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When they originally made their way to Dartmouth, the Marcus Design Books were housed in the Jewelry Department, where they served as reference materials for the students.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.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Brut Chronicle: Revived and Reconstructed

Deborah Howe, Collections Conservator, has been published in the latest issue of The Book and Paper Group Annual, a publication of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, Book and Paper section.  Deborah's article describes her study and conservation of the Beeleigh Abbey Brut, also known as the Dartmouth Brut Chronicle and the ensuing considerations and solutions for its rebinding.

The Dartmouth Brut Chronicle is a history of Britain from 1377 to 1419 and was written around 1430.   Dartmouth's Brut was significant as it arrived in a 16th century stationers binding, which is unusual for the type of manuscript it is.  Deborah analyzed the manuscript's binding and through collaboration with faculty and other scholars determined a method of repair and binding that was sympathetic to the time period the Chronicle was composed yet maintained the physical flexibility needed for active classroom use and put minimal stress on the quires.

The article may be found in the Book and Paper Group Annual, 34 (2015) p. 50-56.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Dartmouth Book Arts in the Southern Hemisphere

Sarah M. Smith, Book Arts Workshop Special Instructor, will be the Universityof Otago Printer in Residence (PIR) for 2016.  Sarah will be on the Otago campus in Dunedin, New Zealand, from August 1- September 10.  During that time she will print a limited edition for the Otakou Press of poems written by local poet Rhian Gallagher.  The theme of this volume is centered round the life and activities of Freda Du Faur (1882-1935), the first woman to climb Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain. The text will be enhanced by images by the Dunedin artist Lynn Taylor. 120 copies will be printed; 100 will be for sale.

This visit is part of an exchange between Otago and Dartmouth, both members of the Matariki Network of Universities.  While Sarah is working at Otago they will also be hosting the Book Arts 25th anniversary exhibit which was shown at Baker Library in the spring of 2015.  In the fall Donald Kerr, Special Collections Librarian at the University of Otago, will be visiting and Baker Library will host an exhibit of the University of Otago PIR publications.  Both Sarah and Donald will be speaking on Wednesday, October 5, for the Stephen Harvard Lecture.

Sarah has started a blog to record her adventures: Big Green Kiwi

Written by Barb Sagraves.