Monday, December 5, 2016

Jippensha Ikku and the Hizakurige

I have written a post already on one comic within Dartmouth's digital collections.  When confronted with the task of writing another post, one of the most difficult tasks, of course, is deciding what to write about.

It has been said (by me) that inspiration is the writer's currency.  Or maybe it's more like energy.  It's a delicious sandwich, that enriches the writer with the nutrients necessary to build literary structures.  As such, if I'm to write anything I must search high and low for the perfect object, that unique artifact that can act as Mona Lisa to my da Vince.  Such inspiration can be rare, and the pursuit of such a thing can be daunting in its own right.  I scroll down four entries on the library digital collections page.  Perfect.

The Tokaidochu Hizakurige, translated to A Shank's Mare Tour of the Tokaido, is a picaresque novel told in twelve parts.  It was written by Shigeta Sadakazu under the pen name Ikku Jippensha and has been called "the most humorous and entertaining book in the Japanese language."  An impressive claim, perhaps outdated, but nonetheless- pretty good.  It tells the tale of two travelers, Yajirobi and Kitahachi, as they make pilgrimage from Edo (now called Tokyo) to Kyoto along the Tokaido, the primary road between those places, and the subject of much attention from artists of the time.  While the Hizakurige is a comic novel, it also functions as travel guide to those who would attempt the trek.

Sadakazu was a prolific writer during the Edo period, producing a minimum of twenty novels per year between 1795 and 1801.  Despite the abundance of his work, relatively little is known of him.  He lived in Edo primarily, in the service of samurai.  Several stories exist detailing his eccentricities, although they are largely considered to be apocryphal.  According to one account, Sadakazu instructed his pupils to, upon his death, cremate him along with several mysterious packets.  Supposedly these packets were filled with fireworks, which reacted as one would expect when placed in the fire.

Like their creator, the two main characters of the hizakurige got up to all manner of mischief.  Yaji and Kita, as they are often called, can easily be compared to well-known picaresque duos in the west, like Don Quijote and Sancho Panza or Huck Finn and Jim.  W.G. Aston, a scholar of Japanese
linguistics and history, compared them to Bottom the weaver and Falstaff from the works of Shakespeare.  "Prove it," you say.  "How could any characters compete with the beloved Don Quijote and Sancho Panza," you say.  Allow me to give you some examples.

In one story Yaji and Kita come to a river to find two blind men in discussion.  One man agrees to carry the other across, and our two heroes decide to take advantage of this agreement for their own benefit.  Yaji is able to deceive the man and substitute himself, making it across the river dry.  However, when Kita attempts to do the same he is discovered and thrown into the river midway.

In another story the two come across a medium on the road.  She gives Yaji a message from his deceased wife which frightens him terribly.  However, he is further terrified when the medium proposes that the spirit pay him regular friendly visits.

What time and place could produce such characters, you ask?  Allow me to describe it briefly.  The Edo period, defined by the rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate, lasted from 1603 to 1868.  This was the last feudal military government of Japan, which ended with the consolidation of power by Emperor Meiji, a process known appropriately as the Meiji Restoration.  The Tokugawa Shogunate was a feudal government, and as such Japanese society possessed a clearly stratified social structure during the period of its influence.  The return to imperial power began the steps to modernity, and this shift to a modern, metropolitan mindset can be seen in the sense of superiority that Yaji and Kita feel toward the rural countrymen that they meet throughout their travels.

The sample within our collection depicts the journey from Edo to Hamamatsu on one side, and Hamamatsu to Osaka on the other.  It's illustrated by Tamenobu Fujikawa in the ukiyo-e style, a style popular from the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries.  The famed Great Wave of Kanagawa is also in this style.  This style would later be instrumental in Japonism, the influence of the Japanese aesthetic which would inspire many of the early impressionists.  These include Dega, Manet, and Monet, and later van Gogh, who collected a large number of pieces in this style.  It would later impact the development of art nouveau, through the likes of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec among others. 

The famous Utagawa Hiroshige, considered the last great master of the ukiyo-e style, was similarly inspired by the Tokaido.  It's featured in a number of his works, including The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido, a work devoted to it in its entirety.

