Recent Acquisition: Dancing Skeletons and the World’s Billionaires

by Marsha Stevenson, Visual Arts Librarian


The item featured in this week’s blog post is on display as a spotlight exhibit through the end of August.


French book artist Didier Mutel, inspired by Forbes Magazine’s annual listing of the world’s wealthiest people, created a portfolio called The Forbes simulachres: historiées faces de la mort, autant elegammt pourtraictes que artificiellement imaginées (Images and Illustrated Aspects of Death, as Elegantly Delineated as They Are Artfully Imagined). This 75-sheet portfolio, generously sized at 62 x 45 cm, comprises 36 pairs of woodcuts. Each duo consists of a full-page illustration of a skeleton, accompanied by text naming an individual from Forbes’ 2009 list of billionaires.

Mutel’s inspiration for this work was the iconic “Dance of Death” woodcuts created by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543). The Dance of Death (danse macabre in French, Totentanz in German) is part of the medieval tradition of memento mori (contemplation of death). Its visual representation typically pairs a living person with a skeleton, reminding the viewer that death comes to all, regardless of their worldly circumstances. Holbein depicted this theme in woodcuts which he completed in 1526 while living in Basel. They were first published, however, in 1538 in Lyon, France.

In the Forbes simulachres, Mutel portrays skeletons in a variety of settings. Some are engaged in recreational activities such as skiing or surfing while others are shown in more mysterious and threatening circumstances. Every skeleton is paired with a plate of text accompanied by biblical verses in early French, and each references Forbes by giving individuals’ names and ranks on its annual list of the wealthy.

Didier Mutel, born in 1971, is an engraver and printer who specializes in book arts. He studied at l’École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs (1991-1993) and l’Atelier national de création typographique (1994-1995). He has received numerous awards including a “Grand Prix des métiers d’art de la ville de Paris” in 1997 and was named artist in residence at Rome’s Villa Médicis from 1997 to 1999. Since 2003 he has taught engraving and drawing at l’École des beaux-arts in Besançon.

When Mutel returned to Paris from Rome, he joined the workshop of a master artist, Pierre Lallier, whom he had met in 1988. Lallier’s workshop originated in 1793 and was the oldest continually operating etching studio in France. After Lallier’s retirement, Mutel continued his work, maintaining legacy equipment and original printing techniques.

Mutel often revisits historical creations of music and literature. His inspirations range well beyond Forbes Magazine and include The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. In 1994 he published a noteworthy interpretation of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The library’s copy of the Forbes simulachres is number 6 in an edition of 42 and is signed by the artist. Its case is unusual in having been fabricated from one of the woodblocks used to produce the text for plate number 6 featuring Karl Albrecht.

The acquisition of Didier Mutel’s Forbes simulachres was made possible, in part, by a library grant from Notre Dame’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies.
 


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Upcoming Events: August and early September

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Wednesday, August 22 at 3:00pm | “The Conservation of Dante’s 1477 La Commedia.” A public talk by Jeff Peachey (Independent Book Conservator, New York City). The conservation treatment of the Hesburgh Libraries’ important copy of Dante’s La Commedia (Venice: Vindelinus de Spira, 1477) will be detailed in this profusely illustrated lecture. Bibliophiles, conservators, librarians, Italian scholars, and anyone curious about the physical structure of books will find this lecture of interest.

Thursday, August 23 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “The Scene of the Crime: Tombolo On- and Off-Screen” by Charles Leavitt (Notre Dame). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

Friday, September 7 at 1:00pm | Operation Frankenstein: “Illustrated Frankenstein: The 200th Anniversary Edition” by David Plunkert (artist and illustrator for The New Yorker). Operation Frankenstein is a semester-long series of interdisciplinary events taking place at the University of Notre Dame to celebrate the bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s novel.

 

The exhibit In Solzhenitsyn’s Circle: the Writer and his Associates will open on August 20 and run through the end of the semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Frankenstein 200 (August – December 2018) and The Forbes Simulachres: The “Dance of Death” Reimagined (July – August 2018).

RBSC will be closed Monday, September 3rd, for Labor Day.

St. Patrick’s Day in America (1872)

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

This lithograph was printed in Philadelphia at a time when the general impression of Irish immigrants was that of an impoverished people, unfavorably viewed by native-born Americans. Irish immigration to the U.S. in the 1830s and 1840s was becoming dominated by poor, unskilled rural Catholics, and in the decades following the Great Famine, American cities were inundated by waves of impoverished Irish peasants.

