Thursday, July 30, 2009

Provenance Times Two: An Early Gift and the Origins of Crimson and White (o Rosso e Bianco)

One of the many projects we are working on at the Hoole Special Collections Library centers around our foreign language rare books. Right now we're spending some time with the Italian rare books in our collection. One thing we find is that no matter the origin or provenance of any particular item, it's always cool to look at any book and see where it can take you. Sometimes it's far beyond the actual content of the book where you can find the most interesting stories.

Giovanni Domenico Romagnosi

For example, we have in the Hoole Library's Rare Books collection a book on criminal law entitled Genesi del Diritto Penale (or the Origins of Penal Law), written by Giovanni Domenico Romagnosi and published in Milan in 1823. There is a faint inscription on inside of the front cover - "University of Alabama. Presented by -- Ex Libris J. Walker Fearn, N.O. 26 June 1885."

Inscription on the inside of the front cover

It is said that Romagnosi conceived the Genesi del Diritto Penale in Piacenza, completed the work by 1787 and first published it in Pavia in 1791. It was enlarged with the 5th and 6th parts in the 1823 edition published in Milan, and this is the edition that the Hoole Library holds (and one of only three in WorldCat!). The concepts, theories and reflections on the natural and metaphysical origins of the right to punish that the author exposed remain to this day important in legal scholarship. His theories and ideas were even more broadly explored in this 3rd edition.

While the book itself is interesting and important, it was fascinating to discover through a little sleuthing how and from whom we acquired this book.

The inscription above shows us that it had belonged to and was given to The University of Alabama by John Williams Walker Fearn, a lawyer and diplomat. Fearn was born on January 13, 1832 in Huntsville, Alabama, and named for his grandfather, John W. Walker. Walker was was an important person in early Alabama history -- he was President of the Convention which framed the constitution preceding Alabama’s statehood and was the very first Senator for the State of Alabama.

His grandson and namesake, the owner of this book, did not attend The University of Alabama, but graduated from Yale University in 1851. He studied law in France and in 1853 was admitted to the Mobile bar. Soon after, in 1854 he was entrusted with several diplomatic missions in Europe in behalf of the government of the Confederate states. During the Civil War he attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, serving on the staff of General Preston. After the war, he practiced law in New Orleans until 1885, when he was appointed Minister to Greece.

So what does this rare Italian law book have to do with Crimson and White? Those colors are everywhere -- crimson representing school spirit, pride, and of course, brings to mind that ubiquitous name for The University of Alabama, The Crimson Tide!

It just happens to be that the very year that John Williams Walker Fearn was appointed to serve as Minister to Greece, his daughter, Mary Fearn served as a sponsor for a drill competition held in New Orleans. 1885 was also the very same year that he inscribed and gave this book to The University of Alabama.

UA was a very different place in 1885 -- a military school, in fact. And The University of Alabama Company E cadets were in the competition. The story goes that Mary Fearn asked the UA cadets what their colors were so that she could plan her own outfit for the day. When they responded that they had no official colors but wore black caps, gray coats and white trousers for competition. She was purported to have responded that black is too funereal, and gray was too neutral. So she picked crimson, white and gray for her outfit.

It's exciting to point out that The University of Alabama won this competition! And it's very cool to ponder about this very book may have travelled back with the cadets from New Orleans to Tuscaloosa. Perhaps it was a token of his esteem to the winning team, or given in honor of his daughter, the team's sponsor in New Orleans.

The rest, as they say, is history. Beginning in 1892, the football team always wore white uniforms with crimson stockings and large “U of A" in crimson on their sweaters. Other athletic teams at The University followed suit. Within a year, in spring 1893, the annual dance was decorated in crimson and white, and our student newspaper (the oldest student newspaper in the Southeast!) was named the Crimson-White.

The 1892 University of Alabama Football Team

Mary Fearn joined her family in Europe where she met and later married an Imperial Russian Prince, one Sergei Mikhailovitch Volkonsky. (Серге́й Миха́йлович Волко́нский). He was an interesting man, extremely influential in the Russian theatre and one of the the first Russian proponents of eurhythmics, pupil and friend of Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, and creator of an original system of actor's training that included both expressive gesture and expressive speech.

So if anyone asks where Crimson and White came from, tell them they were chosen by a Princess. And how did we find that out? Provenance!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The man behind the album covers: Remembering the Artist Tom Wilkes

Elite Hotel (LP 12978, 1975) and
Blue Kentucky Girl
(LP 9615, 1979)
Covers by Tom Wilkes
From the Wade Hall Sound Recordings Collections

The award winning artist, designer and photographer Tom Wilkes passed away last week. He leaves behind a massive catalog of album covers -- work that he did over a career that spanned more than four decades and includes these two covers by Alabama native, Emmylou Harris.

Wilkes made his name as the Art Director for the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967, creating iconic psychedelic images that forever branded the festival in our memories and our imaginations. He went on to a long and successful career that brought us album covers such as the Flying Burrito Brothers' Gilded Palace of Sin, and Beggars Banquet by the Rolling Stones. His creative genius will be missed, but will surely live on.

Let's celebrate once again Alabama's amazing musical legacy with Emmylou Harris, from the album Elite Hotel -- Together Again.

