Category Archives: Manuscripts

‘We Try Harder’ and Other Famous Ad Campaigns by Paula Green

Post contributed by Cameron Byerly, a rising junior at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland.  He helped process the Paula Green papers through St. John’s Hodson Internship Program during Summer 2017.

Photograph of Paula Green from the Paula Green papers at the Rubenstein Library.

It’s not the size of the budget
It’s the ferocity of the idea
–Paula GRRRRReen

Paula Green’s papers amounted to nearly 100 boxes of print documents, photographs and audiovisual materials, which is intimidating for a first archival processing project.

My relief was immediate when I discovered these boxes contained dozens of awards, fascinating drafts and edits to ads, pleasant correspondence, articles explaining an honest and steadfast worldview, and above all, a character who I came to deeply respect the voice and intents of through a long and successful career.

Union Label song created by Paula Green and Malcolm Dodds in 1975 for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

The central theme I would use to describe Paula Green’s work is ‘cause-driven’. Paula’s speeches and correspondence make it clear she chose clients she personally believed in, including the local jobs offered by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), and the work she did to fight breast cancer with the U.S. government’s Public Health Service and the American Cancer Society. Perhaps her largest success was her part in creating the “Look for the Union Label” song for the ILGWU in the 70’s. The song’s importance became more tangible to me when reading President Jimmy Carter’s quote “Sometimes I have a hard time deciding which I like best, ‘Hail to the Chief’ or ‘Look for the Union Label,’” and the subsequent parodies from newspaper comics, South Park and Saturday Night Live. The song represented an enormous collective effort of the American fight for local jobs. As I pieced together Paula’s insistence on visiting local factories, employing real workers for TV spots, and saying “please buy from us” rather than “don’t buy from foreigners,” I realized that she applied her own moral standard to the work she believed in.

Paula Green created the now famous “We Try Harder” campaign for Avis in 1962.

The second notable theme in Paula Green’s work is intelligence. Her early success at Doyle Dane Bernbach with the ‘We’re No. 2’ advertising campaign for Avis car rental allowed her the economic power to create her own advertising agency in 1975, and demonstrated her intelligence in engaging with the audience. I consider how well her methods would work in today’s more image-driven and crowded advertising landscape. Records of her work include hundreds of edits of reasoned arguments and recipes used to include in her marketing of food products. She often argued against a more deceptive world of associating lifestyles with products, and instead cleanly focused on the merits of her products. Her copywriting involved well-written sentences to back up her buzz-words and intelligent methodology in expressing her ideas.  Continue reading ‘We Try Harder’ and Other Famous Ad Campaigns by Paula Green

Bitter Sugar: The plight of cane-cutters on Radio Haiti

Post contributed by Tanya Thomas

Radio Haiti reels from the Radio Haiti Archives. The collection includes more than 5,000 recordings covering decades of Haitian history.

Amidst the ups and downs of life at Duke, one of my most treasured experiences was working as a student assistant for the Rubenstein Library’s Radio Haiti Archives. The collection has over 5,000 recordings covering decades of Haitian history, and listening to just a portion of them was like traveling back in time. While most of the recordings covered the various human and political rights issues of the Haitian people in the last century, they also made me think critically of how quickly the present becomes the past. It’s so easy to look back and judge the actors of the past for their mistakes. What’s harder is to draw parallels between our present and what that will look like to people listening to or reading about our exploits decades from now.

Progress is not granted by some unspoken law of nature, whether we look at U.S. history or the twentieth-century Haitian history covered in the Radio Haiti Archives. The themes in the archives that I found most sobering were the ones that are still being debated today. The first that comes to mind is the treatment of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic by the Dominican state. In 1979, Radio Haiti reporter Sonny Bastien interviewed a sugar cane worker (click on the hypertext to listen to the interviews in Duke’s Digital Repository) who described to Radio Haiti listeners the working and living conditions of a bracero (Haitian cane worker) living on the batèy (squalid camps for braceros) in the Dominican Republic. This worker, in addition to describing being shortchanged for his labor by the sugar cane speculators, describes Dominicans calling him and other Haitian migrants “pigs,” because if his country were in good shape, he wouldn’t be working in sugar cane fields in the Dominican Republic.

