Category Archives: Students and Interns

Peeking at Paris in 1841: The Private Journal of Thomas R. Spencer

There’s something satisfying about reading a journal, and I don’t think it has much to do with the fact that a lot of journals try to discourage readers from exploring their contents, either. Instead, what I think appeals to me about journals is the familiar and candid tone of an author writing to him or herself. It’s thrilling to feel like the secret confidante of someone whom you’ve never met. There’s a lot of honesty in a journal, and that honesty transcends time to resonate with people totally outside of the context of the author’s life.

I’ve been privileged to work with the History of Medicine Collection in the Rubenstein Library this semester, and in the course of my project came across the journals of a young American medical student living in Paris, France in the early 1840s. Before I had really been able to familiarize myself with the contents of the journals – barriers mainly being Spencer’s handwriting – I imagined that the writing would be fraught with tales of the revolutions and political upheaval that characterized French politics in the 19th Century. What I found instead, though, was a window into the daily life of a bright, detail-oriented young medical student living in beautiful and romantic Paris, France even before the iconic Eiffel Tower was built.

The first entry in the journal is almost 30 pages long and describes a tour of Parisian monuments. Spencer starts with a jaunt around the grounds of the Palais des Tuileries and ends with a visit to the Arche de Triomphe on the Champs Elysées. When I said detail oriented, I was referring to things like the fact that Spencer recorded in yards the length and breadth of the Palais des Tuileries and described the arrangement and structure of the gardens there, too. The level of attention to detail, while surprising for a modern reader like yours truly, is likely because outside of recording the dimensions himself, Spencer would not easily be able to either recall or discover that information elsewhere. Another thing to remember is that photography hadn’t been really popularized yet, though it existed. 1840 is approximately contemporary with the birth of the Daguerrotype, an early photographic process. In 1840, if you wanted to remember something, you had to take down the facts yourself.

Even though it’s hard to imagine a Paris without the Eiffel Tower, some things in Spencer’s journals make him really accessible. For example, I was happy to find that he had an appreciation for puns; Spencer hearteningly described a fête happening down by the river as the “Seine of the action.” I totally LOL’d in the reading room at Perkins for that one, but then I do love a good pun.

The tidbits that make Spencer seems so contemporary exist right alongside descriptions of things that make his experiences totally foreign. He writes about doing rounds with a physician and watching amputations. As you might imagine, the practice of surgery has changed rather a lot since 1840. From Spencer’s descriptions, amputation was a considerable part of a surgeon’s practice at that time. Spencer also describes a side-show that he saw in Paris in terms of the various medical ailments that were afflicting the performers. Spencer recorded his ideas about what was wrong with the four-legged man and the level of approximate curvature of the spine of a man with dwarfism. I thought it was fascinating to see these people through the lens of his medical training. The journals also hold some botanical specimens that Spencer collected during his time in France. One of them makes an appearance in the image posted here.

The History of Medicine Collection has another later manuscript by Thomas Spencer, too. We learn from it that upon his return to the United States, he took up practice as a pathologist in Philadelphia, PA. The records from Spencer’s practice are taken with the same careful attention to detail and in the same beautiful script as his journals.

The journals tell what Spencer saw. They are his carefully collected memories from the two years he spent based in Paris. His experiences, which are so different from our own, lay out the scope of history, but his personality, humor, and opinions make him seem like a peer.

Nathalie Baudrand was the History of Medicine Collections Intern for Spring 2012 and is a graduate student at UNC’s School of Information and Library Science.

George Cruikshank & Falstaff’s Famous Follies: A Series of Autograph Prints from the Frank Baker Collection

Artist George Cruikshank
Artist George Cruikshank

Among the many fascinating documents, portraits, and letters of early Methodist preachers and missionaries in the Frank Baker Collection of Wesleyana and British Methodism are a variety of woodcut prints, engravings, and other visual sources depicting subjects as varied as social satire and British birds that might be rather unexpected in a collection that is primarily concerned with religious history.  As an art historian, I am particularly drawn to such visual records, and so was especially struck by both the beautiful technique and the relative completeness of a portfolio of etchings by George Cruikshank in which the artist depicts various scenes from the adventures of Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff.

