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American Collections blog

7 posts from August 2015

28 August 2015

HC SVUNT DRACONES

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Above: displays have always been a highlight. This was of our Edward Curtis materials, for students from NYU (image: PJH)

Well, after five years as part of Team Americas (nine, if you count my time as an MA and PhD student) I'm moving on to new pastures - even if they are still part of the British Library. Next week I'll be taking up the post of Lead Curator, Digital Mapping, and will be based with colleagues in the Contemporary British team.

It's a return to my founding discipline, as I'm a Geographer originally, but I will miss working with the Americas collections. Over the last five years I've learnt a lot through the Library's collections and the chance to wallow in their breadth has been fascinating. I can safely say there is more material here than you could ever possibly imagine. In many ways, and in contrast to doing a PhD, this is the joy of working as a curator; getting to stretch yourself out over a vast range of information about the history and present of the Americas and their place in the world.

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Above: looking over exhibition design proofs for Lines in the Ice (image: PJH)

This being the case I thought it would be a shame to leave without noting down some of my highlights working for Team Americas, mostly for nostalgia but also because some of it might interest you. So, here we go;

  1. Y'all: I wrote last week about it being an honour to meet Reverend Jesse Jackson but, while this is true, I can honestly say it's been my absolute pleasure to work with each and every one of you. The main joy of my role has been getting an inside view of what questions researchers on all levels are asking about the collections. As our Summer Scholars show, you're all doing great work.
  2. The Eccles Centre: most of you reading the blog know this already but many of us in American, Canadian and now Caribbean Studies would get an awful lot less done without them.
  3. Students: we hear a lot about how awful it is being a graduate student and, yes, the hours are long and the subsequent employment prospects are less than great. However, the amount of brilliant work PhDs in Americas studies are doing is astonishing and adds a huge amount to their fields and the broader understanding of the Library's collections. On top of this my own PhD students have been fantastic and a guaranteed highlight to any week I've worked with them.
  4. Events and exhibitions: I've been lucky during my time in the Americas collections and have run a number of events and displays, as well as one exhibition. Lines in the Ice was a privilege to put on but for all the academic praise it received the biggest achievement was getting younger children interested in the Arctic. Seeing young folk (be they 5 or 15) every day enjoying listening to the sounds of walruses under water or Inuit throat singing was a delight. The events have been great too, Summer Scholars was a hoot (especially when Naomi Wood was blasting out music next to the Conservation Centre) and events like 'Our Memories of the Uprisings' brought communities together.
  5. The societies: be it BAAS, BACS or SCS, the Americas area studies societies are an important hub for their respective disciplines. Make no bones about it, times are tough for area studies scholars and departments but the members of these groups keep bringing people together, innovating and, along with the Eccles Centre, providing a hub to keep on raising important questions.
  6. Australasia: my adopted charge. I took on these collections while we were without an Australasia curator and it was an immensely rewarding experience. I learnt that I knew as good as nothing about Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island history and got to rectify that by using original historical documents. A unique and exciting adventure.
  7. The collections: I'll be working with physical collections a lot less now but, even in a digital age, it's impossible to over-stress how important these are. Be they books, photographs, newspapers, maps or manuscripts each of these objects, produced yesterday or a thousand years ago, is a connection to the past. This connection is partial, obscured, provocative, confusing and many other things that stop it being (as we too often say) a 'window' onto the past but the fundamental truth that some other person touched this object, be they another reader, an eighteenth-century mapmaker or King George III, makes that connection tangible and personal.
  8. This blog: last but not least. Writing on here about what Team Americas has found, who has visited and what we're up to has always been enjoyable. It's tough to find the time, as it always is with writing, but the blog both inspires research and acts as a record of what has happened to Team Americas since late 2009. Hopefully I'll pop back up occasionally, but for a while it will carry on without me.

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Above: hopefully, I'll still be working with the originals of these. Occasionally.

This, of course, isn't everything and nor should it be as I'm not leaving the Library. There is a lot I still get to do and, thankfully, that includes working with the Americas team and the Eccles Centre, even if this doesn't happen quite as often. However, for now, this is goodbye to our time working together with the Americas collections.

