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A-B-C … Easy as One, Two, Three

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 12:45pm

Noah Webster, ca. 1867. Prints and Photographs Division.

On Oct. 16, 1758, Noah Webster, the “Father of American Scholarship and Education” was born. Lexicographers everywhere celebrate his contributions on his birthday, also known as “Dictionary Day.”

As a young, rural Connecticut teacher, he used his own money to publish his first speller in 1783. Reissued throughout the 19th century, the 1829 “Blue Back Speller” was second only to the Bible in copies sold. After his death in 1843, the rights to his dictionary were sold to George and Charles Merriam, whose company is now known as Merriam-Webster Inc. The Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections Division holds a copy of the 1829 edition and Webster’s first speller from 1783.

An active federalist, Webster became a pamphleteer for centralized government and was critical of the politics of self-aggrandizement. Clearly setting himself with the nation’s founders, he believed that if a man was dependent financially on someone, he could not serve the public good but would only be concerned about his dependent relationship. A politician had to be independent – owning his own land and not directly involved in the marketplace. To Webster, George Washington was the epitome of this disinterested leader. You can find several letters written between the two in the online collection of the Library’s collection of the George Washington Papers. His support of the founding fathers led him to maintain correspondence with James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, both of whose papers are also held at the Library.

Noah Webster. Born 1758-died 1843. The schoolmaster of the republic. Print, Dec. 19, 1891. Prints and Photographs Division.

Webster was also an advocate for copyright laws and traveled widely to further legislation, including the Copyright Act of 1831. The Library is the home of the U.S. Copyright Office, where you can find information on how to register a work, learn about copyright law and search copyright records.

Author Jonathan Kendell’s book, “The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster’s Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture” (2011) recounts Webster’s life as a successful publisher, public servant and political confidante. Kendall spoke at the Library following the publishing of his book.



Celebrating Hispanic Heritage: Cultural Contributions

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 8:43am

(The following is a guest post by Tracy North, reference specialist in the Library of Congress Hispanic Division.)

As Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15) comes to a close, now is an excellent time to reflect on the many ways in which Hispanic Americans have contributed to our nation’s cultural and political landscape.

Joseph Hernandez, first delegate to Congress from the Florida Territory and brigadier general of the Militia of Florida. Between 1850 and 1857. Prints and Photographs Division.

Hispanic Americans have served in Congress as far back as 1822. The first Hispanic American member of Congress, Joseph Marion Hernández, served as the Territorial Delegate from the Florida Territory as a Whig from 1822-1823. Then, in the second half of the 19th century, the territory of New Mexico was represented by a succession of statesmen, businessmen, veterans and intellectuals. The first Hispanic-American senator, Octaviano Larrazolo, also represented the state of New Mexico (from 1928-1929). In total, eight Hispanic Americans have represented their constituents as members of the United States Senate, including three who serve in the current 113th Congress. On the House side, 100 Hispanic Americans have served – and continue to represent our country – from 12 states and 4 territories including Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, New York and Texas.

While many Members return to their districts to serve their local communities – at the request of current and past U.S. presidents – Hispanic American members of Congress have augmented their political careers by serving the country as cabinet heads and ambassadors after their terms have ended. A publication from the Office of the Historian of the U.S. House of Representatives examines the political trajectory of Hispanic American territorial delegates, resident commissioners and congressmen and senators in our nation’s history.

Hispanic Americans have enlisted in the U.S. military in all conflicts dating back to the Civil War and including both world wars, the Korean War (most notably the 65th Infantry Borinqueneers from Puerto Rico), the Vietnam War, and more recent conflicts in the Persian Gulf. You can learn more about all of America’s veterans by visiting the Veterans History Project, an oral history project that “collects, preserves and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.” A special presentation on Experiencing War: Hispanics in Service shares stories of men and women in all branches of the U.S. military.

Antonio Martinez service picture with division logo. Veterans History Project.

Featured narratives, such as that of Antonio Martinez, animate history. On Christmas Eve 1944, Martinez was one of 2,235 American servicemen aboard a Belgian transport ship, the Leopoldville, on its way from England to France. Five miles from its destination, a torpedo from a German U-boat struck the ship, and it sank within three hours. Martinez helped a man who could not swim. One of the last rescued from the water, Martinez survived, but more than 750 GIs did not. His in-depth account of this tragedy, among the worst in U.S. military history, is an important addition to the public record, as survivors were told at the time not to discuss the episode. It took 50 years before an official monument to those who went down with the ship was erected.

Some featured veterans, such as Leroy Quintana, went on to gain fame after military service. Drafted to serve in Vietnam in 1967, Quintana did at one point consider fleeing across the border into Canada. But his mother had instilled in him respect for military service, and he stayed on. Serving in the 101st Airborne at the height of U.S. involvement, he kept a notebook of his experiences on five-man reconnaissance teams. “There was no reward for people returning from Vietnam,” recalls Quintana, “especially in the Army.” Quintana became a published, award-winning poet who sometimes uses his days in the service as inspiration for his work.

Other stories, such as that of Joseph Medina, give personal perspective to current events. Following in the military tradition of his family dating to the 15th century in Spain and later in Mexico, Medina entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1972. In 2003, Medina was promoted to brigadier general, one of the first Hispanics to hold the rank in the U.S. Marine Corps. More recently, he commanded the Expeditionary Strike Group Three during Operation Iraqi Freedom, during which he was responsible for developing the Iraqi Coastal Defense Force. “If something goes bad in Iraq,” says Medina, “the press focuses on it and everybody sees it. But sometimes they don’t see all the good things that are getting better.”

Cuban-owned bakery, “La Borinquena Bakery,” in Paterson, N.J. Photograph by Thomas D. Carroll, 1994. American Folklife Center.

The Library’s collections are also rife with examples of personal stories about Hispanic Americans finding a place in and contributing to the economic development of U.S. society. One rich collection of interviews and documentary photographs depicts the types of jobs held by people of Paterson, N. J., a working-class city a short drive – or train ride – northwest of Manhattan. Within these tremendous oral histories, stories of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and other Hispanic Americans come to life. In one gem of an audio recording with attorney Beatriz Meza, she recalls the generosity of a mentor who guided her through the rigors of becoming a practicing attorney. Her confidence is admirable: she “feel(s) that being a Latina gives me an advantage” because she is bilingual and possesses multicultural knowledge and skills to work with diverse clients.

In addition to the useful items in our collections such as maps, manuscripts, sound recordings, photographs, posters and of course books detailing the activities of Hispanic Americans, Library staff members have developed helpful tips for researchers, such as the Science Reference Guide that highlights resources on the important topic of Hispanic American Health and the incredibly valuable tools for teachers and educators who are looking for guidance in celebrating the achievements of Hispanic Americans that are described in a past blog post.

The Hispanic Reading Room is available as a starting point for research on Hispanic Americans, Latinos in the U.S. and in Latin America, both historical and current, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Patrons and researchers can contact us on the web in English or Spanish.

See it Now: Columbus’s Book of Privileges

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 8:00am

Columbus’s “Book of Privileges.” 1502. Manuscript Division.

On January 5, 1502, prior to his fourth and final voyage to America, Christopher Columbus gathered several judges and notaries in his home in Seville to authorize the authentic copies of his archival collection of original documents through which Queen Isabella of Castille and her husband, King Ferdinand of Aragon, had granted titles, revenues, powers and privileges to him and his descendants. These 36 documents are popularly called Columbus’s “Book of Privileges.” Four copies of this volume existed in 1502 – three written on vellum and one on paper.

John Herbert, former chief of the Library’s Geography and Maps Division, talks about the book in this video presented in partnership with the History Channel.


The Library’s copy of the “Book of Privileges” – one of the three on vellum – is the only one to contain the Papal Bull Dudum siquidem, the four-page letter that Pope Alexander VI composed on Sept. 26, 1493, which is thought by some scholars to contain the first written reference to a New World.

The papal letter is among the 91 full-size, full-color facsimile pages bound into the Library’s new book, “Christopher Columbus Book of Privileges: The Claiming of a New World,” which also contains the first authorized facsimile of the Library’s copy of the royal charters, writs and grants.

In addition, the pages of the letter have been printed on four loose sheets that are pocketed inside. A translation of the papal bull, which was authenticated in the 1930s, is included.

Levenger Press printed the book in the U.S. to rigorous production standards that include a Smythe-sewn binding and archival-quality paper, both to ensure the book’s longevity. The 184-page hardcover book is available for $89 from the Library of Congress Shop.