Radio Haiti script describing a grassroots women’s organization in Haiti, calling on the Haitian government to do more to protect the rights of Haitian braceros in the Dominican Republic, living in conditions of near-slavery (14 March 1988)

The events covered by Radio Haiti also foreshadowed Haitian political issues of today, since the issue of human rights of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent remains a salient issue for the island. Relations between the two nations have been strained from the time of Haiti’s occupation of the Dominican Republic, to the Dominican Republic’s independence from Haiti, to the 1937 genocidal massacre of Haitian and Haitian-Dominican families by the Dominican army under dictator Rafael Trujillo, to the antihaitianismo (anti-Haitian sentiment) pervasive in Dominican nationalism.  Most notably, in 2013 a Dominican court ruling known as the sentencia stripped citizenship from the descendants of undocumented immigrants to the country up to 80 years prior. The result was the statelessness of many who knew no other country than the Dominican Republic, and a massive influx of Dominicans of Haitian descent to a Haiti still reeling from the 2010 earthquake. Many of those who fled had never been to Haiti nor learned to speak Creole. This forced “repatriation” was not a new phenomenon. The Radio Haiti archive contains testimonials of deported Haitian-Dominicans adrift in Port-au-Prince as early as 1976, and extensive coverage of Dominican repatriation policy in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Radio Haiti script describing international human rights organizations, encouraging the Haitian and Dominican governments to protect the rights of Haitian braceros in the Dominican Republic (28 July 1989)

The minimal change between the present and the past is saddening, but it also serves as a mirror reminding me to judge my actions against the human rights abuses of today. Protesting against human rights violations is not a necessity of the past, but an essential component for any nation or group of people to create the change they want to see. Just as most Americans look back at the Civil Rights Movement as a tumultuous yet crucial part of the nation’s entrance to a more progressive age, future generations will look at our involvement or lack thereof with the Black Lives Matter movement. The difference between the past and the present is that there is still time to get on the right side of history. I am heartened by the efforts of activists like Sonia Pierre, a Dominican activist born to Haitian parents on a batèy who fought for the rights of migrant workers and Dominican peasants for most of her life. At age 14, Pierre led a group of cane cutters to march for better wages and living conditions. Pierre was arrested, but the demands of the marchers were met. During her life, she received recognition from her human rights work from Amnesty International and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.

Radio Haiti script describing, in part, demonstrations in Léogâne against anbochay, the forced trafficking of Haitians to cut sugar cane in the Dominican Republic (28 January 1987)

In a way, listening to the archives also transported me to the future. The world is no stranger to Haiti’s troubles, be they environmental or political, yet few know how they came about, or how adamantly Haitians refused to be defined by these terms. Radio Haiti gave a platform to Haitians often overlooked by their own government and media, so they could express themselves on issues most important to them. By listening to the voices of the past, I know that the fight for a better future is not a fight I have to enter alone, and I retain the hope that I can add my voice to those that will encourage the next generation to fight on.

 

Hidden Treasures in the Harold Jantz Collection

Post contributed by Janice Hansen.

Title page of Happel’s Thesaurus Exoticorum, from the Harold Jantz collection at the Rubenstein Library.

No one can describe the focal points of the Jantz Collection better than Harold Jantz himself. He described the better part of his book-collecting career as “amateur,” marked by “casual collecting according to personal tastes and interests.” Jantz did not consider himself a “bibliophile,” but rather a “reader and an explorer” (Jantz, xxii). This description rings particularly true when considering the Harold Jantz Collection as a whole. Duke University acquired the Jantz Collection in 1976. With approximately 10,500 volumes, it provides one of the most comprehensive and unique explorations of German Baroque literature in the United States. The collection highlights the areas in which Harold Jantz was most interested, including German Americana, Faustian and Goethean material, the occult, and more. In addition to these volumes, the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library holds the personal papers of Harold Jantz; a collection of 170 early manuscripts, music manuscripts, and autograph albums; and a graphic art collection consisting of engravings, etchings, and other prints with dates ranging from the 1400s to the 1800s.