Not Running with the Bulls, but Sailing with the Cow's Head

The famed San Fermin Festival and the "running of the bulls" in Pamplona, Spain is held at this time every year. Whatever one may think about this long-practiced tradition, there is one thing that all can agree upon -- the festival brings people to Pamplona from all over the world and has captured the imagination of writers like Hemingway, as well as people who may only write about the experience on a picture postcard. And speaking of travelers and bovines.....

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca
was born at Jerez de la Frontera (c.1490-c.1557) in Andalusia, Spain. His journey is one of the most amazing and personal accounts of exploration in the Americas. Alvar Nunez joined the expedition of Narvaez to Florida in 1526. As treasurer, and one of the chief officers, of the Narváez expedition, Cabeza de Vaca and three others were the only survivors of the party of 300 men who landed near Tampa Bay, Florida on April 15, 1528.

A map from the same period from the Hoole Library (gift of the Warner family)
Americae sive novi orbis nova descriptio
Ortelius, 1570
G3290 1570 O7x
Visit to see more!

Over the course of eight years, various members of the expedition succumbed to disease, starvation, exposure, and the attacks of various Native American groups as they slowly made their way west, toward Mexico becoming the first Europeans to travel across the North American Continent.

Returning to Spain in 1537, he obtained the post of Governor of the Rio De La Plata region (Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay), he went in 1541. Cabeza de Vaca was a trustworthy subaltern, but not fit for independent command. His men rebelled against him in 1543, took him prisoner, and sent him back to Spain, where for eight years he was kept in captivity. The date of his death is unknown, but it is stated that he ended his days in Seville, where he occupied an honorable and modestly lucrative position in connection with the American trade.

His chronicle of these travels, often referred to as Naufragios, contains a strong dose of emotive elements destined to elevate the central figure of the narration, , to a superior level, achieving with this technique that the reader, identifying with the protagonist, will accept a large part of the fiction that has been poured into the text. A fundamental factor in this process is not simply the novelistic content of the work, but the ability of Cabeza de Vaca to present events that, even if they were real, in many instances are surrounded by a supernatural halo.

The story of his first trials in America as a member of the expedition of Narvaez, which was published in Valladolid on 1555 by Francisco Fernandez de Cordoba. It has been translated numerous times into other languages, including English and French.

The Hoole Library holds the first French edition, Relation et Naufrages, which was by the Librarie de la Société de de Géographie de Paris in 1837. There is hardly a work on early travel history of North or South America where Cabeza de Vaca is not named or referenced heavily.

Title page of the first French translation of Nunez's work,
published in 1837.

This book shows his accounting to the King Carlos V about the expedition from the moment they departed Spain until he returned and his numerous and colorful reflections on the voyage. This work represents one of the great examples of early Travel Writing, where the words and descriptions take us beyond history to a world through his eyes.

En Español:

Naufragios, contiene una fuerte dosis de elementos destinados a elevar la figura central de la narracion, alcanzando con esta tecnica que el lector se identifique con el protagonist aceptando sin darse cuenta mucha de la ficcion incluida en el relato. Un factor fundamental en este proceso no solamente es el contenido novelistico de Cabeza de Vaca, pero su abilidad al presentar eventos, que si fueran reales en muchas instancias estarian rodeados de un aire o significado supernatural. Este libro representa las cronicas o relatos de Cabeza de Vaca al Rey Carlos V, incluyendo algunas reflexiones de lo acontecido, hay que notar que estas cronicas no fueron escritas hasta que Cabeza de Vaca llego a Espana en 1537. Para muchos estos relatos y las reflexiones que le siguen representan un buen ejemplo del comienzo, de lo que en la actualidad se conoce como “Travel writing”, donde las palabras y descripciones nos llevan mas alla de la historia, hechos o descripciones a un mundo a traves de los ojos del escritor.

Read more here:
Cabeza de Vaca, Álvar Núñez: The Narrative of Cabeza De Vaca. Translation of La Relacion by Rolena Adorno and Patrick Charles Pautz.
Howard, David A. (1997). Conquistador in Chains: Cabeza de Vaca and the Indians of the Americas. (E125.N9H68)

See this edition in Google books: Relation et Naufrages by Alvar Cabeza de Vaca, French Edition 1837 ( E125.N9)

So, why Cabeza de Vaca? Why not. Well, also because we want to welcome a new staffmember to Hoole -- Luis Boggio, who is working with our foreign language rare books. He wanted to share a little bit of what he thinks is cool@hoole. Luis is a native of Uruguay and new to The University of Alabama. He brings an exciting new dynamic to the library with his background in Spanish and Italian and his great love for travel. Bienvenido, Luis!

Bonus points if you tell us where the very interesting and unflattering name of "cow's head" came from? Cool indeed.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ahead of the curve: the anniversary of prohibition in Alabama



Alabama Prohibition Postcard, sent 1909

This bold political statement, in the form of a picture postcard from the Hoole collections, was sent to an Alabama voter in 1909. It urged "Mr. Voter" to vote for statewide prohibition in Alabama. While statewide prohibition did not go into effect until July 1, 1915, it is interesting to note that the ban of alcohol became state law in Alabama nearly five years before the Volstead Act (the national reinforcement of a ban on alcohol, most commonly known as "Prohibition") was passed in 1919.

An added point of interest with this postcard is that it is addressed to "Mr. Voter" -- this was written over a decade before the passing of the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote, stating that "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation". There were no Mrs. or Miss Voters until 1920. Ms. Voter came along a little later. So did zip codes. And a stamp that costs more than one cent. We've come a long way, baby.