The Bread Loaf Poetry Detectives and the Case of the Missing Manuscript

The Bread Loaf School of English students in Gwyneth Lewis’s Poetry Detective Workshop visited Special Collections on July 26th to study manuscript and printed poetry of several important American poets. Expecting to, as the course description delineates, “use the tools of the sleuth to gain entry into the poetic mind behind individual poems,” the students instead gave the course title a literal meaning when they discovered an exciting and curious paradox…

Manuscripts (along with a couple of manuscript facsimiles) and printed editions of American poetry by Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Langston, Hughes, Julia Dorr, Anne Sexton, and Emily Dickinson were arranged on tables to show the journey from the poet’s mind to the printed page.

For Emily Dickinson in particular, this transformation warrants investigation. Often described as a recluse, Dickinson was very private with her poetry and altogether averse to having her poems published. Despite spending much time at home in Amherst, Massachusetts, Dickinson was not intellectually or emotionally cloistered. She disseminated her poetry among her friends, sharing her poems in letters, constantly updating and rewriting her poems before collating and binding them in her fascicle booklets – her alternative to publishing them.

Fascicle reproduction, photo courtesy of Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst, MA from http://www.edickinson.org/faq

After her death, her friends and family set out to publish her works so that her genius might be known to the world. However, determining which variation of her many works best reflected her authorial intent proved a challenge. Dickinson’s first publishers, sister-in-law Susan Dickinson and mentor Thomas Wentworth Higginson, unbound her fascicle booklets and mixed them with the other drafts of her poems in the editing and publishing process. For decades, editions of Dickinson’s poetry hit the shelves with varying structure, both in the poems’ organization in the edition and in poetic structure: editors took liberties naming her poems (Dickinson herself only titled nine), updating her punctuation, and ordering them based on perceived theme or assumed chronology (she did not date her poems).

Because Dickinson did not publish her own poems, her manuscripts are paramount in understanding her works. And because she produced so many drafts without a clear final version, comparing the written copies of her poems is the best way to determine her intended meaning. The first to do so was Thomas H. Johnson, who published the first single edition containing all of Dickinson’s poems in 1955. Working from the original manuscripts rather than the dozen published editions of Dickinson’s poems, Johnson described the manuscripts he consulted to provide a more complete view of the poet’s process.

This very edition, the 1955 Johnson variorum, was open next to a manuscript poem for the Bread Loaf “Poetry Detective” students to study.

 

Dickinson, Emily, and Thomas Herbert Johnson. Poems: Including Variant Readings Critically Compared with All Known Manuscripts. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1955.
The manuscript
The manuscript

In their investigation, the students turned to the entry which corresponds with the manuscript in question (pictured above) to read Johnson’s description and made a startling discovery. The handwritten poem before them matched a copy that Johnson wrote, “has not been located,” written “on stationery watermarked ‘A. Pirie & Sons 1862.’” They lifted the poem to the light, revealing the very watermark described on the unlocated copy. Was the world unaware that Middlebury held this literary treasure? Could these poetry detectives have solved the case of the missing manuscript?

The manuscript, held up against the light to reveal the watermark


Upon further research, we found that the location of the poem had been discovered at some point after Johnson’s 1955 publication (a second edition in 1979 has the same information) and before another popular edition of Dickinson’s poems by Ralph Franklin in 1998. At some point between these two publications, the manuscript’s location was identified as Middlebury College’s Abernethy Collection. Franklin describes the custodial history of the manuscript, unknown to Johnson in 1955: This “fair copy in ink, unsigned and unaddressed, is at Middlebury College” (Franklin). He goes on to identify the poem as likely belonging to Dickinson’s mentor, T.W. Higginson, as the copy in his possession also contained the phrasing “known to the knoll.” In the first published edition, editors chose the variation “known by the knoll.” Franklin writes, “Higginson gave his manuscript to Mildred Howells, daughter of William Dean Howells, [and] it was subsequently sold. Purchased in 1938 from the American Autograph Shop, the Middlebury manuscript, which reads “to” in line 6, appears to be the one sent to Higginson” (Ibid).

Dickinson, Emily, and R. W. Franklin. The Poems of Emily Dickinson. Variorum ed. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998.

We corroborated this history by checking the library records kept by Middlebury curator Viola White, and indeed, she lists the purchase of Emily Dickinson manuscripts for $135 from the American Autograph Shop on February 25, 1938 (line 49).

Acquisitions logbook, 1938

Although the Poetry Detectives students’ discovery was not entirely new, it served as an exciting and important learning experience, which we hope it will lead to more interest in this manuscript and its inclusion in Harvard’s digital archive of Dickinson’s manuscripts. For more information about our Emily Dickinson manuscript and other little-known manuscripts in our collection, visit go/aspace.

