A Window into a Life’s Work: The Eddy Papers

N.B.: The following post was written by Bo Reynolds, a recent M.Div. graduate from Union and current archives assistant processing the papers of Norman and Margaret Eddy with the generous financial support of the Eddy family. Read more to learn about Bo’s spring working with this collection at the Burke! And congratulations to Bo and the rest of Union’s Class of 2017!

Since November 2016 I’ve been working as an intern in the Burke Library, specifically hired to process the Norman and Peg Eddy papers. The collection is a large one, with their photos, journals, correspondence, and personal archives filling 86 banker’s boxes which, when lined up side to side, extend over 118 linear feet. Norman and Margaret (Peg) were both Union alumni, members of the class of 1951, and dedicated their lives to ministering in East Harlem, initially through involvement with the East Harlem Protestant Parish and continuing with the different ministries and churches which were the heirs of EHPP’s spiritual legacy. Norman and Peg’s family, particularly their daughter Martha Eddy, continue to be actively involved with the collection as they work on compiling a biographical narrative of their parent’s faith and service.

Peg and Norman, May 30, 1951, shortly after their graduation from Union. UTS1: Norman and Margaret Eddy Papers, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York

 

I have a greater grasp on Norman’s life than I do Peg’s by virtue of his many varied autobiographical efforts and his meticulous preservation of his journals, essays, work-related materials, and correspondence dating back into his year spent as an exchange student at The Stowe School in 1937-1938 (where he became acquainted with Christopher Robin, son of AA Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh). Norman later studied at Yale, while Peg studied at Smith. Norman completed his course of study at Yale early, leading the class effort to acquire their degrees ahead of schedule in order to be able to serve in the war effort; he volunteered for the American Field Service as an ambulance driver.

 

Peg’s Union Diploma, May 22, 1951. UTS1: Norman and Margaret Eddy Papers, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

 

Both Norm and Peg were drawn to pursue theological study by the experience of a

spiritual vision: His was in the Syrian desert, hers at a light house in Nantucket. They both sensed that the Holy Spirit was at work broadly within the world, drawing people of faith and goodwill into cooperative efforts to address social ills; they both entered Union Theological Seminary in 1948, married in 1950, and graduated and were ordained in Congregationalist churches in 1951. They had become individually aware of the ministry efforts in East Harlem by the East Harlem Protestant Parish during their time at UTS and became co-pastors of the 100th street storefront church for the first five years of their ministries.

Norman and Peg lived and worked in East Harlem for the entirety of their ministries, with a deep commitment not only to their parishioners, but to the neighborhood itself and its citizens. I am not studying archival science; I came to Union Theological Seminary in order to prepare myself for parish ministry in the Episcopal Church. As I spend time organizing, preserving, and reading the materials left behind by Norman and Peg Eddy, I am continually inspired by the work and faith of the Eddy family. Their energy seems boundless as they tackled school reform, local elections, the formation of a credit union, the construction of two new church buildings, a committee to assist those addicted to Narcotics, global travel, interfaith work, and numerous sermons and essays. Their love for their neighborhood and their neighbors is immediately evident the amount of support, tangible and intangible, that they gave through reference letters for first-generation college students, advocacy and pastoral support for the incarcerated, anonymous donations to families in need, housing and shelter for those who had none; the list goes on.

Some of Norman’s letters from WWII (January, April, June 1943). UTS1: Norman and Margaret Eddy Papers, the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

I am mindful, however, not to stray into writing hagiography. Their life’s work came with great personal cost at times and there are many instances of setback, heartbreak, and frustration present in their letters and journals. For me, though, the Eddys represent a life of true solidarity with those that they served. They lived in the community alongside their parishioners and made the cares and struggles of East Harlem their own. I read and handle their materials with deep gratitude for their race well-run and for the opportunity to encounter their ministries and stories in such a deeply personal manner. As I graduate and move on from Union towards a life of ordained ministry, I will remember the example and faith of Norman and Peg Eddy as I seek to walk in solidarity with people of faith and goodwill in service to ‘the least of these’.

