Stand Up for Your Right to Read!

Next week is Banned Books Week. Stand up for your right to read! Emilee Howland-Davis, a PhD student in the English department, invites everyone to join her English 2100 class on Thursday, September 29th, anytime between 11:00 and 3:30 in Speaker’s Circle. We will read from our favorite banned books and talk to people about banned, challenged, or censored materials. Please bring your favorite banned book, and join us in standing up for our right to read.

Additionally, the English 2100 class has prepared a display of banned books in Special Collections. We hope you will stop by Special Collections and check it out.

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The Lucubrations of Vicesimus Knox

This post is part 5 of our continuing series on Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class and their research on an early American manuscript in Special Collections.

by Erik Wasson

One of the reasons that The Lucubrator seems so strange is the range of topics the manuscript covers, as is promised in its subtitle, Containing Essays on Various Subjects. However, influential writers of the eighteenth century commonly published literature on “various subjects.” In my research, I have focused on the famous essayist Vicesimus Knox: specifically, his two published essay collections, Winter Evenings; or, Lucubrations on Life and Letters (London 1788; New York 1805) and Essays Moral and Literary (London, 1778; Philadelphia 1792).

Post 6_Knox Essays Title Page

Winter Evenings covers a variety of subjects just as does The Lucubrator. Besides having the word “lucubrator” in their titles, both works have a table of contents that lay out similar topics of interest. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “lucubrator” as “a nocturnal student,” and the word “lucubrations” as “the product of nocturnal study and meditation; hence, a literary work showing signs of careful elaboration. Now somewhat derisive or playful, suggesting the notion of something pedantic or overelaborate.” This definition of the word “lucubrator” gives a clue as to the purpose of The Lucubrator and the reason for why the contents of the manuscript are so wide-ranging, from discussions of female education to living in the countryside. The author’s mission was to create a manuscript, which, told through an apprehensive narrative voice, had intellectual thought and moralistic and societal concern as its structure.

Post 6_Knox Essays Table of Contents

In his prefaces to Essays Moral and Literary and Winter Evenings, Knox discusses lucubrations as if they were a genre all on their own. He claims that their literary footprint is significant to his culture and to the education of readers. What is most interesting about Essays Moral and Literary is found in the preface. Here Knox writes:

An unknown Writer who sends his lucubrations into the world, and solicits public favour, is exactly in the condition of a new man aspiring to hounours among the ancient Romans. They who have established their fame, are jealous of an intruder; they who are competitors, are angry with a rival; and the unconcerned spectators will seldom withdraw their eyes from the contemplation of allowed merit, to examine the pretentions of doubtful excellence.

Perhaps to avoid being criticized by other writers and readers of his day, Knox attempted to publish his essays anonymously. In the preface to the second edition of Essays, Knox wrote: “The Author of the following Papers can truly say, he never meant to claim them” (ix). This statement made by Knox gives strong evidence towards why The Lucubrator was never published. Knox calls his essays “the unguarded production of his leisure hours.” Perhaps the author of the manuscript thought, too, that lucubrations were too private or personal for publication.

Post 6_Knox Essay On Idea of Patriot

Teaching Spotlight: David Crespy

For the next installment of our Teaching Spotlight feature, we're intervewing Dr. David Crespy. Dr. Crespy is a professor of playwriting, acting, and dramatic literature here at MU. He and his students visit Special Collections for his course, Digging Lanford Wilson: An Archival Approach to Drama.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your interests.

I am a professor with a focus on playwriting, acting, and dramatic literature in the MU Department of Theatre, where I have served as the Artistic Director of the Missouri Playwrights Workshop and as founder and co-director of the MU Writing for Performance Program for the last 18 years. My major scholarly interest has been in the work of American playwright, Edward Albee, and most recently, in the work of Lanford Wilson, who was his protégé in dramatic writing. Wilson was a Missouri native, and was a prolific dramatist on and off Broadway in New York, some of his most famous plays include Burn ThisBook of Days, Fifth of JulyThe Hot’l Baltimore, and many, many other plays. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his play Talley’s Folly, and was the major dramatic voice of his generation of American playwrights who came into the scene in the 1960s as part of what has become known as Off-off Broadway, which I wrote extensively about in my book, Off-Off Broadway Explosion, which documented the work of Lanford Wilson, Sam Shepard, John Guare, Maria Irene Fornes, and many others. Lanford was a co-founder of Circle Repertory Theatre in New York City, which was at the heart of off-Broadway theatre in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, and produced countless well-known playwrights including Paula Vogel, Jon Robin Baitz, Michael Cristofer, Charles Evered, Jules Feiffer, A.R. Gurney, William M. Hoffman, Albert Innaurato, Corinne Jacker, Arthur Kopit, Jim Leonard, Jr., Lucas, David Mamet, William Mastrosimone, Marsha Norman, Robert Patrick, Joe Pintauro, William Missouri Downs, Murray Schisgal, Sam Shepard, Milan Stitt, and Tennessee Williams. Lanford was at the heart of it as its resident playwright, and I brought Lanford here in 2006. 

