Mencken’s Tessie

We recently acquired a small, but rich collection of letters by H.L Mencken. While Ambrose Bierce is the 19th-century’s greatest curmudgeon, surely Mencken deserves consideration for the the title in the 20th century. He is known for his harsh criticism, cutting wit, and general intolerance for the American middle class (the “booboisie,” as he famously called them). But in this letter from May 21, 1921, we see mourning and emotion cloaked in his typically urbane prose:

Our old dog Tessie died on Sunday. A tooth abcess [sic] developed gangrene and the horse-doctor gave her a sniff of prussis acid. She went out instantly. Tessie was 16 years old, a great age for a dog. She never married. We miss her enormously. Sunday afternoon my brothers and I buried her in the garden, and today I ordered a small tablet to be set in the wall, thus “1905 – Tessie – 1921”. Tessie was a Presbyterian.

Twain could hardly have done better. The letters will join our existing Mencken Collection, ML 693, which will be the subject of another posting.

Conservation Students

Each year Preservation Services hires students to help further the work of our department. Student workers across campus provide a valuable service to the library and college in the work they do. Here in Preservation we hire both end processing students who prepare our general collections for the shelves, and conservation students who do treatments on both new materials and items we already own. In my years in the conservation lab we have had a great group of student workers – some remain with us for all their terms on campus and others for a shorter period of time. Some have gone off into the world after graduation with plans for specific careers in a variety of fields, while others have the idea of exploring possibilities for work or a job they couldn’t yet imagine.

This spring another of our student workers, Sanja Miklin, headed off into the larger world of possibilities, after she graduated in June.

In the fall of 2011, Sanja joined us in the conservation lab and worked for two terms, plus some interim periods as well. In the previous years Sanja attended a number of Book Arts Program workshops, and she displayed an enthusiasm and aptitude for working with the tools and techniques of bookbinding. Eventually she applied for work and was hired to join our team.

During her short time here Sanja worked at a variety of tasks including rebacking books (repairing books by attaching new spines). However, she was instrumental (no pun intended) in our completion of a large music score rehousing project. This long-term project consisted mostly of pamphlets needing new sewing. Despite the repetitive nature of the repairs to this group of material, Sanja came to the work each day ready to do the work needed and sought to employ methods of batch processing to efficiently move the material out of the lab. As we wrapped up this long project, it seemed somehow fitting that both Sanja’s graduation and the end of this long project happened in the same month.

Last week, Sanja stopped back into the lab to complete one final bookbinding project before leaving for home. She brought in her thesis to bind; something she had spoken of doing earlier in the year during those slow months of research and writing. She needed very little help from us, just the space and tools. Since she was binding one book, she made a second smaller blank book at the same time; batch processing in action! What a wonderful thing for her to have a bound copy of her thesis, the tangible accomplishment of her long hard work in book form. And how nice to see the skills we taught her put into practice for housing her own writing. As it is with all our students, we hope she will continue to find use and value for the skills she learned here in Preservation, whether for her own projects or in her work for others.

Written by Stephanie Wolff.

Cartesian Diver

We just acquired a very curious little book. Die Glasschmelzkunst (Vienna: Schultz, 1769) is a manual for 18th-century do-it-yourself chemists. It provides detailed instruction for manufacturing thermometers, hydrometers, barometers and even glass eyes. But it was figure 15 in the illustration here that caught our attention.

At first we wondered if it was some kind of little science faun to consult when things went terribly wrong, but then we dug out our German dictionary and read the text. It is a model of a Cartesian Diver, a figure with a hollow tube inside with an opening on one end.  If you place the Diver in a closed container of water (a two-liter water bottle would work great, but not in the 18th century), it will float. When you squeeze the bottle, the pressure will drive water up into the tube and compress the air. The Diver’s overall water displacement will change, and he will slowly dive to the bottom of the bottle (or quickly, if you squeeze really hard). It is a great way to measure pressure.

You can come in and see it now by asking for Rauner Rare TP 859.2 .B11 1769.

Nelson Brown Doodles

This week we finished re-processing the papers of Nelson Pierce Brown, Dartmouth class of 1899. The papers document Brown’s career as a judge on the Massachusetts Supreme Court and his lifelong relationship with Dartmouth, including a few diaries and photo albums of his four-years as a student. After Dartmouth, Judge Brown went on to marry Margaret Tucker, daughter of President Tucker in 1903 and graduated Harvard Law. After being appointed as the Middlesex Co. District Attorney in 1912 and Assistant to Attorney General Henry C. Attwill in 1915, Brown was appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1918. He served for 29 years.

But, here at Rauner, our favorite thing about this collection (besides Brown’s enthusiastic desire to keep incredibly detailed and organized documentation of his life) was his budding interest in court sketching. One of Brown’s self-bound trial notebooks contains a letter from a comic artist from the Boston Post, which appears to be in response to an earlier inquiry from Brown regarding mail-order drawing instruction. The artist suggests to Brown that practice is a sure-fire way to develop his skills and signs off with a little sketch of his own.

Well, apparently Judge Brown took the advice and the results are found all over the margins of Brown’s trial books. They are filled with small drawings and sketches of various members in the courtroom. From lawyers to witness, no one was exempt from the artistic study of Judge Brown, it seems. Many of his sketches come complete with witty captions and quotations. And some are even treated to a full shading. We invite you to stop by to check out these cool doodles and perhaps they might inspire some work of your own!

Just ask for manuscript collection MS-189! A finding aid for the collection is available.

Winning the Game of Digital Curation

A few weeks ago, the Preservation Services team used one of our regular department meetings to play a board game. Yes, that’s right…we played a board game at work! But lest you think we’re just a bunch of slackers, let me assure you that this particular game was special, and highly relevant to our jobs. The game we played was Curate: The Digital Curator Game.

