Tuesday, December 3, 2013
The three photographs taken mostly in South Africa around 1900 show native men participating in an interesting array of organizations and activities. There is a photograph of a rural Zulu prince and his aides on a kraal, or a South African homestead. Another is of two young men pulling a rickshaw in traditional garb, evidence of urban life in early-twentieth-century Africa. One photograph that stands out is of a “Barotse Native Police Band,” an organization of men whose uniforms consisted of Western shirts and shorts, fezzes, and bare feet with what appears to be leather wrapped around their ankles and shins. Whether or not this organization was headed by European colonizers, the photograph shows African men participating actively in an important part of their local life.
The five images in this collection that come from the Caribbean, particularly Haiti, give the viewer a small window into the lives of people living there in the nineteenth century. The two watercolors of “Le Prince Bobo” and a member of the civic guard are perplexing without proper context, but they demonstrate the emergence of artistry and a self-organized military in the former slave colony of Haiti. The sole image in this collection of somebody from the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s neighbor to the East, is also of a soldier. The most recent image in the collection, an engraving of Toussaint L’Ouverture from 1909, shows that more than a century after that first successful slave rebellion, Haiti’s heroes were still being remembered.
By far the most extensive and diverse series in this collection is the one containing photographs and ephemera from the United States. The images range from 1847 through the Civil War and Reconstruction all the way through both World Wars to around the 1960s. These images are not only of soldiers, but also of people escaping slavery, activist groups, entertainers, preachers, caricatures of black people in advertisements and on trading cards, college students, and ordinary families. The images illustrate both the traditional narrative of African Americans fighting to liberate themselves from oppression and the quieter, less often told story of black people, through everything, living rich, full, ordinary lives through or even in spite of that fight.
One photograph that epitomizes the range of this collection is the group portrait of the Storer College Cornet Band in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, taken on January 4, 1908. The young men in the photograph pose stiffly with their instruments, a drum in the corner painted with words proclaiming the date and the name of the band. Upon closer inspection it becomes clear that one of the musicians has a tiny kitten in the bell of his euphonium, a small splash of personality that brings to mind similar antics of college students now living a century later. It is a very normal picture, but remarkable in that it was taken at a black college in the same town where John Brown led his famous raid in 1859. Only forty years prior in the same location, the students receiving a level of education uncommon for Americans of any ethnicity in 1908 would likely not have been free men, and in that case would almost certainly not have been allowed a formal education or even to learn how to read. There is something poetic about the juxtaposition of these young men and their little cat with the knowledge that a violent and pivotal moment in African American history took place not far from where they were posing.
The portrait of the Storer College Cornet Band is one example of the range of experience African Americans have had throughout American history, and the collection holds even more. In one folder there is a portrait of a black family with a picture of their farm printed on the back; in another, a collection of trading cards depicts a cartoonishly rendered black woman speaking in a stereotypical vernacular about the many wonderful traits of Higgins Soap. Another folder contains a portrait of the founding of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, an activist organization that still exists today.
The African, Afro-Caribbean, and African American Photographs and Ephemera Collection has a wide array of items that can be difficult to summarize, but that range allows whoever may look through it to see the diversity of black life around the world, from native police in African cities, to civic guards in independent nations that were once slave colonies, to college students sneaking their pet into a formal portrait at the site of a major event in their own histories.
description by Hallie Appel, undergraduate history intern in Archives & Special Collections
Monday, November 4, 2013
The revolutions of the late seventeenth through the early nineteenth centuries were a time of great political upheaval. These revolutions were wars born from ideas. As such, words more than bullets or blades became the chief revolutionary weapons. Despite the geographical diversity of these conflicts, scattered across North America, Europe, the Caribbean, and South America, beliefs in natural rights, freedom, and liberty were their foundation. While thoughts gave way to actions, the roots and evolution of these changes can be transparently viewed through the words crafted by the participants. And numerous examples of the Age of Revolutions’ ideas can be found in the print and manuscript sources housed in the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections. Brandeis’s collections analyze the question of what theoretically and tangibly separates rebellion from revolution, and revolution from civil war.
Drawn from many different collections, most prominently from the Charles J. Tanenbaum Collection, Brandeis’s revolutionary holdings comprise an array of rare books (many first editions), pamphlets, engravings, and manuscript documents that chronicle, among others, the Glorious, American, French, Haitian, and Latin American revolutions. Brandeis’s sources allow researchers to follow the ideological spread of the spirit of the revolution throughout the Atlantic World. What emerges is a transnational stream of thought, which manifests itself in diverse ways, forcing its actors and the reader to question the rules and limits of revolution.
