Eclipse Chasers of the Rubenstein

Post contributed by Noah Huffman, Archivist for Metadata, Systems, and Digital Records

Darkness is Coming.  I don’t know about you, but on Monday, August 21, I’m heading to Greenville, S.C., inside the path of totality for the Great American Eclipse of 2017.  It’s my first eclipse chase, but I was curious if there was evidence of any earlier eclipse chasers in our Rubenstein collections.  Here’s what I found:

Eclipse of November 30, 1834 – Washington, D.C. – Charles Wilkes

In 1833, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes (1798-1877) assumed command of the Navy’s Depot of Charts and Instruments, what would later become the Naval Observatory.  When a partial eclipse cast its shadow over D.C. the following year, Wilkes carried out a series of observations and measurements on a hill “directly north of the Capital, distant from it 1300 feet, and about 80 feet to the West of its center.”  Wilkes relayed his observations (in excruciating detail) to Secretary of the Navy Mahlon Dickerson in a letter dated December 13, 1834, found in the Rubenstein’s Charles Wilkes Papers:

Portrait of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes (1840) by Thomas Sully, U.S. Naval Academy Museum

Sir, Agreeably to your desire, I have the honor to report the following results of the observations made at this Depot on the Eclipse… The instruments employed in the observation were a three foot reflecting telescope by Troughton, a 42 inch refraction by Harris, and a 30 inch refraction by Gilbert, the former with a magnifying power of 175, the two latter with ones of 40… The times of beginning (meantime) 0.49.40, ending 3.30.01 afternoon…

I’ll spare you the rest of the details, which include temperature measurements (it dropped 24 degrees during the eclipse), notes on how he synchronized three clocks (very carefully), and nearly two-pages on his method for determining the precise latitude of his observatory. Compared to modern eclipse chasers, Wilkes’ comments are strictly scientific. There is no self-reflection in his account, no mention of prostrating and weeping in ecstasy, only an apology for his tardiness in sending his observations:  “…they would have been sent to you sooner but owing to a severe sickness I was unable to attend to them.”

Eclipse of July 18, 1860 – Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, Canada – William Ferrel

William Ferrel (1817-1891), the meteorologist not the comedian, spent most of his career studying “mid-latitude atmospheric circulation,” but as the total eclipse of 1860 approached he headed for more northern latitudes in the path of totality–all the way to Cumberland House, a remote outpost of the Hudson’s Bay Company in what is now Northern Saskatchewan.

Eclipse of July 18, 1860, Saskatchewan. William Ferrel Papers, Rubenstein Library.

Ferrell was dispatched from Boston north to Saskatchewan by Charles Henry Davis, the superintendent of the American Nautical Almanac Office. In a letter dated June 11, 1860, Davis wrote to Ferrel with instructions:

Eclipse, Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, July 18, 1860. William Ferrel Papers, Rubenstein Library.

I hereby instruct you to proceed to Cumberland House … for the purpose of making, in its vicinity and on the central line of shadow, observations upon the eclipse of the Sun of the 18th of July of this year…I have called your special attention, first, to the bulging protuberances, or rose colored prominences, seen at the time of total obscuration, in order that you may assist if possible in determining the question of their origin. Second, to the use of the polariscope, in the manner recommended by Arago; and, third, to the careful examination during the period of darkness, of the regions bordering on the Sun, for the possible discovery of inter-Mercurial planets…

While Ferrel’s papers don’t include any written record of his observations, we do have two photos he snapped during the period of totality. Don’t look directly at them, but if you squint you can maybe see some…bulging protuberances?

 

Eclipse of May 28, 1900 – North Carolina – Edward Featherston Small

Portrait of Edward Featherston Small, Rubenstein Library

Edward Featherston Small (1844-1924) was a photographer, salesman for the Duke tobacco company, owner of a popular roller-skating team in Durham (it’s true!), and, in 1900, an amateur astronomer. When the path of totality crossed through central North Carolina on May 28, 1900, Small aimed his (large) telescope and camera to the heavens to capture the event. We can only hope he was wearing proper eye protection.

Edward Featherston Small with telescope, May 28, 1900. Rubenstein Library
Eclipse, May 28, 1900, North Carolina. Edward Featherston Small Papers, Rubenstein Library

From the Far East to the East Side: Broadening Narratives of Immigration and Refugees in the Rubenstein Library’s Human Rights Archive

Post contributed by Jonathan Johnson, Associate Professor in the Department of Art at Otterbein University, a recipient of a 2017 Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant.

