Views of Saint Helena

While preparing for a presentation on book illustrations this summer, we came across a rare volume of prints in our Rare Book collection that has special historical significance today (October 15).  George Hutchins Bellasis’s Views of Saint Helena (London: printed by John Tyler, 1815) contains six hand-colored aquatint landscapes, each measuring approximately 9 inches by 14.5 inches, of the island that became the final home of the deposed emperor Napoleon. He would spend the last six years of his life in exile on Saint Helena.

St. Helena, taken from sea.

St. Helena, taken from sea.

Napoleon stepped ashore on Saint Helena on October 15, 1815. It was the final act of a long drama that had turned Europe upside down, as Napoleon built and defended an empire against a series of coalitions led by Great Britain. Once before, in 1814, Napoleon had been defeated and captured, only to escape exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba in 1815. His final defeat at Waterloo in June 1815 led to the determination of his British captors to imprison the emperor in a place where escape was virtually impossible.

They chose well: Saint Helena was, and remains, one of the most remote inhabited places on earth. Located about 1,200 miles west of Africa and 1,800 miles east of South America, Saint Helena is still a British territory, with a current population of about 7,750.

Thanks to an eight-month visit to Saint Helena by soldier and artist George H. Bellasis, a certain segment of the British population soon got to see what the newly-famous island looked like. Bellasis, a young officer in the 19th Light Dragoons of the British East India Company, had been put ashore on Saint Helena in 1804 when he became too sick to continue his voyage home from India. While he recuperated, Bellasis made sketches of the dramatic island landscape. Eleven years later, when the location of Napoleon’s new home was disclosed, Bellasis arranged to have six of his sketches etched and printed in Views of Saint Helena. Artist Robert Havell used the aquatint process to make the prints, giving the illustrations a rich texture. Each of the prints was then hand-colored.

Plantation House, the country residence of the Governor.

Plantation House, the country residence of the Governor.

Bellasis obtained 263 subscribers for Views of Saint Helena (including Queen Charlotte and other members of the royal family), suggesting that at least this many copies were printed, though only 31 are currently listed in the bibliographic database Worldcat. He dedicated the book to Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, Napoleon’s recent nemesis on the battlefield, who, in 1804, had been colonel of the 19th Light Dragoons in India. The provenance of UVM’s copy of Views of Saint Helena is unknown.

Contributed by Jeffrey Marshall,
Director, Special Collections

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Our Fall Lecture Series


We are pleased to announce our fall lecture series, which will feature presentations on historical landscapes. Robert McCullough will talk about tracing bicycle history on the land, and Jeffrey Marshall will look at Burlington’s once prominent ravine.

Good Roads and Good Sidepaths
Wednesday, October 21, 2015, 5:30 pm

Robert McCullough’s new book, Old Wheelways: Traces of Bicycle History on the Land,  explores the “golden age of American bicycle touring” at the end of the nineteenth century. In conjunction with the library’s current exhibit, Cycling through the News, Professor McCullough will talk about the bicyclists who shaped and reshaped American culture from 1880 to 1900. These cyclists introduced an independent and dependable means of overland travel, propelled a campaign to improve the nation’s pitiful network of roads, swayed park planners, and even set into motion the modern engineering technology essential to the development of automobiles and airplanes.  They constructed a far-flung network of bicycle paths to satisfy their exploratory impulses.  Wheelmen and wheel women also assembled a substantial body of geographical literature, illustration, and photography. Their vivid descriptions of American places made them some of the country’s keenest observers of suburban and rural landscapes.

Robert L. McCullough is Associate Professor of Historic Preservation at UVM, and the author of The Landscape of Community: A History of Communal Forests in New England and Crossings: History of New England Bridges.


A Ravine Runs Through It: Topography and Function in 19th Century Burlington
Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at 5:30 pm

One of the most notable features of Burlington’s landscape in the nineteenth century was a deep ravine that ran from the Old North End across downtown and into Lake Champlain.  Although much of the ravine was filled in by the beginning of the twentieth century, parts of it are still clearly visible today.  Special Collections director Jeffrey D. Marshall will discuss the significance of the ravine in Burlington’s development as a city, using photographs from the department’s extensive collection.

