Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

“Happy Christmas to All and to All a Good Night”

December 19th, 2017

To help celebrate the holidays, we’re sharing Clement Clarke Moore’s poem The Night Before Christmas (originally published in 1823 as A Visit from St. Nicholas) as illustrated by two copies of the text in Spencer’s collections – one from 1896 and the other from the early 1900s. The version of the poem used here comes from a 1920 edition, also in the library’s holdings.

Image of The Night Before Christmas, cover, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, or, A Visit of St. Nicholas
by Clement Clarke Moore, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And Mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, circa early 1900s

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore,
undated, circa early 1900s. Call Number: Children E40.
Click image to enlarge.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, circa early 1900s

The Night Before Christmas, undated, circa early 1900s.
Call Number: Children E40. Click image to enlarge.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedlar just opening his pack.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

His eyes – how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was white as snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and twist of head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, circa early 1900s

The Night Before Christmas, undated, circa early 1900s.
Call Number: Children E40. Click image to enlarge.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team he gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

Meredith Huff
Public Services

October Exhibit: The Russian Revolution

October 6th, 2017

Spencer’s renovated North Gallery includes two new cases in which staff members can display materials on a short-term basis. During October, we’re exhibiting items in Spencer’s holdings that relate to the Russian Revolution of 1917. The exhibit is free and open to the public in the Spencer North Gallery during the library’s regular business hours.

The cover of the pamphlet entitled Eugene V. Deb’s Canton Speech, published after 1921

One of the most well-known and popular American socialists
during the early 20th century, Eugene V. Debs was the
Socialist Party’s candidate for U.S. President five times.
As a result of this speech, Debs was arrested and convicted
in federal court under wartime espionage law.
Call Number: Josephson 5687. Click image to enlarge.

“During a revolution, millions and tens of millions of people learn in a single week incomparably more than in a whole year of every-day sluggish life.”

Vladimir Lenin

Marking the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Spencer Research Library is currently displaying highlights from the Leon Josephson Collection on Modern Socialism. Extensively documenting the international socialist movement during the first half of the 20th century, the Josephson Collection contains over 8000 pamphlets, books, and ephemeral materials.

Examples of materials on display include Lessons of the Revolution and The Land Revolution in Russia by Vladimir Lenin, as well as a copy of the first constitution adopted by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) in 1918.

Image of the cover of The Masses, September 1917

As a result of the magazine’s consistent denouncement of
World War I and American involvement, nearly all of the
editors and writers of The Masses were charged with violating
the Espionage Act of 1917. Call Number: D2009. Click image to enlarge.

Image of the cover of The Liberator, March 1918

John Reed later published his eyewitness account of the Bolshevik Revolution
as a book, Ten Days that Shook the World (1919). Reed died in a Moscow hospital
in 1920; he is buried in the graveyard of revolutionary heroes near the
Kremlin Wall. Call Number: RH WL D1614. Click image to enlarge.

“The Russian Revolution is an incomparably mightier even than any previous revolution; larger in scope and deeper in ultimate meaning than the French Revolution.”

Louis C. Fraina, a founding member of the American Communist Party

Socialist publications from America such as The Masses and its successor The Liberator are also on display. These magazines were illustrated with realist and modernist artwork, which they combined with poetry, short stories, and articles discussing and interpreting the Russian Revolution and its influence on the international socialist movement.

Statement from Public Services student Zachary Lassiter

I started KU in the fall of 2015 as a History major, and began working at Kenneth Spencer Research Library in August 2016. I’ve spent most of my time as an undergraduate studying the former Soviet Union, Eastern Bloc, and the Cold War. I had the desire to take part in researching and constructing one of the many exhibits that are showcased at Spencer throughout the year. With the recent renovation of Spencer’s North Gallery, and with the 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution, it was a perfect opportunity. Going through countless pamphlets, magazines, and ephemeral materials, I have gained a better understanding of the Russian Revolution from the perspectives of the Bolsheviks and American socialists in their own words as it was happening. I also gained experience in the research and development process of constructing an exhibit, knowledge I hope to utilize in future work. Finally, I want to thank Caitlin Donnelly, Head of Public Services, for helping me through this process and providing me with this opportunity.

Zachary Lassiter
Public Services Student Assistant

Total Eclipse of the Heart(land)

August 18th, 2017

In honor of Monday’s total solar eclipse, the Spencer Research Library staff was curious about our collection holdings related to this celestial phenomenon. We found two reports detailing previous solar eclipses, one from South America in 1889 and one from the United States in 1900.

