up, at least for the present, three things, —

First, political power,

Second, insistence on civil rights,

Third, higher education of Negro youth, — and concentrate all their energies on industrial education, the accumulation of wealth, and the conciliation of the South. This policy has been courageously and insistently advocated for over fifteen years, and has been triumphant for perhaps ten years. As a result of this tender of the palm-branch, what has been the return? In these years there have occurred:

1. The disfranchisement of the Negro.

2. The legal creation of a distinct status of civil inferiority for the Negro.

3. The steady withdrawal of aid from institutions for the higher training of the Negro. (p. 51)

Black text reads, The Souls of Black Folk, essays and sketches, by W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, Chicago, A. C. McClurg and Company, 1903.

Title page of the first edition of The Souls of Black Folk.

Both men were deeply concerned about the social and economic progress of Black Americans. Their backgrounds shed some light on the sharp differences in their approaches. Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in 1856 and taught himself to read as a child following the Civil War. Later, he worked his way through Hampton Normal Agricultural Institute in Virginia, now Hampton University. Du Bois, on the other hand, was born in 1868 in Massachusetts, where he attended school in a primarily white community. He attended Fisk University in Nashville, where he first encountered Jim Crow laws. Later, he became a leader in the Niagara Movement, a Black civil rights organization. When the group dissolved in 1909, Du Bois went on to co-found the NAACP.

What strikes me the most, as I write this blog post, is that the concerns of Washington and Du Bois are still relevant today. In the age of #BlackLivesMatter, this statement from Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk stands as a challenge and call to action:

…the burden belongs to the nation, and the hands of none of us are clean if we bend not our energies to righting these great wrongs. (p.59)


Visiting SCUA 102

Hello everyone! This is the second in the blog series about visiting Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) from the perspective of someone who is pretty new.  In SCUA 101, I covered some of the reading room rules and why they exist. Today I will cover what will happen when you visit us here on the 4th floor of Parks Library.

If this is your first time to the archives during this calendar year, we will ask you to fill out a registration sheet.  We will also ask to see a photo ID (don’t worry—you can definitely use your ISU student ID).  We will also ask that you sign into the reading room, which is the only thing you will have to fill out for each subsequent visit.

Rachel1

Rachel Seale ready to help a patron at the desk.

The friendly desk staff can help you with what you are looking for.  We can help teach you how to search for materials on our website and explain how to use a finding aid.  Throughout your visit, staff is happy to answer any questions you have; whether that be a question on how to handle a certain set of documents or suggestions for places you might look for further research.

When you are ready to request materials, you will fill out the form below so that someone on staff can retrieve the materials from our closed stacks.  The stacks are closed to the public for security reasons and also because our very special materials need to be kept in a certain temperature and humidity range.  You would definitely need a jacket if we kept the reading room the same temperature as the stacks!

Pull Slip

Before you look at materials you will need to store your bags, coats, umbrellas, etc. in the lockers or the closet.  Now you are ready to take a seat and wait for your materials.  When they come, SCUA staff will give you a brief handling demonstration; then you are ready to start your research!

Throughout your visit, please let us know if there is anything we can help with.  We know it can take some time to get used to the rules and feel comfortable handling the materials, and we want you to have the best experience possible.

The reading room is open from 9-5, Monday-Friday.  If you have more questions about visiting SCUA, feel free to email us at archives@iastate.edu or visit our tutorial pages on planning a visit and using our materials.

When you visit, be sure to allow yourself a few extra minutes to check out our latest exhibit: “Do[ing] their bit” Iowa’s Role in the Great War.


Rare Books Highlights: The Future is Now

Blish, James. Year 2018. New York, Avon, 1957. Call number: PS3503.L64 Y4x 1957b

Welcome to the future! You probably thought we were already well into the future, considering that we have already passed many science fiction milestones designating THE FUTURE with its array of wonders or horrific dystopias, such as 1984, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and even 2015, the future year that Marty McFly visits in Back to the Future Part II. (Where are our flying cars and *real* hover boards?) If that is the case, then I’m afraid you were missing one other important science fiction future date: Year 2018! by James Blish.

Illustration of Jupiter, a man in a space suit, and a bridge across an expanse of colorful swirls of gases.

