Tennessee Williams Additions

Tennessee Williams unposted postcard to his sister Rose

RBML has received a very significant addition to its already major holdings of Tennessee Williams material. This addition is particularly important because it relates to Williams’ later work, the strength of Columbia’s holdings.

The new material includes heavily annotated typescripts of Williams’ later plays including Out Cry (1971), Red Devil Battery Sign (1975), Vieux Carré (1977) and A House Not Meant to Stand (1981). Also in the archive are some 200 pages of typescript pages, mostly annotated, of Williams’ early draft of his raucous Memoir, the unpublished precursor to his Memoirs, published in 1975. Correspondence written by Tennessee Williams includes unsent postcards written to his sister Rose; a letter to Craig Anderson regarding his play Creve Coeur and actress Olive Deering; and to his attorney discussing the production of Out Cry.

Correspondence to Williams includes letters from a large number of people such as Laurence Olivier, Paul Bowles, Cheryl Crawford, Elia Kazan, Lillian Gish, Kate Medina, and various agents including Audrey Wood. Olivier, in a 32 page letter on the subject of Streetcar Named Desire, writes: “You must know that I think ‘Streetcar’ is a really great play.” He continues: “Now about the cuts … I honestly think the play is a little long,” but regarding one of Vivien Leigh’s speeches, he wrote: “Vivien does it quite beautifully and if you cable me to cut it I’ll cut my bloody throat.”

The new material will be added to the Tennessee Williams papers already available in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Amos Vogel Papers and Tributes

Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library has been home to Amos Vogel’s papers since 2008. After’s Amos’s death last year, his family found more papers in the Vogel apartment near Washington Square. These have now come to Columbia, and will be added to the 149 boxes of material already open to researchers. A box list of the additional material is available.

Ongoing now, Anthology Film Archives is presenting “A Tribute to Amos Vogel and Film as a Subversive Art,” with an extensive selection of films, running through March 14, that Vogel discussed in his hugely influential, landmark text in the history of film literature. For details of the series, please see the Anthology Film Archives web site: http://anthologyfilmarchives.org/film_screenings/series/40458

Also in March, the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens will present its own Amos Vogel tribute. Please see their web site for forthcoming details:

Frederick Douglass, Ulysses Kay, and Emancipation 150

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, The Greene Space presented From Emancipation to the Great Migration, an evening of discussion and performances that is available online: http://www.thegreenespace.org/articles/thegreenespace/2013/jan/14/emancipation-great-migration/

The event included Dr. Khalil Muhammad (Director of The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture) and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Dr. Eric Foner (Columbia University History Department), among others.

It also featured a performance by internationally-renowned bass-baritone Kevin Maynor, accompanied by Tuffus Zimbabwe. Maynor joins the conversation at 41:50 and shortly thereafter sings the aria “Still In Their Chains” from Ulysses Kay’s opera “Frederick Douglass.” Maynor had premiered the title role in the New Jersey Opera production of Kay’s last opera in 1991.

The event will also air as a special on Saturday, February 16th at 2pm on AM 820 and  Sunday, February 17th at 9pm, 2013 on WNYC 93.9FM.

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library is home to the papers of Ulysses Kay, including the manuscript full score of “Frederick Douglass.” A full Ulysses Kay web exhibition is forthcoming in the Library’s web exhibitions program. Announcements about its launch will be posted here.

Floral-strewn mathematics

Printers’ flowers, pieces of type bearing designs (generally floral and arabesque) rather than letterforms, are a convenient and traditional way for a printer to pretty-up a text, as the ornaments combine easily within the page of type for printing. The samples above and below, both from Agostino dal Pozzo’s Gnomonices biformis, Venice 1679 (Plimpton 513 1679 Au4), are pretty typical. (To be clear, in the example below, two kinds of printers’ ornaments surround a woodblock. You can see in the top right row where one of the ornaments was inserted 90 degrees off kilter.)

I love seeing what compositors can create with printers’ flowers. But then, working with books we’re cataloging from the Plimpton collection, I was so pleased to open Jean L’Hoste’s Epipolimetrie (Sainct-Mihiel, 1619), Plimpton F513 1619, and find pages like this:

There’s an initial S at the beginning of the page surrounded with printers’ flowers (I didn’t say they were all attractively printed, did I?), but what I find most appealing here are the little flowers scattered over the mathematical diagrams. They aren’t proper printers flowers, though they are loosely modeled after them, and cut into the wood block along with the diagram. Why? as I understand it, having what would otherwise be empty space within the type page filled with something print-high makes printing easier; but this isn’t so common an occurrence, so I believe that aesthetics are also involved.