Primarily comprised of English sources, but also supplemented by those in French, Brandeis’s volumes follow the arch of revolutionary conceptions of liberty across three centuries and continents. The earliest of these texts, published in 1642 during the English Civil War, is A Declaration of the Lords and Commons Assembled in Parliament. It establishes a motif common in the early days of the revolutionary culture—from eighteenth century America to twentieth century Russia: the good king (in this case Charles II), blinded by his evil advisors and misled by the queen (foreshadowing the ominous specters of Queen Marie Antoinette of France and Czarina Alexandra of Russia). But six years later, The Charge of the Commons of England Against Charl[e]s Stuart, King of England would detail another revolutionary first: the trial and execution of a nation’s sovereign by his own subjects. However, 1723’s anonymously authored The History of England would chronicle what the writer considered the error of this choice, as it ignores virtually the entire rule of Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, and makes a drastic and unsubtle leap from Charles I to Charles II. In similar fashion, Edward Ward’s The History of the Grand Rebellion (1713) regards Cromwell as a rebel and speaks of the return of the monarchy as a “happy restoration” (1). Revolution must be principled. Revolutionary ideals varied greatly based on varying versions of thoughts and ethics.
A denigration of one governmental change was not indicative of an opposition to revolutions in principle. Typical of this, the aforementioned book, the History of England, is not inherently dismissive of the spirit of revolution, only of its less desirable manifestations—the English Civil War went too far, whereas the 1688 Glorious Revolution receives a discussion worthy of its name. The author seeks to give his readers the “true History” of the event, which naturally details the British people casting off “deplorable Circumstances… under the Yoke of Papistick [sic] Tyranny… and the Loss of their Civil Privileges and Properties.” In dethroning King James II, England was embracing its Lockean “natural Right[s]” and Dutch Prince William of Orange and English Princess Mary were heralded as virtuous deliverers (2). As the revolution lacked a great deal of the bloodshed so common in other such conflicts, it was glorified. But efforts were still made to heroicize and martialize this relatively peaceful revolution. Nearly three decades after the event, secretary of the admiralty Josiah Burchett continued to present King William’s mostly uneventful sea voyage from Holland with all the grandeur of an epic battle in A Complete History of the most Remarkable Transactions at Sea (1720).
The accounts of the history of 1688 helped spread the intellectual tradition of the Glorious Revolution, which in turn inspired a tenacious desire amongst Englishmen, on both sides of the Atlantic, to protect their natural rights. But what exactly were they? This question would become central to the growing turmoil in the American colonies during the 1760s and 1770s, and, despite any formalized government bill documenting them, Englishmen could turn to 1757’s A Guide to the Knowledge of the Rights and Privileges of Englishmen. Drawing on the traditional sources of English rights dating back to the Magna Carta, this book advanced the government’s obligation to have “secured every Man in the quiet Possession of his Rights, Liberties, and Properties.” These were “antient [sic] Rights and Privileges” that were acquired at birth (3). Such texts would have only bolstered the American colonists’ resolve to defend themselves against what they viewed as Parliamentary tyranny.
Brandeis’s books on the American Revolutionary era are particularly interesting not only because they consist of some of the most well-known texts of the period, but also because they contain many London-published versions. Such volumes possess an inherent and intriguing dichotomy that places the American colonial views in debate with those in Britain. The prefaces and editor’s introductions are a veritable treasure trove of political and ideological discourse on the principles of rights and liberty.
The Objections to the Taxation of our American Colonies (1765) was shocked by the American claims, writing “The Right of the Legislature of Great Britain to impose Taxes on her American Colonies… are Propositions so indisputably clear, that I should never have thought it necessary to have undertaken their Defence.” According to Jenyns, the colonists were intellectually ignorant of the true meaning of “Liberty, Property, [and] Englishmen.” Instead, he claimed, the colonists were bandying about such terms in order to “make strong Impressions on that more numerous Part of Mankind, who have Ears but not Understanding (4).”