Paperback cover of the book “Year 2018!” by James Blish, published 1957.

Year 2018! was released in 1957 in paperback. It was first published in hardcover in England a year earlier under the title They Shall Have Stars and is the first of Blish’s Cities in Flight series. In a foreword, Blish writes that “Avon Publications has kindly allowed me to second-guess this novel, however, so the present version differs somewhat from the British edition.” It is a dystopian novel, which the blurb on the back of the book sums up this way:

In the year 2018…

Man undertook the most amazing project in human history–a bridge on Jupiter!

In that frozen, raging, gaseous Hell, the Spacemen built a colossal, monstrous bridge out of sheer Ice IV–30 miles high, 8 miles wide, and ever growing in its incredible length.

What was the purpose of this fantastic project?

What was the secret that lurked behind the stars?

Only one man knew–SENATOR WAGONER of Alaska, who controlled the U.S. Space Flight Corps–and possessed the most tormenting knowledge in the Universe!

I don’t know about you, but I’m intrigued! Maybe some new reading material to add to your 2018 reading list?

ISU Special Collections holds this title as part of the Margaret Young Science Fiction Collection.


Visiting SCUA 101

This is the first in a new series of posts about visiting the Special Collections and University Archives written by someone who is fairly new to archives herself!  The first time (or the first few times) you research in a special collections or archives, it can be a bit intimidating.  There are special rules for handling and viewing materials.  There are methods for searching for materials that you might not have encountered before.  On top of that, handling the only copy in existence of a document that may be over 100 years old is enough to give anyone pause!

Fear not!  This blog series is designed to help you feel more comfortable in coming to visit our reading room and using our rare and archival materials.

The first topic to address is: why are there so many rules?

Rules Sheet

Folder marker with rules for using the reading room.

While every special collections will do things a little differently, there are suggested best practices that we adhere to.  The rules are not in place to scare researchers off.  Trust me, we really want you to use our materials, and we love seeing a full reading room!  The rules are in place to protect the materials and ensure they are available to researchers now and for generations to come!

As you can see, there are many rules, so I’ll only go into detail about a few.

  • We don’t allow food or beverages of any kind for a couple of reasons.  Most immediately, this eliminates the possibility of crumbs or spills on the materials.  Secondly, people might find a bag of chips too tempting to resist, but so do pests that may come for the chips, but stay to chew on important documents.
  • We ask you to use book supports for all bound volumes, which helps alleviate pressure on the spine.  This is important whether the book is new or old.  After all, someday that brand new book will be an old book.
BookCradle3

Demonstration of book cradle and weight use with class catalogue from 1904-05.

  • An important aspect of using the archives is preserving the original order of materials.  Because of this, there are several rules that are in place in order to preserve the order the files are in currently.  For example, bringing up the entire folder when you scan something helps ensure the item gets put back in the correct place (and helps prevent bending, creasing, or tearing of the item on the way to or from the scanner).

If you have questions about any of the other rules, we’re more than happy to answer them!  Stop by the reading room anytime between 9 and 5, Monday-Friday or email us at archives@iastate.edu.  Stay tuned to future posts for tips for finding materials using our website, help with materials handling quandaries, and other helpful information.

 


Rare Book Highlights: Pop Up! The Technical Encyclopedia Edition

Henri Desarces. Nouvelle encyclopédie pratique de mécanique et d’éelectricité. 4 volumes. Paris: Librairie Aristide Quillet, 1924. (TJ163 .D47 1924)

Okay, so it is not technically a pop-up book. But as a non-scientist and non-engineer, I find myself drawn most to the illustrations in scientific works. Plates with moveable layers are just gravy. (Look below for videos!)

And yet, scientific illustrations are more than just pretty pictures. They communicate complex concepts both to other experts in a highly specialized field, and also sometimes to general audiences.

This newly-purchased encyclopedia is clearly speaking to experts, as you can see by examining a few pages from any volume:

Two pages show technical text in French along with several scientific and mathematical diagrams.

Opening in vol. 1 of Nouvelle encyclopedie.

This encyclopedia uses a number of different illustration techniques, including half-tones, blueprints, and chromolithographs.

