Blogs, images, and other cool things from the Walter Havighurst Special Collections at Miami University, Oxford, OH.


Albums du Père Castor


The Père Castor Albums published by Flammarion in 1930s were a huge contribution to children’s literature, and not only in France. They were translated and reissued many times and many generations in many countries remember their animal and nature stories. The series was launched by Paul Faucher (whose penname was Paul Francis) in 1931. Almost every book in the Wild Animal series in English has the publisher inscription advertising the “delicate gaiety” unique to the French. However, the popular series was created by a truly international team of a French editor, a Czech educator, and two Russian artists.


Paul Faucher, a bookseller in the 1920s became interested and immersed in the European educational movement led by Frantisek Bakule and Jean Piaget. In 1929 he founded the French section of the International Education Office and began working with Bakule, who ran an experimental orphanage in Prague. The orphanage accepted healthy children, as well as children who became handicapped during World War I. He successfully integrated both classes of children in independent and creative activities. Bakule’s assistant was a Czech children’s book author Lida Durdikova. She may have had something to do with Faucher’s interest in children’s literature and helped him launch the Père Castor albums in 1931. She was the main author of the series, working under the pseudonym Lida, and married Faucher in 1933.


The two Russian artists, responsible for the memorable illustrations of the Père Castor books were Nathalie Parain and Feodor Rojankovsky. Parain, nee Chelpanova, was the daughter of a distinguished Russian scholar and pedagogue G.I. Chelpanov and the student of Petr Konchalovsky. She married a French diplomat in 1926 and moved to Paris, where her artistic career began to flourish. She started out as Faucher’s art director at Flammarion and illustrated a great number of children’s books in the next three decades. Even though her colors were not as bright and vivid as Rojankovsky’s, her strength was in the simplicity and elegance of her shapes. More elaborate than her constructivist contemporaries, her work is fresh, simple, and timeless.


The other illustrator, who collaborated with Lida extensively, was Feodor Rojankovsky, who moved to France from Russia and finally ended up in the United States, where he received a Caldecott medal in 1956. The Père Castor series is when Rojankovsky (working under the pseudonym Rojan) learned and perfected the offset printing technique from zinc plates. His work is distinguished by very vivid colors and required a complex technological approach. Rojankovsky wrote: “I personally created the separation of colors on six or seven plates and the impressions were close to my preconceived originals. This method achieved a clearness and brightness of my main colors and, with skill, kept the subtle nuances in subordinate colors.”


The overall effect and result of this international team of educators, authors, and artists is the most influential series of children’s books and its lasting legacy.


Miami Football Film Archive

Tomorrow is the 119th meeting between the Miami and Cincinnati football teams.  The two teams first played in 1888, resulting in a 0-0 tie.  They have played every year since 1909 (excluding the war years of 1943 and 1944).  During this time Miami leads the series 59-52-7, though Cincinnati is currently on an 8 game winning streak.  I’d like to use this game as an opportunity to talk about the Miami Football Films Archive.  The Archive is located on the Miami Universities Library’s digital website, and is comprised of Miami football games dating back to 1948.

16mm Reel

The oldest game in the collection is the 1948 Sun Bowl against Texas Tech, the first bowl in Miami football history.  The collection is a work in progress; we are continually digitizing games and uploading them, with over 600 films currently available, ranging from 1948-1999.  The archive is composed of 16 mm reels, VHS, and Beta.  The majority of the collection are reel to reels, dating from 1948-1990.  From 1990 to 2001, VHS and Beta were used.  Most of these films are copies used by the coaches to grade and scout.Box of reelsWhile digitization is great and it allows people access to information they wouldn’t normally have access to, it can also be time consuming.  For example, to digitize one 16 mm reel (one game is usually 3-5 reels) the reel has to be retrieved from the University Archives and taken over to the Center for Digital Scholarship.  There it is played on a machine that is connected to a computer that records the film, so the film has to be played in its entirety to be digitized.  Once it is complete, it has to be processed, which can take from 30 minutes to a few hours per reel.  Once the file is processed it then has to be converted and moved to a server for storage.  Once it is on the server it can be uploaded to our digital website.  The metadata (information) has to be added so the film can be searched for and sorted.  As you can see this is a time consuming and complicated process.