I'm off to find some [digital] dragons.

[PJH]

24 August 2015

Team Americas meets Reverend Jesse Jackson

William Wells Brown (portrait)  Olaudah Equiano (portrait)

Above: portraits from the works of William Wells Brown [BL: 10880.a.6] and Olaudah Equiano [BL: 1489.g.50], two items displayed for the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Last week Team Americas had the pleasure of putting on a small show of collection items for Reverend Jesse Jackson, who visited the Library's Magna Carta show ahead of his event on Friday evening. I've done more than a few collection displays while I've been a curator and it's always entertaining to collate a selection of material, usually on a tight timescale, from the Library's vast collections and making a narrative that will interest the audience and illuminate the significance of the objects on show.

For Reverend Jackson's display I focussed on the long march to abolish slavery and attain racial equality in the Americas, which is extensively detailed in manuscript, book, newspaper and other collections held here. It was an opportunity to look at a number of items I know of but have not spent time with and also to show some of the notable interconnections between the items, collections and ideas that make up the wider Americas collections.

Spending time with material you've not read before is always fascinating and the Library's holdings of manuscript letters between King Henri Christophe of Haiti and Thomas Clarkson, written in 1816, are particularly so. Consisting mostly of a lengthy letter from Christophe to Clarkson there are two main threads to the message: Christophe explaining why the Haitian revolution was so necessary and also thanking Clarkson for dispatching some (reading between the lines) British teachers to support education in this new free state. The arrival of these teachers raises a question as to exactly what is going on here. Christophe is undoubtedly pleased with their arrival ('the greatest benefit' he calls them) but why, above all things, did Clarkson send teachers? Was he asked to? Did he decide they were an important part of, perhaps, shaping free Haiti into a recognisably European state? Or did he think educating free Afro-Caribbeans would make a useful case for his own abolitionist work?

Whatever the case, the letters remind us of a few important points: that the networks involved in promoting the end of slavery and subsequent racial equality in the Americas were international in nature; that they involved a large number of individuals with prodigious global contacts; that each party in these networks had their own aims and objectives; and that activism in these networks could spring up in the most unlikely of places. Another item on display was a copy of Olaudah Equiano's 'Interesting Narrative' and a glance at the subscribers in this work illustrates the above nicely. A recent blog post by our student Ellie Bird (whose research was also on display) illustrates the surprising locations involved, as authors promoting Underground Railroad publications found their way to the Lake District.

The only problem with these displays (as with these blogs) is that people are busy and there's never enough time to talk about absolutely everything that piques one's interests. Sadly, my time of doing these displays is coming to an end too as, at the beginning of September, I'll be taking up the post of Lead Curator, Digital Mapping, here at the Library. Given this will be one of my final displays I've decided to leave it on the blog for future reference and so the handout can be downloaded below. 

Download Freedom and Equality in the Americas (Rev Jackson display, final)

[PJH]

14 August 2015

Animal Tales exhibition list

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Animal Tales has been open for a week, and we're very pleased by the response so far.  We've had lots of requests for a list of what is on display, so here it is

1.       Looking at Animals

Gilbert White, The Natural history of Selborne and its antiquities, London, 1802. C.61.b.20 & Add. MSS 31852

Michel de Montaigne, Les Essais de Michel Seigneur de Montaigne. Paris, 1602. C.28.g.7

John Berger, draft of ‘About Looking: Why look at animals’, 1979–80. Add MS 88964/1/35 & John Berger, Why look at animals. London, 2009. Private collection

David Garnett, A Man in the zoo. London, 1924. 12631.h.14

Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. London, [1902]. Cup.402.a.4

Karen Bleitz, Dolly: edition unlimited. London, 1997. RF.2004.a.