“St. Patrick’s Day in America. Commemorative of Ireland’s unswerving fidelity to her ancient religion and the devotion of her exiled children to the sacred principles of her freedom and redemption as a nation.”  Washington: John Reid, 1872.  Lithograph by Hunter and Duval. [i] 

Hence, according to historian Kerby Miller, all Irish immigrants were viewed negatively, including those who arrived with education, skills, or capital. He states that “in the eyes of native-born Protestants, middle-class Irish Catholic immigrants were by religion and association not ‘good Americans’, but in the opinion of many of their own transplanted countrymen, they were not ‘good Irishmen’ either.” [ii]

Considering this attitude to Irish immigrants, then, the lithograph doubles as an effective piece of propaganda and a heartwarming picture of family life.  The mother and children are respectably dressed, and the sewing machine suggests an industrious household. Symbols of Ireland include the statue of St. Patrick while the portrait on the wall, of an American soldier, suggests a relative, perhaps even the absent father, fought in the American Civil War.

The mother is pinning a shamrock on the boy’s lapel. The shamrock, emblematic of St. Patrick, is a popular symbol of Irish identity. The family is clearly preparing to take part in the celebration of their Irish identity, while at the same time the image proclaims American middle-class orderliness and industry.

To read about St. Patrick’s Day, see the following books in the Hesburgh Library:

Cronin, Mike and Daryl Adair. The Wearing of the Green: A History of St. Patrick’s Day. Routledge, 2002. Hesburgh Library GT 4995 .P3 C76 2002

Skinner, Jonathan and Dominic Bryan (eds.) Consuming St. Patrick’s Day. Cambridge Scholars, 2015.
Hesburgh Library GT 4995 .Pe S556 2015

Fogarty, William L. The Days We’ve Celebrated. St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah. Printcraft Press, 1980. GT 4995 .P3 F63.

Dupey, Ana María (ed.) San Patricio en Buenos Aires: Celebracionse y rituales en su dimensión narrativa. Buenos Aires: Editorial Dunken, 2006. GT 4995 .P3 S25 2006.

 

 

[i] To learn more about the lithographers of Philadelphia, see Erika Piola (ed.) Philadelphia on Stone: Commercial Lithography in Philadelphia 1828-1878, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012.

[ii] Kerby A. Miller. Ireland and Irish America: Culture, Class, and Transatlantic Migration. Dublin: Field Day, 2008, p. 260.

 


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Current Exhibits in Special Collections

The January-February spotlight, Reading the Emancipation Proclamation, highlights a print acquired by Rare Books and Special Collections in 2017.

Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. This 1864 steel engraving by James W. Watts was adapted from a drawing, Reading the Proclamation of Emancipation in the Slaves’ Cabin, by New York City artist Henry Walker Herrick. Very few pictorial depictions of the proclamation were made before Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 and this is the only contemporary image that offers an interpretation of how it might have been received by the people it was intended to free.

This exhibit is curated by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian.

 

The winter spotlight, Baseball and Tin Pan Alley: Sheet Music from the Joyce Sports Collection, continues through February.

In 2015 RBSC acquired a collection of more than 450 examples of baseball-related sheet music, dating from before the Civil War to the late 20th century. On display in this spotlight exhibit is a small sampling of the collection, with items ranging from the early days of baseball to the end of the Tin Pan Alley era. The examples on display in this spotlight exhibit are selected from Special Collections’ Baseball Sheet Music Collection.

This exhibit is curated by George Rugg, Curator, Special Collections.

 

The fall exhibit, Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture, was extended into January and closes on Tuesday the 23rd.

The spring exhibit, In a Civilized Nation: Newspapers, Magazines, and the Print Revolution in 19th-Century Peru, will open in early February — watch for more information on the blog!

National Native American Heritage Month 2017

We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in recognizing the rich histories and traditions of Native Americans during this National Native American Heritage Month.


Alfred W. Ramsey and the Carlisle Indian Industrial School
by George Rugg, Curator, Special Collections

In January 1909 Alfred W. Ramsey (1883-1955) accepted a provisional appointment as business teacher at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He was formally hired in March following a satisfactory result on his Civil Service examination. Ramsey was charged with organizing a business department at the school, to complement its trade and academic programs. He resigned his position effective 1 November 1910, apparently disillusioned with the Indian Service and the school.

Panorama of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School campus, 1909. (MSN/MN 0503-110-F2)

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School was founded in 1879 by Captain Richard Henry Pratt, as part of a government project designed to “kill the Indian, save the man.” In Ramsey’s day it was overseen by the Office of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior. Carlisle became the model for 25 government Indian schools, founded on the premise that Native Americans could be equal to European Americans, provided they assimilate into European American society and culture. While the school removed Native American children from poverty and provided them with a free education, it also encouraged children to abandon their native cultures.