The manuscript fragment through which I got to know the Jantz collection was used to bind Eberhard Werner Happel’s 1688 Thesaurus Exoticorum, a fascinating piece in and of itself. There are a number of reasons why this particular volume would have been of great interest to Harold Jantz, the great explorer of German Baroque literature. Happel’s work is a compendium of information in the German tongue. It collected news and curiosities, ordering these snippets of information and illustrating them profusely with intricate woodcuts.

Engraved title page of Thesaurus Exoticorum showing some of the curiosities and rarities to be discussed in the course of the text.

Works like these have only begun to garner scholarly attention in recent years, but Jantz saw the value in the lesser-known authors and works. The Thesaurus Exoticorum is peppered with information about the Americas, placing it in the genre of Americana, another of Jantz’s collecting focal points. Happel considered reading to be a replacement for experience, this text thus allowing readers more knowledge in reading it than with many years of world travel. The icing on the cake for such a Baroque and Americana-filled work is then its fine binding.

Entry on Brazilian culture as understood by Happel and one of the many descriptions of the New World in the text.

 

But what Jantz likely didn’t know, was just how unique of a binding it truly was. Using leaves of unwanted, outdated, or worn manuscripts to bind other works was a common bookbinding practice in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This practice gave new life to materials that would otherwise be discarded. The manuscript waste on Happel’s work has its own story to tell, and a fascinating one at that. Continue reading Hidden Treasures in the Harold Jantz Collection

Rubenstein Events: Music and the Movement and more…

Please join us this week for three very exciting events:

The SNCC Digital Gateway Project presents “Music & the Movement,” Tuesday, September 19, 7:30-9:30 pm

Please join us for an exciting discussion with five veteran activists on Tuesday, September 19th at 7:30 p.m. at NCCU’s Alfonso Elder Student Union. Music & The Movement – During the Civil Rights Movement, mass meetings overflowed with people singing and clapping to freedom songs, demanding justice in the face of oppression and showing courage in the face of danger. Join us for a roundtable discussion with five veteran activists as they speak about the power of the music of the Movement. As song leaders, Bettie Mae Fikes, Charles Neblett, and Hollis Watkins carried the music in their own communities in the South or across the nation as part of the SNCC Freedom Singers. Meanwhile, Candie Carawan and Worth Long worked to document the music of the Movement, recording and preserving the songs that moved people to action. They experienced firsthand how music was a tool for liberation, not only bringing people together but holding them together. The conversation will be moderated by SNCC veteran Charles Cobb. Many thanks to our co-sponsors: SNCC Legacy Project, Duke University Libraries, The Center for Documentary Studies, North Carolina Central University, and SNCC Digital Gateway Project.

Event Speakers: Bettie Mae Fikes, Charles Neblett, Hollis Watkins, Candie Carawan, and Worth Long
Event Location:  NCCU’s Alfonso Elder Student Union
Event Contact: CDS Front Desk
Event Contact Phone: 660-3663

Exhibit Tour and Reception: ‘I Sing the Body Electric’: Walt Whitman and the Body, Thursday, September 21, 11:45-1:30pm

Continue reading Rubenstein Events: Music and the Movement and more…

Breaking Every Taboo: A Remembrance of Kate Millett (1934-2017)

Post contributed by Kelly Wooten, Laura Micham, and Laurin Penland. 