Digitization machine

Here is the link to our digital collection, enjoy:

Johnathan Cooper
Visiting Librarian – Manuscripts

Taken from the Walter Havighurst Special Collections blog.

Digital Collections Update: Featuring World War I Germany and Bob Hope

Once again, it’s time for another update about our digital collections!

Main Altar of St. Henry Catholic ChurchMain Altar of St. Henry Catholic Church.

Now that the semester is underway, we are back to regularly adding new postcards. As I wrote about earlier this year, thanks to generous donations from Clyde N. Bowden, Allen Bernard, and Virginius C. Hall, we have been able to greatly expand the Bowden Postcard Collection Online project. Most significantly, nearly all of the remaining 13,000 or so Ohio postcards are currently being digitized by a commercial company which will greatly reduce the time it takes to bring the collection online. I am hoping to have completed adding all ~15,000 Ohio postcards to the digital collection by the end of the 2015-2016 academic year. The digitization should soon be completed, but in the mean time we have already begun adding new materials several times a week. Many of the postcards we have come in ‘souvenir folders’, which make them a more complicated affair to digitize. As a result, we decided to do these ourselves and so have been adding them while we await the completion of the larger digitization project.

Crown Prince in the MoatCrown Prince in the Moat

Additionally, while sorting through our international cards, we came across a very interesting set that was given to one of our donor’s by his father’s friend. It is a collection of approximately 100 postcards, all from World War I France and Germany. Even more interesting is that they are all photographs taken by the German Army (and approved for public use, as we learned from the backs of the cards). The photographs themselves are astonishing pieces of history, depicting battlefields in media res, soldiers relaxing, and now-gone buildings.

Impact of an Enemy MineImpact of an Enemy Mine

Another series of postcards we are currently adding comes from the personal collection of donor Allen W. Bernard. A scholar of architecture, Bernard has gathered a set of postcards depicting the numerous Catholic churches constructed in and around Mercer County, Ohio, by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in the 19th century.

Inside a bombed French ChurchInside a bombed French Church

I’m also pleased to announce the launch of our newest digital collection, the WMUB Radio Archives. WMUB is a public radio station in Oxford, Ohio. In the late 1960s, a variety of student-produced programs were run on WMUB. Many of the students involved in these programs were also a part of the Studio 14 crew. Regular programs in this collection include: 529-3521, a live student call-in discussion program, and Newspoint, a half-hour nightly newscast. There are additionally a number of fascinating special broadcasts, including the 130th Miami University Commencement, with Bob Hope speaking.

Happy browsing!

Marcus Ladd
Special Collections Digital Librarian

Taken from the Walter Havighurst Special Collections blog.

New Fall Exhibit: Stories of Freedom Summer from the Western College Memorial Archives


Our fall exhibit featuring materials from the Western College Memorial Archives’ Freedom Summer collections is now open and will run through December 12th.  Stories of Freedom Summer highlights the experiences of three Mississippi Summer Project volunteers, Carole Gross Colca, Roland Duerksen, and Mark Levy, during this pivotal moment in civil rights history. All three have donated materials documenting their participation in the Freedom Summer project to the Western College Memorial Archives. There will be an exhibit reception on Friday, October 10th.  The reception will feature a panel discussion by Colca, Duerksen, and Levy about their time in Mississippi and their participation in the civil rights movement. Save the date!

When the administration of the Western College for Women, now a part of Miami University, opened its campus to civil rights activists in 1964, an estimated 700 young and idealistic college students from across the north arrived in Oxford, Ohio for voter registration training. Sponsored by a coalition including the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the National Council of Churches, this event is considered by scholars to be one of the pivotal events in civil rights history; one that would eventually reshape the electoral landscape of the United States.


Today, the story of Freedom Summer has the power to evoke important questions about American identity, public life, engagement, and commitment. Freedom Summer was an experiment in “deliberative democracy,” which can be used to model democratic processes, social change, community service, political process, civic engagement, and ethical decision making. History is often written from the national perspective, but it is important to acknowledge how local histories shape national movements. In fact, members of the Oxford community established the Friends of the Mississippi Summer Project.  In addition to holding several fundraisers to support the movement, they also raised money to help support individual students while they were in Mississippi.