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And finally, the 4th “Atlas” volume contains chromolithographic plates with several layers of overlays that are just seriously cool:

The Nouvelle ecyclopédie is a comprehensive guide to the state of mechanics and electricity (volume 3 is entirely devoted to electricity) post-World War I. It was compiled by Henri Desarces, an engineer at École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris. He first published the work under the title Grande encyclopédie practique de méchanique et d’electricité in 1913. For this second revised and updated edition, Desarces collaborated with many other French engineers who were specialists in various fields. The French publisher Quillet was a well-known publisher of illustrated and accurate technical encyclopedias.

This is a wonderful addition to our engineering books, and I am excited to share it with classes and researchers!

Here’s a bonus video:


A conversation of books and prints

Amy N. Worthen: The World in Perspective, August 22 – December 17, 2017, Brunnier Art Museum, 295 Scheman Building, Iowa State University

Is there a book you’ve had a conversation with over the course of your life? Has its meaning changed each time you return to it? Has it influenced your own work?

Here is an opportunity to see such a conversation play out in the works of an artist.

Amy N. Worthen: The World in Perspective. Prints and Drawings

Introduction label to “Amy N. Worthen: The World in Perspective” at Brunnier Art Museum.

About a year ago, I was contacted by Adrienne Gennett, Assistant Curator of Collections and Education at Iowa State University Museums, about the possibility of Special Collections and University Archives loaning some early printed books for an exhibition featuring a locally-based printmaker to help illustrate the history of printmaking. I had never been involved in an exhibition loan, but I was excited by the idea of our collections reaching an audience outside the library’s walls. As I met first with Adrienne, and joined later by the artist, Amy Worthen, the ideas for the book portion of the exhibit began to take shape.

Amy Worthen sent me a list of books with prints that had been influential to her–both as an art historian and as an artist. Since she lives for part of the year in Venice, Italy, she also listed some of our early books printed in Venice.

As Amy and Adrienne paged through books here in Special Collections, I got a peak behind the curtain, listening to their curatorial conversations as they determined the interplay of historical to contemporary prints.

Two books open for display in a glass museum case.

Two volumes from Denis Diderot’s Encyclopedie (call number AE25 .En185): the entry on Gravure (engraving) and a corresponding illustration from the plates volume.

After the final selections were made, other library staff contributed to getting the books ready for their exhibition debut. The library’s conservator, Sonya Barron, reviewed the items to identify any needed repairs. Preservation department staff member Jim Wilcox built the cradles to support the books. Finally, the books were ready for packing up and installation, completed by Sonya in collaboration with Museums curator Adrienne.

When I visited the exhibit, it was satisfying to see the final results. As Rare Books and Manuscripts Archivist, I was delighted to see some familiar faces in a new setting, and viewing the results of Amy Worthen’s “conversations” with the early prints was illuminating.

One of the first cases you see when you enter the room lays the foundation for the exhibit. Two volumes are displayed side-by-side in a case. One is entirely text–the entry from Denis Diderot’s French Enlightenment Encyclopédie on “Gravure,” or engraving. To its right is one of the encyclopedia’s plates volumes, opened to an illustration of engraving tools. When you turn to your left, you see a corresponding case of engraving tools and a copper plate, etched with fine lines by the artist. Hanging above it on the wall is Worthen’s framed artist’s proof of Strumenti d’ Incisione (Engraving Tools), 1995, a true counterpart to the Encyclopédie‘s illustration–she created it to illustrate her entry on printmaking for the Grove Dictionary of Art.

Another example of Amy Worthen’s prints in conversation with earlier pieces can be seen in the pairing of a print from Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Le antichità romane (1756) (call number NA1120 .P664a), with the artist’s Catacomb. The accompanying label reads, “When she was in college Worthen first saw original Piranesi etchings. She was greatly inspired by his approach to architecture – part documentation, part exaggeration, and part fantasy.” Both of the prints feature Roman catacombs, or underground burial sites.

