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Archive for the ‘Acquisitions’ Category

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Valentine Vaux title page

The Adventures of Valentine Vaux, or, The Tricks of a Ventriloquist / by Timothy Portwine

Valentine Vaux woodcut on part no 3

This is another “penny dreadful” (you can read an earlier post about others in our collection). “Timothy Portwine” was actually the prolific Thomas Peckett Prest, who also wrote many parodies (or plagiarisms!) of Dickens’ works under the pseudonym “Bos.” Prest or his contemporary James Malcolm Rymer are usually credited with the authorship of The String of Pearls, or, The Barber of Fleet Street, in which the character Sweeney Todd had his first appearance. Valentine Vaux is a parody/plagiarism/lampoon of Henry Cockton’s The Life and Adventures of Valentine Vox, the Ventriloquist.

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Christmas came early to the Archives & Special Collections when we received two boxes of books by Native American authors from Amherst College alumnus Peter Webb (Class of 1974) just before we closed up shop for our holiday break. There are many exciting items in this very generous gift, including copies of some of Charles Eastman’s books in their original dust jackets, but this item eclipses all the others:

Samson Occom. A Sermon... (1772)

Samson Occom. A Sermon… (1772)

Hmmm…a piece of an old newspaper? (more…)

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The last time I wrote about detective work in my job, I mentioned “authority work” and linked to the Library of Congress’ explanation of what it entails. Here’s another example, from earlier this week.

I began to catalog these two recently-purchased pamphlets from the 1940s:

Navajo Life Series: Primer and The Little Turtle, early mimeographed versions from 1942 and 1943.

Navajo Life Series: Primer and The Little Turtle, early mimeographed versions from 1942 and 1943.

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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. (more…)

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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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I am delighted to announce that we have nearly completed cataloging the whole of the Younghee Kim-Wait/Pablo Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection. As of this morning, 1,372 titles are now included in the Five College Libraries Catalog and the books themselves are on the shelves in the Archives & Special Collections ready to be used. (Except for those on display in our current exhibition: Native Voices/Native Books, on view through July 31.) Our spectacular catalogers expect to wrap up cataloging the last few items by the end of May.

As soon as the cataloging of the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg books is finished, we will turn our attention to working through the 500+ books we recently purchased to build on that collection. Last month we took delivery of another 20 cartons of books, this time from the personal collection of Joseph Bruchac, noted author, editor and publisher. Bruchac’s personal papers — his manuscripts, correspondence, and other documents of his deep involvement with Native American writing — are held by the Beinecke Library at Yale University. The books we acquired were owned by Joseph Bruchac, but are generally not particularly rare or valuable in and of themselves.

So why did we purchase this collection?

Because of items like these:

Masterpieces of American Indian Literature (1993)

Masterpieces of American Indian Literature (1993)

The Portable North American Indian Reader (1974)

The Portable North American Indian Reader (1974)

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