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In Spring of 2012 the University of Missouri in Columbia, where I teach playwriting, was informed that Lanford Wilson had donated all his papers, 52 linear feet—47 boxes of manuscripts, photographs, letters, poetry, fiction, theatre artifacts—The Lanford Wilson Collection—to the Special Collections and Rare Books department of our beautiful Ellis Library on Lowry Mall on the MU Campus. It is an historic bequest, and one that will permit MU faculty, students, and scholars from around the world to explore the work of Missouri’s own Pulitzer prize-winning playwright in extraordinary detail. Lanford had visited Mizzou at my request back in October of 2006, and we had a delightful visit with him – he had managed to fit in the visit between his teaching work at the University of Houston and his busy writing life in Sag Harbor. I directed a concert reading of Lanford’s play The Mound Builders with his assistance and guidance in our Rhynsburger Theatre, and later he and I had a wonderful onstage discussion about his life and work. It was an amazing experience—Lanford deeply connected with our Mizzou theatre students.  

It is hoped that in the Fall of 2017, the University of Missouri Press will publish Lanford Wilson: Early Stories, Sketches, and Poetry, which I have co-edited with Jonathan Thirkield. The volume will have a foreword by Marshall W. Mason, who was Lanford’s long-time director, and who just won the 2016 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement, as well as a tribute by Edward Albee.  All the material in the book will come from MU Libraries’ own Lanford Wilson Collection, and I am so proud that the University of Missouri libraries has made that all possible.  It is because of the incredible efforts of our archivists, Mike Holland and Anselm Huelsbergen, who took this rather massive collection, and organized it into a useful archival resource, that I was able to even find this material and bring it to light for scholars, theatre artists, and readers to explore.

How did you use Special Collections in your teaching?

During the summer of 2013, I did research in the new Lanford Wilson collection for the production of Wilson’s play Fifth of July for a production of the play I directed in Fall 2013 in the Rhynsburger Theatre, and while I was doing that research, I discovered that Wilson had left an extraordinary number of different versions of each of his plays.  It was a fascinating experience to explore how Wilson, who was a meticulous writer and dramatic craftsman, would change entire sections of his play – reworking plot, character, and dialogue. Each of his plays started off with handwritten notebooks where you can see the characters starting to take shape, and then you can see Wilson wrestling with each moment from iteration to iteration of the scripts until he was satisfied. The plays keep changing from production to production—from off-Broadway at Circle Rep to Broadway, and after later productions in the Regional theatre. It is really an amazing writer’s process, and there is so much there that a student of playwriting or dramatic literature can learn from Lanford’s explorations in his beautifully crafted plays. I decided that I wanted my students to experience Wilson’s work first hand, and was inspired to design a course that I called Digging Lanford Wilson: An Archival Approach To Drama.

In the Fall of 2015, I approached Kelli Hansen about developing this archival research course, using the Lanford Wilson collection as resource to teach students how to use manuscripts, photographs, programs, correspondence, theatrical posters, and other archival materials to discover how a playwright wrote, developed, and had his plays produced. Kelli used the first hours of the course to teach the students how archives are archived, how to work with archival materials, how to actually make sense of a writer’s cursive hand (particularly in correspondence), in other words, the nuts and bolts of archival research. We would spend the first hour or more of each class in the collection working with these actual materials—some of which had never been seen except by Lanford Wilson and our University archivists!  The second hour of the course, we read and discussed Wilson’s plays; exploring each play’s production history and interpretations and scholarship about the scripts.  