The Library debuted “Christopher Columbus Book of Privileges: The Claiming of a New World” at this year’s National Book Festival. A webcast of the presentation is forthcoming.

Library Hosts Columbus Day Open House

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 8:00am

(The following is a guest post by Library of Congress reference librarian Abby Yochelson.)

Main Reading Room Open House.
Photo by Abby Brack Lewis.

This Monday, the Library of Congress holds its annual Columbus Day Open House in the Main Reading Room in the Thomas Jefferson Building. Every year, excited tourists and school groups from all over the United States and around the world, families with babies in strollers and eager photographers visit by the thousands. The look on their faces is one of awe, when seeing the soaring dome and magnificent art up close.

Throughout the day, visitors have the opportunity to speak with librarians, view collections from many different parts of the institution and take photos of themselves among the Library’s riches. Tours of the Great Hall and hands-on activities in the Young Readers Center add to the excitement. More information on Monday’s event can be found here.

Open house visitors enjoy taking pictures in the Main Reading Room. Photo by Deanna McCray-James.

Librarians have helped open-house visitors find a record of their book or their father’s or grandmother’s books in the online catalog and delightedly snapped photos of them proudly standing next to the giant screen displaying the evidence that they have a book in the Library of Congress. Teachers and burgeoning family archivists are also regular attendees.

One visitor discovered a great-great uncle’s account of his World War II experience in the Library’s Veterans History Project. Another found the house she grew up in while looking at an 1887 panoramic map of Philadelphia.

Reference librarians on hand at last year’s event recall one young patron asking about material on keeping rats as pets. “My parents said if I write a really persuasive essay, they’ll consider it.”

The Ask a Librarian service is on hand to answer reference questions. Photo by Deanna McCray-James.

However, the open house isn’t the only time visitors can enjoy the Library’s collections and reference services. The Main Reading Room and several other reading rooms are open to researchers six days a week, Monday through Saturday, throughout the year except for government holidays. Anyone 16 years and older with photo identification and curiosity about anything can use the Library of Congress. It’s simple to obtain the Researcher Identification Card  and explore a variety of interests, such as family genealogy, the latest astronomy discoveries or diaries of founding fathers to learn their thoughts on the Constitution.

Not everyone can take advantage of coming to the Library in person, so the reference staff works to continuously digitize historical material. The Library not only collects materials from all over the world in all languages and formats, it also makes much of these collections accessible online.  Popular collections include the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, Chronicling America’s newspapers and the National Jukebox. A complete list of the Library’s digital collections can be found here.

In addition, the Library’s knowledgeable librarians can provide reference services virtually through the Ask a Librarian service.

The Library also offers many ways to keep up with news and events, such as exhibition openings (all exhibitions are online too) or new digitized collections, by subscribing to a wide variety of blogs, RSS feeds or email lists.

Documenting Dance: The Making of “Appalachian Spring”

Thu, 10/09/2014 - 9:14am

(The following is an article written by Raymond White, senior music specialist in the Music Division, for the September-October 2014 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. You can read the issue in its entirety here.)

The Martha Graham Dance Company performs “Appalachian Spring” on the stage of the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium on Oct. 30, 1944. The Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation Collection, Music Division.

When “Appalachian Spring” debuted at the Library of Congress on Oct. 30, 1944, the one-act ballet made dance history. Set in rural Pennsylvania during the 19th century, the idyllic story of newlyweds building their first farmhouse evoked a simpler time and place that appealed to a nation at war abroad. Rooted in Americana, the ballet has continued to resonate with audiences during the 70 years since its first performance.

The confluence of several creative forces, each at the top of their game, is a key ingredient to the work’s success. These included choreographer and dancer Martha Graham and her dance partner Erick Hawkins; composer Aaron Copland and artist and set designer Isamu Noguchi. But others played a pivotal role: music patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, who commissioned the work, and the Library’s Music Division chief, Harold Spivacke, who served as impresario.

The story behind the original commission of “Appalachian Spring” began in June 1942 with an idea of Hawkins, a Graham company dancer (and Martha Graham’s future husband). He wrote to Library benefactor Coolidge, suggesting she commission work by the renowned choreographer and dancer Graham.

Mrs. Coolidge, whose 150th birthday will be celebrated with a concert at the Library on Oct. 30, 2014, was a composer and pianist. Although her musical interests were extremely wide-ranging, her greatest musical love was chamber music, and her chief musical passion was the composition and performance of new works in the Library’s concert auditorium, built with her financial support. Since its establishment in 1925, the Coolidge Foundation has commissioned more than 100 works in various musical genres, including four ballets. “Appalachian Spring” is by far the most well- known and most significant of Mrs. Coolidge’s Library commissions.

Graham came to prominence in the 1930s as director and, often, as a principal dancer of her own company. From 1934 on, the woman known as “the mother of modern dance” relied almost entirely on original scores written for her dances (as opposed to creating choreography for pre- existing music). However, she was limited in the choice of composers for her commissions by a perennial shortage of available funds. Thus, when presented with the prospect of a program of new works with scores by composers of the first rank and commissioned by the Coolidge Foundation, Graham wrote to Mrs. Coolidge with excitement: “It makes me feel that American dance has turned a corner, it has come of age.”

Letter from Martha Graham to Aaron Copland, July 22, 1943. The Aaron Copland Collection, Music Division.

The idea took hold, and prompted a flurry of correspondence among Coolidge, Graham and Spivacke. Graham was officially commissioned to create the choreography and Copland to compose one of the scores.

By the early 1940s, Copland was widely regarded as the dean of American composers. He was hailed for works in a variety of genres, many of which are still regularly played today, including his “A Lincoln Portrait,” “El Salón México” and ballets “Billy the Kid” and “Rodeo.” In his letter to Mrs. Coolidge in reply to the offer of the commission, Copland said, “I have been an admirer of Martha Graham’s work for many years and I have more than once hoped that we might collaborate.”

Although he is best remembered as an eminent music librarian and administrator, Spivacke was a key force in bringing “Appalachian Spring” to the Library’s stage. When Mrs. Coolidge expressed concern that her first-choice composers might be unwilling to accept her commissioning fee of $500, Spivacke encouraged her to make the offer regardless, arguing that Graham’s reputation would serve as adequate enticement.

The original schedule was for the premiere performances to be held in 1943, but for a variety of reasons the concert was delayed. It was Spivacke who pressed Graham and the three composers for progress reports, and he ultimately suggested rescheduling the concert for Oct. 30, 1944–Mrs. Coolidge’s 80th birthday.

Mrs. Coolidge left it to Graham to devise the ballet scripts. Graham ultimately supplied the initial story line and scenario for what would become “Appalachian Spring” for Copland. Letters between Graham and Copland reveal the give-and-take between choreographer and composer that resulted in the final course of the ballet.

1946 photograph of Aaron Copland in his studio. Victor Kraft, The Aaron Copland Collection, Music Division.

Its evocation of simple frontier life appealed to Copland and, in the words of Coolidge biographer Cyrilla Barr, “drew from him some of his best expressions of Americana in the form of hymnlike melodies and fiddle tunes, ending appropriately with variations on the Shaker hymn tune ‘Simple Gifts.’”

Copland referred to the work in progress as “Ballet for Martha.” It was Graham who suggested the final title, a phrase from a Hart Crane poem titled “The Dance”:

O Appalachian Spring! I gained the ledge;

Steep, inaccessible smile that eastward bends

And northward reaches in that violet wedge

Of Adirondacks!

Mrs. Coolidge herself had very definite ideas about the new score. She wanted it to be “true chamber music, which is to say for an ensemble of not more than 10 or 12 instruments at the outside” to suit the acoustics of the Coolidge Auditorium as well as its small orchestra pit. In the end, the performance featured a chamber ensemble of 13 wind and string instruments along with a piano, which would allow Graham to tour the work with her company.

Martha Graham and Erick Hawkins are greeted by Elizabeth Coolidge, center, following the debut performance of “Appalachian Spring.” The Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation Collection, Music Division.

At long last, and more than a year later than its originally scheduled premiere, ”Appalachian Spring” was presented for the first time as part of the Library’s Tenth Festival of Chamber Music. Graham danced the role of the bride, Erick Hawkins was the husbandman, Merce Cunningham was the fire-and-brimstone preacher and May O’Donnell played a pioneer woman. The two other works that made up the evening’s program were “Herodiäde” (Mirror Before Me) with a score by Paul Hindemith, and “Jeux de Printemps” (Imagined Wing) with a score by Darius Milhaud.

