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Some new thoughts for the new year

Here are some New Thoughts for your New Year, courtesy of our extensive collections of seventeenth- through nineteenth-century British pamphlets.  This one was printed in 1796.

IMG_0046The Cheap Repository Tracts series was created by the British poet, playwright, and philanthropist Hannah More, whose writings often dealt with religious themes.  They were printed in large quantities for distribution to the poor.  Although there must have been thousands of original copies, they were ephemera – not meant to be preserved.  Only six copies of this tract are recorded in libraries around the world. 

IMG_0047Many of the tracts deal with people in trades or in domestic service.  This one shows "How Mr. Thrifty the great Mercer succeeded in his Trade, by always examining his Books soon after Christmas, and how Mr. Careless, by neglecting this rule, let all his affairs run to ruin before he was aware of it."  The pamphlet ends with a hymn for the new year.


Find it in the MERLIN catalog.

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Posted in Rare Book Collection, Special Collections

Halloween Costume Ideas in Special Collections

Are you tired of wearing that same old zombie costume year after year?  Fed up with being lost in the crowd of witches and ghouls?  Special Collections is here to help, with costume inspiration by the book!  Here are a few ideas for Halloween inspired by our collections.

Go Medieval or Go Home

If you're limited on time or materials, you can't go wrong with the Middle Ages.  All you need is a long bathrobe, a large scarf or sheet, a pair of pointy-toed shoes, and a pageboy wig.  Voila!  Tell all your friends you're a character from the Roman de la Rose.  Add a red hat, a fake beard, and a book, and you could be St. Jerome.

Fragmenta Manuscripta 156 biblialatina

Find a New Trade

Forget dressing up like a doctor, firefighter or astronaut.  How about a Victorian butcher, milkman or baker – or better yet, a cat'smeat-man, park-keeper or waterman?  You could be dressed as a sixteenth-century German piscator or a French marchande de poissons.  The numerous books of occupations and street cries in Special Colllections are a field guide to the merchant and artisan classes from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries.

London-Characters-inside- Schopper-Panoplia-7 1980485

Be a Fashion Plate

Halloween and Homecoming are less than a week apart this year, so party like it's 1839.  Fashion magazines like Allgemeine Modenzeitung can give you an idea of what was in style back then. 

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Dress like a Peasant…

Special Collections has numerous eighteenth- and nineteenth-century ethnographic studies of the native dress of Europe, Asia, and the Americas.  Little did those ethnographers know they were creating a treasure trove of obscure Halloween costume ideas for us early 21st-century folk.  Here are a couple of examples of Italian peasant dress.  Choose your time and place; with our collections, the possibilities are endless. 

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…or like Royalty

Of course, if you're more ambitious, you could impersonate a famous king or queen for the day.  How about Elizabeth I?  Or maybe someone from the court of Marie Antoinette

Camden-Elizabeth 1980486

Embrace the Surreal

Perhaps you're looking for something more, shall we say, fanciful? The work of illustrators like J. J. Grandville and Walter Crane should provide ample inspiration for weird and wonderful costumes of all kinds.

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Or Dress Like your Favorite Author

How about Leonhart Fuchs?  Or Charles Darwin!  Of course, here in Missouri, we're partial to Mark Twain.

historiastirpiumfuchs Twain_photo_1

We can't guarantee you'll win any costume contests, but it's a pretty safe bet that you'll be the only one dressed as a sixteenth-century botanist or French fishwife at your Halloween party this year.  Happy Halloween!

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Posted in Rare Book Collection, Special Collections

Emblems of Love are in the Air

Title page

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Today we’re taking a look at Emblems of Love by Philip Ayres, a book “dedicated to the ladys” in 1683.

Ayres, a poet and translator, was a tutor to the Drake family and is known primarily in this century for his Lyrick Poems (1687).  However, his Emblems of Love was a well-known success in his own time.  Emblem books generally have engraved images or symbols with accompanying text or poetry, and they were popular during the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Emblems of Love was one of the last of the genre to gain wide popularity in England.

The images for Emblems of Love feature putti and human beings in various activities, and are based on two earlier works: Amorum emblemata by Otto van Veen (1608) and Thronus cupidinis (1618).  Some of the verses are also borrowed from these sources, although the English versions were composed by Ayres.

A sampling from Emblems of Love:

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A Visit From St. Nicholas (and other tales of Santa Claus)

The legend of St. Nicholas of Myra has taken so many twists and turns over the centuries that he is barely recognizable to us anymore.   Instead, he has been replaced by a jolly, bearded, portly man in a red suit and cap and coal black boots.  For this installation of Scripta Manent, we will trace the history of St. Nicholas/Santa Claus/Father Christmas/Kris Kingle, just in time for Christmas.  The real St. Nicholas was born in Asia Minor during the third century in the city of Myra (in present-day Turkey). He was the only son of wealthy Christian parents named Epiphanius and Johanna according to some accounts and Theophanes and Nonna according to others.  His wealthy parents died while Nicholas was still young and he was raised by his uncle—also named Nicholas—who was the bishop of Patara.