Both presentations, which are free and open to the public, will take place in the Special Collections reading room. Refreshments will be served. For more information, email or call 656-2138.

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Vermonter Henry Stevens, Jr., Joins Yale’s “Skull & Bones” Secret Society

stevens006Bookseller Henry Stevens, Jr. (1819-1886) achieved distinction as a builder of library collections in a career that took him from his home in Barnet, Vermont, to London, where he spent most of his life after graduating from Yale in 1843. As the letters in our Henry Stevens Papers suggest, his success relied to some extent on the network of contacts he developed in college—including the exclusive undergraduate societies he was invited to join. Yale’s undergraduate “secret societies” are the focus of researcher David Alan Richards, a semi-retired lawyer in New York City, who discovered that Stevens belonged to the Skull and Bones Society and served as librarian in one of Yale’s literary societies.

Bones_logo The Skull and Bones Society, restricted to a handful of senior undergraduates, has among its members many distinguished alumni, including both major candidates in the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush and John Kerry. Since its founding in 1832 this society has admitted only fifteen members annually, and these members are selected at the end of their junior year by the graduating senior members. David Richards’s forthcoming book will examine Yale’s secret societies, beginning with Phi Beta Kappa and progressing through Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, and others into the modern era.

Henry Stevens, Jr., became the first and arguably the greatest Americana book and manuscript dealer. He collected Americana for the British Museum Library and Europeana for great American collectors, including James Lenox in New York and John Carter Brown in Rhode Island. The Henry Stevens Papers in Special Collections holds a collection of letters from young Stevens to his parents back in Vermont, and in one of these (dated August 6, 1842) he proudly announced his election to Skull and Bones:

There is a club that has existed in college for many years, made up of only 15 Students called the Skull and Bones Society. I have been elected as one of these 15. It is considered one of the greatest compliments that can be paid a student by his fellows to elect him to this honorary society. Two members of the faculty belong to it and several ministers of all denominations, both in New Haven and New York Washington and all over the country. Nearly every one of its members that have been out of college as long as 5 years are distinguished men. There are at least 10 young active [lawyers] in New York that belong to it. We meet once a week and often many of these old members are present and it is very interesting. The night before commencement many from Boston, Hartford, New York, Phila & Washington are coming on to attend an annual meeting. It will be a glorious time. One member in Congress will I expect be with us. I will tell you more of it when I see you.

If membership in Skull and Bones conferred success upon its privileged members, Henry Stevens, Jr., was certainly a prime example.

Contributed by Jeffrey Marshall,
Director, Special Collections

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Touring Old Mill With Local School Children

I recently had the opportunity to lead a group of six Edmunds Elementary second graders on a tour of Old Mill. The students were from the classrooms of Mrs. Bellevance and Ms. McMorris, and were visiting as part of a curriculum unit called “If These Buildings Could Talk.” The goal of the unit was to connect the students with the history of their community by learning about historic buildings and the ways they have been used.

Old Mill Visit

Chris Burns, Curator of Manuscripts and the University Archivist, is on the far right.

The tour started on the University green with an overview of the long history of Old Mill, drawing on Special Collections resources to illustrate the many changes to the building over time. A quick timeline of Old Mill’s history includes the following:

1802 – Original College Building constructed on site of Old Mill.
1824 – Fire destroyed College Building.
1825-1829 – North, South, and Middle College buildings constructed, with eight-foot fire breaks in between them. Middle College was topped with a Gold Dome.
1846 – North, South, and Middle College buildings were joined, and the long building was soon known as “the Mill” and eventually “Old Mill.”
1882 – Old Mill underwent a major renovation, with funds provided by John Purple Howard. Front and side facades were completely rebuilt, a fourth floor with dormers was added, and the dome was replaced by a tower.
1918 – A fire caused major damage to Old Mill. The fourth floor was closed off and the dormers were removed.
1957-1958 – Lafayette was constructed and Old Mill’s interior was altered.
1995-1997 – Old Mill and Lafayette undergo major renovations, which include restoring the fourth floor and bringing back the dormers to Old Mill.

