Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch, Post 25
The following excerpt is from the diary of Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch.
Bridgewater, Tuesday, Sept 1. 1863
I have received to-day a very pleasant letter from Maria....She writes pleasant intelligence also, of my brother-in-law and former assistant, George A. Howard. He is now in beleaguered Charleston, but the seriousness of the time, or some other cause, seems to have made a very happy change in him. His nephew and mine, my godson, Cyrus Bulfinch Carter, is in the Confed service, & has been stationed at Fort Wagner, at Charleston.
With a sigh for all the miseries of this time, - of which, as of its crimes, a most awful example is given by the recent massacre of Lawrence, Kansas, - I yet rejoice at the increasing success of the Union Arms - God grant his keeping for the restoration of peace, & the progress of freedom!
Sunday, Sept. 6th
Today I went in to preach at King’s Chapel but did not, owing to some mistake. Heard a good sermon from Mr. Foote, referring touchingly to the losses by the war, - particularly the cares of Major Paul Revere and Mr. Perkins, the death of the latter having been only learned of yesterday.
Sunday, Sept. 20 1863
The war continues with varied success in individual encounters, but important gain on the whole, to the cause of Union and Freedom. The eyes of public expectation are now fixed on Charleston, - Northwestern Georgia, - the Texas expedition, - and the Rappahannock. There is anxiety about our foreign relations, but we can hardly think English statesmen will be guilty of so great a crime and folly as to force us into a war. God grant that way be spared us! Mr. Sumner’s speech, recently delivered, must, one would think, make them feel the unworthiness of their position. The danger from France seems to be passing away.
| Published: Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 1:00 AM
Return from RBS
During the last week of July I attended a course at Rare Book School, housed at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. The class was an introduction to bibliographic description or, basically, the physical description of books created during the hand-press period, or, up to about the mid-19th century. The course focused mainly on the printing process that occurred in between the functions of the author and the binder.
The course concentrated on just a few elements of bibliographic description, namely format, collation formulae, signing statements, and pagination. This information seems a bit esoteric at first but it can be valuable for researchers who study printing processes or who examine all editions of a given title in order to identify printing errors and corrections and discrepancies among various printings.
As I walk through the stacks here at the Society now, I keep my eyes peeled for interesting-looking volumes that I can practice with. Trebly-beneficial, this will allow me to 1) keep my newly-acquired skills sharp, 2) familiarize myself more with the MHS’ rare book collection, and 3) potentially aid our cataloging department in the cases where these descriptions are not already present.
And with that said, I will share one such example of a collation formula to illustrate the practice. The volume I chose has a long title so I will only give part: “Pansebeia: or, A view of all the religions in the world…” (London, 1664). The MHS has three different copies of this title from three different dates. This 1664 version is the fourth edition. When I checked in our online catalog, ABIGAIL, I noticed that this copy did not have a collation formula attached while the other two did.
I start by measuring the size of the leaves and examining the paper for evidence of chain lines and watermarks. These will give clues as to the format of the book (folio, octavo, duodecimo, etc.). Then I perform a leaf count which is just as it sounds, counting all the leaves in the book that would have been involved in the printing process (this excludes things like blank leaves at the front and back, and illustrations that would have been inserted after printing). Next is the collation formula. This step involves identifying signature marks that appear throughout the text and then, using the pattern in which they appear, forming a signing statement. The signatures consist of letters and numbers at the bottom of the page that, along with other clues, informed the binder of the order in which pages should be arranged before binding. The last step is to identify the pagination, or, how the pages are numbered and where mistakes are made. All of this description is put into a formula that looks much like an algebraic statement:
8°: A8 a8 B-I8 L-R8 T-2M8 2N4 3A8 3a4 3B-3F8 (K8 S8 3F8 missing; 2D6 missing, removed); [$4 (-3A2, 3a4) signed; missigning V4 as U4]; 345 leaves;  1-544 [545-552]; 2 1-78  [misnumbering 68 as 63, 78 as 73, 206 as 106, 479 as 463, and 266 as 96].
Look confusing? In my next post I will explain the formula and some of the terminology associated with bibliographic description. Stay tuned!
| Published: Monday, 9 September, 2013, 12:05 PM
“There is not moments in a day but I think of home:” The Letters of Civil War Sharpshooter Moses Hill, Part 5
By Susan Martin, Collection Services
Unfortunately we’ve come to our last installment on the letters of Moses Hill here at the MHS. After the devastating fighting around Richmond that I described in my previous post, Robert E. Lee drove the Union army south to Berkeley Plantation on the shores of the James River. This estate served as George B. McClellan’s headquarters in July and August 1862, and here Moses and the other Andrew Sharpshooters got a short respite, a chance to regroup while the Union forces were replenished with new recruits.
