Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Langston Hughes in Lawrence, Kansas

January 30th, 2017

In honor of Langston Hughes’s birthday on February 1, we remember his time in Lawrence:

Langston Hughes spent his early boyhood in Lawrence, Kansas. In a presentation at the University of Kansas in 1965 he recalled: “The first place I remember is Lawrence, right here. And the specific street is Alabama Street. And then we moved north, we moved to New York Street shortly thereafter. The first church I remember is the A.M.E. Church on the corner of Ninth, I guess it is, and New York. That is where I went to Sunday School, where I almost became converted, which I tell about in The Big Sea, my autobiography.”


Title page of The Big Sea, by Langston Hughes (first edition, 1940).
Hughes signed this copy for the University of Kansas. Call number RH C7422.
Click image to enlarge.

Hughes lived with his maternal grandmother, Mary Sampson Patterson Leary Langston, at 732 Alabama Street. The house does not exist today. His grandmother was the widow of one of the men killed with John Brown at Harpers Ferry (Lewis Sheridan Leary), and later married Hughes’s grandfather, the ardent abolitionist Charles Howard Langston.

Langston’s years in Lawrence with his grandmother were lonely and frugal. In 1909 he entered the second grade at Pinckney School, having started school in Topeka, KS, while living briefly with his mother. He was placed with other African American children in a separate room for his education. At various times between 1909 and 1915 Langston and his grandmother lived with friends James W. and Mary Reed at 731 New York Street. Hughes also attended New York School, and Central School, where he was reportedly a good student. Langston lived with the Reeds after his grandmother’s death in March 1915, and left Lawrence to join his mother in Illinois later in the year.

Photograph of Langston Hughes. Call number RH PH P2790.
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

As he writes in The Big Sea:

“The ideas for my first novel had been in my head for a long time. I wanted to write about a typical Negro family in the Middle West, about people like those I had known in Kansas. But mine was not a typical Negro family. My grandmother never took in washing or worked in service or went much to church. She had lived in Oberlin and spoke perfect English, without a trace of dialect. She looked like an Indian. My mother was a newspaper woman and a stenographer then. My father lived in Mexico City. My granduncle had been a congressman. And there were heroic memories of John Brown’s raid and the underground railroad in the family storehouse. But I thought maybe I had been a typical Negro boy. I grew up with the other Negro children of Lawrence, sons and daughters of family friends. I had an uncle of sorts who ran a barber shop in Kansas City. And later I had a stepfather who was a wanderer. We were poor – but different. For purposes of the novel, however, I created around myself what seemed to me a family more typical of Negro life in Kansas than my own had been. I gave myself aunts that I didn’t have, modeled after other children’s aunts whom I had known. But I put in a real cyclone that had blown my grandmother’s front porch away.”

Sheryl Williams
Curator, Kansas Collection

Adapted from the Spencer Research Library exhibit, Langston Hughes: A Voice for All People.

Throwback Thursday: Kansas Day Edition, Part II

January 26th, 2017

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,500 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Happy birthday, Kansas! Kansas Day is this Sunday, January 29th, and we’re celebrating with a fun photograph from the 1954 Kansas Relays Parade.

Photograph of a float in the Kansas Relays Parade, 1954

A Kansas-themed float in the Kansas Relays Parade, 1954. The year marked
the 100th anniversary of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which established
Kansas Territory. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/2 1954 Prints:
Student Activities: Kansas Relays (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

The picture was taken on Massachusetts Street just south of Eleventh. The Watkins Museum of History is prominent in the background; the building originally housed the J. B. Watkins Land Mortgage Company and the Watkins National Bank, and it served as Lawrence’s City Hall from 1929 to 1970.

Be sure to also check out last year’s Kansas Day image: a photograph of girls in sunflower costumes in the 1949 Kansas Relays Parade.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Authors’ Rights and the Relativity of Luckombe’s Plagiarism

January 23rd, 2017

Public Services Student Assistant Megan Fox considers printing history and changing notions of authorship in a favorite volume from the stacks.

Philip Luckombe, an eighteenth-century English printer and author, compiled the information in his book The History and Art of Printing with the express intention for it to be a reference to the general public about the history of printing from 1400 to roughly 1660 and the basic processes of historic printing. As he states in the introduction, “The entire motive which induces the Editor to this publication, is to promote the Theory and Practice of the Art of Printing… books on this subject are extremely scarce.”  Luckombe’s book contains many interesting features beyond its content, including an ornamental border on all the pages and numerous examples of typefaces. Additionally, Luckcombe includes illustrations printed by letterpress, rather than metal engravings, which were common at the time but which use a different printing technique. Luckcombe observes, “As this work treats of the Letter-Press only, we think it needless to apologize for not decorating it with Copper-Plates [engravings], judging it not pertinent in work of this kind to make use of the workmanship of any other authors than compositors.” However, a previous owner of the Spencer Research Library’s copy of The History and Art of Printing may have wished Luckombe had included more illustrations; he or she has pasted an extra illustration of printers in the printshop the end of the text.

