Category Archives: New at the Rubenstein Library

Lois Waisbrooker in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection

Photo May 20, 2 38 19 PMThe Lisa Unger Baskin Collection is filled with well-known names and gorgeous examples of books, but as I was looking through the recently cataloged books from the collection, I was excited to see three rather plain-looking books written by Lois Waisbrooker in the late-nineteenth century: Helen Harlow’s Vow, Perfect Motherhood, and My Century Plant. Never heard of them? Don’t worry, that’s kind of the point. Back in college as a history major, I studied Waisbrooker, and while she was never particularly well-known, she’s a fascinating example of how writing and books impacted women’s lives in the nineteenth century.

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Portrait of Waisbrooker from Helen Harlow’s Vow

Historian Joanne Passet has done an excellent job tracing Waisbrooker’s life in her book Sex Radicals and the Quest for Women’s Equality. Waisbrooker was born to a poor family in Upstate New York in 1826, and by age twenty she had been pressured into a marriage she didn’t want after getting pregnant, widowed, and forced to place her two children with other families as she didn’t have the economic means to care for them.1 These early experiences shaped Waisbrooker’s political views and her work: she was a spiritualist and then became interested in free love and sex radicalism.

Without a well-off family to fall back on, Waisbrooker struggled to make a life that allowed her to commit fully to advancing the cause of free love and women’s right to self-determination.2 It was never easy for Waisbrooker, but through writing she was at least able to eke out a living. These are just three of more than a dozen books she published, in addition to number of periodicals she founded or helped edit.

"I demand unqualified freedom for women as woman, and that all institutions of society be adjusted to such freedom"
Title page of My Century Plant. Waisbrooker founded Independent Publishing Company herself after struggling to find publishers willing to publish books dealing with sex.

Of course, the life Waisbrooker forged was possible because there were readers eager to read what she wrote. Waisbrooker’s writings validated their own experiences and  helped these women connect with a community of people whose views aligned with their own. In her analysis of readers’ letters published in the newspapers and journals founded or edited by Waisbrooker, Passet found that most of the women writing were working-class and rural, commonly from Midwestern and Western states.3 Isolated in their home communities, Waisbrooker’s work gave these women room to discuss topics like marital rape and women’s sexual fulfillment, literature that resonated with their experiences, and a way to imagine new economic and social models.4

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Newspaper clipping about Waisbrooker’s arrest on obscenity charges that was pasted in Perfect Motherhood

We get a glimpse of Waisbrooker’s readers in this copy of Perfect Motherhood: Or Mabel Raymond’s Resolve. A previous owner has pasted in a newspaper clipping describing Waisbrooker’s arrest in Topeka, Kansas “on the charging of sending obscene material through the mails.” This suggests the owner was not just a casual reader, but someone who followed Waisbrooker’s career and thought this clipping worth saving with Waisbrooker’s writings.

Having Waisbrooker’s works along side books like Of the Friendship of Amis and Amile speaks to the depth of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection and to the variety of ways women have engaged with books and the written word. For Waisbrooker these books were a means of survival, for both herself financially and the ideas she championed. For women readers, these books offered a vital intellectual connection with like-minded women and a path towards their own sexual and economic liberation.

Footnotes
1. Joanne Passet, Sex Radicals and The Quest for Women’s Equality (Urbana,Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 112-113.
2. Ibid., 116.
3. Ibid., 47, 55, 119.
4. Ibid., 153.

Post contributed by Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian

Adding to our collection of Movable Books

With constant access to moving images via your cell phone, laptop, or tablet, I expect it is difficult to imagine when even simple movement in a book was revolutionary. But just image the impact of being able to manipulate part of a page in a book in the 18th century!

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It is difficult to know less about an author!

The Rubenstein’s History of Medicine Collection features many early movable books, which were usually intended for scholars. These were generally the “turn-up” style, often used by students of anatomy, where separate leaves, each featuring a different section of the body, were hinged together and attached to a page. One of the best examples, De humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome was printed by Andreas Vesalius in 1543.

