The French Book of Hours: Tradition and Innovation – An Exhibit at the Southwest Collection

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We love our exhibits here at the Southwest Collection, and so we’ve installed a new one showcasing items from our Rare Books Collection! Entitled “The French Book of Hours: Tradition and Innovation,” it displays the titular volumes of personal devotion that divided and classified time according to the liturgical cycles of the medieval church. Of course, the displayed items are replicas–the originals are far too valuable to expose to damaging UV light for any length of time. Even so, they’re a sight to behold.

Books of Hours were popular for several centuries, and were commissioned by and created for specific lay owners. Each is therefore unique, especially in regard to their artwork.  Still, many contained common elements, which often included the Office of the Dead. Two of the Books of Hours we have on display were created for Jean, Duc de Berry (1340-1416): the Grandes Heures (1409) and the Très Riches Heures (begun ca. 1412, finished ca. 1489), and it is their examples of the Office of the Dead upon which we’re focusing here.

Consisting of a collection of the church’s official prayers, the Office of the Dead seldom contains more than one illustration. Rather, it traditionally depicts a funeral service in which a priest or some other religious figure recites prayers over the dead. The image at the beginning of this blog comes from the Très Riches Heures, and depicts twelve monks seated around a coffin beneath a table decorated with the Duc de Berry’s coat of arms. The woman standing in the doorway may not be simply a nun, but the Duchesse de Berry herself mourning the death of her husband.

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The images above and below are armorial images of a wounded swan and a bear holding the Duc de Berry’s flag. They are embedded within the border of the page of the funeral service in the Grandes Heures. Occurring in the context of the Office of the Dead, they could be homages to the early deaths of the Duke’s sons.

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Here is another image from the Grandes Heures: an illustration of the Mass for All Souls. It is representative of the traditional depictions of the Office of the Dead, in this case providing a view into an interior where monks pray over a coffin covered in black cloth.

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The page above is replete with illustrations of historical and liturgical events. But what would a one of these pages be without the customary representation of death? Below the central miniature, which contains a corpse in an open casket, is a scene intended to warn the viewer that death will eventually take us all. That’s heavy stuff, but because this was illuminated in the years not long after repeated visitations by the Black Death, this was not an uncommon motif.

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This final illustration is a unique departure from the conventional images more commonly accompanying the Offices of the Dead. For one thing, it depicts an exterior burial scene, complete with excavated and partially decomposed corpses. It is possible that this image represents Duc de Berry’s personal relationship with death.

Our Rare Books collection is impressive, and these Books of Hours are among some of its most fascinating. If you’d like to see some of our other, similar materials, why don’t you stop on by and let our Reference Staff see what they can arrange for you? At least head over and check out the exhibit! It’s one-of-a-kind.

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From the Depths of our Rare Books: Victorian and Georgian Engravings!

It’s no secret that we love our Rare Books Collection here at the Southwest Collection. Ranging from pulp to more canonical works of literature, they’re a delight to browse. There are some oddities in there, though. Take our Engravings Collection, for example. Containing printings of engravings ranging from 1720 to 1895, they portray a diverse swath of Georgian and Victorian era United Kingdom life, with a smattering of India, Italy, and France thrown in. Just check these out!

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Many of the engravings in this collection graced the covers of periodicals. For just one penny, readers of Saturday Magazine throughout England had an opportunity to see the Duke of York Column. It memorializes George III’s eldest son and England’s legendary general, and is only slightly less effective in that regard than the nursery rhyme “The Grand Old Duke of York.” When this engraving was made in February 1833, the column had only been standing for a couple of months.

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In the church of St. Catherine Cree lies Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, once the Chief Butler of England (among a host of other notable positions.) This engraving of his sarcophagus shows the knight looking pretty relaxed for a man who moonlighted as ambassador to France and Scotland while raising–or at least siring–10 sons and 3 daughters.

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It’s important to keep in mind that not everyone in the UK was able to travel to London to view its many splendors despite the proliferation of railroads at that time (the first public railway had opened in 1825, four years before the above item was published.) Only through engravings that were later printed onto publications such as this one, The Mirror, could British citizens hope to see the Grand Entrance to Hyde Park.

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French history was a popular topic in these engravings; revolutions in France doubly so. The lower image is an imaginative depiction of the 1848, or “February,” Revolution, which forced the abdication of King Louis Philippe and began France’s Second Republic. The upper one is of the ousted Louis Philippe upon his arrival in Newhaven, England, in 1848. Having ruled France for the previous 18 years, he was reduced to enjoying the protection of Queen Victoria, spending his remaining days in Claremont, Surrey, where he died in 1850.