UVM’s Historic Preservation program has produced two online histories of Old Mill that are great sources for anyone looking for further information on the building, available here and here.


Old Mill circa 1835

As we toured the outside of the building, the students took note of many details on and around Old Mill, including Lafayette’s cornerstone, the UVM Boulder, the bust of John Purple Howard, the sundial, and the bell that used to hang in the tower.

Our tour of the inside included a stop in the John Dewy Memorial Lounge to look at the four stained glass windows and a trip up to the tower with its stunning views of campus, Burlington, Lake Champlain, and the Adirondacks. A little know fact about the tower is that it houses a webcam used to document haze levels in Burlington. You can view the images from the webcam here. The site also has a handy guide to landmarks visible from the tower when looking toward the lake.


Upon returning to school, the students spent the next few weeks creating eBook reports and a three-dimensional model. They did a wonderful job on the model, paying close attention to architectural details such as the stained glass windows. While most of the students we work with are enrolled here at UVM, this was a great opportunity to contribute to the education of some younger minds and dig a little deeper into the history of Old Mill.

Contributed by Chris Burns,
Curator of Manuscripts and University Archivist

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Before Bernie Sanders Made History, He Sold It

logoaphs 0001Since Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, UVM Special Collections librarians have become much better acquainted with the diverse resources in our Vermont research collection that document Sanders’ life and political career. After receiving an inquiry about his educational filmstrip business, we turned to our reference files, where clippings, brochures and other ephemera frequently provide information about obscure topics.

We searched for the name of the company, the American People’s Historical Society, and found a folder where a conscientious predecessor had saved four promotional brochures sent to the library between 1978 and 1980.  The brochures provide details about the nonprofit’s goals, products, and staff.

aphsvt 0001Two of the brochures advertise film strips about Vermont history. The organization, originally known as Green Mountain Media, produced a series of six Vermont history filmstrips in 1977 for students in grade 6 and up. A 1978 brochure advertised three additional film strips, presented as “Great Events and People in Vermont History, Part II.” A second 1978 offering promoted a version of the original six filmstrips for third through fifth graders.

The topics are standard fare. The original series covered Ethan Allen, the Battle of Bennington, Vermont and the Civil War, Vermont statesmen, Calvin Coolidge, and the 1927 flood. The second series looked at the lives of Vermont-born President Chester A. Arthur, newspaperman Horace Greeley, Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, women who played important roles in the state’s past, Champlain “discovering” Vermont, the St. Albans Raid, and Admiral Dewey’s victory in the Philippines.

aphsmap 0001The third brochure indicates that the organization expanded its scope to other New England states, adding film strips for Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Addressing the New England educators who might purchase and use the films, director Bernard Sanders explained, “It is our belief that state and regional history has too long been neglected by the audio-visual industry, and we are happy to begin the process of rectifying that situation. We believe that students have the right to learn about the state and region in which they are living.”

The six products for Massachusetts featured Thoreau, U.S. presidents from Massachusetts, the abolition movement, maritime history, John Quincy Adams and the Amistad slave ship, and four important Massachusetts women. The three New Hampshire filmstrips profiled John Stark and five great leaders from New Hampshire and examined New Hampshire’s role in the Civil War.

The Vermont and New England brochures included a coupon with details about ordering the film strips. The society followed a fairly conventional pricing structure. It offered a 10-day free trial, with discounts for bulk purchases. Individual film strips  could be purchased for $18.50. A 10% discount set the price for six strips at $99.90.  A bundle of all 15 Vermont film strips was discounted to $155.40, while a set of 15 New England films was available for $225.00.

The fourth brochure marks a new direction for the society. Debs, about trade unionist, socialist and presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, was issued as a color videocassette. In the brochure’s “Dear Educator” section, Sanders announced that Debs was the first documentary in a new series called “The Other Side of American History,” which would “deal with people and ideas that the major profit oriented manufacturers of audio-visual material will not cover because of economic and political reasons.”

In his memoir, Outsider in the House, Bernie Sanders remembers that the educational filmstrip business was reasonably successful and “a lot of fun.” It ended when he turned his attention back to the political arena and won the 1981 mayoral election in Burlington, Vermont.

