George Washington’s Bold, Clear Signature

In his 1902 book on the art of bookbinding, William Loring Andrews describes George Washington’s beautifully bound copy of The Contrast as “a book made doubly valuable by having the great chieftain’s bold, clear signature upon the title page.” That valuable book is now part of our Vermont Research Collection.

Front cover of The Contrast

The Contrast is recognized as the first American comedy performed by a professional theater company. Royall Tyler wrote the play in 1787, four years before he moved to Vermont, where he was a lawyer, Supreme Court Justice and a University of Vermont trustee and instructor. The play was performed with some success in New York, Baltimore and Washington.

Royall Tyler assigned the copyright to actor Thomas Wignell, who portrayed the Yankee character Brother Jonathan in the original 1787 production. After gathering enough financial backing, Wignell arranged to have the script printed in 1790. He placed George Washington’s name  first in the list of 375 subscribers in the published edition. Wignell sent two copies to Washington, who signed the title page of one copy in the upper right corner.

Title page of the contrast signed by G. Washington

Three noted collectors of Vermontiana owned Washington’s copy of The Contrast before it came to Special Collections. After a long quest, Lucius E. Chittenden purchased it when remnants of Washington’s Mount Vernon library sold at auction in 1876. In his 1893 memoir, Chittenden declared the volume “perfect in every particular.”  He wrote, “It would be difficult to imagine a volume possessing more elements of attraction to a collector than the first play written by an American, …once owned by the Father of his Country, who had written his own name upon the title, and which was withal of such excessive rarity.”

In 1920, James B. Wilbur purchased Washington’s copy of The Contrast at auction for $2,800. The auction catalogue provided a lengthy description, highlighting the book’s association with the first president of the United States and its fine binding “in American red morocco, border and center-piece inlaid in green morocco, with conventional floriated tooling in gilt.” Wilbur sponsored a limited edition of The Contrast, published in 1920, that included a history of George Washington’s copy.

Alexander catalogue 1919

1919 auction catalogue entry, reproduced in Wilbur’s 1920 edition of The Contrast.

After Wilbur died in 1933, the signed copy of The Contrast was included in an auction of his books and autographs. Vermontiana collector Hall Park McCullough of North Bennington purchased it for $3,100. Although the University of Vermont received significant portions of the Chittenden, Wilbur and McCullough libraries, Washington’s copy of The Contrast was not included. After McCullough’s heirs donated it to the University of Vermont in 1970, Special Collections director John Buechler praised it as one of the library’s major holdings. The donation rejoined George Washington’s signed copy of The Contrast with three of the libraries that had once held it.

Submitted by Prudence Doherty, Public Services Librarian

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Medieval Manuscripts in the Green Mountains

This article was adapted from the presentation that Silver Special Collections Director Jeffrey Marshall delivered to open our November 2019 colloquium, “Interpreting the Handwritten Book: Medieval Manuscripts at UVM.”

In Commemoratione defunctorum manuscript page

In Commemoratione defunctorum (Office for the Dead)

Our Rare Book Collection includes sixteen medieval manuscript books. We can divide them conveniently into three categories: manuscripts given to the University of Vermont before the formation of Special Collections in 1962; those donated between 1962 and 2010; and those that we have purchased since 2010.

The first group includes eight books, all described in Seymour de Ricci’s 1935 Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada. Three are part of the George Perkins Marsh collection.

The first Marsh manuscript is Ascanio Savorgnano’s Copiosa Discrittione delle cose di Cipro (UVM MS 4).  Savorgnano was sent to Cyprus by the gentlemen of Venice, apparently around 1572, to describe its “military capabilities.”  A very similar copy is housed at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn Ms. Codex 327).

