Tag Archives: literature

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New Acquisition: Langston Hughes Revises His Text

In the Rubenstein Library, sometimes we primarily judge books by their covers, be they bejeweled, finely bound, or otherwise interestingly decorated.  And sometimes we certainly do not. Case in point: the book below.

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The Library wouldn’t acquire most copies of the third edition of Langston Hughes’s Shakespeare in Harlem, especially not a copy without its original dust jacket and rather heavily worn.  But this was no ordinary copy.  This appears to be  Hughes’s own copy of the last edition of this book issued during his lifetime.

Inscription on front endpaper of this copy of Shakespeare in Harlem.
Inscription on front endpaper of this copy of Shakespeare in Harlem.

Not only that, Hughes made changes to fifteen of its poems, some of them dramatic shifts in the tone, rhythm, length, or meaning of the text.

Hughes's poem "Down and Out," with repetitive lines crossed out and some representations of dialect changed.
Hughes’s poem “Down and Out,” with repetitive lines crossed out and some representations of dialect changed.

The copy recently turned up in a sorority house at Lincoln University, from which it was sold at auction and entered the rare book trade.  Much about the volume remains to be discovered.  The changes that Hughes made in this volume have not been published or incorporated into any of the later editions of Hughes’s collected works or poems.

 

 

 

 

Walt Whitman, 1869, from the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, box III-6C (Saunders 29); Bruce Springsteen, on the cover of the album Born to Run, 1975.

Tramps Like Us: Springsteen and Whitman

You may have heard the news: a working draft of one of the iconic songs in American music, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” will be displayed in Perkins Library on May 8-11, and then here in the Rubenstein Library from May 12-June 27.  While at the Rubenstein, Springsteen’s draft, owned by Floyd Bradley, will be in the very good company of one of the largest collections of manuscripts by another favorite son of New Jersey, Walt Whitman, in the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana.

Walt Whitman, 1869, from the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, box III-6C (Saunders 29); Bruce Springsteen, on the cover of the album Born to Run, 1975.
Walt Whitman, 1869, from the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, box III-6C (Saunders 29), by M. P. Rice; Bruce Springsteen, on the cover of the album Born to Run, 1975, by Eric Meola.

Both Whitman and Springsteen felt and expressed a deep connection with working-class Americans.  After a transient childhood, Whitman worked as a journeyman printer before becoming the “Good Gray Poet”; Springsteen’s mother famously took out a loan to buy him a guitar when he turned sixteen, and years of honing his musical craft at small venues for low pay preceded the breakthrough of “The Boss.”

The working draft of “Born to Run” includes many passages that were changed or excised from the final lyrics, but the chorus “tramps like us, baby we were born to run” is already in place.

The chorus of "Born to Run" in the working draft. Image courtesy of Sotheby's.
The chorus of “Born to Run” in the working draft. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

“Tramps,” or homeless itinerants looking for steady work and a place to live, became a particular concern in the United States (and for Whitman) during and after the “long depression” of the 1870s.  Whitman wrote about this phenomenon in many different contexts, perhaps most memorably in a fragment entitled “The Tramp and Strike Questions.”  In a sentence that gets to the core of an element of “Born to Run” and other Springsteen songs, Whitman writes there: “Curious as it may seem, it is in what are call’d the poorest, lowest characters you will sometimes, nay generally, find glints of the most sublime virtues, eligibilities, heroisms.” A volume in the Trent Collection, given by Whitman the title “Excerpts &c Strike & Tramp Question,” contains manuscripts and newspaper stories annotated by Whitman in preparation for a lecture on the topic, which was never delivered.

Two prose fragments from "Excerpts &c Strike & Tramp Question," Trent Collection of Whitmaniana Box II-7B.
Two prose fragments from “Excerpts &c Strike & Tramp Question,” Trent Collection of Whitmaniana Box II-7B.

We’re excited to host the “Born to Run” draft, and please contact us if you’d like to take the chance to see this treasure of American culture alongside items in the Trent Collection of Whitmaniana.

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.

Samuel Bourne, "The Taj, from the Garden, Agra," 1860s.

New Acquisitions Week, Day Four: The British, in India and Cast Away

We’re celebrating the beginning of a new fiscal year with a week’s worth of new acquisitions from the first half of 2012.  Two newly acquired selections will be featured in a post every day this week.  All of these amazing resources are available for today’s scholars, and for future generations of researchers in the Rubenstein Library!

  • Samuel Bourne Photographs: Samuel Bourne is the best-known photographer of India under British rule, capturing landscapes, architectural studies, and genre scenes from 1863 to 1870.  He co-founded the studio Bourne and Shepherd, still active today in Kolkata as the world’s oldest operating photographic studio.  The Library has acquired over 300 of Bourne’s photographs, prized for their technical quality, their documentation of Indian sights, and the insight they can provide into British views of Indian life.  The Bourne photographs are a valuable addition to a growing body of photographs of India in the Archive of Documentary Arts.
Samuel Bourne, “The Taj, from the Garden, Agra,” 1860s.
  • Daniel Defoe, The Life and Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe; The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe; Serious Reflections Upon the Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe: One of the most groundbreaking and influential narratives in literary history, Defoe’s tale of a castaway on an uncharted island  has been endlessly reprinted, adapted, updated, copied, and critiqued since its first appearance in 1719.  Thanks to a generous donation by Alfred and Elizabeth Brand, the Library now holds the second edition of The Life and Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, printed days after the first edition in 1719, as well as first editions of the two continuations of the story, including the famous map of Crusoe’s “Island of Despair.”  This invaluable set will be a jewel in the Library’s large collection of works by Defoe, and is also a key complement to the Negley Collection of Utopian Literature.

