“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”-- Hippocrates
The season of sharing food (and ailments) is upon us, which inspired me to search “recipe” in our archival database. The latter obligingly yielded comestible results which it gives me pleasure to share with you along with the following “food for thought” —
Food and recipes for its preparation offer many insights about people because eating and drinking habits are markers of cultural difference. Food influences virtually every aspect of human life and as such provides the opportunity for a fascinating study of a “total social phenomenon."
A perusal of a historical recipe book may divulge much information: how food was prepared back in the day, what ingredients were available, methods of preservation (pickled, salted, canned, etc.). Family cookbooks often included recipes for ailments and household maintenance, which offer insight into lifestyle and contribute to our understanding of contemporary agriculture, economy and industry. (Click the image at left to see an 18th-century recipe for a cure for "Terzana," or tertian fever. The second part is the last page of a longer remedy of an unnamed ailment. (John M. Yoklavich collection of Italian Manuscripts GTMGamms102, Box 1 Folder 6.)
In the spirit of a season that in many cultures brings people together to celebrate their relationships with one another over food, you are invited to stop by to “sample” these delectables and make your own connections to the past.
Recommended fireside reading: Pilcher, Jeffrey M. The Oxford Handbook of Food History. Oxford University Press, 2012. Call # TX353.094 2012
Recipes for the hungry
❖ Recipes for Christmas cooking by Ann Batchelder (1885-1955), author of Ann Batchelder’s Cookbook (1941, revised 1949), containing 500 recipes for classic American meals. A native of Vermont, Batchelder was food editor for Ladies' Home Journal. (Lisa Sergio papers GTMGamms172, 1:6)
Christmas recipes by Ann Batchelder (Click image to enlarge)
❖ Loughborough family recipe book, circa 1800s. A typical 19th-century album of cookery and household recipes including several for dye-making. (Loughborough family papers GTMGamms274, 3:52)
❖ Richards family recipe book, circa 1800s. (Janet Richards papers GTM540129, 8:2-8:2.1)
❖ Early 20th-century recipe book (Tonita Ridgway Martin papers GTMGamms340, 4:4)
❖ Three 18th-century Italian recipes. The first, "Ricetta per fare l'Elisir Vite," is a recipe for an "elixir of life" containing aqua vitae, a strong Swedish alcohol. The second, "Ricetta Per comporre il Vino aromatico Wermut," is a recipe for vermouth. The third appears to be a recipe for making a sort of pie, perhaps an 18th-century version of pizza. (John M. Yoklavich collection of Italian Manuscripts GTMGamms102, Box 1 Folder 4)
An elixir of life:
A pizza recipe:
Remedies for the ailing
In addition to the tertian fever remedy above...
A fragment of the original 16th-century holograph manuscript of a recipe for preventing contraction of the plague. Louis Bossu published a description and transcription of the manuscript in 1913, entitled, "La Prophylaxie de la Peste en Barrois vers l'An 1500.” (William A. Zimmerman collection GTMGamms152, 1:3. Printed booklet is available in the Rare Book Collections, Call # 92A5.)
—Lisette Matano, Manuscripts Archivist
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Woodstock Theological Library Rare Books
With the Washington Nationals in the World Series, and baseball fever gripping the nation’s capital, it’s worth remembering that the Jesuits of Woodstock College were just as fanatical about our nation’s pastime. Every year, from 1890-1948, around the time of our own “fall classic,” Woodstock Jesuits would face off in a best of three “World Series,” with the Philosophers (younger students in the 3 year philosophy program), against the Theologians (older students finishing the 4 year theology program).
The series was a chance to indulge in a bit of fun distraction and outdoor recreation, in what was a rigorous time of study. The players often chose humorous team names, showing the playful side of jesuit life, with names like “the Always-Outs” vs “the Never-Hits,” “the Hannibals” vs “the Cannibals,” “the Moreovers” vs “the Howevers,” and “the Best Team” vs “the Very Best Team.” However, the series wasn’t all fun and games, and the Woodstock community took the series very seriously, recording and preserving the scores and highlights for over 50 years, all of which can be found within the Woodstock College Archives. It is from these box scores that we know that the Woodstock series was just as wild and exciting as that between the American and National League, with shutouts, no-hitters, controversial calls, squeeze bunts, and a 30 hit game. Previous Jesuit archivists were even careful to maintain the overall win/loss records, with the young Philosophers beating out their Theologian elders, 29-22.
May our own World Series also be one for the record books!
