On the Second Day of Christmas in July…

… we give to you The Duality of Truth.

Gifted to Thomas Moore Johnson by the author of the work, Henry Wagner, M. D., on the Christmas of 1899, this book now resides in our Thomas Moore Johnson Collection of Philosophy.

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In the introduction, the author states that he aims to make known – in simple terms that lay readers can understand – the nature of Truth "as viewed from the standpoint of a student of Hermetic Philosophy."  The body of the text uses various supports from the Bible and ancient philosophical texts, including various beliefs of Ancient Egyptian philosophy, to support the author's proposition that there is One Truth, expressed dually in our world.

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If this book entices you to begin your own investigation into the nature of Truth and philosophy, we here at Special Collections are happy to help, just stop by and see us sometime during these hot July days.

#PlutoFlyby Looking Backwards

While you're waiting for the first updates from the New Horizons #PlutoFlyby, we collected some of the earliest news about its discovery from our microfilm collection. The Boston Evening Transcript actually ran the news the day the discovery was made public; here's their headline from March 13, 1930.

While Boston was fairly restrained, both the New York Times and the Arkansas Gazette, running their headlines on March 14th, expected the "newly discovered body" to be quite massive indeed —

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Our last paper, the Tribune of Lahore, India, brought expectations back towards Earth; it did not, as the NYT did, suggest that the new object might even be bigger than Jupiter. The Tribune didn't publish this piece until March 16, 1930: between March and April that year, Ghandi led his Salt March, which took precedence even over new planets in their newspaper.

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By the mid-1930s, although we still weren't clear on the scale of Pluto, we were already talking about the feasibility of a visit. In his book Rockets through Space, P.E. Cleator painted a picture of the first space travelers truly "set[ting] off into illimitable space for destinations unknown." Unknown destinations indeed! Here, from Astronomy for the Millions, is one of the earliest photos of Pluto ever released.

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Tonight, we'll know for sure that New Horizons successfully flew within just a few thousand miles of Pluto, and over the next few days, our pictures will be in one pixel per mile definition: a far cry from the one pixel per planet of 1930!

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12 Days of Christmas in July Countdown

Many of the books in our collections were written in by previous owners, whether it was a student in the 1890s making notes in their textbook, or a grateful author from 1954 inscribing a thank you to someone that had provided them with some of their research.  To countdown the twelve days until July 25th, each day on our blog we will feature a book from our collection that was inscribed with a Christmas message.

On the first day of Christmas in July, we give to you… one Post-Mortem Finding.

Inscribed by the author of the introduction, J. Christian Bay, "With best Christmas wishes" to an unknown recipient.

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Published on Christmas in 1942, this slim volume was written by psychiatrist/ administrator George Anthony Zeller of the Peoria State Hospital in Illinois.  It contains the story of one of the patients known to the doctor, as well as the events leading up to and following his death.

Little details like the portrait of the author at the beginning, the inscription, and the pretty details of the first letters of the introduction and body of the story (pictured below) make this an interesting item, despite the oddity of such a title as a Christmas gift.

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Stay tuned for Day 2 of the 12 Days of Christmas in July!

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.

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

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

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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!

Ice Creatures

In honor of the official first day of winter and the recently fallen snow here on MU's campus, this week's installment of the Fantastic Beasts series highlights creatures that live and breath the ice and snow of the Arctic.  The first two images below show different depictions of Jack Frost, who, in these folk tales from Russia, saves a young girl whose step-mother threw her out in the cold to die.  The image to the right is of a creature from Japanese folklore called the Yuki-Onna (or, Snow Woman) that kills travelers with her icy breath, leaving them frozen.  In other legends, she breaks down the doors of houses with a fierce wind and then kills its sleeping residents (like she is in this picture).  The final three images depict the Frost Giants of Norse mythology.  in the first, the X-Men prepare to go up against the recently resurrected Ymir, progenitor of the Frost Giants.  In the last two, comic book hero Conan battles two such Frost Giants as he pursues their sister across the ice.