 

 

Sources:

“About Emily Dickinson Archive.” Accessed September 22, 2017. http://www.edickinson.org/faq.

Dickinson, Emily, and R. W. Franklin. The Poems of Emily Dickinson. Variorum ed. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998.

Dickinson, Emily, and Thomas Herbert Johnson. Poems: Including Variant Readings Critically Compared with All Known Manuscripts. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1955.

Eberwein, J. D. “Corrective Vision: Franklin’s Dickinson Variorum.” Resources for American Literary Study, vol. 26 no. 2, 2000, pp. 260-267. Project MUSEdoi:10.1353/rals.2000.0021

“I’m Nobody! Who Are You? The Life and Poetry of Emily Dickinson.” The Morgan Library & Museum, April 15, 2016. http://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/emily-dickinson.

“The Manuscripts | Emily Dickinson Museum.” Accessed September 22, 2017. https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/emily_manuscripts.

“Manuscript View for Amherst – Amherst Manuscript # 329 – Pink – Small – and Punctual – asc:11465 – P. 1.” Accessed September 22, 2017. http://www.edickinson.org/editions/3/image_sets/95203.

“The Posthumous Discovery of Dickinson’s Poems | Emily Dickinson Museum.” Accessed September 22, 2017. https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/posthumous_publication.

“Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911), Correspondent | Emily Dickinson Museum.” Accessed September 22, 2017. https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/node/70.

Show your Special Collections love with stickers + Student Services Fair Friday

A new batch of stickers has arrived for the fall semester! Come by the Special Collections reading room to snag one of your own. (Available while supplies last.)

Students can get their hands on these stickers (and other giveaways) at the Student Activities & Services Fair this Friday the 22nd at 4:30pm on McCullough Lawn, as they learn more about Special Collections resources. Additionally, Katrina Spencer and Ryan Clement will represent the Library at large: they will answer questions and offer candy and treats, along with a mobile circ desk featuring CDs and graphic novels for check-out. Come see us at the Library and Special Collections table!

Moving images of “The Way We Were” for Reunion 2017

Reunion is the time for alums to reminisce about Middlebury College when they were students. These two promotional films, recently re-discovered in the Archives, were produced in 1961 and 1976. We hope they trigger fond Middlebury memories of sunny days in the grass, ringing chapel bells, and the clacking of typewriters. Welcome back alums!

Dimensions of a College, 1961

 

A Chance to Grow, 1976

Beast, Animal, Brute

Inspired by the 18th century French philosopher Denis Diderot’s massive, thirty-five volume Encyclopédie, the current exhibition in Special Collections & Archives reveals our enduring curiosity of animals through a selection of rare and unusual books dating from the 17th through the 20th centuries.

The Lamia, a mythical demon from ancient Greece who devoured children, from Edward Topsell’s The historie of foure-footed beastes, 1607

 

Other works on display include Edward Topsell’s The historie of foure-footed beastes, published in 1607 in London (and possibly one of  William Shakespeare’s literary sourcebooks) and a polar bear as described by Captain James Cook, the British explorer, in the 18th century, upon arrival in the Russian Arctic Circle.

Zoology of New York, or the New-York fauna : comprising detailed descriptions of all the animals hitherto observed within the state of New York, with brief notices of those occasionally found near its borders, and accompanied by appropriate illustrations, by James De Kay, 1842-44

Also on exhibit in the Davis Family Library: Banned and Banished: Ovid and 2,000 Years of Exile curated by Mikaela Taylor.

The Library Harbors Exiles in Special Collections’ “Banned and Banished” Exhibit

This spring in the Library Atrium, Special Collections and Archives commemorates the 2,000th anniversary of the Roman poet Ovid’s death by showcasing the works of seven exiled authors through the centuries. The exhibition, entitled Banned and Banished: Ovid and 2,000 Years of Exile, explores the lives and works of Ovid, Dante Alighieri, Voltaire, Oscar Wilde, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, and Salman Rushdie who, fleeing from war and tyranny, facing persecution for political beliefs or sexual orientation, or punished for speaking out against oppression or ignorance, were forced to abandon their homelands and seek refuge elsewhere. 

“Ménade” by Léon Bakst (1866-1934), a Russian artist who fled to Paris to escape restrictions placed on the movement of Jews in Imperial Russia. From “The Book of the Homeless,” edited by Edith Wharton to support refugees of World War I, New York, 1916.