Over the last two weeks, Moses had fought in multiple battles, including Savage’s Station on June 29, Glendale on June 30, and Malvern Hill on July 1. He wrote to his wife Eliza about the grueling retreat:
I think there must of been a great meny sick & wonded left behind. After I gave out I saw hundreds of wonded & sick limping and working themselvs along the best way they could. It was a horable sight to see them exert every nurve and strife for life. I am glad you did not see them. Horses would run over them and nock them down. They had to creep crall any way to get along.
Union morale was low after the failure to take Richmond, but Moses still hoped to be back home in Medway, Mass. soon. He treasured a photograph Eliza had sent him:
I received your Picture and I think it looks very naturel or as you looked when I left home. I think I shold remember how you all looked if I was off for a long while. I like to take your picture out and look at it. I think of you a great deal and the children too.
However, Moses had been complaining more frequently of illness, and he finally confessed to his wife, “I have been quite unwell long back.” He suffered from diarrhea and fatigue, weighed only 126 pounds, and was sometimes too weak to walk even a half-mile. His clothes were in tatters, and he was plagued by the heat and the flies. His mother, Persis Hill, described one of his letters as “the most disenharted letter he ever has rote. It seames he is all down and discouraged.”
On 16 Aug. 1862, the Union troops decamped from Berkeley Plantation and moved downriver to Newport News. Moses wrote to his family from there a week later. But while he had been a regular correspondent during his year of military service, they wouldn't hear from him again for almost a month. On September 18, he wrote from Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C.:
It is a very pleasant place but it is not home....Eliza I should of writen before but I have been so unwell that I did [not] feel as I could. I think I have wored about you as much as you have about me, for I knew that you did not know what had be[c]ome of me. I am run down and I want a good nursing. I ought to be at home. Some days I am better and then I am worse, but If I take good care of myself I think I shall get a little stronger....Dear Eliza do not worry about me for I shal try to getalong. I will write again soon. You must excuse me for I am very tired. My love to all and lots of kisses.
This is the last letter in the collection written by Moses Hill.
His family received his letter “with the greatest pleasure imaginable.” Eliza was relieved he had been spared from the battle at Antietam, where his regiment suffered terrible losses. (She added guiltily, “I know it is selfish to say so, but I cannot help it.”) She and their teenaged daughter Lucina wrote to Moses several times at the hospital, but did not receive any replies. Their letters became more and more frantic. On October 5, Eliza wrote:
I feel very anxious about you. If you are not able to write yourself, do get some one to write for you. Mother Hill and your sisters are as worried as I am. We want to know just how you are, what ails you. I want to have you come home for me to take care off, if it is possible....I think of you, and pray for you, daily, and hourly....I want to see [you] so much. I send you my best love, and wishes, with many kisses.
Lucina added a postscript about her three-year-old brother: “Georgie askes for father about every day.”
With the help of George Lovell Richardson of East Medway, Moses Hill was discharged from service on 13 Oct. 1862. Richardson accompanied him home, and they reached Medway on the 17th. Moses died of consumption 12 days later. He is buried at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Millis, Mass.
Eliza Hill died in 1888.
Left to right: Lucina (Hill) Howe, Helen Richardson, Eliza Hill, and Genieve Richardson
Undated photograph, circa 1885. Frank Irving Howe, Jr. Family Papers.
| Published: Wednesday, 4 September, 2013, 8:00 AM
The Other Adams-Jefferson Correspondence
By Amanda A. Mathews, Adams Papers
Two hundred years ago today, August 22,1813, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to his old friend, Abigail Adams; the first he had directed to her since 1804. While Jefferson’s incredible correspondence with John Adams has rightly acquired fame, Jefferson and Abigail maintained a warm relationship and a notable correspondence as well following their joint stay in Europe in the 1780’s, interrupted, during the often personal political conflict and mistrust of the 1790s and early 1800s.
The renewed friendship between Jefferson and the Adamses is evident in Jefferson’s playful tone. “I have compared notes with mr Adams,” Jefferson teased, “on the score of progeny, and find I am ahead of him, and think I am in a fair way to keep so. I have 10 1/2 grandchildren, and 2 3/4 great-grand-children; and these fractions will ere long become units.”
Jefferson concluded, “under all circumstances of health or sickness, of blessing or affliction, I tender you assurances of my sincere affection and respect; and my prayers that the hand of time and of providence may press lightly on you, till your own wishes shall withdraw you from all mortal feeling.”
