Monthly Archives: November 2014

“One small step” for the study of religions

The Burke Library’s special collections include hundreds of thousands of rare books, pamphlets, and manuscripts. Many of these works pertain to the Bible (its many versions and editions, their languages and interpretation), church history (especially the Reformation period and following), and theological scholarship and controversy (including incunabula, sixteenth-century English and continental pamphlets, and 19th century American tracts and sermons). The Burke’s collections also include a number of important works of natural history, philosophy, travel, and comparative religion. Included among this last group is an edition of the renowned Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde (Religious Ceremonies and Customs of All the Peoples of the World) by Bernard Picart and Jean Frederic Bernard.

Matthew blog_7Cérémonies was pioneering in its attempt to portray the rituals and practices of the world’s religions and peoples in comparative perspective. By the standards of its day, the work was remarkably broad and even-handed in its attempt to describe religions both within and outside Europe, including Islam and religions of the “new world.” Picart engraved the hundreds of illustrations found throughout its pages and which were in large part responsible for its popularity and relative commercial success. These attempted to portray not only religious rites, but the physical structures, geographical settings, attire, equipment, and other accoutrements characteristic of the various groups included. For its contributions to a broader, more nuanced approach to world cultures, one recent work has dubbed it “The Book That Changed Europe,” while another has credited it with fostering “The First Global Vision of Religion.”

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The illustrations included in volume 6 of Cérémonies are noteworthy as a moment of imperfect (e.g., the bowler-like hats and other Western garb in the images of the marriage ceremony, as well as the unfortunate ubiquity of sauvages throughout the text) but nevertheless genuine attempt to document and understand to the rich and diverse societies of the American continents’ indigenous peoples.

 

While at times painfully inaccurate or speculative, partly Matthew blog_3because their understanding was based largely on the reports of others, for its time the work does constitute a real attempt to understand and portray a range of cultures and religious practices, and is often characterized by a descriptive approach that would in the twentieth century develop into the study of the history of religions and inter-religious dialogue.

Burke’s French edition of Cérémonies (1723-1743) is comprised of 9 folio volumes that together make a striking impression as evidence of the eighteenth-century Europe’s encyclopedic labors.

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In particular, Picart’s engravings remain bold and clear; despite the corrections and updates that can be made in terms of their accuracy, they are the work of a gifted and imaginative craftsman. The physical volumes can be consulted in the Burke Library’s Special Collections Reading Room, and UCLA’s library (in collaboration with the Huntington Library, the Getty Institute, and Utrecht University) has provided electronic access to the work’s several editions.

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If you would like to consult the volumes at the Burke, you can request a visit here.

Please note that all images in this post are from the Burke’s copy of Volume 6 of Ceremonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde / représentées par des figures dessinées de la main de Bernard Picard; avec une explication historique, & quelques dissertations curieuses. Amsterdam: Chez J. F. Bernard, 1723-1743.

What do armadillos, leprosy and Ebola have in common?

The world runs on strange coincidences, which have been cropping up a lot around here. For me, leprosy has been one of those coincidences.  I was cataloging a DVD on a Catholic priest who worked on a leper colony in Hawaii in the early 19th Century (both the island and the DVD are called Molokai, if you’re interested). While searching for some information about the island I stumbled upon some more general information about leprosy, including three facts I found really interesting: leprosy can be transmitted to humans by armadillos; armadillos fall into the Levitical category of ritually unclean; and 95% of the population is naturally immune to the bacteria that causes the disease.

"Facts about lepers," 1880; Missionary Research Library Pamphlet Collection, #1412, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

“Facts about lepers,” 1880; Missionary Research Library Pamphlet Collection, #1412, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

I posted these facts to Facebook, which inevitably led to a coworker mentioning that we’d had an unusual number of requests for pamphlets on missionary work with lepers lately from the special collections. Of course we had, why wouldn’t the week that I work with some random movie about Christian missions in leper colonies also be the week that two separate researchers ask for materials on the same exact thing? This inspired me to write a blog post about leprosy and some of my immediate thoughts and reactions to the requests for these materials.