Taking further issue with how American thinking led to action, The Report of the Lords Committees, Appointed by the House of Lords to Enquire into the Several Proceedings in the Colony of Massachusett's [sic] Bay(1774) placed the blame for the discord firmly on the colonists. Showing a less than stellar regard for objectivity, the Boston Massacre (which is misdated as occurring in 1768, rather than the actual 1770) was presented as a display of the British soldiers' discipline and “utmost Endeavours to prevent Mischief” framed against the colonial mob and the use by “Rioters” of physical “Blows, and every Act of Aggravation” (5). It shows a conscious British effort to challenge the very principles and ethics of American resistance. Likewise, the combined London printing of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense (1776), which called for American independence, along with its antithesis Plain Sense, which claimed the “Scheme of Independence is ruinous, delusive, and impracticable,” symbolizes this inherent clash over thoughts through words.
Despite the common perception of British opposition, English voices of understanding and conciliation often emerged. In Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1768), American patriot John Dickinson lamented that British “taxation therefore is the mode suited to arbitrary and oppressive governments'; meanwhile, in the preface of this work, Dickinson’s London editor tried to calm the more incendiary British subjects, warning his countrymen to “never be so angry with her colonies as to strike them.” British politician and former Massachusetts governor Thomas Pownall’s The Administration of the British Colonies (1766 and 1774) prophesied that “either an American or British union” had to be formed—“There is no other alternative,” and urged Parliament that “The truly great and wise man will not judge of the people from their passions” (6) The Speech of Edmund Burke (1775) urged reconciliation and presented Americans as the heirs of the Glorious revolution’s tradition, as British MP Edmund Burke detailed “This fierce spirit of the Liberty is stronger in the English Colonies probably than in any other people of the earth” (7).
The Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections is also home to many writings from key American founders, including printed volumes, manuscript letters, and documents penned by people such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock. Franklin is especially well represented, with a 1779 edition of his collected writings, entitled Political, Miscellaneous, and Philosophical Pieces, which contains his personal musings on the coming of the American Revolution. Likewise, a signed presentation copy of John Adams’s A Defence of the Constitution of Government of the United Stats of America (1788) offers resounding support for the new American republic (complete with an early printing of the US Constitution), while also remembering its ideological roots. As Adams reminds his readers, the American Revolutions’ origins lie across the Atlantic in Britain, “The English nation, for their improvements in the theory of government, has, at least, more merit with the human race than any other among the moderns… Americans too ought forever to acknowledge their obligations to English writers” (8). Words and books, regardless of their national origins, could bring about revolutionary change.
Also available through Brandeis are biographies on central figures, ranging from Charles Caldwell’s Memoirs of the Life and Campaigns of the Hon. Nathaniel Greene (1819), William Wirt’s Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry (1818), and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall’s five-volume The Life of George Washington (1804), which humorously doesn’t even mention its titular figure until page three hundred and seventy-seven. But one of the brightest gems of Brandeis’s collections is a first edition copy of Franklin’s famed Autobiography, which was originally published in Paris in 1791 under the name Memoires de la Vie Privée de Benjamin Franklin. This work would come to have an immense impact on not only on America, but also on another nation galvanized by the spreading spirit of revolution: France.
While Brandeis houses an extensive collection of French-language pamphlets and books on the French Revolution, its English-language texts (published in both Britain and America) are the most striking, as they present a critique of a revolution gone wrong though excessive violence and immorality. Like the History of England and Edward Ward's The History of the Grand Rebellion’s celebration of the “happy restoration” of the monarchy, the French execution of King Louis XVI is portrayed as a deterioration of revolutionary ideals and virtue. In The History of Jacobinsim, Its Crimes, Cruelties and Perfidies (1796), William Playfair, a Scot who actually stormed the Bastille, regards the French Revolution as possessing “First motives of the insurrection [that were] good, but soon became bad.” Displaying obvious personal disillusionment, his explicit subtitle, Comprising An Inquiry Into the Manner of Disseminating, under the Appearance of Philosophy and Virtue, Principles which are Equally subversive of Order, Virtue, Religion, Liberty, and Happiness, suggests the Jacobins’ ideology was grounded in “the cruelty and want of any attention to principle… proofs that violent revolutions destroy the moral principle in man.” Supposedly lacking a moral foundation, the French Republic was a warning, a country where its new government, “the national assembly[,] leads the people astray.” The same volume’s appendix, written by the pseudonymous Peter Porcupine (English author William Cobbett, also the work’s publisher), warned Americans that a similar fate could befall their own nation from those “who thence took the name Anti-federalists… in general, bad men of bad moral characters, embarrassed in their private affairs, or the tools of such as were” (9).
