An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog

By Rebecca Pou, Project Archivist

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we are sharing a poem from our collection each week during April.

Our last poem, An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog, is by Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774). Our Rare Book Room contains an Oliver Goldsmith Collection, which includes 112 editions of his novel The Vicar of Wakefield, along with many of his other works. Most of the collection was donated by Mrs. Alberta Clay, the daughter of NYAM’s first director, Linsly R. Williams, M.D., in 1942.

Goldsmith port_1863Oliver Goldsmith may seem to be a bit out of place in a medical collection, but NYAM has an interest in works of literature by and about physicians. Before establishing himself as an essayist, poet, and novelist, Goldsmith attempted a career in medicine. Goldsmith studied medicine in Edinburgh and Leyden, although it is not certain he ever received his medical degree. In London, he worked for a time as an apothecary’s assistant and a physician, but ultimately he devoted himself to writing. Still, despite his questionable credentials, Goldsmith was considered a doctor and often attributed as “Oliver Goldsmith, M.B.”

An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog is found in The Vicar of Wakefield, where the Vicar asks his son to recite it, and in collections of Goldsmith’s works and poetry. This version and the images are from The Poetical Works of Oliver Goldsmith, M.B. from 1863.

Goldsmith Mad dog 1863

An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog

Good people all, of every sort,
Give ear unto my song ;
And, if you find it wondrous short –
It cannot hold you long.

In Islington there was a man
Of whom the world might say,
That still a godly race he ran –
Whene’er he went to pray.

A kind and gentle heart he had,
To comfort friends and foes ;
The naked every day he clad –
When he put on his clothes.

And in that town a dog was found :
As many dogs there be ;
Both mongrel, puppy, whelp, and hound,
And curs of low degree.

This dog and man at first were friends ;
But, when a pique began,
The dog, to gain some private ends,
Went mad, and bit the man.

Around, from all the neighbouring streets,
The wondering neighbours ran ;
And swore the dog had lost his wits,
To bite so good a man.

The wound it seem’d both sore and sad
To every christian eye ;
And, while they swore the dog was man,
They swore the man would die.

But soon a wonder came to light,
That show’d the rogues they lied :
The man recover’d of the bite ;
The dog it was that died.

Sources:

“Oliver Goldsmith.” Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. Biography In Context. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.

“Oliver Goldsmith.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.

Preservation Week Quiz

By Christina Amato, Book Conservator

In recognition of Preservation Week, NYAM conservators have prepared a quiz. The following mystery objects are used in the NYAM Gladys Brooks Book and Paper Conservation Lab. Prove your preservation moxie by choosing which description best matches each item.

Image 1:
Image 1a.  Pest remediation instrument. The small nozzle can reach into the gutters of books, and capture crawling insects and larva via suction. They are whisked into the clear chamber, where they will peacefully expire in the oxygen deprived environment.

b.   Nebulizer. The clear chamber is used to heat water, and the resulting steam can be directed very precisely with the small nozzle onto areas that require humidification (such as crumpled paper or vellum.) The chamber can also be filled with a dilute adhesive, which can be used to consolidate flaking media.

c.   Airbrush. The clear chamber is filled with dilute paint, usually watercolor or acrylic, and is used to tone cloth or Japanese paper for repairing books. It is also frequently used with leather dye to tone calf or goatskin.

Image 2:
Image 2

a.   Sewing frame. Books are occasionally completely disbound and resewn in the lab.  Cord, or linen “tape”, is pulled taut from the horizontal  bar to the base, and books are sewn onto the cords.

b.   Parchment stretching frame. Crumpled parchment is humidified, and attached to the frame using specialized clips. The horizontal bar is slowly raised until the parchment is taut, where it is left to dry.

c.   Traction device. Long hours spent stooped over a bench can lead to a host of orthopedic insults. Conservators are wise to take a few minutes every day to “stretch out on the rack.”

Image 3:
Image 3

a.   Pamphlet binder. Pamphlets are passed between the jaws of this device, which affixes the pages together with stainless steel tackets.  The jaws can be adjusted to accommodate pamphlets of varying thicknesses.

b.   Tape dispenser. Specialized mending tape is applied to torn pages when fed through the jaws. Can also be used with duct tape.

c.   Leather paring device.  A two-sided razor blade is attached to the top jaw; pieces of leather are passed through the jaws, until the desired thickness is reached.  It is often necessary to thin out leather quite a bit before using it to repair a book.

