Paul van Vlissingen, owner of the Dutch company SHV (Steenkolen Handels Vereeniging), commissioned the noted book maker Irma Boom to create a volume to commemorate the anniversary of his family’s firm. Boom had full access to the archives of the company and the family to aid her in conceiving what became a 2,136 page tome.
Given full artistic control and no budget, she spent five years fashioning the volume. It is a most unusual creation, incorporating a wide range of surprising and innovative design elements. As an example, the edge of the text block displays a field of tulips when its pages are flipped from left to right, but flipping them the opposite way reveals a poem.
The book’s contents are arranged in reverse chronological order, and are unnumbered to encourage accidental discovery. Pages are perforated and use different inks and typefaces. Irma Boom has received many awards, including a Gutenberg Prize, for her book designs. The SHV Think Book is her most celebrated work, and was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art as an international icon of Dutch design.
At the outbreak of the First World War, there were approximately 10,000 British nationals within the borders of the German Reich. Some were on holiday while others had resided in the country their entire lives or were passing through as sailors aboard merchant vessels. Regardless of background, their British citizenship marked them for suspicion in the eyes of the German government as well as retaliation for the plight of German nationals in Great Britain. Therefore, it was determined that male British nationals of military age were to be arrested and interned for the duration of the war (though with the possibility for freedom through prisoner exchanges). While various camps were hastily constructed to house these detainees, Ruhleben was the only camp that was entirely populated by civilian prisoners.
Constructed on the grounds of a horse racing track on the outskirts of Berlin, Ruhleben would house over 4,000 prisoners at its height. Inmates were barracked in repurposed stables in extremely poor condition due to the inadequate facilities. Over time and with the intervention of the American ambassador, Ruhleben would grow to include not only upgraded barracks and latrines, but also a library, school, stores, and post office. Lack of privacy was a perpetual concern for the men while at the same time they were virtually cut off from the rest of civilization apart from Red Cross parcels and short letters from home. As a result the camp formed its own community complete with newspaper, theater productions, sports teams, and various clubs to keep boredom at bay.
One such endeavor was In Ruhleben Camp and its successor The Ruhleben Camp Magazine. Special Collections recently acquired a full set of these issues in two bound volumes accompanied by a bound, two-volume scrapbook containing original drawings from the magazine. Published fortnightly, the magazine included stories and cartoons parodying camp life as well as reports of camp activities such as reviews of musicals, sports recaps, and advertisements for lectures. A marked tone of humor is prevalent throughout, in keeping with the unofficial camp slogan “Are we downhearted? No!” An in-depth chronicle of camp life, the magazine represents some of the best documentation of the Ruhleben experience.
The highlight of this collection is the two-volume scrapbook. Bound in pasteboard and measuring 16.5″ x 12.75,” the scrapbook contains 53 original drawings in pen-and-ink, watercolor, and graphite. Although the purpose of the scrapbook is not certain, material on the front cover indicates that the scrapbook was a mock-up for a London publisher, George Newnes Ltd., to use for the publication of a book to be called, “The Lighter Side of Lager Life.” Who compiled the scrapbook is also unknown, but it may have been one of the magazine’s editors, Louis Egerton Filmore or C. G. Pemberton.
The scrapbook volumes include original illustration, many of which did not appear in the printed magazines. The drawings depict camp life in a vivid display of the camp’s signature humor. Original artwork is paired with clippings that parody classic British texts such as “Alice Through the Lager Glass” and Shakespeare rewritings. These parodies were some of the most popular types of entries in the printed magazine. Other literary pieces included poetry known as “Ruhlimericks” which poked fun at camp conditions and life or humorous advertisements for various services.
The June spotlight exhibit, on display through the end of the month, is J. P. Homann’s “Buffalo Map,” ca. 1720.
On display is a map of North America by the important German cartographer J. P. Homann, emphasizing French claims in the Mississippi River Valley in the early eighteenth century. The map is one of several hundred items making up the Edward and Sheila Scanlan Collection of Maps of the Great Lakes Region, donated by the Scanlans to the Hesburgh Libraries in 2003-04. The exhibit is curated by George Rugg (Curator, Special Collections).
The July spotlight exhibit will feature German children’s literature from the two World Wars, and will be co-curated by Sara Quashnie (MLIS Candidate, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, ND ’15) and Julie Tanaka (Curator, Special Collections).
