Sunday, August 2, 2015

Thomas Paine's Common Sense, 1776

Amid the campus grounds of Brandeis University, housed in the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections, is one of America’s most significant primary documents, a pamphlet, written by Thomas Paine: Common Sense. This pamphlet, donated by Nettie Podell Ottenberg, is an original copy of the 1776 London edition. Thomas Paine awakened the world with his quill and ink; with delicate yet intense force, with the masterful use of language, he gave birth to Common Sense, from which ignited a revolution.

Common Sense, published on January 10, 1776, was originally printed in the city of Philadelphia, but was soon reprinted across America and Great Britain, and translated into German and Danish.[1] Thomas Paine’s pamphlet was first published anonymously, due to fears that its contents would be construed as treason; it was simply signed, “by an Englishman”.[2] The version housed at Brandeis University is one of the London printings, which had hiatuses, where words and phrases were omitted that were offensive to the British crown.[3] Common Sense sold about 120,000 copies in the first three months alone, being read in taverns and meeting houses across the thirteen original colonies (the U.S Census Bureau estimates the population in 1776 to be about 2.5 million and today to be about 320 million, that would make it proportionally equivalent to selling 15,000,000 copies today!).[4]

The 48-page pamphlet was the fuel that the colonists needed to have courage to rise against the British Empire, an astonishing contemplation for a common, non-militarized people to consider. Writing during a time when Kings and Monarchs ruled, Paine advocated for a government by the people, a highly innovative idea at the time. The colonists, still very much connected to the King and English ways, had not publicly voiced ideas of independence, and perhaps had not even brought the idea into consciousness; nevertheless, thoughts of independence were not far below the surface. Newspaper articles printed in response to Thomas Paine’s Common Sense portray a nation that seemed to have outgrown its parent, ready to step out on its own. The Essex Gazette printed a letter on March 17, 1776, which read, in part: “In your famous pamphlet entitled Common Sense, by which I am convinced of the necessity of Independence, to which I was before averse, you have given liberty to every individual to contribute materials for that great building, the grand charter of American Liberty.”[5] And from The New-London [Connecticut] Gazette, on 22 March 1776, “The doctrine of Independence hath been in times past greatly disgustful; we abhorred the principle. It is now become our delightful theme and commands our purest affections. We revere the author and highly prize and admire his works.”[6] Interestingly, the publishing date of Common Sense in January 1776 was only six months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and was perhaps a driving force behind the signing of that infamous document.  Common Sense not only united average citizens and their political leaders behind the idea of independence, it transformed a colonial quarrel into the American Revolution.  

Common Sense makes for straightforward reading.  Paine’s words are strong and honest, he writes with courage, makes no apologies, asks for no forgiveness. The pamphlet is split into four main sections, preceded by an introduction. Paine begins his writing with a challenge, at once giving the people permission to consider what is truly right and what is wrong:  “Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”[7] Later, Paine discusses the absurdity of an island (England) governing an entire continent (America): “Small islands, not capable of protecting themselves, are the proper objects for kingdoms to take under their care; but there is something absurd, in supposing a continent to be perpetually governed by an island.”[8] Researchers will find Paine’s pamphlet useful as insight into the relationship between the crown and the colonists as it existed at that time, and as a window into the soul of the colonists given how quickly and to the extent that Paine’s ideas were adopted and affected the direction of America.

Paine used his writing as his weapon against the crown. With masterful language, Paine united the will of the colonists, planting the seed and giving hope and inspiration to fulfill the dream of America as an independent nation. The pamphlet was originally published without his name and all of the royalties associated with Common Sense were donated to the Continental Army.[9] It would appear that Paine was looking for neither fame nor fortune in writing a pamphlet that profoundly affected the creation of a nation.  To Paine, these ideas came naturally, they were simply, Common Sense.

