Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Diary (1859-1886) of William Ayrton

Special Collections is pleased to showcase an exciting recent acquisition: the diary of William Ayrton, or: My Diary of My Mental Life from My Age of 21 and during My Public Life in Business Having left my Native Village in AD 1856 when I was 18 and beginning at Manchester. The entries in this stunningly handwritten notebook tell the story of a young man finding his way in life and grappling with the contradictions between his faith and the modern world he sees around him. In one hundred pages, Ayrton transcribes his inner monologue from the age of twenty-one, when he is just starting out in business, to forty-four, by which point he is an ordained deacon with a wife and children.

Much of the diary focuses on Ayrton’s relationship with God, and with his struggles to succeed at his work while maintaining a life that adheres to a strict moral and religious code. As the diary opens, the year has just turned 1859, and Ayrton is celebrating his birthday. He outlines what makes a good party and tells of his frustration with having already broken his New Year’s resolutions. We read as Ayrton finds his footing as a clerk and travels for business all over England, and, at one point, to France.

Two particularly interesting moments describe the intersection of Ayrton’s life with major public figures and events. He runs into Charles Dickens on the street, and later, in a fascinating moment, gets caught up with the Paris Commune uprising. On page 84, he tells of how this all began: “I happened to lodge in a house where there was another man lodging who, I sometime after, found he was connected with the Revolutionists.”

Ayrton is a great observer of those around him: “As my great subject in all my experience of life, has always been to observe earnestly and interestedly the various circumstances of the population, wherever I might be so that I might notice and learn all the various doubts, difficulties, and problems of life, and also all their conduct, with regard to the natural world, the Universe and their own humanity.”(83)

Ultimately, he is searching for the meaning of life, something which he finds, though does not explain in this diary: “I never heard from any leaders and teachers, a real correct, and complete solution of the problem of life. It thus naturally enforced itself upon me for a thorough solution, and ever remained in a prominent position in my mind. I was thus mentally compelled to solve it for myself in A.D. 1886 in Manchester, when I had been appointed a Churchwarden, at St. Clements Church in Greenheys” (99).

While Ayrton’s language leans towards the stiff and formal, his style of writing belies the open and unflinching way in which he bares his soul. Readers are privileged to read this man’s thorough examination of his own self and to watch how, between descriptions of his business affairs and his frequent exhortations to God, Ayrton frequently does battle with his own lesser inclinations.

This diary was purchased with a grant from the Ann and Abe Effron Fund, and it is available digitally on the Internet Archive.

description by Surella Evanor Seelig, Archives & Special Collections Coordinator

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Women's History Month: Women in Publishing

March is Women's History Month, which gives us an excellent opportunity to take a fresh look at materials pertaining to women within the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department at Brandeis. Inspired by a few key items—a first edition of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847), the personal and professional papers of popular novelist Fannie Hurst, stunning black-and-white portraits of Gertrude Stein and Zora Neale Hurston—we decided to dig deeper into women's involvement in publishing, and we found some pretty wonderful things. We are delighted to share some of our findings with you on this blog, and we also invite you to join us on Tuesday, March 18, to see these and other items in person during our Women's History Month Show-and-Tell.

Women Authors and Women as Subjects

La Princesse de Clèves by Madame de La Fayette:

Originally published in 1678, this French novel centers on the romantic intrigues—and the psychological turmoil—of Mademoiselle de Chartres, who marries to become the Princess of Clèves. Its author, Madame de La Fayette, enjoyed considerable success during a period that was not known for celebrating women writers. We hold a 1741 French edition of this work in our Rare Books collection, and a beautifully illustrated 1947 English edition from Nonesuch Press in our Fine Press collection.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft and Observations on the Real Rights of Woman by Hannah Mather Crocker:

Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication was a forceful argument for women's education, which Wollstonecraft believed was essential to the good of society. This controversial work was soon published in America and also translated into French. The 1792 first edition from our Rare Books collection reveals the book's humble appearance, bound in simple paper boards with an engraving of the author inserted at a later date.

