ASU Book Traces: project led by Devoney Looser finds “fascinating stuff”

We’re delighted to see this article in ASU Now, “Exploring value of print in the digital age,” about the Book Traces project at Arizona State University led by Devoney Looser. Here is an excerpt:

“We’re finding fascinating stuff,” said Looser, a professor in the Department of English and organizer of ASU Book Traces, a project with ASU Library that aims to highlight the value of library print collections — as well as new ways of engaging with them — precisely at a time when many are being reduced in size.

“One of the clearest trends in academic libraries is the rethinking of print collections,” said Lorrie McAllister, who was recently appointed associate university librarian for collections and strategy at ASU Library, and is helping to facilitate projects such as Book Traces in addition to a new partnership with MIT on the future of academic library print collections.

“Professor Looser’s project demonstrates that there is still interest and passion for the many technologies used in book design over many centuries, its utility and historical significance as a format and preservation mechanism, and the physicality of the medium as an engagement and research tool,” McAllister said.

Book Find: The Partridges Live On

Guest post by Book Traces @ UVA volunteer Jamie Rathjen

The books of the Partridge-Lehman family, originally from the Germantown area of Philadelphia, may be found scattered all throughout Alderman library, representing a range of dates and interests. Accumulated from the 1880s to the 1940s, the books seem to have been donated by long-serving UVa medical school professor Edwin Partridge Lehman (1888-1954) sometime between 1942 and his death. Many of the Partridge books have owners’ or gift inscriptions recording which member of the family owned and/or gave the book, and the same names appear over and over: most frequently Lois Partridge Lehman (1887-1950), Edwin’s sister, but also Edwin himself and their uncles and aunts. However, the crux of the Partridge case, and the person who links Lois and Edwin to said uncles and aunts, is their mother, Emily (Partridge) Lehman (1858-1890), whose death appears to have induced another Partridge, Emily’s sister Henrietta, or “Hettie” (1860-1946), to mark some of the poems in an edition of John Greenleaf Whittier’s collected works with leaves and, in one example, an inscription of “July ’90”.

Library of the University of Virginia / From the libraries of Edwin Francis Partridge, Henrietta Hartmann Partridge, Lois Partridge Lehman, and Edwin Partridge Lehman

Edwin F. Partridge (1833-1897) was the father of Emily and Hettie and the grandfather of UVa medical school professor Edwin P. Lehman.

The Whittier book is identified inside its front cover as a gift from C. L. P. – Charles Leo Partridge (1872-1908), Emily’s brother – to Hettie, identified here as H. H. Partridge, and carries a date of 25 March 1890. The date itself does not appear to be significant, as it was not Hettie’s birthday, nor anyone else’s in the family, nor a holiday. However, its importance lies in its proximity to Emily’s death on 17 June 1890. Whittier seems then to have been very close at hand to console its owner with lines such as “That Life is ever lord of Death / And Love can never lose its own!” from the writer’s narrative poem “Snow-Bound,” which is among a short section that earned a marking in the margins and the “July ’90” inscription (210-211). (As with most of the other poems that are marked, a leaf was originally kept inside the book on this page, but it has gone missing since this book became known to Book Traces.) Interestingly, these lines represent a turn in “Snow-Bound” from the description of a fierce winter storm to the reliving of nostalgia, as “We sped the time with stories old…” is the very next line after the end of the section marked. In this way, the characters of “Snow-Bound” successfully pass the time, so that “forgotten was the outside cold.” Additionally, later in the poem one of the members of the poet’s family – a sister, no less – is implied to have died somewhat recently, perhaps young, and has a stanza devoted to her. “And yet, dear heart! remembering thee, / Am I not richer than of old? / Safe in thy immortality / What change can reach the wealth I hold?” asks Whittier as narrator (422-25). The answer, of course, is that nothing can change a memory except its possessor. Perhaps “Snow-Bound,” then, was stumbled across, or looked for, in the book and served as a felicitous reminder of Emily. As the family in the poem seeks to comfort itself in a time of uncertainty with its memories, so can the Partridges find solace in their memories of Emily.

“H. H. Partridge, from C. L. P., March 25, 1890.”

A maple leaf, which has since disappeared, once lied on one of the pages of “Snow-Bound,” along with an inscription of “July ’90,” referring to the lines at the top right corner of the page.

While the “July ’90” stanza of “Snow-Bound” is the only part of the poem that has an accompanying note, other lines just before receive marks in the margins. Before the poem’s “turn,” the narrator laments the change that has occurred since the title snowstorm: “How strange it seems, with so much gone / Of life and love, to still live on!” The poem continues to expound on the absence, yet permanence of those who are missing (“We sit beneath their orchard-trees … We turn the pages that they read, / Their written words we linger o’er, / But in the sun they cast no shade”), and this section of 35 lines leading up to the “July ’90” is punctuated by small vertical marks of 3-4 lines in length every 10 or so lines (181-82; 192, 195-97). Despite the gaps that appear, the lines that do not have marks next to them do not seem to be any less relevant; it is not as if Whittier mentions death or absence for four lines, goes somewhere else for five more, and then returns again. Instead, it is as if this entire 35-line section of “Snow-Bound” (lines 179-211) is deemed worthy of consideration, though the series of marks is spotty, and is wrapped up at the end with the “July ’90.”

Another poem called “At Last” opens with the line “When on my day of life the night is falling…” again reminding the reader of impending death. This opening section of the poem, as well as the last two lines at the end, also earn a small mark in the margin, the only ones in the book outside of “Snow-Bound.” In “At Last,” like the relevant portion of “Snow-Bound,” the narrator continues to be put at ease when thinking of the afterlife – in this case his own rather than another’s. The poem’s other thrust, that the narrator also finds comfort in God’s presence (“I have but thee, my father!”) and as a source of strength (“Be Thou my strength”), would have been reassuring as well (13, 8). The poem ends with the narrator’s vision of the afterlife, and the lines “And find at last, beneath Thy trees of healing / The life for which I long” (27-28). It is worth nothing that the family was religiously inclined. Hettie’s father, Edwin F. Partridge (1833-1897), was an “elder” at the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, the family’s home at the time of Emily’s death, and served in a similar role in Redlands, Calif. after the family moved there in 1896 (Find A Grave). Indeed, in his will, the Partridge patriarch gave the Presbyterian Church’s Board of Foreign Missions five thousand dollars. Following on from this, one of the other Partridge books to have made it to Alderman library, with Emily’s inscription in the front, is a New Testament from 1881. The first few pages of the text harbor a small “Dear Hettie” written in the space below a verse, and, a few pages later, perhaps a reciprocal “Dear Emily.” The “Dear Hettie” begins with an H that appears lowercase, similarly to the inscription in the Whittier book. This means that the Whittier inscription must say “H. H. Partridge” despite looking like “N. H.,” as additionally there were no Partridges whose names or plausible nicknames started with N. If religion is thus something over which Hettie and Emily bonded, then it is also something in which Hettie could have later found comfort and nostalgia. Whittier’s decidedly positive image of the afterlife in both “Snow-Bound” and “At Last” could only help her in that task.

The pages of “At Last” do not contain a leaf, but the opening lines are marked by pencil in the margins.

The rest of the poems in the Whittier book that are marked do not have pencil in the margins, but retain their different varieties of leaves. This appears to be a practice derived from Emily’s New Testament, which has one page marked with a four-leaf clover. The poems so marked – and each one appears to be a new kind of leaf – at first appear to comprise a mixture of subject matter, yet do have a common existence at the intersection of some of Whittier’s frequent topics: religion, history, and imagery of natural landmarks. One is “Monadnock from Wachuset,” part II of “Mountain Pictures,” which concerns its namesake pair of mountains, located about 30 miles apart respectively north and south of the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border. Both mountains are associated with some of the writings of Thoreau (and the former also with Emerson), and Whittier uses them to meditate once again on the nature of human existence: “We felt man was more than his abode, – / The inward life than Nature’s raiment more,” observing so as he is moved by a farmer’s description of his mother, who “lived and died here in the peace of God” (42-43, 37). Perhaps this was a favorite poem of Hettie’s, or perhaps the description of the farmer’s mother reminded her of Emily, who could have lived her life in a way worthy of the same description. Emily was the only member of the family who both was born and died in Philadelphia; the parents and other siblings all survived at least until the move to California. Thus, “lived and died here” could only, and quite literally, apply to Emily.