1. Powell, Jim. “Thomas Paine, Passionate Pamphleteer for Liberty,” in The Freeman, January 1, 1996. Foundation for Economic Education. Accessed March 11, 2015.
2. Ibid.
3. Entry for Call# D793.P147c. Brown University Library Online Catalog. Accessed March 12, 2015.
4. Harvey Kaye. “Common Sense and the American Revolution.” The Thomas Paine National Historical Association. Accessed February 10, 2015. 
5. “Praise for Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, 1776 as Reported in American Newspapers,” in America in Class: Making the Revolution: America, 1763-1791: Primary Source Collection. The National Humanities Center. Accessed March 13, 2015.
6. Ibid.
7. Paine, Thomas. Common Sense. London: J. Almon, 1776.
8. Ibid.
9. Kaye, Accessed February 10, 2015.

Description by Kenneth Hong, Brandeis undergraduate and special contributor to the Special Collections Spotlight.

This essay, by Brandeis undergraduate Kenneth Hong, resulted from a Spring 2015 course for the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program, taught by Dr. Craig Bruce Smith, entitled, “Preserving Boston’s Past: Public History and Digital Humanities.” In this course, students worked with archival materials, developed website content, and produced their own commemoration event, “The 250th Anniversary of the Stamp Act: A Revolutionary Exhibit and Performance,” marking one of the first steps of the American Revolution.

The Transitional Year Program was established in 1968 and was renamed in 2013 for Myra Kraft ‘64, the late Brandeis alumna and trustee. It provides small classes and strong support systems for students who have had limitations to their precollege academic opportunities.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Miniature Books

How does one define a book? Most commonly, a book (or “codex”) is defined as a written or printed work that consists of pages sewn or glued together along one side that has some kind of cover, or a set of blank pages meant for writing or keeping records that is bound together. However, books did not start out looking like the typical modern books that might spring to mind. “In ancient Mesopotamia (current-day Iraq), baked clay tablets incised with tiny cuneiform script, which was based on picture-symbols, were used in the writing of several languages, most notably Sumerian, Babylonian, and Akkadian.”[1] Cuneiform, an ancient form of writing that uses pictographs and phonograms, dates back to 3500 BCE. Following the clay tablets, the Egyptians wrote on rolls of papyrus, which was made from a native plant. Years later, the prevalent medium became parchment (sheets made from tanned animal skin) and vellum (made specifically from calf skin). Paper did not become popularly used in England and Europe until the 14th or 15th century, even though it had been invented more than 1000 years prior by the Chinese.[2]

Although we do not have any cuneiform tablets at Brandeis, we do have paper, papyrus, and parchment! In fact, Brandeis is home to a wide array of books, ranging from every subject, in all different sizes. Right here in the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections, we have books that take up an entire reading room table, and books so small they look like they were made for a dollhouse.

A miniature book is generally defined as being no larger than four inches in height, width, or thickness; although, in the United States, only books under three inches are classified as a miniature.[3] Within the umbrella of “miniature,” there are four size categories: Ultra Micro Mini (a book measuring smaller than ¼ inches), Micro Mini (a book measuring in between ¼ and 1 inch), Mini (a book measuring in between 1 and 3 inches), and a Macro Mini (a book measuring between 3 and 4 inches).[4] Micro Minis are also known as “dollhouse scale.”

Brandeis’s collection of more than 200 miniature books includes everything from incunabula (latin for “in the cradle,” incunabula refers to a book that was printed between 1455 and 1501, during the earliest stages of printing) to a modern Dos-á-Dos (two books that were bound together in such a way that they share a common cover). The collection provides a little something for everyone, with books written in Greek, English, Latin, German, French, and Yiddish, covering a wide range subjects, such as religion, philosophy, and biography.