In selecting authors to feature in the exhibition, we found that some of the most important works of literature were written in exile or were so contentious that they led to the banishment of their authors. From Ovid’s “carmen et error,” the poem and mistake which he says caused Augustus to banish him from Rome, to Dante’s Divine Comedy, the greatest work of Italian literature composed after the great poet’s political exile from Florence, to Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses that provoked a religious edict for his death and forced him into hiding, the works on display represent expatriated authors who used their writing as a means of escape, of bringing light to their plights, challenging authority, and reconnecting with their nations of origin.

With the recent government Muslim ban and proposed border wall, we felt that while these authors are remote in terms of time, their struggle is sadly present and pressing. We feature these works not only for their literary merit and historical significance but also to present the library as a space where exiles, refugees, and those seeking solace and knowledge are supported.


Exhibit curated by Postgraduate Fellow for Special Collections & Archives, Mikaela Taylor.
Also on display in the Davis Family Library: Beast, Animal, Brute, an exhibit exploring our enduring fascination with animals, curated by Rebekah Irwin, with research assistance by Sam Cartwright, ‘18 and exhibition design assistance by Danielle Rougeau.

What’s up with “My Books Smell Good”

Last summer, Special Collections & Archives rolled out new swag: black tote bags (er, book bags) and stickers emblazoned with the slogan My books smell good. First, we want to thank Carey Bass, Middlebury’s talented graphic designer, for the bold serif font and brash ending punctuation. But, “What does it mean?” (People have asked, with a skeptical gaze.) As well as: “Isn’t it a little vulgar?” A little behind-the-scenes seemed overdue.

In a 2010 interview in The Paris Review, the science fiction writer Ray Bradbury  was asked about e-books and Kindles:

Those aren’t books. You can’t hold a computer in your hand like you can a book. A computer does not smell. There are two perfumes to a book. If a book is new, it smells great. If a book is old, it smells even better. It smells like ancient Egypt. A book has got to smell. You have to hold it in your hands and pray to it. You put it in your pocket and you walk with it. And it stays with you forever. But the computer doesn’t do that for you. I’m sorry.

That sums it up, though a little curmudgeonly.  And from the Journal of Chromatography, chemists used solid-phase microextraction and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry to analyze volatile organic compounds emitted from a naturally aged groundwood pulp paper originating from an old book. (Read it for yourself here.) Volatile organic compounds. This is what we’re talkin’ about:

And another recent article lays out a framework to identify, protect and conserve the smells that influence the way we engage with the past. Smithsonian Magazine wrote about this research, and here’s a photograph of a scientist taking a deep sniff at the National Archives of The Netherlands.

From Smithsonian Magazine, April 7, 2017

 

Whatever it is that brings you to our doorpoetry, history, chemistry, or a hankering to smell a centuries old book for yourselfjust come. We have lots of bags left and they make memorable graduation gifts. (Totes are $5, while they last).

Email specialcollections@middlebury.edu
Find us on Instagram and Facebook

 

“State of Marriage” Film Screening

On Wed., April 19th at 4:30pm in Dana Auditorium,  Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives will host the first Addison County screening of the documentary film “The State of Marriage.”  The film draws on archival footage and more recent interviews to tell the gripping story of the remarkable men and women who pioneered the national marriage equality movement through their groundbreaking efforts in Vermont.  The work of Susan Murray and Beth Robinson, then attorneys in Middlebury, is featured as they work through the legal system and create a grassroots movement, all the while facing stiff opposition to the idea of gays and lesbians marrying legally.

There will be a question and answer segment following the film with the filmmakers Jeff Kaufman and Marcia Ross of Floating World Pictures, and key participants in the Vermont Supreme Court case, Baker v. State, including attorney Susan Murray and plaintiffs Lois Farnham and Holly Putterbaugh. The event is cosponsored by Chellis House – Women’s Resource Center, the Film & Media Culture and Political Science Departments, and Middlebury College Queers & Allies. In 2015, Middlebury’s Special Collections & Archives became the official repository for the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force’s archives. This nonprofit task force, formed in 1996, was instrumental in passing both Vermont’s landmark civil unions law in 2000 and subsequent same-sex marriage law, which took effect in 2009.

The Huffington Post wrote that “The State of Marriage” is, “Gripping. Audiences will cheer” and the Hollywood Reporter described it as, “Indispensable. A suspenseful nail-biter right up to the feel good ending.” Free and open to the public.  Popcorn will be served!

Plaintiffs in the Baker v. State case celebrate the passage of the Civil Union Law in 2000 (Photo courtesy of Floating World Pictures)

A tribute to Barbara Jordan on her birthday

In celebration of Black History Month, we remember Barbara Jordan’s 1987 Commencement address at Middlebury. She received an Honorary Doctor of Laws and spoke about values in education and those which members of society should agree to live by: Truth, Tolerance, Respect, and Community.