Contributed by Prudence Doherty,
Public Services Librarian



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Longhouse Records Now Available

logo003The records of Longhouse, Publishers and Booksellers of Guilford, Vermont are now available for research. Poet and editor Bob Arnold established Longhouse in 1971 and was joined by Susan Arnold in 1974.  Specializing in poetry, they have published hundreds of folders, chapbooks, broadsides, anthologies and small edition books by mimeograph, letterpress, photocopy and off-set.

Several noted writers have worked with Longhouse over its more than forty years of operation, including Cid Corman, David Giannini, Lyle Glazier, Ted Enslin, Janine Pommy Vega, Louise Landes Levi, Charlie Mehrhoff, Hayden Carruth, and John Levy.

The correspondence from Corman, Enslin, Levasseur, and Giannini is particularly voluminous and is valuable for understanding the rewards and challenges of the life of a poet. The following excerpt from a December 31, 1983 letter from Cid Corman to Bob Arnold is an excellent illustration of a noted poet detailing his need to create poetry, the struggles of getting work published, his financial picture, and his overall state of mind all in just a few short paragraphs.

Anyhow: the years of wretchedness have had graces too and even the worst scenes have not kept me from poetry. Nor am I going to stop before I am stopped. (Lately I can feel my mortality impinging more momently and my hopes are confined to wishes of completing some of my major work still entertained within. 3-5 major works.)

Of course – the bulk of my work remains unpublished. Here too – various people write me with apparent desire to help – but nothing comes of it.

Jonathan Greene has ts. For a selected haiku volume (translations) for the coming year. The Kusano book and Station Hill Press volume are both well overdue – as usual. And ORIGIN no. 2 – Terry tells me – was to have gone to press on the 19th. I lose track of the books that publishers have long since accepted and have let sit interminably: I assume they are waiting for me to die.

For all that – and though we live marginally as ever – this year has been one of my best and I savor the days – and nights – even the aches involved. (Arthritis begins to come on with dismaying speed now.)

The collection is also a great source for looking at the process of making poems. Poets shared their work in progress with Bob Arnold in their correspondence, and the manuscripts section of the collection shows works as they go through the various stages of the publishing process. Below is part of a poem by Louise Landes Levi, writing about the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986.


Special Collections is delighted to add this collection to our literary holdings, which include the papers of Hayden Carruth, David Budbill, James Hayford, Sarah Cleghorn, and Dorothy Canfield Fisher. More information about the Longhouse Records is available in the collection finding aid.

Contributed by Chris Burns, Manuscripts Curator

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“She knew something about seeds” – A Tribute to Celia Thaxter

A casual conversation about favorite gardening books led us to browse a copy of Celia Thaxter’s An Island Garden from the University of Vermont’s Rare Book collection. We discovered that our copy is especially interesting for content that was added after the book was printed and for the connection that brought it to UVM.


Sarah Wyman Whitman used a simple floral motif for An Island Garden’s cover.

An Island Garden Becomes a Memorial Album

Celia Thaxter was a popular poet and artist during the nineteenth century. Her family operated a fashionable summer resort on the Isles of Shoals off the New Hampshire coast that attracted distinguished artists, writers and musicians. Despite the challenging soil and climate, Thaxter added to the natural beauty of rocky Appledore Island with a luxuriant flower garden. The garden was the subject of her last book, An Island Garden, which came out in the spring of 1894. She worked with the American Impressionist painter Childe Hassam, a friend who painted scenes and people at the Isles of Shoals for many years,  to illustrate the book.

The UVM copy of An Island Garden originally belonged to Evelyn Benedict. A talented pianist, Benedict was part of the circle of prominent artistic and literary figures who gathered for Thaxter’s summer salons. Benedict’s correspondence with Thaxter and other visitors, including Henry and Clara Rogers, J. Appleton Brown, William Mason, and Henry Alden Mills, indicates how important the Isles of Shoals summers were to all of them. (Benedict’s correspondence is part of the Henry Munroe Rogers papers housed at the Houghton Library, Harvard University).

