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George Washington Cook Correspondence

In the fall of 2015, Special Collections and Archives was thrilled to receive a new acquisition, the George Washington Cook Correspondence. These letters were written between 1857 and 1860 by George W. Cook and his first wife, Electa, from Grinnell to their family in Meriden, Connecticut. The letters are addressed to George’s siblings, Sarah, Collins, and Henry.

A large part of what makes the Cook correspondence of particular interest is that they were written in the early years of the town of Grinnell’s existence. The town was founded in 1854, so the Cook letters provide a great deal of insight into land sales and everyday life. Also of great significance to the Grinnell community is the fact that George Cook briefly writes about the decision of Iowa College to move from Davenport to Grinnell. This can be found in the April 28, 1857, letter.

The first letter in the collection, dated April 27, 1857, suggests that George and Electa likely traveled west from Connecticut to Iowa in the early spring of 1857. They took the train at least as far as Chicago, and most likely traveled by train to Iowa as well. The letter does specify that they traveled from Iowa City to Grinnell by hiring a team of horses, which cost them $72.80. One particularly interesting aspect of the first letter is George’s description of a railway accident that happened to a train on its way to Chicago that was traveling ahead of the train the Cooks were on.  

Although she doesn’t express unhappiness, Electa writes mostly about how she misses everyone back East and reminisces on times spent with family. She also asks for dress patterns. Frequent topics in George’s letters include land sales, how land is used, crop prices, and the building of the railway across Iowa. Unfortunately, none of the letters written from the Connecticut family members to George and Electa have survived.

Digitized scans of the Cook Correspondence, as well as transcriptions of each letter, has recently been added to Digital Grinnell.

We encourage anyone with an interest to drop by Special Collections and look at these fascinating letters in person.  Special Collections and Archives is open to the public 1:30–5 p.m. Monday through Friday and mornings by appointment.

Get on Your Bikes and Study!

Try the Libraries’ newest feature — two bike desks located inside Burling’s south end, overlooking Sixth Avenue.  These desks may be just what you need to combine academics and exercise.  

The bikes are completely silent and use little electricity, making them library- and eco-friendly.  You’ll be able to set goals and easily track your progress as the desk console is integrated directly in the armrest showing readouts for workout time, pedal revolutions, distance, calories, and speed. 

Download the Active Trac app from the app store and track your progress. Simply hover your smartphone over the bike desk console to upload your data. That’s it. The data syncs effortlessly. Plus, this feature is free for everyone.

A few other bike desk details:

  • Electric height adjustment from 40” to 53”
  • 2 desktop options — 38” or 48” wide
  •  Integrated padded armrest
  • Apple Health and Google Fit enabled
  • Social media integration via Facebook and Twitter

Enjoy — and happy studying and peddling!

Experiential Learning in Burling Library this Summer



Experiential learning is alive and well at Grinnell College in the summer. Current summer MAP students from every discipline and a few  summer interns on campus are having a complimentary lunch with  Maria Tapias at MAP luncheon 2016prospective students and their families every Monday and Friday in Burling Library. These lunches, sponsored by the Office of Admission, provide prospective students an opportunity to meet current students and find out about the cool things they are doing over the summer in Grinnell.

2016 Research Award Winners

Grinnell College librarians Julia Bauder, Kevin Engel, and Phil Jones are recipients of the 2016 Research Award from the Iowa Chapter of the Association of College and Research Libraries. Their article, Mixed or Complementary Messages: Making the Most of Unexpected Assessment Results,” was published this March in College & Research Libraries, 77(2), 197-211. Read their remarks upon accepting the award during the ILA/ACRL 2016 Spring Conference.  

Mark Christel Named Librarian of the College

Mark ChristelMark Christel, director of libraries at the College of Wooster in Ohio, will be the next Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal Librarian of Grinnell College. He was selected through a national search and will begin his new position on Aug. 1.

"Mark Christel brings an impressive record of leadership and innovation to the Grinnell College Libraries," said Michael Latham, vice president for academic affairs and dean of Grinnell College. "His experience in promoting student and faculty research, interdisciplinary digital initiatives, external grants and collaborations, facilities design and strategic planning makes him well suited to this role. I am confident that he will provide outstanding leadership for the Grinnell College Libraries, and I am grateful to members of the search committee for their efforts."

Christel has served with distinction in positions of increasing responsibility over the past 22 years at Hope College, Vassar College and the College of Wooster. Since joining Wooster as Director of Libraries in 2008, Christel built close collaborations with faculty to support student learning, carefully stewarded collections, and championed emerging technologies to promote open access and scholarship. 

