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Archive for January, 2013

Sabrina goes all Sweeney Todd

Sabrina goes all Sweeney Todd

Early in the fall semester of 1850 a group of guys from the Class of 1852 sat around waiting for Professor of Greek William S. Tyler to show up for his class. At one point the small talk turned to the subject of shaving – what do you want to bet that one of them had cut himself that morning and was sporting a nice rip in his face? The others would have noticed it and teased him about it but they would all have had the same experience. Back then, shaving was a real chore. It required a straight razor, tools for honing and stropping, and a knowledge of how to keep a blade sharp enough to get a good shave.  It would also take practice to get good at it and keep the nicks and cuts to a minimum. A man could go to a barber for a professional shave, but most of the time he probably had to fend for himself. On a winter day in a dorm room this could mean freezing water and stiff fingers wielding an unforgiving blade. No doubt the men waiting for Professor Tyler agreed that it would be nice not to have to shave at all. And so the Philopogonia Society – the Society of Beard-Lovers — was born that day.

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Bunker Redux

shelvesIt’s time for another Report from the Bunker! This time highlighting a small selection from the uncataloged 19th century books that we’ve recently begun exploring.

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fowler-2-detail

You have a hardy, enduring organization indicating a great amount of both mental and physical power. Your head is more than usually uniform in its developments, the brain is large densely organized & well proportioned to the muscular and vital indications. Your constitution favors a combination of mental & physical labor, but in which mind must take the lead and give [word missing] to all your efforts. — Your temperament is not favorable to enthusiasm, ardor & excitement, but inclines you more to cool dispassionate reading and deliberate conclusions, & to patient plodding investigations, yet you are not deficient in mental activity, intensity of thought nor power of feeling but these tendencies are all so regulated as to secure a harmonious and uniform action. The mental tendency is indicated by your large brain, sharpness of feature, and firmness in the texture of organization. The power of endurance whether mental or muscular is seen in the prominent or motive temperament & in the density & compactness of the organization. The continuity and uniformity of mental action is the result of your large Concentrativeness, Cautiousness and Firmness, and a predominance of the reasoning organs….

So begins the report of a phrenological examination of the head of Edward Hitchcock (Edward and Orra White Hitchcock Papers, box 1, folder 2). As such, we have a wonderful case study in 19th-century pseudoscience.

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Last month Amherst College announced a bold new publishing initiative: The Amherst College Press. This new press will be entirely open access — it will produce academic works to the highest standards then give these works away online for free. Bryn Geffert, Librarian of the College, is leading this initiative and frequently invokes the Amherst College motto — Terras irradient “Let them give light to the world” — when he describes his vision for this venture.

Kate's doughnuts.

Kate’s doughnuts. (AC 889)

In same spirit of open access and sharing our light with the world, we are delighted to announce that all of the manuscripts of Emily Dickinson held by Amherst College are now freely available for viewing by anyone with an internet connection anywhere in the world. Last summer the Digital Programs department in Frost Library worked closely with the team in Academic Technology Services to set up a new digital assets management system called Amherst College Digital Collections (ACDC for short). In addition to thousands of images that support the work of Art & Art History students and faculty, ACDC is home to a growing volume of unique materials drawn from the vast holdings of the Archives & Special Collections. The obvious candidate for the first Archives collection to mount in ACDC was Emily Dickinson.

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