With a similar negative appraisal in An Historical Survey of the French Colony in the Island of St. Domingo (1797), British politician and slavery proponent Bryan Edwards dismisses the Haitian Revolution as a collection of “horrors of which imagination cannot adequately conceive nor pen describe.” With obvious bias, the slaves of the island of St. Domingo (later Haiti) revolting for freedom were portrayed as “savage people, habituated to the barbarities of Africa,” who did not fight properly but “avail themselves of the silence and obscurity of the night, and fall on the peaceful and unsuspicious planters… the old and the young, the matron, the virgin, and the helpless infant” (10). In stark contrast to Edwards, A View of South America and Mexico… A Complete History of the Revolution in each of these Independent States (1826), authored by the US Minister to Spain, Alexander Hill Everett, characterized the Latin American independence movement of the nineteenth century as “a revolution which has terminated so gloriously,” likely because of its similarities to the American Revolution (11). There was a clear ideological divide centered on the ethics and beliefs behind each revolution. Victory was not enough to justify its ideals; the means were on trial before the early modern world.
The Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections' revolutionary books present a variety of understanding on liberty and revolution from a wide array of culture perspectives. These holdings are particularly useful, as they offer nuances and diverse representations of revolutionary ideology. Through these books, a reader can find that while the spirit of revolution may have spread, the manner in which each war was fought became its principle means of judgment and justification.
Description by Craig Bruce Smith, Archives & Special Collections Assistant and PhD candidate in History.
(2) The History of England: Faithfully Extracted from Authentick [sic] Records, Approved Manuscripts, an the most Celebrated Histoies of this Kingdom…Vol. II. , p. 125.
(3) A Guide to the Knowledge of the Rights and Privileges of Englishmen. Containing, I. Magna Carta…II. The Bishop’s Curses…III the Habeas Corpus Act…IV The Bill of Rights…V. The act of Settlement…London: J. Scott, MDCCLVII , p. iii-iv.
(4) Soame Jenyns. The Objections to the Taxation of our American Colonies, By the Legislature of Great Britain Briefly Consider’d. London: J. Wilkie, 1765, p. 3-4.
(5) The Report of the Lords Committees, Appointed by the House of Lords to Enquire into the Several Proceedings in the Colony of Massachusett’s Bay, in Opposition to the Sovereignty of His Majesty, in His Parliament of Great Britain, over that Province; and also what hath passed in this House relative thereto, from the Frist Day of January, 1764. London: Charles Eyre and William Strahan, MDCCLXXIV, p. 12.
(6) Thomas Pownall. The Administration of the British Colonies. Vol. I. London: J. Walter, 1774, p. xiv; The Administration of the Colonies. 3rd edition. London: J. Dodsley and J. Walter, 1766.
(7) The Speech of Edmund Burke, Esq; On Moving His Resolutions for Conciliation with the Colonies, March 22, 1775. London: J. Dodsley, 1775, p. 16.
(8) John Adams. A Defence of the Constitution of Government of the United States of America. Vol. III. London: C. Dilly, 1788, p. 209.
(9) William Playfair. The History of Jacobinism, Its Crimes, Cruelties and Perfidies: Comprising An Inquiry Into the Manner of Disseminating, under the Appearance of Philosophy and Virtue, Principles which are Equally subversive of Order, Virtue, Religion, Liberty, and Happiness…With an Appendix, By Peter Porcupine Containing a History of the American Jacobins, commonly denominated Democrats. Philadelphia: William Cobbett, 1796, p. I: 127, 173; II: 8.
(10) Bryan Edwards. An Historical Survey of the French Colony in the Island of St. Domingo…London: John Stockdale, 1797, p. 63-64.