The Summer spotlight exhibit, on display now through September, is “Which in future time shall stir the waves of memory” — Friendship Albums of Antebellum America. On display are seven manuscripts from Special Collections’ manuscripts of North America holdings.
Among the characteristic manuscript forms of antebellum America are albums filled with poetry, prose, drawings, and other content created for the book’s owner by family and acquaintances. Such friendship albums, as they are called, have a long history, but they were especially prevalent in the Romantic era, with its new ideology of sentimental friendship. In the United States friendship albums begin to appear in number in the 1820s, and while contributors were often male, the albums themselves were usually maintained by young women.
To honor all who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
Memorial Day, originally celebrated as Decoration Day, began after the Civil War. John A. Logan, a general in the Union Army and Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization of Civil War veterans, issued General Orders No. 11. Logan designated that the graves of those who died fighting to defend their country be decorated on May 30, 1868. Almost 100 years to the day later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law, Public Law 90-363, the Uniform Holiday Bill, establishing the official observance of Memorial Day as the last Monday in May.
Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), an American journalist and poet from New Brunswick, New Jersey, served in the 69th Infantry Regiment of the New York Army National Guard during the First World War. He fell victim to a sniper’s bullet during the Second Battle of the Marne on July 30, 1918. His poem, “Memorial Day,” appeared in his second volume of poetry, Trees and Other Poems, published in 1914 by George H. Doran and Company.
Shelley’s novel was first printed anonymously in three volumes in 1818 for the London publishing firm Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mayor, and Jones in an edition of 500 copies. RBSC’c set is tastefully bound in contemporary style in 20th-century tan, smooth morocco. Spines are gilt-ruled in compartments with black morocco title labels and the sides are bordered with a double gilt rule.
The acquisition of the first edition of Frankenstein was made possible by the Hesburgh Libraries, a Nanovic Institute for European Studies Library Grant, the Department of Political Science (Notre Dame), and Professor Eileen Hunt Botting in memory of her brother, Kevin E. Hunt.
Mark Your Calendars – Upcoming Events
Mary Shelley’s 1818 Frankenstein will be the centerpiece of a spotlight exhibit, It’s Alive! Frankenstein in the Arts and Sciences, in Special Collections in Fall 2018. The exhibit will be part of a series of campus-wide events celebrating the bicentennial of Frankenstein.
Special Collections will also host a multidisciplinary panel discussion on Friday, October 19, 2018 with faculty from both Indiana University School of Medicine at South Bend and the University of Notre Dame exploring Frankenstein’s relevance to 21st-century medicine and medical ethics.
In other news, the July spotlight exhibit featuring a recently acquired Piranesi volume will soon be changed out for the August spotlight exhibit highlighting the Elisabeth Markstein Archive.
The spring and summer exhibit Vestigia Vaticana will remain on display through August 15. After that, the fall exhibit will be installed: Ingenious Exercises: Print and Physical Culture in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800.
Watch for news about a new Fall semester spotlight exhibit soon!
The Hesburgh Libraries recently acquired a two-volume set called Raccolta di Varie Favole by Giorgio Fossati. Published in Venice in 1744, these books gather 216 fables from a variety of sources. The fables are printed in both Italian and French, and conclude with brief proverbs. Each is illustrated with a full-page engraving, many of which portray animals and/or architectural settings.
Giorgio Fossati (1705-1785) identifies himself as “Architetto” on the title page, but was a polymath of many talents. He was an accomplished etcher and book illustrator, publishing editions of Vignola and Palladio and producing numerous maps. He also worked in the performing arts, revising opera librettos and designing theatrical sets. He was specially noted for devising ephemeral decorations for feasts given in honor of distinguished foreign visitors.
This engraving “Of Armed Animals” comes from Book One, Fable 27. It illustrates the “soldiers” chosen by a wise Lion whose kingdom was being challenged by an upstart Leopard. These animals, among which are the Rhinoceros, the Crocodile, the Hedgehog, the Porcupine, and the Tortoise, all feature as their distinguishing characteristic both offensive and defensive capabilities. This thoughtful choice of “troops” enabled the Lion to defeat and banish the Leopard’s army. The accompanying proverb advises on the importance of soldiers being able to respect their leader.