Monthly Archives: June 2012

Poems about Fathers

Happy Father’s Day!  Today we’re offering a selection of poetry by, for, and about fathers.  John MacKay Shaw, a father of two, was a businessman and bibliophile with a particular interest in the literature of childhood.  He wrote this volume of poetry, entitled The Things I Want, at the request of his young children, Cathmar and Bruce, in the 1930s. Shaw’s library is now housed at the Florida State University Libraries.

"The Things I Want" by John MacKay Shaw "Teasin' Daddy" by John MacKay Shaw

Wyatt Prunty is a professor of creative writing at the University of the South, and his poem “To My Father” deals with a son watching his father struggle with disease.  This copy of the poem was produced as a broadside by the Palaemon Press.  The edition was limited to 126 copies; the Libraries’ copy is number 99 and was signed by Prunty.

"To My Father" by Wyatt Prunty

Finally, from the library of John Gneisenau Neihardt comes Father: An Anthology of Verse, published in 1931.  The anthology contains poetry both humorous and sentimental on the subject of fathers, fatherhood, children and families.  Neihardt received this book as a review copy, and the book still has its original review slip.

Father: An Anthology of Verse "An Unusual Chum" by James W. Foley Original review slip from John Neihardt's copy

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Posted in Rare Book Collection, Special Collections

Agnieszka Matkowska

Special Collections and Rare Books bids a fond farewell to Agnieszka Matkowska. Matkowska has been in residence during the past academic year to consult the Lord collection. The late Albert Bates Lord (1912-1991) was a professor of Slavic and Agnieszka Matkowskacomparative literature at Harvard University best known for his contribution to the understanding of the world’s oral traditions, especially those of the former Yugoslavia. His family donated his library to Mizzou in the Spring of 2011. It comprises a collection of almost 2000 books, articles, and even artifacts, many of which are in the closed stacks of Special Collections and Rare Books.  The A.B. Lord  Fellowship in Oral Tradition  makes these volumes available to international scholars by allowing them to remain in residence at Mizzou for a semester or longer. Matkowska,  PhD candidate from Poznan, Poland, was the award’s first recipient.

[Click on any of the images to enlarge.]

Matkowska, second from the left, conducts field research among the Buryat people. She uses works our collections to analyze this research.

Matkowska studies the oral legends of the Buryat people, a group of 450,000 individuals spread across Siberia, Mongolia, and Inner Mongolia. The Buryat people have a rich heritage of oral tradition, though the current generation of performers might be the last. According to Matkowska,   “When in 2011 I was doing my fieldwork in the Irkutsk Oblast’, a region bordering Lake Baikal, it was Buryat performer at the annual "Yerd Games" festivalsometimes hard, so I became doubtful few times. In those moments Galina Vitalievna Afanasyeva-Medvedeva, a befriended professor and an expert in the field of Baikal folklore always raised my spirits emphasizing that what I do is of extreme importance as the folklore of that area is in decline and these processes are irreparable.”

Shaman Rock, in Lake Baikal, is considered sacred by the Buryat people.Matkowska, is writing a dissertation that investigates the factors contributing to variation that occurs across multiple tellings of Buryat oral legends. Before coming to Columbia, Missouri, she undertook fieldwork in southern Siberia along the shores of Lake Baikal. While there she recorded performances and interviewed performers. She was even invited to observe a shamanistic ceremony, a privilege seldom granted to an outsider.  While in residence at University of Missouri, Matkowska has taken advantage of the many comparative and theoretical studies in the Lord collection, gaining insight into the different methodological approaches she could take: “There are many ways to bite the cake,” she says “I just have to figure out which way will make it taste the best.” Matkowska will defend her dissertation in February at Adam Mickiewicz University.

Shamanistic ceremony in Tulunzha, near Ulan-Ude, November 2009


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Posted in Special Collections

Skin white as snow, hair black as ebony

The evil queen, disguised as an old woman, offers Snow White an apple in Walter Crane's illustration for Household stories from the collection of the brothers Grimm (New York, 1896).Snow White’s been busy lately. This year alone she’s starring in two movies while also appearing in a television series.

First published by Jacob and Wilhem Grimm as part of their Children’s and Household Tales (Kinder-und Hausmӓrchen), the brief story introduces all the familiar faces: Snow White, her evil stepmother, the huntsman, and the dwarves.  The elements and characters have been adapted in many ways over the years, from films and books to ballets and opera.  Many of the narratives stick close to that original tale, while others take a bit of creative license.