It wasn’t until the late 1700s that movable books intended for entertainment were produced, usually for children. In 1765, Robert Sayer created a movable book that involved lifting a flap. Ann Montanaro explains the construction of these books in her “A Concise History of Pop-up and Movable Books:”

[the] books were composed of single, printed sheets folded perpendicularly into four. Hinged at the top and bottom of each fold, the picture was cut through horizontally across the center to make two flaps that could be opened up or down. When raised, the pages disclosed another hidden picture underneath, each having a few lines of verse.

These books quickly became popular and had different names based on their content or composition of illustrations, including “metamorphoses,” “harlequinades,” as well as the unfortunately-named “toilet books.”

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My favorite page features a lion that transforms into a griffin, that transforms into an eagle.

As part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, we recently received one of these metamorphoses books, handmade by Elizabeth Winspear in 1799. Unfortunately, that is the limit of all we know about her. The book features just four pages in full color with accompanying verse, each page with two flaps that reveal a new drawing underneath, in stages. The verses include instructions for how to move the flaps. One reads: The Lion Roaring from his Den / with porpose [sic] for to rainge [sic] / He’s turn’d into another shape / Turn down & see the sight so strange

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The Lion Roaring from his Den / with porpose [sic] for to rainge [sic] / He’s turn’d into another shape / Turn down & see the sight so strange
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Each fold of the page must be carefully calculated.

I don’t want to give everything away! There is immense entertainment value to this little item. Initially we are introduced to Adam, whose Eve is not what one has come to expect. However, it is clear that Winspear also intended some instruction or moral training to occur by reading this book, for all does not end well, despite a character’s obtaining gold and silver. The piece ends as a cautionary tale.

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The eagle holds its prey, an unfortunate infant, in its grasp.

Stop by and see this new gem in our collection!

Contributed by Alice Poffinberger, Original cataloger and archivist.

An Investigation into Rubenstein LOLcats

I was delighted to find that one of our newest collections, the Terence Mitchell Collection of Tobacco Advertising, includes a run of Real Photographs, a series for the De Reszke cigarettes produced by J. Millhoff & Co. in England. These tiny cards feature animals posed in funny ways, doing adorable things, with cute captions. They are basically the tobacco card version of today’s Internet cat memes.

kitties1 kitties212719587_10104455346032688_1393435410260392224_oThese tobacco cards gave me an excuse to look into the history of cat photography, particularly pictures of funny cats with captions. It turns out that posing cats in outfits is not a new trend, despite the persistent popularity of Internet memes like LOLcats and I Can Haz Cheezburger. Matthew Hussey’s 2012 article on A History of LOLcats explains that early photographers quickly discovered the marketability of cats, and began selling cat postcards and cartes de visite as early as 1870. Harry Pointer, the first known photographer of cats posed in silly ways, marketed his photos as The Brighton Cats – so named for his Brighton, England, photography studio. A later photographer who was even more commercially successful was American Harry Whittier Frees (1879-1953), whose postcards and children’s books featured animals, especially cats, doing funny things. Frees was so talented in posing and photographing his animals that some questioned their authenticity. In his preface to The Little Folks of Animal Land (1915), he explained his techniques, saying, “The difficulties encountered in posing kittens and puppies for pictures of this kind have been overcome only by the exercise of great patience and invariable kindness.” After their photoshoot, Frees writes, “my little models … enjoy nothing better than a frolic about the studio.” The Library of Congress now holds a collection of Frees’ photographs. You can view them here.

I think that the tobacco card industry jumped on the funny animal pose trend, which explains why the run featured here is the fourth of five runs of Real Photographs produced by J. Millhoff & Co. between 1931 and 1935. The fourth run that I found in the Mitchell Collection dates to 1932. (It could be that the other runs are also present! We are continuing to process these tobacco cards – there are several thousand of them.) It makes sense that tobacco companies would have realized the marketability of cute animals. They were also smart enough to recognize the popularity of baseball players and pretty actresses. (Check out the newly digitized W. Duke and Sons collection of tobacco cards.)