(11) Alexander Hill Everett. A View of South America and Mexico…A Complete History of the Revolution in each of these Independent States. Vol. I. New York: H. Huntington Jr., 1826, p. iii.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
The Shakespeare Collection held by the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department consists of two separate acquisitions, each astounding in its own right. In December of 1961, Allan Bluestein, a member of the book-collecting philanthropic club The Brandeis Bibliophiles, donated what is perhaps the most brilliant gem in the collection: a First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s works from 1623. To underscore the rarity of this treasure, fewer than 240 copies of the First Folio are known to exist today, and roughly one-third of these are in the Folger Shakespeare Library (1). Bluestein also donated a copy of the Second Folio and a Fourth Folio; another Fourth Folio was donated by Henry and Hannah Hofheimer. In addition to these materials, the Baldwin Shakespeare Collection—the core of which was acquired from Ruth M. Baldwin of the Baldwin Library, University of Florida, combined with other Shakespeare gifts and purchases—includes many rare and fascinating editions, compilations, and critical material from the Renaissance through the early twentieth century. The entire Shakespeare collection at Brandeis consists of the four Folios mentioned, 74 copies of single plays, 119 editions of multiple “complete” works, 13 works of his poetry, 1 special edition DVD, and 58 critical, analytical, descriptive, illustrative, or other works.
William Shakespeare lived from about 1564-1616, so our earliest acquisition, the First Folio, was created 7 years after his death and 12 years after the first recorded performance of his last play, The Tempest. The First Folio was printed in London by Isaac Jaggard and Ed. Blount (2). Historically, this represented the first time theatrical work was compiled and released in such a way to the public, an immense milestone and an indicator of Shakespeare’s popularity even at the time. The cover includes an engraved portrait by Martin Droeshout and represents the first inclusion of Shakespeare’s portrait in his work. The physical Folio is impressive to behold, especially as it has been unbound for preservation reasons: those interested in the process of bookbinding may view the oversewn tracks in the paper. As the First Folio is such an important, rare text, and must be preserved carefully, the entire work has been digitized and can be found here.
The First Folio and subsequent folio editions divide Shakespeare’s plays into three categories: comedies, histories, and tragedies. Today many scholars and anthologies include a fourth category, “romances”; however, the original designations are still retained in the Norton Shakespeare, as well as other editions published today. In the Folio, while the plays have been analyzed enough to group them categorically, they are not presented to the reader in a chronological or thematic order. This indicates that while contemporaneous readers to Shakespeare thought the “type” of play to be important, they did not seek any sort of larger picture from his canon. Notably, two plays, Pericles, Prince of Pyre and The Two Noble Kinsmen, have been omitted, but are included in modern collections. This may be due to a strict adherence on the part of the Folio editors to include only work certain to be penned by Shakespeare or without collaboration from other playwrights (3).
One of the most significant issues with Renaissance drama, particularly that of Shakespeare, and one of the major reasons a collection such as this one is so important, is the question of reliability. Shakespeare himself wrote down the plays only to hand to the actors, and never compiled or revised his works in the polished manner that later came into style and is today the norm. Shakespeare had no true ownership over his works: they became the property of the theatrical company, and were not circulated due to fear of rival companies’ potential profit (4). Oftentimes the versions that were recorded into Quartos and Folios were written down by audience members and subject to individual nuances or mistakes. Thus, even two citizens attending the same showing of Hamlet could provide two slightly different versions of the play. The show might change slightly from performance to performance, and there was always a chance that the actors would introduce a variance from Shakespeare’s texts (5). The very titles of some of the works reflect this multiplicity; for example, the collection includes one edition of Henry IV that carries the very specific title King Henry IV: with the humours of Sir John Falstaff; a tragi-comedy; as it is acted of the theatre in Little-Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields by His Majesty’s servant; revised, with alterations, noting the exact live version from which it arose, emphasizing its difference from another version at a different theater (6). It is therefore truly impossible to create an edition that matched what initially emerged from the pen of Shakespeare and was first presented to his peers.
For the modern scholar, this translates into a great variance in editions and the necessity to compare multiple versions. Most printed versions today indicate the source text or texts and typically include either an introduction or notes justifying the choices made. The implications of variance between editions cannot be overemphasized. Small changes in wording can result in large differences in meaning, and many small differences add up to interpretations of the text that are still highly debated almost 400 years after Shakespeare’s death. Some variations are aesthetic, some are more likely what Shakespeare intended given a close analysis of his style, and some cause schisms in the academic community that can redefine entire works. Even the most famous lines have multiple versions, as shown in the two versions (one from the First Folio (left) and one from the First Quarto (right)) of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy (7).
The texts in Brandeis’s Shakespeare collection reflect this preoccupation with reliability, with some texts even questioning Shakespeare’s authorship. As mentioned earlier, the First Folio abstains from including two works that later research attributes to Shakespeare. Even the title page of the First Folio emphasizes veracity, including in its titular subheading the phrase “published according to the true originall copies” (8). Later publications include such announcements in their titles as “revised and corrected” (9), and boast both the newest interpretation and the oldest source. The texts typically emphasize their dominance over other versions by presenting a “truer” version, but the ability to assert such claims rests on the uncertain ground of what can properly be called “Shakespearian.”