Hannah Mather Crocker wrote what many consider to be the first American counterpart to the Vindication—her Observations on the Real Rights of Woman. Like Wollstonecraft, Crocker argued that women's education is an essential component of a virtuous society. Our 1818 Boston edition is similar in appearance to Wollstonecraft's work—plain and unadorned, allowing the force of Crocker's argument to take center stage.

Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

Representing a very different form of writing—poetry—as well as a lavish publishing style is our fine-press edition of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese. This modern reinterpretation of an illuminated manuscript, published in the 1940s by the Limited Editions Club, is an attractive and moving example of woman as both writer and subject.

Women Illustrators

Among the more intriguing discoveries in our collection is the work of Majeska, who contributed vibrant, richly colored illustrations to a handful of novels in the 1920s and 1930s, many of which are centered on female characters and romantic intrigue. Our numbered copies of Sappho by Alphonse Daudet (signed by Majeska) and Psyche by Pierre Louys are gorgeous examples of illustration bold in both style and subject matter.

Women Publishers

The Cuala Press was founded in 1908 in Ireland by Elizabeth Yeats, the sister of poet William Butler Yeats. Influenced by the Arts and Crafts style and her work with William Morris, Yeats published over seventy fine-press books, including much of her brother's work. The Cuala Press was also notable for being primarily run and staffed by women. Our 1927 copy of W.B. Yeats's October Blast showcases the Cuala Press's style, and this image from our book of pressmarks and printers' devices alludes to the central role women played in Elizabeth Yeats's work.

Women and Journals

The nineteenth century produced several journals for women readers—and some of these, including Godey's Lady’s Book and American Jewess, were also edited by women. Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey's, regularly contributed her writing and opinions to the popular publication; she also wrote fiction and the Woman's Record, an encyclopedia of important women from "creation" until 1868. Rosa Sonneschein, both founder and editor of American Jewess, was also an advocate for expanding women's opportunities within Judaism. These publications evince a large and avid female readership, as well as the active roles that women played in the production of popular reading material.

Bringing It All Together

Monday or Tuesday (1921) and Kew Gardens (1927) are elegant examples from our Fine Press collection of the variety of women's work in publishing. Written by Virginia Woolf, illustrated with woodcuts by Vanessa Bell, and published by Hogarth Press (the company founded by Woolf and her husband), these books neatly demonstrate the central roles women have played in the publishing industry, as well as the importance of publishing—from writing and illustrating to editing and producing—in the study of women's history.

We hope this has piqued your interest in Women's History Month. To see these items and more, please pay us a visit!

Description by Cassandra N. Berman, Archives & Special Collections Assistant and Ph.D. student in History

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Pennyroyal Caxton bible

Living as we do in our modern, twenty-first-century world with all of its attendant gadgets and technology, it is fairly easy to go through life with little appreciation of the impact that the printing press has had on the history of the world. And in many respects, the history of book printing could be told as a history of printing Bibles. While not the very first work of printing, the Bible (an edition of the Latin Vulgata) was the first significant work to be published by moveable type—in the 1450s, and likely completed by 1455—and Bibles have been a staple of presses ever since. Even today, new printings and translations of the Bible are being produced, and many modern Bibles, like their ancient counterparts, are adorned with photographs or lavish illustrations(1). If you have not been to the Brandeis University Archives & Special Collections Department in a while (or ever), you are missing out. Among its many collections of rare books, manuscripts, and ephemera is a breath-taking example of a modern printed and illustrated Bible: The Pennyroyal Caxton Bible, a gift to Brandeis by Bruce and Suzie Kovner.

Published in the second half of 1999, the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible is a limited edition printing of the King James Bible. No other translation of the Bible has held the pride of place in the hearts and minds of the English-speaking world as the King James (Authorized) Version of the Bible (originally published in 1611). Thus, the King James Version, following Scrivener’s 1873 edition of that translation—which eliminated words in italics (which were not present in the original Hebrew) and verse numbering—was used as the text of the Pennyroyal Caxton. The layout makes for a very pleasant and fluid reading. Further, the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible has been masterfully illustrated by Barry Moser. Mr. Moser, who has taught at a dozen colleges and universities, including Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Princeton University, is the foremost American master of wood engravings. The Pennyroyal Caxton Bible has been adorned with two hundred and thirty-three of these engravings, the sum of which it took Moser three and a half years' worth of ten- to twelve-hour days to create. All of this time-consuming labor was well worth it; the illustrations are exquisite in their execution and comprehensive in their scope. Apart from the smaller New Testament epistles, every book of both the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and the New Testament contains illustration. No other printed Bible of the twentieth century holds this distinction, and no other Bible has approached either the number or the artistry of wood engravings since Gustave Dore?’s Le Sainte Bible of 1865 (a copy of which we also hold in our collections).

