A Long Spell of Silence

I apologize for the lack of updates during the past weeks.  Following the scanning of my works, I proceeded to review all the images, conducting extra research on the authors and popular research surrounding the publication of the works.  This took much longer than I had anticipated, especially as I had to translate many of the text describing the images.  But let me not bore you with only a summary of the work I have been doing.  I'm really excited at this point, not only because I feel accomplished enough to blog about it, but also because I am taking some of the final steps towards a completed project.  Allow me to share some of the more interesting pages I have the privilege to include in my final exhibit.


An illustration from De Piscibus Libri by Ulysses Aldrovandi.

Being in Latin, as well as having its pictures scattered throughout the work, there was no sure way I could determine the exact context of this image.  Within this particular book, there are several surprising and bizarre creatures presented.  This one, which appears to be a fish with some sort of bony horn, its label being roughly translated to "utel fish with steel-toed pistis."  The early modern era was one of transition, from theorizing about myths to observing facts.  Works like this serve to support this idea.


Pages from Memoirs for a Natural History of Animals, put together by the Academie de Sciences in France

This book was more or less a collection of dissection notes from the French scientific authorities at the time (it was published in 1688).  Here we see a pairing of text with explanatory illustrations.  The two creatures in the bottom image are both bears, but one has no fur, as to show the muscular and skeletal structure beneath.


A plate at the start of a fourth section in Conrad Gessner's The Practise of New and Old Physicke.

The title of this book is particularly deceiving, as it actually pertained to several types of distillations.  This fourth book supposedly covers "many singular secret remedies."  Distillation was connected to alchemy and medicine, or any practice where something new needed to be made out of ordinary elements.  With a dragon-like creature and a magical-looking tree, this section seems to relate to the more mysterious aspects of the practice of distillation.


A plate from Robert Boyle's collection The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle

This is a set of etchings, showing Boyle's famous air pump as well as other scientific apparatuses.  Throughout these works, I found many labeled charts and images that more often than not never related to any particular text.  I can only assume that in works like this one, which was a collection of Boyle's essays and experiments, plates were inserted after being pulled from other books.

As I continue to work on the online exhibit (tasks which currently involve lots of cataloging and uploading of images) I will provide more of these "sneak peaks" to the contents of the collection.  There has been too much computer work for my liking, but overall I am enjoying my work as a CCEPS fellow very much.  And learning some of the ins and outs of information science has been very enlightening!

Familiarizing Myself with the Digital World

This week has been a bit tedious.  Now that I had reviewed the collection of books I wish to use in my online exhibit, it was time to turn the material into something that could be digitally shared.  I took this past week and a half to scan the interesting pages and illustrations I had come across in my research.  I used the overhead camera that is located in the reading room of Special Collections for my task, becoming quite the master scanner by the end of my work.


This is about how each book had to be arranged under the camera.  For smaller editions, they could be opened completely and a whole two pages could be photographed.  There was plenty of creative propping and use of paper weights in order to have pages lie just so.


Many books had pull out illustrations or charts, which proved to be one of the more challenging parts of all this (one example pictured above).  Some of them could be arranged to take up the space a larger page would have needed to be scanned.  But some were just a little too big to be digitized to their full potential.

I found this very interesting, especially since these pull out pages were some of my favorite discoveries as I read through my collection.  These create almost a multi-media experience, forcing the reader to interact with the text a little bit.  They also serve as a great example as to why electronic books will never offer as much as physical editions.

With my scanned images ready to be used, I shall soon be working on the exhibit website, the final product of this semester's work.

A Magickal End to the Week

This week was more reading than I ever thought I was capable of.  I requested 11 new materials last week and, somehow, I actually was able to go through all of them.  The most challenging were definitely those in Latin and German; but I was able to get the gist of their contents by translating chapter headings and some of the prefaces.  The range on these materials was pretty broad, but this gave me a diverse record of experiments and proper research as well as some accounts that definitely sound more like fiction than fact.

 Before I jump into this week's findings, I have to share that I did find a 1628 edition of Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy last week.  It's a fascinating collection that is more literary than scientific in many ways.  Burton focuses on the science of the humors, which leads to discussion on what causes changes in the different humors, from physical ailments to more spiritual/emotional factors.  I will definitely have more to tell about this work, as I intend to spend more time with this material, possibly for thesis purposes.


Cover plate from The Anatomy

One material that was really interesting to me was A New Theory of the Earth by William Whiston.  I had a later edition that was printed in 1696.  By this time, Whiston had already established himself as another voice trying to reconcile science and Revelation.  As a science work written by a chaplain, this reminded me of Primitive Physick.  It included theories surrounding creation and "the deluge" (Noah's flood), both concerned with comets and other heavenly bodies.  Whiston also included plenty of scripture references scattered throughout his explanations.