In addition to the photographs, letters, and memorabilia, the exhibit includes audiovisual and interactive media. While in the exhibit room, visitors will be able to hear the voices of Freedom Summer’s volunteers and supporters. Taken from the Freedom Summer Digital Archive, samples of participants’ oral histories play in the background of the exhibit and a screen displays information about each speaker. On one wall of the room stands an interactive map of Mississippi, with significant sites of Freedom Summer highlighted. When touched, each site displays an image, a quote, or an article about events in that city. Like the oral histories, all the items in the interactive map can be found in the Freedom Summer Digital Archive.

The Walter Havighurst Special Collections exhibit room is open Monday through Friday, 8-5.  Please stop in and discover more about this important moment in our nation’s history.

Kimberly Tully, Curator of Special Collections
On behalf of my fellow exhibit curators Jacky Johnson, Interim University Archivist & Marcus Ladd, Special Collections Digital Librarian

Taken from the Walter Havighurst Special Collections blog.

Make Way for a Celebration


September marks the centennial anniversary of the birth of Robert McCloskey, the much-honored and beloved children’s author and illustrator who was born in Hamilton, Ohio on September 15, 1914. A new documentary by Sam Ashworth will be premiered during the McCloskey Centennial Celebration Event on the Miami Hamilton campus, Saturday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m. in the Wilks Conference Center. A panel including his daughters will discuss his legacy.

Following graduation from Hamilton High School, McCloskey attended art school but like most artists found it difficult to make a living. So he turned to writing and illustrating children’s books. His first, Lentil (1940), was based on his Ohio boyhood. The next became a classic: Make Way for Ducklings (1941).

McCloskey had spent time in Boston first as an art student and then as a muralist and had noticed the comic journeys of ducks and ducklings around the city’s Public Garden. His charming rendering of the clash of human and animal travels won him a Caldecott Medal in 1942.

Additional works followed. Homer Price (1943), Blueberries for Sal (1948), One Morning in Maine (1952), and A Time of Wonder (1957) were all award winners, and also won fans of all ages. Among his many honors: two Caldecott Medals, two Caldecott Honor Awards, two Ohioana Book Awards, and honorary doctoral degrees from Miami University (1964), Mount Holyoke College (Mass., 1967), and the University of Maine (1990). In 2000, the Library of Congress presented him with its Living Legend Award. Make Way for Ducklings 1950

The Edgar and Faith King Children’s Literature Collection in Special Collections holds all eight of the works he authored as well as two authored by others and illustrated by McCloskey. Most of them are also available in the Instructional Materials Center, King Library ground floor.

McCloskey and his family settled on an island off the Maine coast after World War II. He spent the rest of his life in that beautiful environment, very different from southwestern Ohio, and died there in 2003. But the Ohio boy who made good lives on in the wonderful stories he told and the wonderful pictures he drew.

Happy Birthday, Bob.

Elizabeth Brice
Assistant Dean for Technical Services & Special Collections ATimeofWonder1957

Taken from the Walter Havighurst Special Collections blog.

Off to College: Passages from Student Diaries in Special Collections

This week we are witnessing the return of students to Miami’s campus for the start of the new academic year, along with the arrival of first year students. It is an exciting time. It can also be a stressful event. I thought I would celebrate this “move-in” week by sharing the experiences of two early Miami students as they left home to attend college. These accounts are taken from their diaries, which are housed in our Special Collections.

Miami University 1858Miami University in 1858

This first account is from the diary of Theophilus Cannon Hibbett. Hibbett was a student at Miami University from November 1851 to July 1854. After college, Hibbett went on to practice law and serve in the Confederate infantry. He later became a civil engineer and Justice of the Peace. His father inspired him to keep a diary of his days at Miami. Here Hibbett describes his travels from his home in Tennessee to Oxford.

