Friday, May 11, 2012

LCP Acquires a History of London Belonging to Peter Collinson

At the recent New York Book Fair we were fortunate to be able to acquire an important copy of William Maitland’s gorgeous folio History of London belonging to the Library Company’s original purchasing agent Peter Collinson (1694-1768) and heavily annotated by him throughout. Bernard Cohen, in his book Benjamin Franklin’s Experiments, remarked that “Collinson is the most important single person in Franklin’s career.” Collinson discovered Franklin and encouraged him by making him known to members of the Royal Society. In addition to assisting him in his early career, Collinson acted as agent for Franklin’s Library Company in London, and in that capacity sent to the Company information about “curious facts relative to electricity” along with a tube for experiments.

The hundreds of annotations and notes in Collinson’s hand that adorn our new acquisition reflect the inquiring and engaging mind of an 18th-century gentleman of the Enlightenment who corresponded with notable scientists in London and abroad, in addition to Franklin. Given the emphasis on London buildings in Maitland’s History, it is not surprising that a number of Collinson’s notes are about the physical fabric of the city, including three folio sized pages inserted at the beginning that are filled with Collinson’s observations about buildings and development in London. But he has many comments as well about daily life – a harrowing account of bear-baiting; politics, especially the observation of the Restoration of King Charles, May 29, 1765; the fashion for farthingales and flat bonnets; natural “phenomena,” such as an account of standing on the wharf next to “the Bridge” and observing a dry river with the keel of every ship and boat exposed; and on and on. A very rich portrait of the greatest city in the world at that time emerges with remarkable vividness in these firsthand accounts.

The volume was brought to the attention of Library Company Trustee Davida Deutsch by rare book dealer John O’Mara of Maggs Bros. Ltd. Happily, Ms. Deutsch was joined at the Fair by fellow Trustee Clarence Wolf, who agreed that the History was something the Library Company had to have and acted quickly to arrange the purchase. Several additional Trustees contributed to making the acquisition possible.

Introducing Artist-in-Residence Jessica Lentz

Jessica Lentz, Moore College of Art, Class of 2013

This summer, the Library Company will host Moore College of Art student Jessica Lentz as the Visual Culture Program’s artist-in-residence intern. A junior majoring in 3D Fine Arts with experience in sculpture, Ms. Lentz will design ten kinetic, three-dimensional art works based on research in our holdings related to the production, marketing, and popular culture of toys from 1850 to 1950.

Cover and illustrations from Illustrations of Schoenhut's Marvelous Toys the Humpty Dumpty Circus. (Philadelphia: The A. Schoenhut Co., 1918)

Persuaded to apply for the internship during a class orientation about our visual culture collections, Ms. Lentz’s initial inspiration for her project was our illustrated catalog for the Philadelphia toy company A. Schoenhut & Co. issued in 1918. The catalog, as well as children’s picture books, photographs and prints of toys and toy stores, and paper dolls in our collections will serve as primary resources for the young artist’s research. 
Jessica Lentz, "Homeward Bound foxes" wood, wire, kinetic, 2011.

Ms. Lentz’s internship will also entail the visual documentation of her process, an artist’s statement about the Library Company collections that influenced her work, and an illustrated history of the toys popular during her studied time period. Her multi-dimensional project will conclude with the display of her works at the Library Company and on the website.

The Visual Culture Program (VCP at LCP), founded in 2007, aims to promote the richness of the Library Company’s visual collections to a diverse patron base. Through the VCP internship and Ms. Lentz’s artistry, our juvenilia collections will be represented in innovative ways that will inspire scholars and artists alike. We could not be more pleased.

Erika Piola
Co-director, VCP at LCP

Capitalism by Gaslight Conference June 6-7

Inspired by the Library Company's current "Capitalism by Gaslight” exhibition, this conference will showcase innovative research being done by historians of capitalism and its culture. The 15 papers presented by scholars from around the country over the course of the two-day conference will examine the many ways in which Americans earned their livings through economic transactions made beyond the spheres of legitimate commerce.

Although these shadow economies may have unfolded off the books, they were crucially important parts of the mainstream economy, bound up in the development of commercial and industrial capitalism in 19th-century America. Panelists will analyze entrepreneurs’ creative, flexible, and adaptive means to success in their endeavors. Other papers examine cultural debates over the rules of legitimate economic engagement, where separations between legal and illegal, moral and immoral, and acceptable and disdained activities were far from settled issues. The practices, networks, and goods that constituted shadow economies often paralleled and in some instances overlapped with those found in legitimate wholesale and retail businesses, calling into question the morality and legitimacy of legal economic transactions.  By bringing these economies out of the shadows, these historians seek to clarify what capitalism was and the ways in which it shaped 19th-century America.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May Events

Members-Only Annual Meeting & Public Lecture
Tuesday, May 15, 5:00 p.m. and 5:45 p.m.
Join us for our Annual Meeting (5:00) followed by a talk by Wendy Woloson, guest curator of “Capitalism by Gaslight” (5:45). Dr. Woloson will discuss legitimate but marginal ways that people earned money in the 19th century and will focus on seamstresses, rag pickers, beggars, dog catchers, newsboys, and street sellers.
Click Here to Register Online

Capitalism by Gaslight: The Shadow Economies of 19th-Century America. This two-day symposium will highlight the many ways Americans earned livings through economic transactions made beyond the spheres of “legitimate” commerce and explore the crucial importance of the shadow economy to the development of commercial and industrial capitalism in 19th-century America. Co-sponsored by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies. Thursday, June 7, at 3355 Woodland Walk; Friday, June 8, at the Library Company.
Click Here to Register Today

Making Freedom in the Atlantic World
Saturday, June 16, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.                                                 
A one-day conference exploring the process and impact of emancipation across the United States, the Caribbean, and Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. The conference celebrates Juneteenth, commemorating the news that slavery had ended. The program will include a panel discussion featuring Gary Nash, Roseanne Adderly, Jasmine Cobb, and Edna Medford; a roundtable discussion on collecting Afro-Americana; and a keynote address by James Stewart of Macalester College.
Registration coming soon. 

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