The performance was well- received. New York Times critic John Martin observed that the tone was “shining and joyous. On its surface it fits obviously into the category of early Americana, but underneath it belongs to a much broader and a dateless category. It is, indeed, a kind of testimony to the simple fineness of the human spirit.”

But the story doesn’t end there. Copland’s score received the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1945. That same year he arranged an orchestral suite of the music for concert performance, and in 1954 he orchestrated a fully symphonic version of the complete score; all three versions of the score remain popular today as concert pieces. “Appalachian Spring” remains a staple in the performing repertoire of the Martha Graham Dance Company.

(The Martha Graham Company in New York City celebrates the 70th anniversary of Graham’s “Appalachian Spring” with a performance of the work on Oct. 30. More information can be found here.)


Martha Graham Collection

Aaron Copland Collection

Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation Collection

Harold Spivacke Collection

Library in the News: September 2014 Edition

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 10:33am

On Sept. 10, the Library opened the exhibition “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom.” Covering the opening were outlets including the National Newspapers Publishing Association, the Examiner and regional outlets from New York to Alabama.

“A few things set this exhibition apart from the multitude of this year’s commemorations,” wrote Jazelle Hunt for NNPA. “The Library draws from its exclusive archives of the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, James Forman of SNCC, the recently borrowed Rosa Park’ papers, and more.

“But what truly distinguishes the Library of Congress’ exhibition is that it ventures well beyond stock narratives of sit-ins and Freedom Rides.”

“The Library of Congress‘ new exhibit, ‘The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom,’ is an absolute must-see for everyone, black or white, male or female, old or young — especially those too young to have lived through this era,” wrote Marsha Dubrow for the Examiner. “The exhibit vividly illuminates that long struggle, and inspires and lights the long struggle ahead.”

One of the civil rights leaders featured in the exhibition is Rosa Parks. In September, the Library announced that her papers would be housed in the institution for the next 10 years, thanks to a loan from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, with some of the items incorporated into the Library’s exhibition.

USA Today spoke with auctioneer Arlan Ettinger, who helped facilitate the purchase by Buffett of the collection. He said he was gratified that the Library of Congress would be the next stop for Parks’ papers.

“The Buffett Foundation wasn’t acquiring this to put into their vaults, this was an acquisition to do the right thing,” Ettinger said.

Also running stories were ABC, the Associated Press, the Detroit News, the New York Times arts blog and Politico.

Many of the items on display in “The Civil Rights Act of 1964″ exhibition are photographs. They are only a small sampling of the Library’s photographic collections, which cover a wide variety of subjects. Last year, the Library published an e-book featuring some of these. VOA recently talked with the book’s photo editor, Aimee Hess.

“A lot of readers …  have said they had no idea that the Library of Congress had images like this. … We wanted people to realize that we have these in our collection, and that these images are for everybody, they’re for the public,” she said. “The bulk of the book are these unknown photographers, and their photographic contributions are just as important and just as interesting and compelling as these household names, so I think it’s really nice that we’re giving them their due.”

Mark Murrmann of Mother Jones also spent time perusing the Library’s photo collections to highlight several images of interest.

Speaking of taking creative license with the Library’s photo collections, artist Kevin Weir creates ghostly gifs using historical black-and-white photos he finds in the institution’s online archive. According to Colossal, a blog that explores art and visual culture, Weir is “deeply drawn to what he calls ‘unknowable places and persons,’ images with little connection to present day that he can use as blank canvas for his weird ideas.”

On Sept. 25, Poet Laureate Charles Wright kicked off the literary season at the Library by presenting his inaugural lecture. Susan Page of USA Today caught up with him to talk about his new job.

When asked, “Why does poetry matter?” he said, “I know why it matters to me. I can’t speak for anyone else. It changed my life. It gave me some valve for the emotional longings that I had as a young man and helped me bring together various independent thoughts that I had. It was very important to me, and I always had a love of language, which is the first thing you have to have if you want to write poems. You’ve got to love the language. And you’ve got to be good at finding new ways of using it.”

Wright also spoke with the Associated Press: “I’m at a stage in my life and career where I don’t need this, but I’m happy to have it if they want me.”

Poem Dedicated to Library Published as Children’s Book

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 9:31am

(The following is a guest post by Guy Lamolinara, communications officer in the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress.)

Billy Collins at the 2014 National Book Festival. Photo by Colena Turner.

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins (2001-2003), creator of the Library’s Poetry 180 website, has just published his first illustrated children’s book with artist Karen Romagna. The book features Collins’ poem “Voyage,” which the poet wrote in 2003 and dedicated to John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

That year, Cole celebrated his 25th anniversary as the founding director of the center, and he has recently marked his 50th year of federal service (all but two at the Library).

The poem, presented to Cole in a letterpress edition from the coordinators of the 50 Center for the Book state affiliates, “was a surprise to me,” he said. “The original letterpress edition of 100 copies was printed at the University of Alabama by Steve Miller on handmade paper by Frank Brannon.”

Collins and Romagna discussed “Voyage,” a poem about the pleasures of reading, in the Children’s pavilion at this year’s National Book Festival. (A webcast of the presentation is forthcoming.)

In their presentation, Collins and Romagna discussed their contributions to the 32-page book, released Sept. 1 by Bunker Hill Publishing of Piermont, N.H. (The book is available from the Library’s Sales Shop.)

“The poem’s text and illustrations tell the story of how a young boy searching the beach for treasure comes across a sailboat and pushes out to sea. Magically the boat becomes a book that the boy begins to read, and he finds himself living out its adventure, pirate ship and all, in the fantastic world of words,” said Cole.

“Voyage” is Romagna’s debut as a picture book illustrator. A self-taught artist, she lives and paints in historic Clinton, N.J.

Collins has been called “the most popular poet in America.” While he was Poet Laureate, Collins created the Library’s widely used Poetry 180 website, which offers a poem a day throughout the school year. Collins made another presentation at the 2014 National Book Festival. He also discussed “Aimless Love,” his new collection of poems, in the Poetry & Prose Pavilion.

The Library’s Center for the Book, established by Congress in 1977 to “stimulate public interest in books and reading,” is a national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages through its affiliated state centers, collaborations with nonprofit reading-promotion partners and through the Young Readers Center and the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress. For more information, visit

Share Your Photos of Halloween

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 9:36am

The American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress is inviting Americans participating in holidays at the end of October and early November – Halloween, All Souls Day, All Saints Day, Dia de los Muertos – to photograph hayrides, haunted houses, parades, trick-or-treating and other celebratory and commemorative activities to contribute to a new collection documenting contemporary folklife.

Between Oct. 22 and Nov. 5, AFC invites people to document in photographs how holiday celebrations are experienced by friends, family and community, then post photos to the photo-sharing site Flickr under a creative commons license with the tag #FolklifeHalloween2014.

AFC will explore the stream of photographs shared on Flickr and pick a selection of images to be archived. Of particular interest are images that capture the diversity of practices, people and places that are distinctive in their association with these holidays.

Selected images accessioned by the Library will be shared via the blog Folklife Today in a series of blog posts beginning in November 2014. Depending on the response to this project, AFC may continue using this method to collect documentation of other holidays and other topics.

The Library’s collections are full of documentarians and folklorists including Alan Lomax, Sidney Robertson Cowell and Dorothea Lange, whose work and contributions have inspired this project.

You can read more about this project in a recent blog post from the folklife center, which includes submission guidelines and some example photographs.

Mark Twain & Copyright

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 10:23am

(The following is an article written by Harry Katz in the September-October 2014 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. Katz is a former curator in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division and author of a new Library publication, “Mark Twain’s America.”) 

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) poses in his classic white suit, 1905. George Edward Perine, Prints and Photographs Division.

Samuel Clemens’ fight for the intellectual property rights to Mark Twain’s works helped protect the nation’s authors at home and abroad.

On May 7, 1874, Samuel L. Clemens–the American author and humorist known as Mark Twain–wrote to Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford, seeking copyright protection for his pamphlet and its cover design. In 1870, the Library of Congress had become the federal repository for commercial and intellectual copyright; authors routinely submitted samples of their work to the Librarian of Congress to document their legal claims.