He is a committed advocate for the application of digital technologies in teaching and research. He also was the lead author of two Mellon Foundation grants awarded to the Five Colleges of Ohio and has served on the steering committee for the Institute for Liberal Arts Digital Scholarship. 

"I am so honored to be joining Grinnell and its exceptional library staff," Christel said. "Grinnell’s foundational commitment to undergraduate research and teaching creates an exciting context for exploring the traditional and evolving facilities, services and collections offered by contemporary academic libraries.  

"I look forward to many engaging conversations about what the libraries are and might become, and then working with key campus partners and my colleagues within the libraries to achieve that vision over the coming years."

Christel succeeds Julia Bauder, who was named interim director of Grinnell's libraries last October after Richard Fyffe, Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal Librarian of the College and associate professor, began permanent medical leave. He died on Nov. 5, 2015, due to complications from ALS.

"It is very humbling," Christel said, "to follow in the footsteps of Richard Fyffe, a friend and colleague whom I greatly admired."

An award-winning librarian, Fyfe made vital contributions to many national partnerships and consortia. He also was an eloquent advocate for libraries' central role in fulfilling the educational mission at Grinnell and other liberal arts colleges.

In announcing Christel's appointment, Latham said, "I want to thank Julia Bauder for her great commitment and dedication in serving as interim director of the libraries. At a time when Grinnell sought to recover from the loss of Richard Fyffe, she brought great energy and vision to a challenging task, and she excelled at it. We are all in her debt."

Generall Historie of Plantes

The Herball, or, Generall Historie of Plantes, gathered by English surgeon and botanist John Gerarde, is a lushly illustrated guide to botany and herbal medicine. Special Collections is home to a rare first edition printing of the Herball, published by John Norton in 1597. This 419-year-old book is remarkably intact; however abrasions on the cover and minor stains and tears throughout demonstrate that this book was frequently consulted. In fact, Gerarde’s Herball was the most widely circulated book on plants published in English in the 17th century.

The first edition of the Herball consists of 1,484 pages divided into three books: “The First Booke of the Historie of Plants, Containing Grasses, Rushes, Corne, Flags, Bulbose, or Onion-rooted Plants,” “The Second Booke… Containing the description, place, time, names, nature, and vertues of all sorts of herbs for meate, medicine, or sweete smelling use, etc.,” and “The Third Booke… Containing… Trees, Shrubs, Bushes, Fruit-bearing plants, Rosins, Gums, Roses, Heath, Mosses: Some Indian plants, and other rare plants not remembered in the Proeme to the first booke. Also Mushrooms, Corall, and their several kindes, etc.”

The Herball was published more than a century prior to Linnaean taxonomy; therefore, the plants discussed within the book are not organized according to rank-based classification. Instead, Gerarde arranged the plants using a classification system based on differences of leaf structure. The back of the Herball contains multiple indices, including a table of the “Nature, Vertue, and Dangers of all the Herbes, Trees, and Plants, of the which are spoken in this present Herball.

Gerarde’s prose combines naturalistic description and Elizabethan folklore. For example, Gerarde writes that Tragopogon, pictured on these pages, is commonly known as “Go to bed at noone,” “for it shutteth it selfe at twelve of the clocke, and sheweth non his face open until the next daies sunne do make it flower anew” (595). The author’s description of the medicinal uses for Tragopogon is equally poetic. He writes that the root of Tragopogon “warmeth the stomacke, prevaileth greatly in consumptions, and strengthneth those that have been sicke of a long lingering disease” (596).

Although the Herball bears Gerarde’s name, most of the book is a translation of a renowned herbal published by Dutch scholar Rembert Dodoen in 1554. Furthermore, Gerarde did not translate the entire book himself; he took over the translation project from Robert Priest, a member of the London College of Physicians who died before the book was published. Additionally, almost all of the eighteen hundred woodcuts in the Herball were taken from the Eicones Plantarum of Jacobus Theodorus, published in 1590, which were in turn reproductions from other earlier works. Though Gerarde was the superintendent of the gardens of the adviser to Queen Elizabeth, his knowledge of botany fell short and he paired many plant descriptions with the wrong illustrations. A second edition of the Herball, corrected and expanded to around 1,700 pages by London apothecary Thomas Johnson, was published in 1633, two decades after Gerarde’s death.

Gerarde is often credited with contributing original entries about plants from his own garden, including plants from the New World that were considered rare and exotic at the time. Notably, Gerarde’s Herball contains the first English description of the potato. Gerarde obtained a Virginian potato plant for his own garden through his contacts with explorers Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake. The illustration included with his entry, which is one of the only original woodcuts in the Herball, was the first depiction of the potato many English people had ever encountered.