Brandeis is not alone when it comes to having a passion for collecting miniature books. In fact, there are also many individual collectors--including some you may have heard of! Stanley Marcus, the founder of Neiman-Marcus, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, husband of Eleanor Roosevelt and our 32nd President, were both active miniature book collectors. Apparently, FDR collected more than 750 miniature books and kept them in handmade mahogany bookshelves.[5] Another name that might sound familiar is Arthur A. Houghton Jr., whose endowment to Harvard led to the dedication and opening of their Houghton Library in 1942, the first ever rare books and manuscripts repository to be opened by an American college or university.[6]

Perhaps one of the most famous collectors, though, was Queen Mary of the United Kingdom (1867–1953), who had a dollhouse commissioned for her in the early 1920s. Built by famous architect Sir Edward Lutyens (1869-1944), the dollhouse boasts an incredible library filled with miniature books written by some of the most famous writers of the time, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, J.M. Barrie, and Edith Wharton. The dollhouse is open to the public daily. If you wish to see a dollhouse library on this side of the pond, head over to Chicago to see American silent movie star Colleen Moore’s “fairy castle.”[7] Her miniature library holds over 100 books, and there is a bible in the castle’s chapel that was printed in 1840 from real type--it's one of the smallest in the world.

One of the highlights in our collection is the Ḥamishah ḥumshe Torah (The Five Books of Moses) printed in the 1540s and bound in leather. Miniature books have a long history in Judaica; Marc M. Epstein of Sotheby's auction house noted that “miniature Hebrew books owe their origins not to any mere conceit on the part of printers, but to the real need to conceal books during persecutions throughout history.”[8]

Besides a variety of religious texts, we also have plays by Shakespeare, poetry by Emerson and Longfellow, and novels by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Dante. But, if you prefer something on a more whimsical note, come see our copy of Kate Greenaway’s Birthday Book for Children (circa 1880) or her Language of Flowers (1884). The former is a perpetual calendar, which has space to record birthdays (or other anniversaries) juxtaposed next to passages of short verse accompanied by images of children. The Language of Flowers acts as a kind of directory of flowers, wherein a flower is symbolically paired with a particular sentiment. For example, a Daisy symbolizes innocence, while the French Marigold symbolizes jealousy. The book also contains dozens of poems about flowers by poets such as Burns and Herrick. British illustrator Kate Greenaway’s (1846-1901) illustrations were so beloved and popular that the annual Kate Greenaway Medal was established in 1955; this medal is awarded to “an outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people.”[9]

Whether a miniature book can help with your latest research project, or you are just looking for a good read in miniature form, we welcome you to come down to the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections and explore! Click here for a complete list of our miniature books.

And, when you visit, make sure to ask about our latest acquisition: our very first micro mini! Handmade (and hand-delivered!) by Dutch miniature book binder Tine Krijnen, the book was commissioned by a gentleman from Qatar—one copy for the library in one of his doll houses, and the other for our library! The original book, The Booke of Common Prayer, and Administration of the Sacraments: and Other Parts of Divine Service for the Use of the Church of Scotland, has been scanned, and is available online.

Reference List
[1] Cuneiform Tablet. (n.d.). In Bromer’s Booksellers: Rare and Beautiful Books.
[2] A History of the Book. (n.d.).
[3] Home. (n.d.). In The Miniature Book Society Homepage.
[4] Levitan, K. L. (1985). In Search of Miniature Books. Palm Beach Gardens, Florida: Kacee Press, p. ii.
[5] Bromer, A.C., & Edison, J. I. (2007). Miniature Books: 4,000 years of Tiny Treasures. New York: Abrams, in association with The Grolier Club, p. 156.
[6] History. (n.d.). In Houghton Library.
[7] Colleen Moore’s Fairy Tale Castle. (n.d.). In Museum of Science and Industry Chicago.
[8] as cited in Bromer, A.C., & Edison, J. I. (2007). Miniature Books: 4,000 years of Tiny Treasures. New York: Abrams, in association with The Grolier Club, p. 84.
[9] The Kate Greenaway Medal. (n.d.).

Further Reading
Bondy, L.W. (1981). Miniature Books: Their History from the Beginnings to the Present Day. London: Sheppard Press.

O’Donnell, G. (1943). Miniaturia: the World of Tiny Things. Chicago: Lightner Publishing Company.

Welsh, D.V. (1987). History of Miniature Books. New York: Fort Orange Press, Inc.