Looking at all of Harry Whittier Frees’ photographs online led to me wonder what sort of cute cat pictures we hold in Rubenstein. You’ll be pleased to know we have several in our vast Postcard Collection. Here are some of my favorites, all from the early 20th century.

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Caption reads: Why So Cross Dear? Photograph by E.D. Putnam & Son, Anich, N.H.
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Photomechanical print. No known photographer.
Salt print postcard. No known photographer.
Salt print postcard. No known photographer.
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Caption: Little Miss White. Copyright by C.E. Bullard. Published by M.T. Sheahan, Boston, Mass.

This last one is by Charles E. Bullard, another early twentieth century photographer who wisely copyrighted his cat pictures, and then worked with publishers to distribute them widely. This 1915 profile of Bullard in The American Magazine is truly hilarious and details his methods for capturing the perfect LOLcat. Here’s an excerpt:

“It is no easy job to photograph a cat. He is very unreasonable as to staying where he is put, and the only system is to use infinite patience. I have worked half a day trying to photograph a cat in a particular pose, and then had to give up in despair.”

I am on the lookout for other photographs of historical LOLcats, especially those held in Rubenstein collections. If you find some, let me know!

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Section Head Manuscript Processing.

Women at Work: the Nuns of the Ripoli Press

There are many “firsts” in the Lisa Unger Baskin collection, and this early work is one of my favorites. It is one of the first books we know to be typeset by women.

Incominciano Le uite de Pontefici et imperadori Romani [Lives of the Popes and Roman Emperors] was published by the press at the Convent of San Jacopo Di Ripoli in Florence in 1478. The Baskin Collection includes two copies. They are incunabula [cradle books], a term traditionally used to indicate works that were printed before 1501, when printing technology was still in its infancy.

Over the course of nine years (1476-1484), the Ripoli press issued around one hundred different titles, half of which were secular.  The convent’s diario (daybook) notes that the Dominican sisters received modest wages for their labor, which were contributed to a common fund to support the convent.

The nuns work as typesetters was in keeping with the order’s rules. The Dominican constitutions directed the nuns to copy manuscripts for religious use, and the new technology of typesetting accomplished the same end. I have to wonder what it was like for them to literally retool with this new technology.

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Rubrication on copy 1

The first copy in the Baskin Collection is complete and is decorated with hand-colored initials called rubrication. Copy two lacks the first six leaves and has not yet had the decorative initials added. It is untrimmed, and over the years comments have been added in several hands and inks. Most interesting is the extensive marginalia around the entry for the (most likely) fictional Pope Joan with its long manicule and notation “papa femina.”

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“papa feminina” marginalia on copy 2
RipoliNuns-handwritten section header
Handwritten section header
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Spine of copy 2

I look forward to sharing these volumes with students and visitors. If you run your fingers gently over the pages, you can feel the impressions made by the thousands of pieces of moveable type the nuns of Ripoli carefully set by hand.

To learn more about the work of the Convent of San Jacopo Di Ripoli consult:

Post contributed by Naomi Nelson, Ph.D., Associate University Librarian and Director, Rubenstein Library.

Skip the Valentine’s Day Chocolates, I’d Like a Kelmscott Press Book in a Silk Pouch

Photo Feb 11, 4 42 10 PMThis beautiful copy of Of the Friendship of Amis and Amile, part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, was given by May Morris to her beloved, John Quinn, in 1910. It was printed in 1894 at Kelmscott Press, which May Morris’s father William Morris founded. The green morocco leather  binding with delicate gold tooling is the work of May Morris’s friend Katharine Adams.