I am thoroughly fascinated by Leviticus, and like many scholars, am often dumbfounded by the seemingly prescient food prohibitions in chapter 11. Many of the animals prohibited by YHWH turn out to be dangerous when cooked improperly, notably pigs and shellfish. The discovery that armadillos also fall into this category (which is translated as both “detestable” and an “abomination”) was now coupled with the fact that they cause leprosy, a disease that Leviticus 14 discusses at great length (seriously: how to deal with this kind of leper, with that kind of leper, what to do if your house looks like it has leprosy…). There is always a danger in ascribing too much foresight into the minds of ancient people, and the numerous attempts to find focused cohesion among all of the Levitical prohibitions have always fallen flat. In addition, it should be noted that as far as I can tell there were no armadillos in the Ancient Near East.  However, I also think that there is danger in ascribing too little comprehension to ancient people. It’s reasonable to assume that they realized that eating certain types of animals made people sick sometimes and that generic categories were created to avoid eating as many dangerous animals as possible. The categories weren’t created in the same way that we would today; for most of us the requirement that an animal have cloven hooves and chew its cud in order to be edible, or the prohibition against “anything that creeps,”  seems like a strange line to draw. It is also important to remember that Leviticus is, at it’s core, a text dedicated to sorting out ritual purity from impurity, dedicated to creating categories and boxes in order to sort out the various roles and responsibilities of the various parties involved.  YHWH, who had just freed the Israelites from Egypt; the priestly community among the Israelites, who were now responsible for maintaining positive relations with a deity who had already proven quick to anger; and the lay Israelites, who stood a good chance of ruining everything for everyone. This is perhaps part of why the book spends so much excruciating detail covering leprosy and leprosy-like diseases. They were physically-manifested aberrations that cropped up in a world that mapped cosmological ramifications onto the physical world, that had no apparent method of containment other than exile from the community, and that could therefore only be manifestations of some spiritual defect.

"Information please," 1954: Missionary Research Library Pamphlet Collection, #1347, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

“Information please,” 1954: Missionary Research Library Pamphlet Collection, #1347, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Concerns about and treatment of leprosy within ministry continues to this day.  Burke Library is home to many materials about this  topics, most notably in our Missionary Research Library (MRL) pamphlet collection and periodical collection.

 

"How to rid a country of leprosy," 1926: Missionary Research Library Pamphlet Collection, 1346, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

“How to rid a country of leprosy,” 1926: Missionary Research Library Pamphlet Collection, 1346, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

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"It might have been you," 1950: Missionary Research Library Pamphlet Collection, #1344, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University Libraries in the City of New York.

“It might have been you,” 1950: Missionary Research Library Pamphlet Collection, #1344, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University Libraries in the City of New York.

Burke has materials dating from the early-19th Century to present-day that deal with ministry to lepers and information about the transmission of the disease.  It struck me that we were getting requests for these types of materials in the middle of the most recent Ebola hysteria. The images below are just selections from our impressive amount of materials on the subject (over 200 individual titles), some of which eerily echo the current attempts to frame the discussion about Ebola and its transmission in its larger global context. Both create(d) hysteria and fear in populations where little was known about how it spread, how contagious it actually was, or even what the disease itself actually was.

 

"Akeva: the story of missions in Africa," 1954: Missionary Research Library Pamphlet Collection, #1345, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University Libraries.

“Akeva: the story of missions in Africa,” 1954: Missionary Research Library Pamphlet Collection, #1345, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University Libraries.

They also created similar hysteria in populations with widely available information about the disease, hence the need for pamphlets reassuring people that they are unlikely to catch leprosy themselves (see below). The drastic difference in the availability of effective treatment and even cultural and institutional circumstances create(d) a painfully visible dichotomy between those who are/were affected and those who are/were not. The massive disparity in occurrences between the developed and developing world also contributes(d) to stigmatization and stereotyping of affected populations, both by those demonizing the victims and by those trying to help.  The legacy of Christian missions in foreign lands is always a difficult one, one where undeniable good is often born out of a conversion/”saving the heathen” mindset that many of us find uncomfortable today.  The materials in our MRL pamphlet collection continuously straddle that line, and therefore continue to be relevant for scholars looking to examine various aspects of history, secular or otherwise, for these kinds of strange coincidences that sometimes power our universe.