2.       Traditional Tales

Esbatement moral des animaux. Anvers, [1578]. C.125.d.23

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Kinder-und Hausmärchen. Berlin, 1875. 12431.bbb.55

Ronald King & Roy Fisher, Anansi Company. London, 1992. C.193.c.8

Wu Cheng’en, Journey to the West. 15271.c.13

Antonia Barber, The Mousehole Cat. London, 1990. LB.31.b.4374a

Ted Hughes & Leonard Baskin, Crow: from the life and songs of the Crow.

London, 1973. Hughes 11

The Very hungry lion: a folktale. Adapted by Gita Wolf. Chennai, 2000. YK.2004.b.224

3.       Tales for Children

Johann Amos Comenius, Orbis sensualium pictus. London, 1659. E.2116.(1.)

[Sally Sketch], An Alphabetical arrangement of animals for little naturalists.

London, 1821. 7207.a.11

History of the red-breast family: being an introduction to the Fabulous History written by S. Trimmer. London, 1793. C.193.a.126

Anna Sewell, Black Beauty: his grooms and companions: the autobiography of a horse. London, 1877. C.123.d.35

Anton Chekhov, Kashtanka. London, 1959. 12842.r.20

Anthony Browne, Gorilla. London, 1991. YK.1991.a.5346

Judith Kerr, The Tiger who came to tea. London, 2007. Private collection

John Agard, We animals would like a word with you. London, 1996. YK.1996.b.17152

SF Said, Varjak Paw. Oxford, 2003. Nov.2003/1912

T.S. Eliot, Old Possum’s book of practical cats, illustrated by Nicolas Bentley. London, 1940. 11656.b.44 & Add. MS 71002, f. 53

Matthew Reinhart, The Jungle book: a pop-up adventure. London, 2006. YK.2011.a.15056

4.       Animal Allegories

Chinua Achebe and John Iroaganachi with Christopher Okigbo, How the leopard got his claws. Nairobi, 1976. X.990/9580

Mikhail Bulgakov, A Mongrel’s Heart, adapted by Stephen Mulrine, 1994. MPS 6265: 1994

Art Spiegelman, ‘Maus’ in Funny aminals. San Francisco, 1972. JB Rund Collection

Richard Church, A Squirrel called Rufus. London, 1941. 12825.dd.33

Munro Leaf, The Story of Ferdinand. London, 1937. 012802.cc.54

CS Lewis, The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe. London, 1950. RF.2006.a.114

Laline Paull, The Bees. London, 2014. Nov.2015/1132

George Orwell, Animal Farm: a fairy story. London, 1995. YC.1995.b.7273

5.       Metamorphoses

Ovid, La Métamorphose d’Ovide figurée. Lyon, 1583. 11388.aa.24

Chris Ofili, Diana and Actaeon. London, 2012. LC.31.b.13013

Angela Carter, ‘Courtship of Mr Lyon’. Add. MS 88899/1/34, f. 14

John Keats, Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of St. Agnes & other poems. Waltham St. Lawrence, 1928. C.98.gg.16

Philip Pullman, I was a rat!...or The scarlet slippers. London, 1999. Nov.2000/93

David Garnett, Lady into fox. London, 1922. 12630.pp.12

6.       Call of the Wild

Jack London, The Call of the wild. London, 1903. 012628.cc.18

Henry Williamson, Tarka the otter: his joyful water-life and death in the country of the two rivers. London, 1932. 012614.d.27

Richard Adams, Watership Down. Harmondsworth, 1973. H.73/667

Jules Renard, Hunting with ‘The Fox’. With twenty-three lithographs by H. de Toulouse-Lautrec. Oxford, 1948. 12358.g.21

Barry Hines, A Kestrel for a knave. Harmondsworth, 1974. Private Collection

Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk. London, 2014. Nov.2015/1817

Ouida [Maria Louise Ramé], A Dog of Flanders: a photoplay. New York, [1924]. YD.2015.a.313

William Burroughs, The Cat inside. New York, 1986. RF.2008.b.7

Herman Melville, Moby Dick or The Whale. Chicago, 1930. L.R.50.b.1

Guillaume Apollinaire, Le bestiaire, ou Cortège d’Orphée. New York, 1977. LR.430.e.10