I didn’t remember noticing this phenomenon before, but soon found two more examples. And from the book above, printed in France in 1619, we move across the decades to a book printed in Paris in 1556:


This is Oronce Fine’s De rebus mathematicis (Paris: Vascosani, 1556), Plimpton F513 1556 F49. Surprisingly, I found the same phenomenon in an Italian book:  Apollonius, Conicorum libri quattuor (Bononiae [Bologna]: A. Benatius, 1566), Plimpton F516.02 1566:

Isn’t it a beauty? Early Italian books have a certain robustness of appearance I always enjoy. Anyhow, I’ll have to keep a lookout for more samples of not-quite-printers-flowers.

Pretty Mathematics

We have restarted a project to finish cataloging the Plimpton Collection. George Arthur Plimpton (1855-1936) collected “our tools of learning,” pretty broadly described, and gave the collection to Columbia shortly before his death. I’ve been enjoying reviewing the early books — though I’ve been a little surprised by how many books printed before 1800 remain uncataloged. In any case, here are two which particularly caught my eye.

The first is plate five from Johann Friedrich Penther’s Praxis geometriae, 6th edition (Augsburg: Probst, 1761).


The plate demonstrates mathematical concepts, and makes concrete the metaphors used by the author. We start with a point, then a line….  Parallel lines are — see? like cart wheel tracks. My favorite part is the extremely elegant hand holding the pen/ plumb/saw, a hand which comes out of an equally elegant cloud/cuff, because hands (the artist must have thought to himself) have to come from somewhere.

The second image is from an earlier edition of Penther, the third edition,1749, also printed in Augsburg by Probst. This has the same lovely engraved plate, but also this wonderful dedication page:

And what’s not to love about this? It’s a good size, nearly 13 inches tall, with all the extras: beautiful engraving at the head; four great typefaces (if we count the three sizes of blackletter separately), including a roman type for emphasis; and one of the great factotums (woodcuts with a space within to insert a piece of type to make an initial) of all time.

Can’t wait for more!




Forgive me, reader; it’s been a very long time since my last post. Why? Because every time I find something interesting to write about it gets… complicated, and I get distracted. For example:

A comics class came for a hands-on session, and in addition to the comics the professor picked out, I showed them a sample of related things, from Rudolph Töpffer to artists books. For more about the class, see the amazing Karen Green’s column about it.

Once everyone was busy reading, I took a closer look at our copy of Franz Masereel’s My Book of Hours, 1922. Masereel’s the father of the “novel without words,” and this title (originally published in 1919 as Mon livre d’heures) was one of his best-known works, republished many times in many countries. A series of 167 woodcuts tells the story of an artist who becomes disillusioned with modern society.

In it, I was excited to find this typed note:

“Note: This little volume was contracted for by Liveright. We made an exact copy of the European edition. And after the first signature was sent to the artist for his signature we printed 600 copies.

But before publication date our edition of Petronius was arrested by the Vice Society. We prepaired [sic] to defend Petronius as a classic. But we could not endanger this verdic [sic] by any other books which might be questionable. Therefore we destroyed a complete edition of a volume on Love by Andre Tredon.

And because of one page in this little volume (16th) from end) Liveright ordered me to destroy the entire edition. This I did saving out 3 copies, one for Liveright one for Tom Smith, editor in chief, and one for myself. What became of the other two copies I do not know.

Oct. 1953                                     (signed) Manuel Komroff”

Well! Who doesn’t love having possibly the only copy of a suppressed edition! I immediately thought of the blog, and started a little background research. Manuel Komroff (1890-1974) was indeed the production manager for the publisher Boni & Liveright from 1920 to 1926. It happens that Columbia has his papers, but a quick look didn’t turn up anything relating to this moment in the early phase of Komroff’s career (they’re primarily from his next career as an author).

So we start with the book itself. Aside from Komroff’s note, there is no indication that the book has any connection with Boni & Liveright. It has no place of publication, and gives “Se trouvez chez l’auteur” as its only publication statement. The rest of the title page, and the introduction are in English. The limitation statement places it in the US: “This edition is strictly limited to 600 copies for America. Each copy is signed.”

