William Still and The Underground Railroad

In 1872 William Still published The Underground Railroad, a book describing the accounts of African Americans who had escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad.  Still, an influential leader in the abolitionist movement, provided first hand assistance to hundreds of people escaping slavery.  The Underground Railroad is notable because it is the only first person history of the Underground Railroad written and published by an African American.

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Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the 15th Amendment

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

U.S. Constitution. Amendment XV, Section 1. 1870

Last year marked the 150th Anniversary of the 15th Amendment. As one of the last amendments passed during the Reconstruction Era, some lawmakers intended for the 15th Amendment to guarantee voting rights for U.S. citizens regardless of their racial or ethnic identity or a “previous condition of servitude.” In the years immediately following the ratification of the 15th amendment, voter registration and political participation among black men increased dramatically. This trend lasted only a few years before politicians were able to enact laws that “legally” disenfranchised black men. Poll taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses limited the ability of many black men and poor people to continue to participate in elections. 

The artifacts gathered here reflect sentiments about the 15th Amendment throughout time.

Annual Report of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (1870) 

In this final annual report, members of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society reflect on the organization’s 36 years of work towards ending the system of slavery. In their report, they declare their success in their mission, discuss the decision to disband and acknowledge that the fight for sustained equal rights under the law was not over. On voting, they observed:

“Bravely, in the face of imminent peril have they addressed themselves to the performance of their duties. The record of the first election in Virginia where colored men used the ballot, tells the story of many such elections throughout the South. One who witnessed it, reports that on the evening previous to the election, “these loyal-hearted new citizens, devoted themselves in their place of worship, to the high duty before them, with prayer, and the grand old psalm, ‘Before Jehovah’s awful throne;’ then separated to meet at sunrise, and appear in body at the polls.” One hundred men, without a foot of land of their own, and with notices in their pockets, by the old slave-masters, threatening to turn them shelterless from the soils ; there they stook, in the face of the oppressor, and voted for Free Schools, Free Speech and Equal Taxation.” (6)

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Updates to the William Addison Dwiggins collection Finding Aid

When you read something, whether it’s a blog post, a newspaper, or a novel the odds are that you are focused on the content of the text you are reading.  But have you ever paid attention to the appearance of words on a screen or a page? 

One artist whose work highlighted the art of book design, the arrangement of text, and lettering is William Addison Dwiggins, one of the most influential figures in typography. Dwiggins’ typefaces were stylized and geometric, breaking away from the more antiquarian inspired typefaces of his predecessors. In addition to his typography work, Dwiggins designed and illustrated books. If you would like to learn more about Dwiggins take a look at the William Addison Dwiggins collection finding aid which has been recently updated to allow requests for individual items!  The collection includes works by and about Dwiggins, as well as books he designed.

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Finding Aid Update for the Carolyn Davis collection of Louisa May Alcott

As we come back from winter break, you may be looking for something to keep you in the holiday spirit.  Well there’s no better place to look than the Carolyn Davis collection of Louisa May Alcott!  You can now view and request individual items from this collection through the updated finding aid, making it easier than ever to access these timeless stories. 

The Carolyn Davis collection of Louisa May Alcott contains numerous editions of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, including everything from a first edition copy of the novel, a Danish translation, an edition from 1995, and more!  Seeing how Little Women has been interpreted throughout time and across countries can allow you to experience this classic story in new ways.  The Carolyn Davis collection also contains other works by Alcott such as Hospital Sketches and Rose in Bloom and works about Alcott and her family.

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New Resource: Science Fiction Pulp Magazines Finding Aid

Whether it is novels like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, major franchises like Star Trek, or recent television series like Lovecraft Country, science fiction is one of the most popular and profitable genres in pop-culture.  And now you can discover science fiction among the Literature and Rare Books collections in Special Collections and University Archives! You can now explore the stories which have influenced the genre, and take a look at our new finding aid for the Howard and Jane Frank Collection of Science Fiction Pulp Magazines!