The Alfred W. Ramsey Papers, acquired by RBSC in 2014, include a wealth of material from Ramsey’s time at Carlisle. Among the manuscripts are examples of student writing and typing exercises; copies of addresses by Carlisle administrators (especially superintendent Moses Friedman) and commencement speakers; school mission and policy statements; and essays on character and behavior with a bearing on Indian education. Some of this material would have been generated as a consequence of Ramsey’s teaching (including instruction in typing), but much of it was the result of his de facto status as clerical assistant to Friedman. There are also two memory books preserved by Ramsey, with questionnaires filled out in manuscript by 79 different Carlisle students.

Carlisle Indian Industrial School student memory book, 1910 February-November. (MSN/MN 0503-65)
The Red Man, 1910 February. (MSN/MN 0503-89)

The printed matter includes a broad selection of items from the Carlisle Indian Press; printing was one of the trades taught at the school, and Edgar Miller, the program’s superintendent, was a particular friend of Ramsey’s. Included are runs of school periodicals like the weekly The Carlisle Arrow and the monthly The Indian Craftsman (later titled The Red Man). There are also pamphlets, programs, broadsides, dance cards, and other ephemera.

Photographs include panoramas of the Carlisle campus and a number of group portraits of the student cast of the comic opera “The Captain of Plymouth”—the subject of next week’s blog.

A Ga-lorious 4th of July

by Sara Quashnie, M.L.I.S. Candidate, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian

In this print, “Ye two Ga-lorious 4ths,” a Civil War soldier playfully and ironically compared Independence Day observations in 1861 and 1862. Drawing upon his own military experience, the artist compared the way he (and perhaps how he believed his family and friends) idealized military service with the grim realities of army life.

Henry Bacon, the young soldier who created the sketches in this lithograph, enlisted in the 13th Massachusetts Regiment of the United States Army a few weeks after July 4, 1861. Severely wounded at the Second Battle of Bull Run, he was discharged on December 19, 1862.

While in the army Bacon sold drawings to Frank Leslie’s Weekly Illustrated Newspaper, a popular publication in the North that fed the public’s voracious appetite for war news including, for the first time, images.

In seven paired images, Bacon mocked his own (and others’) illusions about wartime military service and perhaps also the experience of peacetime service. In “Ye Escort” and “Ye Patriot,” Bacon poked gentle fun at the toy-soldier appearance of a peacetime soldier on escort duty in contrast to the practical, informal, and even patchwork attire of an active soldier “Patriot.”

In a pairing that evoked Independence Day by mentioning “Fire Works,” Bacon contrasted the lofty ideals of “Liberty and Union” (references to ending slavery and secession) with a prosaic military camp fire. He also included an ironic note comparing viewing fireworks with the experience of facing artillery fire.  Another pairing, between “Ye Bewildering Vision” and “Ye ‘Rational’ Reality,” compared a copy of the Declaration of Independence placed upon a richly laden table, with torn and battered “Marching Orders” on the ground beside spartan military rations of “hard bread,” and a canteen of water. Noble rhetoric about saving the Union complemented Independence Day celebrations, but it contrasted starkly with the hardships of military life.

After his discharge Bacon moved to France to study painting and remained in Europe for the rest of his life.

 


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Recent Acquisition: Tenants, Evictions and Newspapers: a volume of cartoons from the Weekly Freeman

by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, Irish Studies Librarian

The Weekly Freeman Cartoons contains 48 full-page cartoons bound into a single volume.  The cartoons cover the period from December 1886 to December 1887 and were published on Saturdays as weekly supplements to the Freeman’s Journal.

The Freeman’s Journal, the major Irish nationalist newspaper, was published in Dublin from 1763 to 1924. During the 1880s the newspaper was owned by Edmund Dwyer Gray, who was a Home Rule MP. During his ownership, circulation went up to over 30,000 copies per day.

“IN THE HOUSE” (12 February 1887) shows Charles Stewart Parnell, MP, leader of the Irish Party and of the Irish National Land League (founded by 1879), addressing Prime Minister Salisbury, who sits uncomfortably beside a woman representing the evicted tenants of Glenbeigh. Like most cartoons in this volume, this one comments on relations between Britain and Ireland, and in this case refers to the Land War and to the infamous evictions at Glenbeigh, County Kerry.

