Constitution Conserved

Constitution Mason draft p1 detailWhen the Chapin Library’s draft printing of the U.S. Constitution was lent to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in 2014, to be displayed next to the Lincoln Cathedral copy of the Magna Charta, conservators expressed concern over a “fog” within our document’s protective frame of glass and Lexan polycarbonate. Their initial fear was that mold had formed, which might affect the four leaves of the document. Later, it was thought that the Lexan portion of the “sandwich” in which the document was contained had deteriorated due to age. We returned the Constitution to the “shrine” of the Founding Documents of the United States in the Chapin Gallery and spent some months considering the problem.

Finally this spring, we arranged to have the Constitution moved in its heavy frame to our conservation room on-site, there to be examined by staff from the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, led by Rebecca Johnston. We had already examined the document within its frame, and the construction of the frame itself, as far as this could be done externally and through archival records, and had discussed possibilities for re-mounting for greater stability and longevity.

On dismantling the frame, the Constitution was found to be unharmed, and the Lexan unblemished. The “fog” we had seen was simply a film on the inside of the external plate glass “skin”, possibly caused by infiltration of water vapor since the Founding Documents case was built in the 1980s. Conservators carefully removed the document from the thin piece of Lexan to which it had been affixed, and gently humidified and pressed it. High-resolution photographs were taken, using the reprographic camera recently acquired by the Chapin Library and College Archives from Digital Transitions. Finally, the four leaves of the Constitution were invisibly mounted between sheets of Optium museum-grade acrylic, and the ends of the sheets were carefully sealed. This new “sandwich” was put into the existing frame with the original plate glass panels and one of the Lexan panels, and the whole returned to the “shrine”. All moving and associated tasks were performed by staff from the Facilities Department of Williams College.

The beautifully clear result may be seen, with the other founding documents, in the Chapin Gallery (Sawyer Library 406), Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The Declaration of Independence, which is framed similarly with glass and Lexan, has not developed the same issues. – WGH

Shown is a detail from the first printed leaf of the second draft printing of the U.S. Constitution, from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, formerly owned by George Mason of Virginia.

Chapin in ScientEphic Blog

Elizabeth Jacobsen, Class of 2016, has published a fine article, “Chapin Rare Books Library Unites Science and History”, on the Williams College Science Blog, The ScientEphic. In addition to commenting on some of the ways the Chapin collections cross academic disciplines, Elizabeth’s post serves as a reminder that students and faculty in all departments of the Sciences are welcome to use our holdings for research and instruction. – WGH

Seeing the Light

Winsor and Newton specimens pl3The Chapin Library has opened its winter exhibition, Seeing the Light: Color in Theory and Practice.

Seeing the Light was inspired by a presentation given last term by Chapin Librarian Wayne Hammond with faculty member Beverly Acha for her Studio Art course in painting. Ms. Acha wanted to introduce her students to ways color has been explained before they used it in their work. Our selection of books and prints sparked a good discussion. Many of these are in the present display, now expanded to include other examples of color in practice.

The exhibition begins with a nod to the ancients and their influential philosophies about color. Artists, meanwhile, were concerned with more practical matters, as they dealt with pigments: Leonardo da Vinci, for example, considered white the source of color and black its absence, and yellow, green, blue, and red as the colors with which a painter has to work. In addition, Leonardo observed that color was subjective as perceived by the eye, varying not only with light and shadow but also distance from an object. In the 17th century, scientists such as Robert Hooke maintained that white light is given color by passing through a glass lens or prism, but in 1666 Isaac Newton used a prism to refract a narrow beam of sunlight, producing an elongated spectrum, and a second prism to recombine the colors back into the original white, showing that color is not produced by modifying light, but is contained within it.

Newton’s Opticks is one of the cornerstone books of color theory, along with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Theory of Colors and the Laws of Contrast of Color by Michel Eugène Chevreul. All three are in the Chapin Library and currently on display. With these in the exhibition are more contemporary resources such as T.M. Cleland’s classic Grammar of Color, a Horticultural Colour Chart, and a book on color instruction in public schools co-written by Louis Prang. Also on view are prints by Josef Albers from his Interaction of Color and Formulation, Articulation, which represent the most dramatic exploration of the art, science, and psychology of color in modern times.

To illustrate practical uses of color, Seeing the Light includes books ranging from a late 15th-century manuscript book of hours from the Attavanti workshop in Florence, to Jacob Bigelow’s American Medical Botany using color engravings, Walter Crane’s Baby’s Own Aesop printed from color woodblocks, an example of modern pochoir or stencil printing in colors, and Pauline Baynes’ Noah and the Ark to show the result of color printing by offset lithography compared with an original gouache painting for the book.