Imagine my distress when I looked in Worldcat, and found 40 or more other libraries holding what appear to be the same edition!  And one of them at the Avery library, here on campus. A comparison of that copy and ours suggests they are, indeed, from the same edition.

What published information could I find? The standard bibliography of Masereel shows only one 1922 English language edition, conforming to the copy here.  No mention of Boni & Liveright. No other English-language editions before 1930.

 The Dictionary of Literary Biography (vol. 288, c2004) gives a documentary history of Boni & Liveright. And indeed, they had continuous trouble with John Sumner, of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, and ended up in court over Petronius Arbiter’s Satyricon in 1922. (Liveright won the case, though his troubles with Sumner persisted.)  Tom Dardis, in Firebrand, his 1995 biography of Liveright, explains that B&L used subscription publication of more questionable titles as a way of trying to avoid this kind of prosecution. And this history of trouble, and avoiding trouble, possibly explains the odd lack of the Boni & Liveright name anywhere on the volume.

It seemed time to try to find Boni & Liveright’s archives. And it turned out that much of what little there remains (the papers were dispersed because of B&L’s slow demise, and Liveright’s financial difficulties) is here at Columbia: Horace Liveright’s unfinished and unpublished autobiography is in Komroff’s papers (unfortunately, Komroff only got him to set part of his life to paper, and that mostly his colorful non-publishing life). And, fortuitously, W.W. Norton acquired Liveright in 1974. In a 2000 addition to our W. W. Norton papers are 3.5 feet of financial accounts for B&L books from 1920 to the 1960s, and 48 of the B&L catalogs dating between 1919 and 1944.

Masereel’s My Book of Hours was advertised in the Fall 1922 catalog (“to be published September 15”), but is never mentioned again. Petronius shows up in the backlist in Spring 1923 (“Subscription Edition – Entirely Sold”).  The suppressed book by Andre Tridon is harder to pin down; Tridon was a prominent early popular psychoanalyst, and the Fall 1921 catalog lists a book called Sex Happiness, not in the regular list, but under “Scientific Books” (“These books are offered to physicians, the clergy, the legal profession, and to other educators legitimately interested in the subjects they discuss”). It’s not mentioned again in the catalogs, but it’s hard to know whether this is the suppressed book Komroff calls “Love” in his note.   

And the production accounts – these are hard, at least for this librarian, to make sense of. There’s one sheet of accounts headed “F. Masereel Book of Hours,” with dates ranging from July 1922 to an inventory note dated 31 December 1927. Clearly the book was made: in the debit column, there are various production charges during 1922 culminating in the printing of 600 copies charged on 31 December 1922; the binding of 602 copies was charged for on 31 July 1923. In the credits column, it would seem that 8 copies were sold in 1925, and 35 in 1926. There may have been others sold or given away; the regular inventory notes indicate 560 bound copies on hand 1 January 1925, 552 copies 31 December 1925, and only 346 bound copies in 1927.

So definitely the book was produced. And it may have been suppressed from publication in 1922, but it wasn’t destroyed save for three copies, as Komroff wrote in 1953. Did Komroff perhaps confuse this title for another?  And why doesn’t the Boni & Liveright connection get made by any of the Masereel bibliographers?

But you want to see the troublesome picture, don’t you?  16 pages from the end comes this image:


Here the artist is showing his contempt for society. Worth suppressing a book over? Couldn’t this one image have just been removed from all the copies? A mystery.

The Dunning School of…Baseball?

The Dunning School of . . . Baseball?

(Written by Nick Osborne)

 William Archibald Dunning was one of the most influential US historians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Even as he wrote such works as Essays on the Civil War and Reconstruction (1898), Dunning trained numerous other scholars from his perch as the Francis Lieber Professor of History and Political Philosophy at Columbia. His influence was so great that his and his students’ writings on the Civil War and Reconstruction eventually became known as the “Dunning School.” Though now widely-discredited for their frequently explicit racism and overt hostility to Northern politicians, Dunning School historians dominated historiography about the mid-nineteenth century US for much of the first half of the twentieth century.