Description by Chloe Morse-Harding, MAT, MS, Reference Assistant for University Archives & Special Collections.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Louis Nye collection, 1609-1714

“I must tell you that the liberty and freedom [of the people] consists in having of Government, those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own…If I would have given way to an arbitrary way, for to have all laws changed according to the Power of the Sword, I needed not to have come here, and therefore I tell you…that I am the martyr of the people.”
                                                            -King Charles I of England, Scotland, and Ireland

A final speech (from which the above lines are excerpted), delivered from the scaffold, was all that King Charles I left his subjects when he was executed on January 30, 1649. Charles I’s reign marked a difficult time for the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, characterized as it was by a royal court prone to deceit and legal circumvention, and culminating with the devastation of the English Civil War. Despite his last words praising the law, during his tenure, Charles belittled, bypassed, and even dissolved his Parliament. The Louis Nye collection at Brandeis University, comprising over 120 17th-century books and pamphlets, offers a variety of views and perspectives on the events that unraveled over the course of King Charles I’s rule. In addition to providing detailed insight into this period, the Nye collection includes varied works exploring the reigns of prior monarchs (including a history of Queen Elizabeth I), and the world beyond England (including documentation of exhibitions beyond Western and Central Europe). Highlights from the collection—which was generously donated by Louis Nye—are described below.

Several pieces in the Nye collection provide an in-depth explanation of what led to King Charles I’s execution. Manipulation was Charles’s weapon of choice in his campaign to gain power. Cyprianus Anglicus details the life of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, and tells of Laud’s work with King Charles to change the oath of the king, rendering the monarchy more beneficial to the king and less to the common people. A complement to Cyprianus Anglicus is a pamphlet entitled The Unlimited Prerogative of Kings Subverted. This pamphlet expresses the belief that “Court Parasites” and “ambitious flatterers” should not have the authority to pressure the king or impact his decisions. It also describes Charles’s philosophy of the divine right of kings, in which kings can make decisions without the people’s input. However, the pamphlet clarifies that a king and his subjects create an agreement in which subjects will follow their king unquestioningly, and the king will do right by his subjects. Unfortunately, by not advocating for his people and refusing to work with Parliament, Charles did not uphold this oath – a fact of which he was keenly aware. England’s Black Tribunal describes how, prior to his death, Charles wrote to his son—later King Charles II—describing his failure to uphold his promise to his subjects. In this letter, Charles explained that he had not been the best of kings; though he does not actually account for his wrongdoings, Charles does confess to working against his subjects’ best interests and enlightens his son on how to be a better ruler than he ever was.

In addition to many accounts of King Charles I, his accomplices and enemies, the Nye collection includes a detailed history of the childhood and reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Annales: The True and Royall History of the Famous Empresse Elizabeth, was written by William Camden and published just twenty-two years after Elizabeth’s death. This book summarizes Elizabeth I’s genealogy, the six wives of King Henry VIII, and the difficulties that each created. In order to wed Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII claimed “that [his] marriage [to] Katherine [of Aragon], who before had been wife to his brother…was forbidden by the Divine Law” (C3). The history continues with Elizabeth’s birth and Anne Boleyn’s beheading. After Queen Mary’s death, Elizabeth ascended the throne and was offered to her sister’s widower, with the “promise to obtaine a special dispensation from the Pope” (B2). However, Elizabeth believed that King Philip II of Spain only wanted control of England. Among Elizabeth’s many marriage proposals and their subsequent rejections outlined in Annales, there is a curious absence of any mention of Robert Dudley, Elizabeth’s good friend and the rumored favorite for her hand. But perhaps the most glorious part of this work is the frontispiece portrait of Queen Elizabeth in which she is portrayed surrounded by clouds and the words, “Per Tal Variar Son Qui.” The exact origin and meaning of this phrase is unclear but it appears to refer to those change the world, an appropriate motto for Queen Elizabeth’s life and works. For Elizabeth was not a typical queen, but one who led her people with pride and honor, changing the English throne, and the world, forever.