Organizing for Racial Justice, 1960s and Today: A conference recap

The public-facing work of #LoveInAction:Voices in Social Justice culminated on May 3rd with a one-day conference held in Union Theological Seminary’s Social Hall, “Organizing for Racial Justice, 1960s and Today.”  The conference, an inter-school (Columbia and Union), inter-departmental (the Burke Library, the student fellows, Union alumni/ae, the Office of Alumni/ae Relations, and the Office of Student Affairs), inter-generational collaboration (I believe the ages of those involved with the planning ranged from 20 to 90!), featured Union alum that were involved in the Student Interracial Ministry in dialogue with current Union students and faculty.  Consisting of four panels, the day’s events were so rich, so charged with energy, that now upon reflection two weeks later, my words seem lacking in comparison.  Luckily for us, all of the panels were taped and will be available soon!

Flyer for “Organizing For Racial Justice, 1960s and Today.”

The conference started off by a welcome and general introduction by yours truly.  I made sure to scoot off the scene quickly so Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. (’62) and storäe michele (class of 2017) could open  the conference.  Each read powerful poems they had written at different points in their lives.  The poem Dr. Forbes shared was written shortly after the legal integration of lunch counters in the South, where he had suffered an unfair and unjust encounter.  storäe read a powerful poem she had written in response.  The second panel, “Setting the Context: Racism and Student Activist in the 1960s,” was led by Dr. David Cline, author of From Reconciliation to Revolution: The Student Interracial Ministry, Liberal Christianity, and the Civil Rights Movement, 1960 to 1970, who gave a brief history of the Student Interracial Ministry.  After which Rev. George D. McClain (’64), Rev. Charles M. Sherrod (’66), Petra Thombs (M.Div. candidate), Benjamin Van Dyne (class of 2017), and Virginia Wadsley (’67) gave their responses.  All focused on their own personal experiences, for Rev. Sherrod, Rev. McClain, and Wadlsey these centered around their involvement with SIM.  Thombs and Van Dyne offered a critical lens from their own personal experiences at and around Union.

Rev. Dr. Douglas during her presentation, “White Supremacy in the Age of Trump.”

The afternoon sessions were started off with a talk by Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas (’82) based on her book Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, “White Supremacy in the Age of Trump.”  Union student and #LoveInAction fellow, Tabatha Holley (M.Div. candidate) and Director of Alumni/ae Relations, Dr. Marvin M. Ellison (’81) co-moderatored the session, with Dr. Ellison introducing Dr. Douglas.  After Dr. Douglas’ talk, Holley asked some questions to get the conversation started.  Last but certainly not least was the final panel of the day, “White Supremacy and Student Activism Today,” which featured a mix of current Union students and professors including, Associate Professor of Ecumenical Studies, Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung (’87); Jessica Halperin (M.Div. candidate); Yazmine Nichols (class of 2017); Kaio Thompson (class of 2017); Assistant Professor of Homiletics, Dr. Lisa L. Thompson; and Wesley Morris (class of 2017). The panel was introduced by one of the SIM founders, John Collins (’61), and the questions moderated by #LoveInAction fellow, Kristine Chong (MA candidate). Each panelist gave extremely poignant and personal stories about where they were coming from with regard to social activism, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Shirley M. Sherrod speaking at the Union Medal ceremony, James Chapel, Union Theological Seminary, May 3, 2017.

The conference was followed by a Union Medal ceremony that honored Rev. Charles M. Sherrod (’66) and Shirley M. Sherrod for their lifetime of work for racial justice in Southwest Georgia.  As with the entire day, the ceremony is hard to justly give summary to.  Opening with the remarkable documentary about the Sherrod’s tireless efforts, Arc of Justice: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of a Beloved Community, the Sherrods were individually presented with the Union Medal.

 

 

 

 

 

Stay turned for more blog posts about the various components of #LoveInAction: Voices In Social Justice!

