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Rediscovered works by Whitman

A PhD candidate, Zachary Turpin, made headlines in 2016 and again this year when he announced the discovery of two long-forgotten works by Walt Whitman: a series of newspaper articles entitled “Manly Health and Training” and a short novel, The Life and Adventures of Jack Engle: an Auto-Biography.

Both texts were recently published in the journal The Walt Whitman Quarterly Review as well as in monograph form, and are now available to researchers in the Walt Whitman Collection at BYU:

  • Print copies of WWQR are available at call number WHITMAN PS 3229 .W391
  • Life and Adventures of Jack Engle at call number WHITMAN PS 3222 .L54 2017
  • Manly Health and Training at call number WHITMAN RA 777.8 .W448 2017

Illustrating Wordsworth

Wordsworth’s poetry was rarely illustrated during his lifetime, but after his death, publishers began issuing collections of his poems accompanied by illustration. Some of Great Britain’s top painters and designers, like Albert Henry Warren, Miles Birket Foster and John McWhirter, provided illustrations for these deluxe editions. Here is a very brief sampling of illustrated Wordsworth books of the latter half of the 19th century from the Edward M. Rowe Collection.


Bazaar Literature

Special Collections’ newest major exhibit, Welcome to Our Charity Bazaar, features an interesting subgenre of Victorian literature: poems, stories, and books produced for sale at fundraising fairs throughout the 19th century in Great Britain and the United States. Many famous authors of the period contributed pieces which were printed either as standalone items or anthologized in souvenir keepsake volumes, which were then sold to raise money for a charitable cause. Authors featured in the exhibit include novelists Robert Louis Stevenson and Harriet Martineau and poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Martineau’s novel, Dawn Island (shown here), was written for the benefit of a political organization, the Anti-Corn Law League, and its 1845 bazaar.

Come see this work, along with many other items produced for and about the Victorian charity bazaar! The exhibit will be open through Spring 2018.


John Leech, illustrator

This week marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of British illustrator John Leech (Aug. 29, 1817). As a teenager, Leech studied medicine, but when his father’s business failed, the young man turned to his first love – drawing – to help support his family. Leech’s first success was producing humorous lithographs in the 1830s. Leech was also adept at etching on steel. He joined another famed Victorian artist, George Cruikshank, as an illustrator for Bentley’s Miscellany, and illustrated a number of books. Leech’s career took off in 1841 when he began contributing illustrations to the new humor magazine Punch. Over the next twenty years he produced hundreds of sporting and domestic illustrations for Punch, as well as for the periodicals Once a Week and The Illustrated London News. Leech also illustrated numerous books, the most famous of which is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843).

Special Collections owns many examples of Leech’s work in magazines and books, as well as several original sketches. The illustration shown here, “The Showman expostulating with his Monkey,” is taken from the book Merrie England in the Olden Time by George Daniel, published in 1842.

The Victorian “Shilling Shocker”

The Victorian period saw a huge growth in literacy in the British Isles. In 1841, around 2/3 of adult men were literate and 1/2 of adult women were literate. By the end of the century, literacy was almost universal, with 97% of all adults able to read. As the lower classes joined the ranks of the reading public, so did the demand for inexpensive reading material.

Much of what we consider today to be classic literature of the Victorian period would have been well out of reach for the average working class family. A three-volume novel like Jane Eyre would have cost a working man a week’s wages. While there were a number of strategies for readers to be able to afford “upmarket” literature, including subscription libraries and serialized publications, “working class literature” tended towards cheaply-produced, sensational, mass-market print like “Newgate Calendars” (accounts of trials and executions), broadsides, the eight-page “penny dreadful,” or the longer-form “shilling shocker,” the latter named for their approximate price.

The shilling shocker is the British equivalent of the American dime novel — usually printed on cheap paper and characterized by lurid writing. A typical shilling shocker might be about crime, adventure, murder, or other sensational subjects. Special Collections owns a number of shilling shockers, some of which are shown here. They can be found by searching the library catalog for the genre “street literature.”

Walking With Thoreau

Philosopher, naturalist, and writer Henry David Thoreau was born July 12, 1817. To celebrate the life of this influential American writer, Special Collections is displaying first editions of his work in our reference room, including copies of Walden and “Civil Disobedience.” The exhibit, “Walking With Thoreau: A 200th Anniversary Celebration,” is on display throughout the month  of July.

More poetry from Special Collections: Edna St. Vincent Millay

Another prominent book of poetry which is having a major anniversary in 2017 is Edna St. Vincent Millay’s collection Renascence and Other Poems. Millay (1892-1950) was a popular lyric poet of the first half of the 20th century, and this was her first book.

The title poem, “Renascence,” first appeared in 1912. Millay, aged 19, submitted the poem to a prize contest whose top entries would be published in an annual volume called The Lyric Year. Millay’s poem came in fourth place, but because contemporary critics saw “Renascence” as the strongest piece in the volume, losing the top prize actually brought her more attention than had she won. Millay would go on to attend Vassar College; Renascence and Other Poems was published the year she graduated, 1917. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the third woman to do so, in 1923.

Fun fact: BYU’s copy of Renascence and Other Poems was once presented as a gift by famed 20th century American lawyer Clarence Darrow.

Louisa May Alcott: Film Adaptations

Next year will be the 150th anniversary of the beloved novel Little Women, and if you’ve been following film and television news, you may know that several different production companies are planning on adapting the book for the screen! Alcott’s novels are no stranger to film and television; you may be a fan of one of the Little Women movie treatments, from the 1933 George Cukor version starring Katharine Hepburn to the 1994 film starring Susan Sarandon and Winona Ryder (not to mention the 1949 film version, the silent film versions, the anime version, or the various BBC and NBC miniseries produced over the years).

Of course with film and television adaptations of novels come the inevitable movie tie-in editions. Here are are few examples from the Louisa May Alcott Collection. All are available for research!

Two editions promoting the 1934 Mascot Picture production of Little Men:

Two editions promoting the 1949 MGM production of Little Women:

A bilingual version of the 1994 Columbia Pictures film script, intended for English-language learners:

More poetry from Special Collections: Matthew Arnold

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Matthew Arnold’s important collection New Poems (Macmillan, 1867). The collection contains some of Arnold’s best known poems, such as “Dover Beach,” “Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse,” and “Thyrsis.” It also reprints his long poem “Empedocles on Etna,” which Arnold first published in 1852 and then immediately withdrew the book from publication; Robert Browning helped persuade Arnold to reissue the poem.

Special Collections owns a number of first editions of Arnold’s works, including his poetry, essays, and literary criticism. They can be found by searching the library catalog or by searching the The David Magee Collection of Victorian Books.


It is an ancient Mariner . . . exhibit

This month’s Special Collections lobby exhibit, “The Willing Suspension of Disbelief,” is devoted to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” from its first appearance in the 1798 Lyrical Ballads (shown here) to modern illustrated editions. And, since it’s National Poetry Month, you’re invited to a dramatic reading of the poem by the exhibit curator, English Language and Literature Librarian Robert Means, on Wednesday, April 19th at 11 a.m. in the HBLL auditorium.

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