Particularly noticeable within the works of Hiroshige, and other ukiyo-e artists, are the striking landscapes which seem to capture the breathless life of distant natural beauty.
Fujikawa's images juxtapose the jocular content of the Hizakurige.  Without being told, one might not guess the nature of the story at all.  That the two can co-exist, the gently sloping hills and swaying grasses, and the buffoonish Yajirobi and Kitahachi, perhaps reveals insight into the strange holism of our world.

More information on Jippensha Ikku can be found in A History of Japanese Literature by W.G. Aston.  Our physical copy of the Tokaidochu Hizakurige can be found in Rauner's Special Collections.

Written by Kevin Warstadt

Monday, November 14, 2016

Now What Was I Doing?

Dartmouth's Book Arts Workshop's Sarah Smith is exhibiting her daily drawing project at The Main Street Museum in White River Junction, Vermont, beginning with a reception and artist talk from 5-8 on November 4th and running through November 28th.  Sarah gave herself the task of creating and posting one drawing every day for a year.  On exhibit are some 200+ drawings from the project, as well as drawings from the previous year's six-month attempt.
You can see all the drawings on Sarah's Tumblr site at: 

This is how Sarah describes the project and process:

I started this project in an attempt to get myself to draw more.  I used to draw all the time, but as I got more involved with letterpress and writing, my work became more about words and found images.
Now I'm interested in getting back to drawing and combining it with the textual/typographic work.  But first I needed to rebuild my confidence in drawing after many years of not drawing (at least not publicly).

Inspired by prolific artists and friends like Haig Demarjian, Justin Durand, the concept of "Inktober" and a student from the Center for Cartoon Studies who told me they have to draw every day, I decided to give it more of a concerted effort than I did in the past.  However, I found that I needed an extra incentive to keep going.  Posting the drawings online everyday works best, as fear of public shame keeps me on task.

I never intended the drawings to be a daily comic, but posting the images and getting feedback tends to steer the ideas a bit.  I found I was drawing things people would "get".  I wasn't happy with that my first time around and I quit after six months. 
I also felt like I wasn't tending to bigger projects.  Before long after quitting though, I realized how much I missed that time I spent every day with a brand new idea and mini project.  The bigger projects weren't happening - or at least not as much as I intended anyway.  I decided to go back to the daily drawings and posting every day.

During the second time around - that resulted in a full year - I didn't worry as much about whether I was pleasing the audience or not.  I posted with a week delay, so I had a chance to tweak an idea or quickly sketch something if I didn't have the time or energy to finish a drawing.  The pressure was a little lighter this way and I wasn't staying up as late.

It was interesting to see what ideas came from no plans - sometimes just pointing in the dictionary and drawing from the selected word - or from something someone said that day, or from something that's been on my mind.  It's also interesting to recognize common threads, where I might not have otherwise.  For example, I had no idea how many clowns were in the back of my mind.  Or how argumentative the objects in my house were.
I haven't worried much about "style" or being consistent about the materials I use.  This has been a chance to try out a few new things as well as get reacquainted with some old methods.  Some drawings will lead to bigger projects - books or relief prints perhaps.  Some drawings are best left as they are - evidence of the process and working, but not examples of my best work.  Not being precious and expecting everything to be fantastic, useful or more than an exercise has always been difficult for me.  This project has helped me get past this, but I still have a long way to go.

I miss the daily practice again now.  So I'll be up to something again soon.

Written by Sarah Smith

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Marcus Design Books

Sometimes when an institution digitizes an object from their collections, the book, manuscript, or other piece of ephemera in question is disposed of afterwards.  It might be that physical storage is not available, or the cost of a conservation treatment is prohibitive.  In other cases, once the content has been saved digitally, ownership of the actual book itself might be deemed unnecessary.  However, a digitization project does not always spell the end of its physical counterpart.  In fact, it is sometimes the very thing that casts new light upon a long forgotten artifact.

Such was the case with the Marcus Design Books.  This collection consists of 8 volumes that once belonged to Marcus and Co., a jewelry firm that operated in New York City between 1892-1962.  Each volume contains a series of intricately rendered pen and ink drawings that have been adhered to the bound pages.  Representing the years 1890-1910, the drawings feature a wide array of jewelry designs including brooches, necklaces, and hair ornaments.