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Several of the students in the course then presented their research on Lanford Wilson’s plays at the Undergraduate Research Forum last Spring, and I was especially delighted to discover that one of them, Leslie Howard, who was presented on Lanford Wilson’s play The Sand Castle, was selected as the winner of MU Libraries Undergraduate Research Paper Contest.  The course was one of the most successful that I have taught at MU, and what made it special was the experience of working in Ellis Library’s Special Collections and Rare Books.  The hands-on experience of working with actual archival materials was amazing, and to have a theatre collection at the University of Missouri like the Lanford Wilson Collection is just a miracle.  Most theatre students would have to travel to New York City to access such an extensive archival resource, and here it is, right at Mizzou!  I look forward to teaching Digging Lanford Wilson again in the Fall of 2017, when we will hopefully have Lanford’s collection of short stories and poetry published, and simultaneously, I’ll be directing one of his plays in our Rhynsburger Theatre.

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What advice would you give faculty or instructors interested in using Special Collections in their courses?

If a faculty member hasn’t worked with special collections, they should get started now – especially if your own research takes you there. And if they haven’t used special collections, it’s time! I was thrilled with resources that Kelli Hansen made available to me, including a wonderful website http://libraryguides.missouri.edu/lanfordwilson, that allowed my students to learn about archival research the Special Collections, discover the resources of the Lanford Wilson Collection, and how to work with finding aids and primary sources. My feeling is that students are becoming less and less likely to walk in the doors of the library, beyond using it as a study hall. Working with Special Collections gives students a better understanding of how important our libraries are, as well as the thrill of scholarly research—working with archival resources and doing original research that may change how we understand our world. Working with manuscripts, photos, correspondence, theatrical programs, and having an opportunity to physically touch materials that were part of New York’s Broadway theatre was a life-changing experience for my students. Give your students that transformative understanding of scholarship by teaching a course in Special Collections!

Finding Fiction in Unexpected Places at the Turn of the 19th Century

This post is part 4 of our continuing series on Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class and their research on an early American manuscript in Special Collections.

by Amy Cantrall

The pages of The Lucubrator are filled with advice, opinions, and contemplations about life. The very last essay casts a different tone: one of fiction, as it contains all the elements of storytelling. The story, dated as being written on August 25, 1797, is of the narrator coming across a hurt man on the road; it is entitled “On the Probability of Future Rewards and Punishments.” This last essay follows this stranger’s path through his life of misery, action, and adventure. It is a tale fit for modern novels—the man, sent to work at a young age, becomes involved in war as he grows older. Mistaken identities, seafaring adventures, piracy, and a strong-willed attempt to return home encapsulate this amazing story; enough to certainly keep readers on the edge of their seats to find out what will happen to the poor stranger who happened to come upon the narrator’s path.

Post 5_Charlotte Temple Post 5_Last page final entry Post 5_First page final entryHowever, we don’t find out what happens to the narrator. Sadly, one of the many mysteries of The Lucubrator includes what has happened to the rest of the manuscript. The missing pages could suggest that there is a second volume of The Lucubrator, especially due to the fact that the story has no satisfying conclusion. The fictional tale ends with the sentence “Soon after we were transported to Great Britain, where we remained as prisoners till exchanged towards the conclusion of the war.” Although the story seems to be in the middle, the back page remains blank, with no further writings. The mysteriousness of the unfinished story captures our wonder for this stranger within the final ten pages of a mysterious manuscript. This story strikes a reader as intriguing also because it is not like the other essays, which are educational and moralistic; this one seems to be a complete work of fiction, pulled from the writer’s imagination. Its placement at the end of The Lucubrator could perhaps also be a way of filling up pages, as the American publisher Robert Bell did with Samuel Jackson Pratt’s novel Emma Corbett (1780); rather than waste valuable sheets of paper, he filled them (Pratt 233). If we are to believe this is what Noyes had intended, then it is possible that “On the Probability” was never a finished story.