Meeting “Pit”: Processing the Henry Pitney Van Dusen Papers

N.B.: The Burke Archives had the good fortune of inviting Olivia Rutigliano to be our Intern in Primary Sources for the 2016-2017 year. During this time, she has processed the papers of Henry Pitney Van Dusen, one of Union’s most well-known presidents. Read below to learn about Olivia’s first experience processing a large archival collection, Union’s history, and Van Dusen’s legacy.

In my capacity as Columbia’s Primary Source Intern for the 2016-2017 academic year, I have been working at Burke Library, processing an exhaustive collection of documents once belonging to Henry Pitney Van Dusen (1897-1975), who served as president of Union Theological Seminary from 1945-1963. The wide-ranging collection includes material concerning his teaching and academic responsibilities, his many book and article projects, his ministry and outreach, and his work for various international and domestic ecumenical committees and conferences, as well as his personal correspondence, and other materials or publications relating to his life as a public intellectual.

Portrait of HPVD. UTS1: Henry Pitney Van Dusen Papers, the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

In short, it is a huge collection. In fact, before the collection had begun being processed, it took 72 banker’s boxes to hold the entire thing. Throughout the fall and spring semesters, my chief responsibilities principally included sorting through these boxes — organizing and classifying this large volume of materials within various definitive categories, removing them from packaging that might be chemically or physically hazardous to their preservation, locating dates and other identifying information for the contents, and producing a clear and intuitive Finding Aid, to help future researchers navigate the collection with ease.

Now, after nearly all the materials have been organized and sorted into (smaller, sleeker, and clearly delineated) manuscript boxes, we estimate that the collection physically spans around 100 linear feet (archival collections are measured the total width of every box in the collection). The collection contains letters, memos, sermons, lectures, photographs, magazines, pamphlets, programs, index and business cards, and entire book manuscripts, as well as countless drafts of both chapters and individual essays. It also contains several children’s illustrations completed in crayon on construction paper (likely made by Van Dusen’s children), messages from such longtime pals as John Foster Dulles (who filed a legal brief on his behalf, arguing that Van Dusen, who caused an outcry by admitting that he did not believe that Christ was literally born of a virgin, should not have his his minister’s ordination questioned by the Presbyterian General Assembly), and several copies of the 1954 Time, with Van Dusen as the magazine’s cover story.

A letter from Eleanor Roosevelet to HPVD. UTS1: Henry Pitney Van Dusen Papers, Series 8, Box 15, Folder 1. The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York

A PhD student in Columbia’s English and Theatre departments, specializing in Victorian entertainment, I barely had any exposure to Van Dusen’s prolific and distinguished career prior to processing his papers. As I began to read and sort through his documents, I learned about the depth of his various worlds, and the impact of his tremendous influence. Indeed, Van Dusen was a prominent thinker and sought-after academic, whose expertise and engagement was vast — spanning very many contemporary issues. I processed many files of sermons and articles directly addressing contemporary theological and socio-political debates, as well as his own personal ruminations on ethical matters. He was the engineer behind many massive organizations of which I had heard, such as the World Council of Churches. He was also, I learned, an entrenched New Yorker — a descendant of one of New York City’s oldest families, who had been here since it inhabited a few hundred people and was called New Amsterdam. (Personally, I can claim three generations of family in the city — he could claim ten.) The Van Dusen family has, in its family tree, U.S. Presidents Martin Van Buren and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as well as, I just found out, the Brooklyn-based clothing designer Dusen Dusen.

Letter from John Masefield on the birth of John George Van Dusen. UTS1: Henry Pitney Van Dusen Papers, Series 8, Box 2, Folder 1. The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting two members of the Van Dusen family, Hugh, Van Dusen’s second son, and Hans, his grandson. They stopped by Burke to check out the collection, and I was delighted to show them a few items from it: birth announcements, letters of congratulations (including from UK poet laureate John Masefield) and a baby photo of Van Dusen’s oldest son, John George, as well as (a personal favorite of mine) a series of letters exchanged between Van Dusen and Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1954, through which Roosevelt enlisted Van Dusen’s help to work the Membership Drive Committee for the American Association for the United Nations. 