The second Marsh manuscript is attributed to King Frederik II of Denmark and Norway, and titled Van der Lehre des Reinen Godtlichen Wordes (UVM MS 5).  To quote from a description of the manuscript written several years ago, “it appears to be a copy of the Danish Church Ordinance of 1537, here applied to Frederik’s new royal patrimony of Ditmarschen. The original ordinance, by Frederik’s father Christian III, established Danish ecclesiastical organization (Lutheran) and was based on the Augsburg Confession of 1530.”

The last of the Marsh manuscripts is a hastily copied seventeenth-century text of Eberhart Hicfelt’s Aucupatorium herodiorum (UVM MS 7), a treatise on hawks and hawking. It’s interesting to note that de Ricci identified the author as Richardus Hitfelt. I assume that de Ricci was relying on information supplied to him by our librarians in the 1930s, and that he was unaware of Eberhart Hicfelt’s work on the subject.

Considering the richness of Marsh’s library, now the core of our rare book collection, it is a little surprising that his three manuscripts are not more visually compelling. I don’t think he had a particular interest in manuscripts, and these may have been acquired quite casually.

Italian herbal

Italian herbal, ca. 1500.

Three manuscripts among the first group were donated by Lucius Chittenden, a prominent Vermont lawyer and book collector who served in the Lincoln administration. The visual appeal of Chittenden’s manuscripts more than makes up for the modest appearance of those from Marsh’s library. They include a volume containing several works of Cicero (UVM MS 3), copied around 1400; an early sixteenth-century Italian herbal (UVM MS 2); and a Flemish prayer book from 1561 (UVM MS 8). Benjamin Franklin Stevens, the Vermont-born London bookseller, gave us In Commemoratione defunctorum, or the Office for the Dead (UVM MS 1). The last of the early manuscript donations is the statutes and ordinances of Carpeneto, Italy, written in 1458 (UVM MS 6). This was given to us by Prof. Giuseppe Ferraro, who published the text of the manuscript in 1874.

Over the more than one hundred years that followed these early donations, we acquired only one additional medieval manuscript. In 1964 a St. Albans resident left with us a choir psalter (UVM MS 12), likely made in the sixteenth century, and never returned to reclaim it. This large-format book contains three brightly colored illustrations (most like colored in the nineteenth century) and a number of hymns that feature new wording in place of partially erased letters.

Despite the fact that we have had an active collecting program since Special Collections opened its doors in 1962, our first director, John Buechler, did not focus on medieval manuscripts. And for good reasons. They were expensive, and there was little apparent demand among our faculty. Even if the resources and the demand had existed, developing a strategic approach to acquiring medieval manuscripts, nearly from scratch, would have been an enormous challenge for a librarian at a small state university.

It wasn’t until 2007 that Special Collections received its next manuscript gift.  That year, Robert and Sally Fenix donated two copies of the Summa de Casibus Conscientiae of Bartholomew of San Concordia (UVM MS 9 and 10), both copied in the early 1400s.  This work, a guide to confessors evaluating sins large and small, was very popular in its time

The manuscript collection came full circle, in a sense, in 2010, when David Richardson donated a very large Spanish gradual (UVM MS 11), a book containing chants for the Roman Catholic liturgy.  David was the grandson of Henry Hobson Richardson, the architect who designed UVM’s Billings Library—now the home of Silver Special Collections and its medieval manuscripts.

Gradual

Spanish gradual.

The final category of our manuscript books includes the four that we have purchased since 2010.  Manuscripts are still expensive, and their market value has soared over the last several decades as rare books have increasingly come to be seen as investment opportunities.  Nevertheless, with careful management of funds from a variety of sources, we were able to acquire two important manuscripts in 2013 and 2016, Letters Patent to the Order of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem (UVM MS 13), a document that outlines the privileges of the Knights Hospitaller as confirmed by the French crown, ca. 1465; and a book of sermons by Johannes Nider (ca. 1380-1438; UVM MS 14), copied in Germany ca. 1445-1450. In 2018 and again in 2019, former UVM President Tom Sullivan allocated funds for the Libraries to purchase books to support teaching and research in the humanities.  We were able to make two significant purchases, Les roys de la très crestienne maison de France (The Kings of the Very Christian House of France) (UVM MS 15) and the Book of the Confraternity of the Holy Name of Jesus (UVM MS 16).

