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:

Friday, April 3, 2015

Leonardo da Vinci collection

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was perhaps the single-most talented and polymathic man in human history. While his most memorable and arguably greatest achievements have been immortalized in paint, charcoal, and ink, the painter and inventor was also staggeringly gifted in sculpture, mathematics, cartography, and a wealth of other fields that place him firmly atop the plinth of the quintessential Renaissance Man. In his Lives of the Painters, Giorgio Vasari said of Da Vinci, “beauty, grace, and talent being united in such a manner, that to whatever the man thus favoured may turn himself, his every action is so divine as to leave all other men far behind him”[1].

Having such characteristics, it is fitting that over the past half millennium Da Vinci has been one of the most studied individuals, with works on his life bridging many academic and popular fields. Brandeis University’s Special Collections holds one of the most comprehensive collections of Vinciana (or Da Vinci related materials) in the United States. Comprising over one thousand separate volumes, the Leonardo Da Vinci collection contains a remarkable breadth of work on and by Leonardo Da Vinci. The collection comprises both scholarly and literary works; Dmitri Merejkowski’s 1900 novel The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci is represented by twenty-two editions in its original Russian, as well as English, French, and a number of other languages. The collection was created by a generous donation of nearly eight hundred works by Dr. Bern Dibner (1897-1988). Dibner, who significantly contributed to other Brandeis collections as well, donated the bulk of the Da Vinci collection in 1958, and since that date the original collection has grown to its current size. Of particular note in the collection are early reproductions of Da Vinci’s notebooks and selected works, several of which will be highlighted here.

First among such reproductions is Da Vinci’s Trattato della pittura, the Treatise on Painting. The work, which is comprised of manuscripts compiled by Da Vinci’s student Francesco Melzi in the mid sixteenth century, displays Da Vinci’s approach to what he called “The Science of Painting.” The Brandeis Da Vinci collection has two significant copies of the treatise, the first a handwritten manuscript, and the second the first printed volume. The manuscript, which dates to the early 1700’s, is beautifully handwritten and bound in a single volume. The scribe seems to have been an artist himself, for he not only loving copied every word of Da Vinci’s Treatise, but faithfully and impressively copied the illustrations and diagrams Da Vinci included to demonstrate the various techniques discussed in the text.

The printed Treatise—the first printed copy of any of Da Vinci’s manuscripts— was published by Rafaelle du Fresne in Paris, 1651. The first French translation of this work, by Roland Freart, also appeared in that year, and is included in the collection. The printed copies of Treatise on Painting, here compared to the handwritten manuscript, show the other side of Da Vinci scholarship; they are not just for promising young artists, but are meant for the masses as well. In companion to the copies of Treatise on Painting, Special Collections also holds a handwritten manuscript of Alberti’s On Painting, dating to 1485. DaVinci, who would have been thirty-three when the unknown scribe copied Alberti’s 1435 work, was a great admirer of the elder artist, and On Painting undoubtedly influenced his own work.

The Da Vinci collection also holds both folios of Da Vinci’s iconic work on anatomy, the Codice Dell’anatomia. Curiously, while both folio A and folio B of the Codex of Anatomy were printed by the same publishing house in Paris at the turn of the twentieth century, one is in primarily Italian, while the second places a greater emphasis on the French translation. The original manuscript itself is housed in the Royal Library at Windsor, in addition to a number of Da Vinci’s other notebooks [2]. The sketches reproduced in these copies of Codice Dell’anatomia are stunning. Da Vinci was, first and foremost, a scientist, and his grasp of human anatomy, brilliantly illustrated here, manifest the long hours he spent examining bodies in the hospitals of Florence. 

The beautifully rendered natural human forms of Dell’anatomia are contrasted by the sharply utilitarian schematics in the Codice AtlanticoThe first printing of the Codice Atlantico, which contains countless mechanical illustrations of Da Vinci’s inventions, was actually only a selection of pages from Da Vinci’s manuscript. This publication, titled Saggio delle opera di Leonardo da Vinci, was printed in Milan 1872, and is included in the Da Vinci collection. The two works together, Codice Dell’anatomia and Codice Atlantico, epitomize Da Vinci’s two natures, as both painter and engineer, while also proving he was, above all a brilliant scientist.