Seeing the Light: Color in Theory and Practice will be on display through March 25, 2016 in the Chapin Gallery (Sawyer Library Room 406). Hours are Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and admission is free. – WGH

Shown is a detail from one of the tint specimens contained in a circa 1924 booklet describing oil and watercolor paints sold by Winsor & Newton.

Remembering Chapin Donors

Earlier in this space, we paid our respects to J. Brooks Hoffman, M.D., Class of 1940, an important donor of Americana to the Chapin Library. The latest number of Williams People reminds us also to remember three other recently deceased alumni who had been good friends of the Chapin Library and their alma mater:

Ralph R. Renzi, Class of 1943, who passed away October 10, 2015, worked with Prof. Frederick Rudolph, Class of 1942, to create an archive of filmmaker and author John Sayles ’72, to which Mr. Sayles himself later added.

Henry N. Flynt, Jr., Class of 1944, who died July 11, 2015, made numerous donations to the Chapin Library of literary and historical materials, some of which had been collected by his mother, beginning in 1979 with manuscripts of John Masefield.

John C. Walsh, Class of 1954, who passed away June 2, 2015, established the Chapin Library’s Winston Churchill Collection in 1992 and provided funds for additions over the next several years.

We will be forever grateful to these friends for their support of the continuing educational mission of the Chapin Library and Williams College. – WGH

Season’s Greetings

Chapin Hours Shepherds detail

As we prepare to close (as of December 24th) for the Williams winter break, the staffs of the Chapin Library and College Archives send you Season’s Greetings and best wishes for the new year.

Shown is a miniature depicting the Annunciation to the Shepherds, from a book of hours, second half of the 15th century, executed probably in Ghent or Bruges. Books of hours were personal books for Christian devotion, often owned by women and given them when they wed. This manuscript was itself a wedding gift to a 15th-century bride, and contains added prayers at the end. Much later, it was purchased by Alfred Clark Chapin, Williams Class of 1869, as a gift to his wife, and ultimately came to the Chapin Library, where it is the finest of several books of hours, both manuscript and printed. – WGH

The Mexican War

Battle of Chapultepec printWar was declared between Mexico and the United States in May 1846 in the wake of disputes over contested territory along the Rio Grande and the U.S. annexation of Texas. Fierce battles followed, in Mexico and the Southwest and on the Pacific coast. One of the most important of these was the Battle of Chapultepec in Mexico City, in which U.S. forces captured the castle of Chapultepec, on high ground, putting them in a favorable position to take the city. Involved in the battle were a number of American officers who would later find themselves on opposite sides in the War between the States, including Lee, Grant, Beauregard, Jackson, Longstreet, and Pickett, as well as Winfield Scott, commander of the U.S. army at Chapultepec. As a result of the Mexican War (1846–1848), the United States added extensive lands which would become the states of California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, and parts of Colorado.

Artist James Walker (1819–1889), who was present at the event, painted a dramatic scene of the storming of Chapultepec for hanging in the U.S. Capitol. It may have been the same Walker who produced a color lithograph of the subject, The Storming of Chapultepec, Sept. 13th. 1847, published in 1848 by Sarony & Major, New York. Walker also possibly made in mid-September 1847, in pen and ink, a drawing which provides a pictorial and textual key to the lithograph; copies evidently accompanied Gen. Scott’s report on the battle to the War Department, but only one is known still to exist, and is now in the Chapin Library.

American opinion of the war was divided, but news was eagerly sought, as depicted by Richard Caton Woodville (1825–1855) in his painting War News with Mexico (Metropolitan Museum of Art). This work was so popular that the American Art-Union commissioned Alfred Jones to make an engraving of it, retitled Mexican News.

The pen and ink drawing and lithograph of Walker’s Chapultepec scene, and the Jones engraving, are currently on display in the Steven Schow ’81 Gallery of Sawyer Library (Room 455). The Storming of Chapultepec Sept. 13th. 1847 is the recent gift of the Stanton E. & M. Elaine Tefft Foundation. The related drawing is the recent gift of the late Stanton E. Tefft, Williams Class of 1947, and the Marie Elaine Tefft Revocable Trust. Mexican News is the gift of the late John M. Topham. – WGH

Shown are the Chapultepec lithograph and Mexican News in the Steven Schow ’81 Gallery.

Teaching with Rare Books

Since its inception one hundred years ago, the mission of the Chapin Library has been to support teaching and research at Williams College with rare books, manuscripts, and other special materials. As an early donor, Carroll Atwood Wilson (Class of 1907), wrote, every item in the Chapin Library “has been placed there for an educational purpose. The sum of those items is there to represent, in an organized way, every field of thought. . . . Frankly, the writer believes that there is no field of thought which cannot be . . . represented by the material in Chapin: the curator of the library surprised the astronomers in 1937 as much as she did the students of Vergil in 1930, and the lovers of early American geography in 1945.”