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Self-portrait by Augustino Pistoia, in Quintilian, Institutiones Orationae (1482).

New Acquisitions Week, Day Two: Self-Portraits in Image and Word

We’re celebrating the beginning of a new fiscal year with a week’s worth of new acquisitions from the first half of 2012.  Two newly acquired selections will be featured in a post every day this week.  All of these amazing resources will be available for today’s scholars, and for future generations of researchers in the Rubenstein Library!

  • Quintilian, Institutiones Oratoriae: This 1482 incunable (or book printed in Europe before 1501) printed in Tarvisio, Italy, is a rare edition of one of the great Renaissance guides to rhetoric.  The remarkable copy now at Duke is unique, bearing the extensive handwritten annotations of a 16th-century scholar, Augustino Pistoia (or Agostino da Pistoia).  In addition, Pistoia drew two self-portraits at the end of the text, and noted the date on which he finished reading the work: “On the 20th of October [?] 1583 I Augostino Pistoia have read this book by Quintiliano under the teaching of mag. Pompeo Gilante my master/ 1583 1584.”
Self-portrait by Augustino Pistoia, in Quintilian, Institutiones Orationae (1482).
  • Edith Ella Baldwin Papers: Born in 1870 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Ms. Baldwin was an artist, craftswoman, and author.  Frustrated in her early attempts to publish her writings, Baldwin decided instead to keep one copy of each of her works for posterity, making a binding for each herself.  The collection consists of 38 unpublished volumes of stories, novels, poetry, lecture notes, and family history, including a novel about sex education for women, diary excerpts describing her visits with painter Mary Cassatt in 1890s Paris, and copies of letters from her aunt, Ellen Frances Baldwin, dating from 1848 to 1854. Edith Baldwin’s writings tend to cover timeless themes of religion and love, although many compositions feature contemporary issues such as automobiles, labor strikes, and women’s rights. The Baldwin Papers add to the rich body of materials documenting women’s literary expression in the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

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Reading and Celebrating the Works of Reynolds Price

Date: Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Gothic Reading Room, Rubenstein Library, Duke West Campus (map)
Contact: Will Hansen, (919) 660-5958 or william.hansen@duke.edu

To celebrate the publication of Reynolds Price’s final book, Midstream, as well as the fiftieth anniversary of his first book, A Long and Happy Life, the Libraries welcome a distinguished group of Price’s friends, family, and colleagues to discuss his life, work, and legacy.

Speakers include:

- Rachel Davies WC’72 AM ’89, student and friend of Reynolds Price
- Allan Gurganus, acclaimed author of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All and White People
- Susan Moldow, Executive Vice President and Publisher of Scribner, and editor of many of Reynolds Price’s books
- William Price T’63, former Director of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, and Reynolds Price’s brother

The event will include a display of materials from the Reynolds Price Papers in the Rubenstein Library, including early handwritten manuscripts of A Long and Happy Life, rare photographs and letters, and more.

Free and open to the public. A reception with refreshments will follow the program.

Co-sponsored by the Department of English.

Robert Frost's The Wood-Pile

Season’s Greetings from Robert Frost

The Academy of American Poets recently published an article about Robert Frost’s annual winter holiday poems, which were printed as small chapbooks and sent through the mails as holiday greetings.

Published for more than 30 years from Joseph Blumenthal’s Spiral Press, the poems were often written specifically for this purpose.

Robert Frost's The Wood-Pile
Robert Frost's The Wood-Pile

The Rubenstein Library has an excellent collection of Frost’s books, chapbooks, broadsides, and other ephemera. Part of the important Trent family collections, the Frost collection is kept in the Trent Room, fittingly with the Walt Whitman collection.

One More Brevity
Robert Frost's One More Brevity

Rubenstein’s Frost collection sometimes includes multiple copies of particular winter poems. Occasionally, a copy will come with an inscription from the poet or a comic or personal remark.

Note from Robert Frost
Note included with Robert Frost's Does no one but me at all ever feel this way in the least

For more information about Rubenstein’s literature collections, visit our literature library guide.

Happy holidays!

 

He Lives! Frankenstein in the Rubenstein

Scary, but true: the Rubenstein’s Hinton Collection of Plays contains what’s believed to be the first published image of Frankenstein’s Creature (or “Monster,” if you’re feeling pejorative).  Are you ready to face the horror?

 

Now that you’ve recovered from the shock, you’ll be interested to know that this image is of the actor Richard John O. Smith portraying the Creature in an 1826 stage adaptation of Shelley’s novel by Henry Milner.  The Hinton Collection also contains a prompt book for Milner’s play as produced at the Theatre Royal in Birmingham, England, probably in the 1830s. The image below shows the page of the prompt book for the Creature’s awakening, with the inserted dialogue “He lives / He lives”:

This echoes the line “It lives! It lives!” from the first stage adaptation of Frankenstein, R. B. Peake’s wildly successful 1823 play Presumption (you can find an edition of this in the Hinton Collection, as well), and prefigures perhaps the most famous scene in horror cinema.

Adaptations and reimaginings of the story of Frankenstein continue to proliferate today.  See these and many more chilling items, including an issue of Frankenstein Comics from the 1940s, at the Haunted Library Screamfest from 11am-1pm today!

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.