The Diary of Theophilus C. HibbettThe Diary of Theophilus C. Hibbett

July 14, 1851 After several days spent in meditations as to my future course and prospects, the attrabiliarian [gloomy, melancholy] moment at last, to my sorrow, arrived: in which I was to bid adieu to all that I could call relations and friends and when for the first time in my life I was to say, farewell sweet home. Having bid adieu to my father’s family, in company with my brothers, James and Ira, I went to the railroad, there meeting Robt. Morrison, who was destined to the same place with myself, we took the cars to Nashville where we arrived about sunset, having a good deal of business to attend to we did not retire to rest until about mid-night. Weather exceedingly warm.

July 15, 1851 Left Nashville at 4 AM by stage for Louisville, coach crowded, weather warm, and roads very dusty; took breakfast just before arriving at Gallatin and after passing which place, the country gradually became more and more broken until it seemed, in comparison with Rutherford City, a mountainous wilderness. We took dinner at Scottsville, Allen Cty. Ky., which is a village of very little importance; from thence we traveled through Barren Cty. and took supper at Glasgow. The land of Barren Cty. is greatly superior to that of Allen about equal to that of Sumner Cty, Tennessee.

July 16, 1851 After traveling all the previous night, we stopped at a farmer’s cottage, whence, after having taken some refreshment we resumed our journey. The appearance of the country around Bardstown and indeed from that to Louisville is truly picturesque. Oh what a charming sight to one just emerging from the inarable wilds of interior KY!!! We arrived at Louisville at 6 PM which is a very beautiful city.

July 17, 1851 Rising very early I divert myself in traveling over Louisville until 11 AM at which time I set out by steamboat for Cincinnati.

July 18, 1851 Waked very early and, very much to my surprise, was landed on the Cincinnati wharf. After securing my trunk I went up in the city, but being very unwell from riding in the boat, I did not enjoy the pleasure of viewing the city very extensively, but as soon as possible, secured my passage, by way of Omnibus, to Oxford, where for the first time in my life I could freely like one of old say that I was a stranger in a strange land. This was to me the beginning of trouble, for when I found that the next college term did not begin until the last Monday in August, it increased my melancholy feelings very much to think that all this time was to be spent without having anything to do, and with which, to divert my mind, for the Professors were all absent and therefore I could have no particular study from not knowing in what class I would be put.

July 21, 1851 Rent a room in one of the college buildings and furnish it for a study room, though I took no very particular delight in staying in it during vacation as it was situated in a very large building in which there was no one except myself, which rendered it quite lonesome. Boarding at tavern.

This next account is from The Diary of Jerome B. Falconer: September 2, 1861-March 22, 1862. Jerome Falconer was from Hamilton, Ohio, and he was a student at Miami in 1861 and 1862. He ended up fighting in the Civil War and was mortally wounded at the battle of Stone River on December 31, 1862. He died in Hamilton on August 15, 1863.

The Diary of Jerome B. FalconerThe Diary of Jerome B. Falconer

September 2, 1861 This begins one of the most eventful periods of my life. Today I leave home and friends to begin my “College life.” I cant [sic] say that I am glad to leave home just now, for several reasons. I cant get to hear so often nor so directly from John, who is now in the army in western Virginia, fighting for his Country. And it will be impossible to pay as much attention to “war matters” as I would like, if I want to make any progress in my studies. But, nevertheless, I am glad and, I hope, thankful that I am allowed the opportunity of attending College. Just before the train started this morning, I had the extreme satisfaction of seeing a secessionist knocked down and whipped. I don’t know when I have seen anything that has given me more pleasure. Mr. Henderson is to be my roommate this session. He is a very pleasant fellow and I think I shall like him.

We cleaned up the room and put things in order, and at noon I made my entrée at the Hugh’s house, famous among students for the good substantial meals which always await their hungry stomachs. In the afternoon we finished “fixing up,” and in the evening, at the special request of Mrs. Elliot, I took tea there with John Wood. Afterwards I went to the Campus and studied till ten o’clock and there resigned myself to the tender care of Morpheus.

We hope this semester starts off well for all Miami students. We look forward to seeing some of you in Special Collections during the course of this academic year.

Jim Bricker
Senior Library Technician

Taken from the Walter Havighurst Special Collections blog.