Accompanying Clemens’ letter was an illustration from “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” the landmark comic sketch that made Twain an overnight literary sensation in 1865 under the title “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog.” Twain was known as “the people’s author” for his wildly popular comic sketches and hugely successful books, ”The Innocents Abroad” (1869), “Roughing It” (1872), and “The Gilded Age” (1873, co-authored with Charles Dudley Warner).

Pamphlet for which Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) sought a copyright from the Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Division.

It would be several years before his publication of ”The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” but Twain had already discovered the price of success–unauthorized editions of his writings were being published throughout the English- speaking world without due compensation for the author.

From early in his writing career, Twain was victimized by unscrupulous publishers who simply transcribed his published writings into unauthorized editions which were sold without the author’s permission. Pirated editions of his works infuriated Twain, who went to great lengths, traveling to Canada and England, to ensure his copyright and protect his intellectual property. Twain told a reporter, “I always take the trouble to step over in Canada and stand on English soil. Thus secure myself and receive money for my books sold in England.”

Twain became so frustrated by literary piracy that from time to time he considered giving up books to write plays, successfully staging versions of “The Gilded Age,” “Huckleberry Finn,” “The Prince and the Pauper,” “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” and “Pudd’nhead Wilson.”

Twain also became a leading advocate for an international copyright law, which was enacted by Congress in 1891 to extend limited protection to foreign copyright holders from select nations.

In 1900, he appeared before the British House of Lords, and in 1906 made a stunning entrance into a U.S. congressional committee meeting on copyright. As one observer noted of Twain’s unveiling of his trademark white suit, “Nothing could have been more dramatic than the gesture with which he flung off his long loose overcoat, and stood forth in white from his feet to the crown of his silvery head.”

Letter from Samuel Clemens to Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford requesting a copyright for his pamphlet, May 7, 1874. Prints and Photographs Division.

Twain was in favor of perpetual copyright protection. But he supported a bill that would extend the term of copyright from 42 years to the author’s life plus 50 years. The copyright law of 1909–the law’s third general revision– provided for a term of only 28 years, plus a single renewal term of 28 years. The life-plus-50 term was not established in U.S. law until 1978.

At its annual meeting in New York City in 1957, the American Bar Association adopted a special resolution that “recognized the efforts of Mark Twain, who was so greatly responsible for the laws relating to copyrights which have meant so much to all free peoples throughout the world.”

Katz will discuss “Mark Twain’s America” at the Library at noon on Oct. 22 in the Mumford Room, located on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building at 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.   

“Mark Twain’s America,” a 256-page hardcover book, with 300 color and black-and-white images, is available for $40 in bookstores nationwide and in the Library of Congress Shop, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C., 20540-4985. Credit-card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557

Anatomy of the Flute

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 9:03am

(The following is a feature on “Technology at the Library” from the September-October 2014 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) 

Lynn Brostoff of the Preservation Directorate and Carol Lynn Ward- Bamford of the Music Division perform an X-ray fluorescence analysis on a glass
flute from the Library’s collections. Photo by Abby Brack Lewis

The Library of Congress holds the largest collection of flutes in the world, due in great measure to the generosity of Ohio physicist and amateur flutist Dayton C. Miller (1866-1941). Miller donated his collection of more than 1,700 flutes and wind instruments to the Library upon his death.

Housed among Miller’s gold, silver, wood and ivory flutes are 18 flutes made out of glass during the first half of the 19th century by Claude Laurent of Paris. The Library holds nearly half of the approximately 40 glass flutes known to exist worldwide, in institutions like the Metropolitan Museum, the Corning Museum of Glass and the Smithsonian Institution.

Although trained as a clockmaker, Laurent took out a patent for his “crystal” flutes in 1806 and won the silver medal at the Paris Industrial Exposition that year. Laurent’s flutes, with their intricate cut patterns and ornate jeweled keys, are also functional instruments. Some were made for heads of state. One such flute, which was crafted in 1813 and presented to James Madison during his presidency, is permanently on display at the Library of Congress.

The Laurent flutes are the subject of a collaborative research project between the Library’s Music Division and its Preservation Directorate. This cross- disciplinary collaboration is shedding new light on the Madison flute and its sibling glass flutes. The research will allow the Library to care for these rare instruments with the most up-to-date preservation methods, provide a new understanding about the place of Laurent’s flutes in history and enrich the world’s knowledge of 19th-century glass preservation.

The sheer number of Laurent’s flutes in the Dayton C. Miller Collection makes the Library an ideal place for researchers to carry out this work, which was prompted by senior curator of instruments Carol Lynn Ward-Bamford. She observed that some of the flutes were undergoing subtle changes in appearance and enlisted the help of research chemist Lynn Brostoff and conservator Dana Hemmenway. The team is moving forward with an in-depth study that seeks to bring to light the remarkable story behind Laurent’s creation of glass flutes, as well as their current preservation needs. Their tools include a high-powered microscope and the use of X-rays to “see” into the glass and discover its composition.

Close-up of a glass flute undergoing X-ray analysis. Photo by Abby Brack Lewis

The materials analysis carried out thus far by Brostoff has revealed that only two of the 18 flutes are, in fact, made of “crystal,” which is technically leaded glass. The remaining flutes are made of potash glass, so named due to the presence of potassium from the ash used in their manufacture. As the study continues, Library researchers–aided by glass chemists at the Vitreous State Laboratory of The Catholic University of America–will investigate how a new understanding of the materials and manufacturing methods that Laurent used in different flutes may aid in their conservation. Library Junior Fellows Dorie Klein and William Sullivan also are assisting in the Library’s efforts by learning more about Laurent, including a possible family connection to the famous Paris maker of cut crystal, Baccarat.

“The project is amazing,” said Klein, a history and museum studies major at Smith College– and a trained glassblower. “Our goal to determine the structure and significance of these rare flutes is important, both to the Library and to the larger mission of preservation of history.”

Remembering the Real Fifties

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 8:07am

(The following is a guest post by Tom Wiener of the Library’s Publishing Office and editor of “The Forgotten Fifties: America’s Decade from the Archives of Look Magazine.)

“The Forgotten Fifties: America’s Decade from the Archives of Look Magazine” (Skira/Rizzoli and the Library of Congress, 2014).

Look Magazine was a large format, glossy-paged publication that emphasized photography as much as words. Published between 1937 and 1971, it is recalled now as the poor sister of the more heavily financed and successful Life. The magazine was owned by the Cowles family, which also owned newspapers in Des Moines, Iowa, before branching out with Look. After the magazine closed its doors, the family donated the entire Look photo archive to the Library of Congress. It comprises the largest single collection within the Prints and Photographs Division, with an estimated 5 million individual images.

Look was a late bloomer, struggling for respectability in its early years when it published pictures of female movie stars accompanied by simplistic stories. It became known as a barber shop magazine, and Look’s principal owner, Gardner “Mike” Cowles, admitted, “Not until 1950 did Look begin to reach that level of quality for which I had hoped.” In that watershed year, Look began running stories on foreign affairs, on the political scene in Washington and on American communities they dubbed “All American Cities.” 1950 saw the outbreak of war in Korea and the arrival on the American scene of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a Wisconsin Republican who insisted that the United States government, and in particular the State Department, was riddled with members of the Communist party. Look reported on both of these stories and the anxieties they raised among their readers.

In March 1950, Look ran a story titled “Southern Catholics Fight Race Hatred,” about efforts in Alabama by the church to reach out to black citizens living in an officially segregated society, often in fear for their safety. It was a bold move by the magazine, and reader reaction was strong – both in praise and in condemnation – with many of the latter letters originating from the South. Thus began a decade-long fascination with racial issues in Look’s pages, which reflected the early days of the Civil Rights era.

Look also displayed a fascination with women, but not like in its early days with the plethora of features on starlets. Mike Cowles’ wife, Fleur, became an associate editor at the magazine in 1947, and her hand on the editorial content was evident until the Cowles marriage broke up in 1955. Yes, there were still pieces on female entertainers, from Marilyn Monroe to Lucille Ball, but there were also examinations of the lives of ordinary women, many of them working for a living. In 1950, Look featured a single mother living in New York who worked as an assistant to cartoonist Al Capp, creator of the popular comic strip “Lil Abner”; and on a middle-aged traveling saleslady specializing in lingerie.

Newly published by the Library of Congress, “The Forgotten Fifties: America’s Decade from the Archives of Look Magazine” (Skira/Rizzoli and the Library of Congress, 2014) by James Conaway brings the 1950s to life through images from the collection selected by photo editor Amy Pastan.