 

It was my pleasure to spend a week in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library this summer engaging with photographs, documents and videos from Duke’s Human Rights Archive.  I am in the pre-production phase of an experimental documentary film project that centers around the informal storytelling sessions between recent Southeast Asian immigrants that took place in my mother’s beauty shop in the 80’s and 90’s in St. Paul, Minnesota.

 

International Monitor Institute records, 1990-2003. Volume/Box:PH3

I was particularly interested in photographic prints from the International Monitor Institute Records (IMI) that documented human rights abuses in Southeast Asia, particularly in Burma (Myanmar).  Many of these photographs were taken near the Thai border in refugee camps and temporary outposts of various branches of the Karen National Union that oppose the Burmese government. I intend to use these materials as aids to oral history interviews that I am conducting with my mother and others in this community that formed around her beauty shop.

 

International Monitor Institute records, 1990-2003. Volume/Box:PH3

As an artist that uses archives and primary source material (and also creates them), I start with a concept but remain open to the labyrinth experience that often occurs in the archive. For instance, when the random sequencing of photographic prints in an archival folder creates an unintended narrative through formal relationships (color, line, texture) and metaphor.  In one case, the grid-like charred remains from a recently torched resistance army camp follows a wide landscape photo shot from a helicopter.  The sense of scale and context meld into one another, the vast beautiful jungle landscape absorbing the physical and psychological terror of this conflict.  As I storyboard my documentary, I am now thinking about how competing senses of scale and vantage point might stand in as visual representations of the fragmented reflections and narratives that are contained in the oral history interviews that I’m making.

 

This is just one of many examples of when creative research, chance and intuition intersected during my time in the Rubenstein Library. For an artist, this is the most rewarding experience of working in the archive.

 

 

New Acquisitions – African American history marketing and promotional posters, 1967-1984.

Post contributed by Jacqueline Reid Wachholz, Director, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History

In response to the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century, many advertisers began to see the African American market in a new, and profitable, light. Advertising campaigns were developed over the next few decades celebrating African and African American heritage as a method of advertising products to this demographic. The Rubenstein Library’s Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History and John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture jointly acquired this collection of 48 items showcasing black Americans through advertisements and political campaigns aimed at African Americans from the 1970s through the 1990s. Collected by a former public relations associated with the NAACP, this collection represents some NAACP marketing work and advertising images depicting notable African Americans and significant moments in African American history. These posters include biographical sketches of African American writers, scientists, professional athletes, soldiers, civil rights workers, entertainers, and other historical figures. Included are also a number of posters produced by and for the NAACP that the organization’s campaigns to reduce poverty and school dropout rates and increase voter registration and membership in the NAACP. Notable advertising campaigns include Budweiser’s “Great Kings of Africa” Series, Pepsi Cola’s “The Black Presence” Series, and the CIBA-GEIGY Corporation’s “Exceptional Black Scientists” Series.

Great Kings of Africa. A marketing campaign started in 1975 by the Anheuser-Busch Corporation designed to appeal to an African American audience while at the same time promoting African History. During its over 25-year campaign and with a total of 30 different images, it has been either celebrated as a means of showcasing and promoting African history or criticized for, as Rev Michael Pfleger of South Side Chicago’s St. Sabina Catholic Church puts it “one more attempt by the alcohol and tobacco industries to buy a reputation in the African-American community.” The campaign consisted of a series of paintings done by African-American artists commissioned by Anheuser-Busch that were accompanied by a short history of the subject being portrayed

Exceptional Black Scientists, CIBA-GEIGY, 1980-1984: These posters are meant to celebrate current scientific leaders of African American descent and inspire minority students to pursue careers in science. Each individual selected had recently made a substantial scientific discovery in their respective field. The posters are derived from portraits done by noted black artist and illustrator Ernest Chrichlow. This series was advertised directly to teachers, and was meant to be placed in the classroom, science fairs, or community centers.

Black Presences, PepsiCo, circa 1980s: A series of posters, that celebrated the African American ‘presence’ in America’s history and culture. Each poster features a portrait of the individual selected, a short biography, and is entitled by the category of culture (arts, sports, history, etc.) that the individual belongs to.

 

These posters are available to researchers in the Rubenstein Library.

