From Workshop to Practice

This past weekend I attended a Guild of Bookworkers, Delaware Chapter workshop taught by Pamela Spitzmueller.  Pam is the first James W. Needham Chief Conservator for Special Collections in the University Library and the College Library at Harvard University. The workshop was to inform us about considerations that must be taken into account with folded items within an atlas structure. This workshop was important for us, not only because we have so many maps in book as well as atlases,  but also for all of the genealogical charts!

Each participant in the GBW workshop completed a 3×5 sample book of different kinds of folds as well as several models of other books.

The sample book:

The squashed scroll:

The side cut fold:

side cut fold again:

map which unfolds completely outside of the book allowing for the rest of the book to be read with the map unfolded for reference:

and the Chinese Road Atlas:

The workshop was great for bringing awareness to what can go wrong when maps are folded into books. When I got back on Monday I was excited to pull some of our older atlases and take a look at them with a fresh eye.

One of my favorites is this “Atlas”  presented to John Hancock, Esq. Yes, THE John Hancock.

This is a large volume with maps showing the coastline from Maine to Florida. It gives information about how to avoid the gulf stream as well as some of the more treacherous shoals. The book is made up of the maps which have been printed on several different sizes of paper.  Some of them fold out, some do not. A label on the front says 1780.

Next I looked at “Europe Divided after D’Annville” 1795. This atlas had a lot of good packing and compensating material.  Much thought went into the construction by the binder. You can see all of the compensating material in this spine shot.  This was used to create enough room in the spine so that the folded maps – which are thicker than a single sheet of paper –  wouldn’t make the book splay open.  (the book was also “repaired” at some point and you can see the new material under the spine)

Inside the book are some fantastic engravings. This map of Minorca is beautifully designed. It includes a larger map in the upper left, a view of the harbor in the upper right, the actual island in the middle and two elevations of different cities in the bottom right and left.  This map is printed  on one sheet of paper which is folded in half and glued to a tab. The tab is what is sewn into the spine and binding of the book.

This large engraving of the southern half of Ireland has suffered from use in this perfect example of when things go wrong. Here is the image before it’s opened:

after opening: between Kerry and Waterford you should be able to read Cork.

However, that area shows typical damage of a folded map tipped in too closely to the spine.

And finally another atlas, the Altas Geographicus Maior, 1759-1762,  is much thicker than either of the previous books. It contains maps which fold out in various directions. Including this one of the “Filipines”.

It is possible to see where the folding has damaged the book in both of these images.

This page also has a beautiful little compass rose. Here’s a detail for you:

This last book had another especially nice little image on the title page:

My dear Mrs. Meade,

Map sent to Margaretta Meade, "drawn by her affectionate husband" (1846)

As I processed the George G. Meade collection (#410), I found it very interesting to see the amount of military information transmitted in George G. Meade’s letters to his wife during the Mexican-American War (and later letters during the Civil War).  [Like the map on the left.]  I always associated military correspondence with censorship, but Meade’s letters show that the flow of information was much more free in the mid-nineteenth century.

Meade relates the everyday events of his life, which happen to involve major battles and military decisions, and through these letters we gain great insights into how these decisions were made and how conflict over the course of years affected one man’s psyche.  Meade’s letters are tender, funny, and family-oriented, and they often contain detailed descriptions of battlefield scenes and camp life.

One letter, which Meade begins on January 1, 1846, begins:

“I have had a rather stupid day of it for the first of the year. — In the morning I was engaged in making official complimentary visits to the big bugs of the camp, all of whom had egg-nogg + cake for their visitors–then we had a race–gotten up by the officers for their amusement and then I dined with a party who endeavored to be as merry as they could be under the circumstances — and in the evening I accompanied them to the Theatre … they have built a theatre + imported a company of … actors who murder tragedy + burlesque comedy — + render farce into buffoonery… –And now late at night I am jotting down a few thoughts to send to you my own Dear + Sweet wife — to be separated from whom mars all enjoyment and renders me callous to war or peace….”