Pablo Neruda, Bestiary/Bestario. New York, 1965

Dave Eggers, The Wild Things: a novel. San Francisco, 2009. Cup.935/1546

Mark Doty & Darren Waterston, A Swarm, a flock, a host: a compendium of creatures. San Francisco, 2013

Ted Hughes, Cows. North Tawton, 1981. HS.74/2121

 Sound Points

Mole and Rat begin to mess around in boats in Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows (1908), read by Alan Bennett (1989). 1CA0005431

Noël Coward reads ‘Elephant’ from Ogden Nash’s series of verses for Camille Saint-Saëns, Le Carnaval des animaux (recorded in 1949). 1CD0239907.

John Agard reads his poem, ‘Woodpecker’ (recording published in 1981). 1CA0014306

Benjamin Zephaniah reads his poem, ‘Talking Turkeys’ (recorded in 1998). 1CA0006901

TS. Eliot reads his verse, ‘Macavity the Mystery Cat’ from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. 1LP0054600

Ted Hughes discusses the ‘Crow’ poems on Poetry Now (BBC3, 1970). 1CD0286783

Art Spiegelman discusses Maus at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (1987). C95/302

Ron King discusses the creation of the Anansi artist’s book (recorded in 1996) C466/47/01-21

Sound Scape

Atmosphere with Goshawk

Rain with Red Fox

Blackbird

Frog atmosphere

Cattle with cowherd

Waves & Sperm Whale

Exhibition list for Animal Tales

A British Library Entrance Hall Exhibition

7 August – 1 November 2015

Exhibition Design by NortonAllison

Curators: Matthew Shaw, Alison Bailey, Barbara Hawes 

 

10 August 2015

Over the Ice: Polar Exploration from the Air

In case you missed Friday's lecture, we're re-posting this piece from our BL Science colleagues' blog. Over the summer the British Library Americas Blog and U.S. Studies Online will be publishing a series of posts as part of the Eccles Centre’s Summer Scholars 2015 series of talks. The articles are based on talks given by a range of writers and scholars conducting research at the British Library thanks to generous research fellowships and grants awarded by the Eccles Centre. This post is by Marionne Cronin, University of Aberdeen, on how aviation changed the nature of polar exploration. A schedule for the remaining Scholars talks can be found here]

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Richard Evelyn Byrd (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

For Americans, the spring of 1926 was an exciting time in long-distance aviation.  The newspapers were full of thrilling tales of pioneering flights, including three aerial expeditions aiming for the North Pole.  The excitement came to a head on 9 May 1926, when Richard E. Byrd, a young American naval aviator, returned to his expedition’s base at King’s Bay, Spitsbergen (Svalbard), after a flight of just over 15 hours, proclaiming that he and his co-pilot Floyd Bennett had become the first people to reach the North Pole by air.  Byrd’s announcement triggered a patriotic outpouring in the American press, with headlines trumpeting the United States’ polar conquest.  Byrd returned home a national hero, where he was met by cheering crowds and public accolades, including the Congressional Medal of Honor.

But what exactly were these crowds cheering? 

In part, they perceived Byrd’s feat as evidence of America’s technological progress and as a symbol of their nation’s modernity.  Celebrating the mechanical triumph, however, also risked undercutting the heroic nature of exploration, particularly when the flight was compared to previous expeditions, which had produced images of intrepid fur-clad explorers battling their way across the dangerous polar ice.  By lifting the explorer high above the ice and shielding him within the body of a machine that carried him towards the pole, the airplane seemed to make the process far too easy to be considered heroic.  Much as it jeopardized the explorer’s heroic status, the airplane also threatened to domesticate the Arctic, thereby destroying its imaginative potential as a space for heroic adventure.  In particular, the use of aircraft seemed to shatter the Arctic’s image as a theoretically untouched wilderness cut off from the modern industrialized world.

How was it, then, that Byrd continued to be seen as an exceptional man, even when ensconced in the machine’s protective shell soaring high above the polar ice?  The process of creating a polar hero in this context was not straightforward and the result was not a single stable image.  This heterogeneity, however, offers a window into how Americans in the interwar period sought to reconcile a celebration of mechanical progress with ideas about heroic masculinity.