Young Researcher Prefers Game Theory to Video Games

Post contributed by Elizabeth Dunn, Research Services Librarian

The Rubenstein Library’s Economists’ Papers Archive attracts numerous scholars from around the globe. This summer, it has also attracted one very special scholar: rising eighth grader Benjamin Knight. Nearly every day, he has been a quiet presence in our reading room, working his way diligently through boxes of our Oskar Morgenstern Papers.

Although we often welcome even very small children whose families make a pilgrimage to see our first edition Book of Mormon, Benjamin is the youngest serious researcher anyone can remember. Those of us on the Research Services staff found his interest in this important Austrian American economist intriguing. He was kind enough to take time out of his work to grant me an interview.

Photo of Benjamin Knight working with a box from the Oscar Morgenstern papers in the Rubenstein Library reading room.
Benjamin Knight in the Rubenstein Library reading room.
Photo by Elizabeth Dunn.

Asked how he became interested in Morgenstern, Benjamin replied that he had read an article about Von Neumann and Morgenstern. (The two economists overlapped at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton from 1938 until 1954. Morgenstern, an economist trained at the University of Vienna and influenced by Carl Menger, was grappling with the challenges of economic prediction. He knew John Von Neumann’s 1928 paper on the theory of games and the two collaborated on their influential 1944 book, Theory of Games and Economic Behavior.1) Benjamin was pleased to discover that we hold the Morgenstern Papers, and is using them to tease out the sources of Morgenstern’s key ideas: the University of Vienna or Princeton. More generally, he is interested in the application of game theory to the analysis of social interactions and political decision-making. Some of the Morgenstern documents are hand-written in German. Asked whether those were challenging, Benjamin replied that the handwriting is a little problematic, but translating the German, which he has never studied, is more difficult.

Benjamin has many other interests besides game theory. He represented Brazil (and, with partner Claire Thananopavarn, won Best Delegation) in the Eighth Annual Chapel Hill-Carrboro Middle School Model United Nations Conference in April. He was part of the Smith team at this year’s Middle School National Academic Quiz Championship Tournament and placed among the top twenty-five competitors in the 2017 Wake Technical Community College Regional State Math Contest. When not competing, Benjamin enjoys reading fiction, history, and politics.

Benjamin comes by his interest in social and political analysis naturally. His mother, cultural anthropologist Margaret “Lou” Brown, is Senior Research Scholar and Director of Programs at Duke University’s Forum for Scholars and Publics. His father Jack Knight is Frederic Cleaveland Professor of Law and Political Science and holds a joint appointment in Duke’s School of Law and Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. Benjamin has not yet decided on a particular career path, but all of us in the Rubenstein are happy that he found us and look forward to following his continued successes.

Notes:

  1. New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

New Acquisitions – Wonderful Wunderkammer

Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator, History of Medicine Collections

In the sixteenth century, printed works depicting early museums and personal collections of physical objects began to emerge. Such collections were curated overwhelmingly by men of a certain standing in society, including a number of physicians.  Personal collections included items such as shells, gems and minerals, coins, sculptures, fossils and animals, and more. Rooms showcasing such objects were stuffed with as much as could be displayed, including mounting crocodiles on ceilings and finding a place for the unicorn horn (or rather, the tooth of the narwhal, an arctic whale).

These cabinets of curiosities, or wunderkammer, provided a space for visitors to see objects from the world within one room – objects that were both natural as well as man-made.  In many ways, these cabinets of curiosities were precursors to modern day museums, and printed works from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries provide text as well as stunning images of the legacy of wunderkammer.

 

The History of Medicine Collections has recently acquired a magnificent work of wunderkammer, a work by German physician Michael Bernhard Valentini (1657-1729), titled Museum Museorum, printed in 1714. This three volume set, printed in two volumes, includes catalogs from other such curiosity collections as well as a list of all known museums at the time (of which he notes are around 159). Numerous copper engravings are found throughout the text, including six extra-illustrated engravings printed on blue paper. Along with providing a survey of museums and details on collecting, Valentini also covers topics including animals, plants, minerals, and their medicinal use, along with shells, fossils, physics, and natural philosophy.

These volumes and other printed books related to cabinets of curiosities are available for researchers in the Rubenstein Library.