The decision to purchase manuscripts marks a distinct shift in our acquisitions policy. While it didn’t make sense to buy medieval manuscripts in the past, we now have several reasons to do so. Our distinguished faculty of medievalists in multiple disciplines is making a concerted effort to promote medieval studies at UVM. At the same time, we have been developing an instructional focus on book studies in Special Collections, so these manuscript books fit into the spectrum of materials we are trying to provide for our students and faculty.  On a more abstract level, we regard it as part of our mission to support research and teaching in the Humanities.  Although our resources are limited and must serve a number of collecting areas, we hope that we can continue to meet the interests of faculty and students in this area.

You can see many of these items in our Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts digital collection.

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Summer Session at UVM, 100 Years Ago

Note: This post was inspired by archival material that we shared with UVM Continuing and Distance Education staff during a great tour of Special Collections earlier this summer.

In 1919, the UVM summer session, which ran from July 7 to August 15, was primarily a school for teachers. On July 25, the Burlington Free Press reported that 259 students were enrolled. Most of the students were from Vermont (221) and most were women (239). Just 27 were college graduates. The newspaper noted that 202 were teachers and 53 were Sisters of Mercy. The 1919 summer session catalogue and articles in local newspapers provide a good look at the academic programs and extracurricular activities that kept students and faculty busy.

UVM offered room and board at various locations. Summer students could eat at Commons Hall, located where the Fleming Museum stands now, for $6.00 per week.

Academics

Summer courses cost $10, and many were free for Vermont teachers and those preparing to teach in Vermont. Classes met five times per week, and one day each week was reserved for excursions and recreation. The busy daily schedules included time for a general assembly and for “Play and Games,” when all students and faculty were expected to spend a half hour in “wholesome, spontaneous and refreshing outdoor play” led by students in the physical training course.

The Education department offered ten classes, while departments such as Economics, Home Economics, English, French and Spanish offered two to four classes. There were opportunities to learn about teaching art and music, as well as fine art, piano and voice classes.

A number of classes were designed to help teachers address social and cultural problems. For the first time, Sara Holbrook, described as “not a mere theorist, but a woman who has been very successful in everyday work among the children in the public schools of Hartford, Connecticut,” offered a course on the education of “backward children,” to help teachers better understand their pupils and more intelligently work for their highest possible development. The Economics department offered “Reconstruction Problems,” dedicated to meeting needs related to the Great War, and “Rural Problems,” which explored ways teachers could help enrich rural life.

In the Billings Library, students could find 95,000 volumes on the shelves and “all the leading magazines published in this country and many of the best European periodicals” on the reading tables. Photo by William Sawyer, courtesy Vermont Historical Society

Extracurricular Activities: All Kinds of Good Times

The summer school catalogue promoted Burlington, on Lake Champlain between the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains, as a delightful place to spend the summer. One section described inexpensive excursions that could be taken in a day, such as trips to Ticonderoga and Ausable Chasm. Another section highlighted recreational opportunities accessible by trolley, including Burlington’s new 30-acre park off North Avenue, with “the best beach on the shore.” For exercise, students were directed to the UVM tennis courts and the Waubanakee Golf Club, which opened its “beautiful golf links” to students at a moderate price.

Burlington’s municipal beach.

During the session, public lectures, entertainments and concerts and recitals by pupils in the music department were attended by students and the general public. The Burlington Free Press announced and reviewed these events throughout the weeks of the summer session. For the first public entertainment, Theron S. Dean gave an illustrated lecture on “The Green Mountains and the Long Trail,” scheduled for the late hour of 8:30 pm so that Mr. Dean’s glass slides would be more visible. The entertainments culminated with an ambitious musical and dramatic program at the Howard Relief Hall on Pearl Street.