Benedict visited the island several times during the 1890s, and became close to Thaxter, who addressed her as “my little Benedict” in an 1891 letter. After an August 1892 visit, Thaxter wrote Benedict, “I have done nothing but lament your departure ever since you went. Never was there such an exquisite summer, never such good times of Shoals kinds and sorts.”

Evelyn Benedict

Childe Hassam painted Evelyn Benedict at the Isles of Shoals in 1890.

In March 1894, Celia Thaxter thanked Benedict for “all the kind things” she said about the garden book that Thaxter had sent her. In that letter, and in subsequent letters written in May and July, Thaxter encouraged Benedict to come to the Isles of Shoals. Sadly, Thaxter died that August. It’s not clear if Benedict was on the island then, but other guests attended the poet’s burial on the island.

During the year after Thaxter’s death, Benedict created a memorial album of sorts in her copy of An Island Garden. The landscape painter J. Appleton Brown was the first to write in the book. In Boston on April 17, 1895, he transcribed Shakespeare’s sonnet, “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought,” on a blank page. A few days later, Clara Kathleen Rogers, a composer, singer, writer and educator, filled another page.


Painter J. Appleton Brown’s contribution, dated April 17, 1895.

Henry Alden, the editor of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, added a tribute to Celia Thaxter in June. He wrote, “She knew something about seeds—and to us, in this garden of God’s love, such knowledge leads to an interpolation of the mysteries of life and death.”

The last two tributes were written in August. A round robin letter sent to Henry and Clara Rogers confirms that twelve of Celia Thaxter’s friends gathered at Appledore Island on the first anniversary of her death, including Benedict, William Mason and Childe Hassam. Mason, a pianist and composer, transcribed bars from the score for Robert Schumann’s Romance in F-sharp Major under Hassam’s painting of the island ferry Pinafore at sunset. Hassam wrote “Nocturne Seafire,” a reflection on the sights and sounds of a summer night by the sea, on a blank page opposite one of the floral headpieces he designed for the book.


Musician William Mason’s tribute, added on August 21, 1895.


Childe Hassam wrote about the sea at night on August 21, 1895.

Evelyn Benedict’s UVM Connection

The accession number recorded on the inside front cover indicates that An Island Garden was one of a number of books that Evelyn Benedict donated to UVM in 1943. Although Benedict was born in New York City, and lived most of her life in New York, Boston, Italy, and Newport, Rhode Island, she was a member of a prominent Burlington, Vermont family.

Evelyn’s grandfather, George Wyllys Benedict, taught at UVM from 1825 to 1847. Benedict and his son George Grenville ran the Burlington Free Press, and both served on the UVM Board of Trustees. In 1908, Evelyn’s father, Robert Dewey Benedict, retired from the practice of admiralty law in New York and retired to Burlington with his family. City directories list Evelyn at the family home on South Williams Street until 1920, when she moved to the Beacon Hill section of Boston. She died in Newport, Rhode Island in 1967 when she was 99, but was buried in Greenmount Cemetery in Burlington.

The Vermont Alumnus acknowledged in 1942 that “Miss Evelyn Benedict, formerly of Burlington, now of many places, has given the University, dozens of pieces of dinnerware from her family sets and from collections she has made abroad,” but did not mention her donation to the library.

By 1943, Benedict’s friends from the Isles of Shoals were long gone and perhaps her memories of the Isles of Shoals summers had faded. The tributes she collected in the UVM copy of An Island Garden, along with the letters preserved at the Houghton Library, provide an enduring record of just some of the friendships that flourished on Appledore Island under Celia Thaxter’s cultivation.

Contributed by Prudence Doherty,
Public Services Librarian

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Special Collections Faculty Receive Humanities Center Awards

Special Collections faculty members are involved in two initiatives supported by grants from the Humanities Center at the University of Vermont (UVM).

Chris Burns, Manuscripts Curator and University Archivist, is one of five faculty members who received a Lattie F. Coor Collaborative Fellows grant for a proposal called “Visualizing Ideas in the Digital Humanities.” According to an announcement from the Humanities Center, the group is “exploring ways of applying visualization tools, with a particular emphasis on representations of spatial patterns and processes, to humanities questions.” The group is currently investigating classroom, research and digital library applications on campus. To help build support for these efforts, they plan to hold a colloquium on digital humanities in the fall.