Another poem marked with a leaf is “To the Reformers of England;” this poem gets the largest leaf besides the one in “Snow-Bound” which has since gone missing. The title refers to contemporary (at the time of writing in 1843) reform efforts in the United Kingdom to abolish the Corn Laws, import controls on wheat that helped the landowning class and harmed the working class by artificially increasing the price of bread. In encouraging the reformers, Whittier likens their cause to a variety of past English agitators working for “common rights and equal laws,” such as those nobles behind the Magna Carta (“Runnymeade,” the field where it was signed) and the 17th century English civil war: “let the State scaffold rise again” begins a stanza referencing Sir Henry Vane (1613-1662), a nobleman and one-time governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who participated in government during the English commonwealth but was executed by the restored monarchy (50, 21, 13). He was the subject of a 1652 poem by John Milton, who praises his work for religious freedom: “both spiritual power and civil, what each means… / thou hast learned, which few have done” (10-11). Besides Whittier’s interest in the anti-tyrannical spirit of the English civil war, the war does harbor a connection to the Partridges, as after the war the victorious parliamentarian side espoused “reformed” Christianity during its rule; among the modern representatives of that persuasion is Presbyterianism, the Partridge family religion. Interestingly, “To the Reformers” was included in a Whittier collection called “Anti-Slavery Poems: Songs of Labor and Reform,” contemporary to the complete collected works owned by the Partridges. This poem’s inclusion perhaps betrays how Whittier viewed the Corn Laws: as a representative of “tyrant’s law, or bigot’s ban,” and exactly as unjust as any other (5). Yet Whittier believes that his reformers, like abolitionists, are ultimately right, as “the triumph shall be won” (49).

A large brown leaf secured in the center binding covers some of the text of “To the Reformers of England.”

A leaf is found in another poem with a similar attitude to “To the Reformers”; it is called “Our Country” and subtitled “Read at Woodstock, Conn., July 4, 1883.” As the date indicates, the poem was both read on and written for Independence Day and is very patriotic. Where Whittier mentioned the struggle for “equal laws” in “To the Reformers,” here he praises his “Country of our love and prayer” and its maintaining of “just and equal rule” (50, 2, 44). Whittier ascribes all of the advances towards said equality to a personified Freedom, which, in his mind, has ended slavery, delivered the Union victory in the Civil War, and made America a “refuge for the wronged and poor” (40). Yet, unlike in “To the Reformers,” he devotes more space to what Freedom could do rather than has done: “redress” Native American “grievances,” “full requital to Labor make,” gender equality in terms of sharing in “rights and duties,” universal public school, and reduce the tax on “a poor man’s food” (57, 59, 64, 68). Whittier was thus quite forward-thinking in his political beliefs, and especially his views on gender could have been encouraging to a young woman like Hettie. Perhaps she saw examples of equality in her family life; seven years later, the four surviving Partridge children are treated equally in their father’s will, for example. We can see, then, that not every poem that is marked has to do with Emily; perhaps these leaves pre-date the others and were added between March 1890 and Emily’s death in June. Even in the small set of poems that are marked, the breadth of Whittier’s writing and Hettie’s reading is evident.

Another leaf is placed at the transition between two poems: “My Dream” and “The Barefoot Boy.” The former seems to be more relevant to Hettie at the time of her mourning of Emily, yet the upper half of the leaf is missing and would have covered the text of “The Barefoot Boy,” in the same way that, for example, the “To the Reformers” leaf covers its text. Regardless, the namesake vision of “My Dream” is that the narrator is walking in a group along a narrow, high mountain road, but the others “one by one the brink o’erslid,” until only the narrator is left (15). The dream is a fairly straightforward metaphor for death; Whittier even remarks on humanity’s differing attitudes towards it with “Some with wailing and lament, / Some with cheerful courage went, / but … Never one to us returned” (17-20). But again, as in “Snow-Bound,” the narrator finds solace in religion, this time in the form of Jesus, who is addressed as “Thou, O Most Compassionate,” and uses this to quell any lingering fear he may have about mortality (65). The poem that comes afterwards, “The Barefoot Boy,” is purely childhood-based nostalgia, with plenty of Whittier’s natural imagery thrown in to describe time spent growing up immersed in the outdoors. Perhaps the combination of innocence and, again, nostalgia from “The Barefoot Boy,” and the narrator’s composure in the face of death in “My Dream” is what earned the leaf its position at the junction of two poems, representing both sets of feelings, rather than obviously being meant to refer to one or the other.

Another large leaf covers some of the text of both “My Dream” and “The Barefoot Boy.”

The final poems are marked by a small part of a leaf – unlike the others, most of it seems to have disintegrated – that is firmly wedged between two pages. Again, this is unlike the others, which are mostly laid on top of the page of choice or positioned so that a small portion of the stem is in the center crevice; perhaps this one fell in over the years. On one page is “Kenoza Lake,” describing its namesake body of water near Haverhill, Mass., Whittier’s hometown and also in the area of the two mountains from “Mountain Pictures.” The poem is mostly another of Whittier’s nature poems except for the final two lines, where he manages to insert “Revive in us the thought of Him / Who walked on Galilee!” (55-56). This provides a bit of a transition to the other poem, “To G. B. C.” This work appears to be in reference to Rev. George B. Cheever (1807-1890), a noted preacher and reformist (and simultaneous anti-reformist, leading the cause against abolishing capital punishment in the 1840s) who spoke about a variety of causes, including abolition, equal rights, and temperance (Mackey). Whittier extols Cheever to remind him, and the country, of the biblical Isaiah and other prophets, to “smite like lightning,” and, additionally, “smite with truth” all those to be found objectionable. Whittier’s attitude is similar to “To the Reformers,” as his rhetoric is very polarized; again, he believes his points of view – or the ones he supports – to be correct, morally right, and truthful, and that they ultimately will, or may be destined to, triumph.

The small remnant of a leaf is ensconced in the center binding, no longer big enough to cover the text but definitely pointing to “To G. B. C.”

A clover marks part of “Mountain Pictures,” part II.

The two poems “Kenoza Lake” and “To G. B. C.,” taken together, seem to represent what Hettie Partridge finds most interesting about Whittier: his writing at the intersections of nature, religion, and politics and his ability, in writing about religion, to provide to her solace about Emily. This edition of Whittier’s collected works runs nearly 600 pages and yet only a few poems are set aside with leaves or markings. Even these few, though, can help tell Hettie’s story of loss that – along with this book – seems to have defined her year of 1890. But just as a poem’s sparse diction can hide the work, thoughts, and feelings that went into it, this group of poems is only tied together by Hettie herself with her “July ’90” inscription; otherwise, it is only a disparate collection of notes.

Works Cited

“The Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier.” Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1888.

“Edwin F. Partridge (1833 – 1897) – Find A Grave Memorial.” Find A Grave, 5 Dec. 2007. Web. “Edwin F. Partridge.” 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009.

–. “Edwin F. Partridge.” Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.

–. “Emily P. Lehman.” Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Mackey, Philip English. “Reverend George Barrell Cheever: Yankee Reformer as Champion of the Gallows.” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 82.2 (1972): 323-342.

Milton, John. “To Sir Henry Vane the Younger.” Complete Poems. Vol. IV. The Harvard Classics. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14;, 2001.


Book Find: “Of what use is language?”

Editor’s note: this post was researched and written by Book Traces @ UVA project assistant Nitisha Potti, with editing by me (Kristin Jensen).

One of the greatest perks of working with Book Traces @ UVA is that you come across these very fascinating and interesting interventions in various books, some of which are very puzzling like when you find some doodles drawn across the book on various pages, some of which may be related to the text and some may not. Some of the books have poems written in them, which may or may not be original. But the most exciting for me are those which have remarkable interventions spanning across various decades, yet have so much in common with the text that they could be easily mistaken to be written by the author himself or herself.

One such intervention which caught my eye appears in the UVA Library’s copy of The Treasure of the Humble written by Maurice Maeterlinck and translated by Alfred Sutro, published in 1900. It is a poem titled Silence written by Edgar Lee Masters and copied by hand onto the free endpaper  by an anonymous owner of the book. Now, the owner might have possessed the book in 1946 or later, since Silence was written in 1946. Book Traces @ UVA usually deals with interventions made before 1923, but this book has one more intervention which piqued my interest to write about this book. It has a very peculiar bookplate with the name of Marie Conrad Lehr on it. Mrs. Lehr lived from 1884-1921 (according to various online sources), a period which falls under the Book Traces @ UVA research era. This book is a classic example of what is called a “mixed scene” here at the Book Traces project, i.e. a book with interventions ranging over various times periods by different people.


As the interventions found in this book are very atypical I thought that the content of this blogpost should also be different from the previous blogposts where I tried to reason or dig as to why those interventions ended up in those books or why did the people involved make those interventions in those books.  Therefore, for this blogpost I decided to find a link between the various people involved with these interventions based on the thoughts reflected from the text of the book and the interventions.