In preparing to assemble “The Forgotten Fifties,” Jim, Amy and I were guided by an outline of topics, including the Cold War, the rise of television and rock music, and the shifting dynamics of race and gender. We indexed all the relevant features on these topics, and Amy dove into the Look Collection in search of the most evocative photographs. Jim Conaway wrote his text to the photos in each of the 10 chapters, representing one year of the decade. Our book traces the story of how America evolved from its preoccupations with Communism to the dawn of a different era. The photo that opens the 1950 chapter is from the Korean War, and the last photo in the 1959 chapter is of Jacqueline Kennedy. (The author and editors will be on hand today at the Library to discuss the book. A webcast from the event will be forthcoming.)

The unexpected rewards of dealing with a collection so large was that Amy found many photos that never appeared in the magazine. Either they weren’t used for the article for which they were shot, or the article never ran. For example, in 1954, Look staffer Bob Lerner photographed gospel singer Mahalia Jackson for a feature marking her debut recording for Columbia Records. We found no article corresponding to Lerner’s photos of Jackson at the Columbia microphones, and only after we completed the book did we learn that most of the film Lerner shot for the story was stolen and Look chose not to run an article. A strip of pictures of Mahalia at the microphone appear on page 126 of “The Forgotten Fifties.”

Researching the Look Collection was both exhilarating and exhausting. No book before ours had made such extensive use of the collection, and Amy immediately found that, as a working archive for a publication, Look rarely made prints of its photos. She was faced with poring over contact sheets, slides and color transparencies–all requiring the use of a magnifying loupe. Look wasn’t stingy; on most assignments, their photographers shot dozens, even hundreds of exposures.

Look’s vision of the 50s offers a nuanced view of a decade thought to be prosperous, simple and innocent. Though there are plenty of pictures in “The Forgotten Fifties” of well-groomed kids and smiling suburban housewives, there are also shots of tattoed beatniks and the Little Rock “mob” of angry white people that greeted the nine black teenagers trying to integrate Central High School. Perry Como appears on our pages, as do Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. Doris Day is here, as is “Peyton Place” “bad girl” author Grace Metalious. Look took it all in, and we’re happy to share their view of a decade that’s richer and more complex than is remembered.

The 224-page hardcover book, with 200 color and black-and-white photographs, is available for $45 in bookstores nationwide and in the Library of Congress Shop, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C., 20540-4985. Credit-card orders are taken at (888) 682-3557 or

Mathew Carey (1760-1839), Philadelphia Publisher and Provocateur

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 7:30am

(The following is a guest post by Julie Miller, early American specialist in the Manuscript Division.)

Through the winter and spring of 1825, the Philadelphia publisher Mathew Carey sat for the painter John Neagle. On Feb. 1 he recorded in his diary: “His portrait appears a flattering one. If true, I am a better looking man than I ever supposed.” The Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress recently acquired two manuscript diaries by Carey, including the one containing this entry. Like the painting (now at the Library Company of Philadelphia), the diaries are a portrait of a man who was at once boastful and self-doubting, sociable and cranky, driven and depressed.

John Neagle (1796-1865).
Portrait of Mathew Carey, 1825.
Oil on canvas.
Library Company of Philadelphia. Gift of Mary Hudson, 1991.

Carey was born in Dublin in 1760, emigrated to the United States in 1784 after several times tangling with the British parliament over his writings in favor of Irish nationalism and Catholic emancipation and settled in Philadelphia. After an early career as a printer, journalist and newspaper publisher, he became one of the most successful book publishers in the U.S. He prospered publishing bibles, schoolbooks, maps and atlases, almanacs and novels. The absence of an international copyright law made it possible for him to republish British books, including the popular novels of Sir Walter Scott, and “Charlotte Temple,” by Susanna Haswell Rowson, which attracted a wide and enthusiastic readership. His American publications included the “Life of Washington,” by Mason Locke “Parson” Weems. In 1801 he organized an annual book fair, to be held alternately in Philadelphia and New York, following the example of the book fairs of Frankfurt and Leipzig. It lasted only a few years, but it fortified Carey’s reputation as a leader in the American book business.

Carey was also an impressively active participant in Philadelphia civic life. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society and the Franklin Institute; a director of the Bank of Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal company; and a founder of the Hibernian Society, which aided Irish immigrants. More ephemeral bodies he belonged to included the health committee organized during Philadelphia’s yellow fever epidemic of 1793; a “committee of 24″ that promoted canal-building in the 1820s; and a “friends of Clay” group that supported Henry Clay’s presidential candidacy in 1824.

During the period these diaries cover, Nov. 11, 1821-Jan. 3, 1823 Nov. 12, 1821 – Jan. 13, 1823, and Sept. 2, 1824 – Nov. 1, 1825, Carey was easing out of the publishing business and into a new career as an author of essays on political economy and a promoter of what Americans then called “internal improvements.” Like Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay, both of whom he admired, Carey believed that government ought to play an active role in promoting and protecting the American economy. For Carey, this meant federal government protection of American manufacturing through tariffs on foreign imports and the construction of canals in order to speed communication and trade. As early as the 1780s Carey was leading organizations that promoted American manufacturing and the “useful arts.” After the Panic of 1819, an economic collapse whose effects lasted into the early 1820s, he helped found several more, including the Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of Internal Improvements.

Carey’s economic views are preserved in his writings and in correspondence with friends and political leaders. On Oct. 3, 1822, he wrote retired president James Madison “on the policy that prevails in our intercourse with foreign nations – a policy which renders us hewers of wood and drawers of water to the manufacturing nations of Europe.” Today Carey’s letter is in the Manuscript Division’s James Madison papers. On Nov. 2, 1822, Carey wrote in his diary: “Rec’d a flattering letter from Mr. Madison.” A draft of that reply, dated Oct. 25, 1822, also in the Madison papers, is more flattering than Carey knew. Lengthy and heavily corrected, it is evidence of Madison’s engagement with Carey and his ideas.

Carey’s diaries are also a storehouse of his emotions at a time when the practice of diary-writing was shifting from terse and factual to emotive and soul-searching. An incident in the diary that shows Carey’s emotions from the inside out involves the Marquis de Lafayette. In 1784, Lafayette, in a gesture of life-transforming generosity, gave Carey $400 to start his first American enterprise, a newspaper. In 1824 Lafayette was visiting the U.S. again and Carey wanted to pay him back. In his autobiography, Carey writes that as soon as Lafayette arrived, he sent him a check that Lafayette cashed “only at my earnest insistence” (Autobiography, Letter II, Vol. 5, December, 1833, “New England Magazine,” p.491, “Making of America,” Cornell University). But here is what Carey wrote in his diary on Oct. 2, 1824: “The Marquis de Lafayette’s check paid – so that I was overdrawn about $20. Gloomy and desponding today.”

Carey’s moods appear everywhere in the diaries as the private backdrop to his public life of constant activity and prolific writing. The reputation for irritability he acquired in his lifetime is demonstrated in an entry for Nov. 24, 1824, when he wrote: “Almost determined to cease writing, disgusted with the apathy, worthlessness, & sordid meanness of those with whom I have to deal.” Sometimes his annoyance burst into rage, as on April 4, 1825, when after an incident with his horses he wrote of his coachman: “Outrageously angry with George.”

Especially striking are Carey’s descriptions of his depression and self-doubt. The gloom he experienced when he was unable to repay Lafayette without overdrawing his account is one example. There are more: on Jan. 18, 1822, he wrote: “Rode out to the Robin Hood [a Philadelphia green space] in the gig. Atmosphere hushed. My faculties in good measure benumbed. Fear they are fast decaying. Think I ought to write no more.” He added: “In the evening recovered.” But two days later he was down again: “My mind low spirits. Cannot cheer up my spirits.” He sounds panicked. And on Oct. 13, 1825: “Awoke a prey to the blue devils. Could not regain my spirits all day. Determined to cease writing on public subjects.” That day he went for a ride “to try to raise my spirits – but in vain.” Despite his struggle with the “blue devils,” Carey led an active and productive public life. The diaries show how he struggled to do that.

