Tag Archives: Rare Book and Manuscript Library

“Live from the Columbia Archives” Discussion with Eric Foner Now Online

For anyone unable to attend Jan. 29th’s event, the inaugural “Live from the Columbia Archives” talk is now available for online viewing. Click below to watch Professor Eric Foner discuss his new book, Gateway to Freedom, and the remarkable archival document that helped him to rediscover the Hidden History of the Underground Railroad.

A Narrative in the Documents: The Gibbs Affair

Interesting narratives that are interwoven into Columbia University’s history can unravel simply by creating an online inventory for a collection. Recently, a series of letters was discovered within the Columbia College Papers that elucidate past events involving administrative prejudice, academic politics, and the Civil War.

After James Renwick, Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and Chemistry, retired from his professorship at Columbia College in 1853, Free Academy professor Oliver Wolcott Gibbs was nominated for the position in 1854. Gibbs, a Unitarian, faced the prejudice against the denomination that several Columbia College Trustees, unlike many New Yorkers at the time, held. Although there were some members of the Board of Trustees that supported Gibbs’ nomination the predominately Episcopalian board, which included six clergymen, chose to reject Gibbs based on his religious affiliation. The decision fueled bitterness amongst trustees and alumni that led to a postponement of centennial celebrations in what became known as the “Gibbs affair.”

One of the letters in this series of correspondence came from a special committee of the
United States Senate that was investigating whether or not Columbia’s Board of Trustees violated anti-discriminatory terms within the charter. The Senate committee asked a broad series of questions regarding the hiring practices of the Board of Trustees, one of which asked if the board has ever rejected a candidate “on account of his peculiar tenets in matters of religion?”.

Senate Questionnaire

The Board of Trustees invoked their Fifth Amendment rights for this question and the committee concluded that although individual board members may have violated charter’s terms, the Board of Trustees as a whole was not guilty.

Gibbs eventually became a distinguished researcher at Harvard following the affair, but the professor chosen instead of Gibbs, Richard Sears McCulloh, forged a very different reputation. On September 25, 1863, McCulloh submitted his letter of resignation to the Board of Trustees, stating “that one, born and reared a Southerner, prefers to cast his lot with that of the South.”

McCulloh Resignation Letter

McCulloh left New York for Richmond, Virginia where he became a consulting chemist for the Confederate Nitre and Mining Bureau.

The Board of Trustees initially acknowledged his resignation in correspondence with colleagues, but McCulloh’s decision to join the Confederacy prompted them to expel him from the faculty, as noted in the Board Minutes, rather than officially accepting the resignation. McCulloh went on to develop a lethal chemical gas for the Confederate Army, which was never used in combat. After his subsequent imprisonment he became a Professor of Mechanics and Thermodynamics at Washington College, where Robert E. Lee served as President, until 1878.

This rich story, spanning the course of a decade, was unearthed in a collection that holds countless narratives waiting to be told. An inventory of the Columbia College Papers will be made available online in the near future.

-Ian Post, Pratt SILS Intern

Sept. 8th, 6pm — A Panel Discussion with Former Gov. David Paterson and Leading Scholars and Community Organizers

political-memories-v4A conversation on libraries, government, and activism, with:

  • Former-Governor David Paterson.
  • Jim Neal, Columbia University Librarian.
  • Dr. Khalil Muhammad, Director, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
  • Ester Fuchs, Professor of International and Public Affairs and Political Science, SIPA.
  • Peggy Shepard, founder director of West Harlem Environmental Action.

    Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, 6pm.
    The Kellogg Center
    1501 International Affairs Building

 

 

Mapping the Bookstore: Retail Cartographies in Antebellum Manhattan

 

Kristen Highland, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English, New York University

March 25, 2014 (Tuesday)

Butler Library, Room, 523, at 6:00 PM

The romanticization of the independent bookstore—haven of booklovers, erudite employees, and serendipitous discovery—obscures the historical reality of selling books—rapid turnover, failure, and looming bottom lines. But bookstores are also more than the sum of their books. This talk examines bookstores in New York City from 1820 to 1860, mapping their locations and movements to trace the retail landscape of a growing bookselling center, and presenting select case studies of stores, including Appleton & Co., to explore how the physical spaces and marketing strategies of retail booksellers helped shape the very definition of a bookstore and the contours of literary culture more generally. An understudied component of book history, the retail bookstore presented books as mass market goods in the nineteenth century and participated in the lively and varied cultural life of antebellum New York City.

Kristen Doyle Highland is a PhD Candidate in the English Department at New York University. Her dissertation project, “At the Bookstore: Literary and Cultural Experience in Antebellum New York City,” examines the physical forms, social life, and cultural significance of the retail bookstore in 19th century Manhattan. Her research has been supported by fellowships and grants from the American Antiquarian Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the Bibliographical Society of America.