Cover plate of A New Theory with illustration of the solar system

Something that was quite new to me this week was translating some of these materials.  Well, I can't say it was completely new because I did take multiple years of Latin way back when.  But still, I had expected all my materials to be in English.  One inevitable product of translating was the surprise of realizing what the book was actually about.  An example: Opera Omnia Medico-Practica Et Anatomica by Georgio Baglivi seemed at first to be mainly about practical medicine.  That's what its first book was concerning, and the title itself translates to "The Complete Works of Medical Practice of Anatomy."  What a surprise to find that the whole second section was devoted to "The Anatomy, Bite, and Effects of the Tarantula."  Apparently, "tarantism" was a thing back in the early modern era and it was a disease thought to be caused by the bite of tarantulas, which were believed to be the most poisonous spider mostly because of their size.  There's a phenomenon I will definitely be reading up on in my free time!

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Who doesn't love stumbling upon spider illustrations while innocently perusing through medical literature? Illustration from a 1719 edition.

Another interesting pattern I noticed throughout many of these materials were pull-out illustrations and diagrams.  Many of these were for explanations of tools and methods for distillation or larger diagrams of cosmic orbits.  I thought it was interesting to have these tangible additions to the textual information, and it adds to the narrative of the binding and printing of the book itself.

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The cover pages of a 1664 edition of The Opticke of Humors, including its own pull out with a more elaborate title page and diagram of the planets.

And now for my most favorite material of the week: Natural Magick.  I don't know what it was, but this was the most amusing thing I've read so far during this project.  John Baptista del Porta covers a huge range of topics, from scientific to ridiculously obscure, including the proper cooking of peacocks and how to beautify women (from dying hair to clearing blemishes).  My favorite was a chapter in his (literally) "random experiments" section that described how one might alter his appearance so his friends won't recognize him.  I looked through a facsimile of a London edition from 1658; although he published his first edition in the late 1500s, this one still shows traces of the strong mythical influence of earlier science.  One section of hunting and gathering animals included advice on capturing the unicorn, of course.  

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The above mentioned passage.  But I had to also include the part about how to "make Wheezles come together," because how could I not?

Phoenixes and Unicorn Horns and Primitive Physick

Research has been going well.  More and more materials are finding their way into my already large horde of 17th century science literature.  Navigating the search engine is not as straightforward as it seems, which means I'm still learning to use the right terms to get me what I want.  Nonetheless, I am finding more and more every time I sit down to search through special collections.


Some of the most amusing things I've found in going through these materials is the blatant intermixing of myth and science.  Early on, I noticed some notions of travel literature and scientific reports being less-than-accurate concerning zoology and even metallurgy.


Here, from a collection of The Works of Sir Thomas Brown, is a description of the Unicorn.  I particularly enjoyed this encyclopedic section of different animals, plants, minerals, etc. because it gave all the names of the subject in different languages and described their significance in different parts of the world.


From that same work is a description of the Phoenix.  Sir Thomas Brown also included the literary significance of some of these creatures, when applicable.

One book that piqued my interest was Primitive Physick by John Wesley.  For such a medically-inclined book to be written by this well-known theologian and philosopher was surprising to me and I quickly starting finding secondary sources to help me learn more about it.  It's fascinating what Wesley was doing, because in this early modern era when the spiritual and the physical were bingeing to diverge, he argued that they were still very related.  Half of the work served as a space for this sort of argument, and the rest followed the tradition of medical receipts.



Within this edition, there also existed some marginalia from an unknown source.  The notes were mostly additions to the prescriptions and medical instructions.

As I continue on, it is very clear that this period was one of ambiguity when it came to where to draw the line between the medieval and the modern.  In my next blog, I will share more about my work with The Anatomy of Melancholy.  But this illustration from A Concordance of Years shows that the heavenly and the physical were definitely seen as intertwined, or at least that man's body was governed by elements outside of himself.


My Descent into the Rabbit Hole

As explained in my last post, my project for this semester surrounds the early modern science movement and the literature that came out of it.  Oh the joys of our wonderful library database!  While learning how to be efficient in my exploration of the contents of special collections, I have definitely taken steps in becoming more of an expert on the ways of our database.  One finding leads to another and before long, I have found many primary sources for this project.  Take a look at some of the first books I discovered:

The [Probably Too Ambitious] Historie of the World, translated from Plinius Secondus


A page from Memoir's For a Natural History of Animals, by Claude Perrault 


Some Considerations Touching the Usefulness of Experimental Natural Philosophy, by Robert Boyle

Hopefully these examples make it clear that there were many names and terms associated with science literature that did not at first seem very intuitive.  Using "natural," "philosophy," and even "physick" proved to help broaden my sources.  And of course, once I found one decent source, it usually led me to even more.