In an attempt to discover who James Noyes might have been, I came across one James Noyes’s almanac entitled An Astronomical Diary or Almanack, for the Year of Christian Aera, 1797. Similar to The Lucubrator, the Astronomical Diary contains a fictional tale entitled simply, “Humorous: A Humorous Tale.” This tale is an amusing story of two Englishmen who stay the night in a house with a corpse. After one of the men returns to what he believes to be his room, he climbs into bed unknowingly with the corpse—causing much fright for the servants when they believe the corpse has come back to life. This is a short, humorous tale; its presence near the end of an almanac seems to function as a way of entertaining readers, as almanacs mostly provide factual information and details about daily weather for planting and growing crops. In this way, the placement of the humorous tale is unexpected and not so straightforward; but it is understandable why it would be there. Similarly, the final essay of The Lucubrator is also a sensational and unexpected fiction, with its unfinished story leaving much for readers to question. I think this could very well be the same James Noyes, as both seem to like including fictional stories at the end of their writings.

Post 5_Charlotte Temple

Fictional stories and novels in early America provided a new scope of reading. With fiction, news stories could be presented in new ways and grow into new genres. As we have found with such popular novels as Emma Corbett, Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple (1791), and Hannah Webster Foster’s The Coquette (1797), narratives that followed fictional lives often benefited readers by demonstrating strong moral conduct and warning against seduction. In this way, early novels were often didactic. But the two fictional stories I have chosen to examine, “A Humorous Tale” and “On the Probability of Future Rewards and Punishments” are not instructive. Because the latter short tale does not have a proper ending, it is unknown whether or not the author intended for a moral lesson or some sort of warning as the title implies. This is why I believe these fictions are of a different kind than we find in contemporary novels. They are used solely for the purpose of surprising and entertaining readers who expect advice and meditations in The Lucubrator and weather reports in the almanac. 

Perhaps, in these short fictions, we can see one moment in the evolution of American fiction. If the author of “On the Probability of Future Rewards and Punishments” had turned the tale into a novel, I believe he or she would have written it in a single narrative voice, as was becoming popular during the period of the manuscript’s creation. From here on out, fictional storytelling (including short stories and novels alike) would only expand and develop further.


Works Cited

Noyes, James. An Astromonical Diary or Almanack, for the Year of Christian Aera, 1797. Dover: 1796. America's Historical Imprints. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

Noyes, James. Lucubrator. N.d. MS. University of Missouri, n.p.

Noyes, James. The Federal Arithmetic; Or, A Compendium of the Most Useful Rules of That Science, Adapted to the Currency of the United States. For the Use of Schools and Private Persons. Published Agreeably to Act of Congress. Exeter: 1797. America's Historical Imprints. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.

Pratt, Samuel Jackson. Emma Corbett, Or, The Miseries of Civil War. Ed. Eve Tavor Bannet. Peterborough: Broadview, 2011.

Manuscript-Making: The Lucubrator as Commonplace Book, Diary, and Scrapbook

This post is part 3 of our continuing series on Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class and their research on an early American manuscript in Special Collections.

by Sarah Fine

When we think of blogging, we probably think of someone sitting in front of a computer. However, the concept of blogging isn’t new; in fact, people have been practicing forms of life writing for hundreds of years. Most people are probably familiar with diaries, but 18th-century Americans also composed scrapbooks and commonplace books, and used these outlets much in the same way that modern life writers might use social media. So, what was The Lucubrator to its author?

Post 3_Table of Contents continuedWe have a little evidence to go by. First, as far as we can tell, the manuscript was never published, either in whole or in part. A diary, to an 18th-century writer, would have been an outlet for private, personal expression, much like a personal blog today; and the author of The Lucubrator certainly expresses him or herself in a series of opinionated essays. However, we can tell from the somewhat disorganized nature of the book that it probably was not meant to be a diary, if only because this book is not like other early modern diaries that exist today. First, in their subject matter, as Harriette Merrifield Forbes notes:

Many of the diaries listed [in catalogues] seem to have but little value,

but however insignificant they may contain facts saved by no one else and of great interest to a few. Others, like those of Judge Samuel Sewall, and the Rev. Ebenezer Parkman, give nearly complete histories of the social life of the towns where the diarists lived. (vii)

The Lucubrator deals only with very general topics; there is no mention of, for example, specific people in the author’s life, in a specific place, or even during specific events (with the exception of Independence Day); in other words, we would expect a diary to include more specific references to his or her own life than The Lucubrator does because, well, it is a diary. Secondly, The Lucubrator doesn’t look at all like you’d expect a diary to look; it has page numbers, but the dates given in the individual entries are inconsistent and not always in chronological order. The entries are also titled, and the book has a title page and a table of contents. It’s highly unlikely that a normal diarist would ever go to such lengths to decorate his or her own diary only to inscribe the entries irregularly and out of order.