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France wasn’t the only nation falling under the shadow of revolution in 1848. The Sicilian revolution of independence began in January of that year, and gave the island nation a brief 16 months of self-governance until the Bourbons retook it. But they could not take away their fine mustaches, immortalized in this image.

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Not all Italian scenes in these works were of violent revolution, though. Some were simple images sprung from the imagination (and, possibly, the real-world observations) of the artist. This street scene in Naples is one such. Whether or not it reflects a particular national bias by the British artist, it’s certainly detailed and lively!

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We end with another Saturday Magazine cover, this one featuring the Pilchard fishery. That’s not the name of the fishery itself, however, but of the fish, which you might know now as a herring or sardine. Harvested from Ireland to Australia, pilchard’s were big business. Big enough, anyway, to merit a full cover spread for Saturday’s readers in 1833.

And there you have it – the briefest of samples of our fine engravings collection! If you want to see more, look no further than our kindly Reference Staff who can get others into your hands without delay.

Oil! Oil! And More Oil! And a Cathedral.

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Oil is a big deal in Texas, and has been for decades. Because Texas is the focus of many of the SWC’s collections, it should come as no surprise that many of our collections relate to the oil industry. One of our largest is the Land Rig Newsletter Records. Filling 113 boxes, the collection consists not only of copies of the titular newspaper, but research material, data, maps, and artifacts related to the publication. It also contains several boxes that seem out of place relating to the collection’s author, Richard Mason’s, collaboration on an art history book entitled Mystical Themes in le Corbusier’s Architecture in the Chapel Notre Dame Du Haut at Ronchamp: The Ronchamp Riddle. More on that mouthful in a moment, but first the tale of Land Rig Newsletter.

Richard Mason, was the owner and publisher of the Newsletter, publishing his first issue in October, 1992. It soon became a standard in the industry, documenting rig counts, owners, service industry information, and a slew of technical data in each issue. He even developed metrics that provided greater transparency to the formerly opaque U.S. onshore drilling services market. These innovations would net him gigs as an oil and gas consultant, and later senior positions at various prominent oil companies

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Mason’s story took a tragic turn on September 11, 2001. Many of The Land Rig Newsletter’s subscribers were located in the World Trade Center towers in New York City. As a result of the terrorist attacks, it lost most of its subscription base. Over the next several years it struggled to meet its costs, but in August 2009 Mason sold it to competing publisher Rig Data. Few collections come to the SWC with such a story in tow.

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The Newsletter’s history is not all doom and gloom. Along with the boxes full of newsletters and Mason’s research material came several artifacts, including this workover (well servicing) rig/mobile drill rig. Needless to say, toys are a welcome addition to our stacks.

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The last of the Richard Mason material that we processed revolved around something completely unrelated to The Land Rig Newsletter, or to the oil industry at all for that matter. Mason had received his BA in History from Ohio University, and never lost his passion for the study of that subject. As a result, he collaborated with Robert Coombs to compose Mystical Themes in le Corbusier’s Architecture in the Chapel Notre Dame Du Haut at Ronchamp: The Ronchamp Riddle.  Coombs was a scholar of art and architecture who, among other accolades, had received a Fulbright grant to help complete his work, and was also the editor of Perspecta, the Yale Architectural Journal. The Ronchamp Riddle (also found in our Robert Coombs Papers), in short, explores the themes and motifs of architect Le Corbusier’s most controversial work, the Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp.

The Land Rig Newsletter Records are a wealth of information on the oil industry. If you’re interested in diving deeper into it, our Reference Department is always happy to get them into your hands.

World War I: Mothers, Sons, and Friendship

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On Monday, November 11th, 2013 the United States again celebrated Veteran’s Day. With this honored holiday in mind, we’d like to tell the story of a unique portion of one of our collections, the Julia Duggan Hart Papers, 1837-1970; specifically, the final folder in its final box.

Sadly, not every soldier’s story ends with his or her safe return to the United States. Such was often the case during World War I, and was certainly so for Julia Duggan Hart. Her son, Lt. Vernon Hart, served in France in 1918. He was slain along with many of his countrymen shortly after his arrival on the Western front. At that time, the U.S. military rarely returned the bodies of its fallen soldiers to their families back home. This ubiquitous obstacle led to the creation of American Gold Star Mothers, Inc.