Reflections from the Marshall T. Meyer Human Rights Archive Intern

Post contributed by Heather McGowan, Marshall T. Meyer Human Rights Archive intern

Hello! I’m Heather McGowan, a second-year student at UNC SILS in the Masters of Library Science Program, and since January I have worked as the Marshall T. Meyer Human Rights Archive Intern at the Rubenstein. I was interested in this internship with the Human Rights Archive because I have always been interested in the ways archival work interacts with social justice and human rights. Working on a collection that revealed the voices of those people who have often been silenced in the record, was my initial interest in this internship, but it has become much more. The work that ICTJ has done to preserve the voices of even the lowest in society, the abused and impoverished, fueled my treatment and work on this collection. Keeping the people at the center has created a collection that reveals the life changing work of ICTJ and its partners, as well as the stories of those who lived, and those who died fighting to see truth and reconciliation.

ICTJ staff members Vasuki Nesiah, Mark Freeman and Priscilla Hayner in Uganda

The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) founded in 2001, is a global non-profit that works with partners in post-conflict, conflict, and democratic countries to pursue accountability, truth, and reconciliation for massive human right abuses. Through a series of measures including criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs, and institutional reforms, ICTJ and its partners strive to bring justice and strength to victims, activists, state leaders, and international policy makers.

When I began working on the collection at the beginning of this year, the ICTJ records consisted of a small fully processed collection of about 40 archival boxes and three large unprocessed accessions of about 160 shipping boxes. Throughout the last six months the collection has begun to take shape and become a powerful testament to ICTJ’s global work.

The largest part of the ICTJ records is the Geographic Series. The Geographic Series is comprised of files representing about 100 countries and forms the backbone of ICTJ’s collection. The country files include ICTJ reports, journal articles, publications about governance, rule of law, political stability, reparations, and human rights violations, as well as materials from various country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. These materials are unique to each country and provide insight into the impact ICTJ’s work has on every citizen, from victims to perpetrators, children and women to ex-combatants. These files highlight ICTJ’s mission to support peace, truth, and transparency in each country they work with.

A conference on national reconciliation in Ghana

Closely related to the Geographic Series is the Administrative Series, which contains a Staff Files sub-series. These are the files of 16 prominent staff members of ICTJ; former presidents and co-founders, program directors and prosecution unit leaders. The staff files narrate the story of ICTJ from its initial creation to it developing into a strong, influential, global leader in transitional justice. I found one of the highlights of this series to be the files of Priscilla Hayner, one of the co-founders of ICTJ. The initial grants for ICTJ, the architecture plans for their space, the original program units, and the founding mission are all captured in her files. Her work in Ghana, Peru and Sierra Leone is richly detailed with trip reports, mission updates, and research about the best ways to develop transitional justice mechanisms in these countries. Her personal notes, correspondence, writings, and even meeting minutes offer a glimpse into the minds at work in ICTJ.

ICTJ staff members and local truth commission leaders in Ghana

The other half of the hands-on work of ICTJ is documented in the Program Series. ICTJ is organized into program units that each focus on a different thematic subject, such as gender, as well as into units by region. One of the most robust units is the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) Program. In the past decade, MENA has worked in Iraq as the country transitions from the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein into a democratic nation. In 2004, MENA and ICTJ conducted interviews with Iraqi citizens. The transcripts of these interviews are now housed in the ICTJ archive and are filled with details about human rights in the Iraqi context; about what is was like for Iraqis to live in fear of their livelihood and about the hope for reconciliation.

In addition to the hands-on work they do, ICTJ has a robust research unit captured in the Reference and Reports Series. These materials were collected by ICTJ and formerly housed in their Documentation Center and Library at their New York headquarters. The publications include annual reports from human rights NGOs as well as thematic publications about children and women in conflict, displacement, refugees, disappearances, human trafficking, judicial reform, economic issues, security and conflict analysis, genocide and torture, accountability and human rights.

 

