Lincoln and the Jews: An Exhibit

The four-year Civil War sesquicentennial is drawing down, but there are still many wonderful books and exhibits to explore.  Last Friday, the New York Historical Society opened an exhibit called Lincoln and the Jews that chronicles the little-known relationship between America’s sixteenth president and the Jewish community.  Many of the one hundred manuscripts, letters, official appointments, pardons, Bibles,and Judaica on display are from the Shapell Manuscript Foundation, an independent educational organization focusing on the histories of America and Israel, specifically during the 19th and 20th centuries.  The show also coincides with the forthcoming publication of Brandeis professor Jonathan Sarna’s Lincoln and the Jews: A History (Thomas Dunne Books, March 2015), written in collaboration with the Manuscript Foundation’s founder, Benjamin Shapell.

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During Lincoln’s presidency, the Jewish population in America grew from 3,000 to 15,000 people, yet anti-Semitism was commonplace and acceptable throughout much of American society. Still, the president had many close Jewish friends and advisors, such as podiatrist Issachar Zacharie, who ultimately became the president’s confidant, and even ran a secret mission to New Orleans to drum up pro-Union support among his “countrymen”.  The exhibit includes a letter from Lincoln to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton granting passage for Zacharie to visit relatives in Savannah after the city had been captured by the Union. Lincoln made unpopular pro-Jewish political decisions as well, such as recognizing the promotion and decoration of Jewish Civil War soldiers and amending the chaplaincy law so that Jews and other non-Christians could serve as chaplains in the military.  

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image reproduced with permission from the New York Historical Society

Timothy Wroten, Senior Communications Manager at the New-York Historical Society, explained that hosting the show in Manhattan is an obvious choice. “New York is a Jewish city, and it’s the pinnacle of the American experience,” he said. “It’s tempting to think that New York is so different from the rest of the country, but much of America’s history starts here.”

Lincoln’s ties to Jews and Judaism even extended to his death - the eve of his assassination, April 14, 1865 happened to be the fifth night of Passover, when observant Jews were at temple. Once news of Lincoln’s passing reached the congregants, black mourning ribbons were quickly hung on the bimahs and worshippers chanted songs usually reserved for Yom Kippur, the most holy day of the Jewish year.
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A Jewish doctor at Lincoln’s deathbed: Alonzo Chappel’s 1867 painting depicts the room in which Lincoln lay dying.  Dr. Charles Liebermann, a Russian-born Jewish ophthalmologist and a leading Washington physician, is prominently featured here, gazing intently at the president. Lierbermann had attended at Lincoln’s deathbed throughout the nine-hour coma. Reproduced with permission from the New York Historical Society. 

LINCOLN AND THE JEWS  is on view at the New York Historical Society from March 20 - June 7 205. More information is at www.nyhistory.org 

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A first edition of William Smith’s 1815 Geological Map of England and Wales - previously considered lost - has been recovered by archivists with the Geological Society. Smith’s map was the first geological map of a nation ever produced, illustrating the geological strata of England, Wales, and much of Scotland. The map recently discovered at the Geological Society is one of the first ten hand-colored maps produced by Smith in 1815.

The map was found during an audit of the Society’s archives in 2014.  Victoria Woodstock, the map’s discoverer, said, “The map was found among completely unrelated material, so at first I didn’t realise the significance of what I’d uncovered. Once we had worked out that it was an early copy of one of the earliest geological maps ever made, I was astonished. It’s the kind of thing that anyone working in archives dreams of, and definitely the highlight of my career so far!”

The map was identified as a first edition from its lack of serial number and from geological features that Smith would update in later editions. Its value is difficult to estimate, although another early copy recently was offered at £150,000.

Remarkably well-preserved owing to its lengthy disappearance, the map has now been fully restored, digitized, and made available online at the Geological Society’s website as part of the bicentennial celebration of the map’s publication.

For more on the story of William Smith and the creation of the first geological map, see Simon Winchester’s excellent book “The Map That Changed the World.”  Winchester was interviewed by Fine Books & Collections for our current issue.


land-midnight-sun-500.jpgOn April 22, the John Hay Library at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, will host a lecture by book artist, author, and FB&C book art columnist Richard Minsky titled “The Art of American Book Covers 1875-1930: One Hundred Great Covers from the Brown University Library.” Minsky will discuss how visual artists transformed book covers by embracing Modernism--from Proto-Constructivism and Futurism to Art Nouveau to Surrealism and Abstraction. Minsky’s talk will be complemented by an exhibit of 100 publishers’ bindings pulled from Brown’s collection, including the two beauties previewed here. The exhibit runs from April 15 through May 14. 

bodley-abroad-800.jpgImages: The Land of the Midnight Sun by Paul B. Du Chaillu (Harper & Brothers, 1881). Cover by Edwin A. Abbey. Mr. Bodley Abroad by Horace E. Scudder (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1881). Unidentified artist. Courtesy of Richard Minsky.
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On March 21 Oxford University opened the doors of the Weston Library, fresh from an £80-million makeover. Formerly known as the “New Bodleian,” the newly dubbed Weston Library includes several exhibition halls where treasures from the Bodleian collections will be on public display.