Image 4:
Image 4

a.   Pest Remediation Dome. Books that have been infected with insects can be placed inside the dome. Oxygen is gradually pumped out of the dome, gently suffocating any insects within.

b.   Incubator. Conservators in the Gladys Brooks Book and Paper Conservation lab are world renowned for their hand processed silk thread, which is used in a variety of conservation applications. Silk worms are lovingly and painstakingly raised in the dome from larva, until they are ready to be harvested.

c.   Humidity dome and suction table. Paper or vellum that requires humidification, for flattening, for example, can be placed inside the dome, where the humidity is gradually increased until the desired level is reached. Beneath the dome is a suction table; it can be used to force solvents through a piece of paper, for stain reduction and other applications. 

Image 5:
Image 5

a.   We don’t actually know. We saw it at Restoration Hardware, and thought it looked cool.

b.   Book Press. This is used to apply pressure to books, after treatment, to prevent warping during drying. It can also be used to flatten single sheets of paper.

c.   Book truck. Books are held in place underneath the platen; the truck can then be safely driven around the lab. The large wheel at the top is used for steering. 

Answers:

1. b         2.  a        3. c         4. c         5. b

Scoring:

5 out of 5: Preservation Superstar! Congratulations! You are tapped into the pulse of preservation!

4 out of 5: Preservation B Lister: Not bad! You have a generally solid understanding of preservation!

3 out of 5: Preservation Dilettante: You know a little about preservation, but could stand to step it up.

2 out of 5: Preservation Novice: It sounds like preservation isn’t your strongest suit but there’s hope yet.

1 out of 5: Preservation Rookie: Things are not looking so good for you, preservation-wise.

0 out of 5: Preservation Lightweight: At least there’s nowhere to go but up.

Syphilis, or the French Disease

By Rebecca Pou, Project Archivist

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we are sharing a poem from our collection each week during April.

Portrait of Fracastorius from Homocentrica, Venice: 1538.

Portrait of Fracastorius from Homocentrica. Venice, 1538.*

Syphilis seems like an unlikely topic for a poem, yet it is the subject of an important and popular work. Syphilis, or the French Disease, was first published in 1530. At that time, syphilis was new to Europe and spreading fast. To the Italians it was the “French disease,” to the French the “Italian disease,” with many other countries blaming one another for bringing the infection to their citizens. Written in Latin by the multi-faceted Italian physician and poet Fracastorius, the poem was translated into many languages, reflecting the great desire to understand this disease. Our collection holds multiple editions, including the original, pictured above, and several English versions (this post features two English translations – one is pictured below and another as the excerpts).

In the poem, which is broken into three parts, we learn of the disease and some popular treatments of the time, including mercury and the plant remedy guaiac. We also read the tale of a shepherd named Syphilus, supposedly the first person afflicted with the disease, which was his punishment for spurning the sun. Excerpts from each of the poem’s books, taken from William Van Wyck’s translation, are below.

Book 1

Within the purple womb of night, a slave,
The strangest plague returned to sear the world.
Infecting Europe’s breast, the scourge was hurled
From Lybian cities to the Black Sea’s wave.
When warring France would march on Italy,
It took her name. I consecrate my rhymes
To this unbidden guest of twenty climes,
Although unwelcomed, and eternally.
………………
O Muse, reveal to me what seed has grown
This evil that for long remained unknown!
Till Spanish sailors made west their goal,
And ploughed the seas to find another pole,
Adding to this world a new universe.
Did these men bring to us this latent curse?
In every place beneath a clamorous sky,
There burst spontaneously this frightful pest.
Few people has it failed to scarify,
Since commerce introduced it from the west.
Hiding its origin, this evil thing
Sprawls over Europe
………………

Albrecht Durer's woodcut of a syphilitic man.

Albrecht Durer’s woodcut of a syphilitic man, 1496.*

Book 2

Soon is repaired the ruin of the flesh,
If lard be well applied that’s good and fresh,
Or dyer’s colors of a soothing power.
If some poor soul, impatient for the hour
Of sweet release, should find too slow this cure,
And yearning for a quicker and more sure,
Then stronger remedies without delay
Shall kill this hydra another way.
………………
All men concede that mercury’s the best
Of agents that will cure a tainted breast.
To heat and cold sensitive’s mercury,
Absorbing the fires of the this vile leprosy
And all the body’s flames by its sheer weight…
………………