The Humanities Center recently launched a new program to support the creation of multi-disciplinary collegial networks and interest groups. Jeffrey Marshall, Director of Special Collections, and Prudence Doherty, Public Services Librarian, received support to create the UVM Book Studies Network. Faculty from Art and Art History, History, English, and the Libraries will explore related teaching and research interests that focus on the book. The group will meet three times this semester to identify shared themes in the study of the book and identify areas where more support for teaching and research is needed. Participants will explore how other institutions define “book studies” and propose a working definition for UVM. They will also consider the potential for a formal book studies program at UVM.


Map created by historian Nicole Phelps, one of the Lattie F. Coor Fellows, for a project on the history of the U.S. Consular Service from 1789 to 1924.


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Unexpected Gifts

People periodically contact Special Collections to ask if we would be interested in acquiring some old Vermont books that they found in an attic or received from an elderly relative. One recent box contained a collection of home economics textbooks used at UVM during the 1920s and 1930s that we were not able to add to either the Wilbur Collection of Vermontiana or the Rare Books collection. Buried beneath the textbooks, however, there were two items that are now part of the Vermont food and cookery collection.

The first unexpected gift is a notebook of weekly cooking lessons, written in a very neat and careful longhand. It appears to provide a record of one of the Ellen H. Richards Clubs for girls that UVM’s first home economics professor, Bertha M. Terrrill, praised at a meeting described in the St. Johnsbury Caledonian on January 13, 1915. Before coming to UVM in 1908, Terrill studied with Richards, a scientist who created the field of home economics.

Richards'  definition of home economics

Ellen Richards’ definition of home economics is pasted on the back of the notebook’s title page.

The first page of the notebook is labeled “The Ellen H. Richards Club,” and is inscribed “Mrs. Leon S. Gay.”   Mrs. Gay recorded 16 lessons offered to the Cavendish (Vermont) Cooking School from November 1914 to March 1915. Mrs. Gay, whose family owned a woolen mill in Cavendish, may have been the instructor. After an introductory first lesson, the second lesson began with a discussion of the home economics movement and the story of Ellen Richards’ remarkable career, proceeded to a lesson about milk, and concluded with a recipe for hot cocoa.

The lessons demonstrated a modern approach to cooking and eating based on science and efficiency. Most of them focused on the characteristics of a single basic ingredient or component, including its chemistry and nutritional value, tips for cooking, and recipes using that ingredient. The lessons covered milk, eggs, cream, batters and doughs, fats and oils, pastry, and vegetables (three lessons). One lesson provided instructions for “laying the table.” Mrs. Gay may not have finished her record, as loose notes and recipes remain between the pages.

In the January lesson, students learned about doughs and leavening agents.

A recipe for Mock Cherry Pie, really a cranberry pie, is included in the pastry lesson.

From the pastry lesson, a recipe for Mock Cherry Pie made with cranberries.

The second item stands in sharp contrast to Mrs. Gay’s carefully ordered and presented record of cooking lessons. An unidentified person pasted recipes and household hints clipped from newspapers and magazines and written on odd scraps of paper into an account book from the 1880s. The account book may be from a sawmill in Shelburne, Vermont, but identifying information on the inside front cover is obscured by recipes for soft molasses cookies, soap, and steamed fruit pudding.

Curiously, the ledger was cut in half before it was recycled. The pages of the bottom half have been completed covered with recipes and tips, but only a few pages of the upper half have been reused. The empty pages and the many loose recipes suggest that the book was still a work in progress when it was abandoned. Judging by dates and news stories on some of the clippings, the recipe collection was assembled during the 1950s and early 1960s.


The 14-inch tall ledger was cut in half before it was reused as a recipe book.

Despite the popularity and spread of cooking and canning clubs in Vermont during the early twentieth century, surprisingly little information about their activities survives, making Mrs. Gay’s notebook an especially significant find. Personal recipe collections are also rarely preserved, and the example from the bottom of the box of old textbooks is a good addition to the published cookbooks, advertising, menus and other manuscripts in the Vermont food and cookery collection.

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