One of the most sensational parts of the Shakespeare Collection is the play Double falshood; or, The distrest lovers. A play, as it is acted at the Theatre-Royal in Drury-Lane. Written originally by W. Shakespeare; and now revised and adapted to the stage by Mr. Theobald, the author of Shakespeare restor’d (10). Brandeis’s Shakespeare collection includes 3 copies of this rare work, published in 1728. To paraphrase the wordy title, “Mr. Theobald” presents to the public a work based on a play of Shakespeare, which is now lost if the claim holds true. While Mr. Theobald introduces his work in such a way as to make the authorship ambiguous, the plot and style of Double Falsehood does not correlate with Shakespeare’s style (11). However, the idea of a source text in a lost work of Shakespeare’s is not unreasonable, and a suspected play titled The History of Cardenio has been cited as a possible “lost play” in addition to others such as Love’s Labour Won (12). Cardenio has been suspected to have been based on a character in Cervantes’s Don Quixote; indeed, the characters in Double Falsehood all sport Spanish names, and the setting is Seville (13). Scholars disagree on the veracity of Mr. Theobald’s claims; many write off the original authorship as a ploy to gain an audience on the part of Theobald, while the Arden Shakespeare went so far as to publish Double Falsehood as part of its Shakespeare series in 2010.
The most fascinating aspects of Double Falsehood lie not within the actual possibility of Shakespearian authorship but what it means for a playwright to claim such an ancestry for his work. Attaching the single word “Shakespeare” to a text almost guaranteed interest, and the popularity of the playwright is obvious when one considers closely the items in Brandeis’s Shakespeare collection. The plays of Shakespeare were not only popular in the theater, but were so desired that people wanted to have a physical copy. This prompted the printing of the First Folio, an immense amount of work for the printer and not a luxury every home could afford. Furthermore, Shakespeare’s popularity was such that hundreds of versions could be sold, with new editions appearing continually. Even great authors in their own right felt it necessary to dwell on Shakespeare’s works—Brandeis holds several editions edited by Alexander Pope (14).
The variety of methods in presenting Shakespeare is almost as large as the collection itself. The range of texts available grants insight into Shakespeare’s works and his popularity, but also into publishing trends in general over the four centuries the collection spans. A 1709 six-volume set introduces the idea of looking at the author alongside the works by including biographical text (15). Soon after, in Mr. Theobald’s 1740 edition, “critical” material is included, although the term certainly does not match up to today’s analyses (16). Divisions began to emerge in the trajectory of texts, as some “early editions” began to be revised in their own right rather than turning to the originals; a 1745 edition announces its source as that edited by Pope (17). Soon after, editions begin to include the opinions of their editors, a step towards modern criticism. Shakespeare’s status was quickly classicized, and in 1752, little more than a century after his death, The Beauties of Shakespeare was published; this reference work functions as a database of Shakespearian quotes, treating them as commonly known maxims (18). Other works in the collection compare similar passages of Shakespeare, in addition to offering explanations, and rearrange his material in a variety of fascinating fashions (19). Finally, in 1765, Zachary Grey’s Critical, Historical, and Explanatory Notes on Shakespeare offers a modern reader a view into the analytical sphere of the eighteenth century. Grey’s work goes play by play, commenting on the allusions within the play, a foundational text for later critics and analysts to build upon (20). It includes a five-page “explanation of the old words used by Shakespeare in his works,” which many scholars and students today might still find helpful. This glossary attests to Shakespeare’s contribution to the English language, as a number of words included have been incorporated into our common vocabulary (“dank” for moist, “dumps” for melancholy (think: down in the dumps), “moody” for angry, “sheen” for shine, etc.), and it is texts like Grey’s that demonstrate these current definitions as novel creations of the playwright.