As I read the introduction written by A. B. Walkey for this book The Treasure of the Humble, I get the sense of the book being written in a very spiritual manner of which you become sure when you read a line about the author from the introduction: “This volume presents him in a new character of a philosopher and an aesthetician.” Mr. Walkey calls Mr. Maeterlinck a Neo-Platonist in the introduction. The same can be seen from the first chapter Silence in this book. The author is found advocating silence over words and emphasizing the importance and strength of silence during and after the life of a human being: “let silence have had its instant of activity, and it will never efface itself; and indeed the true life, the only life that leaves a trace behind , is made up of silence alone.” Since the author strongly believes that a life is made up of silences more than anything else and you can find these silences in every part of life, I was astonished to see the poem of Edgar Lee Masters on the front page which propagates an idea similar to the idea put forth in the first chapter of the book.

The person who inscribed this poem in the book only wrote the first and the last stanzas of the poem, perhaps because those are the only two stanzas that relate so closely with the text in the book. In the first stanza the poet writes, “And I ask: for the depths, of what use is language?” To give more of a context: the poet starts off by saying that he has seen the silence of the stars, the seas, the city when it pauses, the woods before spring and so on and after seeing all these silences he wonders what is the use of language, of words more so when we are voiceless in the face of realities. When you read the poem after the text or vice-versa it doesn’t feel that they have been by different people from written in two different eras.

Opposite the poem on the free endpaper of The Treasure of the Humble was the bookplate that belonged to Marie Conrad Lehr, which was stuck behind the front cover, and on it were these words taken from a poem “Ode to the West Wind” written by Percy Bysshe Shelley:

“Drive my dead thoughts over the universe

Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth”

Marie Conrad Lehr was a direct descendent of Martha Washington on her paternal side. According to many online sources, Mrs. Lehr and her husband did a lot of social work and donated to many social causes and also after her death she gave away many of her personal belongings and her art collection to museums and Mount Vernon’s Ladies Association. It seems apt for a person who gave back to the society so often during her life and also after it to have chosen such words for her bookplate. Percy Bysshe Shelley asks the wind to carry his thoughts through time like it does with the dead leaves, which is symbolic of the fact that only our thoughts that survive even after our body perishes, which is so much in keeping with the tone of this book The Treasure of the Humble. 

The fact that Marie Conrad Lehr and the anonymous owner of the book who wrote the poem Silence on the flyleaf both chose somebody else’s words to inscribe in the book shows how strongly these words resonated with them. When they came across this book that conveyed the same message that Silence and Ode to the West Wind conveyed they felt the urge to have these two literary works in the book. The most amazing part that reinforces what the text and both the poems are trying to tell, i.e. about the power of silence and that it is the thought which prevails even after the soul leaves the body, is that these interventions were made by two different people in two different decades in the same book.  Thus, the thought that links the author of the book, the earlier owner of the book, and the later owner who wrote down the poem in the book is the belief that a noble thought is what prevails even after death and the silence that follows it.

Works cited:

Maeterlinck, Maurice . The Treasure of the Humble.

“Montmorenci–Marie Conrad Lehr.”

Masters, Edgar Lee. “Silence.”

“Percy Shelley: Poems.”

Book Find: How a 19th-century letter became the tool to unearth a scandalous affair

Editor’s note: this post was researched and written by Book Traces @ UVA project assistant Nitisha Potti.

With the advent of digital media, everybody has become a Biographer or an Author or a Blogger. Given that researching about almost anybody’s life has become very easy with vast volumes of knowledge just a click away, how much can you trust these sources? And when you write something  without thorough research on your part, then you end up making a mistake or an error in reproducing facts and then you end up receiving flak from every Tom, Dick and Harry who has read (or not read but just wants to take advantage of the stage set up for ridiculing someone) within milliseconds. I wonder if the person at the receiving end of all this ridicule has ever wondered, would I have received so much criticism had I been a writer in the 19th century or early 20th century, or would anyone have even noticed that I made a small mistake had I been a writer in those days?

Being a blogger myself, all these questions which were always there in some remote corner of my head got answered when I came across this very interesting artifact while I was working with Book Traces @ UVA  in the form of a letter, which was written in 1894 by Mr. John Cordy Jeaffreson. Mr. Jeaffreson is also the author of the book I found this letter in which was pasted on the first page of the book. The book is titled A Book Of Recollections and is the first of the two volumes with the same title, published in 1894. The letter was addressed to Mr. Baker, who at that time might have possessed this book. Another interesting insertion was found pasted on the back page of the book which was a letter addressed to Mr. Baker by Mr. Sam Timmins in 1895; this letter I admit was very tedious to decipher.

letter-from-jeaffreson-part-1 letter-from-jeaffreson-part-2

Mr. Jeaffreson starts the first letter like this: “It delights me to know you approve the Halliwell Phillipps chapters of my Recollections.” The letter then goes on to describe the relation its writer shared with Mr. Halliwell and that he did not write the chapter to please anyone but he writes and I quote – “It would have been strangely discreditable to human nature, had no one of his many comrades spoken in behalf of this dead man, who in his life was ever ‘the advocate of the absent.’” One can clearly make out that Mr. Baker was related to Mr. Halliwell after reading Mr. Jeaffreson’s thanks to him – “your cordial words have afforded me [illegible] satisfaction coming to me from his [i.e. Mr. Halliwell’s] near kinsman and legal representative.” The part of the letter that intrigued me the most was “I sympathize cordially with the fervor of your remarks on ‘this Sidney Lee,’ though I wrote of him with so little warmth, from an opinion that a display of angry feeling would weaken the force of my vindicatory essay.” You can sense some resentment from both the parties towards Mr. Sidney Lee. Now, after examining the contents of the second letter that was pasted in book what caught my eye was “Vol II. has (pages 167-232) a very full of [illegible] of details about our dear old friend Halliwell.”


At this point there were many questions popping in my head—Why Mr. Jeaffreson and Mr. Baker shared this resentment towards Mr. Lee? What is the relation between Mr. Baker and Mr. Halliwell? How do Mr. Timmins and Mr. Halliwell know each other? And the most basic question who are all these people mentioned in the letters and why are they communicating with each other? So I decided to start my quest for answers from Google.

Turns out Mr. Halliwell was the noted English Shakespearean scholar James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps. He has written many volumes about the life of Shakespeare and many literary scholars and critics have admired his work because of the extensive labor and the passion that went into his works. Many books have been written critiquing the work of Mr. Halliwell. He created Shakespeare collections, acquired many copies of plays, and arranged clippings from other early printed works in scrapbooks alongside his own notes. He also produced facsimiles of the quartos, so that he might have accurate copies of editions he could not purchase.

Mr. Halliwell’s life was dogged by controversy. While researching about Mr. Halliwell I stumbled upon this conjecture surrounding him during 1845 when Mr. Halliwell was, according to Wikipedia, “excluded from the library of the British Museum on account of the suspicion concerning his possession of some manuscripts which had been removed from the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. He published privately an explanation of the matter in 1845.” This piece of information prompted me into reading the pages suggested by Mr. Timmins in his letter and look for some clues on the matter at hand. On page 191 of Vol. 2 of his book A Book Of Recollections Mr. Jeaffreson writes “Unfortunately, the writer of the notice of James Orchard Halliwell in the Dictionary of National Biography was misinformed in respect to a most important point of the story, which he reproduced to the grave discredit of the Shakespearian scholar. Speaking of the scandalous charge against young Halliwell the writer of the deplorable memoir observed,” and then he quotes the snippet from the article he claims deplorable which was published a year after the death of Mr. Halliwell in 1889. To worsen things, this memoir was the first time Mr. Halliwell’s widow and his daughters came to learn about this scandalous affair. On page 192, Mr. Jeaffreson writes that Mrs. Halliwell wrote to the author of this memoir that the order excluding Mr. Halliwell was soon rescinded. Upon being thusly informed the author of the memoir went to the British Museum for official evidence on the point wherein he learnt that Mrs. Halliwell was in fact correct. Mr. Jeaffreson then went on to write, “The consequences of this worst of several mistakes in the faulty memoir of Halliwell-Phillipps were, are, and will always remain lamentable.” Mr. Jeaffreson uses rather harsh words to describe this memoir, calling it “The worst of the Memoir’s Several Errors.”

I then tried to find who the writer of the debatable memoir was as the details of the memoir were clearly mentioned in the book by Mr. Jeaffreson, and it turns out it was Mr. Sidney Lee. This therefore puts the resentment of Mr. Jeaffreson towards Mr. Lee in perspective. The next step was to find out the relationship between Mr. Baker and Mr. Jeaffreson. Googling threw light on this as well: according to Folgerpedia, Mr. Ernest E. Baker was the nephew and executor of Mr. Halliwell. Mr. Timmins, who wrote the second letter, according to many online sources was credited with finding many sources of information for the books written by Mr. Halliwell. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that being closely involved with Mr. Halliwell was the reason why Mr. Baker and Mr. Timmins were so interested in the chapters written by Mr. Jeaffreson about Mr. Halliwell.