Post 3_Final Table of Contents

So, if The Lucubrator is not a diary, does that mean it was meant to be shared? If so, that would make the manuscript more akin to a scrapbook, which, like the scrapbooks of the 21st-century, would be used to log the creator’s experiences for the sake of revisiting them later. Actually, 18th-century scrapbooks were a lot like Facebook; according to Katie Good, a scrapbook was meant to document relationships, collect media (which, as print grew, was becoming more abundant), and express personal tastes while building “cultural capital” (557). The Lucubrator obviously does one of these things: it expresses the writer’s personal tastes or beliefs. It may also do a second, in that it may be a means of collecting media. However, that could mean that the essays are more or less plagiarized. It was not uncommon in the 17th-and 18th– centuries for a reader to, upon feeling connected with a certain piece, copy it down, perhaps as a means of committing it to memory, or as a means of putting it in a convenient place (i.e. a scrapbook) where it could be easily found again for rereading. However, this assertion is almost as unlikely as the diary hypothesis, namely because there is no record of the essays in print anywhere else; none, at least that can be easily found. It could be that the writer paraphrased or shortened essays that he or she read elsewhere. But a scrapbook, according to Good, should also document personal relationships or memories (The Lucubrator is so vague that we can’t say with certainty where it even came from, let alone who it is about), and should contain some sort of printed memorabilia¾ticket stubs, playbills, letters, or cards. The Lucubrator doesn’t contain anything like this, except for a single broadside, found folded and tucked into the back cover. However, due to the book’s unclear history, we can’t know whether this broadside was original to the book or was placed there for safekeeping by one of its many owners through the centuries.

Post 3_What is it

So, if The Lucubrator is neither a diary nor a scrapbook, what is this thing? We can best classify it as a commonplace book, which is not dissimilar to a Tumblr page; commonplace books were meant to contain a writer’s original thoughts or reactions to others’ work, as well as copied-down essays or works written by others, much in the same way a Tumblr page can contain both original posts and the reblogged posts of others. They were meant as places for reflection; the Enlightenment had made self-improvement through education a very popular idea, and commonplace books popped up as a means of fostering one’s own critical thinking about events or readings. This fits The Lucubrator to a T. Fred Schurink writes that, of the commonplace books that have survived, the majority are academic in tone, and carefully organized; some, even the more casual ones, include handwritten indices to allow the collector to find passages more easily (463, 466). The Lucubrator looks similar to one contemporary commonplace book, that of Hector Orr. Orr’s essays are similarly numbered and titled. His subject matter is quite similar as well, as the manuscript comprises mostly moralistic or observational essays. However, unlike The Lucubrator, Orr’s commonplace book does not have a table of contents, page numbers, or dated entries. The primary detractor from the commonplace book hypothesis is that The Lucubrator is decidedly un-academic. While it is possible that the essays are responses to the author’s readings, those readings aren’t named, nor are their sources or authors given. The writer also doesn’t include (or, at least, doesn’t denote) direct quotations from these source works. This would suggest that the author wasn’t taking notes while reading another work, and at most might be writing in response to those works.

With all of these criteria in mind, it becomes clear that The Lucubrator does not fall neatly into a single category. Of course, The Lucubrator could also be a sort of mashup of all three genres. According to Zboray and Zboray, separate books would sometimes combine or even transform over time: “While the folks who created these literary items recognized each one’s distinct form and purpose … in practice they often merged formats, so that a diary, for example, could easily morph into a scrapbook or a scrapbook into a commonplace book” (Zboray, et. al, 12). So, the author of The Lucubrator could very well have used the manuscript as a venue to write response essays to other, published essays, or to events in his or her life. This would, in a way, place the manuscript in both the scrapbook category, as it is a means to commemorate the works of others, and as a commonplace book, as it is a place to reflect upon those works. This would imply that the creation of the book was a personal project, and that the manuscript was not meant for publication, or possibly even for sharing among family and neighbors.


