Sunday, November 1, 2015

Brandeis Special Collections on the Internet Archive - Part I in an occasional series

We at Brandeis University Archives & Special Collections are dedicated to the preservation of the materials within our collecting remit. We are equally dedicated to making these materials freely and widely accessible. One of the ways we have been expanding this accessibility is by making many of our materials available online. As a member of the Boston Library Consortium, Brandeis University participates in the Open Content Alliance (OCA) project, which digitizes public-domain works from around the world. These digitized items are then made available on the Internet Archive (IA) ("a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, and more") where they are beautifully presented, free, and openly accessible to anyone with an internet connection. This occasional series will highlight some of the 1,829 (and growing) valuable, unique, and highly requested research materials owned by Brandeis and scanned through the OCA project.

The Scourge : or, Monthly Expositor of Imposture and Folly. London: Printed by W.N. Jones for M. Jones, 1811.

William N. Jones’s iconoclastic journal The Scourge: Monthly Expositor of Literary, Dramatic, Medical, Political, Mercantile and Religious Imposture and Folly (1811-1816) presents a cornucopia of biting satire aimed at every area of British society. What it is perhaps best known for is its presentation of George Cruikshank’s early work. Cruikshank’s hand-colored engravings were folded into the front of each issue (with extras being sold as separate prints). A famed British caricaturist and book illustrator whose many notable works include the illustrations for Charles Dickens’s Sketches by Boz, The Mudfog Papers, and Oliver Twist, Cruikshank began his long and prolific career as a teenager drawing for The Scourge. The caricatures he created therein were highly radical, political, and informed, and as such move beyond mere decoration to intellectual and historical significance.

Click here to view The Scourge on the Internet Archive.

The Complete Cynic: Being Bunches of Wisdom Culled from the Calendars of Olive Herford, Ethel Watts Mumford, Addison Mizner. San Francisco, Calif. : P. Elder & Co., 1910.

The Dial: A Semi-Monthly Journal of Literary Criticism, Discussion and Information, Chicago, December 16, 1910 calls it “a mirth-provoking collection of distorted proverbs with appropriate illustrations and decorations.”

When an author and a famous resort architect meet in Waikiki, there is no telling what may happen. From The Many Mizners (Addison Mizner, Sears Publishing, 1932): “One day I twisted an old adage to fit the time, and Ethel came back with a quotation from Oliver Herford. We began twisting all the old saws and bringing them up-to-date. We got 365 together and sent them to Elder & Shepard in San Francisco to be printed for our Christmas presents. Elder wrote back and asked us if he could publish it for sale, with a few cuts.” The result was the clever and cheeky The Cynic’s Calendar of Revised Wisdom for 1903, thrown together on a whim by Ethel Watts Mumford (the author) and Addison Mizner (the architect) with some added (and unintentional) help from writer, artist, and illustrator Oliver Herford. It became a smash hit and was reincarnated several times over. The Complete Cynic is a fully developed book based on the wit of the original calendar.

Click here to view The Complete Cynic on the Internet Archive.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Ernest A. Young papers, 1871-1936

Brandeis University recently acquired a significant quantity of material originally belonging to the dime novel author Ernest Avon Young. This unique assemblage of manuscripts, typescripts, and business and personal correspondence was generously donated by Victor Berch (Brandeis University’s first Special Collections librarian) and Elliott P. King. Spanning roughly two linear feet and containing materials dating from 1871 to 1936, this collection came about through Berch and King’s lengthy search for the avid writer’s personal history. The story of this exciting scavenger hunt can be read about in the June 1988 volume of The Dime Novel Roundup, (Vol 57, No. 3 / Whole No. 591). Through the hard work of these two researchers, this wonderful collection of Young’s writings, both personal and professional, was compiled and identified.

A passionate writer of dime novel fiction during the late 19th century through the early 20th century, Ernest Young provided many publishers with a consistent stream of stories to be enjoyed by readers. Street & Smith and Frank Tousey--two of the largest publishing houses at the time--sought out Young’s pieces for their innate complexities and relatable plots. Dime novels initially focused on mostly western and frontier tales, but later expanded to include detective, school, sports, science fiction, and comic stories. Ernest Young is considered the father of detective dime novel stories published and disseminated in Massachusetts.

The correspondence between Young and Street & Smith and Frank Tousey shows the high degree to which these dime novel publishing giants wanted to feature Young’s work within their papers. At one point, when Young took a leave of absence to deal with some family matters, his publishers were quite compassionate and showed great leniency in extending his deadlines. In some cases, though, Young still failed to meet the cutoffs for certain publications. Even so, and despite repeated stern warnings, his publishers never fired him or ceased to treat him as one of their most cherished writers.