[1] Vasari, Giorgio. Lives of seventy of the most eminent painters, sculptors and architects. Translated by Mrs. Jonathan Foster. New York: C. Scribner's Sons. 1897.
[2] The full illustrations from the Codex can be found digitally here: http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/exhibitions/leonardo-da-vinci-anatomist
Description by Ryan Kacani, undergraduate student in History and Medieval & Renaissance Studies and Archives & Special Collections assistant. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Roger Tory Peterson Photographs

“We are tinkering with the ecosystems of the world, and do not yet know enough about these natural systems to know how much tinkering they will stand, and whether we can retreat safely if we suddenly find ourselves overextended.”  - Roger Tory Peterson (1)

The striking beauty of nature is a major theme running through the Roger Tory Peterson Photographs collection. Peterson (1908 - 1996) was an American naturalist and ornithologist who is largely credited with making birdwatching accessible to non-experts with his seminal 1934 publication A Field Guide to the Birds: A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America (2). The Guide’s remarkable influence and success was due in large part to Peterson’s original system of species identification as well as his more than five hundred painstaking species drawings and descriptions. Peterson went on to publish more field guides, expanding to birds of other regions, and to different organisms. The Peterson Photographs collection housed in Special Collections was donated to Brandeis by Arlan Ettinger in April 2014 and exhibits Peterson’s love of travel and wildlife. The fifty one-of-a-kind photographs of wildlife around the world it contains show each subject in its natural setting. While birds of all types, from penguins to pelicans, are the subject of most of the photos in the collection, other organismsincluding butterflies, seals, and even a capybaraare pictured as well.

Peterson was greatly concerned with the preservation of wildlife and though some of his early studies were based on bird study skins, he soon began to speak of photography as the ideal means of “capturing” a bird. He felt that, more than merely capturing an image, photography allowed one to engage with a bird in its environment, without hunting or harming it. A talented painter, Peterson included his drawings and paintings throughout his field guides, but wildlife photography was his true passion. Through photography, science and art could become one.

Peterson’s lifelong championing of wildlife preservation and conservation went beyond the realm of photography. Along with Rachel Carson he was a vocal critic of the use of DDT -- first cautioning against the use of the poison in 1948 after conducting a study with fellow scientists. Peterson noted that though DDT did not seem to harm birds in the study, it was dangerous to use such a chemical without knowing more about its wider effects. He was proved to be right; in 1957, Peterson observed the loss of young osprey in the population near his home in Old Lyme, Connecticut, and began experimenting to find the cause, eventually linking the decrease to DDT in eggs. By 1962, with the completion of his study and the publication of Carson’s Silent Spring, Peterson was fully convinced of the harmful effects of DDT, and started to fight for conservation in earnest. He appeared in front of government committees and even the Department of Agriculture, and would continue to monitor the osprey population for years after DDT was outlawed in 1972. During this time, he also broadened his conservation interests from birds and pesticides to include larger issues in wildlife conservation. For his environmentalist efforts, he won a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980 and was nominated for two Nobel Prizes.

Peterson’s love of photography and nature come through in his vibrant photographs. From sweeping landscapes to close-ups to lively group shots, the personalities and behavior of his subjects are made clear through Peterson’s lens. To create each shot, Peterson aligned himself with the environment of these creatures—and his photographs brings the un-staged natural world together with beautifully composed art. The Peterson photographs provide a glimpse into how Peterson himself saw nature, and how we wanted it to be seen. In viewing these photographs, one feels the wonder and awe Peterson must have felt toward his subjects, and one shares his appreciation of wildlife’s vivid and natural beauty.

(1) Peterson, Roger Tory. "Addressing the Needs of All Our Wildlife." New York Times, June 15, 1986. General OneFile. web, accessed February 112015.