Selected from from the Report on the Total Eclipse of the Sun, 1889

Selected from from the Report on the Total Eclipse of the Sun, 1889

This image was developed using the negative from the exposure
created with the 18-inch reflector. Report on the Total Eclipse of the Sun,
Observed at Cayenne, French Guiana, South America, December 22, 1889

by S.W. Burnham and J.M. Schaeberle. Sacramento: A.J. Johnston,
Supt. State Printing, 1891. Call Number: C13311. Click images to enlarge.

The first report is from the Lick Observatory team’s visit to Cayenne, French Guiana, South America in 1889. The team left New York and traveled via boat to South America to observe and document the total solar eclipse on December 22nd. Despite some initial concerns about the weather, they were able to use several different lenses to create exposures of the eclipse that were later developed for further study.

Selected page from Total Eclipse of the Sun, May 28, 1900

Selected page from Total Eclipse of the Sun, May 28, 1900

The image shows what Charles Howard experienced when looking through
the telescope at the moment of the eclipse. Total Eclipse of the Sun,
May 28, 1900, Observed at Winton, North Carolina by Charles P. Howard
Hartford, Conn.: R.S. Peck & Co., printers and engravers, 1900.
Call Number: C13310. Click images to enlarge.

The second report is from Charles P. Howard’s visit to Winton, North Carolina, for the total solar eclipse in 1900. Howard joined the Trinity College team to observe and document the eclipse on May 28. Howard’s report also included images – created by the author – to convey his observations. His recorded thoughts show that he felt his images paled in comparison to the actual spectacle of the eclipse: ‘The view through the telescope, however, was far grander than the naked eye view and most awe-inspiring. Around the Sun was an appearance that almost made one exclaim, ‘the Sun is an enormous magnet, alive and hard at work.’” His illustration attempts to show the radiating waves he saw around the sun at the time of the eclipse.

If you are interested in learning more about the science behind a total solar eclipse, please take a look at Eclipse 101 from NASA!

Emily Beran
Public Services

The Pelican in Her Piety

July 24th, 2017

Just a few months after I began working at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, Dr. Elspeth Healey, one of our Special Collections librarians, showed me some materials she had pulled for a class on Renaissance printmaking. With my background in Medieval and Renaissance art history, I was excited to explore the materials she had selected. She drew my attention to a small image in Conrad Gessner’s Historiae Animalium, a sixteenth-century natural history tome featuring various bird species. The somewhat bizarre and gruesome image in question shows a pelican pecking at its breast with visible blood spilling on a nest of baby birds – a startling depiction but one familiar to me from medieval bestiaries. The rather macabre bird depicted was none other than a vulning or heraldic pelican.

Image of a vulning pelican in Historia animalium, 1555

A vulning pelican in Historia animalium by Conrad Gessner, 1555.
Call Number: Ellis Aves G97. Click image to enlarge.

The term vulning comes from the Latin verb “vulno” which means “to wound.” When pelicans feed their young, the mother macerates fish in the large sack in her beak then feeds it to her babies by lowering her beak to her chest to transfer the regurgitated fish more easily. The observation of this feeding practice led to the mistaken descriptions of female pelicans pecking their breasts and spilling blood onto their babies to provide sustenance. The idea of a pelican wounding herself for the sake of her young gained a religious connotation and became a symbol for Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death and resurrection – a necessary sacrifice for the redemption of humanity according to the Christian tradition. Also described as a “pelican in her piety,” the vulning pelican became a popular symbol in medieval heraldry and was featured in bestiaries (books about a mixture of real and imaginary animals) because of this religious association.

The presence of the vulning pelican in bestiaries could explains how this popular piece of religious symbolism found its way into a scientific study from the sixteenth century. Bestiaries were collections of descriptions of both real and mythological beasts. These creatures were typically accompanied by some moral tale that was meant to be instructional for the reader. While bestiaries had been around for centuries, they gained a high level of popularity during the Middle Ages. These bestiaries were in some ways the forerunners to later scientific publications like Conrad Gessner’s book about the natural history of animals. It is not surprising that certain illustrations were carried over from the bestiaries into early scientific books during the transition from the Medieval to the Renaissance period.