It was wonderful to meet Van Dusen’s family, who were excited to look at the documents and glad to chat about them; spending weeks upon weeks organizing and filing his material legacy, it was both lovely and uncanny to meet the people who had known him the best, during the life that he had documented so well. 

Missionary Research Library Pamphlets: 3,000+ Now Available Online!

Global in scope and including materials from as far back as the 18th century, the Missionary Research Library (MRL), housed at the Burke Library, chronicles world history and the efforts of Protestant missionaries both in the United States and abroad. The MRL contains over 20,000 pamphlets (among other items) and now, thanks to the hard work and dedication of Columbia’s Libraries Preservation and Digital Conversion staff, more than 3,000 have been fully digitized and are freely accessible online!

An outcome of the World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh, 1910, the MRL was founded in 1914 by John R. Mott (with funding from John D. Rockefeller, Jr.) in connection with the Foreign Missions Conference of North America. In 1929, the MRL was housed in the Brown Memorial Tower of Union Theological Seminary, its Board of Trustees composed of FMCNA (later DOM-NCCCUSA) and UTS members. In 1976, its unique collections, the documentary heritage of Ecumenical Protestantism, were transferred into the care of the Burke Library.

The MRL Archives contains collections of named missionaries’ papers and institutional records within 12 geographic divisions:

Series 1. Africa
Series 2. Near/Middle East
Series 3. South Asia
Series 4. Southeast Asia
Series 5. East Asia
Series 6. China
Series 7. Japan
Series 8. Korea
Series 9. Latin America
Series 10. North America
Series 11. Australia and Oceania
Series 12. Ecumenical/World Mission

The digitization work will continue this year as we look forward to sharing even more pamphlets from the MRL collection with the world. For anyone interested in MRL, please see the finding aids for the 12 archival series and Columbia’s catalog, CLIO, for individual pamphlets within the collection.

Ethiopian Holdings at the Burke

The Thompson Collection — 77 printed works as well as 9 manuscripts acquired in 1923 as a gift from philanthropist Mary Clark Thompson — comprises a small but important section of the Burke Library’s special collections, containing several of its most celebrated printed Bibles. These include the 1611 King James Version, the 1661 Algonguian Bible (sometimes called the “Eliot Indian Bible”), and the Hebrew and Greek testaments owned and annotated by poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Mary Clark Thompson (1835-1923), from the Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park

The Thompson Collection includes a copy of the first book printed in the Ethiopic: the Psalterium Aethiopicum(The work is also known as the Psalterium David et cantica aliqua in lingua Chaldea, reflecting the erroneous belief on the part of its sponsor and publisher that Ge’ez — ancient Ethiopic, now used primarily as a liturgical language — was related to the near eastern language Chaldean.) In order to print the work, the Ge’ez type had to be designed and cut, an important moment in the history of printing technology. King’s College London has digitized their copy of this work as an online exhibit well worth further exploration.

Psalm 1 in the Burke Library’s copy of the Psalterium Aethiopicum (Thompson CB46 .4 1513)

The Burke Library also holds 5 Ethiopic manuscripts, dating from the 18th to the 20th centuries. Ethiopic Manuscript 5 was partially digitized, showing here both an illumination of Christ as the Lamb of God as well as its maḫdär, a leather satchel used for transport.

A passage from the 2005 Columbia University Libraries exhibition of which it was a part provides further some context:

This collection of Ethiopian magical prayers includes those that can be used against demons for each day of the week, and prayers for overcoming enemies. It also includes “images,” an “image” being a hymn in honor of a saint in which the different members of his or her body are addressed in successive stages. The book is bound in wooden boards covered in reddish tooled leather in which crosses have been worked. The leather carrying case was used to facilitate easy and safe transport. The manuscript’s elegant script is enhanced by two kinds of decoration: abstract, linear motifs that highlight textual transitions and figural representations. This is a fine example of an African-Christian culture to which the African-American community has, from earliest days, looked as a source and model.