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If the weather isn't cold enough for you yet, or you just want to help celebrate the first day of winter, come see us at Special Collections, where we've got all these ice creatures and more waiting to be discovered in the warmth of our reading room.

Nessie

The Loch Ness Monster (or Nessie for short) is one of the most elusive cryptids in modern folklore.  In fact, the Loch Ness monster is so elusive, we have only one confirmed sighting on our shelves here in Special Collections.  It comes in the form of The Loch Ness Monster Watchers, a 1974 essay by Victor Perera about an expedition he and a collegue took to Loch Ness in Scotland to try to spot Nessie for themselves.

Many theories about the Loch Ness Monster exist in modern legends.  One of the most common theories surrounding the Loch Ness Monster is that Nessie is some form of plesiosaur, whose line has somehow survived into modern times within the loch.   This image from Robert McCann's short comic "Ocean Blues", featured in Disappointing Circus, shows such a creature.  You can certainly see the family resemblance.

Whether or not you believe in Nessie or think it's all just a hoax, the legend continues to be a huge draw for cryptozoologists, adventurers, and the simply curious, all hoping to catch a glimpse of the mysterious creature.  If you can't afford the trip to Scotland to seek out Nessie for yourself, come see us at Special Collections, where you can read all about one such a trip and decide for yourself – is the Loch Ness Monster real or just wishful thinking?

Demons

To finish out October, here's an extra special Halloween edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in Special Collections.  Today's featured beast is the demon, which is usually defined as an evil spirit or fiend.  Nearly every religion has a form of demons that populate whatever version of Hell that particular religion believes in, often trying to influence the people of our world into committing evil acts and causing general chaos.  Mephistopheles (pictured above) is one of the more well-known demons and is the one that Faust sells his soul to in the legend of Faustus, recorded most famously by Goethe.

In other classic literature, this edition of Dante's Inferno illustrated by Gustave Dore beautifully shows some of the residents of Hell that Dante and Virgil encounter on their journey through the nine circles of Hell.

This image depicts a scene from the Russian folk tale The Soldier's Midnight Watch, in which a soldier hides on top of the stove while an undead witch summons a crowd of small demons to search him out.

In more modern media, demons have taken on other roles as well, such as in the comic Fray by Joss Whedon, in which the demon Urkonn plays trainer to a futuristic vampire slayer named Melaka Fray.

A more light-hearted take on a demon occurs in The Demon of the Eiffel Tower, an English translation of a French comic in which Adele Blanc-Sec solves mysteries and has grand adventures in a fantasy version of the 1900s.  (Spoiler Alert:  in true Scooby-Doo style, the demon is eventually revealed to be a woman with a nefarious plot in a costume.)

 

Switching from comics to poetry, the above image is from Arthur Rimbaud's collection of poems entitled A Season in Hell.  With several photographs like this by Robert Mapplethorpe, this edition of Rimbaud's poetry certainly takes an added turn for the creepy.

 

Speaking of creepy, these terrifying creatures are from Leonard Baskin's work Demons, Imps, and Fiends.  The rest of the book is filled with drawings of demons you definitely wouldn't want to meet on the street at night, much less enter into any form of agreement with.

Happy Halloween everyone!  If you need help getting into the spirit of the holiday, come see us in Special Collections.  Our stacks are haunted by books with all kinds of creatures guaranteed to help.

Vampires Suck

(Your blood, that is.)  How does one even begin to write about vampires with any sort of completeness?  Every culture's got one – some version of a creature that rises from the dead and preys on the life force of the living (either the blood or something more abstract, such as energy or the soul) to sustain itself.  Reflecting this, Dracula and his brethren abound on the shelves of Special Collections – particularly our comics collection where the dramatic nature of the vampire lends itself perfectly to a graphic medium.

While vampires have been around for ages, it was Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula that made them much more prevalent in literature and popular culture.  In more modern times, vampires' popularity has spiked again with television series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and bestselling book series like Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles, Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series, and the Sookie Stackhouse Novels by Charlene Harris.

Let's start with Dracula then, shall we?