Book 3

An ancient king had we, Alcithous,
Who had a shepherd lad called Syphilus.
On our prolific meads, a thousand sheep,
A thousand kine this shepherd had to keep.
One day, old Sirius with his mighty flame,
During the summer solstice to us came,
Taking away the shade from all our trees,
The freshness from the meadow, coolth from breeze.
His beasts expiring, then did Syphilus
Turn to this horror of a brazen heaven,
Braving the sun’s so torrid terror even,
Gazing upon its face and speaking thus:
‘O Sun, how we endure, a slave to you!
You are a tyrant to us in this hour.
………………
The sun went pallid for his righteous wrath
And germinated poisons in our path.
And he who wrought this outrage was the first
To feel his body ache, when sore accursed.
And for his ulcers and their torturing,
No longer would a tossing, hard couch bring
Him sleep. With joints apart and flesh erased,
Thus was the shepherd flailed and thus debased.
And after him this malady we call
SYPHILIS, tearing at our city’s wall
To bring with it such ruin and such a wrack,
That e’en the king escaped not its attack.
………………

* From Van Wyck, William. The sinister shepherd: a translation of Girolamo Fracastoro’s Syphilidis; sive, De morbo gallico libri tres. Los Angeles, 1934.

The Craniad

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we are sharing a poem from our collection each week during April.

In 1817, the work of two fathers of phrenology, Franz Joseph Gall and Johann Gaspar Spurzheim, inspired poetry.

As explained by authors Francis Jeffrey and John Gordon in the preface of The Craniad: Or, Spurzheim Illustrated. A Poem in Two Parts:

“It is not our intention to conduct our readers through all the delightful mazes of the Craniologic paradise. We shall give them a bird’s-eye view of this garden of intellectual sweets; but should they feel disposed to examine every object minutely, they can leave the point of view which we have chosen for them, descend, and lose themselves, at leisure, in the charming confusion of the romantic labyrinth.”

Here is an excerpt from this “bird’s-eye view,” emphasizing the view of the poets (and their inspiration) that the shape of our heads and brains determine our futures—our criminality, careers, and guilt or innocence in a court of law.

Why do men fight,—and steal,—and cheat,—and
lie,—
String crime on crime, till strung on ropes they die?
“ Because within and on their skulls are found,
“ First known to Gall’s and Spurzheim’s tact pro-
found,
“ Organs, which mark the cause with obvious case,
“ Nature is sick, and crime is her disease.
. . .
To one thing more than others, not inclined—
Some think that education forms the mind.
Hence view we talents every day misplaced ;
Great public situations, too, disgraced !

Hnce [sic] have we preachers in our courts of law,
And lawyers in the pulpit—that’s a flaw.
We’ve some physicians who should nurses be,
And tend on those from whom they take a fee.
We’ve barbarous bungling surgeons, now and then,
Fit only to be barbers’ journeymen ;
Poor paltry puling poets,–who, Lord knows,
Should try to learn to write some decent prose.
Horse-jockies sometimes sit in Parliament !
On jockeying there, by dangerous habits bent,
Whilst many a genius lives by grinding knives,
And many a dunce without a genius thrives.
. . .
When Barristers learn Craniology,
Closer examinations we shall see ;
They then can make each witness shew his skull,
To see if ‘twill his evidence annul,
And if there’s evidence that this is so,
They’ll render it more evident, we know.
And poor unhappy criminals may then
Get leave to feel the skulls of jury-men ;
And when a man’s indicted for a rape,
His neck may then be saved by its own shape.
. . .
Behold a new employment for the blind,
With sense of tact so wondrously refined.
Let them be Craniologers, have schools,
In which succeeding blind may learn their rules ;
Let them have rank and titles with the great,
Be called, “ Prime Craniologers of state.
Such intellectual feelers, of the land,
Would form a useful, and important band ;
They could correct all errors in our courts,
And wavering doubts decide by their reports.”

Mother Eve’s Pudding

By Rebecca Pou, Project Archivist

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we are sharing a poem from our collection each week during April. With the support of the Pine Tree Foundation of New York, we are currently cataloging our manuscript recipe collection, which is the source of our first poem. The rhyming recipe was in both English and American cookbooks through the end of the nineteenth century, but this particular version is most likely from the last quarter of the eighteenth century.

A recipe in verse for Mother Eve’s Pudding, late 18th-century.