-Written by Adrian Vaagenes, Digital & Archival Services Librarian
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October 7, 2019
Here are some spooky manuscripts to get you in the spirit of Halloween this season!
And you thought the Library was boring!
Accounts by American journalist Dorothy Thompson (1893-1961) of psychic phenomena on the death of her husband and artist Maxim Kopf; as well as a séance with psychic medium Arthur Ford, September 1958. Lisa Sergio papers GTMGamms172 Box 2 folder 37
References to psychic phenomena in two letters from Rev. Rowland F. Nye to journalist and radio broadcaster Lisa Sergio, regarding a spiritual message from the latter’s friend Ann Batchelder, September 1956. Lisa Sergio papers Box 1 folder 4
Search “Ghosts” in the Shane Leslie papers GTMGamms163 to find 33 results! Lots of letters from people recounting ghostly experiences. Check out these items: Manuscript: “Ghosts I have known,” Box 39 folder 16; Notebook re ghosts, Box 39 folder 17
The diaries of British writer Wilfrid Hugh Chesson (1870-1953) are filled with entries describing planchette sessions, examples of automatic writing, and accounts of his dreams. Wilfrid Chesson diaries GTMGamms335
Chesson diary entry showing spirit writings from planchette sessions. Wilfrid Chesson diaries, GTMGamms335, Box 1 Folder 2. Click to enlarge.
Mesmerism and animal magnetism in 19th-century America. Not a lot of details but interesting that such things are mentioned in the letters of some educated women. Franklin B. Sanborn papers GTMGamms229
Cornucopia of supernatural stuff relating to the preternatural interests of Montague Summers (1880-1948), British author of books on ghosts, werewolves, witches, vampires, fairy curses, the Black Mass, and more. He believed! Montague Summers papers GTM110501
Photograph of Montague Summers. Montague Summers papers, GTM110501.
“Les Lupins” engraving by Maurice Sand, for the book Legendes Rustiques (1858), by his mother, French author Georges Sand (1804-1876). Montague Summers papers, GTM110501, Box 13, Folder 5.
One of the precious manuscripts held in the WTL (which can also be accessed, as a digital resource) is the 17th century History of Ireland, written by priest and poet Seathrún Céitinn (the Anglicized version of his name, under which the MS is catalogued being Geoffrey Keating) A native of Tipperary, he lived from c. 1569 to c. 1644. He lived during one of the many turbulent centuries in the history of relations between Ireland and England. Because Catholics could not receive a university education in Ireland at that time, like many, he had to leave the country and study at one of the numerous Irish Colleges established all over the continent specifically for Irish Catholics. Keating went to the college in Bordeaux, France, where he completed the Doctor of Divinity degree awarded by the main university there. His History of Ireland was written in early modern Irish (entitled Foras Feasa ar Éirinn, meaning the ‘Foundation of Knowledge on Ireland’), which charts the history of Ireland from the earliest of times until the arrival of the Norman invaders in the twelfth century.
Hence the Latin title: Historia rerum Hibernicarum ab orbs et gentis incunabulis ad Hiberniam Anglorum ditioni adjectam. Loosely translated it means ‘The History of Ireland from the beginning of the world until Ireland became added to the English dominium’. The English would not allow it to be printed owing to the strong Catholic leanings of the work and the Latin translation was most likely produced on the continent. It circulated in hand-written manuscript form in Irish, Latin and English until finally an adaptation (rather than precise replication) of the history was printed in 1723.
It is a Latin hand-written manuscript that we have at Georgetown (pictured above) based on a Latin edition of the work believed to have been printed between 1650 and 1672.
The work’s key value lies in the window it sheds on the self-understanding and perception of the Irish of themselves and their history of the seventeenth century during those troubled times. Some contemporaries questioned the precise nature of Keating’s sources but much of what it says about ancient Ireland can indeed be confirmed from other and often more ancient sources. Keating was indeed a gifted historian after the fashion of his times – skillfully blending fact, interpretation, legend, myth and rhetoric. But, then again, it could be argued that most historians even to this day work with varying elements of each of these characteristics too!
The picture it gives is of the distinctive, noble and proud ancient Irish kingdoms with a pronounced cultural history of their own and one of the first vernacular languages in Europe (in fact Irish is believed to be the very first language aside from Latin to have a written form). Ireland was a sovereign, independent kingdom (of kingdoms) which, although it became the home of various wandering tribal peoples throughout its ancient history, had never once been conquered. Keating goes to some lengths to try to portray the Norman rulers of much of Ireland from the twelfth century onwards as simply being the successors of the earlier Irish kings and therefore, were also endorsed by the people rather than conquerors as such. In particular, through the endorsement of their rule by some of the ancient Irish leaders themselves through an agreement with the pope in the twelfth century that this was in Ireland’s interests that the Normans should play such a role in their land.