That brief overview describes the background knowledge I brought with me as I ventured into the William A. Dunning Papers at RBML. Specifically in search of Dunning’s diaries for a project I’m working on that involves identifying diaries written by Americans and held throughout all RBML collections, I was intrigued by the possibility of gaining insight into the personal views of such an infamous past member of my profession or an insider’s look at Columbia at the turn of the twentieth century. What I didn’t expect to find was a glimpse of a thirteen-year-old boy growing up in Plainfield, New Jersey, practicing his penmanship and playing baseball.

Yet that is what the following item I discovered shows. Mixed in with the diaries in the collection, it was originally a bankbook issued to record shareholding and other transactions with the Plainfield Mutual Loan & Building Association.


But sometime in 1870, Dunning repurposed it for a far more thrilling purpose (at least from the perspective of an adolescent child): to keep score for his “Eureka Base Ball Club.”



Apart from showing Dunning’s youthful sense of humor (note that he filled out the “occupation” of the team as “Playing Ball”), this book also provides a brief glimpse at America’s national pastime just as it was starting to take on its modern form. (The first baseball game played with a team composed entirely of professional players, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, took place just a year earlier in 1869.) To read these scorecards, note that each column corresponds to an inning (the first and third games were only five innings long; the second was a full nine), dots signify “runs scored,” and the numbers in each inning’s column correspond to who made the first, second, and third outs of the inning.




From a baseball perspective, these scorecards suggest a fairly loose game was being played in Plainfield in 1870–the final scores were 35-28, 30-18, and 44-11. From a personal perspective, they show that long before Dunning became a lion of the historian’s field, he pitched and caught against the “Atlantic’s,” the “Arnolds nine,” and the Actives”. That might not add much to our understanding of the Civil War and Reconstruction, but it is a pleasant reminder that even those historical figures who went on to achieve fame, then infamy, sometimes started out as thirteen-year-old boys playing ball in Plainfield, NJ.

[by Nick Osborne]


Group Research Records: Grassroots Right-Wing Iconography

Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library has launched "Choosing Sides: Right-Wing Icons in the Group Research Records," an online exhibition now available on the Libraries’ website. The exhibition was curated by Nicholas Osborne, a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Columbia. Nick also wrote this blog post. (Above: The Church League of America presents Ronald Reagan on the Welfare State, date unknown.)

Drawing from the diverse resources of the Group Research, Inc. Records, "Choosing Sides" showcases the imagery that helped to build right-wing political and social movements in the second half of the twentieth century. Flyers, brochures, books, newsletters, record albums, bumper stickers, and other physical objects produced by conservative artists and designers both provide an example of the richness to be found in this collection and help to demonstrate the critical role that visual media played in the recruitment and publicity strategies of right-wing activists as they helped shape the discourses of modern American conservatism.


(Above: Mel-Belle Enterprises of Springfield, Ilinois, What Kind of Country Are You Leaving Me?, circa 1967)

Journalist and one-time Democratic Party insider Wesley McCune founded Group Research, Inc. in 1962 as a way to monitor, publicize, and pass comment on the activities of those individuals and organizations he deemed "extremist." Almost exclusively these extremists came from the political right. To support his mission, McCune gathered information widely. He scanned the nation’s newspapers and magazines for journalistic coverage, joined right-wing organizations’ mailing lists and subscribed to their newsletters, collected brochures and other published material at rallies and conferences, and cultivated an active network of sources that gathered these and other materials for him. Apart from simply accumulating information, McCune publicized his findings by authoring occasional articles in mainstream periodicals and a regular newsletter, The Group Research Report. He also held the ear of influential journalists and politicians—including several congresspeople and even presidential candidate George McGovern—and made his organization’s archives available for research to those in the know.


(Above: Myron Fagan, Cinema Education League, Illuminati, puts the Council on Foreign Relations in a gun’s crosshairs, 1967.)

Advancing in age, McCune finally shut down Group Research in 1996, having amassed a remarkable trove of information documenting the rise of the modern political right in the United States. Shortly thereafter, Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library purchased the collection. Amidst 215 linear feet of material in the Group Research, Inc. Records are represented individuals and organizations ranging from Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan, from the John Birch Society to the Moral Majority, and beyond.


(Above: Billy James Hargis, The Christian Crusade, For God and Country, 1961.)