The Voyages and Travells of the Ambassadors Sent by Frederick Duke of Holstein, to the great Duke of Muscovy, and the King of Persia (translated from the original Dutch by John Davies) describes those people and cultures that the titular ambassadors encountered abroad. The most fascinating parts of this anthropological narrative are the meticulously drawn maps. Each diagram is extremely fragile, but impressively depicts the places that were traversed. A new map of Muscovy is included in the illustrations, not only portraying the entire Duchy, but also present-day Finland, Ukraine, Iran, and Turkey. This map clearly illustrates different regions, cities, and bodies of water, producing a remarkable map of Central Eurasia, centered on present-day Moscow. Following the progression of the ambassadors’ journey, one of the next diagrams illustrates the Vulga River, which took these travelers from Moscow to the Caspian Sea. Ultimately, the Caspian Sea brought these voyagers to the Persian Empire. The map of Persia in The Voyages and Travells portrays the empire’s extent under the Safavid Dynasty and most of the present-day Middle East. It is extraordinary to look at these impressive 17th-century diagrams alongside modern maps and witness the travels of these ambassadors and the remarkable precision of the mapmakers.

The Louis Nye collection at Brandeis University offers a unique perspective of 17th century England. Most of the works center on King Charles I, Parliament, and the English Civil War. These texts illuminate the events and issues of King Charles I’s time, showing him not only as the manipulative ruler he is known to be but also as a man who recognized his own failings as a leader. Ultimately, the Nye collection allows its readers to understand the past from the varied perspectives that it offers.

Description by Lee Wilson, undergraduate student in International & Global Studies and Archives & Special Collections volunteer.

Find out more about the Louis Nye collection on the Brandeis Library Catalog.
A large part of the Louis Nye collection is digitized and freely available on the Internet Archive.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Spanish Civil War periodical collection, 1923-2009

From 1936-1939, Spain was wracked by a brutal civil war, sparked by a coup against its elected Second Republic. In the course of the conflict the rebelling Nationalist forces of General Francisco Franco ultimately overpowered their deeply divided Republican opponents. The conservative Nationalists profited from the military aid of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, while the Soviet Union gave a lesser degree of support to the leftist, more regional Republicans. The plight of the Republicans became a cause célèbre for the European and North American Left and for minority groups within those same societies fighting for equality. The conflict was highly mediatized and both camps and their supporters made extensive use of propaganda, resulting in the creation of huge amounts of literature and periodicals. The Nationalist victory, however, did not signal the end of publications memorializing, regretting, or continuing the war. A notable part of this particular print legacy—some 394 titles produced both during and after the Spanish Civil War—is held by Brandeis University’s Special Collections.

A large number of periodicals created during the Spanish Civil War were created by the fighting forces, many by particular units within those forces. These publications were intended to promote the image of those fighters and to help maintain unit morale and cohesion. The January 23, 1938 edition of Nuevo Ejercito (New Army), the newspaper of the 47th Division of the Republican army, contained a summary of the division’s recent combat activity; a Catalan-language page; and unit news, all interspersed with photographs of the division’s soldiers in winter action.

A similar approach is found in La Voz de la Sanidad, the newspaper of the international medical brigade attached to the 15th Division. Befitting the brigade’s multinational status, the paper was written in four languages: Spanish, French, English, and German. La Voz de la Sanidad’s content consisted of a mixture of the same items reproduced—side-by-side or on succeeding pages—in each of the four languages, alongside items, both informative and comic, unique to each language.

A third example of such a text is Die erste Schlacht (The First Battle), a 1938 account of the early days of the Edgar André Battalion – the first battalion of the International Brigades, named after a German Communist executed by the Nazi regime – by the German Communist writer, and International Brigades officer, Bodo Uhse. Uhse’s short book, written in German and published in the French city of Strasbourg, strove to commemorate those who had fallen in fighting on the side of the Republicans and encourage those Germans who, in opposition to fascism, might find cause with them.