What Jefferson could not know, however, was that it was under sickness and affliction that he was writing to his two old friends. Abigail Adams Smith, better known as Nabby, the only daughter of John and Abigail Adams, had passed away on August 14 at her parents’ home after a recurrence of breast cancer, ending a difficult adult life generated by her husband’s financial misadventures. In her reply to Jefferson, “your kind and Friendly Letter found me great affliction for the loss of my dear and only daughter, mrs smith . . . I have the consolation of knowing, that the Life of my dear daughter was pure, her conduct in prosperity and adversity, exemplary, her patience and Resignation becomeing her Religion— you will pardon by being so minute, the full Heart loves to pour out its sorrows, into the Bosom of sympathizing Friendship.”
Abigail closed her letter with her own assurances of friendship, “altho, time has changed the outward form, and political ‘Back wounding calumny’ for a period interruped the Friendly intercourse and harmony which subsisted, it is again renewed, purified from the dross. with this assurance I beg leave To subscribe myself your Friend.”
While the letters written between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson certainly deserve the recognition they have received, Abigail’s independent friendship with the third president, one built on mutual respect and shared sorrows, fostered a correspondence equally as fascinating.
| Published: Thursday, 22 August, 2013, 1:00 AM
Orange is the Old Black?: Nineteenth-century Prisoner Activism in the MHS Collections
By Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services
There’s been a lot of chatter recently about the new Netflix original series “Orange is the New Black,” a drama about life in a women’s prison. As Heather Chapman, one-time volunteer at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute in Framingham, writes in The Guardian:
The reality is over 2 million Americans are currently locked up. Put another way, that's 1 in 100 US adults. And 1 in 37 Americans will be locked up at some point in their lifetimes. Despite the "lock 'em up and throw away the key" mentality, most of these people will re-enter society. The public should understand our correctional system – and its financial and human costs – far better than we do now.
What does a twenty-first century Internet series have to do with an institution like the Massachusetts Historical Society? While the medium is new, the message is not: American calls for prison reform and advocates of prisoner’s rights have long historical precedent. Before the advent of moving pictures – and long before the invention of the Internet – reformers and prison advocates alike used text and images, to convey their message. Here are a few examples drawn from the MHS collections.
This illustration from prison warden Gideon Haynes’ Pictures From Prison Life: An Historical Sketch of the Massachusetts State Prison (1869) depicts a tidy building and grounds, with a row of prisoners exercising.
A different perspective can be found in the lyrics and illustration of “Song of the Convict,” a maudlin lament written by William and James Bradley, “two brothers, prisoners,” for the celebration of Thanksgiving at the Massachusetts State Prison in 1846. Along with the image of the forsaken prisoner kneeling in his cell, the lyrics of the song document the religious motivation of many behind prison reform campaigns during this period:
Phillippi’s dark dungeons with anthems are shaken,
And notes of thanksgiving peal thro’ the night air;
O! what can such joy in a Prison awaken?
The friends and the spirit of Jesus are there;
There angels mercy paints,
Mid rising songs of saints,
The rainbow of Hope on the cloud of despair.
Women in prison (the subject of “Orange is the New Black”) were then, as now, their own particular topic of concern. In a circular tentatively dated from 1849, the Prisoner’s Friend Association reported to its membership:
The design of the Charity is, to furnish to female prisoners, on their discharge from the House of Correction, a temporary home, to encourage them to reform, and to enable them to do so by procuring for them honest means of support.
Examples of successful “reform” and subsequent participation in society are detailed in explicitly gendered (and in one case racialized) terms:
One, who in the moment of temptation was guilty of theft … was returned to her family [upon release], where she has since, for a period of eighteen months, faithfully discharged her duties as a wife and mother.
A young girl, also, whose heart had not been hardened by crime, after a short imprisonment, was taken by our Agent and furnished with a place of service, where she remains.
A colored girl, with few acquaintances and no friends, was sent to a family in the country, where she has given such evidence of fidelity and capacity as to merit and receive from her mistress the highest encomiums.
At once progressive in the assumption that former criminals may be rehabilitated, the reformers in the Prisoner’s Friend Association also paint a very clear picture of the limits of that rehabilitation: who it is possible to rehabilitate, and what the former prisoners might be suitably rehabilitated for: the roles of wife and mother, the position of servant.
Researchers interested in the history of prison life, prison policy, and prisoner advocacy are invited to explore our collections to see what other primary sources we have to offer!
| Published: Friday, 9 August, 2013, 8:00 AM