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Archive for February, 2014

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, Sonnet V: XVI

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, Sonnet V: XVI

Between March 15 and May 17, 1857, there were thirteen births recorded in Greenfield, Massachusetts. In the same two months, there were four maternal deaths from puerperal fever (or “childbed fever”), a highly contagious infection. Those were not good odds for a pregnant woman.¹

The third of those four deaths, on May 12, was that of Anna (formally Hannah) Tuckerman, beautiful and deeply beloved wife of poet Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821-1873). Anna was 29 and had already borne three children, one of whom had died shortly after birth, while the other two, Edward and Anna, were now, in 1857, children of 7 and 4 respectively. The fourth birth – that of her son Frederick – went well enough at first; that is, the child was born on May 7 and lived. But shortly after his birth, Anna began to suffer the effects of the infection. Letters in the archives from shocked relatives – her husband’s aunt, her sister- and brothers-in-law – reveal that she “suffered fifty convulsion fits & seemed to suffer intensely” and that her illness lasted five days. Her husband, who was probably with her all through the birth and subsequent illness, was “all but frantick [sic] with grief…” “What will poor Frederick do!” wrote his sister-in-law, Sarah Tuckerman, ” and those poor children too, left without a mother!  How short is life, how near is death to us.  I feel so sad that I can hardly write.”

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Here in Archives and Special Collections, we tend to talk a lot about the material history of our books. Often the idea is a new one to students who are used to thinking of books as texts not objects.

These days, my favorite book-as-object topic is early library marks. We have many books with bookplates from personal and institutional libraries – which is not surprising since the wealthy and educated were for many centuries the primary consumers of books. It isn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries that literacy and books become more available to the middle and lower classes and we begin to see ownership marks from social, circulating and public libraries. It is these questions of who had access to books, which books, under what terms, and in service of what guiding ideology, that I find most fascinating.

First Social Library in Sterling

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Here in the Reading Room of the Special Collections, we have on semi-permanent exhibit a 3 piece unique art collection comprised of a newspaper publication, a lead-encased book of posters, and a one-of-a-kind art installation.  The installation consists of 432 color slides permanently mounted in a sizable light box.  The slides show the creation and in situ installations of street art posters from Bullet Space’s “Your House is Mine” project. The light box itself is constructed from a frame originally used for the silkscreen printing of the posters.

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Richard B. Aldridge (AC 1952)

Portrait of Aldridge taken in 1980 by Abbie Sewall Schultz

Amherst College recently received the papers of poet Richard B. Aldridge (AC 1952). Aldridge lived from 1930-1994,  edited several poetry anthologies, including Poetry Amherst (1972), and published numerous volumes of his own poetry during his lifetime.

His papers are a fascinating variety of material, including draft and unpublished poetry, a wealth of correspondence with prominent literary figures, a scrapbook from his years at Amherst, emotionally fraught letters between Aldridge and his mother (who disapproved of both his first fiancée, the novelist Janet Burroway, and later of his wife, Josephine Haskell Aldridge), childhood letters from Aldridge’s mother at boarding school in India to her own father, a civilian employee handbook from the National Security Agency with amusing 1950s clip-art (Aldridge briefly worked for the NSA in 1952), and more.

Some of my favorite items in the collection, though, are Aldridge’s childhood stories and artwork. Like the Nelson brothers collection that Mariah wrote about several weeks ago, Aldridge’s childhood creations give a glimpse into the mind of a young boy processing the world around him.

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Title page of The White Wampum

Title page of The White Wampum (read digitized version from HathiTrust)

The last time we posted about the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection was in November, and Mike happened to mention a 1931 biography called The Mohawk Princess. The subject of that biography was E. Pauline Johnson (1861-1913) also known as Tekahionwake. Thanks to the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg collection, we now hold first edition copies of all six of Johnson’s books. Johnson was one of the first Native American women to publish poetry and prose, and “one of Canada’s leading poets of the late nineteenth century…notable because she celebrated her Mohawk heritage at a time when it was not fashionable; she wrote about the Canadian landscape from a native perspective.”¹

Emily Pauline Johnson was born on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario. Her father was a Mohawk leader named George Henry Martin Johnson and her mother was Emily Susanna Howells, born in England. Johnson’s writing style reflects the influence of the English Romantics as well as stories learned from her paternal grandfather. Johnson published poems in newspapers and magazines in the 1880s and 1890s.

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