The Book History Colloquium at Columbia University, open to any discipline, aims to provide a broad outlet for the scholarly discussion of book history, print culture, the book arts, and bibliographical research, and (ideally) the promotion of research and publication in these fields. Our presenters include Columbia faculty members and advanced graduate students, and scholars of national prominence from a range of institutions.

Questions? Email Karla Nielsen.

On Display @ Kunming City Museum: Barney Rosset, Publisher-Hero as Combat Photographer in China

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services’ (CUL/IS) Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) is pleased to announce the opening of Barney Rosset, Publisher-hero as Combat Photographer in China, an exhibition at Kunming City Museum, in Kunming City, Yunnan, China, which features a collection of RBML’s photographs of China from World War II by Grove Street Press publisher Barney Rosset.

Astrid Rosset at the opening of Barney Rosset, Publisher-Hero as Combat Photographer in China at Kunming City Museum (Photo: Arthur Bijur)

The exhibition, which opened on February 20, was co-curated by Bob Bergin, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer; Astrid Rosset, Barney Rosset’s widow, and Karla Nielsen, Curator of Literature at RBML. The curators chose approximately 100 images from the collection, which were then digitized by the RBML and printed by the Kunming City Museum.

The photographs in the exhibition were taken by Rosset during his time with the U.S. Army Signal Corps in China toward the end of World War II (1944-1945). In 1945, Rosset was tasked with documenting for the United States that Chinese soldiers were willing to fight. The photographs depict Chinese and American soldiers in training and combat, the devastation caused by the Ichi-Go operation (The Battle of Henan-Hunan-Guangxi), the largest Japanese land campaign of the war, the Japanese retreat, and the signing of the surrender in Nanking. Rosset joined the Chinese troops at Kweiyang, the deepest point of Japanese penetration before they began to retreat.

Little documentation from this period remains in China and the newly opened Kunming City Museum was eager to mount an exhibition of Rosset’s photographs. According to Bergin, Rosset (who passed away in 2012) wished that his photos of a difficult period in Chinese history could be shown to China’s new generations.  The exhibition includes digital prints of his photographs, copies of letters he wrote home during that period, and documents that demonstrate Rosset’s interest in China throughout his life and career.

Rosset bought the fledgeling Grove Press in 1951 and transformed it into the leading publisher of avant-garde literature and political writing. Grove published Che Guevara, Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, and Malcolm X.

Concurrent with the brick-and-mortar exhibition in China, the RBML has created an online exhibition containing many of these images, which can be viewed on the exhibition website.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services (CUL/IS) is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 12 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers, including affiliates. CUL/IS employs more than 450 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.

Rare Book & Manuscript Library Acquires Archive of Russian Émigré Poet Lev Loseff

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services’ (CUL/IS) Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) is pleased to announce the acquisition of the papers of Lev Loseff (1937-2009), noted Russian émigré poet, literary critic, professor of Russian Literature at Dartmouth College, and a lifelong friend and authoritative biographer of Nobel Prize Laureate Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996).

 

Brodsky & Loseff. (Photo: Loseff Family Collection)

Born Aleksei Lifshits, Loseff was the son of Vladimir Lifshits, a well-known Russian poet. He graduated from the Leningrad State University and soon after started writing poetry for Russian children’s magazines. In order not to be confused with his father, he changed his name to Lev Loseff.

The collection, which contains approximately 40 feet of linear material, is comprised of manuscripts, poems, correspondence, photographs, and autographed first editions of Loseff’s work, as well as a significant number of subject files on Joseph Brodsky. Brodsky’s correspondence, drawings, typed and holograph manuscripts, and books with inscriptions cover the period 1969 to 2001. Some of the photographs cover an even earlier period in Brodsky’s life in Soviet Russia. The collection also includes legal papers relating to Joseph Brodsky’s will.

“These papers represent an important addition to the already rich collection of Russian materials to the Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European History and Culture at RBML,” said Tanya Chebotarev, Curator of the Bakhmeteff Archive.  “His correspondence with well-known Russian émigré intellectuals including Sergei Dovlatov, Ivan Elagin, Konstantin Kuzminsky, Leonid Rzhevsky is complimented by his research materials on these significant representatives of Russian Diaspora.”

Loseff immigrated to the U.S. in 1976, and spent several years in Ann Arbor working for the Ardis Publishers while obtaining his American doctoral degree. In 1979, he accepted a position at Dartmouth College where he worked until his death. He published 14 well-received collections of verse, as well as numerous works of literary criticism.