Burlington Free Press July 10, 1919

Burlington Free Press July 25, 1919

Personal Improvement

The summer school bulletin included advice about the importance of personal growth from J. Franklin Messenger, director and professor of education. Messenger cautioned summer school students, “Do not carry too many courses. You will improve more from a few courses thoroughly mastered and well assimilated than from a large number attended.” He suggested, “Take at least one course for personal improvement. A teacher who can go to her work with more intellectual resources and a broader outlook on the world, with a richer experience to share in part with her pupils, will be able to stimulate those pupils and give an atmosphere to the school which is worth more than many a class exercise.”

Prudence Doherty, Public Services Librarian

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President Eisenhower at the Vermont Dairy Festival

The summer of 1955 was an especially busy time for Vermonters engaged in dairy farming. June was declared Dairy Month and a series of public events, including a parade, square dance displays, and dairy exhibits, culminated in President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s visit to the first statewide Dairy Festival in Rutland. His time at the festival was enthusiastically documented, as these photos from the Elmer Towne Papers demonstrate. Towne was Vermont’s Commissioner of Agriculture from 1954 to 1963.

President Eisenhower enjoyed milk, right from the tiny carton. A decorative cow figurine graced the table. Photo credit: Vermont Development Commission, Montpelier, Vermont

President Eisenhower smiled at Ayrshire cow UVM Hans Jean after she was declared “Queen of the Vermont Green Pastures” in a public vote. Her prize was being presented with a garland of carnations by the president. The nine year-old cow weighed 1500 pounds and delivered over 40 quarts of milk daily in 1955. Photo Credit: Vermont Development Commission, Montpelier, Vermont

This photo was used on the cover of the October 1955 issue of the UVM Bulletin, with the following description.

President Eisenhower took time from his busy schedule when he was in Vermont recently to place a wreath of flowers across the shoulders of UVM Hans Jean, the University’s Ayrshire champion, which had just been crowned “Queen of the Vermont Green Pastures.”

The President, an honorary Laird of the County of Ayr in Scotland, home of the Ayrshire breed, showed keen interest in Jean. Talking with Robert Fitzsimmons, class of ’47, in the foreground, the President noted that he was amazed at both the animal’s size and productiveness. Bob, who is Assistant Professor of Dairy Husbandry at UVM’s College of Agriculture, told President Eisenhower that Jean weighs in at 1500 pounds and this year has delivered over 40 quarts of milk daily. The nine-year old grand champion of the Rutland and Champlain Valley Fairs has two daughters – both promising.

President Eisenhower became the official owner of a registered Brown Swiss Heifer, a gift of Allen Alfred, dairy farmer from South Burlington. Alfred’s daughter Betsy, wearing a Swiss-style costume, leads the cow. Derrick Webb of Shelburne also helps with the presentation. According to the Rutland Daily Herald (June 23, 1955) the cow was sent to Eisenhower’s working farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Eisenhower was also presented with Vermont delicacies and a new fishing rod. Photo credit: Alice Hobart, Rutland, Vt.

Elmer Towne (wearing VT sign) challenged fellow commissioners from neighboring states to a milking contest. When reporters asked him how long it had been since he last milked a cow by hand, he answered “twenty-four hours.” In contrast, Maine’s commissioner, Fred Notter answered ten years! Judged on a combination of the weight of milk collected in 2 minutes and 30 seconds, technique, and costume, Towne was declared the winner. Rhode Island’s commissioner, John Rego, beat Towne by one ounce, giving all the credit for this success to the cow, but he was marked down by the judges for wearing “Sunday clothes” (Rutland Daily Herald, June 23, 1955, page 13). Photo credit: Department of Agriculture, Montpelier, Vermont

This float from the New England Milk Producers Association (NEMPA) proudly declares Vermont milk to be “the true fountain of youth.” Ponce de Leon even made an appearance to prove it.President Eisenhower addressed the crowd from a very patriotic grandstand at the Rutland Fairgrounds. Commissioner Towne can be seen just to the left of the podium.