Kate Millett at the Los Angeles Women’s Center, 1977, photographed by Michiko Matsumoto. Kate Millett papers

We were saddened to learn of Kate Millett’s passing on September 6, 2017. As many people have been writing and speaking about her legacy, we realized we are not alone in trying to grapple with the significance of her contributions to the feminist movement, to the creation of feminist theory, to the art world, to writing, to LGBTQ activism, to advocacy for mental health reform, and to many, many other realms. Here at the Rubenstein Library, her papers have been at the heart of the Bingham Center’s collections since 2000, and have inspired much scholarship, enhancing our understanding of the world.

The Kate Millett papers in the Sallie Bingham Center provide rich documentation of Millett’s activities as a feminist activist, artist, and author. These materials reflect the intensely personal nature of much of Millett’s work and the frequent fusion of her personal, political, and professional interests. Materials in the collection also cover feminism and the social conditions for women around the globe, especially in France, Italy, and the Middle East—most notably Iran, where Millett traveled in the seventies.

Brochure for Women’s Liberation Cinema Company film, Three Lives, directed by Kate Millett, 1971. Kate Millett papers

Many researchers have been moved by their encounters with the writings and artwork of Kate Millett in her papers. Dr. Michelle Moravec, Associate Professor of American History and Women & Gender Studies at Rosemont College, writes:

“Working in a person’s archived papers is always an intensely intimate experience, but in Millett’s case the resonances are amplified by the emotional reactions she left scrawled across her papers. ‘Ridiculous!’ she pronounced in a scrawling red hand, across a tedious letter regarding a speaking engagement. ‘That awful Barnard thing goes on’ she sniffed in response to a request to publish her presentation from the Scholar and the Feminist Conference IX: Towards a Politics of Sexuality. Interspersed are flashes of Millett’s intellectual process, dashed off notes for one of her many lectures proclaims ‘We now have to dare everything… Writing our lives… Break every taboo.’  Long handwritten letters attest to her poignant longing to create an artistic community at The Farm, an art colony she created, the economic struggles all too familiar to female artists and writers who did not become academics, and her engagement with deeply difficult material including sexual abuse and torture.”

Born in 1934 in St. Paul, Minnesota, Kate Millett was an internationally acclaimed artist, writer, and activist. A founding member of the Noho Gallery in New York City, Millet created the Women’s Art Colony Farm in Poughkeepsie, NY in 1978, and had shown her work internationally since 1963. She was known for her sculpture and installation works in addition to pen and ink drawings both abstract and figurative. Millet’s Columbia University Ph.D. dissertation, Sexual Politics (1970), placed her at the forefront of the women’s movement. Her other political works include The Prostitution Papers (1973), The Basement (1979), Going to Iran (1979) and The Politics of Cruelty: An Essay on the Literature of Political Imprisonment (1994). Millett also wrote a series of memoirs that combine deeply felt personal revelation with trenchant political analysis. These include Flying (1974) about her early years, Sita (1977) and Elegy for Sita (1979) the story of a tragic romantic relationship, The Loony Bin Trip (1990) Millett’s exposé of the mental health system, A.D., A Memoir (1995) in which she reflects on her early life, and Mother Millett (2002) a meditation on her upbringing in middle America and her experience as an activist and then outcast from the movements she helped to form and lead.

In these books Millett gave her readers the analytical tools and inspiration for making a revolution. Her words, such as these from Sexual Politics, will continue to resonate, “For to actually change the quality of life is to transform personality, and this cannot be done without freeing humanity from the tyranny of sexual-social category and conformity to sexual stereotype—as well as abolishing racial caste and economic class.”

Pen and ink drawing, ca. 1978. Kate Millett Papers

Many moving tributes have been published in newspapers, on websites, and on social media such as this one by Gloria Steinem on Facebook: “As Andrea Dworkin said, ‘The world was asleep, but Kate Millett woke it up.’ Sexual Politics—and all Kate’s work—will keep us Woke.” The impact of Kate Millett’s life and work cannot be overstated.

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.