The collection offers valuable research opportunities on Russian émigré literary circles and Twentieth-century Soviet literary culture. The collection will also enhance the research and outreach activities of both the Harriman Institute and the East European Studies Center, both recipients of recent NEH Summer Institute grants for the study of America’s Russophone and East Central European diasporic communities. The Loseff collection constitutes an important complement to Brodsky materials already held at the Beinecke Library, Yale University, The Russian National Library, St. Petersburg, and the Green Library, Stanford University.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services (CUL/IS) is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 12 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers, including affiliates. CUL/IS employs more than 450 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.

“Obscene” – Wednesday, February 19, 7:00 PM

 

A screening of Obscene, a documentary about publisher Barney Rosset

Introduced by the film’s co-director, Daniel O’Connor

Chang Room, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University

 Followed by a reception at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library

 


RBML Acquires Kitchen Sink Press Archive

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services’ Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Kitchen Sink Press (KSP) archive, publisher of underground comics between 1969 and 1999 under comics artist, historian and publisher Denis Kitchen.

KSP published many of the most important names in comics history, which are represented in the archive’s files, including Harvey Kurtzman and Will Eisner, two key figures of 20th century comic art.  Kurtzman (1924-1993) was the founding editor and creator of Mad magazine and later founded the satire publications TrumpHumbug, and Help!, and co-created Little Annie Fanny for Playboy.  Eisner (1917-2005) is recognized internationally in the field of sequential art, a term he coined, and created The Spirit in the 1940s and ‘50s. In part through his work with KSP, he became the acknowledged pioneer of the graphic novel; his collection of stories A Contract with God is widely credited with establishing the form as a unique and viable literary form.

“These archives do far more than simply document comics history; they are a chronicle of the cultural and social history of the twentieth century,” said Karen Green, librarian and developer of the CUL/IS comics and graphic novels collection.  “Kitchen Sink Press was so much more than merely an underground press, publishing everyone from giants of the early newspaper strip such as Al Capp and Ernie Bushmiller, to mid-century innovators Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman, to underground pioneers such as R. Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, and Art Spiegelman.  As a result, in both publications and correspondence, the archive captures the changing mores of a turbulent time.”

The KSP archive’s correspondence files are a time capsule of 20th century comic artists from the 1930s onward, with over 50,000 letters, many of which contain draft artwork and both published and unpublished story ideas. Notable contemporary creators represented in the files are Robert Crumb, Charles Burns, and Neil Gaiman.  A sizeable percentage of the files are hand-written, documenting the artists’ careful lettering and illustrations.

Kitchen date-stamped virtually every letter on receipt, kept its envelope and attached a copy of his own response, creating a carefully preserved and deeply comprehensive archive. Kitchen’s early correspondence with Art Spiegelman predates his Pulitzer Prize-winning Holocaust memoir Maus by several years, and Kitchen helped publish some of the early Maus strips more than six years before Spiegelman began to publish them in Raw, the magazine Spiegelman co-edited with his wife, Françoise Mouly.

“Apparently I am a natural-born archivist,” said Kitchen.  “I will miss the rows of file cabinets full of handwritten letters, illustrated letters, and even letters that came out of devices called typewriters, all created before the digital age made traditional correspondence all but obsolete, but I hope they provide scholars with insights into the development of underground comix and the work of the multiple generations of creators I had the distinct pleasure of working with.”

KSP began publishing underground comics in 1969 when Kitchen, a comic artist before he became a publisher, began self-publishing after encountering payment problems for his own commissioned artwork. It was an alternative, idealistic publishing model, more artist-friendly than the work-for-hire commercial model.  Artists could keep their own artwork, retained the copyright to it after publication, and were paid royalties instead of flat rates – a significant departure from the commercial norm at the time.

Early on, Kitchen received requests for publication of unsolicited artwork and stories.  He published artists both well-known and virtually unknown, commanding quality above all other factors.  A lifelong comics fan and collector, he also corresponded with artists of previous generations and would republish their sometimes long-forgotten works.  In this, KSP took a path different from the other major underground comics publishers, and brought all of 20th century comic art under its umbrella, documenting the progression of the field in a way no other publisher did at the time.

The archive, which contains over 200 linear feet of material, embodies three decades of innovation and transformation in the field of comic art and visual storytelling and includes a roster of the most important names in the industry.  Correspondence, publishing and editorial files, mechanicals, original art and mock-ups, business files and more comprise the meticulously preserved collection.

“One of Columbia’s great strengths is the history of American publishing in the 20th century,” said Michael Ryan, director of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library.  “Few libraries have archival holdings as deep and as rich in major commercial publishing as Columbia.  The acquisition of Denis Kitchen’s spectacular archive builds on and adds to this impressive array of material.  It would be hard to find someone more important than Kitchen in the business of comics in the later 20th century.  He helped launch the careers of many of the major comic artists of today.  His archive, when opened, will prove indispensable to researchers in the field.”