Behind the Stacks: “At a single view” – Shimeall’s A Complete Ecclesiastical Chart

Close-up of the 15th and 16th century sections in Shimeall’s A Complete Ecclesiastical Chart, showing proximity of the advent of printing and the Reformation

One of the joys of my job as Collections Services Assistant is the ability to browse the closed stacks where we store our rare books and special collections. One item I happened to find recently was too large and unwieldy to simply peek at, and since there’s no telling when some reader will next request this item for it to see the light of day, I brought it down to our conference room to spread it out and admire the scale and detail of this chart.

Full view of the 3.5 feet wide circular chart

 

Created by Richard Cunningham Shimeall in 1833, and revised at the latest in 1853, this item may be best described by listing its full title:

A COMPLETE ECCLESIASTICAL CHART, From the earliest Records, SACRED AND PROFANE, DOWN TO THE PRESENT DAY; SHOWING ITS CONNECTION WITH CIVIL HISTORY AND PROPHECY: And exhibiting at a single view, the IDENTITY AND PERPETUITY of the CHURCH, IN HER ADVERSE AND PROSPEROUS STATES, UNDER THE Mosaic and Christian Dispensations, And embracing a detailed account of the Political Events, External History, Internal Government, Religious Observances, and growing corruptions of the Church; and of the REFORMATION: AND EMBRACING THE NAMES OF REMARKABLE PERSONS; Viz. Bishops, Popes, Martyrs, Writers, Doctors, Philosophers, Emperors, &c. And a general survey of Doctrines, Sects, Councils, and Prevailing Philosophy; The comparative Rise, Revolutions, and Fall, of the PRINCIPAL EMPIRES IN THE WORLD, And a complete Nucleus to the FULFILMENT OF PROPHECY OF THE WHOLE.

Section of chart showing figures and events of the “Æra of the Jewish Church”

In the accompanying key to the chart (also available in digitized form), Shimeall describes how the chart is to be read and how he has used shapes, colors, and placement to indicate the changing size or influence of the Church in relation to civil and political events.

Data visualization, 19th century-style: section of chart showing the “Æra of the Christian Church” and the use of widths of color bands to show comparative social forces in time.

Truly a feast of type, decoration, and illustration, the chart was engraved and printed by Samuel Styles of New York. Imagine composing and proofing for this job!

Close-up of the 1st century section, showing a box that seems to have been mistakenly left blank

Calling the chart his “Great Circle,” Shimeall chose the circular shape to “serve as an intimation of [the Church of the living God’s] final recovery to a state of eternal peace and glory.”

Close-up of vignette in the 19th century section, depicting an angel and a broken hourglass, seeming to herald the “Prelude to the close of time.”

The Burke Library’s copies of the key to the chart come with pages of contemporary testimonials and reviews, and many of the reviewers express the sentiment that they could not do justice to the exhaustive detail of the chart and recommend that the work be viewed in person. And indeed, we welcome and invite you to view this or other rare books held by the Burke Library.  To learn more about visiting our library or to make an appointment please visit our website.

“Our Spiritual Industry Will Go on Uninterrupted…”: The Construction Fire at Riverside Church, 1928

In an earlier blog post about Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick, a Union alumnus/professor and the founding pastor at The Riverside Church, I described his ministry to American servicemen and women during WWII despite his fierce commitment to pacifism. The Burke’s collection of Fosdick’s papers covers most of his adult life and prolific career as a leader in liberal theology, spanning the first six decades of the 20th century. Given the significance of The Riverside Church in Fosdick’s life and work, there is a substantial amount of material in his papers relating to the church’s history. One of the more fascinating stories (among many) is the enormous construction fire in 1928 that delayed the church’s opening.

Financed by John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s vast fortune, construction on The Riverside Church began in 1926 and by the end of 1928 great progress had been made. A published photo taken on Dec. 18, 1928 in the January 3, 1929 issue of The Church Monthly shows the 300-foot steel framework of the church’s massive tower (that would still rise another 100 feet) ready to be encased in Indiana limestone.