To summarize: Mr. Halliwell Phillpps, a noted Shakespearean scholar, was wrongly accused of stealing manuscripts from Trinity College due to which he was excluded from using the college library, which was rescinded in light of the evidence produced by Mr. Halliwell proving his innocence. But, the author of the memoir about Mr. Halliwell i.e. Mr. Lee did not reproduce this incident faithfully due to lack of information or negligence on his part (nobody can tell). He never mentioned any retraction of the exclusion, which according to Mr. Jeaffreson tainted the reputation of Mr. Halliwell. Also according to Mr. Jeaffreson there were other parts of the memoir, for instance the part written about Mr. Halliwell’s family members, which was totally incorrect; Mr. Jeaffreson calls the memoir “Strangely inaccurate.” Also, Mr. Halliwell’s friends who knew about the “vile charge” as Mr. Jeaffreson puts it were furious because up until the memoir was published Mr. Halliwell’s wife and daughters knew nothing about it and suddenly the affair was splashed across the memoir in a highly inaccurate manner. In due course, some respite was felt by Mr. Baker and Mr. Timmins who wrote a letter to Mr. Baker suggesting he read Mr. Jeaffreson’s version of the entire scandalous affair, after reading the vindicatory account of the entire matter written by Mr. Jeaffreson. The first letter hints at gratitude felt by Mr. Baker towards Mr. Jeaffreson for his truthful account. The second letter was written in 1895 and it is safe to say that Mr. Baker had already read the book by then and had a warm exchange of letters with the author before Mr. Timmins wrote the letter to Mr. Baker. Nevertheless Mr. Baker saved the second letter in this book which shows the strong relation he shared with his uncle and his gratification on reading Mr. Jeaffreson’s account, that he wanted to save anything related to the book in the book itself.

My point that I started at the beginning of this account being: no matter what century you are in, if you make a literary mistake concerning facts, you will get criticized, showing that only the intensity of the criticism and the speed at which you may receive it changes with changing times.

Works Cited:

Jeaffreson, John Cordy. A Book Of Recollections. vol. 1, London, Hurst and Blackett, Limited, 1894.

Jeaffreson, John Cordy. A Book Of Recollections. vol. 2, London, Hurst and Blackett, Limited, 1894.

Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. vol. 24.

“J. O. Halliwell Phillips.” Wikipedia.

“J. O. Halliwell Phillipps.” Folgerpedia.

“James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps.” Shakespeare Collected.

The Reading Habits of Randolph H. McKim

Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Book Traces @ UVA intern Araba Dennis, a double major in Latin American Studies and American Studies who spent part of the fall 2016 semester researching the history of the Alderman Library collections.

One of the most fascinating aspects of a project such as Book Traces is its ability to uncover the richness of history that exists both in and around UVA. As a student traversing around Grounds for classes and meetings in any given 200-year-old edifice, rarely do I delve deeply into the history of how that edifice, statue, or even a serpentine garden wall came to be. One such example rests in the history of McKim Hall, currently existing as an array of administrative offices for the University of Virginia Health System; this purpose is not terribly far off from its original in 1930, being a dormitory for nursing students.[1] This hall was named after none other than Randolph Harrison McKim, owner of one of Book Traces’ recent finds, an extended copy of Works of Michael de Montaigne with the inscription: ‘4th Virginia H[eavy] Art[illery] Nov. 1863’.

DSCN2032 edited for blog

Randolph Harrison McKim was born in Baltimore in 1842, not even two decades shy of the beginning of the American Civil War.  A student at the University of Virginia in 1861, McKim was swayed to join Confederate forces after seeing a secession flag waving from the dome of Jefferson’s Rotunda[2]. Witnessing the cheers and nearly explosive Southern pride touted by students and professors alike, that day, McKim decided to join the Confederate army as a member of the 4th Virginia Heavy Artillery directly after his graduation in 1861; he ascended to the position of lieutenant, and soon to chaplain of the entire 2nd Virginia Cavalry.[3]

McKim’s reading habits throughout his life, borne through his love for academia during his time at the University and even more greatly cultivated during his time at war, correlate greatly to his ownership of the Montaigne work; even more so, one can further understand why the University would name a building in McKim’s honor. In his first year as a student, McKim took classes in French, German, moral philosophy, and senior math. Many of his extracurricular readings centered on the new schools of thought developed by Western philosophers. McKim details this with a letter written to his mother on June 20, 1861: “I stand moral philosophy on Tuesday next. To-morrow and next day I am to read two essays in the Moral class,–one on two of Butler’s sermons, one on a chapter in the Analogy”[5].

Throughout the war, McKim remained an avid reader, despite having left volumes in his dorm at the University and losing many of his books when the Heavy Artillery would transfer camp. Leading up to 1863 and even beyond, McKim journalled about his enduring passion for reading. In a diary entry after the Battle of Manassas, composed on January 24, 1861, McKim notes:

“I have felt my ignorance lately in listening to men in the mess of greater age and far greater reading and information than myself. In listening to George Williamson, describing the cities, and the manners of foreign countries, and the monuments of art and antiquity in Europe, I have felt a longing to travel, and to learn more of men and things; and I have sighed in contemplating my ignorance of the world of Nature, of literature and of art, and yearned to drink deep of knowledge.”[2]

The loss of the Confederacy was not quite the end of Randolph Harrison McKim’s journey. McKim was ordained as a minister in 1866, and served as a pastor until his death in Washington, DC in 1920. McKim recorded his growing affinity for theology in diary entries and letters to loved ones during the war. For example, on February 4, 1863, McKim described in a journal entry his leading of worship amongst the Heavy Artillery — it is also imperative to note that, immediately following this entry, McKim claimed that, deeper into the war, all of Northern Virginia was swept up in a religious fervor:

“On Saturday evening I again commenced the prayer-meetings. Only a few came, but I felt sure the numbers would increase. The next day I was sent over to Major Snowden’s headquarters as corporal of the guard and was obliged to stay all night. I read the XXVIIth chapter of St. Matthew aloud to the men on guard.” [2]

Ten years before his death, the former Confederate lieutenant published A Soldier’s Recollections: Leaves from the Diary of a Young Confederate, with an Oration on the Motives and Aims of the Soldiers of the South, a personal anthology of the battles McKim fought as a member of the 4th Virginia Heavy Artillery.[5] Additionally, in McKim’s will, he left a sizable portion of his estate to the University of Virginia – some of which included nearly $70,000 for which he requested the construction of a new nurses’ dormitory.

McKim Hall was designed and opened for use in 1930. Coincidentally, this was only a few years before Alderman Library officially opened, simultaneously aggregating collections through donations and books left behind by students; perhaps McKim left the collections as part of the estate he bestowed upon the University. One way or another, Book Traces’ ability to uncover this little piece of a larger puzzle gets us closer to an understanding of history, of people, and of the University of Virginia as a whole.


[1] Virginia, University of. McKim Hall, School of Medicine Administration. n.d. 24 October 2016 <>.


[2] McKim, Randolph Harrison. A Soldier’s Recollections. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1910.


[3]  Confederate Vets. n.d. 26 October 2016 <>.


[4] Internet Archive. Works of Michael de Montaigne; comprising his essays, journey into Italy, and letters, with notes from all the commentators, biographical and bibliographical notices, etc . 1864. 26 October 2016 <>.


[5] Confederate Vets. n.d. 26 October 2016 <>.a


Book find: A message of hope in World War I

Editor’s note: this post was researched and written by Book Traces @ UVA project assistant Nitisha Potti.

During my stint with Book Traces @ UVA, I came across this intriguing intervention in one of the books I had pulled out. It was a book addressing the existence of God that was published in 1919: God and the Struggle for Existence written by B. H. Streeter. Behind the front cover of the book I found an extensive piece of annotation, which seems to have been first written on a separate piece of paper and then cut into pieces so that it could be accommodated in the book. The letter was signed Eva G. Orndorff.

Photograph of the letter on faith written by Robert Burdette and copied by hand onto sheets of paper pasted into a copy of the book "God and the Struggle for Existence" by BH Streeter, owned by the University of Virginia Library.

What makes this intervention the subject of my first Book Traces @ UVA blogpost is the strong urge of the book’s owner (at that point of time) to have this text somewhere in this book which deals with a subject not directly related to the contents of the book but finds some familiarity with it on the grounds of a belief that there exists a world for one to pass on to after one leaves the world we are all in forever. “Well, there is another land, that I look toward as I watch the sunset,” reads the text transcribed by hand. “I have never seen it. I have never seen anyone who has been there; but it has a more abiding reality than any of these lands which I do know. This land beyond the sunset—this land beyond immortality, this fair and blessed country of the soul why, this heaven of ours is the one thing in world which I know with absolute certainty, unshaken, changeless certainty.”