This acquisition supports a major collecting strength of the RBML, the history of publishing and related archives, with notable recent additions including the archives of Granary Books, the Dalkey Archive Press, Ballantine Books, and the papers of Barney Rosset, founder of Grove Press.  Additionally, it is the latest development in CUL/IS’s support for research, teaching, and learning with comics and graphic novels.  Since its beginning in 2005, a growing circulating collection of such graphic novels at CUL/IS has inspired scholarly inquiry, as well as academic writing and coursework, including The American Graphic Novel, a course co-taught by Columbia University Professor Jeremy Dauber and former DC Comics president Paul Levitz, and a long-running summer course on comics as literature.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services (CUL/IS) is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 12 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers, including affiliates. CUL/IS employs more than 450 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.

The Depth of New Yorker Films

Written by Sarah Cassone, Processing Intern Dan Talbot Papers

MS Student, Palmer School of Library and Information Science, Long Island University

 

One thing that is striking upon processing the Dan Talbot Papers is the types of materials his company kept and the attention to detail each film was given. When I think about the functions of film distribution companies my immediate thoughts are acquiring, distributing, and publicizing. Talbot’s New Yorker Films seemed to go above and beyond what was required for such a small independent film company.  With a staff of just nine individuals (according to a quick internet search) the amount of material within the Dan Talbot Papers surrounding New Yorker Films is astounding. The collection spans over 500 boxes and includes a variety of materials from printed and audiovisual material to operations files.

 

The most surprising files I’ve found have been the reviews of each film Talbot’s company distributed. Not only does the collection contain both original newspaper clippings as well as copies but these reviews are sometimes broken down by region (for example East Coast and West Coast reviews) and sometimes even more specifically by state. I’ve never considered how much importance a film distribution company would place on film reviews. It seems a little odd to me to collect nearly everything written about the film. As a matter of practice, you would think a film company would care more about how much money the film is making rather than whether or not it is being favorably received. Perhaps it was Talbot’s own history as a former film critic (he wrote for The New York Times in the 1960 as well as The Progressive) as well as his nature as a cinephile that made him want to read and save pages upon pages of reviews.

 

I was also surprised at the detailed marketing attention some of the films in his distribution company received. While it is entirely common for film companies to put together press kits of film synopses and photographs in order to send out to the media, it is quite another to be engaging in the creation of original artwork for the films. The film Peppermint Soda, a 1977 coming of age French film, directed by Diane Kurys and distributed by New Yorker Films, features some incredibly stunning hand drawn art, from full posters and transparencies to individual prints.

The above poster and transparency for the film were created by Floc’h, a French artist who previously collaborated with director Jacques Rivette. It is likely he’d already provided his services prior to Talbot’s acquisition of the title, as Gaumont films originally had the rights to the film. Regardless, the detail in marketing and publicity for Peppermint Soda is so specific to the film’s content and genre and was clearly given a lot of time and focus after Talbot’s acquisition of the title.

 

Many files within the Dan Talbot Papers contain ads for films. These would appear in newspapers and magazines and are usually presented with quotes. They are normally stills from the film. The ads for Peppermint Soda, however, contain original 8 1/2 by 11 hand drawn black and white illustrations, based upon scenes in the film.

Some of this artwork was then set within print newspaper ads.

From my experience processing thus far, it appears that Talbot kept all the print ads to most of his films, from each publication they appeared in. The Dan Talbot Papers are not only a treasure trove of material from the independent and foreign film scene for cinephiles, researchers, and scholars alike but the collection also provides insight into the inner workings of an independent distribution company and just how far that role extends.

A Panel on Personalities in Post-war Publishing

with Loren Glass, Boris Kachka, and Jay Gertzman

Post-War Publishers 

December 11, 2013 (Wednesday)

Butler Library, Room, 523, at 6:00 p.m.

Loren Glass is a Professor of English at the University of Iowa and author of Counterculture Colophon: Grove Press, the Evergreen Review, and the Incorporation of the Avant-Garde (Stanford University Press, 2013).  Boris Kachka is a journalist and the author of Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar Straus Giroux (Simon & Schuster, 2013).  Jay Gertzman wrote the first biography of the publisher Samuel Roth, this year’s Samuel Roth, Infamous Modernist (University Press of Florida, 2013).

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The Book History Colloquium at Columbia University, open to any discipline, aims to provide a broad outlet for the scholarly discussion of book history, print culture, the book arts, and bibliographical research, and (ideally) the promotion of research and publication in these fields. Our presenters include Columbia faculty members and advanced graduate students, and scholars of national prominence from a range of institutions.

Questions? Email Karla Nielsen.