Just three days after this photograph was taken, however, a fire broke out on the night of December 21, 1928 that set the entire wooden scaffolding inside the church ablaze, calling out hundreds of firefighters and thousands of aghast spectators to the scene of the conflagration. The fire was so large and so intense that it could be seen miles away across the Hudson River in New Jersey (the below image is from the same issue of The Church Monthly, Jan. 3, 1929).

The Fosdick papers include a clipping from the UK’s Daily Mail from December 24, 1928 that reports:

“In bitter winter weather more than 100,000 people gathered round the flaming building as hundreds of firemen vainly tried to subdue the blazing cauldron. Fanned by an icy wind, the flames fed on a forest of timber scaffolding and spread to the framework of the 400ft. Tower, which would have carried the world’s finest carillon from a famous English foundry. The woodwork disappeared like matchwood, while a pillar of fire shot hundreds of feet into the air. As streams of water were pumped into the flames it quickly froze into icicles, hampering the firemen in their work.”

According to Fosdick’s 1956 autobiography, The Living of These Days, the cause of the fire was a carelessly strung electrical wire that wrought enough damage to delay construction and the church’s opening by a full year. Luckily, because the fire started at night, no one was injured or killed; had the flames erupted during the day, when hundreds of construction workers were busy inside, the casualties could have been catastrophic. Two other photos from the same issue of The Church Monthly show the smoldering ruins of the church’s interior and the charred skeleton of its once mighty tower.

 

In his Sunday sermon following the fire, Rev. Fosdick addressed his parish from the pulpit of the Park Avenue Baptist Church (Riverside’s predecessor): “You will understand without my going into details that the church is involved in no loss in this matter save loss of convenience and time. This postponement of our entrance into our new building is a source of great disappointment, but it is the part of a Christian congregation, as of a Christian man, to face such exigencies with fortitude and good-will. In the name of the ministers and responsible officers of the church I wish publicly to express the appreciation which we feel for the outpouring of sympathy and good-will from every side.” The Fosdick papers include sympathy notes, cards, and records of donations from well-wishers around the globe including letters from Scotland, Greece, Japan, Switzerland, Canada, and a heartfelt note from Dean Howard Robbins of Riverside’s Morningside Heights neighbor, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Given the fire’s size and proximity to Union Theological Seminary, it is no surprise that UTS sustained some damage.  Rev. Fosdick and then President of UTS, Henry Sloane Coffin, exchanged letters in January 1929, in which Coffin declined Fosdick’s offer to pay for the damages. Fosdick declares himself “not easy in conscience about the Seminary having to carry the reimbursement of individuals at 99 Claremont Avenue who lost possessions during the fire” and urges Coffin to reconsider the church’s offer. There are no records, however, in the Fosdick papers to suggest that UTS ever accepted any financial recompense from The Riverside Church following the fire. One tangible (and lasting result) of Riverside’s fire was a change in New York City building laws requiring that scaffolding be made of metal rather than wood to prevent another disaster of the size and scale of The Riverside Church construction fire of 1928.

If you are interested in Rev. Fosdick, The Riverside Church, or liberal theology in the 20th century, I encourage you to explore the Burke’s collection of Fosdick papers. I certainly plan to dig deeper so stay tuned!

Mending Martin

In preparation for the Burke Library’s upcoming exhibition on Martin Luther, I am examining and treating some of the Library’s many Luther pamphlets. The Library holds thousands of pamphlets, and more than two dozen relating to the Reformation will be featured in the exhibit.

The sewing in this 1520 Luther pamphlet had broken and several leaves were detached (left). The spine folds were mended with thin Japanese tissue and the pamphlet was resewn through its original sewing holes (right). The few remaining fragments of the original sewing thread were left in place.

The Conservation Department works with the curator, Matthew Baker, to ensure that any items in unstable condition are conserved: tears are mended, loose leaves are reattached, and the parts are made whole again.

The first leaf of another pamphlet was tearing at the spine (left). The leaf attachment is stabilized with thin Japanese tissue hinge (right). This small mend minimizes the risk of greater damage occurring in the future.

