And now for a brief history lesson. George Walton was the governor of Georgia for two months in 1779 and then from 1789 to 1790. We found this letter (click image to enlarge) from then-Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson among the small collection of Walton’s papers housed at the RBMSCL. Jefferson writes that he is sending Walton “two copies duly authenticated of the Act providing for the enumeration of the inhabitants of the United States.” Jefferson is referring, of course, to the Census Act of 1790, which authorized the first census of the inhabitants of the new United States.
The census, you see, is very dear to the archivist’s heart. We often use census records, whether it’s to learn about families from long ago whose papers we’re processing or to help researchers discover information about their great-great-great grandparents. So we hope you won’t mind our appeal to you to carefully fill out and mail your census forms. After all, we have Thomas Jefferson’s authority behind us.
Years of research for a life of North Carolina garden writer Elizabeth Lawrence (1904-1985) led me many places, but none more inviting than my trips to Duke’s Special Collections Library, where I found hundreds of letters in the Ann Preston Bridgers Papers that brought Lawrence to life as no other materials, including interviews with family and friends who had known her. As I went through box after box of letters from Elizabeth to Ann (all beautifully catalogued by Janie Morris), I discovered a collection that not only informed the biography I wrote about Lawrence (No One Gardens Alone) but gave vivid testament to the importance of women’s friendships. (Bridgers, a successful playwright and a founder of the Raleigh Little Theatre, was teaching young Elizabeth how to write and how to live, all vividly revealed in the letters.) This month John F. Blair, Publisher, released my edited collection, Becoming Elizabeth Lawrence: Discovered Letters of a Southern Gardener. Among the books I have been privileged to write or edit, it is my favorite because of the charm and intelligence of a private life.
These letters from Elizabeth to Ann are lively with gossip, anecdote, reflection, regret, aspiration, and love—the love of friends, the love of gardens, and the love of literature. I still regard it as a miracle that they were not destroyed after Ann’s death in 1967 but ended up in the Bridgers Papers. I hope that you will read them and enjoy them as much as I did.
Stop by to view images and other documents from the collection (including digitized liner notes from Rosetta Reitz’s Rosetta Records, which released this album from movie star Mae West), as well as photos of Jazz Archive events and exhibits.
Every month, RBMSCL staff members turn the pages of the four volume double elephant folio set of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. This keeps the rare volumes from developing “preferential openings”—tendencies to open to one particular page that often result when books are on display for long periods of time.
Duke Law student Amanda Pooler, making her first visit to the Rare Book Room, helped select the new openings. She chose the Brown Pelican (Pelicanus Fuscus), the state bird of her native Louisiana, as well as the Raven (Corvus Corax); the Carolina Parrot (Psittacus Carolinensis); and the Kittiwake Gull (Larus Tridactylus).
Stop by the RBMSCL reading room (103 Perkins) during open hours to view these gorgeous prints.
The RBMSCL’s outstanding collection of over 60 satirical magazines from Europe and North and South America offers a panoramic view of international journalistic caricature from its origins in the 1830s to the present day. This exhibit, which gathers vivid examples from these periodicals and places them in their historical context, surveys the spectrum of comic journalism, examining the visual languages of graphic satire, and investigating its rhetorical power.
Most people associate Victorian women with high tea and corsets, not with struggles for justice and equality. However, Angela DiVeglia, graduate intern at the Sallie Bingham Center and co-curator of “I Take Up My Pen: 19th Century British Women Writers,” spends much of her days examining the relationships between current feminist thought and the work done by early feminists in the United States and Great Britain.
Angela DiVeglia gives this Frances Power Cobbe pamphlet a thumbs-up.
DiVeglia writes, “It’s really inspiring and grounding to work with these kinds of materials; it’s easy to think of our own struggles outside of their historical contexts, to feel like we’re the only people fighting these particular fights. Seeing pamphlets and books produced by people like Frances Cobbe and Annie Wood Besant—women who were often ostracized for their work, and who occupy marginal places in history—reminds us that we’re actually part of a huge, rich legacy of people who want to create a better world.”
If you haven’t had a chance to visit the exhibit yet, it will be on display in the Perkins Library Gallery until February 21!
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University