Thinking of French devils, on Halloween

According to this little Parisian book, stored in Special Collections and published in 1842, there are many kinds of devils: the cuckold (diable cornard); the “love devil” (diable amoureux); the wicked devil (méchant diable) and so on. The book, titled Physiologie du diable with drawings by the “best artists” seemed perfect to us for celebrating Halloween. For one, it debunks the idea that only witches ride broomsticks. At least in Paris, in the 19th century, devils took over that role and grabbed hold of the broom. Happy Halloween, from all of our devils to yours.

Physiologie de Diable, 1842. Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives


“…vous êtes trop jolies pour monter à califourchon sur vieux manche à balai.” (…you’re too pretty to ride astride a broomstick.) From p. 7, Physiologie de Diable, 1842.

Physiologie du Diable, 1842

Stacks & Tracks, on the radio. Tune in.

Stacks & Tracks.
The Special Collections & Archives radio show.

We’re back.

From the bowels of the library basement come wonders like you’ve never seen. (And still can’t, because it’s radio.)


Wednesdays, 12p-1p

91.1FM | iTunes radio | listen online | on your phoned


WRMC Radio Studio, 1970. From the College Archives Photographic File.

Visit us. Monday-Friday, 1-5p. You never need an appointment, or an excuse, to stop by.

One Giant Leap For Mankind, and for Special Collections. (ArchivesSpace has landed.)

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the moon, courtesy of NASA.

When astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the first human steps on the moon on July 20, 1969, Armstrong famously uttered, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

On that same day, 47 years later, Special Collections & Archives launched ArchivesSpace (go/aspace), a search tool that organizes the diverse and unique archival and manuscript collections stored in the Davis Family Library on the Lower Level.

Learn more about ArchivesSpace here.

Search ArchivesSpace now, contact special collections to learn more, or visit us for a personal tour of ArchivesSpace and of our collections.

Observatory Fever

The Middlebury College Observatory, GIF-ified here by Special Collections Film Preservation Assistant Sam Cartwright, opened in 1937 and was torn down to make way for the construction of McCardell Bicentennial Hall. Read Sam’s blog post, Romance of the Skies to learn more.

Then, get your celestial body to the new Middlebury College Observatory during one of their Open House Nights. The first is scheduled for Friday, April 29th from 9:00 pm-10:30 pm.

Can’t wait that long to howl at the moon? Tune in to WRMC this Wednesday, 12 pm-1 pm for Stacks and Tracks, the Special Collections radio show. We’ll share historical tidbits and play music with celestial themes. With special guest DJ, Sam Cartwright.


Middlebury College Observatory, c. 1940
Middlebury College Observatory, c. 1940

Stacks & Tracks the WRMC Radio Hour celebrates National Poetry Month with guest DJ, Karin Gottshall

Join us this Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at 12p-1p when Stacks & Tracks, the Special Collections & Archives radio show, celebrates National Poetry Month with Karin Gottshall, poet, Visiting Assitant Professor in English and American Literatures, and director of the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Bread Loaf. It will be music to your ears.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.29.32 PM

Wednesdays 12p-1p, live at 91.1FM or live-streaming through iTunes or online.

WRMC’s Stacks & Tracks is back! With guest DJ, Prof. Christopher Star

We’re back. On the air, and live streaming, at a new time.

Wednesdays, 12p-1p

Tune-in during your lunch hour to the radio show that reveals the secrets of special collections.

This week we’ll be joined by guest DJ, Classics Professor Christopher Star for Episode #12, featuring music and talk inspired by the thought, art, and life of ancient Greece and Rome.

Mozart to Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash to The Doors. Be there. And be enlightened. With a soundtrack.

91.1FM | iTunes radio | listen online | on your phone


WRMC Studio, 1970. From the Middlebury College Archives.


A “first-rate beer” voucher, 2,000 years overdue (a new, very old acquisition for Special Collections)

In special collections, visitors often ask us, “What’s your most expensive item?” Or sometimes, “What’s the oldest thing you have?”

In late November, we acquired our newest, oldest thing: a baked clay tablet that originated in ancient Mesopotamia (current-day Iraq), from about 2,000 BCE. This small tablet (measuring just about 1 inch x 1 inch and pictured here) is incised with cuneiform script on both sides, considered to be one of the earliest forms of writing.

With the help of Middlebury alum Seth Richardson, Class of 1990, a historian of the ancient Near East at the University of Chicago, we’re hoping to learn more about our new acquisition. What we do know, is that our tablet is essentially a beer coupon. That’s right. Based only on preliminary examination, Dr. Richardson translated the first line: “3 liters of first-rate beer.”

And as it turns out, the Western tradition of beer brewing began in Mesopotamia between 3500 – 3100 BCE. How do we know? Largely from cuneiform tablets like ours, which contain detailed records around beer production, the delivery of raw materials (barley, yeast, bread, flour), and the trading of beer products. Not unlike apple cider production in colonial New England, ancient Mesopotamians lacked clean water, but had an abundance of fruit (or in Mesopotamia, lots of grains) and the know-how needed to ferment them. And, they had the earliest known written alphabet to boot.


Beer in the Ancient World.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Accessed December 3, 2015.

Damerow, Peter. “Sumerian Beer: The Origins of Brewing Technology in Ancient Mesopotamia.” Cuneiform Digital Library Journal, no. 2 (2012).

“Glad Thanks-Giving Wishes” from Special Collections

thanksgiving 001
Undated postcard, ca 1910 to 1915

These three-dimensional “pop-up” postcards were printed in Germany by the Winsch Publishing Company of Stapleton, New York. The Winsch Publishing Company produced thousands of postcards from 1910 to 1915, designed primarily by artist Samuel Schmucker. This one from 1911 reads, “Glad Thanks-Giving Wishes. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving” and features a Native American woman bearing a basket of apples and a (deceased) turkey.

Winsch Publishing utilized such stereotypes in their imagery to evoke patriotic sentiments, touting the Native American female as the symbol of the bountiful nation. With her beaded dress, wild turkey, and raw fruits and vegetables, she called forth nostalgic visions of rural America in the minds of white viewers likely to purchase holiday postcards.

Another pop-up postcard features a white homemaker in an apron and bonnet. Her milkmaid attire, idealized log cabin, and sidekick turkey suggest a domesticated, tamed American landscape. On the backside, an undated, handwritten note from an American woman urges her sister to “come down” on Thursday for “gobbler.”


Undated postcard, ca 1910 to 1915

thanksgiving 002 reverse


Glad Thanks-Giving wishes and bounty be thine from all of us in Special Collections.



Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives, C-132 Historic Postcards.

Gifford, Daniel. American Holiday Postcards, 1905-1915: Imagery and Context. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2013.


Guest DJ, Prof. Shalom Goldman, on WRMC’s Stacks & Tracks

Join us and our guest DJ, Professor Shalom Goldman (Religion)


Episode #5, Stacks & Tracks, the Special Collections & Archives radio show, Monday, November 2, 9am-10am


Tune-in for more than a half-century of rock, reggae, folk, and punk music, all inspired by biblical stories. (With commentary, of course.)



91.1FM | iTunes radio | listen online | on your phone


Stacks and Tracks, the Special Collections & Archives radio show

From the restricted-access bowels of the library basement.
Come wonders like you’ve never seen (and still can’t, because it’s radio.)


Stacks and Tracks
WRMC Radio Studio, 1970. From the College Archives Photographic File.

91.1FM | iTunes radio | listen online | on your phone

Visit us in the stacks too. M-F, 1p-5p in the basement of Davis Library.