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Fokker F.VII plane with Byrd-Bennett in flight in 1926. (Image:Wikimedia Commons)

On the one hand, many narratives rehearsed various longstanding romantic images of polar exploration in order to buttress Byrd’s heroic status.  But, perhaps more interestingly, several of these narratives also reimagined the practice of exploration itself.  These accounts extended the landscape of exploration vertically, imagining the skies as a new field to explore.  By underscoring the dangers present in the Arctic atmosphere – its extreme temperatures, unpredictable weather, and unknown aerial currents – newspaper stories created a new environment that could test both the polar explorer and his machine.  Much as the deep oceans and space would emerge as new frontiers later in the century, in these accounts the air became a new wilderness for a modern society to explore.  These stories also drew on popular interwar images of aviation, which imagined it as a technology of wonder and grace that enabled aviators to escape the quotidian mundaneness of everyday life and to enter a new, transcendent world.  Thus, much like the polar explorers of earlier eras, the pilot became a daring pioneer who stepped into the unknown and was transformed into a heroic figure.

To remain a polar hero, however, Byrd needed to be more than a mere passenger on this aerial adventure.  Instead, his ability to control the machine, to bend its power to his will, became a key component of what it meant to be an aerial explorer.  In particular, coverage emphasized the flight’s mental challenges, specifically the intense concentration demanded by the mathematical calculations required to navigate over the polar ice.  Thus, aerial exploration became as much a mental as a physical challenge.  By demonstrating the mental ability necessary to control the machine, Byrd acquired the power to penetrate previously inaccessible areas, to see further than terrestrial explorers, and therefore to pierce the Arctic’s secrets.  At the same time, risks from technology itself, in the form of mechanical failures, offered a new set of hazards for the technological explorer to overcome.  The technology itself thus became a site of exploration as the venture into new arenas tested both the explorer’s and the machine’s limits. The explorer’s willingness to brave these dangers and his ability to control the machine under difficult conditions became important signs of his heroic masculinity.

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Coolidge awarding Medal of Honor to Byrd and Bennett 1927 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Through the newspaper stories covering Byrd’s flight, we can see their authors exploring the question of how to successfully incorporate the machine into exploration narratives without abandoning the hero’s central place.  By reimagining the nature of exploration and reconceiving of the air as a new frontier, these authors sought to create an image of heroic exploration that could accommodate the presence of the machine.  In doing so they articulated a vision of the technological explorer that would influence later depictions of figures such as Charles Lindberg and the first astronauts, and would continue to influence perceptions of heroic masculinity across the 20th century.

Dr Marionne Cronin is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Northern Colonialism Programme at the University of Aberdeen, where her research investigates the place of technology in the culture of polar exploration. She is currently working on a book examining how interwar polar explorers’ use of new technologies – particularly airplanes – was incorporated into popular images of heroic exploration, masculinity, and modernity. She will be an Eccles Centre Visiting Fellow in North American Studies in June-August 2015.

If you want to learn more about science in extreme environments you can watch the video of our recent TalkScience event here.

06 August 2015

Voting Rights Act Fifty Years On

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President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 while Martin Luther King and others look on.  Image in the public domain and made available by the LBJ Library and Wiki Commons.

The Voting Rights Act Fifty years ago today, on 6 August 1965, President Lyndon B Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act – arguably the most successful piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by the US Congress. Yet the journey to this point was bitter and hard-fought.

In 1870 – five years after the Civil War – the Fifteenth Amendment had prohibited federal and state governments from restricting voting rights on the basis of race, colour or previous condition of servitude. By the 1890s, however, southern states were enacting laws that, while superficially colour blind, were explicitly designed to stifle black electoral participation and re-establish white political supremacy.

Six decades later the tide was finally beginning to turn: federal legislation passed in 1957, 1960 and 1964 included voting-related provisions; a series of Supreme Court decisions – most notably Baker v Carr (1962) – began applying the Constitution to overturn disenfranchisement via unfair redistricting practices; and public outrage at both the murder of the three voting rights activists in Mississippi in 1964 and the attack by state troopers on peaceful marchers at Selma, Alabama in 1965 persuaded Congress and the President that effective voting rights legislation could no longer be delayed.

