This post should come as no surprise to our Stacks & Tracks listeners, as our theme for the first episode of the semester was our newly acquired peep shows!
Peep shows burst onto the European scene in the early 19th century with Austrian printer Heinrich Friedrich Müller’s first “Teleorama” in 1825. These tunnel viewers became immensely popular in Germany, Austria, France, and England, and we are now the proud custodians of examples from the latter two countries.
The first, “A view of the tunnel under the Thames as it will appear when completed,” depicts a projected view of the first tunnel under a river ever constructed. This peep show offered a glimpse into the future as it was printed in 1829, and the tunnel was not completed and opened to the public until 1843.
The accordion structures unfold to display perspective views to captivate and entertain audiences.
The second, a French peep show from around 1836 with the Les Tuileries Palace on the front features three viewing options.
Through the center square we see pedestrians, carriages, and equestrians on the streets of Paris, with monuments and churches, fountains and buildings, representing the best of the city.
The left and right cutouts complete the picture with views of gardens.
If you missed today’s show, be sure to listen to WRMC Wednesdays from noon to 1pm. And come peep these peep shows yourself in our reading room from 1-5 Monday through Friday.
Brooklyn-based book artist Brian Dettmer transforms books into art pieces, carving into them to uncover new meaning in the pages and to redefine the book’s role as an cultural object and knowledge repository.
Pictured above, and on display in the Special Collections Reading Room are The Smaller Big Fun Book, 2012and Manual of Engineering Drawing, 2010. Come take a look!
Disclaimer: While we appreciate these works of book art, we do not endorse such work with any Library materials.
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.
Two new exhibits have cropped up in the library this week – “Old Friends and New: Writers in Nature, 1847-2000” in the atrium and “Reading Nature” in the lower level Harman Reading Room. Both feature books that explore literary and scientific human interaction with the environment to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Environmental Studies at Middlebury College.
Exhibition curated by Mikaela Taylor, designed by Danielle Rougeau, with production support from Rebekah Irwin.
“Reading Nature” on the lower level of the library features books by scientists, botanists, naturalists, artists, and poets from the beginning of the 18th century to the 20th century. Each captures nature in a new way, redrawing the frames through which we understand the natural world.
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.