If you are interested in viewing anything from our Missionary Research Library Pamphlet Collection you can make an appointment here.

Organizing the Divine: Julia Pettee and the Union Classification System

Photograph of Pettee taken by Mary Ellen Pettee, 1965: Union Theological Seminary Archives, Series 2, UTS Records, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Photograph of Pettee taken by Mary Ellen Pettee, 1965: Union Theological Seminary Archives, Series 2, UTS Records, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

The creation of the Union Classification System reads much like a recipe: 1 cup of Dr. Hugo Munsterberg’s classification, ½ cup of Dr. Charles R. Gillett’s classed catalog, mixed together with Charles Ammi Cutter’s classification and folded into 3 cups Alfred Cave’s An Introduction to Theology. But as with any recipe, the most important element is the chef, and the woman who mixed these ideas together was Julia Pettee. All cuteness aside though, Julia Pettee’s story informs the history of the Union Theological Seminary, the history of the library profession, and serves to question the perceived roles of women in early 20th Century America.

Photo of Pettee's autobiographical manuscript, 1962: Union Theological Seminary Archives, Series 2, UTS Records, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Photo of Pettee’s autobiographical manuscript, 1962: Union Theological Seminary Archives, Series 2, UTS Records, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

It is her lively hand-written autobiography, “A Cataloger for more than half a century takes a backward look at her profession and reviews her thirty years as Head Cataloger of the Union Theological Seminary Library…,” that takes center stage in this brief blog post that hopes to inform, but more so, pique the interest of readers to this unique part of Union Theological Seminary’s rich and varied history.

Please note that all citations are from this autobiography, direct quotes are cited with page numbers in parenthesis at end of quote.

Julia Pettee was born in 1872, went to Mount Holyoke at the age of 16 and graduated from the Pratt Library School in 1895. Reflecting on her studies while at Pratt, Julia highlights the newness of the profession — Pratt was only five years old at the time — and how while she was attending the program secretarial skills were stressed. Indeed even Julia questioned the library field, asking in her first published article “Is Librarianship a Profession?” (I have not been able to find the article! ). Even though there was a job shortage, Pettee was able to get a cataloging job at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where she stayed for ten years. While working she also studied and received her AB. Julia was approached by the Rochester Theological Seminary to classify their collection. This is where she laid the foundations for what would later become the Union Classification System.

Julia explained that she came to Union “with the understanding that I would be free to carry out my own ideas” (p.5). This will come as no surprise to anyone who if familiar with Union and its liberalist roots. Neither will it come to a surprise to anyone in the library world that the salary offered to a professional with several degrees and 10 years of experience was just $100 a month (the equivalent of making around $30,000/year today).

When Julia got to Union books were organized by a fixed location system, a method commonly used before the Dewey Decimal System and Library of Congress systems. Under this system books were placed on the shelf as they were brought in, rather than being organized by subject or author. Julia also noted that books on the topic of women were put “together with other troublesome topics under the caption minor morals [author’s emphasis], in this order: Profanity, Drunkenness, Lotteries, Women, Dueling, War” (p.11).

In 1910, shortly after Pettee started at Union, the school moved from Park Avenue between 69th and 70th streets to its current location on Broadway and 121st Street (the Park Avenue site was Union’s second location; the school was originally located on University place between 6th and 7th streets). Lucky for Julia she had no problems with her commute, since she managed to find a nice walk-up apartment just down the block (if only we all could be so lucky!). Julia’s memoir conveys how exciting it was for the staff to move into a new and bigger space (although by the time she left Union, the collections were already start to outgrow the library).

Pettee set upon creating a classification system for Union’s library collections to replace the fixed location system.