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New Exhibit: Rare Books Big and Small

A new exhibit in the Maryland Room celebrates rare books that share a common physical attribute – their unique format. Specifically their shape and size! Thin and thick. Big and small. Folio. Miniature. Quadragesimo-Octavo. From the tiniest book in our collections that can be held in the palm of a hand to larger works that require two people to move, these books showcase the variety of shapes and sizes utilized by bookmakers over the centuries.

Physical attributes such as book dimensions raise compelling questions for those interested in book history. For example: Why did the printer choose such a small format? Who is the intended audience for a massive book? How does size affect the experience of reading a book? Format and size has an impact on price, accessibility, and construction of a book. Along with other physical attributes, it is an important element to examine when investigating the history and usage of a rare book.

Three exhibit cases in the Maryland Room contain oversize and miniature books dated from the 1400s to the 1900s, all part of the Rare Books collection in Special Collections and University Archives. The oldest item, featuring an impossibly small font meticulously lettered by hand, is a vellum manuscript leaf from Italy, dated 15th century. It measures roughly 4 inches high (including large page margins). On display alongside the illuminated manuscript leaf is a miniature edition of the Reliquiae sacrae Carolinae. Or, the works of that great monarch and glorious martyr King Charles the I , printed in Hague in 1657.

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The Workshop Reaches Out: The Children’s Television Workshop papers

On display now in the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library through the end of 2019…

One of the largest and most significant collections found in Special Collections and University Archives are the records of the Children’s Television Workshop, best known as the creator of Sesame Street.  The collection contains research studies, production notes, memos and correspondence, promotional material, viewer mail, and other material documenting the first twenty years of the Workshop and its programs.

To observe the 50th anniversary  of the first airing of Sesame Street in November 1969, we are highlighting the ways the Workshop used newsletters to communicate with educational broadcasters, school officials, health educators, and parents.

These newsletters and many others found in the records of the Children’s Television Workshop provide detailed insight into the activities and programs of the Workshop, including some of their lesser known programs.

Educational Broadcasters and School officials

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New Exhibit: Chester Himes Cover to Cover

If you’re a fan of a good hardboiled detective novel, make sure you stop by the Maryland Room to check out our new exhibit on Chester Himes!  Inspired by the 2019 AHPA annual conference hosted by UMD, “One Press: Many Hands: Diversity in the History of American Printing”, the exhibit displays the work of one of America’s most intriguing crime novelists.

Born in Jefferson City, Missouri, Chester Himes (1909-1984) began writing and publishing short stories while serving a 25 year sentence for armed robbery in Ohio Penitentiary in the 1930s.  His first novel If He Hollers Let Him Go was published in 1945.

Himes moved to Paris in the 1950s, where he was celebrated in literary circles alongside fellow expatriate writers Richard Wright and James Baldwin. While in Paris he began writing pulp detective novels, including the popular Harlem Detective series, and achieved critical acclaim. In 1958, he was awarded France’s most prestigious prize for crime fiction, the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, for The Five-Cornered Square (alternate title for For Love of Imabelle).

Himes wrote pulp fiction and protest novels that confronted issues of systemic racism in America. His unique style of noir fiction combined violence, anger, humor, absurdity, social realism, and gritty drama into an entertaining and unflinching portrayal of prejudice and corruption.

Lauded in Europe, Himes found less critical success in America, where his works were frequently published in paperback editions featuring lurid, provocative, and visually striking imagery.  The cover art of these inexpensive paperbacks reveal the unique marketing of pulp fiction titles.  

In response to the cover of the Dell paperback edition of Run Man Run, Himes wrote: “If it is necessary to put this type of cover… on this book in order to sell it to the American people, the American people are really and truly sick.”

Himes passed way on November 12, 1984 in Moira, Spain. Decades later, his works still provides enjoyment and debate. To see the unique and classic pulp fiction cover art featured in many American editions of Himes’ work, stop by the Maryland Room room the next time you are in Hornbake Library.

Explore more literary collections held at Special Collections and University Archive here!

Also, make sure you check out the exhibit by the entrance to the Maryland Room, Women in Print, highlighting the work of women binders, illustrators, and book artists!