Well, to be specific, medieval paper was actually parchment, made from animal hides, rather than trees and literally all of our knowledge of the Middle Ages was preserved on skins made from calves, sheep, or goats. To better understand the chemistry, art, and labor of parchment, Middlebury College’s Special Collections & Archives, together with Professor Eliza Garrison’s Medieval Manuscripts seminar, hosted Jesse Meyer from Pergamena. Watch us scud a goatskin (remove stubborn hair from the skin) and wield a lunarium (a crescent-shaped blade) to remove the fat and flesh. Follow this link to read a longer article about our adventure in medieval life.
Our own Professor of Psychology at Middlebury College Barbara Hofer writes about the modern day iConnected Parent, constantly in contact with their College-bound kids through cell phones and Skype…well, the archives recently exposed something of a connected parent, but from over 80 years ago.
Here’s a letter from October 18, 1932. The mother of Charles Edward Stevenson, Jr., Class of 1936, writes to the Director of Admissions (scroll down for the full transcription):
I am writing you to find out if Charlie Stevenson is alright and if he is I want to know why he does not write his mother it will be to [sic] weeks Friday since I had any word from him I sent him his laundry and a little pocket money post office money order I am trailing that now to see if he cashed it. I know that boys are dilatory about writing sometimes but I never knew Charley Stevenson to do that before that is why I am worried about him if I do not get a letter from you I am going up there to find out what is going on.
Please answer write away
Very truly yours
Mrs C.E. Stevenson
One day later, Mrs. Stevenson received a typescript reply (again, transcribed below to help with the faded ink):
Dear Mrs. Stevenson,
Your letter of October 18th is at hand and I have seen your son this morning and sent you the following telegram: “Your son is well and says has written you today”. I trust that you received the wire promptly so that you have not had to worry longer as to your son’s welfare. He seemed to be in perfect health when I saw him this morning but said that he had been very busy for the last few days. As you know, the fraternity rushing has been going on for the last two weeks and the boys have little spare time, as a rule, during that period. I presume that your son had not realized how long a time has elapsed since he wrote you, but you will doubtless receive his letter right away, if it has not already reached you.
In the same year that Captain Cook sailed to Hawaii and Great Britain declared war on France, Helen Weldon started her recipe book in Bath, England on January 29, 1778. In addition to keeping mites off your cheese, she includes recipes for Mock Turtle (Calves head) soup, Onion Soop [sic] and raspberry vinegar “for those who want a pleasant cooler” in the summer. Remedies like Teeth Water, Poison for Rats & Mice, and Diuretic Balls for Horses are included too. Her handwritten notebook was acquired by Special Collections this summer. Learn more in our online catalog or by visiting Special Collections.
Explore our newest online archive: Middlebury Language Schools. This collection includes archives from Middlebury’s Summer Language Schools, which began in 1915. When completed, the collection will include all the annual bulletins from 1915 through 2007, a history of the Language Schools up to 1975, annual reports, photographs, and scrapbooks.
Or, by visiting Special Collections in the Davis Library 101 to visit our display of Thoreau artifacts: his inkwell, bricks and timbers from his cabin at Walden Pond, books from his cabin library, and more.
What do experimental physics and Middlebury Special Collections have in common?
The Boston Globe featured the work of experimental physicist Carl Haber, the Northeast Document Conservation Center, and Middlebury College Special Collections as well as Harvard University and the Woody Guthrie Archives in a recent article, “Technology saves echoes of past from silence.” Our newly scanned sound files will start arriving this summer, Stay tuned!