However, the vulning pelican also appeared in emblem books, a type of book that originated in Italy in the mid-sixteenth century, rapidly became fashionable throughout Europe, and remained popular until the early eighteenth century. An emblem book consists of a series of pictures, each accompanied by a motto and an explanatory poem, which together present a concept, usually with a moral, about a theme, such as religion, politics, or love. The vulning pelican appears in emblem books with a religious theme. This continuing popularity via another source could also account for the vulning pelican imagery’s use in naturalist texts.

The appropriation of the vulning pelican from religious symbol to scientific illustration has helped preserve the history of this strange depiction. Considering the vulning pelican’s history as a symbol of the Christian resurrection, it is rather ironic to see how this depiction has experienced a resurrection of its own throughout the centuries.

Emily Beran
Public Services

Romeo and Juliet: Creative Reimaginings

May 23rd, 2017

Spencer Research Library certainly has the staples for any Shakespeare-phile: a complete Second Folio, a partial First Folio, individual books, and works from his contemporaries Thomas Heywood, Ben Jonson, Philip Sidney, and others. Printed in ages past, these works demonstrate the long history and enduring fascination scholars and bibliophiles alike maintain concerning the works of the Bard and the many social issues he addresses in them. But more importantly, KSRL also possesses works that demonstrate Shakespeare’s lasting influence and application through creative reimaginings.

The cover of Emily Martin’s interpretation of
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
[Iowa City] : Naughty Dog Press, 2012.
Call Number: D7385. Click image to enlarge.

One such reimagining was crafted by Emily Martin. Created for a designer bookbinding competition for the Bodleian Libraries and Designer Bookbinders in 2013, the carousel book adapts one of Shakespeare’s best-known tragedies, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. With five main “views” to embody each of the play’s five acts, the carousel book pays homage to the play’s central ideas and its modern application. Martin creates corresponding pop-ups for each act and uses key lines from Juliet, Romeo, and the Prince (for Act V) to illustrate and remind readers of the important events from each act.

View of The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by Emily Martin

View of The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by Emily Martin

Views of Emily Martin’s interpretation of
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (2012).
Call Number: D7385. Click images to enlarge.

In between each of the main views, Martin emphasizes “the timelessness of the play through repetition of the chorus and insertion of modern equivalents for Verona,” as Martin explains in the colophon for the book. These modern equivalents include: Bosnia, Israel, Rwanda, and America. In correspondence, Martin adds that these locations, “were ‘scenes of strife’ at the time, I used countries rather than cities for name recognition and to expand out from small locations to large. I felt the need to remind readers the play is still timely by connecting to current conflicts.” Martin also includes her own commentary under each repetition of the chorus, articulating the many ways that Shakespeare’s central themes can be reimagined and updated far beyond Shakespeare’s time.

View of The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by Emily Martin

A close-up of Emily Martin’s interpretation of
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (2012).
The top section is the first four lines of the play’s prologue.
Note that Martin has changed “fair Verona” to “fair America.”
The bottom text is Martin’s commentary.
Call Number: D7385. Click image to enlarge.

Even though The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is advertised as a tale of two “star-crossed lovers,” Martin comments, “I was struck more by the universality of feuding more than the romance.” Romeo and Juliet individually must combat the trials of a forbidden love, and their families exemplify the enduring consequences of unabashed hatred of others for no deeper reason than one’s name. Despite Romeo and Juliet’s tragic deaths, the feud shows no signs of ending. Martin describes this plot point as a reason for the book’s carousel design. She states, “circular format emphasizes the repetitive aspect of the feuding, it doesn’t end, it just begins again.”

View of The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by Emily Martin

View of Emily Martin’s interpretation of
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (2012).
Call Number: D7385. Click image to enlarge.

This piece, like many others in Spencer Library’s collection, demonstrates the many ways that the old and new, the past and present can come together. Martin’s reimagining masterfully blends “details specific to Verona,” (including illustrations to match the settings in each act) with new elements that make Shakespeare’s famous tragedy come alive again.  Even though it invokes new ideas to bring the star-crossed lovers into the 21st century, it is still maintains the integrity of their tragic tale and breathes new life into their multi-faceted story. As the Prince decrees, “For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” Martin uses this timeless tale of woe and turns it into a well-crafted political commentary, exemplifying the ways that Shakespeare speaks to not only Shakespeare-philes, but also anyone looking to bridge disciplines and time periods in meaningful ways.

Melissa Kleinschmidt
Public Services Student Assistant and 2017 KU graduate (Master’s of Arts, English)