Announcing our Fall 2014 exhibit, ‘Stories of Freedom Summer’. 50 years later, the story of Freedom Summer has the power to evoke important questions about American identity, public life, engagement, and commitment. This exhibit will focus on local resident Roland Duerksen and former student volunteers Carole Colca and Mark Levy. They have left the legacy of their work in the Western College Memorial Archives. This exhibit, which includes photographs, letters, audio recordings, and an interactive map of Mississippi, will serve as a narrative of their dedication to civil rights and social justice.
The exhibit will be open August 25 - December 12. Click here for more about the upcoming exhibit.

Announcing our Fall 2014 exhibit, ‘Stories of Freedom Summer’. 50 years later, the story of Freedom Summer has the power to evoke important questions about American identity, public life, engagement, and commitment. This exhibit will focus on local resident Roland Duerksen and former student volunteers Carole Colca and Mark Levy. They have left the legacy of their work in the Western College Memorial Archives. This exhibit, which includes photographs, letters, audio recordings, and an interactive map of Mississippi, will serve as a narrative of their dedication to civil rights and social justice.

The exhibit will be open August 25 - December 12. Click here for more about the upcoming exhibit.

Did you say…Spue?

Volumes affected with SpueVolumes affected with Spue

When walking through the special collections’ stacks, it can be very disarming to come across a book or section of books covered in white blooms, as was the case with our Erodelphian Literary Society and Miami Union Literary Society book collection. Both the Erodelphian Literary Society and Miami Union Literary Society were formed at the end of 1825 and amassed their own libraries for member use. The formation of the literary society libraries was in response to the fact that not only was the university library at the time very small and limited, access to the university library was also restricted to faculty and upperclass men only.

Most of the books in the literary societies collection are leather bound volumes that pre-date 1840. The collection is currently in the process of being re-housed and prepped for cataloging. This past winter, we noticed that many of the volumes had developed white blooms along their spines and outer edges. My initial reaction was to assume that we had developed a mold infestation. Luckily, that was not the case.

Spue is usually found in areas of the leather exposed to air, such as spines and edgesSpue is usually found in areas of the leather exposed to air, such as spines and edges

Through a little more research and observation, it was discovered that the white blooms were in fact a substance known as “spue.” According to the Alaska State Museum’s blog, “What’s That White Stuff?” spue is a “white bloom resulting from fats, oils and waxes and may be referred to in the literature as fatty bloom, or fatty spue (spew). These terms all refer to the migration of fats/oils through the leather material that crystallize on the surface in the presence of air.”

After determining our white bloom outbreak was not mold, but spue, we dug a little deeper for more information. According to an article written by William Mclean, “Leather ‘Bloom’ - Causes and Remedies” (Skin Deep, vol. 2, Autumn 1996):

Crystalline surface deposits known in the leather trade as “spues”, arise because of the migration towards the surface of unbound, mobile components from within the leather. They are unsightly but are not, generally speaking, harmful and they often come about as a result of cyclical changes in environmental conditions, i.e. fluctuating temperature or humidity. Broadly, these deposits may be subdivided into salt spues and waxy spues. The classical method of differentiating is by applying a local source of heat, for example a match flame, which will usually cause a waxy spue to melt and disappear - at least temporarily, whereas a salt spue will be unaffected.

Close up of fatty spueClose up of fatty spue

Using this information, we were able to determine our spue was of the fatty or waxy variety. But how did it form and why did it appear so suddenly on such a large collection of books? According to Leather International’s Mechanisms involved in the formation of fatty spues:

There are different opinions about the formation mechanism of the spues, although everybody agrees on the differences in the displacement of different fat components into the leather. Papers on the subject agree that the fatty acids and their esters initially form as a dissolved material in the liquid phase, with the liquidic oil acting as a solvent at room temperature. They come from natural fats and from fatliquors added in the process. This solution becomes oversaturated due to a high concentration of fatty acids and esters and/or to a fall in the room temperature. As a consequence the fats migrate to the outer surfaces of the leather and crystallisation of the fatty acids and/or glycerides occurs. The concentration of the acids and esters is due to a differential solubility of the components in the leather. The liquid oils are either partially or totally reabsorbed in the fibre network while the crystallised fatty acids and glycerides remain on the surface.

