Monday, November 13, 2017

Mini-Catalogue 177: Children's Books, 19th-century Ephemera, Ohioana (12 items)

Just a little post to link to my newest mini-catalogue or mini-list, a double handful of recent acquisitions, many of them with Ohio connections.

Perhaps the two most interesting, in one sense, include what today would be called "info-graphics", though these were printed in the 1880s. 

The earlier is an 1881 Almanac, which uses three-color printing to provide visual representations of various state statistics: population, size, religion, crops. It also includes a two color map of the US, with little tabular displays of info inside each state.

The 1889 example, Arbuckle's Illustrated Atlas of the United States of America, includes maps of each state or territory, but each is juxtaposed to a colorful little vignette supposedly representative of some aspect of that state's culture, geography, commerce, or the like.

I think of info-graphics as a new phenomenon, but clearly it's a new name for an old thing.

Here's the link to the catalogue.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Whuh? And More Longfellow

Under a spreading chestnut-tree, 
The village smithy stands

I've long feared or suspected that I have an unusual number of scraps of verse in my head: rarely complete memorized poems, but many little pieces here and there. These opening lines of Longfellow's "The Village Blacksmith" certainly stand as one example. I don't know where or when I learned these lines for sure, although I suspect it was at home, rather than at school.

In a book I recently purchased in a box lot (A J Demarest and William M Van Sickle, New Education Readers: A Synthetic and Phonic Word Method [NY: American Book Company, 1901]), I was pleased to run across a former student's slightly mis-remembered version of these lines, written, perhaps as a pen-trial, in the upper margin of page 25:

Longfellow probably chose "under," rather than "beneath," for metrical reasons: to begin the line with an inverted foot. But Katherine Corrigan, of Fredericktown, Ohio, who seems to have penned this version (according to other writing in the book), has produced a normal iamb here, regularizing the meter of the line a bit. The other changes are also not at all unusual for memorized verse, I think, although she must not have memorized much more of the poem than I have: "stood" would fail to rhyme only a couple of lines further on.

But I was, I can admit, wonderfully amused by the numerous examples of "huh" also written onto this page, perhaps as a kind of commentary upon the lines of Helen Hunt Jackson's "October's Bright Blue Weather," which is the printed text.

Even more remarkable and amusing was what I took for "whuh," accompanying the "huh"s. In fact, I wondered if this could be an early attestation of "whuh," which seems to me a quite modern expression, one that might also be spelled "whaa?" or the like. An expression of befuddled puzzlement, over and above what might be communicated by "what?"

I wondered how long "whuh" had been around, and in a burst of enthusiasm, I typed "whuh" in Google's "Ngram viewer" with the following result:

This was quite astonishing to me, but some digital looking around helped to clarify things, at least in part. First, in the 17th and 18th centuries, "whuh" was apparently an alternative spelling for "whew"; also, Google's OCR software seems to have sometimes misread "which" as "whuh."  In the early twentieth century, "whuh" shows up a fair number of times in representations of African-American English.

But Katherine Corrigan's "whuh" didn't seem to be any of those, especially since it was so closely linked to all these examples of "huh."

Then, I took a closer look, and realized that maybe I should read it as "uhuh," rather than "whuh."

But, even so, this first example in my book looks almost like it has a question mark, as does the "huh" above it. Almost, I say, because it's not exactly clear.

I am sorry to say that all my practice in (medieval) paleography hasn't been much help in deciding whether this is "whuh" or "uhuh." And thus all my crazy eagerness to find the earliest attestation of "whuh" has not been rewarded, either. It probably is "uhuh" here, after all.

I did, by the way, check the OED. Both "uh-uh" and "uh-huh", as it happens, are first attested in 1924, in what looks like a journal, Dial[ect] Notes; Katherine Corrigan's handwriting in this book appears to date from either 1929 or 1932. The OED's second attestation for "uh-uh", for what it's worth, is from Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, in 1930. 

But part me of is content to imagine that she has written "whuh" after all, even if I cannot prove it.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Longfellow and King Alfred

Marcus Ward's Royal Illuminated Legends:
Longfellow's King Alfred and Othere (ca. 1872-80?)
I've been thinking (and also doing some writing) recently about the place of Anglo-Saxon literature in the nineteenth century, for a host of reasons, including what I recently discovered about the Wheeling, West Virginia, glassmaker, William Leighton, Jr (whom I've long known about from the glass world, as a major figure at Wheeling's Hobbs, Brockunier & Co). Leighton, I learned, was also an American poet of at least minor note. 

Even more surprisingly, he wrote two books (which I've not yet read) that appear to concern themselves with events from Anglo-Saxon England: The Sons of Godwin (1877) and At the Court of King Edwin (1878). Since medieval literature, and Anglo-Saxon literature in particular, has always been a focus of my academic writing, Leighton is especially fascinating to me: like me, he dealt in Victorian glassware, was interested in Anglo-Saxon literature, and lived in West Virginia. It's an unusual combination, I think.

"Othere, the old sea captain."
My post today, however, is about a more famous American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His short work, "The Discoverer of the Northern Cape)" was another American poem on an Anglo-Saxon topic that I knew nothing about until recently (note that here, Longfellow's title has been superseded by the title "King Alfred and Othere"). Of course I knew the story of King Alfred and Ohthere--it's one of the first things learners of Old English read, an interesting little bit of late ninth-century geographical learning that King Alfred inserted (or had inserted) into the Old English translation of Orosius's Historiae Adversus Paganos.

Longfellow's poem, as my images show, was of sufficient interest to readers in England that the firm of Marcus Ward & Co produced this children's version of the poem, set to music and lavishly illustrated with six full-page pictures. It is, apparently, a rare book: WorldCat shows copies published (as here) by Marcus Ward & Co, in London; and also copies published (with only four plates) by Nimmo, in Edinburgh; as well as an American version published by J. R. Osgood. But WorldCat only seems to show about half a dozen holdings in total for all of these three editions together.

So I was obviously delighted to get this copy recently. It certainly served a role, in the nineteenth century, of associating Alfred and the Anglo-Saxons with the discovery of and knowledge of foreign lands. In that sense, this book did its work in promoting the ideals of the British Empire; that Longfellow was the poet reminds us that Americans, too, could be both the influencers and the influenced in relation to such associations. 

At the same time, the book is part of a series, "Marcus Ward's Illuminated Legends" which the publisher's ad on the rear cover describes in the following terms: "Each Story, or Legend, is Illustrated with a set of brilliant Pictures, in the quaint spirit of MediƦval times, and printed in Colors and Gold. The stories are related in Antient Ballad form." One of the other titles advertised in the series is "Pocahontas, or La Belle Sauvage." One wonders, indeed, what "brilliant Pictures, in the quaint spirit of Medieval times," would accompany the tale of Pocahontas. But here, too, America and some notion of the Middle Ages were fit together somehow in the Victorian imagination, and they were further placed together for the consumption of Victorian children. 

There's still much to think about here, I think, though the transatlantic aspects of these linkages seems clear.

"And there we hunted the walrus"