 

 

Notes from Durham’s Musical Past: Polonaises and Mazurkas on Main Street

Post contributed by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, Visual Materials Processing Archivist

There are many music-related collections in the Rubenstein Library, but the Gilmore Ward Bryant papers are special to the history of Durham, North Carolina.  This small collection of diaries, photographs, school records, and sheet music documents a time when turn-of-the-century citizens held cultural aspirations that included unleashing the terpsichorean muse on Durham—hoping perhaps that arpeggios and arias would temper the roughness of the tobacco town (population 18,241 in 1910).

Enter Gilmore Ward Bryant, born in 1859 and raised in Bethel, Vermont.

Gilmore W. Bryant, circa 1870, from the Gilmore Ward Bryant papers

After a successful musical career in New England and Virginia, he was reportedly lured to the Southern upstart town of Durham by the Duke family, who financed the design and construction for what was to become the Southern Conservatory of Music.  Finished in 1898, the grand Italianate-style building stood on the corner of Main and Duke Street, across from the Liggett Myers Building, on land that today belongs to the Brightleaf Square parking lot.

Here is a view of the Conservatory.  This is what you would have seen if you stood at Toreros Mexican restaurant and looked across the street:

Conservatory Calendar, 1920-1921, Gilmore Ward Bryant papers

Its auditorium, practice rooms, and parlors were classically grand in scale—the reverberations must have been amazing, to say the least:

Conservatory Calendar, 1920-1921, Gilmore Ward Bryant papers
Gilmore Ward Bryant, circa 1920, Conservatory Calendar, 1920-1921

“G.W.” Bryant served as Director of the Conservatory, and along with his partner and wife, Mattie Emily Bullard Bryant, the head of the Voice Department (his daughter-in-law also taught piano), kept the undoubtedly expensive venture thriving for many decades.  The school was a huge success, hosting large concerts, alumni dinners, and recitals several times a year.

Bryant was also a composer, penning scores as early as 1895 and continuing into the 1930s.  He wrote and published many pieces, including a “Tiny Waltz” and another piece entitled “Topsy Turvy.”

Sheet Music Series, Gilmore Bryant papers
Sheet Music Series, Gilmore Ward Bryant papers

Eventually, perhaps due to a familiar pattern of rising downtown rents, the Bryants laid the cornerstone for a new Conservatory on South Alston Avenue, then open countryside, in summer 1923, and the old Conservatory was demolished in 1924.  Bryant’s wife writes in her 1923 diary on December 31: “Went up & thru the old Conservatory— was terrible—nearly dropped to pieces.”

Today Durham hosts several music schools, but the era of grand edifices and classical conservatory training has yet to return.  In the meantime, we applaud the Bryants’ vision for and dedication to their adopted Southern hometown.  Luckily, some of the Conservatory’s records and the Bryant family’s personal papers and photographs have been preserved for researchers at the Durham County Library and the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscripts Library.  You can see the inventory for the Rubenstein collection here:

http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/bryantgilmore/

(Thanks to the Open Durham and Durham County Library websites for background information.)

 

Helen Allingham in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection

Contributed by Alice Poffinberger, Library Specialist.

The materials in the Lisa Unger Baskin collection celebrate more than five centuries of women’s work. One of the highlights of describing and cataloging these collections is the remarkable talent that is often showcased by these women.

For example, we received four sketchbooks from English watercolorist and illustrator Helen Paterson Allingham.

Helen Allingham, born near Derbyshire, England in 1848, studied at the Birmingham School of Design and the Royal Academy School in London.  In fact, she was the niece of the first female student at the Royal Academy School, Laura Herford. Allingham began her career as an illustrator, but eventually became well known for her watercolors, usually of cottages. Her renderings often showed so much detail that they have been studied by architects interested in the construction of these buildings.

Following her studies, she supported her widowed mother with her work as an illustrator for publications like The Graphic. She was a founding staff member of the newspaper, and the only woman on staff. Her other work includes the original illustrations for Thomas Harding’s novel Far from the Madding Crowd.