As the body of students and faculty at Williams has grown and its curriculum has become more varied, so the Chapin collections have developed, largely by gift or through funds provided by gift, to accommodate new subjects as well as fields of thought long established. Use of the collections has grown too, as faculty have discovered the value of teaching with primary sources, and that their students respond with enthusiasm when handling rare items in their original form. The provision, moreover, of splendid rooms in new Sawyer for the Chapin Library and College Archives, with space for reading and teaching, has raised the visibility of special collections and made them still more attractive to the Williams community.

Our new exhibition, Every Field of Thought: Teaching with Rare Books, celebrates the continuing use of the Chapin Library collections in the service of education, in partnership with faculty and with library and museum colleagues, through dozens of classes and presentations each term, in addition to supporting individual research projects, papers, and theses. At the same time, we honor the generosity of our many donors, from Alfred Clark Chapin (Class of 1869) at the founding of the Chapin Library to the present day, who have given Williams this important and dynamic means of instruction.

The exhibition is on view in the Chapin Gallery (Sawyer Library 406) through December 23, 2015.

Wayne Hammond, Chapin Librarian
Elaine Yanow, Chapin Library Assistant

The words of Carroll Atwood Wilson are quoted from the foreword to his Catalogue of the Collection of Samuel Butler (of Erewhon) in the Chapin Library, Williams College (1945).

J. Brooks Hoffman, M.D.

The death on June 11th this year of John Brooks Hoffman, M.D., Williams College Class of 1940, brought to a close a long and enjoyable relationship with one of the Chapin Library’s greatest friends. Brooks loved his country and its history, and collected American documents with a keen eye for quality and importance. Many of these items came to the Chapin Library and the College Archives. We shared his enthusiasm, and he appreciated that his gifts were put frequently into use as part of our educational mission.

With advancing age, and with his beloved wife Jane having passed away, Brooks planned his memorial service in fine detail. I was flattered when he asked me to speak at his service on behalf of Williams College, and accepted only on condition that it not be too soon. He suggested what I should cover, and insisted that I take no more than five minutes, as there would be speakers also on behalf of Blair Academy and the medical profession, and he didn’t want the audience to be bored. I prepared my text and set it aside; happily, I did not need it soon, and was able to speak with Brooks many times before the end.

His service, held in Greenwich, Connecticut on September 12th, included a piano medley of Williams songs (Yard by Yard, The Mountains, ’Neath the Shadow of the Hills, and Our Mother), a hymn written by Washington Gladden, Class of 1859, and a remembrance by Dr. Marc Newberg, Class of 1959, in addition to my remarks which follow.

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In our files at the Chapin Library, the first recorded donation by Dr. and Mrs. J. Brooks Hoffman was a 1796 list of Williams students, presented through the Library to the College Archives. That was in July 1976. There is then a gap in correspondence until January 1980, but by then Brooks and Jane had decided to give to Williams their original manuscript of President Andrew Johnson’s National Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1866. At the same time, Brooks wrote that it was his “intent to leave [to the Chapin Library] on occasion further documents, manuscripts and perhaps autograph letters of prominent people”. He described his collection as only “very modest when one reviews some of the monumental collections” at other institutions. But neither the superb Johnson manuscript nor the hundreds of other items we received from Brooks and Jane over the years are “modest” by any means.

Take, for example, the broadside proclamation of June 12, 1775 signed by General Thomas Gage, received as a Hoffman gift in 1981. Though printed in small type on a small sheet, it has a terrific impact. Gage was appointed Governor of Massachusetts in the hope of quenching fires of rebellion while enforcing unpopular acts of Parliament. In this he was unsuccessful, and his attempt in April 1775 to seize a cache of weapons outside Boston led finally to the outbreak of war. Two months later, Gage’s broadside addressed “the infatuated multitude”, condemning the insurgency at Lexington and Concord and declaring martial law. Even so, he was willing to grant amnesty to all who would lay down their arms – all, that is, except rebel leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams, “whose offences are of too flagitious a nature to admit of any other consideration than that of condign punishment”. Brooks found this a fascinating fragment of history, and we never tire of showing it to students.

He was also proud of having acquired what we sometimes call the British reply to the Declaration of Independence. This other, almost unknown “declaration” was issued on September 19, 1776 by General Howe and Admiral Howe, the King’s Commissioners for Restoring Peace to His Majesty’s Colonies and Plantations in North America. Admiral Howe had met with a delegation from the Continental Congress, in one last attempt to reconcile the colonies to the crown. Having failed at this, the Howes encouraged the “misguided Americans” who had made an “extravagant and inadmissible” “Claim of Independency” to once again “accept the blessings of peace” under royal authority. This plea was set in type by Loyalist printers, but few copies survive – probably most were torn down as soon as they were put up. The one that Brooks found, and whose historic worth he recognized when others did not, is on permanent display at the Chapin Library along with founding documents of the United States, and its text is read at Williams following that of the American Declaration every July 4th.