President Eisenhower greeted photographers before stepping down from his convertible, while a huge crowd angles for a glimpse.

Vermont kids demonstrated their square dancing skills. Note the news cameras poised above, documenting the action.

For more information about Vermont agriculture and to see Elmer Towne’s papers, contact Special Collections.

Contributed by Erin Doyle, Manuscripts and University Archives Assistant

 

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J. Lamb’s Little Books for Children

Between 1820 and 1830, Burlington, Vermont experienced significant growth. The population increased dramatically, from 2111 in 1820 to 3526 in 1830, a 67% increase. Among the new residents who relocated from other Vermont communities were Jonathan Lamb (1795-1851), an educator and University of Vermont student, and  Chauncey Goodrich (1798-1858), a bookseller and publisher.

Lamb taught at Burlington Academy, located at the corner of Willard and College Streets, from 1824-1829. He also attended UVM during those years, graduating in 1829. In July 1831, he opened a new school for “the purpose of instructing Young Gentlemen in the various branches of science and literature” and offered lectures on teaching for men who would be working in schools in the winter.

Lamb used his teaching experience to write several schoolbooks. Shortly after Goodrich set up shop in Burlington, an advertisement in the Nov. 7, 1828 Burlington Weekly Free Press announced that Lamb’s book, The Child’s Primer, or First Book for Use in Primary Schools, was in press and soon to be published. Lamb’s second volume, The Child’s Instructer, was published by A. & D. Day in 1829, but Goodrich published Lamb’s Gospel Sonnets, “designed principally for youth” in 1830. At the same time, Lamb wrote twelve small chapbooks that Goodrich offered as a series of Little Books for Children.

Silver Special Collections holds four of Lamb’s little books: The Shipwreck, The Lion and the Snake, A Present for a Good Boy, and A Present for a Little Cousin. The 2.5 x 4-inch books contain 16 pages and are illustrated with woodcuts. Only one retains its original paper wrapper. The printer used different tactics to fill all 16 pages, including double spacing lines and filling the last few pages with unrelated poems and stories. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lamb’s little books were designed to be entertaining and educational. Lamb frequently addresses his “little readers” directly, offering advice and guidance about reading and behavior in a conversational tone. He describes the characteristics of animals and common objects, and uses the descriptions to teach moral lessons. When describing a chair, the author cautions, “You should not sprawl out your legs and lean your chair back in the company of ladies and gentlemen.”  At the end of a story about lions, he warns children not to be unkind or impudent, or people will say “They are worse than beasts, for even lions love those who are kind to them, and feed them.”

Pages from A Present for a little Cousin

Lamb’s little books are similar to small children’s books published elsewhere, and sometimes include borrowed content. The Shipwreck is a poem published in numerous editions by the Religious Tract Society in London beginning in 1795 and by the American Tract Society in 1829. Lamb’s version is missing a number of verses, perhaps to allow it to fit into sixteen pages. In The Lion and the Snake, Lamb included stories about lions borrowed from Peter Parley’s popular Tales of Animals, which he highly recommends to his readers.

Goodrich sold the books at his shop in Burlington, but they were probably available at stores in other Vermont communities. In 1830, Goodrich advertised his new publications, including “12 different kinds of small books for children” by J. Lamb, in the Vermont Chronicle, a statewide newspaper. In a study of reading habits in southwestern Vermont during this period, William Gilmore found that children’s books were one of the most frequently purchased book types. Only three months after publishing the Little Books, Goodrich claimed he had already sold 20,000 copies. Our copy of A Present for a Little Cousin is dated 1841, just over a decade after it was first listed in the series, suggesting that sales continued to be strong enough to warrant reprinting.