Still in existence today, Gold Star Mothers is an organization dedicated to honoring all sons and daughters who have fallen while serving in the U.S. military. On May 28, 1918, President Wilson approved a suggestion made by the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defenses that, instead of wearing traditional mourning for relatives who died in the service of their country, American women should wear a black band on their left arm adorned with a golden star for each family member who had given his life for the nation. In 1936, the organization’s impact had become so great that the U.S. government designated the final Sunday in September “Gold Star Mothers Day.”

Julia Duggan Hart, who was closely involved with organization’s creation, contributed the poem above to Gold Star Mothers in 1928, the same year the organization was formally established. Her connection with this group of other women was a close one, for years earlier she had engaged in a unique quest to both find and return her sons remains to his Texas home. That is the story revealed, document by document, in Mrs. Hart’s papers.

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Julia’s search began through official channels. Lt. Hart’s uncle, Malone Duggan, was a Major in the U.S. Army. At Julia’s request, he asked for any information available about his nephew’s burial site. Lt. Hart’s unit chaplain replied with brief details and coordinates, as seen in the correspondence above. While interesting, the results of this search would evolve beyond a simple bureaucratic investigation and into the poignant tale of two mothers–one French, one American–and the relationship they shared with Lt. Hart, the bond that his death forged between them, and the grieving process of a mother whose child has been taken from her.

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These two documents are a sample of the correspondence and accompanying translation (provided by the U.S. military) between Julia Duggan Hart and Thereze Collinot. Mrs. Collinot was a Frenchwoman at whose home Lt. Hart had lodged just prior to his departure for the front. He had become close friends with the Collinot family, who aside from his fellow soldiers were the last people to see Vernon alive. Mrs. Collinot became instrumental in the U.S. Army’s attempt to identify Vernon’s burial site. As a result of her involvement, Thereze and Julia began to correspond. One of their earliest exchanges, seen below, is the most incredible of this collection.

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Julia Hart knew that she might never retrieve her son’s body. Recognizing this sentiment in their early letters, Thereze Collinot made a pilgrimage to Vernon’s grave. There she took two photos (top and middle left, above) of his gravesite. This simple gesture on Mrs. Collinot’s part created a bond between the two women that would be reflected in their correspondence throughout the ensuing years. Although they eventually moved beyond reminiscences about Vernon and began to share the intimacies of their own lives, Vernon always stood at the center of their relationship.  Through the efforts of the nascent Gold Star Mothers to prompt the government into returning the bodies of fallen soldiers to their families whenever possible, Mrs. Hart would eventually receive the bittersweet gift of burying her son in his home town of San Saba, Texas. The organization provided to her a gold star card (right) acknowledging his sacrifice. After his burial, Julia took a photo of her son’s grave, a duplicate of which she quite possibly included in her correspondence with Thereze.

It is difficult to convey the poignancy of this collection without viewing it in person, but we encourage those interested in doing so to contact our Reference Department to arrange a visit.

World War II Collections at the SWC!

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Last week we shared images from the papers of Pete Williams, an Army private who served as General Douglas MacArthur’s chauffeur throughout World War II’s Pacific campaign. But the Southwest Collection houses many other collections related to World War II. The image above, for example, comes from the papers of Joe D. Unfred. Unfred served as a Captain in the U.S. Army’s Third Armored Division during World War II. The Division was the first to breach the Siegfried Line, the first to cross the German border, and to capture the first German town. The collection consists primarily of photographs and scrapbooks documenting the day-to-day life of his service in Europe. The images above come from his time in France in 1944.

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Fred Eurie Young’s papers date from 1917 to 1965 and document his time as a serviceman during World Wars I and II. Born in 1891, Captain Young went on to serve as the chief attorney for the Veterans Administration in Lubbock, Texas after the war (from 1946 to 1961). Much of his papers consists of correspondence, both personal and administrative, during both wars. This document, for example, is the notice that he received when he was called up from the Army Reserves in 1942.

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Unique among all of our war-related collections is the Texas National Guard Records, 1900-1964. This image comes from a ledger documenting National Guardsmen’s requests in 1901. Although this item dates from prior to WW2, the bulk of the records consist of general files, the medical records and notes of one Dr. G. Schilling, and records and notes pertaining to the 36th Division and the 36th Division Association during that conflict. A variety of related correspondence, financial records, and other items are present, including an amazing six-volume stereographic photo library on World War II.

As always, our Reference Department would be happy to arrange access to these collections as well as our many other materials, whether they pertain to World War II or any of our other diverse collecting areas.