Our copy of the Declaration of Independence, in fact – one of the rare originals printed on July 4, 1776 – is itself partly a Hoffman gift. Brooks was instrumental in helping to raise funds to buy the document in 1983, and himself contributed, along with other loyal Williams alumni, including fellow members of the Class of 1940. A few years later, that gift led to the class presenting to the Chapin Library, on the occasion of their 50th reunion, a substantial fund in support of the Library’s Americana collection. Brooks later established a Chapin fund of his own, which we use to obtain works in his special areas of interest: the American Revolution, the Civil War, the slave trade in America, and the civil rights movement.

When Brooks asked me to speak at his memorial service, he suggested a few things that I might say about him. One was that as an obstetrician and gynecologist, he made a pretty good historian. (That’s verbatim.) By all reports, he was a pretty good obstetrician and gynecologist too. But history was important to him, in particular the history of his country and the use of contemporary manuscripts, books, and documents in its teaching. All of Brooks’s gifts to Williams College illuminate moments in history. They are snapshots of civilization and stones in the foundation of learning. On behalf of everyone at Williams, I am here to say how grateful we all are – how grateful countless students of the future will be – to the generosity of Brooks and Jane Hoffman; and personally, how honored I am to have known Brooks, as a donor and friend, for more than thirty years.

Wayne Hammond, Interim Custodian of the Chapin Library

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An obituary of J. Brooks Hoffman may be read here.

The Heritage Collection

Weary Blues jacket
An exhibition of selections from the Chapin Library’s Heritage Collection of black literature and culture will be on view in the Chapin Gallery (Sawyer 406) from July 27 to September 25, 2015. An opening reception will be held in the Gallery on Tuesday, July 28, from 3:00 to 4:30 pm.

Born in the Netherlands in 1931, Paul Breman was led from a love of blues music to a study of black poetry. He met and corresponded with important figures such as Langston Hughes, William Waring Cuney, and W.E.B. Du Bois, he translated black poetry (into Dutch) and edited anthologies, and he published the Heritage Series of Black Poetry between 1962 and 1975. In the process, he formed a significant collection of books, pamphlets, broadsides, ephemera, and recordings, which came to the Chapin Library in 2012 through the generosity of the collector’s family, the efforts of Robert Volz, former Custodian of the Chapin Library, and the advice of Prof. Darra Goldstein, a friend of Paul Breman’s widow, Jill Norman.

The Heritage Collection is available for use in the Archives/Chapin reading room (Sawyer 441). Its printed items are entered in the Williams online catalog FRANCIS under the local call number “Heritage”. Finding aids for manuscripts and other materials in the collection are being prepared for posting on the Chapin Library website. – WGH

Shown is the dust-jacket for The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes, with art by Miguel Covarrubias.

Declaring Independence

British Reply2For the twenty-ninth consecutive year on the 4th of July, actors from the Williamstown Theatre Festival will read the Declaration of Independence, the British replies of September and October 1776, and the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, in conjunction with a display of these and other founding documents of the United States from the collection of the Chapin Library. Actors Eric Bogosian and Jessica Hecht, appearing in the WTF production of Daniel Goldfarb’s Legacy, and Daniel Sharman and Mary Wiseman, appearing in William Inge’s Off the Main Road, will perform beginning at 1:30 p.m. from the south steps of Stetson Hall (Sawyer Library, 26 Hopkins Hall Drive). In the event of rain, the reading will be held in the atrium of Sawyer Library. Original copies of the documents will be on view on July 4th in the Chapin Gallery (Sawyer Room 406) from noon to 1:00 p.m. and from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Wayne Hammond, Interim Custodian of the Chapin Library, will be on hand to answer questions and put the documents in context. The reading and display are free and open to the public.

Also currently on view in the Chapin Library/College Archives galleries are Chapin Library 1915-2015, commemorating one hundred years since Alfred Clark Chapin (Williams Class of 1869) conceived of a library of rare books and manuscripts for his alma mater; Scholarship and Statesmanship: James Abram Garfield, from the collections of the Williams College Archives; and the Audubon Birds of America “double elephant” folio. – WGH

Shown is the declaration of 19 September 1776 by the King’s Commissioners for Restoring Peace, in reply to the colonists’ declaration of independence from Great Britain. Gift of J. Brooks Hoffman, M.D., Class of 1940.