Lamb left Burlington in 1833 to serve as the first principal of an academy for young ladies and gentlemen in Keeseville, New York. By the early 1840s, Lamb was settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he operated a bookstore and was a strong advocate for public education. Versions of his spelling book and primers were published  by a Boston publisher in 1842 and 1843.

Contributed by Prudence Doherty, Public Services Librarian

 

 

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Pickens African American Collection

William Pickens III recently made a special gift that included significant books of African American history, literature, and works on civil rights and black life in America.  Many of the books were passed down to Bill Pickens by his father and grandfather and include inscriptions by writers such as James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, and others.  We are delighted to add these important volumes to our Rare Book collection.

A 1958 graduate of UVM, where he served a term as Student Government president, Bill Pickens was an executive with Marine Midland Bank and Philip Morris before starting his own consulting firm in 1979.  He has also served on numerous non-profit boards and was founding chair of the Paul Robeson Foundation.  His book collection reflects a lifelong dedication to civil rights and the documentation of black culture.

William Pickens I was a major figure in the civil rights movement before the climactic era of the 1950s and 60s. A 1904 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale University, Pickens first published the autobiographical Bursting Bonds in 1923. Indiana University Press published a new edition of Bursting Bonds: The Autobiography of a “New Negro” in 1991.

Folk traditions of African Americans have been documented by many writers, including James Weldon Johnson, who published numerous collections of poetry and spirituals in the first half of the twentieth century. This copy of God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse (New York: The Viking Press, 1927), was inscribed by Johnson to Bill Pickens’s grandfather.

The Pickens family was close to many luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance. Langston Hughes was a close associate of William Pickens II, Bill’s father; he inscribed a copy of Simple Speaks His Mind to the elder Pickens in 1952.

The Pickens collection includes works by and about great African American thinkers and activists such as W.E.B. DuBois. Henry Lee Moon, author and editor of The Crisis, inscribed The Emerging Thought of W.E. B. DuBois to Bill Pickens in 1973, “with best wishes for a happy future for which your forebears worked so hard.”

Contributed by Jeffrey Marshall,
Director, Special Collections

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Spotlight: Billings Library Souvenir Ceramics

One of the best parts of working in a library is that there is always something to discover (or rediscover) in the collections. While preparing for our move to new quarters in the Billings Library, we came across an unassuming carton—the kind that we use all of the time to store manuscripts, serials, and other materials—labeled “FRAGILE: Realia from wooden display case.”

Inside the container, just as the label had promised, was a small stash of everyday objects that once stood on display in our old quarters at the Howe Library. Ranging from a Vermont politician’s box of keepsakes to turn-of-the-century toothpaste manufactured by Burlington’s Wells & Richardson Co., these artifacts have entered our collection over the years as individual gifts or as parts of larger donations of written or printed materials. Even when an artifact’s provenance has been clear, though, its story—how its owner came to possess it, the role it played in its owner’s life, and the social ties linking the individuals that passed the object through the generations—has often been hidden in the threads of fraying memories. Nothing stays buried forever, however, and with a little digging and a lot of determination, one can unearth the stories of these objects and their place in our history.

In this artifact spotlight, we highlight a fitting find from our cache of objects: a partial set of Billings Library souvenir whiteware. The saucer and two teacups each feature a transfer-printed image of the library, beneath which is printed “Billings Library, Burlington, VT, U.S.A.” A trade mark on the foot of each piece declares its point of departure and destination: “Made in England: C.G. Peterson, Burlington, Vermont.” Another mark on one teacup’s foot supplies a design registration number.

The story of our “Billings-ware” begins with this registry mark, which was assigned by the English Patent Office. The registration number for the design on our whiteware falls near the end of the range of numbers assigned in 1888, three years after the dedication of the Billings Library. The Billings-ware, then, would have arrived in Vermont when the public was enamored of the new building and eager to “buy” and claim a piece of the library for themselves.