To Make Mother Eves Pudding

To make a good Pudding pray mind what your taught

Take two penny worth of Eggs when twelve for a groat

Six ounces of bread Let Moll eat the Crust

The Crumb must be grated as small as the Dust

Take of the same Fruit that Eve once Cozen

Well pared and Chop’d at Least half Dozen

Six ounces of Currans from the Grit you must sort

Least they break out your teeth and spoil all the Sport

Six ounces of Sugar wont make it to sweet

Some Salt and a nutmeg will make Compleat

Three Hours it must boil without any Flutter

Nor is it Quite Finished without melted Butter

Modeling History: Making a Stiff-Board Parchment Binding with a Slotted Spine

This post comes from the 2012 Gladys Brooks conservation intern, Morgan Adams. Morgan is currently interning in the Thaw Conservation Center at the Morgan Library & Museum

As the 2012 Gladys Brooks intern I had the pleasure of working with Senior Book Conservator Anne Hillam on a model of a stiff-boards parchment binding with a slotted spine, a style seen commonly in Italian bindings of the 16th-17th centuries.

An example of a stiff-boards parchment binding with a slotted spine from the NYAM collection: Trincavello, De differentiis febrium, Venice, 1585. Left: Back cover and spine. Right: Front cover.

An example of a stiff-boards parchment binding with a slotted spine from the NYAM collection: Trincavello, De differentiis febrium, Venice, 1585. Left: Back cover and spine. Right: Front cover.

A unique feature of this binding is the juxtaposition of the parchment and alum-tawed skin used to cover the book’s spine. Slots cut in the parchment across the spine reveal the alum-tawed skin patches covering the sewing supports. It is a combination with structural as well aesthetic advantages: The alum-tawed skin provides the flexibility necessary to conform to the raised sewing supports, while the parchment provides a more durable surface to protect the bulk of the spine.

Trincavello (1585): Detail of spine showing the alum-tawed skin patch adhered over sewing support. The original color of the patch can be seen where the parchment is split along the shoulder of the spine.

Trincavello (1585): Detail of spine showing the alum-tawed skin patch adhered over sewing support. The original color of the patch can be seen where the parchment is split along the shoulder of the spine.

To prepare for this binding, we made detailed examinations of six books printed in Venice between 1508 and 1585 in the NYAM special collections. In conjunction with Sylvia Pugliese’s study of this binding style at the National Library Marciana in Venice, we selected material and structural features that exemplified the binding style. These features are highlighted in the images below, which show the steps of the binding process and the finished model.

The text block is sewn on three laminated alum-tawed supports.

The text block is sewn on three laminated alum-tawed supports.

Left: The text block is rounded and backed and the spine is lined with parchment. Endbands are sewn through the spine lining on twisted alum-tawed skin supports.

Left: The text block is rounded and backed and the spine is lined with parchment. Endbands are sewn through the spine lining on twisted alum-tawed skin supports. Right: Galen, Omnia quae extant in Latinum sermonem convsera, Venice, 1556, detail of the spine showing an endband, parchment spine lining, and one sewing station.

Left: Endbands seen from above. Right: Galen (1556) detail of the front bead endband sewn in red and white thread.

Left: Endbands seen from above. Right: Galen (1556) detail of the front bead endband sewn in red and white thread.

Left: The sewing supports are laced into the boards and then covered in alum-tawed skin patches. The endband cores are also laced into the boards. Right: Trincavello (1585), detail showing the "arrow-point" shaping of the alum-tawed skin patch underneath the parchment and the endband core that has been laced through the board and trimmed off flush with the board.

Left: The sewing supports are laced into the boards and then covered in alum-tawed skin patches. The endband cores are also laced into the boards. Right: Trincavello (1585), detail showing the “arrow-point” shaping of the alum-tawed skin patch underneath the parchment and the endband core that has been laced through the board and trimmed off flush with the board.

A template is prepared for cutting the slots in the parchment. The binding is now ready to be covered.

A template is prepared for cutting the slots in the parchment. The binding is now ready to be covered.

After the parchment cover is adhered, ties are laced through the boards at the fore-edge, head and tail. The parchment spine linings are adhered to the interior face of the board and the endsheet is pasted down.

After the parchment cover is adhered, ties are laced through the boards at the fore-edge, head and tail. The parchment spine linings are adhered to the interior face of the board and the endsheet is pasted down.

Trincavello (1585), The surface of the pastedown reveals the ends of ties formerly  laced through the board.

Trincavello (1585), The surface of the pastedown reveals the ends of ties formerly laced through the board.

Finished model, complete with ties on fore-edge, head, and tail.

Finished model, complete with ties on fore-edge, head, and tail.

[1] Sylvia Pugliese, “Stiff-Board Vellum Binding with Slotted Spine: Survey of a Historical Bookbinding Structure,” in Papier Restaurierung – Mitteilungen der IADA, Vol. 2 (2001), Suppl., S. 93-101.