Blog

Happy Birthday, William Wordsworth!

Today marks the 241st anniversary of William Wordsworth’s birth. He was a founder of the so-called Lake School of poetry, and I have a mental image of Wordsworth wandering “lonely as a cloud” through the mountainous Lake District, penning his lines in the very settings he describes. He has been called “our greatest nature poet,” and was a master of the walking tour – Thomas de Quincey estimated that he “must have traversed a distance of 175 to 180,000 English miles.”

Collecting Hawthorne: (Not) Only A Woman's Hair

"Only A Woman's Hair:" it can't really be called a lock, and we aren't even sure whose hair it is. Mounted, almost as an afterthought, on the last page of a volume, it is possibly Elizabeth Hawthorne's. These rich brown curls were teased out and preserved by Stephen H. Wakeman in his collection of Nathaniel Hawthorne related material.

To the National Razor!: Collecting Heads of the French Revolution

19th century dramatist and collector Victorien Sardou demonstrates a keen understanding of the varying nature of excess during the French Revolution via his meticulous assemblage of manuscripts, letters and engravings. Shortly after Sardou’s death, a manuscript by Maximilien Robespierre, two pamphlets, three letters, an original pencil sketch and an astonishing fifty-three engravings were mounted in a lavish volume of heavily gold-tooled red morocco by Zaehnsdorf, perhaps as a tribute to the avid investigator of all things revolutionary. The spine, shown here, and the upper and lower boards bear striking symbols of the Revolution, including a guillotine, a Phrygian or “liberty” cap, a triangle with plumb-line to represent perfect balance, and a spider’s web...

Theodore Roosevelt on his presidency: "In the end the boldness of the action fully justified itself."

Theodore Roosevelt was the second president of United States to write a book-length autobiography, but he was the first to give a lengthy account of his presidency or to give details about the private life of an American head of state.

Abraham Lincoln had written a few brief sketches of his life, and Ulysses S. Grant was the first to compose a full autobiography. But, written while the penniless Grant was dying of throat cancer in an attempt to ensure that his family would have a means of support after his death, his Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant (published posthumously by Mark Twain) deals primarily with his military career.

Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. Io. Frobenivs lectori S. D. En habes optime lector ... Aurelij Augustini, opus absolutissimum, De ciuitate Dei, magnis sudoribus eme[n]datum ... per uirum clarissimum & undequaq[ue] doctissimum Ioan. Lodouicu[m] Viuem ... & per eundem ... commentarijs ... illustratum ... Basel: Johann Froben, 1522. Purchased on the Curt F. Bühler Fund, 2011

"Clarissa" explains it all

Over 250 years after its publication, Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa still has the honor of being the longest novel in the English language. This melodramatic epistolary novel clocks in at over 950,000 words, and was initially published in seven volumes. It follows the beautiful and virtuous Clarissa as she resists her family’s attempts to arrange a "suitable" (i.e., well-connected) marriage. She is then tricked into running away with the villain Lovelace, who, in his attempts to force Clarissa to marry him, imprisons and finally rapes her. She continues to resist his proposals, and finally escapes -- but she becomes very ill and eventually dies. Clarissa’s family, realizing the misery they caused, is devastated at the news of her death.