We hold numerous databases that can be used to explore all of these issues further:

America: History and Life: indexes articles on US and Canadian history, culture and current affairs published in over 1800 journals. It began in 1964 but many of the journals have now been retrospectively indexed, including the American Historical Review (1895– ), Mississippi Valley Historical Review (1914– ) and Journal of Southern History (1935– ). It also provides citations to books and book reviews.

PAIS International: indexes journals, books, government and international agency reports, conference proceedings and web-based information sources covering social issues, economic issues, politics and international relations, environmental and energy policy. Its indexing dates back to the 1970s and it currently contains more than 600,000 records.

International Political Science Abstracts: contains details of articles in more than a thousand political science journals and yearbooks published worldwide, 75 of which are indexed in full. Social Sciences Full Text: includes full text articles from more than 330 journals and indexes over 750 periodicals, more than 700 of which are peer-reviewed.

Finally – and somewhat tangentially, though in keeping with the Animal Tales exhibition that opens here tomorrow – readers might be interested to know that we hold a 23 second recording of a domestic goat (capra hircus) living on the Lyndon B Johnson Ranch near Stonewall, Texas in 2010! It was a sunny 28 degrees on the day of the recording, insects can be heard in the background and the goat was apparently standing one metre from wildlife sound recordist, Richard Beard.

– Jean Petrovic

 

03 August 2015

Call of the Wild: Animal Tales

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British Library Animal Tales exhibition

We're in the middle of the dog days of summer: school's out, there's a bit of heat in the air in London at least, and the press is doing its best with the current crop of 'man bites dog' stories: pink pigeons, owls with library cards, and the more serious commentary on the death of Cecil the Zimbabwean lion.

With all this in mind, it's fitting that our latest exhibition, Animal Tales, opens on Friday (7 Aug), offering a menagerie of wild beasts, companionable pets, and the sounds of aerial and aquatic creatures set among a mini-forest of trees, all nestling under the Grade I-listed King's Library Tower.  

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(The exhibition space gets a lick of paint... and some longer ears)

As well as the refreshing cool of the Library's air-conditioning, we hope that the exhibition is a slightly bracing antidote to the languor of this time of year; offering what we think are the pick of best-loved animal stories mixed in with some surprising selections, all of which suggests some of the ways that we look at animals in the modern world. The cover of Beatrix Potter's 1902 edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit on display in Animal Tales at the British Library

Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Cup.402.a.4. Image in the public domain.

In curating the exhibition, we've selected almost sixty items from across the Library's collections, as well as a brace of sound recordings. The exhibition is organised in six sections, starting with a section that asks how we've looked and written about animals over time, and ending with an area that looks at works that try and engage with the wildness that animals can represent, from Moby-Dick to Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk. Along the way, we look at stories for children including Peter the Rabbit and Black Beauty, traditional tales from around the world, the use of animals as allegory or metaphor from Animal Farm to Maus and why writers from Ovid to Kafka have been fascinated by the possibility of transformation from human into beast, and vice versa.

The title page from Sally Sketch's 1821 edition of 'An Alphabetical arrangement of animals for little naturalists' on display in Animal Tales at the British Library

Sally Sketch, pseud., An Alphabetical Arrangement of Animals for Little Naturalists (London, 1821). 7207.a.11. Image in the public domain.

It's been a treat and a privilege to draw on the Library's collections to put the show together. As always in curating an exhibition, there wasn't room for everything, and some of the things we really wanted to put on display either didn't quite fit with the shape of the show or had conservation issues: we couldn't, for example, display items on parchment: the only sheep on display is an artist's book, Karen Bleitz' Dolly: edition unlimited, which is made of card.