On closely examining the text I saw that it begins and ends with quotation marks which suggest that this was actually a quotation of a text that was originally written by someone else. On researching in depth about the contents of this text, I came across a few newspaper articles where the same text was repeatedly quoted. One of those articles was in a newspaper titled Presbyterian of the South; the article appeared in the 14th July 1915 edition of the newspaper. It was a historic American newspaper published in the early 1900s. The article appeared under “Family Readings” and was taken out of what appears to be personal letter that was written by a certain Dr. Robert J. Burdette to a friend of his residing in New York at time.

I tried to find more details about Robert J. Burdette, starting from his Wikipedia page which says that “Robert Jones Burdette (July 30, 1844 – November 19, 1914) was an American humorist and clergyman who became noted through his paragraphs in the Burlington (Iowa) Hawkeye.” The Wiki page also directed me towards my next and major source of information about this man, Robert J. Burdette: His Message, a biography of Mr. Burdette written by his second wife, Clara B. Burdette. According to the foreword of this book which was also penned down by Mrs. Burdette, she says that she endeavored to set forth the life of her late husband by the excerpts from his writings. In the book she says that the later years of her husband’s life were devoted to writing for the press, giving lectures and public addresses. The book quotes Mr. Burdette saying that he would write to his friends “up to the time when the pen became so grievous a burden.” The letter that then went on to get published in many articles seems to be one amongst the correspondences of Mr. Burdette with his friends.

This copy of God and the Struggle for Existence with the annotations inside the front cover was given to the Alderman Library by Mr. M. H. Urner. Resorting to Google to find more about Mr. Urner didn’t prove much of a help; therefore, I started to look for clues about Mr. Urner by pulling out other books that were given to UVA by him. I was lucky enough to find a gift inscription by the author of the book addressed to “Captain Martin H. Urner” in a book titled Applied Mental Efficiency. The Harvard Alumni Bulletin says that Dr. Martin H. Urner was the 1st Lieutenant at Med. R. C. in Princeton N. J. On further digging I happened upon a book called Kelly Field in the Great World War; one of the excerpts from this book says that Captain was one of the flight surgeons taking care of student pilots and that it was safe to say that superior health among student pilots cannot be found at any other field in the country.

The Foreword for God and the Struggle for Existence says that “This book is written to suggest that there are solid grounds in reason for the contrary conviction – God is alive, and from him we may get power ourselves to really live.” The book was published in 1919, i.e. towards the end of World War I. The book says that it addresses many in this world who in the face of evil are unsure about the existence of a divine power but still “faintly trust the larger hope.”

A lot of time was spent on trying to find who Eva G. Orndorff was but the Google search resulted in many Eva G. Orndorffs from whom I couldn’t single out the one particular Eva G. Orndorff who may have penned down this annotation.

As I try and dig deeper and think more as to why this letter that was originally written by one was copied on a paper by a second and ended up in a book that was written by a third and owned and given to the University by a fourth; having hit a road block trying to find any relation among these four people I just described, there was only one possible thing that came to mind which could justify a link among all these people and the text finding its place behind the front cover of the book: World War I.

War as many have described is the worst form of evil that mankind has seen or can ever see. It drives out the one most important thing that keeps us going in the face of any evil, HOPE. Keeping soldiers motivated while facing such an evil is the most important thing; one of the things usually done to motivate soldiers was to read to them about the divine power and reinstall their faith the existence of divine power even in the face of such a calamity. Captain M. H. Urner who was working in Kelly Field at the time may have stumbled upon this letter that was taken from the newspaper article about Robert J. Burdette’s Faith and found it very inspiring in such trying times and deemed this book he owned a good place to save such an inspiring letter. I am still unable to put my finger on Eva G. Orndorff’s connection all of this. But this conclusion from the research conducted seems like a good explanation to me as to why this letter ended up in this book.

Works Cited:

Streeter, B. H. God and Struggle for Existence. Association Press, 1919.

Orr, Tasso Vance. Applied Mental Efficiency. The Efficiency Institute, 1913.

Burdette, Clara B. Robert J. Burdette: His Message. 1922.

Kroll, Harry David, editor. Kelly Field in the Great War.

“Family Readings” Presbyterian of the South, 14 July 1915.

“Robert J. Burdette.” Wikipedia.

Harvard Alumni Bulletin. vol. 20.

Reflections on Researching Book Traces

Editor’s note: Book Traces @ UVA has benefited tremendously from the work of Maggie Whalen, an English Department research assistant who, during the 2015-16 academic year, spent many hours delving into the historical stories behind some of the most interesting books we have discovered in the stacks of Alderman Library. Having written up her findings in a series of excellent posts for the Book Traces @ UVA blog (including this one), Maggie agreed to write one final essay for us, reflecting on her experiences. Here are her thoughts:

As I scoured these nine books, scrolled through pages and pages of Google results, clicked down rabbit holes or to dead ends, dug through dozens of boxes of dusty and brittle Special Collections materials, flipped through digitized books and newspapers, tripped around, and, eventually, composed these seven posts, I spent a lot of time thinking about the research value of this project. Collected here are some of my thoughts on the matter.


Book Traces allows us to understand the place of physical books in people’s lives. In The Civil Engineer’s Pocketbook one brother memorializes the other in his college engineering textbook. We see that the content of the book and the content of the modification do not necessarily match. We find good stories in surprising places. The book’s contents (formulas, equations) matters to the surviving brother only because it reminds him of his deceased brother.

Book Traces records and reveals past readers’ interactions and engagement with literature. A reader annotates and satirizes Spasmodic poetry in his copy of Alexander Smith’s Poems. The text is a relic of the critical reception of this literary movement. The (inconclusively identified) reader’s marks in pencil are more interesting and more important than Smith’s type in ink. In her volumes of his dramatic works, Amélie Rives compares Shakespeare’s language to contemporary Virginians’. She locates the title of her most famous novel in a line of his poetry. She catalogs her favorite phrases and allusions on blank pages. I’m sure the many Rives biographers have spent time in UVA’s Special Collections library during their research. I doubt any have been to Alderman to see these traces of Amélie’s thoughts in her volumes of Shakespeare.

Book Traces reveals colorful stories about local figures and families. Judith Page Rives reacts politely at finding her biography in The Living Female Writers of the South. One of her daughters studies and marks up Ouvres de Boileau, perhaps a gift from the Queen of France during her father’s term as foreign minister. Eugenia and Adeline Davis, daughters of Professor John Staige Davis of the UVA School of Medicine, plan an April Fools’ prank on “Miss Mary.” Sometimes, these are private stories about public figures. Other times, they are stories about the more private members of a public figure’s family (women).

Book Traces demonstrates the fluidity between General and Special Collections. Identifying the possible victim of the Davis girls’ April Fool’s prank, verifying that the Rives family resided in Paris during William’s term as foreign minister, discovering that E.R. Reynolds entertained more than a minor fascination with Poe…many of the discoveries I made in my work with Book Traces wouldn’t have been possible without considering UVA’s General and Special Collections holdings. This kind of work raises questions about the methods and metrics used to designate books to either of the two collections. One book that was possibly given to a diplomat’s daughter by the Queen of France, another owned and signed by the son of “The Female Poe,” several others that provide insight into a prominent author’s literary process, another that contains as much pencil as it does ink in the form of biting poetry…I didn’t choose these texts carelessly, but I had no idea how rich their stories would be. I only researched nine books in my work with Book Traces, I can only imagine the treasures and tales contained in the thousands of other possible subjects.

Book Traces research is worth doing because we can do it. The internet makes easily accessible a ridiculous trove of information. Full-text searchable newspaper archives allow us to find the obituary of a 20-year-old UVA student’s drowning at a beach in Georgia. User-maintained genealogical websites fill in the family trees of even the most average American family. Google collects all of the most relevant hits on any person’s name (be they a geologist, a pianist, or the owner of a frame shop) and assembles them in a clickable list. But, at the same time, Book Traces research requires a return to techniques rarely required of us (students) these days. It sends us to Special Collections to sift through boxes thick with correspondence in cursive. It beckons us into the Alderman stacks to search for texts related to our research subject. A Book Traces research project starts with a physical book and it’s rarely complete without consulting physical materials. Book Traces revealed to me how much information is not digitized. If my research had been restricted merely to the internet, I never would have found the Davis girl’s report cards, identifying a possible victim of their April Fool’s Day prank. I wouldn’t have seen the correspondence between Judith and her daughter-in-law, so I couldn’t have verified that the Rives family accompanied their father to Paris during his term as foreign minister. I wouldn’t have seen the 1891 Corks and Curls, so I wouldn’t have able to list the extracurriculars that the Nicolson brothers participated in. I might have discovered that E.R. Reynolds collected Poe, but I wouldn’t have observed that he bound all of his Poe materials in matching marbled paper. What’s more, if I had had access to more physical documents and materials (specifically those I that were in the William and Mary Special Collections Library, in the library of the Historical Society of Philadelphia, etc.), I likely could have told still richer stories. Book Traces illustrates wonderfully the immense and unprecedented power that the internet possesses. At the same time, Book Traces suggests that we lose depth and complexity when we rely too heavily on digital research. Book Traces simultaneously embraces and resists movement towards digitization. It acknowledges the boon that the internet provides. But it sees digitization as an exciting complement, not a replacement, to traditional research practices.