Other photos of the commencement ceremony show Prof. David Rosenberg, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, handing out diplomas. He remembered about her speech, “She shared many historical and philosophical comments on principles and values to guide our commencing graduates. But the biggest applause and laughter came near the end when she quoted from Robert Fulghum’s essay, “All I ever really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten.” It was a good way to acknowledge the critical role parents play at an early and formative stage in the lives of our graduates long before they arrive at Middlebury.”

The former congresswoman showed her Texas pride from the commencement podium with the University of Texas’s “hook ’em horns” hand symbol. After retiring from politics in 1979, she taught ethics at the University of Texas until her death in 1996.

Born in Houston, Texas exactly 81 years ago, Jordan earned her law degree from Boston University in 1959 and was elected to the Texas Senate in 1966, becoming the first African-American state senator since 1883 and the first black woman to hold the seat. In 1972, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, making her the first woman to represent Texas in the House, and (in the same year) as president pro tempore of the Texas senate, the first black woman in America to preside over a legislative body.

She solidified herself as a household name while serving on the House Judiciary Committee during President Richard Nixon’s impeachment scandal. Delivered the opening remarks to the committee and the nation, she supported the articles of impeachment against the president. In her speech she held up her faith in the Constitution and declared that if her fellow committee members failed to impeach President Nixon,“then perhaps the eighteenth–century Constitution should be abandoned to a twentieth–century paper shredder.”

She extended her rhetorical capabilities to Middlebury College in 1987, undeterred by the multiple sclerosis that would ultimately kill her, delivering the address from a wheelchair.

 

Source: “Jordan, Barbara Charline | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives.” Accessed February 21, 2017. http://history.house.gov/People/Detail/16031.

Minute 1:16 is the best part, or, DIY Bookmaking

While we love the entirety of this video by our local Middlebury filmmakers (we’re talking to you, Demetrius Borge ’16, and Chris Spencer), our hands-down favorite clip in their recent piece J-term Scenes: Tell Us What You’re Most Excited About (featured below) has to be minute 1:16, featuring our very own postgraduate Fellow in Special Collections & Archives, Mikaela Taylor.

 

Digital Projects & Archives Librarian Patrick Wallace featured on Archive-It Blog – Unauthorized Voices in the Archive: Documenting Student Life in Middlebury College’s Community Web Archive

Read it on Archive-It’s blog or below!

Source: Archive-It Blog – Unauthorized Voices in the Archive: Documenting Student Life in Middlebury College’s Community Web Archive

 

Unauthorized Voices in the Archive: Documenting Student Life in Middlebury College’s Community Web Archive

The following is a guest post by Patrick Wallace, Digital Projects & Archives Librarian at Middlebury College.

 

In November 2015, as I stepped into my position as Middlebury College’s first digital archivist, our Director of Special Collections approached me for ideas on how to begin work toward three mutual goals: providing boldly promiscuous, public access to our digital collections; preserving born-digital and web content; and, including fuller representations of student life in the college archives. Like many institutions, Middlebury’s previous efforts to preserve institutional memory emphasized – at least implicitly – the authorized, public face of the college: official publications, administrative business, sanctioned student activities, and so on. The college archives therefore represented a mostly sanitized view of campus culture, a clean and uncontroversial history that we in Special Collections found unacceptable at a time when student protests over issues of discrimination, violence, gender and sexual identity, racial diversity, and a host of critical social justice issues were shaking up campuses nationwide, and as Middlebury was making conscious institutional efforts to improve on-campus diversity, inclusivity, and community wellness. Subsequently, our first major initiative toward change was the Middlebury College Community Web Archive, which began, and remains, a central effort by the college archives toward constructing a more just institutional memory.

 

Queer Faces of Middlebury, a student-created photographic narrative documenting diversity among students, staff, and faculty.

 

A major goal of the project has been to capture and preserve discussions happening in Middlebury’s culturally diverse activist margins. Student debate and activism happens in large part online, especially via Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Tumblr, and other social media outlets. Students often speak more freely in these virtual spaces than they might, for example, in the editorial pages of the college’s newspaper or in an institutionally-sanctioned town hall discussion. As a long time fan, I had been suggesting that the Internet Archive would play a central role in our digital collections strategy from the time of my job interview, and the ideas behind the Community Web Archive delivered a perfect justification for partnering with Archive-It.