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On its own this would have been an touching gift for any book lover, as Quinn, a patron and collector of art and literature, certainly was. But  Morris went beyond that.  An accomplished needlework artist, Morris created a detailed hand-stitched silk book pouch to go along with Amis and Amile. The centerpiece of her work features a kneeling couple with angels flying above in a sunbeam lit sky. It is surrounded by foliage and birds, with hearts sewn along the top. The final details are seed pearls and glass beads at the corners. The back of the pouch is signed in stitching by Morris with a small “M” in a circle.

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Sadly, I cannot tell you that this is a love story has a happy ending. It was a rather one-sided relationship. Whatever romantic interest Quinn had in Morris quickly cooled, despite a gift like this and the loving letters she wrote him. For more insight into Morris and Quinn’s relationship, see On Poetry, Painting, and Politics: The Letters of May Morris and John Quinn edited by Janis Londraville (1997), or Londraville’s article “No Idle Singers of Empty Days: The Unpublished Correspondence of John Quinn and May Morris” in Journal of Modern Literature (Summer, 1994).

Post Contributed by Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian.

Discovery at the Rubenstein: Italian-Language Version of Edith Wharton’s Short Story, “The Duchess at Prayer”

As a Humanities Writ Large Fellow at Duke this year, one of my goals was to explore the archives in the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, extending work I had done at the Kislak Center for Special Collections at University of Pennsylvania creating archival research exercises for undergraduate humanities students.  My scholarship focuses on late nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American women’s writing, so I knew that exploring the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, currently undergoing processing, would be especially exciting. But little did I know that I would uncover a genuine “find”—an Italian-language typescript of a short story by Edith Wharton, translated by the author and featuring corrections in her own hand.

The typescript, the only piece in the collection by Wharton, is a translation from English into Italian of Wharton’s story “The Duchess at Prayer” (“La Duchessa in Preghiera”). The textual history of this story is complicated: Wharton first published the story in Scribner’s in August 1900, where it featured illustrations by Maxfield Parrish (full text at hathitrust.org)  and then republished it in the short story volume, Crucial Instances  (1901). The translation in the Rubenstein appears to have been made after the 1900 publication. Drawing on Honoré de Balzac’s “La Grande Bretèche” (1831) and likely Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” (1842), Wharton’s tale recounts the story of a seventeenth-century Italian Duchess whose cruel husband discovers her adulterous affair. To taunt and threaten his wife, the Duke gives her a Bernini statue crafted in her image, and, as Emily Orlando has argued in Edith Wharton and the Visual Arts, in the conclusion of the tale, the woman “becomes a statue chiseled in marble at her husband’s command” (45). The typescript in the Rubenstein appears to be a word-for-word Italian translation of the Scribner’s version, though that will have to be confirmed against the version of the short story in Crucial Instances.

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Figure 1

“La Duchessa in Preghiera” attests to Wharton’s linguistic expertise. The author, who spent much of her childhood in Italy and adulthood in France, was fluent in multiple languages. There’s no evidence that the story was published in Italian periodicals of the day; rather, it seems most likely that Wharton translated the story as a language exercise. In this translation, Wharton’s sophisticated Italian reveals her careful self-education; for example, she uses the passato remoto to refer to events in the distant historical past, where a less experienced Italian writer might use the passato prossimo. On the typescript pages, we see how Wharton added accent marks that were not available on English-language typewriters at the time (figure 1; no Microsoft Word symbols here!). Wharton used her own work as a source of language practice several times during her career: she first conceived the novella Ethan Frome as a French exercise and translated some of her stories from English to French for publication in French periodicals. The typescript in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection reveals her immersion in Italian culture as well her mastery of two languages. Just a year after the publication of Crucial Instances, she would publish her first novel, The Valley of Decision (1902), set in eighteenth-century Italy.

While “La Duchessa in Preghiera” deepens our appreciation of Wharton’s multilingualism, it also advances the scholarly record in another way. I am one of a number of volume editors contributing to The Complete Works of Edith Wharton, to be published by Oxford University Press. To date, there is no authoritative scholarly edition of Wharton’s complete works. In the process of editing Wharton’s extensive corpus, volume editors must locate extant manuscripts and typescripts for all the works in their purview. “La Duchessa in Preghiera” suggests that Whartonites should expect to find her work in unexpected places.