Keating also tries to establish a common lineage between the contemporary Stuart Kings of Britain and the same ancient tribes from whom many of the Irish were descended.
The extended preface criticizes a number of earlier (English) historians for their inaccurate and demeaning portrayal of Ireland in their own histories. This, too reflected the political climate of the time as James had become the first Stuart monarch to accede to the British throne in 1603 with his son, Charles I succeeding him in 1625. For those Catholics in Ireland with some ancestry linked to earlier Norman settlers (via England hence known as the ‘Old English), of which Keating was one, due o his own Norman ancestry the new monarchy represented a time of both opportunity and trepidation for Ireland.
The work therefore gives a social and political vision of ancient Ireland that might inspire and inform a new social and political order in the (then) present day. For example, Keating makes much of the fact that the High Kings of Ireland were appointed through consensus of the people rather through birthright and hereditary mechanisms.
The work also represents a distinctive contribution to the continued Catholic responses to the Protestant Reformation and it weaves together the history of Irish society and the Irish church and portrays the latter as integral to the flourishing for the former. Again, this speaks to the times of its author (who returned to Ireland to minister as a priest) as much as to the history of ancient Ireland although, once again, much older sources do indeed demonstrate the intricate interweaving of Irish social and ecclesial life and practices in general.
As Irish people and so many others all over the world celebrate St Patrick’s Day today, it is fitting to commemorate this history of Ireland which divided that history into three epochs – pre-Christian, the era of early Christian Ireland after the arrival of St Patrick and finally the period of the Normans’ arrival in Ireland. It should be noted however, that much older sources demonstrate that there were Christians in Ireland before St Patrick, although Patrick did indeed consolidate the faith in Ireland and converted countless numbers, including many influential societal leaders.
One could argue that the actual history of ancient Ireland is even more fascinating than Keating’s skillful blending of contemporary concerns with ancient sources and legends suggests. Ever since the country’s embracing of Christianity in the 5th Century, Ireland, of course, soon came to be known a land of ‘saints and scholars’. Christianity in medieval Ireland did indeed blend with the unique cultural and social traditions of that land and developed into a very distinctive and progressively inculturated form of the Christian faith, indeed into something quite distinctive from the character of ‘Roman Christianity’ of the era.
The rich customs and traditions of ancient Irish society that Keating mentions were indeed blended with the new faith brought to the land. Anyone who visits some of Ireland’s most ancient, historic and stunningly beautiful natural sites can immerse themselves into this ancient cultural world still, including the worlds of those such as Saints Patrick, Brigid, Kevin and Columbanus (the latter of which helped convert so many lands throughout Europe and remains honored buried in Bobbio, Italy to this day). They may learn how Christianity flourished through the many schools of the land and how Ireland sent its missionaries far and wide across Europe, leaving a deep and lasting impression upon European culture, the impact of which can be seen to this day.
Most surprising of all, perhaps, they might learn that much of what is most distinctive about ‘Celtic’ Christianity in its Irish context actually owes much to the characteristics and ways of the people who predate the time of the Celts in that land. They would hear about and discuss the clashes between the ‘Celtic’ Christians and their ‘Roman’ counterparts and how practices differed significantly in Ireland from elsewhere, whether this be that Irish monks wore their hair long as opposed to the Roman tonsure, to the innovation which Irish monks introduced in order to offer a process of healing and reconciliation for those troubled by their transgressions – the practice which became private confession. They would learn how women enjoyed greater freedom and opportunity in many parts of ancient Ireland and could be political (even military) as well as religious leaders, as well as having a right to education and even to practice law.
They would also be immersed in the story of how, in Western Europe’s dark ages, after the final demise of the Roman Empire, Ireland’s remote location kept deep learning and scholarship alive, including as a last outpost where some of the classics of ancient Greek and Latin literature were well known and read and so how Irish scholars, ‘saved civilization’, as one study has put it (by Thomas Cahill, a fascinating read that perhaps shares much in common with Keating’s own idealized narrative in parts!). As already mentioned, ancient Irish is believed to be Europe’s first vernacular language to have its own literary form. So, as well as an historical and religious focus, anyone delving deep into the history of this most westerly lands of Europe would be immersed in exploring social, cultural and indeed political issues of those times.
