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Archive for February, 2012

Didier Mutel speaking about “The Out Side” in Archives and Special Collections

The Amherst College Libraries have a strong collection of artists’ books, some in Special Collections and many more in Frost. When combined with collections at Smith, Hampshire, and UMass, the Pioneer Valley is home to rich resources for those studying all forms of the book arts.

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“Vinnie says the dear friend would like the rule. We have no statutes here, but each does as it will, which is the sweetest jurisprudence.  With it, I enclose Love’s ‘remainder biscuit,’…”   (-Emily Dickinson)

Sarah Tuckerman, c. 1855

Sometime in March of 1878 Emily Dickinson sent a note with a “rule” (a recipe) and a sample of some slightly scorched caramels (the “biscuit” mentioned above) to Sarah Tuckerman, wife of Amherst College Professor of Botany Edward Tuckerman.  Sarah (known as Lizzie to her friends and family) lived less than a mile south of Dickinson in a large house she and her husband called “Applestead,” pleasantly located where the Amherst College Cage now stands.  Dickinson’s note to Sarah was published in early volumes of her letters, and repeated as Thomas Johnson’s letter 545, but the original manuscript seems to be lost, or is perhaps in private hands.  Although Dickinson doesn’t mention “caramel” in her note, Johnson observed that Amherst College possesses an associated Photostat of a letter from Dickinson cousin Fanny Norcross to Lavinia Dickinson that says “Now I will give you the caramel rule.”  Jay Leyda transcribed the Photostat at more length in his Years and Hours, although he omits the rule itself.  Eventually, the rule made its way from the Photostat in the Archives to publication in the booklet Emily Dickinson: Profile of the Poet as Cook (1976; 2010).

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William Maxwell letter to Louise Bogan, (1945?). In: Louise Bogan Papers (box 12, folder 13), Amherst College Library.

Amherst College is fortunate to have the literary papers of poet and critic Louise Bogan (1897-1970).  Bogan was poetry critic for The New Yorker for thirty-eight years. One of the greatest treasures in her papers are the nearly four hundred items of correspondence with writer and fellow New Yorker staffer William Maxwell.  Bogan, eleven years his senior, met Maxwell in 1936, shortly after he joined the magazine as an editor. She soon recognized Maxwell’s prodigious talents for fiction and served as his muse and advisor.  Gradually they became close friends and artistic co-equals.

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1974 Black Studies brochure

We may not normally think of the establishment of an academic department as an event with political significance, but sometimes social change can lead directly to recognition of necessary parallel changes in scholarship and academic culture. The establishment of the Black Studies Department at Amherst College is one example of this. Amherst College Archives and Special Collections contains records, clippings and publications across several collections which together document the story of how the department came to be.

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