For example, after finding the typescript in the Rubenstein, I learned that an additional copy of “La Duchessa in Preghiera” has been located in the Matilda Gay papers at the Frick Museum in New York. Matilda Gay was a friend and neighbor of Wharton’s in Paris and two women came from a similar social class in New York. The next step would be to compare the Rubenstein typescript with the version in the Frick. The existence of these translations elicits multiple questions: did Wharton share a translation with her friend, and for what purpose? Do the two versions differ in any way? What do these translations tell us not simply about the author, but about the sharing of texts between friends, two female expatriates, at a particular historical moment, grappling with life and literature in another language? As with many forays into the archives, this initial exploration of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection reminds us of how much we still have to learn.

Post Contributed by Meredith Goldsmith, Humanities Writ Large Fellow 2015-2016 (Associate Professor of English, Ursinus College)

The Archives of the Library Answer Person

In September of 1982, a librarian at Duke set up a simple loose-leaf binder suggestion book in the lobby of Perkins Library. Each page in the book had a spaces for three suggestions/questions and three answers. In October of that year, the first group of pages with written suggestions and questions were removed, taken home by that librarian and answered in long-hand, then typed up by an administrative assistant directly onto the original pages and placed back in the book for anyone to read. This was the beginning of the Perkins Library Suggestion/Answer Book, a popular tradition that would live on, in more than one form, for more than twenty years.

At first, the binders were available in the Reference area after the pages filled up; then photocopied versions were bound into volumes and included in the Perkins and Lily Library stacks. In 1993, a “best of” selection was printed in a limited run in-house. But now, the original pages—with accumulated detritus of organic material, white-out, pen and pencil scribbling, and water damage—have at last come to the University Archives for preservation and long-term storage. Some pages are missing and the binders were exposed to water at some point; the lovely people in Conservation have already dealt with some inert mold and the pages are now being rehoused in acid-free folders.

The pages are fascinating. The suggestions and questions are signs of the times, demonstrate student engagement with the library and the University as a whole, and show students being students: curious, angst-y, angry, grateful, silly, and thoughtful. In return, the Answer Person is both serious and facetious, deflecting offensive questions with jokes, omitting names, giving in-depth answers from outside sources, taking constructive suggestions and compliments to heart, and generally being a librarian (often instructing suggest-ers and questioners where they can find their answers instead of simply providing easy answers for them).

Some concerns are clearly timeless: why is the library so cold, why aren’t the printers working, more bathrooms, more food, more lights, please restock the toilet paper:

Some other entries are very much of their time, like the suggestion about types of cigarettes for the vending machines (smoking in the library! This archivist is horrified):

Library Answer Person: Smoking in the Library!?

While others are somehow a combination of both, as with this plaintive cry (the very first Library Answer Person question) for space to write and do work on one’s own machine (substitute typewriter with laptop), or this detailed discussion of a current television show (substitute Twin Peaks with Game of Thrones or Man in the High Castle – I mean, whaaaaaat?!):

Library Answer Person: Typewriter

Library Answer Person: Twin Peaks

Many discuss the library and how it could be improved or where it is doing nicely, showing a community engagement with the library that is as strong as it is critical.  Also, people really loved the red-haired Reference Librarian and Stuart the Government Documents Librarian:

Then there are the ones I giggled over, the ones that are just people being people, weird and silly:

The sports fans:

Library Answer Person: Seton Hall Upset

The studious:

Library Answer Person: Exams are Hard

The romantics:
Library Answer Person: How to Woo

Library Answer Person: Suzann

People developed a relationship with the Suggestion/Answer Book, and frequently referred back to earlier questions and answers, coming back to see if their own questions had been answered, and responding to the answers and other peoples’ comments. Frequently, there are multiple commenters on a given entry. This kind of discussion led to some deep discussions on controversial or difficult topics, such as the nature of modern art and race in the Duke community (the page with the question #1346A is responding to is unfortunately missing):

Library Answer Person: Modern Art

Library Answer Person: Race

And finally, there are the poignant departures:

Library Answer Person: Good-Bye and Good Luck!