In Special Collections we see Snow White in very recognizable tales.  A copy of Grimm’s Household Stories from 1896 and Grimm’s Fairy Tales from 1962 both contain the story as recorded by the Grimm brothers. The illustrations present a young girl with dark hair.

ThIn the comic series Fables (New York, 2002), Snow White has become deputy mayor of the exiled community of fairy tale characters living in present day New York.e comic series Fables catches up with Snow White in the present. The action takes place well after the adventures found in the Grimm’s tale, with Snow White serving as deputy mayor for a community of relocated fairy tale characters.  She is joined by other familiar faces, including Cinderella and the wolf who appears in many tales.


Click on any of the images below to see a few illustrations from some of the many works featuring these characters in our collection. You’ll find both the well known versions of their stories and some with creative twists.
Lucille Corcos, illustrator of Grimm's Fairy Tales (New York, 1962) captures the moment when the dwarves find Snow White in their house. The Big Bad Wolf and Red Riding Hood from Arthur Rackham's illustration in Hansel and Grethel (London, 1920). The wolf appears in the comic The Gingerbread Man, originally drawn in 1943 by Walt Kelley and republished in Little Lit (New York, 2000). Now known as Bigby Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf is the sheriff in Bill Willingham's Fables (New York, 2002).

Snow White marries Bigby Wolf in Bill Willingham's Fables (New York, 2006). Cinderella learns the batik method of dying fabric from her fairy godmother to make her own ballgown.  Illustrator Jessie M. King had just learned the process herself, and wrote How Cinderella was able to go to the ball (London, 1924) to introduce others to “the wonderland of batik.” Cinderella owns a show store but also works undercover as a spy in Bill Willingham's Fables (New York, 2002).

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Posted in Comic Collection, Rare Book Collection

Gardens in Special Collections

June is prime time for gardeners in Missouri, and it’s also a great time to take a look at the rare and historic horticulture and gardening books in Special Collections.  Since MU has a long history as an agriculture school, Special Collections has a great collection of these early texts on plants, gardening, and landscape design.

The Edible Garden

Peach, from Charles Hovey's Fruits of America (New York, 1856).The last decade has seen a renewed interest in local and sustainable food, including vegetable gardening and heritage or heirloom varieties.  The absence of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and modern machinery in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries meant that kitchen and market gardeners had to be experts in the care of a wide variety of food crops. Advice for gardeners from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries contains information on historic plant varieties as well as natural solutions to problems with climate, soils, and pests.


Fruit tree branches in flower, from Batty Langley's Pomona, or, The fruit-garden illustrated (London, 1729) Love-apples, or tomatoes, from John Abercrombie's The complete kitchen gardner, and hot-bed forcer (London, 1789).

The Flower Garden

A blue gentian, from Curtis' Botanical Magazine (v. 1-4, 1787-1791)The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the introduction of a number of new flowering plants as botanists and nurserymen identified foreign species and developed hybrids.  Although color publications such as Curtis’s Botanical Magazine remained popular through the period, most gardeners learned about new flowers through descriptions or black and white plates.  Botanical gardens such as the Royal Gardens at Kew became popular spots for the public to see exotic and colorful plants in person.

A seventeenth-century flower garden, from Crispijn van de Passe's Hortus Floridus (Arnhem, 1616) Tulips, from Crispijn van de Passe's Hortus Floridus (Arnhem, 1616)

The Park

"Before" view (with flap closed), from Humphry Repton's Observations on the theory and practice of landscape gardening (London, 1803)Garden design has changed dramatically from the formalized symmetry of Italian and French gardens to the informal plantings of today.  In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, English gardeners began to break away from the geometrical patterns of Renaissance knot gardens and Baroque parterres.  Instead, the new garden style focused on creating picturesque, naturalistic views.  Landscape architects during this period sought to shape the landscape without the outward appearance of control, creating “natural” scenery too perfect to exist in nature.

"After" view (with flap open), from Humphry Repton's Observations on the theory and practice of landscape gardening (London, 1803)

More Information

Search for Gardening, Fruit, Botany, or Landscape architecture in the MERLIN catalog.  Limit your search to Special Collections to find more primary sources on historic gardens and gardening practices.

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Posted in Closed Collection, Rare Book Collection
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