The trade marks on the artifacts link this period of enthusiasm for the library to one of the many Burlington merchants who capitalized on the public’s craving for Billings keepsakes. Individuals wishing to admire the library’s beauty as they drank their tea and coffee could purchase crockery like our Billings-ware from the shop of Charles G. Peterson, a home furnishings dealer in downtown Burlington from 1877 to 1906. Peterson’s shop sold everything from glassware to wallpaper, catering to the needs of locals and tourists alike. Customers could purchase souvenir crockery featuring a variety of Burlington buildings and landmarks, including butter dishes commemorating the dedication of the Fletcher Free Library and cups and saucers depicting the Ethan Allen Monument.

Although its design was registered in 1888, the Billings-ware was first advertised in 1890. Just before Christmas, the Burlington Free Press announced that “Mr. C. G. Peterson has just received a large lot of fine English China made to order which bears fine representations of the Billings Library.” Peterson ran advertisements for the Billings souvenirs in the UVM yearbook, the student newspaper, and the Free Press from 1890 through 1895.

Although we do not know who purchased our Billings-ware from Peterson’s shop, we do know that the pieces ultimately came into the hands of UVM alumna Roberta F. Powers (class of 1932), who donated them to Special Collections in 1984. Powers was the youngest daughter of George M. Powers (UVM 1883), who served intermittently as a justice on the Vermont Supreme Court between 1904 and 1938. While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, Roberta Powers took part in several honor societies and student organizations relating to theater, literature, and debate, and received honors and scholarships for her “literary scientific” coursework. The editors of 1932 year book described Powers as “a dynamo” who “radiate[d] personality, friendliness, and ability in all directions.” Her witty and thoughtful observations in her father’s biography, which she composed during the last decade of her life, evidence the truth of these claims.

It was during this period of biographical research, as she was weaving together the threads of her family’s history, that Roberta Powers donated the Billings teaware, a piece of UVM’s history, to Special Collections.  As we settle into Silver Special Collections here in the renovated Billings Library, these souvenirs remind us how highly the community regarded H. H. Richardson’s architectural landmark on the UVM campus.

This post was contributed by Hannah Johnson, who graduated from UVM in 2018 with a degree in English and History. Hannah worked in Special Collections as a student and joined our staff full-time this fall.

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An Extraordinary Manuscript

In 2017, President Thomas Sullivan generously allocated $100,000 to the University Libraries to support acquisitions in the humanities. At the recommendation of College of Arts and Sciences faculty from the departments of History, Romance Languages, Religion, and English who specialize in medieval Europe, Special Collections was able to purchase an extraordinary sixteenth-century manuscript which the specialty bookseller Les Enluminures had just put on the market.

Les roys de la très crestienne maison de France (The Kings of the Very Christian House of France), written in French, is an illuminated manuscript on parchment that probably originated in northern France, possibly Paris, between 1500 and 1525. It lists each king and the dates and key events of his reign, beginning with legendary King Pharamond and ending with just a heading for Louis XII, who ascended to the throne 1497-1498. The dealer’s description compares our manuscript to the only other known copy, held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and suggests that with its elegant script, decorated initials and red velvet binding, our copy may have been made for a person close to the royal family.

The faculty members who recommended the purchase believe that the stunning manuscript has enormous potential for teaching and research at UVM. They regularly use our collection of medieval manuscripts as teaching tools, and see this very accessible manuscript as a great addition. It is tailor-made for a seminar that Charles-Louis Morand-Métevier will be teaching next spring on royal chronicles in the late medieval/Renaissance period. It will also be a good building block for a TAP course that Sean Field hopes to teach in 2019, “Medieval History through Manuscripts.” At the same time, UVM will be participating in a program sponsored by Les Enluminures, “Manuscripts in the Curriculum,” that will bring a curated collection of manuscripts to campus for use in several courses. Special Collections Director and Rare Book Curator Jeffrey Marshall and Charles Briggs will teach a seminar designed around our manuscript holdings, including the new Les roys de la très crestienne maison de France.