In processing this collection, I was struck by the details of ICTJ’s work. Before working with this collection, I had a vague idea of the work that ICTJ did throughout the world, but in processing, arranging, and describing the ICTJ records, I have come to understand the complexities of trying to bring peace to victims of human rights abuses. The most interesting part of the collection, for me, are the truth and reconciliation commission files. The whole process involved in creating, executing, and continuing the legacy of TRCs is much more complex than I ever conceived. For example, the Rwandan genocide occurred in the 1990s, but the work of the TRC continued well into the mid to late 2000s. By taking statements from victims, disarming and demobilizing former soldiers, creating spaces to have hearings, and putting in place new policies the TRC sought to heal the pain caused by the Rwandan genocide. Another, lesser known genocide, took place in Guatemala over the land to build the Chixoy Dam. From 1980 to 1983 in the village of Rio Negro, about 5,000 indigenous Mayan people were slaughtered and dumped in mass graves by the government. The loss of life and the relative unknown nature of this case made it even more shocking when I uncovered it. ICTJ worked with Mayan communities and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to initiate a human rights case against the Guatemalan military in 2005. This case and the work toward reparations for the people of Rio Negro has faced challenges from the corrupt government of Guatemala, but it has seen success as military dictators have been sentenced to prison. ICTJ engages in complex work often with uncertain outcomes, but it is work that I believe takes the right steps towards healing.

The ICTJ records will be fully processed by the end of the summer, including the audiovisual and electronic records components.

New Acquisitions – Photobooks in the Archive of Documentary Arts

Post contributed by Lisa McCarty, Curator, Archive of Documentary Arts

 

 

Over the past three years the Archive of Documentary Arts (ADA) has focused on building its collection of photobooks. The ADA is most interested in photobooks in which images are the primary content, or are considered co-equal with a text. Much like artists’ books, photobooks are conceived as artworks in their own right and can be considered art objects. Photobooks are often the primary medium for a series of photographs and as such, attention to the interaction between form and content, as well as the relationship between text and image, are central concerns to the artist.

Photobooks first emerged soon after the advent of photography in the 1840’s. Anna Atkins’ handmade book Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions from 1843 is credited as the first book illustrated with photographs and William Henry Fox Talbot’s Pencil of Nature followed soon after in 1844. Since the nineteenth century, photobooks have proliferated as a medium which allows for artistic exploration and as means to circulate photographs to a wider audience. Today artists continue to make photobooks both in small editions by hand or using print-on-demand services, and at a large scale, most often through partnerships with academic and independent publishers.

In the 2016-2017 academic year the ADA welcomed over 100 photobooks to the collection. This included historic and contemporary photobooks by individual artists such as Zalmaï Ahad, Barbara Bosworth, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Petra Barth, Andre Bradley, William Christenberry, Masahisa Fukase, Juan Giraldo, Meg Griffiths, Gregory Halpern, Justine Kurland, Susan Lipper, Mary Ellen Mark, Paula McCartney, Cristina de Middel, Nancy Rexroth, Alec Soth, Matjaz Tancic, Mickalene Thomas, Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb.

The ADA also collects the complete output of several publishers who specialize in photobooks, including Aperture, Daylight Books, Horse and Buggy Press, and Radius Books.

All ADA photobooks are available to researchers in the Rubenstein Library.

Browse our photobook holdings in the online catalog >

Tales of Provenance: Una Vincenzo Revealed in Three Inscriptions

Post contributed by Liz Adams, Special Collections Cataloger

Cover of Knight Asrael: and Other Stories, written by Una Ashworth Taylor and newly cataloged as part of the Lisa Unger Baskin collection.

When I open books, one of my favorite things to do is look for small signs of its previous owners, its provenance: Was the book a gift, with a thoughtful note to the recipient? Did the owner write her name, big and bold, on a flyleaf? Sometimes there are so many signs that a separate story, that of the owner, begins to emerge. This was the case with Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge and her copy of Knight Asrael: and Other Stories, written by her aunt Una Ashworth Taylor.

Inscription by author Una Ashworth Taylor.

Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge was born in 1887 to a family steeped in literary culture. Not only did her aunt Una write Knight Asrael, but her other aunt Ida wrote several novels, contributed regularly to 19th century magazines, and published biographies on Lady Jane Gray, Queen Hortense, and Madame Roland (Palumbo-De Simone, 2004). Her grandfather, Sir Henry Taylor,  was a well-known dramatist and poet (Reger, 2004). This literary heritage is felt early on in Una Vincenzo’s copy of Knight Asrael. Una Ashworth Taylor wrote a deeply personal inscription to her nieces, one explicitly connecting baby Una and her older sister Violet to literature, to the power of reading:  “Here are your stories, Violet, for you to listen to now, to read to yourself soon, & to tell to baby when she is old enough to hear them. September-1889.”

Although it’s unclear if Violet read the chivalric stories in Knight Asrael, Una seems to have, or at the very least, she enjoyed its opening pages. On the front pages of Knight Asrael, there are exuberant blue drawings, signed by their artist: U.T.