Book Traces @ UVA at the ALA Annual Conference

On June 26, three librarians from the University of Virginia gave a presentation on Book Traces @ UVA to a keenly interested audience at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida. The presentation, which was sponsored by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, was written up the next day on the American Libraries Magazine website. The article by George M. Eberhart quoted Arts and Humanities Director Christine Ruotolo, Director of Preservation Services Kara McClurken, and Director of Acquisitions and Discovery Jennifer Roper on the importance of discovering marginalia “hidden in plain sight” among our collections and some of the practicalities of how we are running the project.

Perhaps the most important paragraph in the article is the last one:

“Other institutions have signaled an interest in conducting similar projects. Libraries at Columbia University and the University of Miami have hosted Book Traces days, inviting students to search their stacks for uniquely modified volumes. Roper said that one of the next steps is to see whether it is possible to set up a scalable initiative so other libraries can do the same thing without a CLIR grant. . . .  McClurken said, ‘Just because two books have the same OCLC record does not mean they have the same value.'”


Book Find: Wythe Leigh Kinsolving’s “Fairytale” view of WWI

On the page preceding the cover page of our 1913 edition of Choix de Contes de Fées (“Selected Fairytales”) is an inscription specifying the book’s original buyer as well as the location and date of its purchase:

An inscription of messy, loopy handwriting in the front matter

The inscription reads:

Wythe Leigh Kinsolving
Bought in France
While serving
as A.E.G. Purcell [?]
Sept. 1917- March 1918

It is rare to get such a detailed context for the purchase of a book, but either Kinsolving himself or an astute librarian had a keen eye for this particular item’s posterity: the temporal context, when cross-referenced with Kinsolving’s biographical details, reveals that this book was purchased while Kinsolving was abroad during the first World War.

Originally, when the Book Traces team found the inscription, the word “serving” led us to believe that Kinsolving served in the armed forces during the War. We were perhaps misled because the Book Traces project (at UVa and beyond) has indentified two additional traces from American Civil War soldiers who memorialized their stints in military service.

This was, however, not the case with Kinsolving. A fervent pacifist and a devout Christian, Wythe Leigh Kinsolving primarily identified as a Reverend and a religious journalist. He was born in 1878 in Halifax, Virginia, and received his formative education in other parts of the state: he earned a Master’s Degree at the University of Virginia in 1902 and a B.D. degree at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria in 1906. He then married and served as a minister in Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee. When World War I broke out in Europe, Kinsolving chomped at the bit to be allowed to serve as an official minister. Finding that all of those positions were filled, he applied to work at the Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.) in Paris.

It is very appropriate that Kinsolving purchased a book of fairytales while in Paris because his experiences there were very rosy indeed. Knowing what we now know about the new form of warfare’s traumatic effects on the psyche of soldiers, it may be hard for us as modern readers to stomach some of Kinsolving’s shockingly out-ot-touch descriptions of the war. In his memoir of his time in Paris, From the Anvil of War (1919), he compiles his literary output from from 1914 to 1918: his correspondence, his journalism, and his attempts at poetry that, from a technical standpoint, are thoroughly mediocre.

In order to get a sense of just how apropos Kinsolving’s purchase of a fairytale book is, it is important to get an impression of the shallowness and remove of Kinsolving’s poetry. First, he greatly minimizes the terror of the trenches and of the Front. In a poem titled “They Went to War with a Song,” he declares,

“Did they lose their grip in the trench in the long dread hours?
Nay! They went to the war with a choral strong and gay;
They fought to the end with a purpose glorified.” (9)

Though he acknowledges soldiers’ endurance and praises their morale, his depiction of a war full of song is at best idealistic and at worst deeply offensive. Second, he appears to inflate his own experiences at the Front, which he only, based on his correspondence with various newspapers, visited for brief periods a handful of times. In the highly repetitive “Tribute to France!” he paints a vignette that makes it seem like he lived through the firefights and personally nursed the wounded (when, meanwhile, he laid out snacks at mess halls on his busiest days):

“My heart hath been in France!
These many days my heart hath been in France.
I’ve lived amid the storming crash of guns!

I’ve knelt beside the wounded soldiers there!
I’ve offered God a fervent prayer
For France, brave France.
Strong, noble, gallant France!” (5)

Of course we must accord Kinsolving some poetic license and room for hyperbole in his verse, but his inclusion of such a poem in his personal memoir smacks of an exaggerated, romanticized view of his minimal participation in the war. Indeed, this tendency to romanticize carries throughout the volume, for he third indulges in exoticism of French women in a poem entitled “Tricolor Stars and Stripes,” where he describes a romance between a rookie American colonel and French girl:

“She was encountered in a Bordeaux ‘diner’,
Daintily lunching with her own ‘naman’ [sic],
He, dapper, gay, just off an ocean liner,
Caught first glimpse of her and saw her yawn.
Yawns can be pretty if red lips are parted,
And half-closed eyes are seen to shine,
If from their azure depths a glance just started
Falls ere it reaches you with light divine!
Then, if a dainty purse should fall, just gliding
Out of lap of velvet to the floor
What would you do, monsieur, now be confiding,
Would you not haste the trinket to restore?” (4)

Taken in conjunction with the aformentioned “Tribute to France” and testimonies in his correspondence of French soldiers eagerly awaiting American troops’ arrival, it seems as if Kinsolving is not only exoticizing the beauty of French women but also casting strapping American G.I.s as the savior of the “dainty” France.

Returning to the book of fairytales, it is not difficult to see that our author has also overplayed his knowledge of the French language. Though he makes myriad mentions of instances in which he spoke in French to Frenchmen and indeed boasts that “French people tell me they understand me perfectly” (16), traces in the volume of fairytales, which I assume to be written in the hand of the book’s original owner (albeit probably a different hand than that of the inscription despite its loopy cursive) betray a certain lack of familiarity with the language.

The story of “Le Petit Poucet” (“Tom Thumb”) is filled with cursive writing in English that attempts to translate the French word below it. While some of the translated words are indeed low-frequency, non-cognate vocabulary words like “escabelle” (“stool”), others are simple, like the word cochon, meaning “pig” or, when eaten, “pork”

Printed text in French with the English translation for "cochon," "pork" over top

Translation “…there is still more meat, his wife replied: here there is veal, two mutton chops, and half a side of pork” (77)

and — ironically enough for someone who vaunts that he has visited the trenches and spoken with French soldiers there — la boue, meaning “mud,” and crotté, meaning “dirty” or “caked in dirt”

Printed text "la boue" in French with handwriting over it supplying the English "mud"

Translation: “…they fell in the mud” (74)

Printed text "crotté" in French with handwriting over it supplying the English "dirty"

Translation: “…you are quite hungry; and you, Little Pierre, look how dirty you are! Come here and let me clean you.” (73)

Despite his faux pas, he does afford us one authentic vision into the tableau of his travels abroad. Scrawled at the end of the aforementioned “Tom Thumb” story is an address. This address appears to have been written quickly and therefore it is somewhat hard to read the scrawl. Using the context, I believe the address to read:

Printed text with an address and date written underneath in pencil

Translation of the excerpt of the story’s moral: “And the exterior shined brightly/ But if one is weak and speechless/ One will be despised, teased, and robbed:/ Sometimes it is the small brat/ Who will save the whole family.” (84)

Colored y. building:
le camp [?] I S. Nazaire
Jan. 31, 1918

This intervention follows the trend established in the front matter: Kinsolving  (or at least those conscious of his legacy) liked to add geographic data to literature. Just as the inscription at the beginning tells us that Kinsolving bought the book in France, this address at the end of “Tom Thumb” seems to suggest that it was in this location that Kinsolving puzzled his way through the French story, translating the unfamiliar words. If Kinsolving was merely using the page as a spare sheet of paper to commit an address to memory, it is unlikely that the address would be centered on the page and underlined; this alignment and demarcation insinuates a connection between the story and the handwriting.