Several UVM faculty members plan to begin work on an edition of the manuscript text. Collating our copy with the one at the Bibliothèque national de France would allow the production of a critical edition. In the future, Special Collections will add the manuscript to our Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts digital collection.

Faculty members Ann Clark (Religion), Jenny Sisk (English), Charles Briggs (History), Charles-Louis Morand-Métevier (Romance Languages), and Sean Field (History) visited Special Collections to examine the manuscript.

 

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Fall 2017 Events

We kicked off our fall programming on October 4 with two events. Chris Burns, Manuscripts Curator and University Archivist, participated in #AskAnArchivist Day, when archivists around the country answered questions tweeted with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. Read highlights from Chris’s tweets, and learn which of our photos he would choose for an avatar. In the evening, students, faculty and community members filled the Special Collections reading room for the first presentation in the 2017-2018 College of Arts and Sciences Medieval Studies Lecture Series, Dartmouth professor Andrea Tarnowski’s presentation “On the Long Road of Learning with Christine de Pizan.”

We have three more events scheduled for the fall semester. All events are free and open to the public. They will be held in Special Collections, Bailey/Howe Library at UVM. For more information, call 802-656-1493 or email Special Collections. Please join us!

Drawing from the Past: A Nonfiction Comics Workshop
Friday, October 20, 2017, 10 am – 2 pm

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Marek Bennett’s graphic noel for teen readers.

NH teaching artist Marek Bennett will lead a hands-on nonfiction comics lab featuring materials from the Vermont Folklife Center and UVM Special Collections or materials that participants bring. Workshop participants will look at basic techniques of cartooning and comics creation, then try drawing original comics based on primary source texts. Discussions will address elements of readability, historical accuracy, point of view, research, and the responsibilities of the artist as an interpreter of historical narratives. Participants will each create 1+ pages of original comics drawn from primary source texts, and go home with the skills necessary to continue their work independently. The workshop is free and open to the public. Registration is required.

The workshop is presented in conjunction with the Pulp Culture Comic Arts Festival and Symposium that will be held at UVM October 19-21, 2017.

The Cultural Transformation of Vermont in the 1930s: A Complex Web of Archival Sources
Wednesday, October 25, 2017, 5:30 pm

UVM Professor of History Dona Brown will lecture on “The Cultural Transformation of Vermont in the 1930s: A Complex Web of Archival Sources.” Professor Brown’s presentation is part of a series organized by the Vermont Historical Records Advisory Board (VHRAB), for Archives Month, when archives and repositories around the nation highlight the importance of historic documents and records.

Hands On Artists’ Books with Vamp and Tramp, Booksellers
Friday, November 10, 2017, 10 am – 12 pm 

Vamp & Tramp, Booksellers, which represents 400+ makers of contemporary fine press and artists’ books, will be showcasing current inventory. Drop in any time for this rare chance to look at and handle the best of today’s melding of art and books. Free and open to the public.

At our first Vamp and Tramp open house last fall, students, librarians and book artists explored a wide variety of works.

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Champlain Valley Fair Album

As the Champlain Valley Fair winds down for this year, we are sharing an album of fair photos from the 1940s and 1950s. Manuscripts curator Chris Burns created the album using a wonderful selection of photographs from the James Detore Collection. Detore, a commercial photographer and a staff photographer for the Burlington Daily News, recorded all aspects of the fair, from the midway rides and shows to the farm and home exhibits. Open the album to see horse pulling, performing bears, horse racing, the demolition derby, and more.

Click on the image to view the album.

James Detore documented the social lives and public events of the Burlington area from 1932 until his death in 1969. The Detore collection at UVM consists of approximately 40,000 negatives. The collection emphasizes World War II homefront activities, Burlington businesses and buildings, and activities at the University of Vermont.

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