Shakespeare was, of course, a poet as well as a playwright. The earliest version of his poems available in the Brandeis collection was published in 1710, almost a century after his plays were released to the public, and includes the poetry only as a supplement to a compilation of the plays (21). For Shakespeare scholars it can be exhilarating to read the original dedication to Henry Wriothsley, a figure many suspect to be the object of his love poems (22). Many poems in the works represented in the Brandeis collection are given titles, most likely as an addition of the editor, whereas in today’s compilations they are referred to simply by numbers. The lack of complexity of the titles to some intricate poems (“Love-sick,” “Familiarity breeds contempt,” etc.) quickly shows even the most basic scholar that the titles were not penned by the original poet. The collection includes a compilation of the poems, titled Shakespeare’s Songs, that separates each poem on its own page with an intricate and beautifully painted border surrounding each piece (23). This is one of the rare works from a later date, at a time when supplementary editorial material was common, that present Shakespeare’s words without any context; indeed, it includes not just poems but verses and songs removed from his plays, and without any other influence than the words themselves and they page they occupy.
The Shakespeare Collection does not just contain literary texts, but also includes a Shakespeare Rare Print Collection, published in 1900, a compilation of twelve portfolios of artwork inspired by, related to, and even of the author himself (24). The “Connoisseur’s Edition” was available only to subscribers of a particular literary publication, the Eversley Shakespeare and Review of Reviews, and expressly meant for “private collection.” The idea of an “elite version” of texts, as well as that of a Shakespeare community, demonstrates his continued importance over time, as well as his constant presence in the literary scene. The prints themselves are remarkably varied: some are artistic interpretations of scenes from Shakespeare’s plays; some depict scenery relevant to his life; some are portraits of the playwright, of historical figures included in his works, of Shakespearian actors, of actors in the middle of enacting a scene, of actors as their characters; some are diagrams of Old English theaters, or advertisements for various worldwide showings of the plays. Some are intensely realistic while others are cartoonish; some are black and white while others are brilliantly colored with vivid borders; some include relevant text while some share a page with another image. The mix of historical and fictional imagery blurs the lines of reality and art in a way that reflects the verisimilitude of the texts themselves. Indeed, some Shakespearian versions of historical events, such as the death of Julius Caesar, have eclipsed the true versions in a way not seen until Walt Disney replaced the Brothers Grimm in the world of the fairy tale. These prints offer an opportunity for research into the visual aspects of Shakespeare’s work and world. While the work was published in 1900, the dates on the prints range back to Shakespeare’s own time period; much in the way that the Folios and other collections offer valuable compilations of the text, this work a preserves an expanse of Shakespearian pictorial resources all in one collection.
A visit to the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department at Brandeis University offers a multitude of intellectual and academic opportunities for Shakespeare, literary, theater, and Renaissance enthusiasts alike. One can explore the various versions of a single text, discover the reception scholarship across the centuries, or compare unique elements in unconventional ways. The rarity and quality of these works alone would make the Shakespeare collection stand out, but the amount and breadth of topics covered signifies the truly magnificent nature of this scholarly collection.
Find digitized versions of many of the pieces from the Shakespeare collection on the Internet Archive
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
The History of the Indian Tribes of North America, first published from 1837 to 1844, features biographies and portraits of Native American leaders, many of whom had been active in negotiating treaties with the federal government. With 120 color lithographs spread over three volumes—and each volume measuring over 20 inches high—the History is an important example of nineteenth-century publishing, printmaking, and illustration. It is also significant for its subject matter, reflecting contradictory, concurrent efforts to document the way of life of American Indians and to initiate their relocation westward as part of the Indian Removal Act, authorized by President Andrew Jackson in 1830. Finally, the story behind the publication—of the author and of the creation, destruction, and ultimate preservation of the images—is almost as interesting as the volumes themselves. Brandeis University is very fortunate, then, to have a complete set of the History of the Indian Tribes of North America in its rare book collection in the Department of Archives & Special Collections.
As an object of printing history and material culture, the History of the Indian Tribes of North America is a vibrant example of nineteenth-century lithography. Lithography is a printing process in which images are drawn in a greasy ink onto a flat stone, and the stone is then pressed onto paper. Invented in the late eighteenth century, lithographic techniques had become increasingly advanced by the 1830s. Yet color lithography—printing images in multiple hues and in subtle gradations—remained problematic until the development of chromolithography in the 1840s and later. (1) The lithographs of the History of the Indian Tribes of North America are striking for their rich colors—colors that were for the most part added by hand, after the images themselves were already printed. This technique was also used by John James Audubon in his Birds of North America, which features some of the most iconic American lithographs of the nineteenth century. The lithographs in these works represent both great advancement in printing processes and the beauty of handwork.