The three-year renovation project was lead by architect Jim Eyre, who radically redesigned the building originally constructed in the 1930s. The New Bodleian was commandeered for war use during WWII before it could be opened to the public, delaying its official opening until 1946. It then served in a dual role as a space for readers and a storage site for some 3.5 million volumes in the Oxford collections.

The renovations include state-of-the-art storage for Bodleian special collections, new spaces for academic research, including three reading rooms, a digital media center, a new Visiting Scholar Center, new public exhibition spaces, a shop, and a cafe.

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Michael Suarez, professor of English at the University of Virginia and director of Rare Book School, is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Bodleian. He said of the renovations, “Now at last the Bodleian Libraries has a state-of-the-art facility commensurate with its world-class research collections. Working at the Weston nearly every day, I can say from experience that it is a marvelous place, a fantastic scholarly resource. Scholars from around the globe will benefit tremendously from this thoroughgoing renovation for generations to come.”

The opening exhibition in the new library is called “Marks of Genius,” which “looks at ways in which common attitudes towards genius are manifested in the physical form of a number of remarkable books and manuscripts, and considering the relationship between genius and learning, it explores ways in which the works of genius found in a university library can be acquired, collected and read.” Highlights include the Magna Carta and the original dust jacket design for The Hobbit.

[Images from the Bodleian Libraries]
At $85,267 (£57,000), this finely bound set of Samuel Purchas’s Pilgrimes (1625-26) was the top lot at the third sale of the Brooke-Hitching library at Sotheby’s London last week. Over forty years this collector had amassed a stunning collection of rare books related to voyages, exploration, and discovery between 1576-1939. As our correspondent Ian McKay reported in FB&C’s winter issue, “Records have become almost commonplace where the two sales so far conducted to disperse the magnificent Franklin Brooke-Hitching library ... are concerned.” McKay went on to highlight two examples of the “superlative condition” and rarity “that the collector always strove for.”

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On March 19, there were three more record-breakers, according to Sotheby’s: $66,731 (£45,000) for the Huth-Penrose copy of Mortimer’s Observations and Remarks made during a Voyage... in the Brig Mercury (1791); $51,902 (£35,000) for Middleston’s The Last East-Indian Voyage (1606); and $48,194 (£32,500) for a first edition of Lind’s landmark, A Treatise of the Scurvy (1753).

The sale achieved a total of $1.8 million (£1.2) well above its pre-sale high estimate. The final sale (Q-Z) will be held in London on September 30.

Image: Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
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photo credit: PRNewswire

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
(“Mending Wall” Robert Frost, 1-4)

March 26 marks the birthday of four-time Pulitzer Prize-winnng poet Robert Frost, who, although a man of the twentieth century, wrote poems evoking traditional, rural New England landscapes of another time. His poetry recalls a simpler era, and yet Frost conveys the quiet strength of everyday Americans that continues to inspire.

Events across the country will commemorate the day, but one in particular stands out - the inaugural Mending Wall Day, organized by Lowell, Massachusetts-based stoneware studio, American Stonecraft. The event is named for the Frost poem “Mending Wall,” which recounts how fieldstones push their way through the dirt during the winter months. Traditionally, once the snow melted, hardy New England farmers would move the rocks out of their fields in preparation for  planting. Since farmers are resourceful folk, these stones were used to build the walls that grace hundreds of fields and backyards from Connecticut to Maine. (In an informative essay on Earthmagazine.org, John-Manuel Andriote explains the history and singularity of New England rocks, estimating that 380,000 miles of stonewalls zigzag throughout the region.) That rite of passage continues every spring on farms throughout New England.

Robert Frost, 1913.

Robert Frost, 1913. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Mending Wall Day project is the brainchild of Groton, MA, native Gerald Croteau III, a former D.C-based mergers and acquisitions consultant who switched careers after a visit to the family farm in the Merrimack valley.  “I looked at a fieldstone split open, and all the beautiful colors inside that rock, that’s all it took. I left my old job, moved back to Massachusetts, and set up shop,” he said. Four years later, American Stonecraft partners with local farmers by using their freshly unearthed stones to make custom tableware such as coasters and bowls (called ‘bowlders’ on American Stonecraft’s site). Each unique piece is labeled with the farm of origin, recounting via multicolored striations the time-worn tale of these rocks, and the farmers who put them to good use. Now, the company’s tableware are the vessels for culinary delights at chef Dan Barber’s upscale farm-to table restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, New York. Fieldstones from the restaurant’s adjoining farm provided the raw material for the distinctive serving ware.