Title page of Luckcombe's The History and Art of Printing (1771) To the public from Luckcombe's History and Art of Printing (1771)

Left: The title page of Philip Luckombe’s The History and Art of Printing. London: printed by W. Adlardand J. Browne for J. Johnson, 1771. Clubb C 1771.1 Right: The beginning of Luckombe’s “To the Public” preface. Click images to enlarge.

Luckombe describes all of this in his introductory “To The Public” note before the body of the text. In doing so, he also explains that the majority of the content is not actually his own, but rather “from whole works we have made copious extracts, several of which are in the author’s own words, though not pointed out as such.” As a college student, this line in the introduction struck me as ridiculous. If I tried to copy huge sections of others’ work in one of my papers with only a short note in the introduction stating I am doing so – and without even naming all of the authors from whom I am borrowing – plagiarism identification software such as SafeAssign would flag it immediately.  I would get a zero on the assignment and perhaps fail the class; I might even face university sanctions. In the twenty-first century a huge emphasis is placed on the value of authorship, and citing your work is paramount to good writing and scholarship. However, as Luckombe demonstrates, this was not always the case. Plagiarism, it seems, used to be acceptable.

Caslon's Specimen of Printing Types from Luckombe's The History and Art of Printing (1771)

Section title to Luckombe’s reproduction of William Caslon’s typefaces. Caslon is one of the few people Luckombe credits in his compilation of information about the history of printing.

Luckcombe’s use of others’ work brings to the forefront the interesting question of authorship and copyright in the eighteenth century. The idea that authors “own” their words after publication and distribution was developed through European print culture, which separated the idea of owning a physical copy of a book and owning said book’s intellectual or artistic content in order to establish author’s “rights” (Feather 520-21). It was only in the eighteenth century that the idea of an ‘author’ as a career became feasible in Britain – periodicals and novels began to be produced for the general literate public, and writers no longer necessarily needed a patron to live off their writing (Hammerschmidt 1). As authorship became a plausible career, copyright protections began to be codified into law, making it harder for contemporary works to be copied the way Luckcombe copies large sections of historical texts. One example is the Statute of Anne in 1710, which allowed authors to sell their copyright to publishers for a 14 year term, with the option of renewal. These laws were also enacted to protect publishers and their arrangements to sell artistic and intellectual content, but as a result of this a greater appreciation of authorship developed.

Luckombe was capitalizing on the fact that the works he was borrowing from, mostly published between 1440 and 1600, fell outside of copyright. Luckombe does not detail how he gained access to these works and was able to reprint them, but the mere fact of their inclusion, largely without attribution, demonstrates the difference between eighteenth-century and modern-day understandings of authorship and plagiarism. Some of Luckcombe’s contemporaries may have disapproved of this, but his compilation of other authors’ original writings still indicates how the general mindset of the culture viewed it as acceptable.

In addition to their fascinating content, older books such as The History and Art of Printing also can offer us a powerful reminder that nothing in society is static. The mindsets we regard as unalterable now may be perceived as simply a twenty-first century oddity by future generations. Concepts of plagiarism and authorial property were not the same in Luckombe’s time as they are today, and they will continue to evolve in the future.

Megan Fox
Public Services Student Assistant

Works Cited

Feather, John. “Copyright and the Creation of Literary Property.” Companion to the History of the Book. Eds. Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. 520-530. Print.

Hammerschmidt, Soren. “Introduction: Between Geniuses and Brain-Suckers. Problematic Professionalism in Eighteenth-Century Authorship.” Authorship Vol 4.1 (2015) p 1-4.

Luckombe, Philip. The History and Art of Printing. London: printed by W. Adlard and J. Browne for J. Johnson, 1771. Clubb C 1771.1

 

Throwback Thursday: Between Classes Edition

January 19th, 2017

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,500 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Welcome back, Jayhawks! It’s the first week of the new semester, meaning that campus is once again busy and bustling, just like the scene shown in this week’s photograph.

Photograph of KU students walking between classes, 1940-1949

Students walking along Jayhawk Boulevard between classes, 1940-1949.
Bailey Hall is on the right. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0 1940s Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Melissa Kleinschmidt and Abbey Ulrich
Public Services Student Assistants

Collection Feature: Presidential Inauguration

January 16th, 2017

To mark this week’s United States presidential inauguration, we feature some inaugural items in Spencer Library’s collections.

Below are two tickets for the inauguration of Benjamin Harrison, who was sworn in as the 22nd U.S. President on March 4, 1889. The tickets are from the collection of John J. Ingalls, who represented Kansas in the United States Senate for 18 years (1873-1891), and served as President pro tempore of the Senate during three congressional sessions.

Inauguration tickets from the John J. Ingalls Collection.
Call number RH MS 43, Box 1 Folder 20.

Ingalls was also invited to a joint session of Congress to commemorate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration, on December 11, 1889. President Harrison was also in attendance for this event.

Ticket for the commemoration celebration of Washington’s inauguration.
John J. Ingalls Collection. Call number RH MS 43, Box 1 Folder 20.

 

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services