When they originally made their way to Dartmouth, the Marcus Design Books were housed in the Jewelry Department, where they served as reference materials for the students.  The books were later very nearly disposed of before ultimately being acquired by the library, where they were processed and cataloged.

This might have been the end of the story, until the Metropolitan Museum of Art learned of their existence.  It was at their request that the entire set was pulled from the library's stacks and brought to the conservation lab where they could be repaired before undergoing digitization.

During my time as the summer conservation intern at the Dartmouth College Library, I had the privilege of assisting with the conservation treatment of the Marcus Design Books.

First, each book was surface cleaned with Absorene sponges.  As you can see, they were quite dirty!

After the surface dirt was removed, any tears that were present were mended with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste.  Additionally, each volume had an accompanying envelope filled with drawings that had fallen out over time.  Throughout the process of cleaning and mending, these drawings were returned to their original positions as faithfully as possible. 

It was not an easy task, as each drawing's proper location was not always evident.  However, much like putting a puzzle together, the context of the image and the shape of the residue left behind by the old adhesive often indicated where a drawing belonged.

 After the text blocks were repaired, the exteriors were reinforced.  Several of the books were missing spine pieces.

The spines were subsequently cleaned and relined, before being fitted with a new exterior piece.

Another aspect of repairing the exterior of the book involved consolidating the delaminated book board on the sides and corners, and lining them with cloth and Moriki, a heavy weight Japanese tissue.

After the conservation treatment was complete, the Marcus Design Books were delivered to the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Massachusetts where they would be digitized before being returned to the library.

Written by Rebecca Metois

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Personnel Announcement

We've had a bit of musical chairs here in the Library.

Beginning September 1st, 2016 Barb Sagraves, Head of Preservation Services, began her new role of Interim Associate Librarian for Information Services. This is due to the departure of Eliz Kirk, who accepted the position of Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Resources in the Harvard University Library.

Filling in for Barb is Jenny Mullins, Digital Preservation Librarian, who also began her new role of Interim Head of Preservation Services on September 1st, 2016. Jenny will support staff in Conservation, Preservation and Digital Production, while continuing to build the Digital Preservation program for the Library.

Barb and Jenny will hold these interim positions through January, 2017.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Double the Fun!

Continuing with the "double" theme, my blog post will describe a "double" hike for two separate climbs off the Kancamagus Highway in Albany, NH (UNH Trail parking, Route 112, 22 miles east of Lincoln, NH, 14 miles west of Conway, NH).  The two mountains, Hedgehog and Potash, are near mirror images of each other in terms of difficulty and trail set up, and are great day hikes for most skill levels.

Mt. Passaconway from Mt. Potash
I'll start with Potash Mt.,(2,680 ft).  The Mt. Potash Trail begins and ends in the same parking lot as the loop trail for Hedgehog Mt. (the UNH Trail parking area). Heading out towards the southwest on an old logging road, it passes the Loop Trail junction (which departs to the left) and shortly turns right and
leads into the woods, crossing Downs Brook at 0.2 miles 
before the real ascent begins.  (Downs Brook flows between the two mountains).  It is a woodsy hike of moderate difficulty until it reaches open ledges at approximately 1.1 miles.  The view from the ledges looking to the south is into the Swift River Valley and directly at Mt. Passaconway (4,060 ft.)  These ledges are a great resting stop before ascending the now more difficult last third of the hike.  The trail crosses the steep mountainside diagonally over many small and large boulders that have tumbled from the summit over time, until reaching the final steep rocky incline up to the open summit at 1.9 miles.  The summit view is one towards the north and west, with great views of Mt. Tremont and further beyond, the Presidential Range.

Mt. Tremont

The Presidentials
Over to Hedgehog Mt., (2,532 ft.)  The UNH Trail is a loop that resembles a lasso and can be traversed in either direction, so I will describe it going clockwise.  The trail begins on the same logging road as the Potash trail, but as mentioned earlier, diverges east (turn to the left) just beyond the parking area.  The trail follows and old rail bed for 0.2 miles, then turns right and heads south towards the mountain.  As with Potash it is a moderate climb to the beginning of the connecting loop, and continues on this grade after turning left (east) and following along the upper edge of an old clear cut forest area.  After passing the clear cut at 1.2 miles, the trail turns south again and begins to become a bit more difficult with a few steeper sections as you get closer to the Eastern Ledges at 2.0 miles.  I must be honest here, I usually decide to stop at these ledges as they offer the best views on this hike (Swift River valley/Mt. Chocorua, 3,475 ft./Mt. Passaconway).