I am very excited to be widening my research, from more medical/physician based literature to now astrology and alchemy.  At the same time, it was frustrating to have to become more general in my quest for wider breadth of knowledge.  This is because I was hoping to use my work at CCEPS this semester to help guide my personal research for my thesis next semester.  Hoping to narrow down a topic has been increasingly difficult as I keep jumping from one lead to the next.  But that will have to be something I figure out on my own.

A Wild CCEPS Fellow Appears!

Hello one and all.  As the CCEPS Archival Fellow for the fall of 2015, I would like to introduce myself.  My name is Lindsey and I am a senior Literature major (Biology minor) at Claremont McKenna College.  I am beyond excited for this semester at the Special Collections because not only do I love books, but I particularly love old books.  What's that, you say?  The Special Collections has plenty of old books?  Well then, this is definitely the place for me.

Let me tell you a little bit about my project for this fellowship.  I will be researching what resources the collection has related to 17th-18th century natural history, early modern era science, etc.  Working alongside Lisa and the other Collections faculty, we would like to bring you something that exhibits what the library has in this area of literature, as well as tell a historical narrative about the intersection of science and literature during this key time of development in subjects such as philosophy, physicks (medicine), and even theology.

I will blog again soon to share some of the interesting works I have already found.  Cheers!

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

For me, the bear is Senior Year and the impending task of entering adulthood. It's fierce and ambiguous, just like in The Winter's Tale, but unlike the poor soul devoured by Shakespeare's brainchild, I plan to fight and conquer it.

In other words, my time as a SURP-CCEP researcher has come to an end. And, continuing the trend of Emma's last post, I'll be reflecting on my summer researching Shakespeareana. Before I get into that, here are a few cool drawings from the Philbrick art collection of actors as their characters. 

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This summer, my fellow researchers and I came across many items that took Shakespeare and altered it to suit their needs. Some people took out anything they thought was inappropriate for families (which takes out a lot of the fun, honestly), some made tragedies into comedies, and some made the plays into short stories for children. To me, this points to a level of audience participation, or, an extension of the co-authorship of plays at that time, since fans of Shakespeare's work would remake the plays in an experimentation of form. They were putting their own spin on Shakespeare, which as I have found working with multiple versions of the same play, opens up new readings of both the inspired and the original works.

Seeing these kinds of interpretations and alterations to Shakespeare's plays shows me that Shakespeare is bigger than himself. By that, I mean he is not only a cultural icon, but he is also a genre in and of itself. He uses tropes that others reproduce in order to imitate his style. He has characters that he reuses. He even has overlapping and repeating plot points and structures. And even today, we tap into those structures that Shakespeare set in place, furthering and reinforcing the definitions of his self-perpetuating genre.

I've thoroughly enjoyed my work this summer, and I hope you've enjoyed reading my posts. Even if you don't feel compelled to go out and read anything by the Bard, hopefully you'll look at him in a new light. 

Thank you for being my readers. 
Until the Spring,

The End, and hopefully the beginning

Well, this is it! My final week at CCEPS, and thus my final blog entry. As the case is in most summers, I must ask the question, where has the time gone?!

Picking up from last week, as I began entering all of the necessary information into Archivist Toolkit, all of the front matter I needed to create has now been written and completed. These included the processing information, which was neat to recap all of the different processing decisions and methods used over the course of the summer and include the details within the Processing note. The other key remaining pieces of front matter I still had to work on were the Biography, Scope and Contents, and the Abstract. 

At first, approaching the biography, scope and content, and abstract seemed intimidating. First off, when I initially started working on the front matter, I knew that this meant writing what would be seen by all future researchers when they visit the collection's finding aid. A bit intimidating at first. Plus, unlike most of the other pieces of front matter, there was no template for the remaining three; rather, a description of what was expected. Therefore, I had to look at other examples of a processed collection's front matter and had to conduct my own research as well. However, writing the biography was extremely interesting, since it not only allowed me to do some research and learn more about Char Miller, but it also provided a nice way to "wrap" everything I have been working on, to provide some context for all of his materials within the collection. The Scope and Content notes also proved a valuable exercise. By the end, this process was enlightening and not nearly the daunting task it had seemed. I also learned how to wrap a text in AT, so that it would appear as an italicized title once produced in the finding aid!