The History of the Indian Tribes of North America is also the product of a particular moment in which Native American culture was increasingly becoming a subject of study and, for some, of preservation—just as the government’s formal policies toward Indian tribes fixated on removal. In 1819, the War Department, for example, oversaw the Indian Civilization Fund Act, which provided financial support for the schooling of Indian children. While this was seen as a humanitarian effort by some, the Act’s goal of “civilizing” Indian children resulted in their removal from their families, communities, and ways of life. (2) And it was just after the History’s publication that the Indian Removal Act culminated in the infamous Cherokee Trail of Tears, in which a 1,000-mile forced relocation resulted in the deaths of thousands of Cherokee Indians. Around this same time, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs at the War Department, Thomas L. McKenney, was amassing an impressive museum of objects, portraits, documents, books, and other materials related to Native American life. This may have been because McKenney admired some aspects of Indian culture. But it also had a more troubling impetus: as the chief architect of Indian removal, McKenney believed that Indians would soon disappear, assimilating so completely into white Euro-American society that all that would remain of Indian material culture would be in his museum. (3) The History of the Indian Tribes of North America is McKenney’s book, and the lithographs in it are a product of his museum and his work at the War Department.
Thomas L. McKenney was a complex man, as was his relationship to the War Department and the Jackson administration. McKenney was with the War Department from 1824 until he was dismissed from his position in 1830. The reasons for his dismissal are not entirely clear, though it seems that McKenney had angered some with the substantial time and funds he directed toward his Indian museum, even as it was proving popular with the public. McKenney had also complicated his stance on Indian removal, as the Indian Removal Act was not implemented in the way that McKenney had intended. McKenney did not approve of violently forcing unwilling tribes to move, nor did he intend the dissolution of tribal governments. When he asked the acting Secretary of War the reason for his dismissal, he was told, “General Jackson has long been satisfied that you are not in harmony with him, in his views in regard to the Indians.” McKenney later wrote to a friend, “I could never have been in harmony with any such views, or feelings.” McKenney may have advocated for Indian “civilization” and removal, but he could not support the inhumane ways with which these policies were implemented. (4)
It was after McKenney’s dismissal that he set to work on the History (as the title page makes clear, listing him as “late of the Indian department, Washington”). His work on the illustrations, however, began much earlier. As Superintendent of Indian Affairs, one of McKenney’s primary roles before the Removal Act was the negotiation of treaties with Indian tribes. He was so impressed with the various leaders who came to Washington that he commissioned portraitist Charles Bird King to paint the visitors—paintings that would nicely complement the other items in McKenney’s museum. When McKenney’s tenure with the War Department ended, he decided to bring King’s arresting images to the public by having them copied into lithographic form, and then publishing these lithographs along with biographies of the portrait subjects. This became the three-volume History of the Indian Tribes of North America, with text written by co-author James Hall. Though the financing and publication of the volumes proved quite difficult, nearly bankrupting McKenney, we are, in the end, fortunate that McKenney devoted his post–War Department years to this endeavor. King’s original portraits were eventually transferred to the Smithsonian, where they were displayed in the institution’s art gallery. In 1865, the gallery burned down, and most of King’s original works were destroyed. (5)
What we have left of McKenney’s conflicted effort to preserve Native American culture through portraiture is now contained only in the pages of the History of the Indian Tribes of North America. While this publication has been reprinted many times, the Department of Archives & Special Collections at Brandeis University has one of the earliest editions of the set, with volumes printed in 1837, 1842, and 1844. Viewing these folios in person allows for a vibrant, truly colorful glimpse into this fraught period of American history.
Description by Cassandra N. Berman, Archives & Special Collections Assistant and Ph.D. student in History.
(1) Bamber Gascoigne, How to Identify Prints: A Complete Guide to Manual and Mechanical Processes from Woodcut to Ink-Jet (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1986), section 19, “Lithographs.”
(2) For information on this act, see “Education” in the Encyclopedia of North American Indians (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996).
(3) Herman J. Viola, Thomas L. McKenney, Architect of America’s Early Indian Policy: 1816-1830 (Chicago: Sage Books, 1974), 237.
(4) Viola, 235.
(5) Viola, 250.
Digitized volumes (from edition at the American Antiquarian Society):
McKenney, Thomas Loraine. History of the Indian tribes of North America: with biographical sketches and anecdotes of the principal chiefs: embellished with one hundred .... Philadelphia, 1837-1844. 3 vols. Available online through the Sabin Americana database.