Indeed, Kinsolving’s memoir tells us that he did visit the shipyard at Saint-Nazaire on France’s Northern Atlantic coastline, and my research revealed that there was a Y.M.C.A. compound in the town, called “Camp No. 1,” which may explain Kinsolving’s “Colored y. [as in “the Y”] building.” Whether any of the Y.M.C.A. facilities were “colored” in any way remains difficult to say, since photographic remnants are in sepia tones and I could not find any documentation referring to the physical traits of the buildings. However, the captions printed on this card in the archives of  The National WWI Museum and Memorial does speak to the warmth of this site:

Soldiers walk across a boardwalk and around the paths around a series of barracks-like buildings that all look the same.

Front of the card:
Premiere  «Hut »  St-Nazaire – Where comfort inspires thoughts of home”

Back of the card:
A building in which tens of thousands of doughboys received comfort and refreshment during the trying days of the War and in the restless anxious period of home-going. Approximately 2,000,000 letters were written by the soldiers here.

It is fitting that this same site where Kinsolving engaged with foreign-language literature was also the locus of literary output in the form of soldiers’ epistolary writing. It may even have been this place-based incentive for writing that propelled Kinsolving to pair his own writing and his literary acquisitions with geographic data. We have also seen this tendency to geographically situate recollections of war with our other Book Finds from the American Civil War: Private Robert E. Jones wrote in a book of William Cowper’s poems that he was “on the line” at Richmond less than a month before his death, and a writer identified only as James R. reflected in a letter to Thomas Randolph Price upon his service twenty years prior in “dear Richmond.” Though Kinsolving shares a tendency to root his reading and observations in time and space with these veterans, they are notably much less flowery and even curt in their recollections of the war; these locations are their only definitive traces. Even as these Confederate soldiers express some nostalgia for Richmond in their writing, they steer clear of Kinsolving’s sensationalist tendencies.

Indeed, Kinsolving seems to use his geographic data to a dramatic end rather than merely noting a location for posterity. The annotation of “Tom Thumb” specifically becomes more meaningful with this geographic context: soldiers who felt small fighting an impossible enemy in the trenches could once again find dignity and purpose at Camp No. 1 just as the main character of the fairytale learns to respect himself in spite of his shortcomings after singlehandedly defeating a fearsome ogre.

Though Kinsolving presents us with a view of World War I through the rose-colored glasses of an eager reverend on his first extended trips abroad in the land where Western fairytales were written, it is clear that he and his colleagues of the Y.M.C.A. at least afforded “comfort and refreshment” to war-weary men. Perhaps even his optimistic assessments of war, which border on insensitive in a retrospective reading, provided comfort and escapism via his unwavering idealism in the moments when it mattered most.


“2002.3.22.” Photographic Print. The National WWI Museum and Memorial. Web. 16 May 2016.

Kinsolving, Wythe Leigh. From the Anvil of War. Winchester, TN: Southern Printing and Publishing Co., 1919. Web. HathiTrust Digital Library. 26 May 2016.

Perrault, Mme d’Aulnoym Mme Leprince de Beaumont, and Hégésippe Moreau. Choix de Contes de Fées. Paris: Nelson, Éditeurs, 1913. Print.

Rathjen, Jamie. “Book Find: Cowper After the Storm.” Book Traces @ UVa. University of Virginia Library. Web. 27 May 2016. <>.

Stauffer, Andrew. “Henoch Arden.” Book Traces. Web. 27 May 2016. <>.

Stowe’s Clerical Directory of the American Church 1920-21 (biographial listing of Episcopal clergy). Minneapolis: Andrew David Stowe, 1920. Web. 26 May 2016.

Book Find: Phrenology, a seemingly silly vintage science with dangerous consequences

Diderot’s Encyclopédie,published between 1751 and 1772, laid the groundwork for new modes of thinking that would flourish in the nineteenth century. Indeed, on both sides of the Atlantic, the 1800s witnessed a voracious appetite for cataloguing, compiling, and understanding every detail of everything. From wunderkammers (or “cabinets of curiousity”) where objects were meticulously displayed for curious eyes to Dmitri Mendeleev’s painstaking 1869 Periodic Law that built the groundwork for the modern Periodic Table, the nineteenth century was filled with a lust for order and understanding of the natural world.

It is this climate of categorization that led phrenology to come into vogue. Though the discipline was invented at the very end of the previous century by Franz Joseph Gall, its character was profoundly rooted in the spirit of the nineteenth century. The first of the two books discovered by the UVa Book Traces team, George Combe’s A System of Phrenology (1838), defines the discipline as follows:

” Phrenology, derived from [the Greek] φρήν (phrēn) mind and  λόγος (logos) discourse, professes to be a system of Philosophy of the Human Mind, and…to throw light on the primitive powers of feeling which incite us to action, and the capacities of thinking that guide our exertions…” (Combe 1)

The methodology of this “system” might cause a modern person to raise an eyebrow: Gall and his followers believed that they could gain insight into these “powers of feeling” and “capacities of thinking” by evaluating a person’s skull. The New illustrated self-instructor in phrenology and physiology (1859), the second book in the Book Traces project to address the subject,  furnishes a list of nearly forty “organs” — essentially nooks and crannies — of the skull that could reveal traits of its owner:

The organs listed are, in order "Amativeness, Conjugality, Parental Love, Friendship, Inhabitiveness, Continuity, Vitativeness, Combativeness, Destructiveness, Alimentiveness, Acquisitiveness, Secretiveness, Cautiousness, Approbativeness, Self-esteem, Firmness, Conscientiousness, Hope, Spirituality, Veneration, Benevolence, Constructiveness, Ideality, Sublimity, Imitation, Mirthfulness, Individuality, Form, Size, Weight, Color, Order, Calculation, Locality, Eventuality, Time, Tune, Language, Causality, Comparison, Human Nature, and Agreeableness"

Many of these traits may seem quaint and even humorous. We can imagine such humorous vignettes as a lady feeling a suitor’s scalp for “Conjugality” to see if a man is inevitably a cheater, or a friend palpating above an ear to see if the person has enough “Secretiveness” to be trusted with a spare key. Indeed, O.S. and L.N. Fowler, the earnest authors of the Self-instructor, even furnish us with images that we, using with our modern vocabulary, can find very funny indeed:

A drawing of Emerson, an idiot

“Well, of course that Emerson is an idiot; he looks just like one” we can imagine the Fowlers declaring with nonchalance.

A humorous interpretation of this “idiocy” would, however, require the modern levity with which the word can be used. If we put the word “idiot” back into its temporal (and pejorative) context, it quickly loses its humor. The American Heritage Stedman’s Medical Dictionary provides us with the following historical definition, stipulating that this use is now highly offensive:

idiot id·i·ot (ĭd’ē-ət)
A person of profound mental retardation having a mental age below threeyears and generally being unable to learn connected  speech or guard against common dangers.

Following this line of thinking, it becomes fairly easy to see how phrenology, in the wrong hands, could have very dangerous consequences indeed. For example, with Emerson above, we now understand that certain congenital physical traits may also come with life-altering mental traits. It is possible, then, that Emerson’s long forehead and craggy profile are hallmarks of what we might today call a “mental disability” in a medical or governmental setting or a “neurodivergent mind” in a social justice context. It is also possible that Emerson just looks like he does! We could take this phrenological reading of Emerson’s skull as a benevolent (or at least objective) attempt to acknowledge his difference, but given that he is juxtaposed with illustrations of various literary and political notables such as Edgar Allan Poe and George Washington on other pages of the volume, it seems that the authors are identifying him as being a comparatively inferior individual. Furthermore, they are casting him as an “idiot” for something he didn’t choose; he was born looking like this rather than like Poe or Washington and there is little he can do about it.

One of the interventions in the Combe text reveals that the discipline of phrenology was also contorted to draw conclusions about race. On page 198, which covers “acquisitiveness,” or the desire to accumulate goods, we see two vast generalizations in action:

Text reading : Dr. Gall states this organ to be little developed in the skulls of the Caribs. In accordance with this, travellers say that they are little prone to theft; and, therefore, says Rochester, in his History of the Antilles, when they are robbed, they always insist that it must have been by a Christian. (An intervention here makes a mark to highlight the following:) The Negroes are also little prone to steal, and the organ is moderately developed in them. (end highlight). Dr. Gall had an opportunity of observing among the Spanish...

The intervention that has been cut off likely reads “What!!” and below the handwritten text appears to read “Did he ever see a negro!”