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A Bowlder. Photo Credit: American Stonecraft

Mending Wall Day’s inaugural goals are modest, but laudable. “We want to increase cultural awareness of New England stonewalls by organizing independent community gatherings like this one, where neighbors gather to rebuild and tend to fieldstone walls,” explained Croteau during a telephone conversation from his Congress Street studio overlooking an historic canal in Lowell, Massachusetts. Croteau’s choice of studio location also reflects his commitment to community. “Lowell has the most working artists per capita in America.” Also known as the Mill City, Lowell is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, thanks to a dedicated group of artists, musicians and entrepreneurs who are transforming formerly abandoned mills and storefronts into thriving galleries, studios, showrooms and restaurants. “It feels like Boston’s Brooklyn,” Croteau mused. Sure, plenty of neighborhoods still resemble hardscrabble scenes from the film The Fighter but things are looking up for the resilient, resourceful people of Lowell.

Lowell National Park Boat Tour of Canal (actua...

Lowell National Park Boat Tour of Canal (actually Pawtucket Canal). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This year the Mending Wall Day event is being held on Thursday, March 26, in the nearby rural town of Dunstable. Croteau’s group will collect rocks from the 350-acre Tully Farm, a family-run operation since 1873 whose herd of cows provide milk to nearby cheese making cooperative Cabot. Though he’s not expecting a large turnout--eight Stonecraft employees, (a number of whom hail from Frost’s childhood hometown of Lawrence) plus Tully farmers-- Croteau is optimistic about what the future holds. “Mending Wall Day is about finding the balance between city life and country life, and I’m hopeful that if people hear about our work this year, then maybe next year they’ll join us. It only takes one to start a movement.” One stone at a time, good fences continue to make good neighbors.

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Gerald Croteau at Allandale Farm. Photo Credit: American Stonecraft

More about the company and Mending Wall Day below:
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The largest collection of daguerreotypes of Venice in the world--and probably the earliest surviving photographs of the Alps--have been officially confirmed as taken by John Ruskin, the famous 19th-century art critic, writer, and artist.

The photographs were uncovered at Cumbrian auction house Penrith Farmers’ & Kidd’s PLC in 2006 by photographic dealers Ken and Jenny Jacobson. The daguerreotypes sold for £75,000 after an original estimate of just £80. Following extensive conservation and research over the next eight years, the Jacobsons were able to confirm that the daguerreotypes were indeed photographed by Ruskin.

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The Jacobsons published a book yesterday with Bernard Quaritch about their remarkable discovery. Entitled Carrying Off the Palaces: John Ruskin’s Lost Daguerreotypes, the book contains all 325 known Ruskin daguerreotypes. Many of the photographs discovered by the Jacobsons appear in print for the first time with this publication. The book also explores Ruskin’s complicated relationship with the new photographic arts in the 19th century.

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At the book launch yesterday Ken Jacobson said, “The discovery of 188 previously unknown John Ruskin daguerreotypes has been the most exciting of our career. The propitious circumstances of this find were truly magnified many times over by the fascinating discoveries we made during our research and the generosity, intelligence and friendship we shared with other scholars and our conservators.
 
We feel that the quality and unorthodox style of many of Ruskin’s daguerreotypes will come as a major surprise to both photographic historians and those in the field of Ruskin scholarship. It is an astonishing accomplishment for a polymath better known for his achievements in so many other disciplines. Ruskin’s daguerreotypes would be a sensational new revelation in the history of photography even if he were completely unknown. We hope the work will be as intriguing to others as it has been to us.”
 
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Images: Courtesy of Bernard Quaritch.
5479069887_bbae6d5c91_z.jpgThe George Washington University Museum in Washington, D.C. will host its grand opening on Saturday with two exhibits from the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection of historic maps and documents. Small donated the collection to GW in 2011, along with $5 million toward the renovation of the museum on its Foggy Bottom campus. The result is a 53,000-square-foot LEED Gold-certified museum complex housing the Textile Museum, the historic Woodhull House, the Arthur D. Jenkins Library, and the Small Center for National Capital Area Studies.

To inaugurate the complex, two exhibits of Small material will go on display. Seat of Empire: Planning Washington, 1790-1801 will consider urban design and the landscape of early D.C. through rare maps and related images. The Civil War and the Making of Modern Washington will track the city’s evolution from war-time encampment through Reconstruction with prints, maps, and illustrations from the period.  