Cruikshank, a prominent nineteenth-century British artist who worked primarily in graphic media, is known for his virulent social satires and is frequently discussed alongside similarly comic-minded Brits such as William Hogarth and Thomas Rowlandson.  By the middle of the nineteenth century, Cruikshank’s reputation was well-established and the artist had already completed prints for pamphlets by his friend, William Hone, a series of illustrations of the works of Charles Dickens, and the first English edition of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales.  It is around this time that Cruikshank began work on a concept for a collaborative project with Robert B. Brough which, upon its publication in 1858, would be entitled The Life of Sir John Falstaff: A Biography of the Knight from Authentic Sources.

Robert Brough’s The Life of Sir John Falstaff: A Biography of the Knight from Authentic Sources of 1858
Robert Brough’s The Life of Sir John Falstaff: A Biography of the Knight from Authentic Sources of 1858

A copy of Brough’s rather unusual text is available in Rubenstein Library and provides an imaginative biography of the fictional Falstaff, who appears in the Bard’s Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsorand who is himself believed to have been a satirical portrayal of one of Shakespeare’s unfortunate contemporaries.

Cruikshank’s etchings appear throughout The Life of Sir John Falstaff, illustrating twenty scenes with expressive lines and an abundance of humorous detail in a compact, approximately 5×8” book-size format.  While processing visual sources in the Baker Collection, I came across a larger set of these same prints; seventeen unbound plates on crisp white paper that are approximately 10×14” in size.  The higher quality of the etched lines and cross-hatching seems to indicate that the Baker portfolio is an earlier edition. Missing only three scenes from the set reproduced in Brough’s text, the Baker Collection series begins with a print that is dated 1857 and bears a handwritten dedication along the bottom of the page, signed lightly in pencil by the artist and brought to my attention by archivist Michael Shumate.

Large-scale printed version of Cruikshank’s etching, next to the printed frontispiece of Robert Brough’s The Life of Sir John Falstaff: A Biography of the Knight from Authentic Sources of 1858.
Large-scale printed version of Cruikshank’s etching, next to the printed frontispiece of Robert Brough’s The Life of Sir John Falstaff: A Biography of the Knight from Authentic Sources of 1858.

The Falstaff print, a smaller copy of which also appears at the start of Brough’s book, depicts the portly title character, perched on a seat wearing pseudo-chivalric garb and staring out at the viewer, his mouth pursed in what can only be described as a mischievous grin. In addition to the volume’s title, publisher, and other documentary information, the print is inscribed with Cruikshank’s inimitable stylized signature which corresponds directly to the dedication, “Richard Ellison Esq. – with the regards of Geo. Cruikshank” scribbled below.

Autograph Signature: George Cruikshank’s signature in a dedication written in pencil along the bottom of the print.
Autograph Signature: George Cruikshank’s signature in a dedication written in pencil along the bottom of the Baker print.

How this unique object came into the possession of Frank Baker, a former professor in Duke’s Religion Department, is a mystery; however the prints themselves invite further study.  Did this 1857 portfolio serve as a kind of prototype for the images included in Brough’s 1858 book?  What was the historical reception of Falstaff, and how would Cruikshank’s prints have been understood by nineteenth-century individuals?  Indeed, these questions and countless other subjects of interest to art historians, British scholars, and literature students emerge in this visual document.  Fortunately for those who, like myself, are intrigued by Cruikshank’s work and would like to learn more, Duke Libraries maintains a number of different sources on the topic, located at both the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library and within Lilly Library’s collection.  In addition to the Cruikshank materials, the Baker Collection of Wesleyana contains more than 10,000 visual documents including portraits, landscapes, maps, and many other fascinating scenes.

Elisabeth Narkin is a doctoral student in Duke’s Dept. of Art, Art History and Visual Studies. She is also a student assistant in Rubenstein Technical Services.

Student Writing Prizes! $1,000!

Enter to win one of the Duke Library's research & writing prizes!