They would see and hear how religion is always found in inculturated forms – that is to say – that a particular faith by necessity becomes refracted through and in turn changed and developed by the cultural milieu in which it is lived out and how there is a profound two-way relationship of influence between religion and the cultures in which it is practiced. Such a journey throughout history has deep implications for religion in differing communities in our world, as well as for the relations between differing branches of the same faith, including Christianity, today.
So on St Patrick’s Day it is fitting to raise a toast to this noble scholar who helped chronicle not simply the story and profound impact of Patrick and Christianity upon Ireland, but helped demonstrate why the Irish are given to celebrate the land of their birth and its many ancient heroes, heroines and customs. Keating's History of Ireland helps us understand why this day, March 17th, is so special to so many, many millions around the globe.
Entry written by Gerard Mannion on 1/17/2017
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John Glenn (1921-2016), a trailblazing astronaut, was the first American to orbit the Earth. In 1959, Glenn was selected as one of the “Mercury Seven,” the men who became America’s first astronauts. On February 20, 1962, Glenn orbited the Earth three times in his spacecraft Friendship 7. A year before, Soviet cosmonaut Yury Gagarin, the first person in space, had orbited the Earth once. John Glenn is remembered as a national hero for his groundbreaking mission.
In 2019, there is great interest in the history of the U.S. space program as July 20, 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first-ever walk on the moon. The Booth Family Center for Special Collections holds a number of photographs of John Glenn. This post presents five of those images documenting Glenn’s career.
Undated signed photograph of John Glenn sent to Tonita Ridgway Martin, a long-time resident of Georgetown who collected manuscripts and autographs of notable people, including American astronauts. From the Tonita Ridgway Martin papers, box 2 folder 41.
Signed photograph of John Glenn, inscribed to J. Graham Parsons, U.S. Ambassador to Sweden from 1961 to 1967. The photograph was taken just after Glenn’s return to Earth after his famous space voyage on February 20, 1962. Glenn inscribed this particular photograph to Parsons on May 13, 1966. Glenn had visited the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden in 1966. From the J. Graham Parsons papers, box 4 folder 43.
John Glenn pictured on the cover of Time magazine on March 2, 1962. Glenn signed the cover. From the Frank Dahlhaus collection, box 1 folder 3. Frank Dahlhaus donated his collection of Time magazine covers to the Booth Family Center.
Undated photograph of John Glenn (left), American astronaut Scott Carpenter (center), and Michael Amrine (right). Amrine was a prominent American writer on scientific issues, especially atomic energy. From the Michael Amrine papers, box 33.1 folder 10.
Photograph dated 1959 of American astronauts John Glenn and Walter Schirra, Jr., inspecting samples of materials to be used in the nose of a space capsule. The materials to be used had to withstand temperatures over 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Photograph by Michael Amrine. Michael Amrine papers, box 33.1 folder 10. The Michael Amrine papers contain more photographs of John Glenn in box 33.1 folder 10.
In 1964, Glenn retired from his space career to enter the corporate world and politics. Glenn was elected a U.S. Senator from Ohio in 1974. He subsequently won reelection to that post three times. In 1998, Glenn, at age 77, traveled again in space on the space shuttle Discovery. On this last mission, he took part in experiments investigating the effects of aging responded to the microgravity environment in spaceflight.
Scott S. Taylor, Manuscripts Archivist
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In 19th-century England, scrapbooking was a popular pastime for women of means. The craft has most often been associated with women and domestic matters from this era when the role of women was centered on care of family and home. This perspective persisted at least through the mid-20th century.
The Victorian propensity for memory saving (from alba amicorum to memento mori), and fondness for classifying and preserving information and experiences in albums, Wardian cases, and such, significantly contributed to the legacy of collecting. After all, this was the era of the Great Exhibition in London (in 1851) which was a showcase on the grandest scale for not only innovations but trophies and memorabilia of all kinds.
Scrapbooks were often keepsake albums for a woman’s own sketches and verses; as well as for those drawn and written by friends and others. As examples of material culture, scrapbooks remind us that history is made and lived by actual individuals. They invite sensory experience and unfiltered interpretation. With each century, there has been an increasing loss of the ability to use the full range of our perceptive senses, especially with the ubiquity of mass media telling us what to see, think, and feel. Items collected and preserved in such keepsake albums provide a 3-D insight into the habits and times of the individuals who crafted them.