While we can’t be 100% sure of the cause, the appearance of our fatty spue did correspond with a sudden and prolonged drop in temperature (during the winter) of our special collections closed stacks area due to mechanical failure in our environmental control systems. What is interesting to note is that spue was not found on any other volumes other than the ones belonging to the Erodelphian Literary Society and Miami Union Literary Society collection. It is possible that these volumes were treated with leather dressings or other substances that at one point were thought to prolong the life of the leather object. According to “What’s That White Stuff” this is known as secondary bloom, or “bloom caused by the application of fats and oils to the surface of the leather” as opposed to fats and oils added while processing the leather. For centuries people have been applying leather dressings to bound volumes and other objects, however it has become clear that many of these substances can cause damage.

IMG_1295We have since removed the spue from our materials, and while spue is quite easily cleaned from the leather surface, research suggests there is no guarantee it will not reoccur.

Ashley Jones
Preservation Librarian

Taken from the Walter Havighurst Special Collections blog.

Digital Collection Updates: Postcard Map and New Freedom Summer Materials

This week I have two very exciting updates to our digital collections to announce.

The United States on our postcard map. By default the map is zoomed into Ohio, where most of our cards are.The United States on our postcard map. By default the map is zoomed into Ohio, where most of our cards are.

First is the completion of a map of our current digital postcard collection which you can see here, or get to from the link in the navigation bar at the top of the full collection. This has been a fun project I’ve been working on for a while, and I think it fits the data in our geographically-organized collection perfectly. Each blue pin you see is the location depicted on one of our postcards, and if you click on the pin a popup with a thumbnail and title of the postcard will appear - both the image and words are a link to the postcard in the full collection in CONTENTdm. The colored circles you see are clusters of cards, and if you mouse over the circle you will see the area which it covers. Clicking on the circle will zoom in to that area and show you the distribution of cards on a smaller scale. Many of our cards, especially those in Oxford around Miami, we were able to identify down to the exact building which makes for a pretty exciting map!

Map of Oxford postcardsBelieve it or not, we have a lot of postcards from Oxford.

The map was made with a combination of PHP scripts and the Leaflet JavaScript library. The first major hurdle I came across was that the CONTENTdm API was not up to the task of being hit thousands of times each time I loaded the map. To work around this, I wrote a PHP script that pulls all the relevant information from the API and stores it in a SQL database on the library’s servers. From this SQL database, I was able to write a second PHP script which makes the actual map by writing a new layer to the map for each row in the SQL database. It took some toying to work out the bugs - and one message to our systems administrator on his day off about an unintentional consequence of one of said bugs (sorry…) - but it’s been great seeing our efforts finally come together.

I’m still working on improving the accuracy of the map, and please note that some of the locations are approximations, but I encourage all of you to explore this new way of visualizing the collection.

Photo of a girl in Mississippi taken from the Carole Gross Colca collectionPhoto of a girl in Mississippi taken from the Carole Gross Colca collection

The second announcement is the addition of the Carole Gross Colca and Mark Levy collections to the Freedom Summer Text & Photo Archive. The Text & Photo Archive is one of two Freedom Summer digital collections we have (along with the A/V Collection) and features a variety of photographs, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, letters, and other items related to Freedom Summer 1964. The Levy collection, made up of photographs taken by Mark Levy and Donna Garde in Mississippi at the time, was graciously made available to us as duplicates of the originals which are housed in the Civil Rights Archive of the Queens College Special Collections and Archives. Like the Colca materials, the duplicates are kept in the Western College Memorial Archives.

With it being the 50th anniversary this summer - and the memorial conference here in Oxford coming up in October! - this is the perfect time to learn more about this crucial moment in our nation’s history.

Marcus Ladd Special Collections Digital Librarian

Taken from the Walter Havighurst Special Collections blog.