The Robert F. Durden Prize and Chester P. Middlesworth Award were established at the Duke Library to reward excellence in research and writing. If you’re a Duke student, consider submitting a paper for one of these prizes!

The Robert F. Durden Prize recognizes undergraduates’ excellence in research, including their analysis, evaluation and synthesis of sources, and encourages students to make use of the general library collections and services at Duke University. Funding for the awards has been provided by Stuart (W.C.,1964) and Bill Buice (L, 1964) and named in honor of Robert “Bob” F. Durden, professor emeritus of history.

The Middlesworth Awards have been established to encourage and recognize excellence of research, analysis, and writing by Duke University students in the use of primary sources and rare materials held by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Funding for the awards has been provided by Chester P. Middlesworth (A.B., 1949) of Statesville, North Carolina.

Deadlines are May 15!

Visit our website for more information.

A Humble Petition from 1864

Greeting from 1864 Petition to Jefferson Davis from the Citizens of Cripple Creek, VA

Working on the History of Medicine (HOM) Trent Manuscripts Grant Project has revealed quite a few items of interest—but most recently, I discovered something that fits rather well into the Memories of the Civil War exhibit currently on display in the Perkins Exhibit Gallery.

Signatures to the 1864 Petition from the Citizens of Cripple Creek.
Signatures to the 1864 Petition from the Citizens of Cripple Creek. From the Trent Manuscripts Collection.

You may have seen the grisly amputation kit from the HOM collection, which might be the kind of war-related artifact that you would expect out of a collection on the history of medicine.  But here, instead, is not an example of progressive advances in medicine, nor a relic of past practice: instead, a simple plea for a family doctor to remain in service to his community by being excused for service in the Confederate Army:

“We the undersigned Citizens of Cripple Creek, Wythe County, VA earnestly petition that our family physician, Dr. C. C. Campbell, who is a conscript under the late act of Congress and whose services are indispensable to this portion of the county, be exempt, or detailed, and left with us.”

This singular petition to the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, dated February 15, 1864, was accompanied by two pages of signatures by the residents of Cripple Creek.  Did it ever reach its destination?  Do any historians or local residents know the fate of Dr. C. C. Campbell and his patients in Cripple Creek, Virginia?  If so, we’d love to hear from you!

Jacqueline Chapman, a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, was History of Medicine Intern at the Rubenstein Library from September 2011 to January 2012.

A Hidden Map

For the past two years, I’ve been working with Technical Services on the Frank Baker Collection of British Methodism and Wesleyana. Baker, a religion professor at Duke, was the preeminent scholar on the foundations of Methodism, specifically its founder, John Wesley. The collection is vast: it contains research for Baker’s many books and articles, original Wesleyan and Methodist documents from the 18th and 19th centuries, teaching materials, correspondence with other prominent religious minds, and a variety of items that simply fit no category.

Perhaps the most interesting part of working with the Frank Baker collection is this treasure trove of miscellany collected by Baker throughout the years. Though primarily a Wesleyan scholar, Frank Baker had a penchant for all religious historical materials, and his collection is frequently peppered with unidentifiable portraits, letters, and notes relating to religion.

One such enigmatic finding was a folded, faded map that, at first, appeared rather unimpressive. Tucked away in a box of other large maps, our subject was folded, torn, and in pretty bad shape. Once unfolded, however, I was instantly drawn to it.

Chloe and a map from the Frank Baker Collection
Chloe and a map from the Frank Baker Collection

Self-titled, the map reads: “A Map of all the Earth And how after the Flood it was Divided among the Sons of Noah.” Though faded, brittle, and torn, the value of this map is instantly obvious. From the fascinating religious motifs around the sides (some familiar, some indecipherable), to the labeling of each continent with a son’s name, the map certainly sucks you in.

Map from the Baker Collection, including California as an island
"A Map of all the Earth And how after the Flood it was Divided among the Sons of Noah."

Some of my favorite parts of this map aren’t readily obvious, either. For example, take a good look at the West Coast of the United States. It’s subtle, but California is depicted as an island! It was actually this feature that helped me to date the map. With a little research as to when the name California came into usage, I discovered that our finding probably dates to the 1680s or 1690s. A little more research revealed that California was often depicted as an island in the 16th and 17th centuries: I even found a whole book full of maps with this cartographic error!