The Ernest A. Young papers house a variety of manuscripts and typescripts of Young’s works, many of which are complete. However, a good number of pieces are left untitled or incomplete. Despite being unfinished, these pieces are of great use to scholars, representing as they do Young’s writing process. As well, though not a great deal about Ernest Young’s personal life is known, this collection offers insight into his personality. His comical side is plainly evident in the birthday verses he wrote, and his serious side is clear in his correspondence about the deaths of his family members. On a humorous note, like many dime novel authors, Young held a variety of pseudonyms, ranging from Wesley Henshaw to a more feminine Ernestine Youtz. Young impacted the dime novel culture with his fascination for the genre of mystery and opened the door for many more writers to follow in his footsteps. 

Description by Hansol Lee, undergraduate student in Biochemistry and Archives & Special Collections assistant.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wright and Ellison first editions

Brandeis Special Collections is proud to announce the recent acquisition of two important first editions: Richard Wright’s Native Son and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. In these novels, Ellison and Wright delivered hugely impactful literary comments on African-American experiences in twentieth-century America. Both award-winning novels (Native Son won the 1941 Spingarn Medal and was named “The Most Distinguished American Novel Published Since 1939” by American Writers Congress; Invisible Man won the 1953 National Book Award), Native Son and Invisible Man continue to be taught, read and debated to this day.[1] These acquisitions enhance Brandeis’s already strong twentieth-century American literature collection (which includes archival collections of Joseph Heller and John Cheever as well as many literary first editions) and they particularly enrich the department's collection of African-American literature.

Additionally, the Ellison and Wright acquisitions are interesting because of their connection with several other collections held in this department. A portrait of a young Wright can be found in the Carl Van Vechten collection of photographs and Ellison wrote several pieces for The New Masses, an American Marxist magazine, several issues of which can be found in the Radical Pamphlet collection. As well, these particular first editions are notable and rare for being in excellent condition, with their original cloth bindings. They are made even rarer by their original, first issue dust jackets, also in excellent condition.

Ellison and Wright had a long friendship and powerful literary relationship, which began with Wright acting as a kind of guide to Ellison. “Beginning in June of 1937, at Ellison’s urging, Richard Wright served as the younger writer’s intellectual and literary mentor for many years. Langston Hughes had introduced Ellison to Wright’s penetrating poetry, including ‘Between the World and Me,’ which had appeared in the then-Communist literary journal Partisan Review. Wright was one of the first politically and philosophically complex black authors Ellison encountered in New York…Wright’s deep-South origins and his commitment to exposing glaring racial and social injustice were attractive to the younger man.”[2] Their relationship was not without its difficulties, however, as the two authors differed on many issues, not the least of which was their understanding of and approach to portraying African-American lives in twentieth-century America. “The tension between the two writers only intensified after 1968, when Wright’s dark vision of unresolved racial antagonism appeared more useful to a vocal and defiant black generation than Ellison’s offerings of high art and intellectual democracy.”[3] The divergent artistic and intellectual approaches to their work, coupled with the influential relationship between the two authors, give these tandem acquisitions additional piquancy.


On Native Son, published by Harper Brothers in 1940:

“[A] bleak and ungenerous depiction of black life,” Wright’s Native Son “sold an astonishing 215,000 copies within three weeks of publication. Thus, a great many people received a swift and unsparing education in the conditions in which blacks lived in ghettos all over America.” [February 2015 New York Timespiece discussing the lasting impact and significance of Native Son][4]

On Invisible Man, published by Random House in 1952:

“‘Invisible Man’ is tough, brutal and sensational…it blazes with authentic talent. No one interested in books by or about American Negroes should miss it.” [Original New York Times review of Invisible Man][5]
“Ellison's 1952 novel,Invisible Man, is a searing exploration of race and identity.[2014 NPR piece marking Ellison's 100th birthday][6]


[1] “Spingarn Award to Richard WrightNew York Times, February 1, 1941, page 18; “Native Son Wins Award for NovelNew York Times, June 8, 1941, page 46; “National Book AwardsNew York Times, January 31, 1953.
[2] Jackson, Lawrence P. “The Birth of the Critic: The Literary Friendship of Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright.” American Literature, Volume 72, Number 2, June 2000, pages 321-322.
[3] Ibid., pages 349-350.
[4] Mathis, Ayana. “James Baldwin Denounced Richard Wright’s ‘Native Son’ As a ‘Protest Novel.’ Was He Right?” New York Times, February 24, 2015.
[5] Prescott, Orville. “Books of the Times: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.” New York Times, April 16, 1952.
[6] Vitale,
Tom. “Ralph Ellison: No Longer The 'Invisible Man' 100 Years After His BirthNPR, May 30, 2014 4:46 PM ET.

Description by Surella Evanor Seelig, Archives & Special Collections Outreach Librarian.

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.