Dolly edition unlimited on display in Animal Tales at the British Library -® Karen Bleitz

Image Dolly: edition unlimited Â© Karen Bleitz

We had to lose some of our favourite items along the way, as always happens in curating an exhibition, and there are great swathes of the history of human/animal relations that are missed.  It's also testament to the current scholarly 'call of the wild' in terms of the 'animal turn' in the humanities, the interest in eco-criticism and history, animal geography, food studies, neuroscience or a whole range of sociological animal studies, not to mention animal ethics, that we had to be ruthless in our curatorial focus. Natural history as a genre gets a look in, particularly how  amateur naturalists influenced writers of their day, but the focus is more on imaginative writing. 

This said, the blog and events programme give us the chance to open up some of these questions. As it is, the exhibition space is also filled to the gills: where else will you see Samuel Taylor Coleridge's annotations on Gilbert White's Natural History of Selburne (1802), bound in dress fabric by Mrs Wordsworth alongside John Berger's notes for 'Why Look At Animals' (1970s), David Garnett's Lady into Fox (1922), and Waterston's compelling aquatints for the modern bestiary, A Swarm, a Flock, A Host (2013)?

Doty & Waterson's aquatint etching & letterpress edition of A Swarm, A Flock, A Host on display in Animal Tales. Courtesy of the artist & DC Moore Gallery, New York (2)

Courtesy of the artist, Darren Waterston, and the Achenbach Graphic Arts Council, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Playful, curious, and a little bit mysterious, we hope that adults will find the exhibition stimulating, as will younger visitors, who have their own reading area and a specially commissioned family trail and leaflet,  There is also at least one children's book to spot in each case. Maybe it's time to get a little bit wild in the Library?

The cover of Jack London's 1903 edition of The Call of the Wild on display in Animal Tales at the British Library

Jack London, Call of the Wild (New York, 1903).012628.cc.18. Image in the public domain.

Finally, what would a blog post be without a picture of a cat:

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Montaigne’s Essais (Paris, 1602) C.28.g.7 'when I play with my cat, how do I know she is not playing with me?'; marginal illustration by Pieter van Veen. Image in the public domain.

Animal Tales is free, and runs from 7 August to 1 November.

You can hear more about the exhibition at Second Home on 12 August as part of their Biophilia season.

And, following a preview, the Independent looks at beast in literature.

#animaltales

 

-- Matthew Shaw

01 August 2015

Homes Illustrated

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 In yesterday's post on writers' libraries, I mentioned Homes of American Statesmen (1854, but printed in 1853), which is widely considered to include the first example of a type of photograph used as an illustration in an American book (i.e., a real photograph, as opposed to an engraving of a daguerreotype or similar).  Well, here it is, at shelfmark  10881.c.3. The photograph, which has clearly been hand-trimmed and pasted in, used a form of reproduction patented as Crystalotype (see the close-up, below).  Invented by the Boston photographer John Adams Whipple, Crystalotypes began as albumen prints, which were then copied onto glass via a form of crystallography.  Whipple then had what were in effect glass negatives, and which could be used to copy the image numerous times.  The publisher George Putnam took advantage of this method, and used a Whipple print in the frontispiece of Homes, giving it a unique advantage in the potentially lucrative gift-book market. 

Of the two, Homes of American Authors would be the one I'd prefer to find in my Christmas stocking.  Authors generally make better copy than statesmen, and these volumes don't buck that trend. But it's fascinating to see John Hancock's house in Boston, over 160 years later. Hancock's house, which was built in the 1730s and survived ransacking by British soldiers during the Revolution, was sold during the Civil War and demolished to public outcry in 1863.

John Adams Whipple is rightly remembered (and collected) today as the photographer of luminous images of the moon at Harvard University Observatory.  He was the first to produce an image of the star other than the sun: Vega, the brightest of the Lyra Constellation, and, in 1997, the source of Jodie Foster's alien chatter in Contact. Putnam's gift book of extraterrestrial life remains, we gather, unwritten.

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Detail of frontispiece, showing Whipple's patent.

Images: This item, Homes of American Statesmen (New York, 1854), Shelfmark 10881.c.3, is believed by the British Library to be in the public domain.

- Matthew Shaw