Some of my favorite pieces in the exhibition are those with elements of whimsy and humor, such as The Department of Agriculture, depicting a cow seated at a desk inside the State Capitol building addressing a group of animals including 2 pigs and a litter of piglets, a rooster, and a big-horn sheep. I laughed out loud when I saw Worthen’s Self-Portrait as a Pineapple:

Print of black lines on yellow showing a pineapple form with a face underneath the leaves.

Self-Portrait as a Pineapple, 1970
Amy N. Worthen (American, b.1946)
Un-numbered
12 1/4 x 9 1/8 in. (31 x 23.2 cm)
Loaned by the artist

This is only a sneak peek at the exhibit. You’ll want to visit in person to see the eight books from Special Collections and more than one hundred prints, sketchbooks, and printing plates.

You still have time to stop by and see Amy N. Worthen: The World in Perspective. It is on exhibit through December 17, 2017, at Brunnier Art Museum in 295 Scheman Building.


Rare Books Highlights: Books from the Index librorum prohibitorum

This week is Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the freedom to read. Book banning and censorship have gone on for centuries, and one of the most prominent vehicles for such activity in the Western world was the Index librorum prohibitorum, the list of books banned by the Roman Catholic church for spreading heretical ideas. The Index made its first appearance in 1559 under Pope Paul IV, and it carried broad restrictions, including all books by heretical authors and printers, and books without identifiable authors or printers. The Pauline Index was not readily accepted because of the severity of its restrictions, and so it was replaced in 1564 by the Tridentine Index, coming out of the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic church’s 19th ecumenical council convened in response to the Protestant Reformation. This Index followed more narrow rules for prohibiting books. For example, books of a non-religious nature by a heretical author were not necessarily prohibited. The Tridentine Index laid the foundation for later editions of the Index. In 1571, the Sacred Congregation of the Index was established to oversee and periodically update the Index and to investigate particular cases of denounced writings. The final 20th edition of the Index appeared in 1948, and it was officially abolished by Pope Paul VI in 1966.

This post highlights two famous astronomy books from our collections that spent time on the Index.

Nicolaus Copernicus. De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. Basileae, Ex Officina Henricpetrina, 1566. Call number: QB41 .C79d

Nicolaus Copernicus. Portrait from Toruń, beginning of the 16th century.

Copernicus overturned the long-held idea of an earth-centered universe in his De revolutionibus. He demonstrated mathematically that the Earth and the other planets revolve around the sun, and that the moon revolves around the Earth, as shown in the diagram below.

Page showing a diagram of the heliocentric solar system model from Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus.

The book was not censored immediately upon publication. Though the work received criticism for being in conflict with Joshua 10:13 from the Bible, in which the Sun is commanded to stand still in the sky, thus indicating that the Sun circles the Earth, it took over 70 years for the book, first published in 1543, to come under consideration by the Congregation of the Index, due in large part to the astronomical work of Galileo (see more below). In 1616, the Congregation placed the work on the Index “until corrected,” and in 1620 ten specific corrections to the text were outlined that were designed to make heliocentricism appear to be theoretical only and not a description of a natural phenomenon.

Some copies of the book were “corrected” by hand, especially copies owned by people living in Roman Catholic countries. The ISU copy is, perhaps unfortunately, not corrected. Check out this blog post from University of Rochester River Campus Libraries for examples of a corrected copy.

Coat of arms stamped in gold leaf on brown leather.

Coat of arms on the cover of ISU’s copy of De Revolutionibus.

Although lacking the corrections, the ISU copy does have some interesting elements. Check out the coat-of-arms on the binding. A note pasted inside the front cover indicates that this coat-of-arms was used by the “eldest son during father’s lifetime” of the Berkeley family, a family from the English nobility from a long-running Saxon line.