Bravo!: Publishing the opera in London, Paris, and New York

After a recent trip to Cincinnati with three of my Special Collections colleagues to see Bizet’s Carmen performed at the Cincinnati Opera, I’ve begun to explore the wonderfully opulent world of opera. I’m quickly becoming enamored with this passionate and dramatic genre and I’ve also discovered the importance of not just the aural but the visual experience of opera. And as with many of my popular culture interests, I try to make connections with them and with my professional work in Special Collections. This regular practice of drawing connections between the present and the past, the personal and the academic, often informs my instruction to undergraduates and others, as well as my outreach activities. That’s the perk of working with large and varied special collections…there’s always something to interest you (and hopefully the public)! I thought I’d dedicate this blog post to highlighting a few items in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections that in a small way illustrate how printers and publishers enriched and reflected the opera goers’ experience over the centuries in three cities known for both their opera houses and their print culture.

Bononcini's Camilla, London, 1709Bononcini’s Camilla, London, 1709

Our first stop in our quick tour through three centuries of opera in print is a 1709 London printing of the libretto for Bononcini’s Camilla, performed at the Queen’s Theatre in the Hay-Market, printed by Jacob Tonson. The dedication to patron Lady Wharton by Owen Swiny, a successful theatre producer of the period, declares the popularity of Italian opera throughout Europe and the hope by Swiny that the English musicians may soon rival their Italian peers. Much like performance programs today the singers portraying the roles are identified in the pages of this pamphlet and this production featured the first popular English singer of Italian opera, Catherine Tofts, in the lead role. She is shown below in a painting entitled Rehearsal of an Opera by Marco Ricci from the same year as this production. This cheaply printed quarto also includes some early marginalia in the form of translations of the Italian text on some pages and was used by its contemporary owner to commemorate and enrich their opera-going experience.

Camilla dedicatory leafCamilla dedicatory leaf Camilla: The persons represented.Camilla: The persons represented. Marginalia on leaf of CamillaMarginalia on leaf of Camilla

The next stop on our tour is a little over a hundred years later in Paris with this libretto for a one act opera by Simon Mayr, a German-Italian composer, published by the Theatre Royal Italien in 1815. Though Italian operas often suffered in popularity compared to their homegrown French operas, imports like this piece in the opera-bouffon style were staged at the Theatre Royal Italien then under the direction of the Italian soprano Angelica Catalani. Indeed, Catalani (shown below in a portrait by the French artist Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun) is listed as playing one of the principal roles. It is possible that this particular play was more popular than expected as the printed price on the title page has been revised higher and corrected in manuscript.

Il pazzo per la musica, Paris, 1815Il pazzo per la musica, Paris, 1815 Angelica Catalani painted by Vigee Le Brun, 1806 Angelica Catalani painted by Vigee Le Brun, 1806 Il pazzo per la musica, Paris, 1815Il pazzo per la musica, Paris, 1815: The cast

Our next stop takes us to early twentieth century New York where the enduring popularity of Italian opera is illustrated by this program for Puccini’s La Boheme from the 1922-1923 Metropolitan Opera season. From it’s premiere in 1896 to the present day, this romantic Puccini opera remains a popular one in the repertory and continues to inspire, most notably in the 1990 ground breaking production by stage and film director Baz Luhrmann and as the basis for the Pulitzer and Tony award winning musical, Rent, by Jonathan Larson.

The advertisements in this program are fascinating and include advertisements for the latest recordings of the opera stars of the day as well as services only wealthy opera goers would require, like special cleaning services for ball gowns!

Metropolitan Opera House, Grand Opera Season 1922-1923Metropolitan Opera House, Grand Opera Season 1922-1923 La Boheme programLa Boheme program

And finally, an exciting recent donation to our collections by Allen W. Bernard are two scrapbooks of regional and international theatre and opera programs collected by a nineteenth century patron of the arts named Alice Bates between 1894-1897. We are delighted that Mr. Bernard thought they would find a good home here in Special Collections and I look forward to showing them off to music and theater students in the near future!

Alice Bates's scrapbooks, 1894-1897 donated by Allen W. BernardAlice Bates’s scrapbooks, 1894-1897 donated by Allen W. Bernard Pages from the Bates scrapbook featuring the Metropolitan Opera in New YorkPages from the Bates scrapbook featuring the Metropolitan Opera in New York

Though Special Collections does not have a particular collection strength in music history, these pieces demonstrate the breadth of our collections, especially for teaching purposes and are always great for a “quick peek” into the past.

Kimberly Tully
Curator of Special Collections

Taken from the Walter Havighurst Special Collections blog.