(2) Peterson, Roger Tory. A Field Guide to the Birds: A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980. 4th ed. available at Brandeis (QL681 .P45 1980)

For more information, see: Carlson, Douglas. Roger Tory Peterson: A Biography. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007. Online access via Onesearch

Description by Brittany Joyce, Classical Studies and Italian Studies undergraduate student and Archives & Special Collections assistant.
Photographs by Roger Tory Peterson.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologica

Endeavoring to avoid these and other like faults, we shall try, by God's help, to set forth whatever is included in this sacred doctrine as briefly and clearly as the matter itself may allow” [1]With these words, Thomas Aquinas concluded his brief introduction to his Summa theologica (written between 1265 and 1274), which remains one of the most important documents in the history of Christianity. In the text, Aquinas applied Aristotelian philosophy to Catholic theology, outlining a philosophical framework supporting Catholic belief. Brandeis is fortunate to hold a beautiful example of the third part (Tertia pars) of the Summa. This part of Aquinas’s text treats the subjects of the incarnation and life of Christ, explicating the Catholic mystery of the union of the divine and the human, before turning to a philosophical defense of the sacraments. This mid-fifteenth century manuscript of the Summa contains one hundred fifty-seven leaves written in a single hand, and spent several centuries in the library of a Carthusian monastery in Bavaria. It was donated to Brandeis by Peter H. Brandt [2]

Aquinas (1225-1274) was a Dominican friar and theologian who created the Summa to aid beginning theology students. His text is highly structured, a masterwork of the scholastic method. It is divided into questions, each of which is discussed through a series of objections to that question, followed by an answer to the question and answers to each objection. As it dealt with the whole of Catholic theology, this approach provided a philosophical, logical basis for Catholic belief, and represented a monumental shift in Catholic theology. Aquinas, of course, did not exist in a vacuum. The general structure of his philosophy was Aristotelian; while much of the classical tradition had been largely lost in the West, it had been preserved in the Islamic world. Aristotelian thought in particular played an important role in the intellectual life of the Muslim world. There it had become a subject of study for numerous scholars, some of whom are cited in the Summa (most notably the Andalusian polymath Averroes, referred to as “the commentator” by Aquinas). Because of the novel intellectual exchanges taking place between the Christian and Muslim worlds occurring as a part of the Reconquista of Spain, Aquinas was able to take advantage of newly accessible Aristotelian literature and commentary.

Compared with other theologians or philosophers, Aquinas’s continued importance more than seven centuries after his death is extraordinary. In 1910, Pope Pius X underlined the continued importance of Aquinas to the Catholic Church: “St. Thomas perfected and augmented still further by the almost angelic quality of his intellect all this superb patrimony of wisdom which he inherited from his predecessors and applied it to prepare, illustrate and protect sacred doctrine in the minds of men...The reason is that the capital theses in the philosophy of St. Thomas are not to be placed in the category of opinions capable of being debated one way or another, but are to be considered as the foundations upon which the whole science of natural and divine things is based; if such principles are once removed or in any way impaired, it must necessarily follow that students of the sacred sciences will ultimately fail to perceive so much as the meaning of the words in which the dogmas of divine revelation are proposed by the magistracy of the Church” [3].

The Summa thus remains a keystone of both Christian theology and Western philosophy. In the words of a leading Thomist scholar, “the ‘luck’ of the Summa was that it was a textbook...its durability can be explained by the generations of professors and students who read and reread it, pored over it, commented on it, and made it relevant, keeping it alive” [4].  Aquinas’s proofs for the existence of God, termed the “Five Ways” (Quinque viae), were debated by such thinkers as Hume and Kant, and contemporary writers such as Richard Dawkins have been compelled to engage with and contest Aquinas’s proofs in order to legitimize their own arguments about the place of Christianity in our time.

Aquinas, through his Summa, re-conceptualized Christian theology in Europe by connecting Christianity and classical thought. His popularity created a new school of philosophical inquiry, called Thomism. In the Western tradition, he outlined the notion of a “just war” and advanced novel arguments about the meaning and purpose of human life – all intertwined with and based in his Catholicism. The Summa was a revolution in European thought and can be easily viewed at the Robert D. Farber University Archives and Special Collections, as a part of the pre-1850 Western manuscripts collection, alongside several different editions of the Book of Hours, a biography of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia), and a number of stunningly illuminated medieval manuscripts.

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

[1] For English translations of the Summa, see http://www.logoslibrary.org/aquinas/summa/1001.html or http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/7489

[2] For a detailed description of the manuscript and its history, see the Spotlight by Adam Rutledge, “The First Bookplate,” 

[3] Pope Pius X, Doctoris Angelici, 29 June 1914. http://maritain.nd.edu/jmc/etext/doctoris.htm

[4] Torrell, Jean-Pierre. Aquinas’ Summa: Background, Structure, and Reception. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2005, p. 132.