Drawings in the opening pages of Knight Asrael.

While these drawings might be some of the earliest known Una Vincenzo works, they are not the last: Una trained at the Royal College of Art, ultimately focusing on sculptural works (Ormrod, 1984, p. 29). A bust of the famed Russian ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky cast by Una now lives at the  Victoria and Albert Museum

Drawings in the opening pages of Knight Asrael.

Una Vincenzo left one more sign in Knight Asrael, an inscription of her own on the title page: “Radclyffe-Hall & Troubridge, Chip Chase, Hadley Wood, Herts.”

Radclyffe Hall is the author of several novels, most notably The Well of Loneliness, an influential work in lesbian literature.  She and Una met in 1915 and moved in together in 1919—after Una formally separated from her husband, Admiral Ernest Troubridge (Ormrod, 2004, p. 65, p.133).   Una and Radclyffe (also known as John) were romantic partners for 28 years, living together at Chip Chase and abroad, until Radclyffe’s death in 1943 (Baker, 2004). Una documented their lives together through photography

Inscription connecting Una Vincenzo with Radclyffe Hall and noting where they once lived together at Chip Chase.

and a biography published after Radclyffe’s death, The Life and Death of Radclyffe Hall. And even after death, Una continued to write letters to her beloved (Ormrod, 2004, p. 286).

When the provenance in Knight Asrael is taken together, the life and loves of Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge begins to break through: her artistic endeavors, her literary nature, and her deep love for Radclyffe Hall. Una ultimately lived to the age of 76, dying in 1963 in Rome, Italy (Ormrod, 2004, p.313).

The Rubenstein Library acquired its copy of Knight Asrael as part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, a transformative collection documenting the lives and work of women across several centuries.

 

Works Cited

Baker, M. (2004). ‘Hall, Marguerite Antonia Radclyffe- (1880–1943)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press; online edn, May 2015 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37878, accessed 21 July 2017]

Ormrod, R. (1985). Una Troubridge: the friend of Radclyffe Hall. New York: Carroll & Graf.

Palumbo-De Simone, C. (2004). ‘Taylor, Ida Alice Ashworth (1847–1929)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press; online edn. May 2015  http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/46564, accessed 21 July 2017]

Reger, M. (2004). ‘Taylor, Sir Henry (1800–1886)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press; online edn. May 2015 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/27030, accessed 21 July 2017]

New Acquisitions – From the Library of Two Presidents

Post contributed by Thomas Gillan, Rubenstein Library volunteer, PhD candidate, College of William & Mary

The Rubenstein Library has recently acquired an important gift from the Brand Family, descendants from the notable book collector and Duke graduate Harry L. Dalton, class of 1916. This is a French work, Simon de Nantua, written by the French moralist Laurent-Pierre de Jussieu and published in Paris in 1818. It tells the story of its title character, Simon de Nantua, a travelling merchant who trades as much in wisdom as in goods. The book, which was published under the auspices of the Société pour l’instruction élémentaire, was awarded the society’s prize medal in 1818.

 

The library’s copy would be less remarkable were it not for its noteworthy provenance. Thomas Jefferson received the book in 1819 along with a number of other books from his Paris booksellers DeBures Freres. This is one of the books he purchased after selling much of his library to the Library of Congress in 1815. According to an invoice, Jefferson paid 3 francs for the book, which bears his ownership mark on page 17, signified in this case by the block letter “T” written in ink in front of the publisher’s signature mark “1*.”[1] According to James A. Bear, Jefferson employed this system of ownership marks, with slight variations, over a period of about fifty years.

 

In a letter to Philadelphia publisher Mathew Carey, Jefferson praised the “school book” as “undoubtedly one of the best for young learners to read that I have ever known,” and even considered having the book translated into English, “so valuable” would it be “to our Elementary schools.”[3] The book was among those sold at auction in 1829 by Nathaniel Poor and is included in Poor’s catalog of Jefferson’s books.[4] Later in its history, this volume was owned by President William Taft.

 

Nearly 200 years after its publication it seems that there are only two copies held by libraries in the United States, and both of these copies have a Jefferson connection. The Duke copy is Jefferson’s own copy, and the other copy is held by the University of Virginia. Jefferson in 1825 recommended a number of items to the University of Virginia library of which this was one.  This volume is now available in the Rubenstein Library reading room.