Mt. Passaconway from the Eastern Ledges

Mt. Chocorua from the Eastern Ledges

The loop trail continues on, heading back to the west and another viewing area above the same cliffs until it reaches the hardest climbing after 0.5 miles.  The next 0.4 miles turn to the north, is very steep, rocky, and has loose footing.  I usually recommend people not do this section in winter as it is extremely icy, and if they are going to do the whole loop in agreeable conditions, go the opposite way I've described (the steep section can be a real heartbreaker going clockwise).  There is no good view from the summit (another reason I tend to stop at the ledges), and the trail descends steadily through the forest to reconnect with the loop near the clear cut area.  There is a one-side path to a lookout called Allens Ledge (at 4.0 miles), but the area has become overgrown and has limited views.

One more comment; in past blogs I have described cabins my friends and I have rented in the White Mt. area, usually on mountainsides.  There is another such cabin directly off the Kancamagus (across the road from the UNH parking area) called Radeke Cabin which can be rented during summer or

Radeke Cabin
winter through the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) for a small fee.  There is no electricity, but it does have a big old wood stove, wood being supplied by the AMC, and I believe it can sleep over 10 people on wooden bunks.

As always, get out there and see our wonderful state.  Enjoy!

Written by Brian Markee

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Enigmatic Ferdinand Flipper

Within Dartmouth College's Library Digital Collections is a piece listed as the first comic book written in the U.S., The Fortunes of Ferdinand Flipper.  An interesting piece, quite funny, and a nice look into the past.  I sat down to write a short blog post about the piece and compare it to other similar pieces within the library digital collections.  Simple.

I start from the top, planning to gather some information about each piece.  Title page.  The Fortunes of Ferdinand Flipper.  I flip the page.  "New York: Published at the Brother Jonathan Office."  No author listed.  I have authors for the other two pieces, and think it would be nice
to complete the set.  I'll have to track this mysterious author down.
Little do I realize the momentous task I'm about to undertake

I do a preliminary Google search of Brother Jonathan.  First result, a
Wikipedia article.  I see an illustration of a man with striped pants,
stove top hat, and overcoat.  The article reads "The national
personification and emblem of New England."  From his garb, I can
see that he's clearly the inspiration for Uncle Sam.  Interesting, but
not what I'm looking for.  Farther down it reads, "...widely
popularized by the weekly newspaper Brother Jonathan and the
widely popular humor magazine Yankee Notions."

I follow the link to the article on the Brother Jonathan paper.  "Brother Jonathan was a weekly publication operated by Benjamin Day from 1842-1862, and was the first weekly publication in the United States."  I read on.  Day founded the first penny newspaper in the U.S., The New York Sun, but sold it to his brother-in-law in 1838.  Day and partner James Wilson acquired Brother Jonathan sometime after this and began publishing the paper name in 1842.  The paper eventually reached a circulation as high as sixty to seventy thousand.  Impressive, especially for the time.  Perhaps Day is the mystery author I've been looking for.  I click the Benjamin Day link.

Day was born in Springfield, Mass. in 1810.  Started his career at the Springfield Republican.  Credited with founding sensationalism and bringing the London Plan of paper distribution to the U.S.  You know the cliché of a kid with a cap and suspenders yelling "Read all about it!" on the street
corner?  That's the London Plan.  Publishers sold papers to these industrious young men in bulk, who would then sell them on their own for profit.  Anyway, it seems that Day stayed on the managerial side of things and wasn't an illustrator himself.  No luck.  Maybe the mystery "author" is an illustrator who worked for the paper.  I decided to head the the source.

I know that The Fortunes of Ferdinand Flipper was published some time in the 1850s.  This should help narrow down my search.  I search for digital copies of The Brother Jonathan magazine.