California as an island
California as an island, with the Day of Rest above.

As a religion minor, I often found myself returning to the stunning religious motifs decorating the borders of this map. Some are familiar scenes, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Tower of Babel, the Crucifixion, etc. Others are less familiar, such as a shining city as viewed from a hill, or an unidentified man kneeling next to a tree.

I could spend hours trying to figure out the motivations behind the map, or its motifs, or why Japhet, son of Noah, got all of North America, but there’s many more mysteries to find and catalog in the Frank Baker Papers!

Post contributed by Chloe Rockow, a junior majoring in Public Policy Studies with a double minor in Religion and Political Science.

Charles N. Hunter Papers: Full of Surprises

When I began processing the Charles N. Hunter Papers, I had just completed my work on the N.C. Mutual Collection, which was full of incredible material concerning Durham’s Black business community throughout the 1900s. The Hunter papers constituted a much smaller collection and, as such, I was not prepared to find such a rich and varied amount of information regarding a time period (mainly 1870s-1930s) that is often under-explored and underrepresented in general historical accounts of African Americans in the United States.

The collection paints a broad picture of the evolution of race relations and racial thought during Hunter’s lifetime, including a change in the tone of his beliefs concerning the best way for Blacks to seek equality and dignity within the United States (a change which appears to coincide with increasingly strained race relations in the 1920s). Given Hunter’s extensive experience as an educator in North Carolina, the collection also provides unique insights into the daily workings of the education system for Black children in the post-war, rural South. Additionally, Hunter’s extensive personal correspondence can be found intermingled with the amazing sociological and historical perspectives that are present within his business and community papers. The placement of his personal triumphs and tragedies amidst his professional and community commitments gives his papers a uniquely human dimension. In examining the collection, it was personally difficult for me to see so many personal family tragedies unfold in what seemed like a short period; however, this allowed me to connect with the Hunter by way of seeing the relationship between his public and private life.

Birchbark letter
The bark from a Birch tree, collected and used as writing paper.

Within the Hunter papers, there are a wide variety of interesting artifacts, some of which include: a letter from a friend written on Birchbark (an amazing piece that is now quite thin and fragile); letters that provide greater elucidation of the daily business aspects of the operation of NC Mutual during the early 1900s; Hunter’s affectionate correspondence with the Haywood family, which owned his family prior to emancipation; and a blank 1850s “Slave Application” for the N.C. Mutual Life Insurance Company of Raleigh.

Slave Policy Insurance Form
An application for an insurance policy covering a slave, 1850s.

The latter company is one that was distinct from the N.C. Mutual that began its operations in Durham just before the turn of the 20th century, and the history of the Raleigh company is largely unknown or forgotten. In addition to offering general life and property insurance,  N.C. Mutual of Raleigh also allowed slave owners to take out policies covering their slaves for a limited number of years. It is unclear how or when Hunter came by this form, but the presence of this document within the collection brings forth the great irony of both a pre-Civil War N.C. Mutual that insured the lives of slaves and a completely separate post-Civil War N.C. Mutual that was created, owned, and operated solely by former slaves and the children of former slaves.

Post contributed by Jessica Carew, a Ph.D. candidate in the Political Science Department at Duke University and an intern in the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture.

Vive la France! et Manuscripts!

A few months ago, I processed the James Ludovic Lindsay Collection of French Manuscripts, which is by far the largest collection I have processed since I started working in Technical Services in October. As a freshman, I was incredibly excited to work on this collection. The collection is composed of 223 items, mostly letters and administrative papers, all dating to the French Revolutionary era (late 18th and early 19th century). Though the collection may not seem extremely appealing, unless you are an administrative papers-type person, it did have a few gems that are worth noting.