Works Cited

Forbes, Harriette Merrifield. New England Diaries: 1602-1800; a Descriptive Catalogue  of Diaries, Orderly Books and Sea Journals. New York: Russell & Russell, 1967.

Good, Katie. “From Scrapbook to Facebook: a history of personal media assemblage and archives.” New Media and Society. 15.4 (2013): 557-73.

Orr, Hector. Commonplace book of Hector Orr, 1789-1804. Colonial North American Project. Harvard University. Web. Accessed April 15, 2016.

Schurink, Fred. “Manuscript Commonplace Books, Literature, and Reading in Early Modern England.” The Huntington Library Quarterly. 73.3 (2010): 453-69.

Zboray, Ronald J. and Mary Saracino Zboray. “Is It a Diary, Commonplace Book, Scrapbook, or Whatchamacallit? Six Years of Explorations in New England’s Manuscript Archives.” Libraries and the Cultural Record. 44.1 (2009): 101-23.

 

All About Alecia McLean, Special Collections social media intern

Hello, everyone!

My name is Alecia McLean and I am the newest social media intern for the Special Collections portion of Ellis Library. I am a senior english and anthropology major here at MU. Here's a little bit more about me:

1.) I am an avid reader. I've been enthralled with literature since I was a little girl, so much so that I chose to study it at university. I have an expansive reading list that I am trying to amble my way through. I'm currently reading Far From the Madding Crowd which is a novel by 19th century British novelist Thomas Hardy. My favorite genre is fiction and my favorite book is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. 

2.) I love writing! My ultimate dream is to one day become a successful novelist. I used to write short stories in my childhood and I still write a few today. In eighth grade, I did a project on J.K Rowling because she was and continues to be one of my biggest inspirations.

3.) I aspire to see the world. The premature anthropologist in me is desperate to explore Earth's every corner. I am originally from Kingston, Jamaica, and having relocated to the United States as a child I got exposure to two cultures. My love of world cultures grew from that initial exposure and had just become bigger and bigger as a grew older! Some of my most desired places to visit are Italy, Greece, Thailand and Ireland. 

4.) Music, music, music. I love listening to music. It's my main inspiration when I write and for life in general. My favorite genre is alternative but I will give anything a try. Top 5 bands are The Black Keys, alt-J, Arctic Monkeys, Mumford and Sons and Coldplay. Honorable mentions: The Killers, Imagine Dragons, The Lumineers and The War on Drugs. 

The featured imagine is "selfie" I took in the car before going to a Mumford and Sons concert. 

P.S. I really look forward to my semester interning under the wonderful staff of Special Collections!

Searching for James Noyes: Published Author and Patriot of Post-Revolutionary America

This post is part 2 of our continuing series on Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class and their research on an early American manuscript in Special Collections.

by Mackenna Arends and Zack Schwartz

The Lucubrator is an early American manuscript comprised of a collection of essays written by a James Noyes, as the decorated title page tells us. As a class, we have had the opportunity to study this manuscript held in our Special Collections and Rare Books Library and to become the first readers to transcribe the manuscript to prepare it for digitization. Upon reading and analyzing the essays, we have found that the manuscript is quite mysterious because, while the author shares useful knowledge and insights on various subjects such as the discovery of the planet Uranus, the moral dangers of learning to dance, and the virtues of patriotism, we cannot be certain of the identity of James Noyes himself.

Post 2_Inspecting MS

Searching for information on James Noyes led us to multiple candidates for the manuscript’s authorship. After perusing several databases and conducting research, we have found three possible authors: James Noyes of Stonington, Connecticut (1723–1806), Lieutenant James Noyes of Atkinson, New Hampshire (1745–1831), and the young author, James Noyes (1778-1799), who also resided in Atkinson during the same period.