These pages are a tangible window into the Duke student body’s engagement with the Library, with the University, and with each other. Like a proto-Internet comments page, there is a smorgasbord of humanity here: anger, plentiful curse words, sexism, racism, homophobia, compliments, intelligence, optimism, gratitude, tolerance, joy, and well-wishes. Plus a bag of grits.

To give away a decades-old open secret, the Perkins Library Suggestion/Answer Book Person was John Lubans, Public Services Librarian and Assistant University Librarian, here at Duke from 1982-2001 and the donor of these pages to the University Archives.

Post contributed by Tracy Jackson, Technical Services Archivist for the Duke University Archives.

Franklin Research Center Acquires Robert A. Hill Collection/Marcus Garvey Papers Project Records

The John Hope Franklin Research Center has acquired the Robert A. Hill Collection of the Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers Project Records. Hill is an Emeritus Professor of History at UCLA and a renowned historian and expert on the life and legacy of Garvey and his impact throughout the African Diaspora. The collection includes the research materials and documents collected to compose the twelve-volume Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) Papers (University of California and Duke University Press), which began publication in 1983 focusing on the Garvey and UNIA movement in Africa, America and Caribbean, with Hill serving as editor.

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The Black Man magazine, edited by Marcus Garvey, 1935

Many of the materials compiled by Hill were not able to be included in the published editions and the records of the Garvey and UNIA papers project, one of a handful of academic papers projects on a person of African descent, are one of the largest research collections of documents on Garvey and his followers in the world. The collection, which contains over three hundred boxes, is currently being processed in order to be opened to the public.

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Universal Negro Improvement Association Minutes of Proceedings, London, England meeting, 1928

A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Hill is currently an emeritus faculty at UCLA and has held appointments at Dartmouth College, the Institute of the Black World, and Northwestern University, Evanston. He began compiling materials related to Garvey in 1970 and subsequently expanded his collecting interests into the history of the African Diaspora throughout the western world. From Nov. 2-6, Professor Hill will be visiting the Rubenstein Library and will officially begin service as Scholarly Consultant & Adviser for the collection; assisting staff with understanding the collection’s organization, participating in an oral history about the genesis and growth of the collection, and delivering a public lecture on campus on November 4, 2015 at 4:00pm in the Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library.

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Black Star Line stock certificate, 1919

Post submitted by John B. Gartrell, Director, John Hope Franklin Research Center

Accidental Collections part 2

Previously I have written about what I termed an “accidental collection” that occurred with collections of print ads cut from magazines, whereby frequently interesting and equally historical ads appear on the back side of the ad that was intentionally collected. Accidental collections remain hidden unless there is some way to document their presence. Unfortunately, there are not many mechanisms in current archival description “best practices” to document them.

Recently I’ve encountered another and quite different kind of accidental collection. I’m currently working with the Cause Marketing Forum’s Halo Awards collection recently acquired by the Hartman Center.  This award is given to projects that utilize marketing and media to promote social causes via partnerships between businesses and nonprofit organizations such as Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the USO among many others. While “cause marketing” as a term may not be a familiar one, the campaigns form a significant part of businesses’ and nonprofits’ marketing efforts and many are probably well known to you: Race for the Cure; VH1 Save the Music; Cartoon Network’s Rescue Recess; Lee National Denim Day; and at holiday time your favorite department store has likely teamed up with the likes of Toys for Tots, the Salvation Army or a local food bank or rescue shelter. That’s cause marketing.