There is a scene in Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre that is a wonderful illustration of the connection between fiction and reality, when Jane’s stepsisters Eliza and Georgiana ask her to contribute sketches to their keepsake albums:
“They both seemed surprised at my skill. I offered to sketch their portraits; and each, in turn, sat for a pencil outline. Then Georgiana produced her album. I promised to contribute a water-colour drawing: this put her at once in good humor. ..." (Chapter 21)
Here are two gems from the women’s collections at the Booth Family Center:
Woman’s 19th-century scrapbook: “Cherished Memories” (GTM170130). An example of a pre-printed scrapbook belonging to Miss Teresa Doherty. Includes associations to Irish author Mary Sadlier.
Woman’s 19th-century scrapbook (GTM150615). A scrapbook belonging to a British woman, containing cut silhouettes, paste-in watercolors and pencil sketches regarding a European tour and her trip to South America.
Lisette Matano, Manuscripts Archivist
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April 18, 2019
Mary Nimmo Moran is one of the most famous female etchers in history. Less well known is Washington D.C. artist Minnie Briggs Raul, who used the same medium. Although their artistic styles are noticeably different, they both utilized their extraordinary talents in the field of printmaking.
In 2018, Mary Rice, great-niece of Minnie Briggs Raul, donated a large number of her original prints, poems, correspondence, and newspaper clippings which span the many years of Raul’s success. Donald N. Briggs, Mayor of Emmitsburg, Maryland and grandson of Minnie Briggs Raul (1886-1955), donated fourteen of the artist’s etched copper plates, which correspond to the prints generously given by his cousin, Mary Rice.
When I was hired as the Curatorial Intern for Georgetown’s Art Collection, I had the privilege of sorting through this extensive donation of prints and other archival materials in order to catalog them for Georgetown’s records. Coinciding with this cataloging project, I was reading a few articles on Mary Nimmo Moran (1842-1899) for my American Landscape class, as part of my Museum Studies Masters Program.
I was immediately struck with comparative notes in my brain about the two female artists: although they were from different time periods, something about their styles just resonated with me, and I wanted to know more about them. As I dove deeper into my research into their respective lives and oeuvres (bodies of work), I noticed how although they stylistically contrast, Mary and Minnie showcase the spectrum of female printmaking abilities. Mary’s hard, bold lines and Minnie’s soft, graceful curves encompass a wide range of artistic skills and styles, and this made me really excited to write this comparative analysis.
Another connection was my mom’s Aunt Annie, a watercolorist in Texas. As soon as I unpacked the Minnie Briggs Raul collection I was immediately drawn to the similarities between them. Aunt Annie loved the Texas wildflowers and birds much like Minnie loved the D.C. wildflowers and birds, and they expressed this love through their art.
Although Aunt Annie and Minnie Briggs Raul used different creative media, their artworks are both delicate and pleasant to look at. However, Mary Nimmo Moran’s work strikes the viewer in a more emotional vein. They also differ in a conceptual sense. Mary Nimmo Moran evolved within the nineteenth-century Hudson River Landscape School of painting, which is evidenced in the panoramic scenery she depicted throughout her career, and she was strongly encouraged by her husband, the successful landscape painter Thomas Moran. As the daughter of noted horticulturist William Dennis Pyles, Minnie showed a talent for drawing wildflowers and trees from an early age, at their home in Camp Springs, Maryland.
These relationships stylistically shaped Mary and Minnie, and the influences are shown through their meticulously crafted artworks. While Mary Nimmo Moran employed the Hudson River School’s approach of depicting more wild, sublime scenery, Minnie Briggs Raul utilized her horticultural background and undertook small (but beautiful) artistic studies of individual flowers, trees, and birds.
Moran, Mary Nimmo Gardiner’s Bay 1881, etching
Mary Nimmo Moran initially began experimenting with etching through the encouragement of her husband. She is best known for her poetic, moody etchings of East Hampton landscapes, drawn from life, as she and Thomas built a home studio there on Long Island, where Mary created her artworks. A contemporary critic of Nimmo Moran stated that her prints “would never give away her sex,” due to her being stylistically more masculine than other female printmakers at the time, using deep lines, dynamic compositions, and thorough shading to evoke an emotional response in the viewer. As the first woman inducted into the New York Etching Club and the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers in London, Mary Nimmo Moran is considered a pioneer of female engravers.