I begin my search at Dartmouth's own library website.  I type Brother Jonathan into the search box.  First result, Brother Jonathan by Weld, H. Hastings; Neal John; etc. Book, 1842.  That could be it.  I click the link.  Imprint New York: [Wilson & Co.], 1842-1843. Frequency: Weekly.  This looks like the right place.

I see that digital versions of the paper are available.  I follow the link to a ProQuest page which contains a number of pdfs of sections from the paper.  Oddly, only volumes from 1842 and 1843 are present.  Even though these volumes were published at least seven years before Ferdinand Flipper, it's still possible that they could provide some helpful information.  Alas, despite a lengthy search, I can find no trace of illustrators credited.

It appears that Day and Wilson populated their magazine with plagiarized material, mostly from European authors and illustrators.  The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck, also included in our digital collection, was one such piece.  You can read a blog post on the piece here.  So was Ferdinand Flipper created in the U.S. or was it stolen from outside this country?

I search for mentions of plagiarism in early comics.  I find a thread on a comic book collectors forum in which people discuss early comics.  Most of the discussion revolves around an attempt to define comic books as compared to other early illustrated works.  It's interesting, although not particularly relevant to my search.  However, some length down the forum I find a post which references an exchange from American Notes and Queries 1941 amongst a number of cultural historians.  Within the post author W.H.P. lists the date of publication for The Fortunes of Ferdinand Flipper as 1858.  I now have a specific year.  If I can find a copy of Brother Jonathan from 1858 I might be able to find some clue.

I begin to pour through the library records searching for any copies of Brother Jonathan from after 1843.  I try Harvard and Stanford digital archives.  No luck.  I try libraries in New York, where Brother Jonathan was published.  NYU, Columbia.  Still nothing.

I head to New York's census website to see if I can track down employees of the Brother Jonathan paper.  The website is confusing.  I give up immediately.

It seems that nobody knows who wrote The Fortunes of Ferdinand Flipper.  But I can't give up.  Now it's personal.  To be continued?

Addendum: I had planned to spend some time hunting down the mystery author.  But alas, during a brief return to the book Father of the Comic Strip: Rodolphe Topffer, by David Kunzle I see a small section on The Fortunes of Ferdinand Flipper that I had missed during my original perusal of that source.
Kunzle writes of Ferdinand Flipper, "The whole thing is cobbled together from a miscellany of woodcuts, mostly French, whose chance availability determines the narrative, such as it is, rather as in the parlor game "Consequences."

So there you have it.  There is no single creator of The Fortunes of Ferdinand Flipper.  It is the offspring of many minds and craftsmen, and the rascal newspaperman, Benjamin Day, who robbed them of their intellectual property.  So it goes.

Written by Kevin Warstadt

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


I was lucky enough to be invited to the seminar titled Interventions led by Gary Frost at the University of Iowa Library, Conservator Emeritus at the University of Iowa Libraries, with assistance of John Fifield, University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science and the University of Iowa Center for the Book.  Our core group consisted of three graduate students from the SUNY- Buffalo conservation program, the conservator and assistant conservator from the library, a book conservator from the New York Historical Museum, a student from the Book Arts program, a volunteer who is a retired director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and various others who came and went throughout the week.  The five types of Interventions are:

(1) Production
(2) Marketing and retailing
(3) Owners and users
(4) Library re-fabrication
(5) Book restorers and book conservators

More detailed information can be found here.

The day started with presentations both from special guests and the participants themselves.  In the afternoon we moved to the back of the room where we were given many types of different books illustrating interventions and were asked to list what we saw and observed.  After we each had some time with the books we engaged in a lively conversation and shared our thoughts.  I came away with a new way of seeing and thinking about the book as an object and how my role as a conservator plays in the overall experience and life of this object.  I am delighted to have met so many wonderful new people and share in this unique experience.

View from the hill looking towards the Library and river.

Beautiful staircase inside the library.

Our seminar room.

One of our speakers with a chart comparing Codex versus Screen.
Artist as owners.  A look at an erasure text.

Examining books for different types of interventions.

Beth Doyle gave a talk about mends done by amateurs or attempts to protect books
                  using a collection of school and common place books.              

Our group.


Written by Deborah Howe.