In a letter near the end of 1846, Meade relates some more serious activity that illustrates the ugliness of war:

“Nothing has transpired worthy of note since the date of my last letter.  The volunteers have been creating disturbances …  some few days ago a party of volunteers, to what regiment attached unknown–went into a house in the suburbs of the town, and after forcibly driving out the husband committed outrages on the wife.  A day or two afterwords a Kentucky volunteer was found in the morning with his throat cut, supposed to have been done by the outraged husband as an act of retaliation.  The same day Two Mexicans were shot while working in their cornfields….  The next day another Kentuckian was brought into camp with his throat cut and several more Mexicans also shot.”

George Meade to Margaretta Meade, 2-3 December 1846

Meade’s letter goes on to discuss how the volunteer regiments are often a menace–wasting their provisions, plundering, and killing innocent people.  He condemns the commanding officers of these regiments, telling Margaretta that the officers are incapable of controlling the men under their command, that they choose to ignore the volunteers’ behavior because of their short term of service.

George G. Meade talks about both the mundane and the extraordinary throughout his letters.  In some letters, he writes about family finances, getting angry at Margaretta for asking him questions about bills when he is many miles away.  In other letters, he writes about significant battles.  After Gettysburg, he writes “I think I have written since the battle, and is in my judgement a most decided victory, tho I did not annihilate or bag the Confederate army — This morning they retired in great haste into the mountains leaving their dead un-buried + their wounded on the field.” (July 5, 1863)

In addition to the letters in this collection that illuminate the battlefields on which Meade fought, there are many maps that show the areas in Texas and the East Coast, many of which are in Meade’s hand.  This rich collection will soon have a new finding aid available on our website, which will make these materials more accessible to researchers.  I will keep you posted when it is posted!

Getting lost in the details…

For the past month, I have been working with maps from the General George Meade collection. Four large, flat Hollinger boxes contained hundreds of maps and large documents that range in date from the early 1830s through the Civil War.  The maps require individual treatment and I have enjoyed being able to soak in the aesthetic quality of the maps. While most of the maps are printed, there are a number of manuscript maps and surveys. These are the maps I appreciate the most – I love looking at the intricate patterning, line work and application of colors.  Enjoy the following photographs of hand-drawn details from various maps from the collection.

Click on the images to view larger.

How much does it cost to explore the lands west of the Mississippi?

Well, sometime in the mid 1700s, Thomas Hutchins estimated that such an adventure cost £6163.  (In today’s money, that equals about £902,515 or 1,806,835 USD.  Seems reasonable, right?)

An Estimate for Exploring the Country Westward of the Sources of the River Mississippi, towards the Pacific Ocean, or South Sea (undated)

I came across this intriguing document while processing our collection of Hutchins’s papers (one of our Adopt-A-Collections).  Hutchins (1730-1789) was a military engineer for the British Army from the 1750s to the 1770s and worked on survey projects in the Midwest and Florida.  He was eventually named the Geographer of the United States and tackled projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic States.  Notably, he helped complete the Mason-Dixon Line survey in the 1780s.   (He worked on the boundary between Pennsylvania and what was then Virginia.) The papers in the collection span the bulk of Hutchins’s career from the 1750s to the 1780s.  It is small but remarkable collection containing maps and descriptions of the west at a time when almost all the land west of the Mississippi River remained unexplored by the Europeans.  Relations with Native Americans and other colonizers, such as the Spanish, are mentioned frequently, and the descriptions give very useful accounts of wildlife, vegetation, and inhabitability of the land.

Names of Indian Nations living in and near the River Missouri (undated)

Some of Hutchins’s works in the collection include his “Description of the sea coast, harbors, lakes, rivers, etc. of the Province of Florida;” “Some remarks on Georgia;” and “Short description of the United States and Canada, with maps.”  He also drew numerous maps and plans, such as the ones below.

Cahokia - map of settlement by Hutchins (1766)

Additionally, the collection contains some of Hutchins’s own correspondence that offers glimpses into his survey work, and later his work as Geographer of the United States.  As well, there’s an interesting assortment of miscellaneous papers, such as the observations of “Jupiter’s satellite” by Hutchins and others.

Astronomical observations (undated)

The finding aid for this collection (#308) will soon be up on our website, but many of the items from it can be found in our card catalog, and the collection as a whole is readily available to researchers.