This game was created by Digital Curator Vocational Education Europe, or DigCurV for short. The game is designed to help people learn about and discuss the challenges and strategies involved in digital curation, while also having a lot of fun! It includes plenty of pertinent questions exploring issues such as staffing, funding, collaboration, and training.

The “game” part of the game is really just a ruse…a way to get people interested in having the digital curation discussion, and it worked. We all got really into it, and had a lively conversation. Some of the topics that we found especially useful were: project and workflow planning, skills needed for staff involved in curation, and listing external resources for gathering more information about digital curation.

The game is free to download from DigCurv, they just require you to register as a network member. Part of the game includes recording discussion points on a record sheet, and DigCurV’s only request is that anyone who plays the game submit these sheets anonymously, to help them better understand how the game is used and whether it’s helpful. It was definitely helpful for us, and we thank DigCurV for providing such an excellent resource for sharing and learning about digital curation!

Written by Helen Bailey.

Changing the Face of Medicine: An Exhibition Honoring the Lives and Achievements of Women in Medicine

Discover the many ways that women have influenced and enhanced the practice of medicine.

The individuals featured here provide an intriguing glimpse of the broader community of women doctors who are making a difference.

The National Library of Medicine is pleased to present this exhibition honoring the lives and accomplishments of these women in the hope of inspiring a new generation of medical pioneers.

When:  Opening reception August 2nd, 5:30pm to 7:00pm.  The exhibit will be on display through August 12, 2012.
 Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, South Mall on the 3rd floor down the stairs from the parking garage entrance across from the pharmacy. 

Faking It

“DANCE, v. i.: To leap about to the sound of tittering music, preferably with arms about your neighbor’s wife or daughter. There are many kinds of dances, but all those requiring the participation of the two sexes have two characteristics in common: they are conspicuously innocent, and warmly loved by the guilty.” — Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Ambrose Bierce was an American journalist, literary critic, and satirist during the end of the 19th century. Known to many as “Bitter” Bierce, he is now perhaps best known for his much-anthologized short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and his satiric book of definitions known as The Devil’s Dictionary.

Less well known is a work written by Bierce and his co-conspirator, Thomas A. Harcourt, called The Dance of Death. Purportedly penned by one William Herman and published in 1877, the book was a hugely successful hoax that argued for the abolition of the waltz because the dance was a “dark vortex, within whose treacherous embrace so many sweet young souls have been whirled to perdition.”

The instant popularity of The Dance of Death resulted in an impassioned rebuttal that was published the very same year. The Dance of Life, by a Mrs. Dr. J. Milton Bowers, was written “to check the insolence of a Philistine.” To that end, she dissects their book chapter-by-chapter, providing strident counter-arguments throughout. Still, despite Mrs. Bowers’s fiery invective (or perhaps on account of it), there are some who believe that the second book itself was also a brilliant hoax, written by either Bierce or someone who knew him.

Ambrose Bierce vanished some time after December 26th, 1913, while traveling as an observer with Pancho Villa’s army in Mexico, so unfortunately we’ll never know whether The Dance of Life was a sincere if naïve defense or a second hoax that is still claiming unwitting victims. To see an extremely rare author’s copy of The Dance of Death, inscribed by Bitter Bierce himself, waltz over to the library and ask for Rauner Bierce 11. To see The Dance of Life, ask for Rauner Bierce 46.

Of Temples, Tea and Traders: Photography Exhibit at Dana Library

Mort Wise Photo from India

The photographs of Mort Wise will be on display at the Dana Biomedical Library from July 1st through the end of September 2012 in the library’s quiet reading area. The photographs are from Mort’s recent trip to India beginning in Chennai on the east coast and concluding in Mumbai on the Arabian Sea. Please come and see these beautiful, colorful photographs!

Reception: Wednesday, July 25 from 4:30 – 6:00 pm

Dana Library’s summer hours are:
Monday – Thursday 8:00am – 9:00pm
Friday – 8:00am – 6:00pm
Saturday – 9:00am – 5:00pm
Sunday – 1:00pm – 9:00pm
Click here for additional information on hours
Or call 603-650-1658

Biomedical Goes Musical

Marilyn Milham and the Glitz Ensemble have created the Liberace Piano, one of the 50 Hands On Pianos scattered across the Upper Valley. The Liberace Piano is on display at King Arthur Bakery’s outside patio on Route 5 in Norwich until July 31. The Glitz Ensemble is made up of several Biomedical Libraries staff, including: Marilyn Milham, Susan Jorgensen, Owen McDowell, Danelle Sims, and Don Fitzpatrick, with the help of a few of Marilyn’s other friends: Mary Ellen Rigby, Dana Hanson, and Louise Moon. Susan came up with the Liberace theme and Marilyn and her crew took off from there, including painting, gluing of rhinestone, solar lights, and solar candelabra, as well as glitzy fabrics for back of piano and piano seat. We all enjoyed ourselves to the nines!

New Books in the Biomedical Libraries – July 2012

Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition
Matthews-Fuller Library
QP141 .W458 2012


Alcohol: Its History, Pharmacology, and Treatment
Matthews-Fuller Library
HV5015 .R67 2011


Informed Consent: A Primer for Clinical Practice
Matthews-Fuller Library
R724 .B645 2012


Lewin’s Essential Genes
Dana Library
QH 430/L4/2013


The Retina: An Approachable Part of the Brain
Dana Library
QP479 .D65 2012


How Vision Works: The Psychological Mechanisms Behind What We See
Dana Library
QP475 .D347 2012