The Group Research, Inc. Records are available for use at the RBML and comprise more than 500 document boxes of archival material related to right-wing organizations spanning the years 1955-1996. More than 1,400 published titles written by or about conservatives comprise the related Group Research Collection of printed materials, also owned by the RBML. Taken together, these collections provide an unparalleled overview of the development of right-wing US politics in the second half of the twentieth century.


(Above: Center for Constitutional Rights, Get With It! to end "confiscatory and unconstitutional taxation," 1974)

Problem: How to construct a vehicle with which one can transport oneself where one likes, without a horse

As part of an ongoing scholarly discussion, a colleague sent me the following image:

Now, the image, which depicts a vintage Frejus, does not at first appear to have a rare book or manuscript connection; however, RBML’s collections have great diversity and can provide scholarly content across many disciplines–here’s how.  If we consider Jacques Ozanam’s (1640-1717) Recreations mathematiques et physiques, qui contiennent plusieurs problêmes d’arithmetique, de geometrie, d’optique, de gnomonique, de cosmographie, de mecanique, de pyrotechnie, & de physique (Paris, 1694–RBML call no.: SMITH 511.9 1694 Oz1), we can find the starting point for my colleague’s FrejusRecreations mathematiques et physiques sets out to solve various mathematical problems, among them,

how to "construire un carosse, dans lequel on se puisse conduire soy-même là où l’on voudra, sans aucuns Chevaux"–or, roughly translated, How to construct a carriage with which one can transport oneself where one likes, without out a horse.

Here is Ozanam’s solution:

To this blogger’s eye, I see the foundations of the bicycle (full disclosure, I am far from the first person to make this connection, see especially David Herlihy’s Bicycle , page 15-6 (Yale UP, 2006).  But note the pedal powered drive train and the turning cogs, which closely resemble the chain rings on modern bicycles.

RBML holds several editions of Ozanam’s work as part of the David Eugene Smith Collection on the history of mathematics.  Here’s the title page and frontispiece of the 1696 edition (which bears Smith’s ex libris stamp in the upper right corner):

Here the plate has found its way to the front of the book, a sign of its perceived importance.  Ozanam’s vehicle or carosse, doesn’t look much like my colleague’s Frejus, but it does reach back to the bicycle’s roots, and emphasizes just how much ground RBML’s collections can cover.

George R. Van Namee Scrapbooks (and Alfred E. Smith Material) Donated to Columbia

Fifteen scrapbooks covering the career and political interests of George Rivet Van Namee have been donated to Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, California. Containing news clippings, memorabilia, and printed ephemera, the scrapbooks provide an important window into Democratic politics (particularly the career of Governor Alfred E. Smith), Catholic organizations, and social life in the New York City of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.


George R. Van Namee was born in Watertown, New York on December 23, 1877. He graduated from the Cornell University College of Law and practiced law in Watertown for nine years before being appointed Clerk of the New York State Assembly from1911-1913 . Van Namee then served as Commissioner of the Bill Drafting Commission, which assists legislators, from 1914 to 1918, after which he worked as Secretary to Governor Alfred E. Smith beginning in 1920. Van Namee’s relationship with Smith continued for the rest of their careers, with Van Namee serving as Smith’s private secretary and then being appointed by the governor as a commissioner of the Public Service Commission in 1924, a post Van Namee held until 1943.

The scrapbooks cover a wide range of topics related to New York politics and life, but the majority are devoted to printed memorabilia and news clippings relating to Governor Smith. These include party invitations, correspondence, and tickets to the 1928 and 1932 Democratic Conventions. Five scrapbooks are concerned almost entirely with Smith’s successful bid for the 1928 Democratic nomination for President and his subsequent bid for the presidency. These include campaign posters, buttons, and a wide range of anti-Catholic material printed by Smith’s opponents, including the Ku Klux Klan. The remaining scrapbooks contain personal material of Van Namee’s, as well as various news clippings and printed matter related to Van Namee’s Catholic faith, such as invitations from Irish Catholic aid organizations in the city and extensive news coverage of the death of Pope Pius XI.

The Van Namee scrapbooks offer valuable insight into a tumultuous period in New York politics and into one of the most important yet overlooked presidential campaigns of the 20th century. Together they also compliment the Libraries’ strong holdings on early 20th century New York politics, such as the Herbert H. Lehman and Frances Perkins papers, as well as the Libraries’ growing collection of personal and political scrapbooks, such as the extensive Alexander Gumby scrapbook collection.