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Wandering through our stacks the other day, my eye was caught by a small collection of paperbacks with bold modernist cover art and the intriguing publisher “Paper Books” listed on the spine.

The Masters of the Day of Judgement Continue Reading »

Gibney in 1936 from an advertisement in Fortune magazine for Dictaphone.

A recent acquisition that we purchased at auction was a folder of letters written to Sheridan Gibney (AC 1925). Gibney was a very successful playwright, Oscar-winning Hollywood screenwriter, and three-time president of the Screenwriter’s Guild. He wrote dozens of successful screenplays, two of which, in particular, became film classics: I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) and The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936), both starring Paul Muni. For the Pasteur biopic, Gibney won two Oscars for Best Writing.

The newly acquired letters will make a good addition to our existing collection of Gibney’s papers.

Gibney’s third and final tenure as president of the Screenwriter’s Guild coincided with the infamous anti-Communist “witch hunt” by the House Un-American Activities Committee beginning in 1947. For that reason, his career is a representative case for the fraught relationship between culture and politics. As he wrote in his brief unpublished memoir (available in his biographical file in the Archives), Gibney always considered himself to be against Communism, but his position as guild president brought his career to a halt when the so-called “unfriendly witnesses” at the House committee hearings implicated the Screenwriter’s Guild as a hotbed of Communism — and Gibney was guilty by association.

Gibney's senior portrait in the 1925 Olio, the college yearbook.

Gibney’s senior portrait in the 1925 Olio, the college yearbook.

His success in drama notwithstanding, Gibney’s great love, especially during his undergraduate years at Amherst, was poetry. Robert Frost considered him one of his best pupils. At one critical point in his undergraduate career, Gibney felt alienated by what he perceived as a lack of intellectual seriousness at Amherst. He considered dropping out to write and travel in Europe, citing Frost as his model: he, Frost, never earned a college degree yet supported himself by writing, teaching and lecturing — even, for a time, farming. Continue Reading »

Cool Thoughts on the Consequences to Great Britain of American Independence (London, 1780)

Cool Thoughts on the Consequences to Great Britain of American Independence (London, 1780)

The title for this week’s blog is adapted from this 1780 pamphlet by Joseph Galloway, one of dozens of such publications available for use in the Archives & Special Collections. While we don’t claim anything like the comprehensive coverage of the published debates around the American Revolution available at places like the American Antiquarian Society, we do have a respectable teaching collection.

Between these examples and the eighteenth-century manuscripts in the Plimpton French and Indian War Items and the Lord Jeffery Amherst collections, researchers can gain insight into the tumultuous decades between the 1750s and the close of the American Revolution in 1783. [Note that many items from the Jeffery Amherst Collection are now available online, and digitization of that collection is ongoing.]

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Last week, Doshisha University President Koji Murata and Amherst College President Biddy Martin met to formally extend the already friendly relationship between the two schools that dates back to 1875.  (See photos of the signing ceremony.)  This recent event prompted me to look back at the origins of our relationship with Doshisha, and consequently at the founder of the University, Joseph Hardy Neesima.

Joseph Hardy Neesima

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A page from this volume.

A page from this volume.

There was some celebrating back in early May, when we completed the cataloging of the 1,397 titles in the Younghee Kim-Wait/Pablo Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection. Thankfully, no one got Gatorade poured on them, as had been threatened. I thought I would share in this post a little bit of the detective work that the last few titles required, and suggest questions that may be worth further research.

At first glance, a collection of poetry, stories, and art created in 1969 by students at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) certainly looked as if it were a one-of-a-kind manuscript. Indeed, a note from the book dealer had called it “a unique collection.” Closer examination revealed that the text was printed (probably by silk-screening), although some of the artwork may have been done by hand before the printing. With no title page on our copy, I searched WorldCat in several different ways before I felt confident that there are at least two other copies of this work in libraries, one at the New Mexico State Library, and one at UC Davis. I suspect no copy has an actual title page, and this can lead to different libraries accidentally cataloging the same work in different ways. The copy at UC Davis was given a title based on the first poem in the book…which can be a valid choice according to cataloging rules, but sometimes is confusing for researchers.

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I am freshly returned to the Archives after a wonderful trip to Austin, TX to attend the annual conference of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA). The conference was a fantastic gathering of people from all walks of life and I heard many inspiring presentations and talked excitedly about the research opportunities supported by the new collections at Amherst College.

Upon my return to the library this morning, I was greeted with two boxes full of books for our Native American collections donated by Peter Webb, Class of 1974. Before I get to some of the items Peter donated, I want to mention another gift from Bob Giddings, Class of 1965.

Instruction for the Indians

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Philopogonian Don Carlos Taft

Philopogonian Don Carlos Taft

2014 marks the 162nd anniversary of the graduation of the Class of 1852. I wish there were a nice name for a 162nd anniversary — perhaps somebody can concoct one. In the meantime, the consolation I offer is that their septaquintaquinquecentennial is only 13 years away. Mark your calendars.

This blog has featured the Class of 1852 before – they are the Philopogonians. In addition to that entertaining bit of history, the class also left us a nice photographic record of their presence in the form of a composite daguerreotype showing 42 daguerreotypes as well as the 42 individual, well-identified daguerreotypes shown in the composite.

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