Raul, Minnie Briggs French Marigolds 1943-1955, etching
While Nimmo Moran was one of the first women inducted into multiple artistic societies, Minnie Briggs Raul both founded and was the Vice President of the Society of Washington Etchers in the 1930s, and was involved in many other artistic clubs in the District. She spent a lot of time in the countryside of the District, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV), where she drew native wildflowers, trees, and birds. Her artistic style is characterized by free-flowing natural forms, delicately fashioned compositions, and bright but soft colors, extremely different from Mary Nimmo Moran’s powerful lines. Her husband Harry Lewis Raul was a noted sculptor and the Art Curator for the Department of the Interior Museum from 1938 to 1958, and they were reportedly extremely supportive of each other’s artistic endeavors, much like Mary Nimmo and Thomas Moran.
Minnie was also a noted author, known as the “poet-etcher of Washington.” She wrote many poems that correspond with her etchings, many of which are now in Georgetown’s collection. She published Go Lovely Road in 1949, a small illustrated book visually detailing and describing wildflowers of the Holy Land, and in 1951, she created an eighteen-week series of etchings and accompanying articles about specific but well-known trees in the DMV region and throughout the country.
Raul, Minnie Briggs The Four O’Clocks 1943-1955, etching
Mary Nimmo Moran undoubtedly paved the way for Minnie Briggs Raul in the artistic context. She broke the glass ceiling for female artists in the male-dominated field of etching, and Minnie Briggs Raul continued to broaden the field for women printmakers. In a way, Mary, Minnie, and my mom’s Aunt Annie are all connected through their overt love of nature. It is so beautiful that three very different women from very different time periods can be so connected through their depictions of the natural world around them.
--Frances Williams, University Art Collection Curatorial Intern
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Woodstock Library Rare Book Collection
On April 11th, Lauinger library will be hosting the author, George Saunders, who will give the Annual Casey-McIlvane Memorial Lecture on the intersection of Catholicism, Buddhism, and writing. Saunders most recent book, Lincoln in the Bardo, is a text deeply indebted to religious themes found in Christian and Buddhist theology such as sin, salvation, dukkha, and samsara. Saunders uses the historical event of President Lincoln's midnight visit to the fresh grave of his son, Wille, along with an invented cast of ghostly residents of the cemetery, to beautifully explore these themes. In play-like dialogues, the reader is confronted by questions which stand at the heart of Christianity and Buddhism, questions regarding permanence, the good life, and ultimate truth.
For those interested in dialog between Christianity and Buddhism, the Woodstock Theological library has a great number of books worth checking out. God, Mystery, Diversity, by Gordon D. Kaufman, Zen and the Birds of Appetite by Thomas Merton are particularly fruitful. For a larger list of books related to Saunders, Literature Liaison and Reference Librarian, Melissa Jones, has created a book display on the third floor as well as a webpage for further reading.
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April 5, 2019
Aaron Copland (1900-1990) was a major American musical composer in the twentieth century. During his long career, Copland produced a wide array of compositions, including ballets, choral music, film scores, operas, and orchestral music. The Lawrence Gilman papers contain a remarkable letter from Copland to Lawrence Gilman (1878-1939), an important music critic for the New York Herald-Tribune. In it Copland pondered the relationship between musical composers and their critics.
The letter, dated May 3, 1932 was mailed from the First Festival of Contemporary American Music at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs. Copland began the letter by referring to a newspaper clipping (see right, click image to enlarge) reporting on the festival. The author of the clipping suggested that there was a “long-standing feud” between composers and critics. The article printed a quote from Copland: “I consider newspaper criticism to be a menace. We would be much better off without it.”
Writing to Gilman, Copland said that the clipping in question “cannot go uncommented upon.” He wrote that the purpose of the conference was not to attack critics but to make the composer/critic interaction “more vital and more important,” and that “the composer needs the critic (just as much as the critic needs the composer).” Copland lamented the fact that Gilman did not attend the event. He argued that modern American composers now seek more positive reviews from their critics. In the postscript, Copland granted Gilman permission to publish this letter. The composer also stated that his own works had generally been praised by critics.
Lawrence Gilman contributed to American musical criticism in many ways. He worked as a music critic for Harper’s Weekly from 1901 to 1913, the North American Review from 1915 to 1923, and the New-York Herald Tribune from 1923 until his death in 1939. He also annotated program notes for the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
American music was changing in the 1930s, as musicians adapted to new forms of technology such as film and radio. In addition to composing musical works, Copland was an author of articles and books on music. As this letter to a noteworthy music critic indicates, Aaron Copland sought to improve the relationship between composers and their critics.