Let me begin with a little background on the collection. The collection was assembled by James Ludovic Lindsay, the 26th Earl of Crawford, and formed part of the larger “Bibliotheca Lindesiana,” a sizeable private library that Lindsay inherited from his father, Alexander, in the mid-1800s.  Like his father, Lindsay had a passion for French Revolutionary writings. While Duke does not hold Lindsay’s entire collection (it was auctioned to many different entities), we have acquired a few items that are quite unique.

Sophia and French manuscripts
Processing the Lindsay Collection of French Manuscripts

For example, scattered amongst mostly legal and administrative papers, I discovered a letter addressed to the Emperor Napoleon from a lawyer, Arnoud Joubert. The document was in perfect state, with no visible damage at all. I was most surprised by Joubert’s writing style (we also possess other letters from him). One would think that writing to an Emperor, especially once the monarchy had fallen, would require extreme politeness. However, Joubert did not make an extra effort towards Napoleon. This document, Box 3, Folder 160, made me wonder if there were other items of interest in the collection.

One such letter, from Cardinal Albani addressed to Alexander I, Emperor of Russia, requests the Emperor’s protection from French authorities. What is most interesting about this letter is that it is well-known that Alexander I and Napoleon had a tense relationship, and that Alexander often referred to Napoleon as “the oppressor of Europe and the disturber of the world’s peace.”  This just shows that despite the fall of the monarchy, which hypothetically should have lessened tensions in France, and pleased most French citizens, certain individuals still searched for asylum in other foreign countries.

Another thing that I was not prepared for was how the documents were dated. Many of them used the old French Republican calendar. Unlike our Gregorian calendar, this calendar began with the fall of the French Republic in 1789, which was then renamed Year I. For a little over 12 years, this calendar replaced the commonly used Gregorian calendar in France.

Processing this collection definitely improved my knowledge of older French, and I am confident I can now read any sort of handwriting. Some of the pieces were near illegible, and it was sometimes difficult to decipher what was being said. But do not worry: if you ever have to write a paper on this period, or even if you are just curious about old French manuscripts, you should take a look at these documents.

Post contributed by Sophia Durand, Technical Services student assistant and Trinity ’15.

Text Messages of Love

While this Valentine’s Day might result in many short love notes being traded via smartphones and Facebook walls, sweethearts sometimes used a different method in the early 20th century: the telegram. Ella Fountain Keesler Pratt, a Duke employee for almost thirty years (1956-1984), was the recipient of several sugar-coated missives delivered by Western Union in the 1930s. These are a few of the loveliest love letters, found while processing Ella’s papers.

Telegram from Duke
Duke begged, "Please give me a few dates ... Don't leave town if you do I'm coming after you."
Telegram from Frank
"Want date Sunday night No answer means Yes Love, Frank."
Valentine's Day telegram
A secret admirer rhymed, "Than my skeeter none is sweeter if she'd only write."
Telegram from Lanny
"Incidentally I Love You," signs Lanny.

Ms. Pratt eventually married Lanier “Lanny” Pratt in 1938; he attended graduate classes and then taught at Duke University until his death in 1956. He must have said something right!

Post contributed by Rosemary K. J. Davis, Drill Intern, University Archives.

Beat UNC (Archives)!

Football Game Program Cover, Duke vs. UNC, 1967The fighting spirit of Blue Devil competitiveness doesn’t apply to only basketball and other sports—we’re  staging a little (Facebook) battle royale of our own:




The rules are very simple. Whichever institution gets the most NEW “Likes” for their Facebook page between today and tipoff (7:00 PM) for the March 3rd Duke vs. UNC basketball game wins! The winner will bask in electronic glory, while the loser will be required to change their Facebook profile to an image of their opponent’s choice. Big stakes, indeed.

So if you haven’t already, pop over to Facebook and “Like” the Duke University Archives page. Share the word with your friends so we can defeat our powder blue foes! Of course, you’ll also get the pleasure of learning more about Duke history while you’re at it—seems like a win/win all around.

Go Duke University Archives!

Historical Blue Devil vs. Historical Ramses, 1957
Historical Blue Devil vs. Historical Ramses, 1957. From the 1958 Chanticleer.

Post contributed by Rosemary K. J. Davis, Duke University Archives Drill Intern.