Identifying and collecting student-created content from unsanctioned online sources (e.g. sites outside of our institutional web domain, or social media feeds from organizations unaffiliated with the college) was a clear priority, but not without a host of risks and difficult choices: we had concerns about unfairly appropriating student voices for our own work; we wrung our hands over how to organize potentially controversial materials; we discussed concerns about administrative pushback; we worried about inspiring resentment or mistrust in students who were critical of the establishment to which we in the archives are certainly beholden. As archivists and curators, we have immense power to shape history. It is my decided opinion that participating in the soft censorship of omission in deference to a personal fear of backlash is grossly unethical. Therefore, the famous words of computing pioneer Grace Hopper–“it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission”–have been a central guiding principle of our digital collections strategy.

 

Image from a student created “disorientation guide” questioning institutional efforts at improving campus diversity (disorientmidd.wordpress.com).

 

Yet, the archives are also an institutional authority, and when our artifacts represent voices set in opposition to that same authority, it is imperative that we remain sensitive to the risk of exploiting or misrepresenting student experiences in our collections. Organization and definition presented an immediate challenge. YouTube channels by Middlebury’s acapella singing groups could certainly live comfortably and uncontroversially alongside the Mountain Club’s Facebook account. But what about a pseudonymous student’s blog post about the failed and traumatic institutional response to their sexual assault? What about an environmentalist polemic that cast Middlebury – the first school in the country to offer an undergraduate degree in environmental studies – and its administration in a less than favorable light? What about the website of a satirical publication that, while venerable on campus, is run independently of the college?

To answer the question of classification, I proposed that we turn to our original goal – to provide a full and honest view of student life – and make the choice not to impose artificial distinctions. Theater and mountaineering have long been a part of the “college experience” at Middlebury, but so have sexual violence and racial discrimination; to suggest otherwise would be fundamentally disingenuous and contrary to our aims. We reached out informally to a number of students and recent graduates, and encouraged them to speak with their peers in turn; all agreed that a boldly inclusive collection was the best solution. To be honest, I still do not know if this is a representative view among the student body, much less among the administration. However, I firmly believe that the Middlebury College Community Web Archive is the most radical, candid, and diverse sampling of student voices ever collected by the college archives.

 

Documenting broccoli served in a Middlebury College dining hall (proc-broc.tumblr.com).

 

Another key question was how to identify URLs for preservation, and do so in a way that allowed student participation in the curatorial process. An initial set of seeds was proposed by our Special Collections’ postgraduate fellow, Mikaela Taylor, a recent graduate who was aware of popular student publications and activities that might escape the attention of other library staff. However, we did not want all of the curatorial decision making to come from within the archives. We set up a Drupal form for URL submission linked from the library website, and Mikaela led promotional efforts encouraging students to submit their favorite websites, blogs, and social media feeds. The form is designed to be simple; aside from the site URL and a field for descriptive information, the form asks simply if the submitter has rights to the site content, and if not, whether or not they know who does. As a rule, if a URL is submitted by a Middlebury community member, it is included in the archive; we have chosen not to crawl perhaps half a dozen because their size or document count was more than our Archive-It subscription can currently accommodate.

One of our notable promotion campaigns came at the end of the spring semester, when graduating seniors traditionally post “crush lists” – creative posters listing platonic or romantic crushes from their college years – in common areas. A mock crush list created by Special Collections listed some of our favorite sites included in the web archive, with links to the submission form. The response was good, and provided URLs for several sites now in the collection. When facilities management began taking down the crush lists, students began posting scans and photographs to Tumblr; the site URL was submitted to the archives and added as a seed. Out of over a hundred seeds being crawled, only the crush lists site has been kept out of the public archive, because of concerns over privacy.

 

Middlebury’s URL submission form for students & faculty.

 

Work on the archive continues, and we are adding more seeds while actively developing workflows to bring WARC files from Archive-It into our nascent institutional repository. As I write this, the Middlebury College Community Web Archive contains 138 seeds (97 public) totalling over 53GB of data and a million documents, with an incredibly broad range of content: a collection of animated GIFs lampooning the college experience at Middlebury; local news articles about racist attacks carried out against a student government candidate via YikYak; blogs by students studying abroad that focus on cheese and textiles in different countries; Facebook pages representing Middlebury’s Black Student Union, LGBTQ+ activist groups, local musical acts, theater troupes, and fossil fuel divestment initiatives. Adding descriptive metadata remains a work in progress, but more than half of the public seeds include fairly rich descriptive information.

Submissions keep coming in and our promotional efforts have not abated. We are proud of the work our partnership with Archive-it has facilitated, and certainly hope our collections provide future researchers, students, and alumni with as much fascination and insight as we in Middlebury College’s Special Collections and Archives have gained through their development.