 

 

Galileo Galilei. Dialogo di Galileo Galilei. Fiorenza i.e. Napoli, 1710. Call number: QB41 .G35 D5x 1710

Justus Sustermans’ Portrait of Galileo, 1636. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

The writings of Galileo and Copernicus are closely linked in their relation to the Index. In fact, he wrote as early as 1597 to both Johannes Kepler and a former colleague named Jacopo Mazzoni, sharing his support for Copernicus’ model of the solar system. Galileo’s work at this time focused largely on mechanics, but with the invention of the telescope in 1608, he turned his attentions to improving it. In 1610, Galileo took his improved telescope and starting looking to the heavens. Galileo made a number of famous discoveries, including four moons of Jupiter, which he published in a book titled Sidereus nuncius. His made later discoveries, including the phases of Venus, that removed objects to the Copernican system, and in 1613 he published Letters on Sunspots, in which he first spoke openly in favor of the Copernican system. Later than same year, theological objects to the Copernican system were raised, and Galileo rose to its defense. He wrote on the necessary separation between scientific investigation and theological issues, and he even went to Rome in late 1615 to advocate against the suppression of the Copernican system and to clear himself from any condemnation. Galileo failed to stop the 1616 edict against De revolutionibus, and while no actions were taken against him or his works, he was instructed to no longer defend Copernicanism.

In 1623, Pope Urban VIII was appointed in Rome. Galileo met with the new pope in 1624, and over the course of several meetings, the pope granted Galileo permission to write about the Copernican system, so long as he presented it as a theory. The result was Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The book took the form of a conversation between a spokesman for Copernicus, a spokesman for the Ptolemy and Aristotle (who promulgated a geocentric model of the solar system), and an educated layman for whose support the other two are vying. The follower of Ptolemy and Aristotle is named Simplicio, which looks suspiciously like a double entendre for a simple-minded person, since the Italian for simple is semplice. While on the surface Galileo remains uncommitted to the Copernican system, the course of the book systematically disproved the geocentric model of the universe. He also put the arguments used by Pope Urban VIII himself in conversations with Galileo into the mouth of Simplicio, which seems to have caused great personal offense to the pope. Upon publication of the Dialogo in 1632, copies were sent to Rome, and before long Galileo was ordered to appear before the Inquisition.

Galileo’s Dialogo was written as a conversation between three speakers, but it proved many mathematical points, as illustrated by the diagram on the right page.

The results of Galileo’s trial are well-known. He was found guilty of heresy in his support of the Copernican system and was forced to abjure those views. He was sentenced to imprisonment, but due to health issues the sentence was commuted to house arrest for the remainder of his life. Finally, the Dialogo was placed on the Index.

Galileo continued to write while under house arrest, publishing an important work in physics, Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences, in 1638. Because the publication of any of Galileo’s works had been banned, he had to have the manuscript smuggled out and published in Holland by Elzevir.

ISU’s copy of the Dialogo is a large-paper copy of the second vernacular edition, meaning the edition that was printed in Italian, rather than the original Latin. Published in 1710, almost 80 years after the first edition and 68 years after Galileo’s death in 1642, it was still a prohibited work. Perhaps that is why there is no publisher indicated and there is a disguised printing location–the title page says Florence, but bibliographic scholars have identified that it was actually published in Naples. This edition is important in that it contains, in addition to the Dialogue, several other related texts that were not available at the time of the first edition. Notably, it includes the first Italian printing of Galileo’s Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, in which he argued for the independence of science from religion, and a reprint of Paolo Foscarini’s Lettera, which was the first Italian work defending the Copernican theory. This last work was banned in 1616 at the same time as Copernicus’ De revolutionibus, and existing copies were burned. Also of interest is the Inquisition’s sentence of Galileo and his abjuration.

Both works by Galileo and Copernicus remained on the Index until 1835, when the Catholic Church abandoned its official opposition to heliocentrism.

 

This post was written with help from:

Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.” Wikipedia. 30 August 2017. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialogue_Concerning_the_Two_Chief_World_Systems

De revolutionibus orbium coelestium.” Wikipedia. 9 September 2017. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_revolutionibus_orbium_coelestium

Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Charles Coulston Gillispie, ed. Scribner, 1981.

“Galileo Galilei.” Wikipedia. 18 September 2017. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei

Index Librorum Prohibitorum.” Wikipedia. 28 July 2017. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Index_Librorum_Prohibitorum

“List of authors and works on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.” Wikipedia. 23 June 2017. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_authors_and_works_on_the_Index_Librorum_Prohibitorum

“Nicolaus Copernicus.” Wikipedia. 18 September 2017. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolaus_Copernicus

Two New Sciences.” Wikipedia. 21 September 2017. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_New_Sciences