A second type of periodical served to call for material support for the Republican side. In New York City, African-Americans combined this support with efforts to combat racism at home. The Negro Committee to Aid Spain, sponsored by such notables as Mary McLeod Bethune, Langston Hughes, A. Philip Randolph, Paul Robeson, and Richard Wright, published a pamphlet entitled A Negro Nurse in Republican Spain, which recounted the story of Salaria Kee, an African-American nurse from Harlem who joined the volunteer American Medical Unit in 1937. Kee’s story was juxtaposed with a more general account of those of African-American men who had volunteered for the International Brigades, as racism at home “appeared to them as part of the picture of fascism,” which could be most directly confronted in Spain. The pamphlet chronicled Kee’s early life, decision to go to Spain, and her service there, both in hospitals and directly behind the lines – until a shell wound made her unfit for further service. Kee returned to America, and joined the fundraising campaign for which the pamphlet was produced. The text concluded with a quotation from Kee: “Negro men have given up their lives there...as courageously as any heroes of any age. Surely Negro people will just as willingly give of their means to relieve the suffering of a people attacked by the enemy of all racial minorities–fascism–and its most aggressive exponents–Italy and Germany.”

An additional example of this type of publication is the German-language pamphlet, Guernica...Ein Fanal des Faschismus (A Beacon of Fascism), produced after the bombing of that city. The text excoriated the fascist “beast” for the destruction wrought upon the Basque people, and called for direct material aid to the Basques so that they might succeed in the defense of their “freedom” in the face of fascist aggression.

One further form of publication, that of outright propaganda designed to influence hearts and minds, forms an extensive part of the collection. A 1937 edition of the British magazine Spain Illustrated featured photographs (including those of corpses) and articles portraying “a year’s fight for democracy,” and condemning the Nationalists and their fascist backers for the tremendous suffering inflicted upon the Spanish people. The non-interventionist policy of the Western democracies was vilified as an utter failure, with Parliament coming in for particular criticism for its “pro-fascist” stance. Most dramatically, the magazine contended that the defeat of the Republicans would be but the prelude “for attacking England and France...all hope of peace in Europe would be at an end.” 

The April 26, 1939 edition of the German magazine Die Woche (The Week), on the other hand, had two celebrations to highlight: Hitler’s fiftieth birthday, and Franco’s triumph in the war, significant enough for the saluting Spanish commander’s photograph to dominate the cover, with the headline “Spaniens Freiheitskampf” (“Spain’s fight for freedom”). Inside, Franco was depicted as a “fighter for honor and freedom,” while Germany and Italy were said to “offer the hand of friendship” to the Spanish nation. International assistance to Spain was labeled as “Bolshevik,” and, under a photograph of British International Brigade volunteers, the magazine wondered why the British were engaged alongside “the Reds.”

Finally, the example of quasi-neutral international media opens an interesting window on to how the conflict was perceived outside of Spain, outside of an obvious ideological lens. In August 1936, the famed French illustrated magazine, L’Illustration, published a special edition dedicated to the civil war. L’Illustration’s version of the war was one of utter tragedy, in which “fratricidal” conflict split the nation apart; its editors “could only see in the two Spains in conflict a single country which we love and which suffers.” Consequently, the magazine presented images of the conflict’s devastation, whether the rather graphic images of corpses left in public places, those of defiled churches, or of cities after bombardments and shelling. These particularly dramatic choices appear to serve an almost fatalistic reading of the conflict, in which no action can be taken but to observe this tremendous amount of suffering.

L’Illustration and the other publications cited are but a small part of the Spanish Civil War periodicals collection, which serves to present the passions and problematics of this conflict, in both its trauma and its international resonance.

Description by Sean Beebe, doctoral student in History and Archives & Special Collections assistant. 

Brandeis University's Archives & Special Collections holds a significant amount of material relating to the Spanish Civil War, including over 4,700 books, close to 400 periodicals and roughly 250 posters. In addition, the Charles Korvin photograph collection comprises 244 black and white images taken during the War. Follow the links below for further information about these holdings: