Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wormholes and the Science of Print

Please join us on March 14 at 4:00 in the Mann Assembly Room for a presentation by Blair Hedges, Department of Biology at Penn State, who will discuss his research on worm-holes in old woodblock prints as part of Material Texts Workshop series.


By examining art printed from woodblocks spanning five centuries, Hedges has identified the species responsible for making the ever-present wormholes in European printed art since the Renaissance. The hole-makers, two species of wood-boring beetles, are widely distributed today, but the "wormhole record," as Hedges calls it, reveals a different pattern in the past, where the two species met along a zone across central Europe like a battle line of two armies. The research, which is the first of its kind to use printed art as a "trace fossil" to precisely date species and to identify their locations, was published in the journal *Biology Letters* in November.

Hedges’ method has relevance not just to biology, but also to art history. "There are some situations in which a book or print's origin is unknown because a printing location was never added to the text," Hedges said. "Now that we know that different species of beetles existed in different locations in Europe, art historians can determine whether a book was from northern or southern Europe simply by measuring the wormholes."

Monday, February 25, 2013

Archive Adventures: Sweet Valentine

It may be past Valentine's Day, but what the heck. "Valentine" has a totally different meaning if you're from around Centre County. Get your tissue boxes ready, folks...

In 1864, Evan Pugh and Rebecca Valentine married. It was a union made in heaven. Evan, a brilliant scholar who became Penn State's first president in 1859, and Rebecca, the daughter of the prominent Quaker family from Bellefonte, had the world on a string. They were young, smart, well-off, and well-connected. Then, three months into their marriage, Evan died after a short illness. He left Rebecca a young, heartbroken widow. Though she had suitors approach her throughout her life-- namely James A. Beaver, the 9th Penn State President-- she never remarried.

Ten miles northeast of State College, you'll find the town where the star-crossed lovers met. During its Victorian heyday, Bellefonte housed multiple booming industries, grand theatres, hotels, and prosperous families like Rebecca's. That family bought the ironworks in 1815 and carved, almost literally, their wealth from the surrounding hills. And they've definitely left their mark despite the lack of modern-day Valentines living in the town. You've got Valentine Hill, Valentine Road, beautiful buildings downtown built with Valentine money that once were their homes, and loads of Quaker history. Within short walking distance from my very own home, there is both a Quaker meeting house and a private cemetery where many Valentines are laid to rest.

Inquiring minds, however, don't rest much. Fortunately, finding out that we have some wonderful original materials by the Valentines at Penn State just made my day!

I love this old map drawn by Henry Valentine. You can see all the rivers/creeks, railroads, towns, and property owners of the area. Notice that in the blue "Bellefonte" square the "Big Spring" is marked. Today, you can still see it as a large fountain with iron gates around it.

This map was specifically drawn to keep track of the Valentine and Thomas ore-rights. All the red outlines note owners of the ore-rights for that property, while the other spaces are simply the other properties and their owners. A very handy guide for an ironmaster!

I just like this picture for the little tiny house drawn in.

We also have personal correspondence and journals kept by members of the Valentine family. It was hard not to get sucked into reading all of the letters once I started, but I just barely managed to rip my eyes away and take a picture.

The bottom letter briefly describes one of the strikes (and a year later there was a "failure" I couldn't quite pin down) that happened and how certain members of the Valentine family responded. In the very front of the book, you can also read about and from one Valentine who was a POW during the Civil War.

One of the personal diaries from the family includes daily journal entries as well as school lessons!

The last letter has nothing to do with the Valentines. I just happened across it in a wide-ranged search for anything Bellefonte in our archives. Basically, the students of the Farmer's High School in 1859 were petitioning and a parent sent along the paperwork and a letter to McAllister (who lived in Bellefonte at that time). Get this: they didn't want to do their chores. As it states in the letter, they believed that mopping the floors and doing dishes didn't contribute to their education as farmers. The funniest line talks about how cleaning slop in the kitchen isn't their problem, but feeding the slop to the pigs is totally acceptable.

"But Daaaaaad!"

If you think your teenager whining about washing dishes is annoying, don't worry, things haven't changed much...this father thought the same in 1859.

'Til next time!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sarah Werner of the Folger Library to speak on Undergraduate Use of Special Collections

On Monday, February 11th, Sarah Werner, of the Research Division of the Folger Shakespeare Library, will be presenting as part of the Penn State Materials Text Workshop series in the Mann Assembly Room, from 4:30 until 5:30.

The topic of  her presentation will be: "Undergraduates in Special Collections: Beyond Show and Tell."  You can also learn more by visiting Sarah Werner's blog: http://sarahwerner.net/blog/