This summer has truly been a unique and worthwhile experience. I learned a great deal about processing an archival collection and many of the "behind-the-scenes" aspects of Special Collections. I also learned a lot about environmental history - a subject in which I am increasingly interested - merely through processing the collection of Char Miller. Despite not being able to read the actual materials in full, by perusing them in order to understand the scope and content (it is useful terminology!) of the material and then create adequate folder titles, I was able to gain an awareness of Professor Miller's work and many of the topics he studied that I simply did not have before I started at CCEPS. And, of course, the experience proved invaluable as an introduction to working with archives and understanding the intricacies of archival processing and cataloging. It is with this experience that I hope to build on what I have learned and incorporate it into my future endeavors. Working with CCEPS has certainly enhanced my interest. The work was challenging at times, even frustrating, but overall, the benefits surely outweighed any of these concerns.
I must also thank the Special Collections staff, particularly Lisa Crane, with making sure the process never posed too much of a challenge or burden.
Finally, sharing my experiences with this blog really enhanced the overall experience and helped make the work more exciting, as I knew I had to recap the week and tried to do so in an informative and interesting manner. I look forward to hopefully gaining another opportunity in the near future, although I'm not sure there will be a blog involved again!

So, as I conclude my final day at CCEPS, I hope this will signify a beginning rather than an end. 

I hope you enjoy these final images of the collection, all boxed, labeled, and ready to go! The few boxes of different sizes contain items such as t-shirts, plaques, medals, and oversized publications. "Feels like only yesterday..." I was putting the picture of all of the stuff mixed throughout 13 miscellaneous boxes! 
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My Exits and My Entrances: Goodbye, SURP

That's right, my SURP is over. I am now out of Claremont to hang out with my family (and then come back to do my junior year of college - oy). 

This week's post will be a little lighter on the critical analysis of specific works of and relating to Shakespeare, and a little heavier on me talking about my time this summer. 


Although please, enjoy this picture of Yorick smoking a pipe...I know I do. 

As to my work this summer, it has done a lot for me for my future in research, especially considering I didn't really know what research was when I first got here. This summer has been one of embracing ambiguity and going on random tangents that may or may not be helpful to answer research questions that are not actually fully formed. But it is possible to do important intellectual work whether for myself or for the research, even when you don't know what the research is. 

An important part of research, and something that I'm still working on, is taking my expectations or assumptions and flipping them. I came into this summer viewing Shakespeare's words as the ultimate versions of his works, which meant that all kooky adaptations were a bit of an affront to the original Shakespeare. Although I still think there is a lot to be gained from reading the original plays, with all their possibilities, the idea of an "ultimate" Shakespeare is not the best way to go about enjoying or trying to understand the work. I needed to rethink my expectations for "ultimate," by trying not to have an idea in my head about what ultimate means.

I'm still not sure exactly what I expect from Shakespeare, nor what that means about the orignal plays or the experience of viewing/reading Shakespeare. But I have learned a lot about research and my own thoughts this summer, and I'm glad to be able to hopefully share some of those thoughts in the exhibit this spring. 

Thanks for reading these blog posts, and good luck with your lives! Enjoy the exhibit in Special Collections and Denison in the spring.

Signing off

Falstaff's Legacy

Sir John Falstaff, the boisterous, bumbling knight, is one of Shakespeare's most beloved characters. It is even rumored that Queen Elizabeth loved the character so much that she commissioned the Bard himself to write another play with Falstaff as the lead. Now, his personality has become larger than life, in a way, taking on a life of its own beyond the context of the plays in which he appears.

Today, I'll be talking about a book about Falstaff and his squad (conveniently titled Falstaff and His Companions). Located in our special collections, this book features illustrations of Falstaff and co. with excerpts from the plays in which they appear to provide context. what makes this book especially interesting is that all of the characters are in silhouette.

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There does not seem to be any particular reason for the illustrator to make the characters into silhouettes, other than a possible test of his skill. If he can make the characters recognizable as just a black outline, then he has managed to capture their essence without fretting over unnecessary detail. 

Personally, I think using silhouettes gives the reader more control over how they view the characters and allows for variability of actor representation. If the illustrated characters are a blank slate, then anyone can fill the void without disrupting the image of the character. 

Some of my favorite Falstaff images feature him interacting with other characters, like a little boy and a married woman.

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In addition to showing Sir John in a different light, this book also takes the time to depict his companions, giving the reader a greater sense of depth while adding to visual representations of Shakespeare's literary universe. Below, we have a few minor characters. The decorative designs underneath their silhouettes nicely augment their frames.

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I had my doubts when I picked up the book, but Falstaff can still be captivating even without his devilish grin. It seems a testament to the power of Shakespeare's characters that they can live even in shadow.