This 2004 adaption of Stoker's Dracula presents the comic in a dramatic black and white contrast that plays up the drama of the story.

Another series featuring the Count is Apple Comics's Blood of Dracula, where each issue contains an installment of three different stories featuring Dracula in his own time, in the future, and anywhere in between.  This issue even comes with a record of songs composed to supplement the stories!

Not to be outdone, Warp Graphics (which later turned over most of its titles to Apple Comics) pitted Dracula against Jack the Ripper in its 1986 mini-series Blood of the Innocent.

In addition to its large spread in comics, the story of Dracula has also been taken to the stage over the years, as seen in these scenes from a 1978 production of Dracula starring Frank Langella as the titular feind and famous illustrator Edward Gorey designing the scenery and costumes. 

Stoker wasn't the only one to write about vampires, though.  Folk stories teemed with different versions of the vampire.  This image from a book of Russian folk tales shows the warlock from the tale "The Soldier and The Vampire" who comes back from the dead each night to terrorize a town by cursing a newlywed couple and drawing their blood until he is outwitted and killed by a clever soldier.

In modern vampire culture, many vampires choose to live among us and forgo the drinking of human blood for that of animals.  Two such "vegetarian" vampires are main characters in Vertigo's series Blood + Water.  Adam Heller, a man slowly dying of AIDS finds out his friends are actually vampires when they turn him into one to cure him and save his life.

Men aren't the only ones to play large roles in vampire stories.  Vampirella, the vampire superheroine from the planet Drakulon, fights evil vampires on our world in an effort to save her own.  She appears in a number of comic series and a direct to video movie.

Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake Vampire Hunter book series was adapted by Marvel in 2006.  The leading lady, Anita Blake, lives and works in St. Louis, Missouri as a professional zombie raiser, vampire hunter, and consultant for the police's supernatural department.

Including the scores of other stories both modern and old as Dracula himself, it's clear that no matter what way you slice it, vampires have a powerful prescence in cultures throughout the world.  So this Halloween if you're finding yourself going batty for vampires, come see us at Special Collections.  We've got plenty of vampire stories you can really sink your teeth into.

Ghosts, Friendly and Otherwise

While sometimes our stacks can certainly feel like they're haunted, the only ghosts we know live here are the ones in our books!  From Casper the Friendly Ghost to the Headless Horseman, our shelves are inhabited by a large variety of spirits.  We even have books claiming to be written by ghosts, such as the Ghost Epigrams of Oscar Wilde, and collections of ghost stories spanning the years.

Automatic writing allows a person to channel the supernatural to produce written words without consciously writing.  In this case, allowing the figure of Lazar to write pages worth of witty epigrams from the spirit of Oscar Wilde.

In this pamphlet, a speech is recorded from the ghost of Lord Haversham, who was so disturbed by some of the carrying-ons of the Parliment that he returned as a ghost after his death to give this speech to the House of Lords in 1710.

Even Holmes and Watson join the fray in the fight against evil spirits in these crossover comics that pit the famous consulting detective and his biographer against the opera ghost, or the Phantom of the Opera.

One of the more well-known ghosts in American literature is that of the Headless Horseman from Washington Irving's short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."  Also a terrifying figure in other European folktales, a common theme among all depictions is that, where this spirit shows up, death usually follows.

So if these books make you want to take up ghosthunting this October, you know who to call.  (Hint: it's us, Special Collections!)

Bats, Rats, and Spiders

Oh my!

Throughout October the Fantastic Beasts series will be taking a turn for the creepy as each week in October we feature spooky creatures and things that go bump in the night.  For the first week we'll start with some of the tamer creepy-crawlies that lots of us see on a daily basis: bats, rats, and spiders.  Each of these are commonly featured in tales of terror, and are associated with death, disease, or mystery, among other things.  They can also serve as familiars to witches and sorcerors, which is where they picked up a lot of their negative associations.  Truth is, many of these fears are largely unfounded, as bats, rats, and spiders are important parts of any ecosystem and for the most part are either scared of or not a threat to humans.  Giant versions of any of these (such as those pictured below) are, of course, another matter entirely.