The Pennyroyal Caxton Bible has been printed in two editions. It is the first run, the Primary Edition, that Brandeis holds. The Primary Edition is printed in two volumes, with full vellum bindings. Volume 1 contains The Books of Moses (Genesis–Deuteronomy) and The Books of History (Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and The Song of Songs). Volume Two contains The Books of Prophecy and the entire New Testament. The Primary Edition has been strictly limited to four hundred copies.

This Bible itself is more than a book to behold; it is a work of art. Each volume measures 16 x 11 1/2 inches, and is approximately 3 inches thick. They have a certain heft to them that many bibliophiles love to encounter in a book: the heft that suggests quality and craftsmanship. The titles are stamped in 24-carat gold on the front cover and spine, and the signatures(2) as well as the head and tail bands(3) were sewn by hand. Completed here in Massachusetts, these bindings are meant to recall the bookmaking and binding traditions of the Renaissance. For those interested in scripts, calligraphy, or typography, the typesets are Galliard and Mantinia, both designed locally in Cambridge. Created especially for this project, they are retrofits of types created by the fifteenth-century Italian painter Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) and the sixteenth-century French type designer and printer Robert Granjon (1513–1589/90). In addition, a new Hebrew typeface was commissioned, Le Bé Hebrew, which made its debut in the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible. Each Testament of the Bible opens with a specially designed rubric,(4) and the New Testament in like manner closes with a beautiful red “Amen.” Even the paper is distinctive: called Zerkal Bible, it is white vellum sheets, each measuring 22 x 32 inches and weighing 120 grams (which accounts for the heft). The paper was manufactured in Zerkal, Germany, and bears a distinctive watermark on each page. Some of the copies of this Bible contains paper that was made entirely by hand!

The crowning jewel of the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible is its illustrations. There was no major publication of the Bible in the entire twentieth century for which both the Old and the New Testaments were illustrated by the same artist. In this way, The Pennyroyal Caxton Bible is unique, and turning through the pages of this Bible one cannot help but be struck with the sense that each illustration is more impressive than the last. It is replete with images of not only major Biblical figures (Abram/Abraham, Moses, Saul, etc.) but many “minor” ones as well: there is a beautiful illustration of Hannah suckling Samuel, a gripping depiction of Simon the Cyrene, and an image of Jephthah’s daughter that is so striking in its beauty and simplicity that it begs one to reconsider the significance of the chilling story that we find in Judges 11. Women—even the least known among Biblical women, for example, Achsah (Josh 15 and Judges 1) and Lydia (Acts 16)—are fittingly well-represented, and in beautiful detail. Adding to its distinctiveness, this Bible is full of illustrations of livestock, fauna, and assorted sundries of everyday life in the ancient world. The illustrations are beautiful in their artistry, in their capacity to bring life to the Biblical stories, and in the ideas and lessons that they convey to their viewers, confronting and challenging as they beckon and inform.

The Pennyroyal Caxton Bible is a singular achievement, in printing and in Biblical illustration. It is a rare work of art, and one that deserves to be appreciated for its artistic, religious, cultural, and reverential value. So contact the Archives & Special Collections Department and ask the librarian to show it to you; you will be glad that you did.