They also show how he enjoyed himself, or tried to. He went to many parties and gave a few, mingling with Philadelphia’s elite, including Nicholas Biddle, president of the Second Bank of the United States and Pennsylvania supreme court justice William Tilghman. He loved the theater, except once when three women in front of him “behaved with boundless indecorum. Talked & giggled & laughed aloud even during the performance. Inexpressibly disgusted at such conduct” (Dec. 18, 1821). A week later he had a better time at St. Augustine’s church, recording this observation about the sermon: “style elegant. Some inconsistency” (Dec. 23, 1821). In 1824 he went to see a painting, “The Resignation of Washington” by the Connecticut-born artist John Trumbull, in Philadelphia as it toured American cities before being installed in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington D.C. “Likeness of Washington most miserable,” he complained on Dec. 4, 1824.

Carey’s deepest pleasure seems to have been reading. Every day he ravenously consumed many pages of books, pamphlets, reports, magazines and newspapers for information, business and pleasure. On Nov. 25, 1821, he “examined a large part of the first album of Macpherson’s annals. Found much matter admirably calculated for my purpose” (David Macpherson, “Annals of Commerce, Manufactures, Fisheries and Navigation,” London, 1805). On Feb. 4, 1822, he “finished reading the Pirate” by Sir Walter Scott, which he was in the process of republishing. On Sept. 20, 1822, he “staid up till 12:30 reading Ennui,” a novel by the Irish writer Maria Edgeworth. On Dec. 26, 1822, he “read 90 pages of the History of an Opium Eater in the carriage & the remainder at night.” This is Thomas de Quincey’s popular “Confessions of an English Opium Eater” (1821). On Sept. 8, 1824, he reports reading the “second number” of Washington Irving’s “Tales of a Traveler,” which was “much better than the first.”

The diaries show Carey at work as a publisher. His entry for June 17, 1822: “Rose at 5. Wrote, corrected & read proofs” is typical, and he frequently reports getting bank loans for his son Henry Charles Carey and son-in-law Isaac Lea (husband of his daughter Frances and a scientist), who joined him in the business and then took it over when he retired. As he eased out of publishing, they show him writing on the subjects that possessed him during these years. Starting in 1822 and continuing through and beyond the period the diaries cover, Carey published more than 60 essays on economic subjects for which he used the pseudonym “Hamilton.” He notes the composition and publication of these in his diary entries, as on Oct. 28, 1822, when he “completed Hamilton No. 5 & sent it to the press.” His working methods are revealed in this entry showing how he spent the evening of Jan. 9, 1825: “After 7 began an essay on Canals, which I finished before one, although it required considerable research in Niles Register. To bed at one.” The diaries may help identify essays Carey published anonymously. For example, his entry for April 22, 1822, reveals that he was the author of an address signed “a Pennsylvanian.”

Carey’s life was packed with incident. Even during the four years these diaries cover, there is more than can fit in a blog post. Had blogs existed during Carey’s lifetime (imagine quills and candlelight mixed with digital clicks and flashes), he would certainly have been a blogger. He would have described the dinners he attended during Lafayette’s visits to Philadelphia in 1824 and 1825, the observations of Philadelphia and its hinterlands he made during his daily carriage rides, and much more. Carey had more to say and a lot more can be said about him with the help of these two diaries, now at the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.


We the People

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 7:00am

Today we celebrate the 227th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution in Philadelphia, Penn., which was ratified at the Constitutional Convention on Sept. 17, 1787.

“The Constitution,” one of six new Student Discovery Sets for the iPad, now available from the Library of Congress.

The Library recently released a series of interactive eBooks for tablets, including a set on the Constitution, which can be downloaded for free on iBooks. The new Library of Congress Student Discovery Sets bring together historical artifacts and one-of-a-kind primary source documents and objects on a wide range of topics, from history to science to literature. Interactive tools let students zoom in for close examination, draw to highlight interesting details and make notes about what they discover.

The set on the Constitution follows many of the drafts and debates that brought the historical document into being. With a swipe of a finger, students can scrutinize George Washington’s notes on the Constitution, read newspaper articles about the document or use prompts to help analyze such things as maps and letters.

Detail with drawing palette from “The Constitution.”

Other sets available cover the Symbols of the United States, Immigration, the Dust Bowl, the Harlem Renaissance and Understanding the Cosmos.

The sets are designed for students, providing easy access to open-ended exploration. A Teacher’s Guide for each set, with background information, teaching ideas` and additional resources, can be found on the Library’s website for teachers.

The Library of Congress has excellent Constitution Day resources, including this page that pulls together a variety of materials from across the institution’s collections.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage: Feliz Cumpleaños, Hispanic Division

Mon, 09/15/2014 - 8:00am

(Today is the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated annually Sept. 15-Oct. 15. This year, the Library’s Hispanic Division marks its 75th anniversary. The following is an article from the July-August 2014 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine .)

“Entry into the Forest” is one of four murals by Brazilian painter Cândido Portinari in the Hispanic Reading Room. Carol Highsmith

Dating back to the middle ages, the Library’s Hispanic world collections are the largest in the world.

An original 1605 copy of Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Qixote.” A 16th-century Native American legal document protesting Spanish colonialism. Films of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders after the Spanish American War in 1898.

These are just a few of the Library’s Hispanic treasures. Comprising nearly 14 million items in various formats, the Library’s Iberian, Latin American and Caribbean collections are the largest and most complete in the world.

The point of entry for these collections is the Library’s Hispanic Reading Room, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. The reading room opened its doors in the Thomas Jefferson Building on Oct. 12, 1939, Columbus Day. The Hispanic Division was established three months earlier with an endowment from Archer M. Huntington (founder of the Hispanic Society of America), a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation and a congressional appropriation.

The Library holds this 1605 first edition of Miguel de Cervantes’ classic “Don Quixote.” Amanda Reynolds

Huntington began donating funds to build the Library’s Hispanic collection in the 1920s. But the Library’s collections from the broad Hispanic world–which date to the Middle Ages–began more than a century earlier. Thomas Jefferson’s personal library, which the Library of Congress purchased in 1815, contained about 200 books about the Hispanic world. Jefferson believed in the basic unity of the Americas–North and South. In 1820 he declared, “I should rejoice to see the fleets of Brazil and the United States riding together as brethren of the same family and pursuing the same objects.”

The Hispanic Division’s first chief, Lewis Hanke, was the founding editor of the “Handbook of Latin American Studies.” Considered to be the father of the field of Latin American Studies in the United States, Hanke became the first Latin Americanist to be elected president of the American Historical Association. In remembrance of their father, Hanke’s children donated funds to the Hispanic Division to offer online access to the Handbook.

In addition to books, journals and manuscripts, the Hispanic Division holds an original collection of sound recordings. The division has been recording selected readings by poets and writers for more than 70 years. Today the “Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape” holds nearly 700 recordings from more than 32 countries in some 10 languages. Among the authors are nine Nobel laureates, including Gabriela Mistral, Octavio Paz and Gabriel García Márquez. Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco, who read his poem “One Today” at Barack Obama’s second presidential inauguration, was recently recorded and added to the collection. Using cutting-edge technology at its Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation, the Library is transferring the retrospective recordings from magnetic tape reels to a digital format.

Hispanic Division Chief Georgette Dorn contributed to this story. 

Conservation Corner: A Persian Manuscript

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 9:00am

(The following is a guest post written by Yasmeen Khan, senior book conservator in the Conservation Division.)

Opening page showing tears and grime. The opening illumination on the right and the calligraphy are of poorer quality than the rest of the text. A chapter heading can be seen in the gold cartouche on the left.

Conservation staff recently treated I recently examined a rare Persian manuscript in preparation for display in the Library of Congress exhibition, “A Thousand Years of the Persian Book.” The bound 103-leaf manuscript, dated 1583 and attributed to Central Asia, forms the fifth tale in a seven-part work of poetry by Nasiruddin Jami (d. 1492) called the “Haft Aurang” (“Seven Thrones”). Titled “Yusuf wa Zulaykha,” the story follows Joseph and Potiphar’s wife based on the tale told in the holy Qurʼān.

The Library’s 1583 copy came to the Book Conservation Section with both covers missing and many tears and losses in the paper of the first and last few leaves of the manuscript. On the other hand, the calligraphy of Jami’s poetry was in a beautiful nasta’liq hand – a predominant style of Persian calligraphy in the 15th and 16th centuries – and the fine polished leaves of the book were painted in various styles and colors.

An opening from the text showing two types of decoration: the sinuous stenciled decoration on the left, with a stenciled inner column; and gold painted decoration on the right which consists of a stenciled layer finished with a gold painted lines.