While the eviction of tenants for nonpayment of rent was relatively frequent, the Land War brought new attention to the Irish and British public about individual evictions through the use of images and descriptions. The Glenbeigh Evictions were much reported at the time and dramatically illustrated in the Illustrated London News. Glenbeigh, County Kerry in the southwest of Ireland was the scene of these evictions. An economic recession and poor harvests had increased agitation among tenant farmers faced with eviction. The landowner received very little rent on the many smallholdings on his land that he inherited, and with high arrears owed in rent, a court ordered 70 of the 300 tenants to pay one year’s rent. However, Father Thomas Quilter, the tenants’ parish priest, and J. D. Sheehan, their MP, advised the tenants to reject this offer.

And so the evictions began on 11 January 1887. Bailiffs burned down cabins and broke down walls to ensure that the evicted families could not return. These evictions received widespread attention, and by the end of January forty families had been evicted. The Detroit Free Press of 22 January 1887 reported on the evictions with the following headline: “POVERTY-STRICKEN PEOPLE. Father Quilter, of Glenbeigh, Says His are too Poor to Pay Rent. THEY ARE LARGELY DEPENDENT ON THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF OTHERS.” Newspaper reporting fluctuates widely between sympathy for the tenants in the face of barbarity such as in the Chicago Daily Tribune and consistent condemnation of the tenants and their leaders from the Irish Times.

The caption for “IN THE HOUSE” in the Weekly Freeman from 12 February 1887 reads:

Parnell to Salisbury. — You thought to force this poor creature into the Poorhouse, and shut her up there, but I have brought her into your own House, where she shall be seen and heard too.

Accompanying the cartoon is a ballad, “Parnell to Salisbury” that expands upon this theme. In the second verse, the victim, represented by the woman in the cartoon, also represents the many stories and illustrations of this eviction. The Roe mentioned here is Lanford Roe, the landlord’s agent who directed each eviction in Glenbeigh.

The truth is out! your victim stands
And tells her tale of confiscation,
Of burning cots, evicting bands,
Famine, and widespread desolation!
You little thought Roe’s brutal brands
Would raise so fierce a conflagration!

This volume of cartoons and accompanying ballads and verses appears to have belonged to nationalist archbishop Thomas William Croke (1823-1902). On its flyleaf appears the following inscription:

To His Grace, The Most Revd. Dr. Croke, Archbishop of Cashel.
White Abbey Bazaar 1888
With Father Staples Prayers and Best Wishes.

Felix M, Larkin’s essay, “‘A Great Daily Organ’: The Freeman’s Journal,” History Ireland 14 (2006): 44-49 is an excellent introduction to the newspaper. For information on the Glenbeigh Evictions, see L. Perry Curtis, Jr., The Depiction of Eviction in Ireland 1845-1910, University College Dublin Press, 2011.

 


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African American History Month

“Paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society” – We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Museum to observe African American History Month.

 

African Americans and Populism
by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian

In this 1894 poster, the Democratic Party of Georgia felt the warm breath of third party competition on the back of its neck. The unnamed “Third Party” was the People’s Party of the United States, also known as the Populists.

The Populists were established in 1892 by a coalition of famers in the South and Midwestern plains states who believed that eastern banks and railroads, supported by government policies, exploited them with expensive credit and transportation. They were joined by industrial workers who criticized the major parties for being controlled by corporate and financial elites. In the 1892 election Populists won three governorships and 15 Congressional seats. It was the period’s most significant political insurgency.

In Georgia, the Populist wave had captured the allegiance of so many white Democrats by 1894 that the balance of political power had shifted to African Americans. If they swung their support from the minority Republican Party to the People’s Party, Democrats would lose control.

Panicked Democrats cravenly released broadsides like this one, which attempted to browbeat African American voters away from the People’s Party by threatening less public support for their children’s education. Despite such heavy-handed tactics, many African American farmers in Georgia supported Populism, as black farmers did across the South.

Georgia Democrats grimly hung onto power by mobilizing white voters against “Negro supremacy,” intimidating black voters, and outright vote fraud. Although Populism’s appeal had increased in rural states like Georgia in 1894, nationally the party lost ground. By the 1896 presidential election, the Democratic Party shrewdly absorbed part of the Populist’s platform and the agrarian revolt was checked.

Special Collections invites everyone to visit during African American History month to view or conduct research on materials such as the 1894 poster featured above. For more information, please contact us.


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Color Our Collections: Vatican and Piranesi exhibits

Today’s coloring sheets comes from items on display in two of our ongoing exhibits: Vestigia Vaticana and the July spotlight exhibit on a recent acquisition, three works of Piranesi. The Vatican exhibit is open through mid-August, while the Piranesi exhibit closes at the end of this week.

Enjoy, and if you have the time please come in and see the full exhibits!

ColorOurCollections-Vaticana

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ColorOurCollections-Piranesi

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