James Noyes of Stonington (1723–1806) was the son of John (1685-1751) and Mary (née Gallup) Noyes (1695-1736), as well as the descendant of the Reverend James Noyes (1608-1656), the founder of Newbury, Massachusetts. Noyes’s great grandfather, the Reverend James Noyes, moved to Stonington after its residents asked the governors of Massachusetts Bay Colony to send them a minister. This James Noyes became pastor of the First Congregational Church of Stonington in 1664, a position later occupied by his son, James (1685-1751), who became one of the first trustees of Yale College, later known as Yale University. Examining a partial genealogy of Reverend James Noyes’s family reveals that his great grandson, James, would have been alive when the manuscript was written (Noyes, Noyes' Genealogy 9). In 1794, James Noyes was 71 years old, so he would have been at an age at which writing the essays in the fair hand of the manuscript was still possible. This James Noyes lived in Stonington, but other than his age and the town in which he lived, little about him is known. Still, the occupation of James Noyes’s grandfathers as learned clergymen suggests that he, too, might have been preoccupied with the subjects discussed in The Lucubrator, such as education, morality, and religion.   

The next James Noyes who is a candidate for the manuscript’s authorship is a Lieutenant James Noyes of Atkinson, New Hampshire (1745–1831). Noyes was a soldier in the American Revolutionary War who finished building a family homestead in Atkinson in 1794, the year of The Lucubrator’s first dated entry. Noyes would have been 49 years old when he wrote the manuscript. Perhaps at that point in his life, he began to write reflections on his society as he saw his community changing around him. Having served in the Revolutionary War and having lived to see a new country rise around him, Lt. Noyes could have decided to record all the changes and his thoughts on them. The manuscript may be a diary or a commonplace book used by Noyes to keep his thoughts as private or as public as he wanted. Additionally, the manuscript mentions the opening of a dancing school in the town of the author’s residence, and there appears to be proof that one dancing master, Nathan Allen, started a school in Portsmouth, near Atkinson, before 1799 (Van Winkle Keller 17). This information leaves open the possibility that Lt. James Noyes could in fact be the author of The Lucubrator.  

Another candidate for The Lucubrator’s authorship is James Noyes of Atkinson (1778-1799). This Noyes lived to be only twenty-one years old. At the age of eleven, he was crippled “by wading in a brook near his home,” an explanation that suggests he was a victim of polio (Noyes, Genealogical Record 390). After the incident, Noyes was “confined to the house and to the use of crutches” until his death. Nevertheless, he made several major accomplishments in his short lifetime. In 1794, at just sixteen years old, Noyes published an almanac entitled The New Hampshire and Massachusetts Almanac, which is made up of calendars marking the phases of the moon and maps of New Hampshire and Massachusetts towns. In 1797 he also published a 128-page book entitled The Federal Arithmetic, which for the first time included multiplication tables and other mathematical rules and examples. In The Lucubrator’s essay entitled “The Dancing School,” the author writes that a person should know “reading, writing, and arithmetic.” Arithmetic is important to the author of The Lucubrator as well as James Noyes of Atkinson, hinting that they may be the same person.

This James Noyes also wrote an almanac entitled An Astronomical Diary or Almanack, for the Year of Christian Aera, which was published in New Hampshire in 1797. The Lucubrator includes an essay, “On The Planets Being Inhabited Worlds,” in which the author discusses the planets and astronomy. We can assume the author has an interest in astronomy so it is very possible that he was the same James Noyes who wrote the astronomical diary. The federal arithmetic and two almanacs were all published in New Hampshire, increasing the likelihood that they were authored by the same person: a writer who may have written The Lucubrator as well.

Post 2_Working together

Although we may never know for certain who wrote The Lucubrator, evidence suggests that James Noyes of Atkinson, the almanac and arithmetic book writer, is the most likely candidate. By researching the lives of multiple James Noyeses, we learned more about early American authorship than we would have if we were just writing about it. Through primary sources, we can compile evidence of things we want to know about literary history. Our experience has given us a deeper appreciation for the research tools and digital books that our library provides.


Works Cited

Barnum, Louise Noyes. Atkinson: Then and Now. Atkinson Historical Society, 1976.

Noyes, Henry E. and Harriette E. Noyes. Genealogical Record of Some of the Noyes Descendants of James, Nicholas, and Peter Noyes. Vol. 1. Boston: 1904.

Noyes, Horatio N. Noyes' Genealogy. Record of a Branch of the Descendants of Rev. James Noyes, Newbury, 1634-1656. Cleveland: 1889.

Van Winkle Keller, Kate. Early American Dance and Music: John Griffiths, Eighteenth-     Century Itinerant Dancing Master. Sandy Hook: Hendrickson, 1989.