While documenting the manuscript, however, the inconsistencies of the decorative program immediately caught the eye.

Stencils of flora and fauna were used to decorate the margins with watercolors, while the text was framed with multiple lines of black, red, gold and blue. A blank column dividing the text area into two was also spattered with color using the same technique as the stenciled margins. Chapter headings were written in white, red and blue inks, respectively, on gold cartouches set into the text area. Occasional pages were more richly decorated with gold within the text and in the margins.

Upon further inspection, the first six leaves of the manuscript were of a much lower quality than the rest: the calligraphy was bad, the ink used was less opaque, the details of the multicolored illumination above the opening lines were badly executed, and subsequent leaves used large stencils that seemed more akin to Matisse’s collages than the delicate forms in the rest of the book. The sinuous and delicate stenciled margin decorations in the greater part of the manuscript were found in two configurations: with either the same color on both pages of an opening or with a different color on each page.

The difference in the crispness of the ink and the calligraphy on the cartouche is clear. In addition, the blue used to outline the cartouche show that they are lapis lazuli of different quality.

Disassembling the manuscript revealed more design inconsistences: some opening pages were decorated with the same stencil and color, others had different stenciled designs or colors and old catchwords under the margin paint had been crossed out over the paint and new catchwords had been inscribed. In addition, paper stubs along the spine showed that someone had removed a few leaves. It was clear that the book was not in its original order.

A crossed out catchword with the new catchword written next to it that show the new order of the pages after some pages had been removed. The blurred blue line by the text is evidence that the green paint from the stenciled design was applied later.

Understanding the original order of the pages was essential to gaining insight into the decorative inconsistency, the damage visible and the use that the manuscript had received. The Library’s manuscript was compared to another edition of “Yusuf and Zulaykha” printed in Bombay, India in 1884. It was discovered that approximately 50 leaves constituting 1,130 lines of rhyming couplets had been removed, mainly from the second half of the manuscript. The comparison also revealed that the graphite Persian numbering of the pages in the last half of the book was done in order to maintain the same color in the margin decorations for facing pages of the manuscript and not on maintaining the integrity of the text. For example, the leaf I had numbered 101 based on its order in the bound manuscript carried the earlier graphite Persian page number 83. After disassembly and review of the text, the page was found to follow the leaf I had numbered 89. There were many such instances that illustrate how complicated and puzzling a process this was.

Two designs for the colored stencils are found in the manuscript: the animal design shown above and the one shown here. Birds predominate in this image, though fish are shown in the rocky pond along the lower margin, as well as ducks and squirrels.

Finally, after putting the manuscript back into the order of the text and looking at the evidence of the stenciled decoration, catchwords and Persian page numbers, a possible history of the use of the manuscript began to take shape. It was clearly rebound four times.

The manuscript was written and illuminated in a delicate style (a few of those pages are still extant), and it may have been bound. Over the course of its history it was likely rebound several times and edited and redesigned to include stenciling, trimming, adding and removal of the leaves. New catchwords were written along the lower inner margin of the leaves, the pages were numbered in graphite and the leaves were put in order based on the color of the opening leaves.

All the extant sections or gatherings of the “Yusuf wa Zulaykha” laid to collate the text.


Occasionally manuscripts with artistic merit from this period and place show evidence of reinterpretation by subsequent owners and dealers. This is just another such manuscript.

Though more scholarly work needs to be done on the manuscript in terms of its relationship to other copies of 16th century “Yusuf wa Zulaykha” manuscripts from the Persian world, I had enough information to treat and prepare the leaves of the manuscript in their correct order for display in the exhibition on “A Thousand Years of the Persian Book.” In late September when the show ends, the leaves of the manuscript will be rebound with goatskin leather in a Persian-style binding appropriate to the time when it was written.

All photos are by Yasmeen Khan. 

“A Thousand Years of the Persian Book” closes Sept. 20 in the South Gallery of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building. The exhibition is available online.

Songs of a Movement

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 7:38am

Music is a powerful tool. It can create an emotional response, a feeling, a certain attitude. Music can unite people, and give a voice when simple words fail. During the Civil Rights Movement, music played a vital role. Freedom songs drew from spirituals, gospel, rhythm and blues, football chants, blues and calypso and were sung by protesters, activists, civil rights leaders and music legends to spread the message of the movement.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called these songs ”the soul of the movement” in his 1964 book “Why We Can’t Wait.” Civil rights activists ”sing the freedom songs today for the same reason the slaves sang them, because we too are in bondage and the songs add hope to our determination that ‘We shall overcome, Black and white together, We shall overcome someday.”’

In the new Library of Congress exhibition, “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom,” which opens today, 25 songs from the era are highlighted.

Making up a large group of music in the exhibition is a selection of songs from Smithsonian Folkway’s “Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs 1960-1966.” Many of the songs were recorded live during mass meetings. Several of the songs feature the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Freedom Singers, a performance group arm of one of the key organizations in the civil rights movement. The singers performed throughout the country to raise money and awareness for SNCC.

Whether sung in churches or in jails, such freedom songs as “Oh Freedom (Over Me)” and “This Little Light of Mine” helped to shape the movement and sustain it in moments of crisis. Most freedom songs were common hymns or spirituals familiar to the southern black community; the lyrics were often modified to reflect the political aims of the civil rights movement rather than the spiritual aims of a congregation. The songs not only reflected the views and values of the movement’s participants but also, in the case of the Freedom Singers, helped to share them with a national audience. (Hatfield, Edward A. “Freedom Singers.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 11 July 2014. Web. 08 September 2014.)

Considered the unofficial anthem for the movement, “We Shall Overcome,” popularized by folk singer Pete Seeger, has its roots in African-American hymns from the early 20th century, and was first used as a protest song in 1945, when striking tobacco workers in Charleston, S.C., sang it on their picket line. A few years later, activists in the civil rights movement discovered the song and quickly made use of it during protests, marches and sit-ins. You can read more about the song in this blog post from the American Folklife Center.

Often referred to as the African American National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” was a poem written by James Weldon Johnson and set to music by his brother John for a special celebration of President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12, 1900, in Jacksonville, Fla. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) later adopted the work as its official song.

Featured on a listening station is Louis Armstrong’s “What Did I Do To Be So Black and Blue?” Known as the first American popular song of racial protest, the jazz standard was written in 1929 by African American songwriters Thomas “Fatts” Waller and Andy Razaf for an all-black-cast Broadway musical revue. Originally conceived as a romantic lament, Armstrong transformed it into a protest song against racial discrimination. The song inspired Ralph Ellison to write in his book “Invisible Man” that Armstrong “made poetry out of being invisible.”

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom” is made possible by a generous grant from Newman’s Own Foundation and with additional support from HISTORY®.

Library in the News: August 2014 Edition

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 9:01am

In August, the Library of Congress was busy with exhibitions and expositions, opening “American Ballet Theatre: Touring the Globe for 75 Years” on Aug. 14 and hosting the 14th annual National Book Festival on Aug. 30.

“At the company’s heart was ballet theater, a physical way of creating a new world onstage,” wrote Sarah Kaufman for The Washington Post. “If the scope of that effort has narrowed in recent years, with a reliance on old favorites and warhorses, at least the evidence of its flourishing is preserved under glass.”

The Washington Post Express also ran a photo essay on two images on display in the exhibition.

The opening of the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) exhibition also celebrated the Library’s acquisition of the dance company’s archives.

“[The Library of Congress] seemed like a natural fit, as we are a national company,” said Rachel Moore, ABT’s chief executive, who spoke with Roslyn Sulcas of the New York Times.

The National Book Festival received much press preceding the event, including advance announcements in DCist, Roll Call, Fine Books Blog and by Fox 5.

Stories on festival coverage continue to trickle in, but the Washington Post reported immediately following the event. Because the festival was moved to a new, indoor venue this year, its change in location received media attention.

“As thousands upon thousands of readers of all ages filled the cavernous conference halls at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center — and lined up to buy books signed by their favorite authors — organizers let out a collective sigh,” wrote Post reporter Brigid Schulte. “It worked.”

While the Library’s Civil War exhibition closed earlier this year, its resources continue to make news. One of the highlights on display included the diary of LeRoy Gresham, an invalid teenager who chronicled the war. The Library in August posted a letter online by his mother written following his death, along with LeRoy’s full seven-volume, five-year journal.