In 325, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea. There, Nicholas was a staunch anti-Arian and defender of the Orthodox Christian position that Jesus was fully divine and fully human, and one of the bishops who signed the Nicene Creed.  Legend holds that he was so angry with Arius (who taught that Jesus was only a man) that Nicholas punched him in the face.  However, the most famous legend associated with St. Nicholas is that of the poor man with three daughters.  In the tale, the man could not afford a proper dowry for his daughters.  Hearing of the poor man’s plight, Nicholas decided to help him, but being too modest to help the man in public, or to save the man the humiliation of accepting charity, he went to his house under the cover of night and threw three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold coins through the window opening into the man’s house.  There are different variations of the story.  One has Nicholas throwing the bags down a chimney.  Another embellishes the story and has a daughter’s stocking hanging over the embers of the fireplace to dry, where the bag of gold dropped straight in.

The Examination and Tryal of Old Father Christmas by Josiah King, 1686

In the ensuing centuries, the story of St. Nicholas has evolved.  Beloved by children all over the world, St. Nicholas/Santa Claus/Father Christmas/Kris Kringle brings gifts to good boys and girls on Christmas (and sometimes coal to bad children).  However, he has not always been the most beloved of figures.  In 1686, Josiah King published a pamphlet called The Examination and Tryal of Old Father Christmas.  In the pamphlet, Father Christmas is put on trial by those who worry that Christmas is becoming too materialistic and too much of an excuse to party and commit debauchery.  In the end, Father Christmas is acquitted of his charges, and yet he is admonished by the judge to remember that Christmas is about Jesus.

Although Father Christmas was usually thinner and wore a green coat, the modern idea of a rotund jolly man in a suit came about with the publication of A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clark Moore in 1823.  However, Moore’s Santa was an elf with a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.  It was Thomas Nast’s subsequent illustrations that helped cement the image of the modern Santa Claus in the minds of most Americans.  The idea that Santa Claus resides at the North Pole may also be attributed to Nast.  One of his illustrations is entitled “St. Claussville, N.P.”  Another depicts two children drawing Santa’s route to their house from the North Pole.

Merry Old Santa Claus by Thomas Nast, 1889.

One of the most famous writings involving Santa Claus came from a newspaper column in the New York Sun.  Little 8-year old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor asking if there really was a Santa Claus.  As her letter says, her father told her that “if [it is] in the Sun, it’s so.”  Her letter was answered eloquently and reassuringly by Francis Pharcellus Church, whose line “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” is often quoted more than a century later.  It remains the most reprinted editorial ever to run in any newspaper in the English language.


Christmas Overseas Gifts by Graves, 1945.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the image of Santa Claus has been used for all sorts of advertisements.  The most famous may be the Coca-Cola Santa Claus, which debuted in the 1920s.  During World War II, Santa was depicted with a helmet to ask Americans at home to send Christmas gifts overseas to soldiers fight in Europe and the Pacific.  However, not everyone is thrilled with the overexposure of Santa Claus.  Fred Rinne’s hand drawn artist book, God Santa Christ depicts Santa Claus as a creation of a consumer culture.  As he writes:

Santa Christ/is the protecting god/of the consumerist economy/Belief in Santa Christ/is crucial to that/vague entity known as/”our way of life”.

God Santa Christ by Fred Rinne, 2003


However, it is the spirit of giving to those in need that the original St. Nicholas represents. It is our hope here at Special Collections that this spirit touches you, dear reader, and that you intently research local and national charities before giving to those in need this season.  By doing so, you keep the spirit of St. Nicholas and Santa Claus alive.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone.  See you in 2013!

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Posted in Artist's Books, Rare Book Collection

Mary Randolph’s Recipe for Roast Turkey, 1828

Move over, Paula Deen!  Generations before the Food Network, the leading lady of Southern cookery was Mary Randolph.  Her book,  The Virginia Housewife, is considered the first American regional cookbook. The Virginia Housewife was very influential, with multiple editions printed during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Randolph aimed to streamline processes in the kitchen, noting “method is the soul of management.”  For all you busy Thanksgiving cooks out there, here’s her methodical approach to roast turkey:

Make the forcemeat thus: take the crumb of a loaf of bread, a quarter of a pound of beef suet shred fine, a little sausage meat or veal scraped and pounded very fine, nutmeg, pepper, and salt to your taste; mix it lightly with three eggs, stuff the craw with it, spit it, and lay it down a good distance from the fire, which should be clear and brisk; dust and baste it several times with cold lard; it makes the froth stronger than basting it with the hot out of the dripping pan, and makes the turkey rise better; when it is enough, froth it up as before, dish it, and pour on the same gravy as for the boiled turkey, or bread sauce; garnish with lemon and pickles, and serve it up; if it be of a middle size, it will require one hour and a quarter to roast.

View the full text at the Hathi Trust or Find the original in Special Collections

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

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