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Independence Day

Happy Independence Day from those of us here at Special Collections!  In honor of the day of America’s declaration of independence from England, here are some items from our collections about the document that started it all.

First, from our poster collection, is this reproduction of the Declaration, produced by the Marquette Cement Manufacturing Company to “foster a greater appreciation of the fundamentals of Americanism” in 1925.  A block of text on the back asks the question “Why not celebrate the 4th of July by displaying this facsimile of the Declaration of Independence in your home or place of business.”  To that we say: way ahead of you, Marquette Cement Manufacturing.

Declaration

Here’s a close up of some of the signatures that anyone familiar with the document will recognize:

Signatures

From our Rare Collection is this beautifully illustrated pamphlet on the story of the Declaration:

Pamplet

Published in 1903, it includes a history of the events leading up to the writing of the document, portraits of the signers, and an essay on the history of the American flag by John Quincy Adams.

For other items relating to Independence Day in our collections, including our collection of Fourth of July Orations, stop by and see us, and have a happy Fourth!

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Salamanca, Wellington’s Masterpiece

Portrait of Wellington from Baines' History of the Wars of the French Revolution (London, 1817). The word Wellington is a facsimile of the General's signature.July 22, 2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Salamanca. While Napoleon was in the midst of his Russian campaign, other generals were busy consolidating France’s position in Spain against a combined force of English, Portuguese, and Spanish rebels.

Though Wellington is probably best remembered for the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the battle at Salamanca is often called his masterpiece. On the afternoon of July 22nd, after a full day of fighting, Wellington recognized a weakness in the French army lines. His decisive orders for attack led to a rapid victory for the British forces.

The relative quickness of the British success following this action inspired friends and enemies. The French general Maximilien Foy famously declared “Wellington defeated an army of 40,000 in 40 minutes” when he wrote about his experience at Salamanca in his journal. Robert Southey’s account of the battle from his book Life of Wellington emphasized the dramatic moment Wellington gave his orders.Page from Southey's "Life of Wellington" (Dublin, 1816) describing the moment when Wellington gives the orders that will lead to victory at

“Lord Wellington was at dinner when he was informed of this movement [of French troops]: he saw at once the advantage which had been given; he rose in such haste as to overturn the table, …and in an instant was on horseback, issuing those orders which won the battle of Salamanca.”

While these accounts might not be strictly true, they do reflect the quickness of this stage of the battle and the strategic skill shown by Wellington.

Up to this point, Wellington had generally been regarded as a defensive general. Salamanca established his ability as a skillful soldier and tactician. This statement from Baines’ History of the Wars of the French Revolution is characteristic of many of the tributes to the battle and to Wellington:

Page from Baine's History of the Wars of the French Revolution (London, 1817) describing the battle of Salamanca.

“The battle of Salamanca was distinguished from all other battles hitherto fought in the peninsula, by several important circumstances: it was more masterly in the design, more gallant in the execution, and followed by consequences of far greater importance.”

In retrospect, observers recognized July 22, 1812 as a turning point in the Peninsular War, not only for Wellington’s reputation but for the morale of French army on the peninsula. British forces eventually drove the French armies from Spain and invaded Southern France in 1814. If British officer William Napier is to be believed, Wellington was aware of the shift on the afternoon of the battle. Napier recalls seeing Wellington late in the day at Salamanca “…alone, the flush of victory was on his brow… With a prescient pride he seemed only accept his glory as an earnest of greater things.” Those greater things would culminate in the Battle of Waterloo, and the final defeat of Napoleon.

Map of the Battle of Waterloo from Southey's Life of Wellington (Dublin, 1816).
Robert Muir’s Book Salamanca, 1812 (Yale University Press, 2001) is a source for more information about the battle and its’ importance.

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Posted in Rare Book Collection, Uncategorized

Russian Maps Digital Exhibit!!!!

Russian Map Banner

 

Mapping the Past: Rare Russian Maps from Special Collections has been created as a digital highlight of books and maps on the website of the Special Collections and Rare Books department.  This virtual exhibit describes the cartographic trade and the exploration of the Russian empire from the 16th through the 18th centuries. The display was originally mounted as a physical exhibit in the Ellis Library colonnade at the University of Missouri in April 2011.

 

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