“The diary, which the Library thinks has never been published, is a fascinating look at the war through the eyes of a precocious Southern youngster who was largely housebound by illness,” wrote Michael Ruane for The Washington Post. ”Mary Gresham’s letter, which the Library thinks has never before appeared in a public forum, is a voice from outside the journal. She is the offstage presence but has been watching her son’s deteriorating health and approaching death.”

In other news on the Library’s Civil War resources, the institution recently acquired a new 150-year old tintype to ad to its vast collection of wartime images. The photograph, donated by longtime Library supporter Tom Liljenquist, features a young Confederate soldier with his servant, who is also dressed for battle.

“The photograph is a tiny window into the past, but it also presents modern Americans with an enduring image of the role of race in the United States,” wrote Ruane for the Post. “It portrays two men who are bound, willingly or unwillingly, in a common story.”

And, perhaps because of its exhibitions and collections, the Library of Congress was named a 2014 Travelers’ Choice, Top 25 Landmarks in the United States by TripAdvisor.

Lastly, the Library’s preservation work continues to make headlines. Recently, the institution began efforts to study the longevity of compact discs.

Preservationists are worried that a lot of key information stored on CDs — from sound recordings to public records — is going to disappear. Some of those little silver discs are degrading, and researchers at the Library of Congress are trying to figure out why,” wrote Sarah Tilotta for NPR. “In a basement lab at the library, Fenella France opens up the door to what looks like a large wine cooler. Instead, it’s filled with CDs. France, head of the Preservation, Research and Testing Division here, says the box is a place where, using temperature controls, a CD’s aging process can be sped up.”

“France says part of what they are trying to do here is determine the minimal conditions needed for libraries and archives everywhere to preserve CDs.”

CBS News also featured a story on the Library’s research. “As for preserving the library’s collection, France and her team plan to test the CDs every three to five years to make sure as little as possible is lost to history.”


Pics of the Week: 2014 National Book Festival

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 7:46am

Now in its 14th year, the Library of Congress National Book Festival welcomed book lovers to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center — a new venue for this year — on Saturday. More than 100 authors, poets and illustrators were featured throughout the day and evening, packing crowds into pavilions such as History & Biography, Poetry & Prose, Contemporary Life, Science, Fiction & Mystery, Children’s, Teen’s and Culinary Arts.

Throughout the day and after, festival-goers tweeted #NatBookFest their thoughts on the event:

“Great venue and incredible authors”

“Thanks @librarycongress for an excellent festival. Incredible experiences with so many authors. #NatBookFest is a national treasure”

“Was excellent yesterday. especially all the young readers, engaged and excited – the authors i saw were poised, clear, funny”

In the coming weeks, the Library will be posting videos from the festival presentations. In the meantime, here is a sampling of photos from the event to enjoy.

Crowds attend the National Book Festival, held for the first time at the Washington Convention Center. Photo by Colena Turner

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin is interviewed by by National Book Festival Co-Chairman David M. Rubenstein. Photo by Shealah Craighead         









Chef Daniel Thomas demonstrates a recipe from his book, “Recipes for a New You: Healthy Eating at Its Best” in the new Culinary Demonstration pavilion. Photo by Ralphael Small

Great Books to Great Movies panel, featuring (from left) E.L. Doctorow, Alice McDermott, Lisa See and Paul Aster. Photo by Shealah Craighead










Festival attendee Hanna Fisher of Fairfax, Va., asks a question of Fiction and Mystery author Ismael Beah. Photo by David Rice

Evangeline Mackey, Library staff, reads to children at the 2014 National Book Festival. Photo by Ralphael Small

Civil Rights Act Exhibition Features Historical Documentary Footage

Wed, 09/03/2014 - 12:16pm

Considered the most significant piece of civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It banned discrimination in public accommodations, such as hotels, restaurants, theaters and retail stores. It outlawed segregation in public education. It banned discrimination in employment, and it ended unequal application of voter-registration requirements. The act was a landmark piece of legislation that opened the doors to further progress in the acquisition and protection of civil rights.

Next Wednesday, the Library of Congress opens the exhibition “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom,” highlighting the legal and legislative struggles and victories leading to its passage, shedding light on the individuals – both prominent leaders and private citizens – who participated in the decades-long campaign for equality.

Six thematic sections in the exhibition – Prologue, Segregation Era, World War II and the Post-War Years, Civil Rights Era, Civil Rights Act of 1964 and The Impact – help patrons navigate through the exhibition.

Among the more than 200 items on display are several audio-visual stations featuring more than 70 clips showing dramatic events such as protests, sit-ins, boycotts and other public actions against segregation and discrimination, as well as eyewitness testimony of activists and from participants who helped craft the law. These materials are drawn from the Library’s American Folklife Center’s Civil Rights History Project and from the Library’s National Audio-Visual Conservation Center.

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth discusses the violence he suffered in 1955 and 1957.

Here are a few highlights:

The only known sound recording made by Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) features the African American leader and educator reading an excerpt of the famous “Atlanta Compromise” speech that he delivered at the Atlanta Exposition on Sept. 18, 1895. The recording was made on Dec. 5, 1908, for private purposes and was made available commercially by Washington’s son in 1920. In his speech, Washington suggested African Americans should remain socially and politically segregated in return for basic education and improved social and economic relations between the races.

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and leading civil rights activist in Birmingham, Ala., discusses the bombings and beatings he suffered during a May 18, 1961 interview with CBS News. Shuttlesworth’s home was bombed Dec. 25, 1956, and he was later attacked by a mob in 1957 when he and his wife attempted to enroll their children in a former all-white public school.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964, in a nationally televised ceremony in the White House before Congressional and civil rights leaders instrumental in the bill’s passage.

The thematic section focusing on the legislation itself features several pieces of documentary footage, including film footage of Oval Office deliberations prior to Kennedy’s national television address on civil rights; a debate about Kennedy’s speech among black leaders, including Malcolm X; and an NBC News clip of Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964 in a nationally televised ceremony at the White House.

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom” is made possible by a generous grant from Newman’s Own Foundation, with additional support from History for both audio-visual and educational outreach.

The Last Word: E.L. Doctorow

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:51pm

(The following is an article in the July-August 2014 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. Award-winning novelist E.L. Doctorow discusses the role of fiction and storytelling. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) 

E.L. Doctorow. Photo by Gasper Tringale.

The story is the most ancient way of knowing. It preceded writing. It is the world’s first system for collecting and transmitting knowledge. It antedates all the empirical disciplines of a modern society. For millennia, it was the only thing people had.

In the Bronze and Iron ages purely factual discourse did not exist. There was no learned observation of the natural world that was not religious belief, no history that was not legend, no practical information that did not resound as heightened language. Science, poetry, the law and daily speech were fused. The world was a story.

From their first telling, stories were a means of survival; they were as essential as a spear or a club; they instructed the young, they connected the present to the past, and the visible to the invisible. They distributed the suffering so that it could be borne.

Stories are still a means of survival. As the channels of communication round the world fall into fewer and fewer corporate or government hands, the unaffiliated young writer’s witness is a trustworthy form of knowledge.

The publication of measured aesthetically worked fictions from the configured voices of writers is one way a nation composes its identity. Every story, every poem, if created honestly, with regard for a felt truth, contributes to a consensual reality, so that with each generation we may know who we are and what we’re up to.

Writers appear unbidden out of nowhere. Society does not give them credentials as it does doctors or lawyers or engineers. A writer may choose to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree, but that is more of a salute and wish of good luck than a license to practice. The writer’s only credential is self-conferred.

The writer of fiction stands outside the assemblage of experts that organizes the intellectual life of a society. Expert in nothing, the writer is not ruled by any one vocabulary and so is free to utilize any of them. He can write as a scientist, a theologian. He can be a philosopher or a pornographer. She can write as a journalist, a psychiatrist, an historian. She can, if she chooses, render the drugged hallucinations of poor mad souls in the streets. All of it counts, every vocabulary has equal value in the writer’s eyes, nothing is excluded.

In biblical times the writer’s inspiration was attributed to God. The modern writer understands that the writing of stories is itself empowering, that a sentence spun from the imagination confers
a heightened awareness, or degree of perception or acuity; that a sentence composed with the strictest attention to fact, does not. And so the knowledge we glean from a story may be unlike any other. The modern fictive voice continues to sound the world and find its meanings.

E.L. Doctorow will receive the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction at the Library’s 2014 National Book Festival this Saturday, Aug. 30.