She married William Allingham, an Irish poet and editor, in 1874. After their marriage, Helen shifted her career focus to watercolor painting. Her work was widely praised by the art community in London. She had paintings accepted at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and was eventually the first woman granted full membership to the Royal Watercolour Society. After the family’s move to Surrey in the early 1880s, Allingham began painting the cottages for which she is best known.

The collection includes sketches and drawings made in graphite, watercolor, and pen and ink, dating from 1868-1916.

Subjects in the scrapbooks from the LUB collection are varied, and include English cottages and buildings, architectural features, sailboats and coastal scenes, figures, landscapes, and botanical items. Essentially, Allingham drew or painted anything that she came across during her travels, from a simple pile of rope to a vestry door. Many of the images are only about two inches wide.

allingham2
Detail of window, with Allingham’s notes on construction.
allingham8
Upton Bales[?] cottage, in graphite.
allingham6
Pile of rope found in Lymm, England, in 1874, graphite.
allingham3
Sailing vessel in watercolor.
allingham4
Fishing basket in St. Andrews, England, graphite.
allingham5
Crab found in St. Andrews, England, graphite.
allingham1
Vestry door at St. Mary’s Church, Leicester, England, graphite.

Stop by and spend some time with these scrapbooks!

The Apothecary Ledger of Hugh Mercer

Post contributed by Thomas Gillan, Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern.

Apothecary Shop: Engraving by Clemens Kohl featuring the interior of an apothecary shop. History of Medicine Picture File, History of Medicine Collections.
Engraving by Clemens Kohl featuring the interior of an apothecary shop. History of Medicine Picture File, 1523-2002, History of Medicine Collections.

Among the 20,000 books and 4,000 manuscripts that together comprise the History of Medicine Collections at Duke’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library—not to mention the collection’s hundreds of medical instruments and artifacts—is a large, leather-bound account ledger in folio kept by Hugh Mercer, an apothecary in Fredericksburg, Virginia, from 1771 to 1775.

Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1725, Mercer went on to study medicine at Marischal College, graduating in 1744 before taking up a post as an assistant surgeon in the army of Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie.

With the Scots’ defeat at Culloden in 1746, Mercer fled to America, arriving in Philadelphia in 1747. Mercer settled in what is now Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, where he practiced medicine for eight years. During the Seven Years’ War, Mercer served in the British army, where he met and befriended Colonel George Washington. Following his service, Mercer resettled in Fredericksburg, Virginia, a decision no doubt influenced by Washington.

It was in Fredericksburg that Mercer, along with his business partner and fellow physician Ewen Clements, opened his apothecary shop. On May 28, 1771, in the Virginia Gazette, Mercer and Clements, “partners in the practice of physic and surgery,” announced that they had “opened a shop on the main street, opposite to Mr. Henry Mitchell’s store, furnished with a large assortment of drugs and medicines of the best quality, just imported from London; where Gentlemen of the profession and others may be supplied at easy rates, for ready money.” Together, Mercer and Clements compounded and dispensed medicines, diagnosed patients’ disorders, and prescribed and administered treatments.

The ledger kept by Mercer, which documents the history of his practice from 1771 to 1775, is a microcosm of the social and intellectual worlds of eighteenth-century Virginia. It contains entries for more than three hundred different accounts. Below each entry, Mercer meticulously documented his visits with patients, the medicines he dispensed, the treatments he prescribed, as well as the fees he charged.

An entry in Mercer’s ledger for the account of Colonel Fielding Lewis, a Fredericksburg merchant and George Washington’s brother-in-law.
An entry in Mercer’s ledger for the account of Colonel Fielding Lewis, a Fredericksburg merchant and George Washington’s brother-in-law. Click image to enlarge.