 

 

[1] DeBures Freres to Thomas Jefferson, 11 September 1819, Founders Online, National Archives, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-0741.

[2] James A. Bear, Thomas Jefferson’s Book-Marks (Charlottesville, VA: Alderman Library, University of Virginia, 1958), 8.

[3] Thomas Jefferson to Mathew Carey, 13 March 1820, Founders Online, National Archives, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-1143.

[4] Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue, President Jefferson’s Library (Washington, 1829), 9.

Uncovering a Coordinated Effort to Defend Human Rights in 1980s Nicaragua

Post contributed by Erik A. Moore  Ph.D. student in the History Department at the University of Oklahoma, is recipient of a 2017 Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant.

Letter from Rep. David Bonior to Alex Wilde, 1988

This summer I had the privilege of visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to conduct research in the collection of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) records. WOLA’s records are held in the Duke Human Rights Archive. My research was made possible through generous funding from the library through the Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant. Durham is a wonderful city to visit, and the facilities and the staff at the library were great. And the research was fascinating.

 

I am working on my doctoral dissertation that examines how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as WOLA used arguments based on human rights to contest U.S. support of counterrevolutionaries (the Contras) in Nicaragua in the 1980s. The Reagan administration claimed the Sandinista government in Nicaragua was an ally of the Soviet Union and wanted to spread communist revolution throughout the hemisphere. Reagan used the Contras to pressure the Sandinistas to adopt democratic reforms, but, in doing so, Reagan funded and armed a guerrilla force that was accused of committing atrocities against the Nicaraguan people. I am investigating how successful NGOs were at using human rights advocacy to influence U.S. foreign policy. WOLA is as one of NGOs on which I focus in the dissertation.

 

Letter from U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Study Group, 1988

My work at the library revealed a surprising level of coordination among not only NGOs, but also government officials and Congressional staff members who opposed U.S. support of the Contras. Members of Congress such as Representative David Bonior (D-MI) worked closely with WOLA and other human rights NGOs on issues facing Nicaragua and lobbying other members of Congress to support legislation.[1] I also found a memo from a Congressional staff member, Holly Burkhalter, to the Human Rights Working Group in which she provided analysis of the then-current functioning of the State Department’s Bureau of Human Rights.[2] The Human Rights Working Group was a coalition of national organizations, including WOLA, that periodically met to coordinate efforts toward common goals. WOLA seems to have operated within a large community of progressive human rights-conscious NGOs that often pooled their resources and expertise to influence debates in Congress over U.S. foreign policy. Often, representatives from various organizations met to discuss pending issues and how they could all work together.[3]

Memo from the Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus, U.S. Congress, 1988

This coordination is particularly fascinating for my research because I have found that many of these organizations operated with different agendas, though not necessarily conflicting agendas. One such instance that I found in which the community of human rights NGOs split was over a Contra aid proposal in 1988. Democrats offered a package based on humanitarian non-military aid that served as an alternative to what Reagan and Republicans wanted to offer. The Republican proposal would have centered on military aid. WOLA supported the Democratic aid package in order to bring humanitarian aid to Nicaragua and the rest of Central America and to prevent the Republican plan from coming to a vote and likely passing. Other NGOs, such as the Nicaragua Network, Witness for Peace, and Quest for Peace, all of which worked closely with WOLA throughout the 1980s, opposed any form of aid to the Contras and rejected the Democratic alternative.[4]

My research will continue to investigate strategies and coordination of NGOs opposing the Contra War and how the different interpretations given to human rights influenced the decisions and advocacy of these NGO in lobbying Congress

[1] David E. Bonior to Alex Wilde, Letter, (March 14, 1988), Box 27, Folder: Democratic Contra Alternative, Washington Office on Latin America Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[2] Holly Burkhalter to Human Rights Working Group/Coalition, “The Bureau of Human Rights: Law and Implementation,” Memorandum, (June 24, 1981), Box 433, Folder: Human Rights Working Group 1981, Washington Office on Latin America Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[3] Holly Burkhalter to Human Rights Working Group/Coalition, “The Bureau of Human Rights: Law and Implementation,” Memorandum, (June 24, 1981), Box 433, Folder: Human Rights Working Group 1981, Washington Office on Latin America Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[4] “Special Alert: Contra Aid Packages” (Washington, D.C.: Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus, March 1, 1988), Box 27, Folder: Democratic Contra Alternative, Washington Office on Latin America Records, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University