Extensive notes were made throughout this pamphlet.

The remains of a small brown leather tab on the fore-edge indicate a former leaf tab marker, added when this pamphlet was bound in a collection.

At nearly 500 years old, these pamphlets bear witness to their past use. Extensive notes in the margins, underlining, manicules, and comments are the legacy of past readers. These annotations form an added dimension of interest for scholars today.

While these items were originally issued as individual pamphlets, many were later bound together in collections. Some have been disbound and rebound numerous times as they passed from library to library. There is much to be learned about this history of ownership from the physical evidence: sewing thread in the gutter, layers of paper adhered to the spine, colorful decoration on the edges, exact page dimensions, and leather page markers all carry information about past bindings and collections. Any conservation treatment of the pamphlets must consider all of these forms of information–the printed text, annotations, and the physical evidence–to ensure that they are preserved for future scholars.

I hope you will visit the exhibition this fall in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s Chang Octagon Room and enjoy these remarkable windows into the past!

Behind the Stacks: Acts of the Saints

A piece of waste paper stuck to the verso of the title page in a volume of the Acta Sanctorum

In the course of preparing more of Burke’s rare books for preservation boxes, I came across a set of the Acta Sanctorum (published from 1643 to 1794) with each volume holding a small piece of waste paper behind the title page. It’s not unusual to find random scraps of paper stuck in the pages of our rare books, but this was curiously consistent in this 53 volume set. Looking closer, I realized these had been used to blot the ink from a library ownership stamp.

Underneath the waste paper is a stamp

Close-up of stamp that reads “Duplum bibliothecae Univers. Friburg. Brisg.”

The blotter has done its job

Reverse of the paper piece shown above, with signature marking “G7”

Another piece of waste paper used to blot the stamp ink

Reverse of the paper piece shown above, with signature marking “G6”

Another view of waste paper used to blot the stamp ink

Another view of waste paper used to blot the stamp ink

From the stamps, it appears these books were formerly duplicates in the library at the University of Freiburg. I can’t help but picture someone, years ago in Germany, going through these books, stamping and conscientiously placing a piece of paper to blot the ink in each of the 53 volumes. Now, at the Burke Library in New York, we’ve carefully measured and fitted these books into sturdy clamshell boxes that will help preserve them for today’s and future generations of scholars. The pieces of waste/blotting paper are still there for now.

We welcome and invite you to view this or other rare books held by the Burke Library; to learn more about visiting our library or to make an appointment please visit our website.

A Word on Edward Robinson

Though perhaps less well-known today than some of Union Seminary’s recent faculty, Edward Robinson (1794-1863), whose papers have recently been processed by Rebecca Nieto, played several important roles in the early life of Union and in the broader world of biblical scholarship.

Edward Robinson — Source: Wikimedia Commons

A founding member of the faculty, Robinson was Union’s first Professor of Biblical Literature and served as librarian during the seminary’s uncertain first decade. Near Eastern archaeologist J.B. Pritchard — whose Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET) will be familiar to contemporary seminarians — lauded his contributions to “Palestinology” in his landmark works, Biblical Researches in Palestine, and Adjacent Regions and Physical Geography of the Holy Land.

Robinson was also responsible for coordinating the acquisition of the approximately 14,000 works that comprised the original Union library. In 1838, while on a major trip to the Holy Land, he arranged for the seminary to purchase a large collection of books from biblical scholar and erstwhile Benedictine monk Leander van Ess. Today, that Burke Library collection remains a unique and important resource for scholars of fifteenth and sixteenth continental Europe, and contains many beautiful medieval manuscripts.

One of the most ancient sections of the present Temple Mount in Jerusalem is named for his work there. “Robinson’s Arch” is the remnant of a first-century structure located at the southwestern corner of that historic edifice and would have been a major point of entry to the upper temple complex. Over the past decade it has sometimes been used as a controversial alternative site of worship to the traditional Western Wall.

Robinson’s Arch from the west — Source: Wikimedia Commons