Uncovering Culture Shifts in a Mysterious Manuscript: Introducing The Lucubrator

To celebrate the first week of classes, we're sharing a series of student work completed last semester. Students in Dr. Juliette Paul's English 4300 class undertook a transcription and research project on an early American manuscript that has been in our collections for decades, but that we knew very little about.  We'll share their discoveries and insights here over the next nine weeks. -KH

by Emma Quinn

Post 1_Emma at her bookPeople often forget about the multitude of manuscripts that are forever lost, which is why discovering one previously unknown seems all the more incredible. Unearthing a mysterious manuscript entitled The Lucubrator (1794-97) is exactly what our class did this semester (English 4300, Spring 2016). As we studied early American literature, it made sense for us to examine the strange, little-known manuscript held in our Special Collections and Rare Books Library. Filled with essays illustrating the culture of the early United States, The Lucubrator seems to belong to the literature we studied. We believe the manuscript was once owned by James Noyes (1778-99), a young, patriotic, and accomplished New England writer whose name appears on the title page.

The University of Missouri’s copy of The Lucubrator is the only one known in the world. It consists of essays dated between 1794 and 1797 and includes titled such as “On the Planets being inhabited worlds,” “Oration on the American Independence,” and “Reflections on the Month of December.” The experience of studying the manuscript felt almost unreal—to be the first group of students to study a one-of-a-kind, handwritten, and heartfelt text. I was amazed to think that a real historical person had carved his pen ink into the delicate curled letters of the manuscript, and transcribed his thoughts and opinions into the form of essays, creating the book that we can now hold in the palm of one hand. Studying the faded and cracking pages in Special Collections made the author and his or her writings feel so much more present and real to me. How did the manuscript get here? Who was James Noyes, and why did he decide to write The Lucubrator, if he is indeed the author?

These are the questions we looked to answer; and it seems very likely that we have answered some of them. We can now imagine who James Noyes might have been and what he and other authors of his time liked to study, what their society was like, and what they aimed to accomplish during their lifetimes. We have found evidence that the manuscript was written in America; its author celebrates the creation of the United States, makes use of the American spellings of words, and quotes from a book published only in Philadelphia when the entry was made.[1]

We also discovered how important The Lucubrator’s essays were—both culturally and historically in the eighteenth century. For example, in the essay “On Female Education,” the author argues that women have similar rights to knowledge as men. Though this idea is not revolutionary today, it was so after the American Revolution. This manuscript might remind us that thinking differently can catch on and change an entire culture.

Post 1_American Independence


[1] The epigraph in the essay “On Female Education” is taken from James Neal’s An Essay on the Education and Genius of the Female Sex (Philadelphia, 1795).

Creating the Library of the Future

The University of Missouri Libraries are creating the library of the future as a partner in the HathiTrust, an international community of research libraries committed to the preservation and availability of the cultural record.  By digitizing and curating rare, fragile, and valuable scholarly materials, the University Libraries are helping to build an open access digital library available to scholars all over the world.  The HathiTrust Digital Library is online at https://www.hathitrust.org/.

Among the University of Missouri’s contributions to the project are seven volumes of the Vetusta Monumenta, a landmark publication held in fewer than twenty libraries worldwide.  Vetusta Monumenta provides important historical and cultural documentation of British antiquities, including the first published accounts of important single artifacts such as the Rosetta Stone, as well as visual evidence of monuments that have since been damaged or lost.  The Libraries’ high-resolution scans of this lavishly illustrated, large-format work reveal the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century copperplate engravings in minute detail.   Dr. Noah Heringman, a professor of English, collaborated with the Libraries on this project and is currently using the scans as the basis for a new scholarly edition of the work.

Hands-on History in Special Collections

If you teach at MU, Stephens College, Columbia College, or any of the surrounding schools, we'd like to invite you to explore Special Collections with your students this semester. As part of a class session in Special Collections, your students will have hands-on access to the most inspiring and intriguing materials the Libraries have to offer. And we librarians can make it easy for you by contributing presentations, helping to orient students to primary source research, creating customized course guides, and consulting with you on ideas for assignments or projects.

To help you get started, take a look at our Resources for Instructors Guide and browse our Teaching Spotlight for innovative ideas from your colleagues.  Ready to jump in?  Contact us for assignment or activity ideas, or go ahead and schedule a class session through our online form.