Among Mercer’s many patients were Mary Ball Washington, George Washington’s mother; Betty Washington Lewis, George Washington’s sister, and her husband Colonel Fielding Lewis; Thomas Ludwell Lee; John, Henry, and William Fitzhugh; and Mann Page. Mercer often noted the occupations of his patients, who ranged from merchants, planters, and gentlemen to tradesmen, schoolmasters, undertakers, and stage players. A number of women, many of them widows, kept their own accounts with Mercer. Also among Mercer’s patients were the enslaved men, women, and children whose visits were charged to their masters’ accounts.

Mercer kept a running index in the back of the ledger for each of his accounts.
Mercer kept a running index in the back of the ledger for each of his accounts. Click image to enlarge.

Mercer offered a range of treatments and services to his patients, from bleeding, purging, and pulling teeth to blistering, vomiting, and setting broken bones. He likewise dispensed a variety of compounds and medicines. These included saline mixtures, purging pills, febrifuge drops, liquid laudanum, balsam honey, magnesia, glauber salts, and stomach elixirs. In keeping with the medical science of his day, Mercer’s treatments were aimed at restoring the delicate balance of his patients’ four humors—black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood—and ensuring equilibrium among the body’s solids and fluids.

In all, Hugh Mercer’s ledger offers a unique window into the prevailing medical beliefs and practices of eighteenth-century Virginia society and represents only a sample of the Rubenstein Library’s rich collection in the history of medicine.

A Stoic Survivor: Duke’s Latin Manuscript 159

Post contributed by David Pavelich, Head of Research Services.

The Rubenstein Library’s Latin Manuscript 159 includes fragments of two well-known texts by Seneca the Younger (or Lucius Annaeus Seneca, 4 BCE – 65 CE), the Roman Stoic philosopher, as well as an epitaph for Seneca. This modest manuscript is comprised of only two small leaves of vellum, apparently separated from a florilegium (a medieval compilation of writings assembled by a scholar). A mid-12th century manuscript, it likely derives from Northern France. Duke University acquired it in 1995.

Latin MS 159 is an exciting piece, even though these surviving bits don’t include a single complete text by Seneca. Among the texts included, however, are the majority of letter 79 from Seneca’s Epistulae ad Lucilium (Letters to Lucilius) and the opening of his De Beneficiis (On Benefits). Letter 79 has been described by scholars as a discourse on scientific discovery. In it, Seneca asks his correspondent Lucilius to climb Aetna (Mount Etna) in Sicily to make first-hand observations, and to write something from his impressions. Climbing a volcano is no easy thing, but Seneca is crafty in his shaming: “Now if Aetna does not make your mouth water, I am mistaken in you” (“Aut ego te non novi aut Aetna tibi salivam movet”).*

Seneca_1_Epist_edited
Epistulae ad Lucilium 79: 7: “Now if Aetna does not make your mouth water, I am mistaken in you” (“Aut ego te non novi aut Aetna tibi salivam movet”).

The recto of the second surviving leaf contains the opening of De Beneficiis (On Benefits or On Gifts and Services). This work concerns the giving and receiving of benefits, but also how to express gratitude appropriately. For this Stoic, ingratitude is pervasive in humanity: “Nor is it surprising that among all our many and great vices, none is so common as ingratitude” (“Nec mirum est inter plurima maximaque vitia nullum esse frequentius quam ingrati animi”).

Seneca_4_Bene_edited
De Beneficiis 1:2: “Nor is it surprising that among all our many and great vices, none is so common as ingratitude” (“Nec mirum est inter plurima maximaque vitia nullum esse frequentius quam ingrati animi”).

We’re fortunate (and grateful, Seneca!) to have this manuscript, which has a family relationship with two other pieces in our collection. Seneca was the uncle of the poet Lucan, and the Rubenstein Library has two important Lucan manuscripts in our collection, Latin 118 and Latin 125.  These manuscripts – along with our many other early manuscripts – are invaluable for teaching and research. Contact us for more information about our early manuscript collection!

*Translations from the Loeb Classical Library.