Description by David M. Harris, Archives & Special Collections Assistant and M.A. student in Near Eastern & Judaic Studies, specializing in Bible and the Ancient Near East

1 For an overview of medieval manuscripts and how they were produced and illustrated, see Jonathan J.G. Alexander, Medieval Illuminators and Their Methods of Work (New Haven, CT.: Yale University Press, 1992). For an introduction to the history of manuscripts and their illustration, see the excellent work by Christopher De Hamel, A History of Illuminated Manuscripts (Boston: David R. Godnine, 1986).
2 A “signature” is the letters or numbers printed in the tail margin of each gathering or section of a book, in order to guide the binder in assembling them correctly. See John Carter and Nicholas Barker, ABC for Book Collectors, Eighth Edition, New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2006.
3 In normal European and American practice, when a book is bound the gathered sections (called “quires”) are sewn onto horizontal strips of some strong material, which are then laced onto the boards (ibid). In the case of the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible, the strips are made of linen tapes and sewn with linen thread.
4 A “rubric” is a heading to a chapter or section written or printed in red (ibid). In the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible, the opening of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is adorned with a rubric (God), and likewise the New (Christ). The entire Bible closes with a third rubric (Amen).
*See a description of the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible at www.pennyroyalcaxton.com

Monday, January 6, 2014

More than Just a John Hancock: The Signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution Collections

Nothing looms larger than the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution in the pantheon of great American texts; they are the foundation of the nation. These documents seem chiseled in stone, modern-day Ten Commandments. But what is often overlooked is that these two texts were both crafted by individuals. Certainly many in today’s world recall the names inscribed, but behind their signatures were men with unique thoughts and beliefs. These founders sought to shape the nation, but they did so based on personal and collective understandings of liberty and freedom forged by oppression and war. They were individuals drawn together in a common cause that had lasting consequences.

The Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department is home to another gathering of these patriots’ thoughts in the Signers of the Declaration of Independence Collection and the Signers of the United States Constitution Collection, which together contain over one hundred autographed documents from virtually all of the key American founders. The gift of Elise O. and Philip D. Sang (the latter of whom, among his many other honors of note, was a founding member of the Brandeis Bibliophiles), these texts began arriving at Brandeis University in the early 1960s, before being completed as a set in the early 1970s in time for the national Bicentennial, when they were placed on public display, complete with Boston press coverage.(1) Today, the original documents remain open to all—delighting students, faculty, staff, and researchers alike.

While eye-catching enough just for the famous autographs, including those of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and, naturally, John Hancock, the collections’ true prominence lies in their vast samplings of full documents and manuscripts penned by the signers’ own hands. Much more than brief handwriting snippet or historical relic, many of these documents provide a glimpse into the minds and experiences of these important individuals.

Even a cursory examination of the collections reveals documents filled with tangible research possibilities across diverse regional divides. From the oath of loyalty given by Thomas Lynch, Jr. (a South Carolina delegate), to fellow Continental Congress member Arthur Middleton’s instructions to the peace commissioners in France, we see personalized and chronologically advancing portraits of the Revolutionary War. In Boston during 1778, Massachusetts delegate Robert Treat Paine worried about what to do with the British prisoners of war from General John Burgoyne’s army (acquired after the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga), fearing that they could rise up during an invasion. Perhaps the prize of both collections is a letter from General George Washington, written during the New Jersey campaign in 1777, that reveals the commander in chief’s understanding of the motives and tactics of his British counterpart, General William Howe.

The scope of these documents reaches beyond the war itself, and is quite expansive across early American history, from the colonial era through the early republic—including a government form signed by Massachusetts Governor Samuel Adams and a colonial legal paper fining two individuals for fornication.(2) These collections possess the opportunity to examine the old favorites or even a forgotten founder, like Charles Carroll, the last living signer of the Declaration, who is remembered more recently from the film National Treasure for possessing the clue to a hidden treasure. All fiction aside, who knows what secrets are ready to be discovered in the Signers of the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution Collections?

(1) Society of Bibliophiles at Brandeis to Philip D. Sang, 16 Dec. 1970; Brandeis University Bulletin in Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections files; “Completion of a Stellar Gift: The Philip D. Sang Collection of Signers of the Declaration of Independence,” Octavo 1: Spring 1971, p. 9; David J. Steinberg, Roy Watkins, Bicentennial Exhibitions, 13 Sept. 1974, Related Materials, Signers of the Declaration of Independence Collection.

(2) All letters referenced can be found in Signers of the Declaration of Independence Collection or the Signers of the United States Constitution Collection.

description by Craig Bruce Smith, Brandeis Department of History PhD 2014