Cover of typescript, "Classification of the Union Theological Seminary Library New York City..Sections revised and applied to Books in the Reference Room before 1920": Union Theological Seminary Archives, Series 2, UTS Records, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Cover of typescript, “Classification of the Union Theological Seminary Library New York City..Sections revised and applied to Books in the Reference Room before 1920”: Union Theological Seminary Archives, Series 2, UTS Records, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Inside of typescript "Classification of the Union Theological Seminary Library New York City...Sections revised and applied to Books in the Reference Room before 1920": Union Theological Seminary Archives, Series 2, UTS Records, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Inside of typescript “Classification of the Union Theological Seminary Library New York City…Sections revised and applied to Books in the Reference Room before 1920”: Union Theological Seminary Archives, Series 2, UTS Records, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

“For the Union scheme I had one fixed idea, a single unified scheme which would bring theological subjects and closely related secular subjects in convenient juxtaposition” (p. 24).

None of the established systems seemed adequate for a theological collection and so she created a new Union Classification System that combined the elements of Dr. Munsterberg’s classification (which he laid out an article in The Atlantic in 1903, “The St. Louis Congress or Arts and Sciences”), Dr. Gillett’s classed catalog, Cutter’s classification, and Alfred Cave’s An Introduction to Theology.

ALA Committee on code for classifiers "A Code for Classifiers: A collection of data compiled for the use of the commitee," by William Stetson Merrill, May 1914 and Julia Pettee's typed reaction to the proposed code, 1914?: Union Theological Seminary Archives, Series 2, UTS Records, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

ALA Committee on code for classifiers “A Code for Classifiers: A collection of data compiled for the use of the commitee,” by William Stetson Merrill, May 1914 and Julia Pettee’s typed reaction to the proposed code, 1914?: Union Theological Seminary Archives, Series 2, UTS Records, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Julia was very involved with the American Library Association – which, like the library profession itself, was still in its infancy – and served on many a cataloging committee. She also took a leave from Union to work at the Library of Congress developing the religion classification scheme.

Reading through her autobiography, Julia made a few side comments concerning the male-dominance of the profession.

Complete list of Code for Classifiers Committee as of May 1914: Union Theological Seminary Archives, Series 2, UTS Records, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Complete list of Code for Classifiers Committee as of May 1914: Union Theological Seminary Archives, Series 2, UTS Records, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

She wily questioned of the Dewey Decimal Classification Committee which Melvil Dewey chaired why Dewey even needed a committee as, “he was the whole show” (p.23). Even without reading her comments, going through all of the documentation she amassed while actively involved with the American Library Association (ALA) one can see that most reports donned the names of males.

Obituary for Julia Pettee from Lakeville Journal, June 1, 1967 : Union Theological Seminary Archives, Series 2, UTS Records, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Obituary for Julia Pettee from Lakeville Journal, June 1, 1967 : Union Theological Seminary Archives, Series 2, UTS Records, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.

After retiring from Union in 1939, Pettee worked contractually for Yale. While there she wrote The History and Theory of Subject Headings, the first work published on this topic. Julia retired to the Mayflower farm, where she became involved with writing the local history of Salisbury, Connecticut. Julia Pettee passed away at the age of 94 in 1967, five years after penning the autobiography this blog post is largely based off of.

The Union Classification System was in use by the library until the mid-1970’s, after which books were cataloged using the Library of Congress Classification system, which most academic libraries have adopted and use today. Rather than reclassify books cataloged using the Union Classification the library decided to keep the books cataloged with Union. Now the library’s stacks have a level called “Union Stacks” and two levels called “Library of Congress Stacks.”

Image of Union Stacks at the Burke Library taken Nov. 2014.

Image of Union Stacks at the Burke Library.

There have been a few articles and even a book written about Julia Pettee.  Here is a short list of titles:

Butler, Rebecca. “The Rise and Fall of Union Classification.Theological Librarianship 6, no. 1 (2013): 21-28.  http://journal.atla.com/ (accessed November 4, 2014).

Pearson, Lennart. The Life and Work of Julia Pettee, 1872-1967. Durham, N.C.: American Theological Library Association, 1970.

Walker, Christopher H. and Copeland, Ann. “The Eye Prophetic: Julia Pettee.” Libraries & the Cultural Record 44, no. 2 (2009): 162-182. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed November 4, 2014).

For a list of articles and books written by Julia Pettee click here.

I hope that you enjoyed this very brief post on a tremendous woman! If you are interested in viewing anything from our archival holdings on Pettee, please make an appointment. Continue reading