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The Halo Awards collection contains over a decade’s worth of the award’s entry forms and accompanying documentation, the latter which arrives in a wide variety of formats. One really interesting format here is an amazing variety of promotional thumb drives. Many simply feature a corporate logo or slogan, perhaps a website URL, but others feature artwork or have designs that can range from the emblematic to the whimsical. Time Warner’s “Connect a Million Minds” drive forms a bracelet, while the National Association of Realtors’ Houselogic.com drive looks like a block of wood. A drive for New Balance imitates a running shoe where the heel pulls off to reveal the drive connection.  EMTec’s drive resembles a cartoon character whose head comes off, and a drive for Chevron is a toy car where the connection slides out from the rear.

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Together these promotional drives form a collection of their own, as artifacts and ephemera representing a form of media belonging to a very particular time (in this case, the past 6 or 7 years). One day the design and promotional nature of these drives may take on an historical importance of its own apart from the significance of the contents of the drives for the collection to which they originally belong. This kind of thing frequently poses a dilemma for archivists and conservators: the relative significance and archival value of the contents of a document or medium versus the form of the media itself. How does one evaluate and/or value the vessel? Is it possible to describe collections within collections, or do the conditions of possibility of one mode of description preclude others?

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Post contributed by Rick Collier; photographs by Katrina Martin

New Collection Spans Five Centuries of Women’s History

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University has acquired one of the largest and most significant private collections on women’s history, documenting the work and intellectual contributions of women from the Renaissance to the modern era.

Isotta Nogarola, humanist, 1418-1466, from Jacopo Philippo Bergomensis' De Claris Mulieribus, 1497
Isotta Nogarola, humanist, 1418-1466, from Jacopo Philippo Bergomensis’ De Claris Mulieribus, 1497

Carefully assembled over 45 years by noted bibliophile, activist and collector Lisa Unger Baskin, the collection includes more than 8,600 rare books and thousands of manuscripts, journals, ephemera and artifacts, including author Virginia Woolf’s writing desk.. Among the works are many well-known monuments of women’s history and literature, as well as lesser-known works produced by female scholars, printers, publishers, scientists, artists and political activists. Taken together, they comprise a mosaic of the ways women have been productive, creative, and socially engaged over more than 500 years. The collection will become a part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture within the Rubenstein Library.

Cabinet card sold by Sojourner Truth to support her work, 1864 Photographer is unknown
Cabinet card sold by Sojourner Truth to support her work, 1864
Photographer is unknown

The materials range in date from a 1240 manuscript documenting a respite home for women in Italy to a large collection of letters and manuscripts by the 20th-century anarchist Emma Goldman.  The majority of materials were created between the mid-15th and mid-20th centuries. Other highlights include correspondence by legendary American and English suffragists and abolitionists Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Emmeline Pankhurst and Lucretia Mott; Harriet Beecher Stowe’s publicity blurb for Sojourner Truth’s Narrative, written in Stowe’s own hand; exquisite decorated bindings by the celebrated turn-of-the-century British binders Sarah Prideaux, Katharine Adams, and Sybil Pye; and Woolf’s writing desk, which the author designed herself.

Baskin and her late husband, the artist Leonard Baskin, were both avid book collectors. Leonard also founded The Gehenna Press, one of the preeminent American private presses of the 20th century. Lisa Unger Baskin began collecting materials on women’s history in the 1960s after attending Cornell University. She is a member of the Grolier Club, the oldest American society for bibliophiles.

“I am delighted that my collection will be available to students, scholars and the community at Duke University, a great teaching and research institution,” Baskin said. “Because of Duke’s powerful commitment to the central role of libraries and digitization in teaching, it is clear to me that my collection will be an integral part of the university in the coming years and long into the future. I trust that this new and exciting life for my books and manuscripts will help to transform and enlarge the notion of what history is about, deeply reflecting my own interests.”

Materials from the collection will be available to researchers once they have been cataloged. Some items will be on display in the renovated Rubenstein Library when it reopens to the public at the end of August 2015.

For more information about the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection visit http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/bingham/lisa-unger-baskin.