While Combe, the author of the printed text, makes the positive — yet nonetheless prejudicial— observation that “Negroes are… little prone to steal,” the marginalia reveals a much more pejorative viewpoint. The handwritten text in pen brackets or highlights this observation and makes the observation that Dr. Gall must not have met or observed “a negro,” implying that, in this person’s mind, people of that heritage are indeed prone to stealing.

We have no traces of this incredulous reader’s identity, but what we do know about them can help us see how they may have been employing phrenology as a form of confirmation bias. Throughout the text, there are notes “correcting” Combe’s text that, while they employ an elevated vocabulary, are often rife with misspellings and rarely furnish proof. Take, for example, this indignant footer note on page 127, in the chapter on “Concentrativeness”:

"How absurd to suppose that the same faculty combines these pasions [sic] + different functions."

“How absurd to suppose that the same faculty combines these pasions [sic] + different functions.”

This writer seems to take great pleasure in pointing out the “absurdities” of Combe’s writing, but seems to be going by gut feeling, not empirical evidence. Though we might be tempted to characterize all of phrenology as a “pseudoscience,” it was respected in its era, making the real “pseudoscience” this pretentious yet decidedly faux-intellectual babble in the margins. Therefore, predicated solely on these traces, I would characterize this person as someone who has deluded himself or herself with prejudicial self-righteousness.

We also have a nonverbal trace that corroborates not only this writer’s pompousness but also his or her racially biased view of society. On the page preceding the title page, we see a series of crude portraits drawn in profile:

Four portraits presented in profile: top left of an adult male, top right of an elderly female, middle left of a Black male, captioned "Niger [sic], caffres" (both pejorative terms) middle right a bearded adult male rendered much smaller and possibly captioned "Jimmy." In the bottom center an amorphous front view of a possibly Black face.

This series of portraits, though rendered with little technical skill, presents enough detail that we can observe the pronounced differences between the white male and female portraits in the top row and the Black male portrait in the middle left (Indeed, his portrait is even subtitled with “nigers” [sic] and “caffres,” both antiquated — and now highly pejorative — terms for Black people in the plural that designate him as a generality, not an individual). We could interpret this as a descriptive exercise that objectively demonstrates the different features of people of different racial backgrounds, but since the portraits are in a book on phrenology, we should examine them phrenologically.

The first striking difference between the white male and the Black male portrait is the difference in the indentation between the head and the neck. This region corresponded to “Amativeness,” or “love between the sexes.” The white male’s skull dips profoundly into his neck to an unrealistic degree whereas the Black male’s skull flows almost directly into his neck. Therefore, we can judge that the “artist” here wished to convey that the white male possessed a small Amativeness faculty and the Black male a large faculty. Though “love between the sexes” does not seem to be a negative thing, a large Amativeness faculty was linked to deviant sexuality. This example of an assessment of a woman’s cranium elucidates this connection:

“Dr. Gall was led to the discovery of this organ in the following manner. He was physician to a widow of irreproachable character, who was seized with nervous affections, to which succeeded severe nymphomania. In the violence of a paroxysm, he supported her head, and was struck with the large size and heat of the neck” (Combe 109-10).

It is then possible that the person who drew the portrait wanted to confirm via phrenology the widely-held preconceived notions about Black sexuality. Marques P. Richeson draws from J.A. Rogers when observing that, even before the institution of slavery in the United States,

“This animalistic conceptualization naturally led to the stereotyping of black men as both hypersexual and hyperaggressive – “[i]n the Negro all the passions, emotions, and ambitions, are almost wholly subservient to the sexual instinct. . . .” (Richeson 103)

Furthermore, this perceived heightened libido was in turn tied to a diminished intelligence and an overall lack of personal control. This inverse proportion is also manifest in the pair of portraits: the forehead of the white male juts out in a once again exaggerated or unrealistic manner, whereas the forehead of the Black male barely makes provisions for the eye sockets. The area of the skull the artist probably intended to differentiate is the “Individuality” organ, and thus they perpetuate the idea that Black slavery could be justified by the entire race’s lack of agency.

The pair of portraits not only reveals a disdain for the Black race but also a personal bias. I am inclined to believe that, since the white male portrait is unlabelled yet appears first on the page that it may be a self-portrait. Even though this is impossible to know, it is at least most likely that the owner of this scientific book in 1838 North America was a white male. This would suggest that the aforementioned overwrought depictions of the white male’s neck dip and forehead crag seek to demonstrate the gentlemanly sexual restraint and the decisive individuality of the white male. The drawn portrait strikingly resembles the busts of famous men of politics and letters who are depicted in the Fowlers’ instructional book as well, further reinforcing my idea that this writer conceived of himself as being very distinguished and more intelligent than the author of his printed text.

We also see this supremacist view of the white male’s capacities in the fill-in chart at the front of the Fowlers’ book:

The chart lists all approximately 40 "conditions" and invites the autodidact to fill out the size of his or her capacities. For this owner of the book, we see that nearly every organ is listed as being either "large" with a value of 6 or "full" with a value of 5. The lowest value accorded is for the "Spirituality" organ, listed as a 3 for "moderate." No organs are listed as 7 or "very large."

An interactive feature of the Self-Instructor, this chart lists all approximately 40 “conditions” and invites the autodidact to fill out the size of his or her capacities. According to the title page, we are reading “R.G. Tyler’s” phrenological assessment as conducted by “S. R. Wells” on June 29, 1865:

Printed text: "New Illustrated Self-Instructor in Phrenology and Physiology; with Over One Hundred Engravings; together with the chart and and character of" Handwritten text: "R.G. Tyler" Printed text: "As marked by" Handwritten text: "S. R. Mills June 29/1865" Printed text: "By O.S. and L.N. Fowler, Practical Phrenologists. Self-knowledge is the essence of all knowledge. Your character corresponds with your organization. New York: Fowler and Wells, Publishers, No. 308 Broadway."

We note immediately that nearly every organ is listed as being either “large” with a value of 6 or “full” with a value of 5. The lowest value accorded is for the “Spirituality” organ, listed in the second column as a somewhere between a 4 and 3 for “moderate.” No organs are listed as 7 or “very large.” At first, we may be tempted to view this as a demonstration that the two men acknowledged Tyler’s faults as well as his strengths, but qualities such as a high Amativeness, “Destructiveness,” and “Combativeness” could be circumscribed by the constructs of virility and the Romantic notion of the fierce individual. When viewing this apparent willingness to present strongly — but not too strongly — in every possible category, it seems that these amateur phrenologists were not practicing objectively but instead armed with preconceived notions of white masculinity.

Lastly, in both of these phrenological volumes, very little attention is paid to female cranial traits. Though our artist did indeed draw a portrait of an elderly woman across from his white male, it is noteworthy that much of her skull is occluded by her bonnet. This eliminates the possibility of any conjectures as to such important traits as her sexuality (Amativeness, as previously discussed) and her conception of herself (“Self-Esteem” at the top of her skull). It even hinders our ability to draw conclusions about such “feminine” traits as her “Parental Love” (in the back middle of her skull), which represents one of the only qualities for which women are even depicted in the Fowlers’ volume:

Under the heading "Parental Love: Philoprogenitiveness" we see a "Large" curve of the head on the right attributed to "The Good Mother" and a relative lack of cranial curve attributed to "The Unmotherly."

Even in this science so obsessed with creating physical taxonomies for every trait of human life, an entire half of a species is flagrantly ignored and placed in neat, maternal boxes.

While phrenology may appear to be ridiculous, even humorous pseudoscience in retrospect, it is important to recognize how such a discipline affected the real lives of marginalized individuals. Divergence from the cognitive norm was typified, training people to recognize and even treat differently those bearing the telltale signs of “idiocy.” Phrenology was also used as a form of confirmation bias for race-based prejudice and characterized Black people and slaves as being morally inferior. Lastly, women were rarely discussed in this science that claimed to explain all of human behavior, diminishing the personhood of women and casting them as nothing more than mothers.

Phrenology, with its deeply rooted subjective biases, holds little weight in today’s data-driven science that prioritizes quantifiable evidence in an attempt to stave off confirmation bias. However, its legacy of prioritizing white, male physiology remains. Medical studies are just now making provisions for neural, racial, and gender difference in their experimental units. We can hope that, with an increased, authoritative understanding of how biological difference is not deviance, science will be further enriched to the point that we can laugh tomorrow at today’s biased methods just as we can laugh at phrenology.

 Works Cited

Combe, George. A System of Phrenology. Boston: Marsh, Capen, and Lyon, 1859. Print.

Fowler, O.S. and L.N. Fowler. New Illustrated Self-Instructor in Phrenology and Physiology. New York: Fowler and Wells, 1859. Print.

Richeson, Marques P. “Sex, Drugs, and…: A Black Box Warning of Chemical Castration’s Potential Racial Side Effects.” Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal (25): 95-131. Web.