The Smithsonian Press has also issued a new illustrated book, The Evolution of Washington, D.C.: Historical Selections from the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection at the George Washington University, featuring 90 pieces of memorabilia from the collection.
 
You can read more about Small’s “Capital Collection” and GW’s new museum in our spring issue.

Image: Map of Future Site of Washington, D.C., 1790. From the Albert H. Small - George Washington University Washingtoniana Collection.
 
Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Madison Rootenberg of Durham, North Carolina, who collects unicorn books.


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Where are you from / where do you live?

Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and currently living in Durham, NC.

What did you study at University? What do you do now for an occupation?

I went to Emerson College for Writing, Literature and Publishing and I am currently the Assistant Youth, Family and Camp Director at the Levin Jewish Community Center in Durham-Chapel Hill.
 
Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in? 

When I was 5 years old I was in London with my grandparents for a book fair, and they had asked me what I wanted to start collecting. I found a sticker on the side of a building as we were leaving saying, “Save the Unicorns” and decided the only way to do that was to collect all of the books on them ever written!

How many books are in your collection? 

Oh goodness, over 100, I’ve lost count.

What was the first book you bought for your collection? 

I believe it was an Animal Encyclopedia from the 1400’s that had a section on unicorns.

How about the most recent book? 

A collection of hand-painted pages from children’s books that all contain a unicorn. 

And your favorite book in your collection? 

A miniature book that is less than an inch big!

How about the One that Got Away? 

Still looking for a manuscript of “The Last Unicorn.” I have it on both VHS and DVD though. 

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection? 

Supposedly the British Library recently found a cook book from medieval times containing a section on how to cook a unicorn. This proves they were real, right?!

Who is your favorite bookseller? 

My dad and grandparents of course! B & L Rootenberg Rare Books and Manuscripts.

What would you collect if you didn’t collect books? 

If I had the space, dogs! Every pitbull on the street or in a pound. Hopefully I’ll have a farm one day and can start rescuing more. 

Thanks to Madison for participating in our series.  Nominations for Bright Young Collectors (including self-nominations) are welcome at nathan@finebooksmagazine.com
Around this time each year, a stack accumulates on my desk of post-holiday, pre-beach reads, all of which would be of interest to FB&C readers. Here are five non-fiction titles, in brief, that deserve your attention. 

9781616893668.jpgMore than Words: Illustrated Letters from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art by Liza Kirwin (Princeton Architectural Press, $24.95). Out this month is the paperback edition of this popular compendium of letters written by artists--e.g., Alfred Joseph Frueh sent his fiancee a pop-up gallery of art on the back of a 1913 letter and Andy Warhol drew a smiley face with speech bubble on his 1949 letter to a Harper’s editor. From pen-and-ink caricatures to almost fully realized scenic watercolors, each correspondent illuminated his or her note with something other than text. The result is endlessly enticing. And for a bonus track: full transcripts of all the letters.

The Pebble Chance: Feuilletons & Other Prose by Marius Kociejowski (Biblioasis, $18.95). This is a collection of intelligent and charming essays on poetry, art, and books, at least two of which, “A Factotum in the Book Trade” and “The Testament of Charlotte B.,” will have direct appeal for antiquarian book-collector types. The author has long worked as a book dealer in London, and he is also a poet and a travel writer. Plus, Michael Dirda raved about the book in the Washington Post. What else could you ask for?

The King Penguin Series: A Survey by Michael Lake (Penguin Collectors Society, £12). This new book from the PCS surveys the original King Penguins, a hardback imprint launched by Allen Lane in 1939. The King Penguins were meant to be both affordable and handsome enough to be collectible. This compact and beautifully illustrated book offers a wonderful history of the series, a gallery of cover art, and a full bibliography.

Letter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries by Ander Monson (Graywolf Press, $22). Taking inspiration from library left-behinds, Monson writes brief essays and snippets of response with the enthusiasm and wit of a poetry slam winner. Contemplating a signed book at the University of Arizona, he writes, “In the age of disassociation and fragmentation, history-free ebooks torrented on the Internet, burger meat from random cows gathered up in drive-thru fast-food burger patties to be liked, live-tweeted as we eat, there’s also this: a thing, an artifact, complete with Hancock and finger trace, which makes it more than other books, we’re meant to know.” Monson has said that this book got started as a series of actual notes he wrote and tucked into volumes returned to the library, like a living book art project. This volume shares that private project with a larger audience.

The War That Used Up Words: American Writers and the First World War by Hazel Hutchinson (Yale University Press, $45). Henry James, Edith Wharton, Grace Fallow Norton, Mary Borden, Ellen La Motte, E. E. Cummings, and John Dos Passos -- how did these seven writers shape American opinions about WWI? Hutchinson focuses her lens not on the “lost generation,” but on the writers who were observing and participating before America even joined the effort.

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