We encourage anyone with an interest to drop by Special Collections and take a look at this book in person.  Special Collections and Archives is open to the public 1:30-5:00pm Monday through Friday and mornings by appointment. Additional information about the Herball can be found on the websites for the University of Virginia Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Heath Sciences Library and on the Encyclopaedia Romana published in affiliation with the University of Chicago.

http://exhibits.hsl.virginia.edu/herbs/herball/

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/aconite/gerard.html#anchor5371

 

Former Grinnell College Librarian Christopher McKee to Receive Knox Medal

Christopher McKee, Samuel R. and Marie Rosenthal professor emeritus and former librarian of Grinnell College, has received the prestigious Commodore Dudley W. Knox Medal for Continuing Lifetime Achievement in the field of naval history.

The award, established in 2013 by the Naval Historical Foundation, honors an individual for a lifetime body of work in the field of U.S. naval history.

McKee is the 11th individual to receive this honor. The medal will be formally presented at the conclusion of the North American Society for Oceanic History conference to be held May 11-14 in Portland, Maine. Nominations for the 2017 Knox Medal may be submitted through the foundation’s website.  

Born in Brooklyn, New York, McKee graduated from the University of St. Thomas in Houston and completed his master's degree in library science at the University of Michigan. He joined the Grinnell College faculty in 1972, serving as a librarian, historian and educator.

Currently a scholar-in-residence at the Newberry Library in Chicago, McKee also held the Secretary of the Navy Research Chair at the Naval Historical Center from 1990 to 1991 and was a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at the Newberry Library from 1978 to 1979.  

McKee has made major contributions to naval history with his three books. His first publication, "Edward Preble: A Naval Biography, 1761-1807," published first in 1972, was republished in 1996 by the Naval Institute Press as part of its "Classics of Naval Literature" series.

His second work, "A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession: The Creation of the U.S. Naval Officer Corps, 1794-1815," was published in 1991. It received numerous honors, including the prestigious John Lyman Book Award from the North American Society for Oceanic History, and the Samuel Eliot Morison Award from the USS Constitution Museum. 

McKee then moved into the study of enlisted sailors, which led to his 2002 book, titled "Sober Men and True: Sailor Lives in the Royal Navy, 1900-1945."

He is working on a manuscript with the tentative title of "Ungentle Goodnights: Life in a Home for Elderly Naval Sailors and Marines, 1831-1895," a social history based on the lives of the first 541 enlisted beneficiaries admitted to the United States Naval Home in Philadelphia.

 

Voyage en Chine

Voyage en Chine is J. Castera’s 1805 translation of John Barrow’s original book, Voyage in China, published one year prior. The French edition is split into three volumes with an accompanying atlas to the text. Special Collections has only this atlas portion containing twenty-two plates. These plates contain a collection of charts and illustrations of Chinese culture and society from Barrow’s journey through the Qing Empire. Unfortunately, the copy has been damaged and is missing a handful of pages.

Barrow was private secretary to English Ambassador of China, Lord Macartney, during their 1792 envoy to China. During this time period, Great Britain was attempting to establish trade relations with China, which the envoy failed to procure during its trip. Another part of the envoy’s mission, however, was to get more information about the Chinese empire, including their military strength. Simultaneously a survey of Chinese culture, and an assessment of Chinese capabilities, Voyage en Chine represents the deep fascination and suspicion Westerners held for the Far East, prior to imperialistic war campaigns that took place later on in the 1800s — these campaigns include the Opium Wars pursued by Great Britain during the 1840s and 1850s.

Voyage en Chine begins with illustrations of a rice mill, a handful of Chinese characters, and a depiction of Qing currency. A variety of instruments and even musical scores are also recorded. This book contains depictions of Chinese society and culture, but it also catalogues Chinese artillery weapons and architecture. It is regrettable that the text volumes are not available, but the detailed plates still indicate the seriousness with which these studies of the East were conducted.

We encourage anyone with an interest to drop by Special Collections and take a look at this book in person.  Special Collections and Archives is open to the public 1:30-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and mornings by appointment.

May 17 Libraries Study Break w/the G-Tones

Grinnell College Libraries invites you to join us at Burling for a quick break from studying with milk, homemade cookies, and student performers!

Study breaks are at 9 p.m. on Monday, May 16, and Tuesday, May 17, in Burling Lounge. The improv group Ritalin Test Squad will perform on Monday, and the a capella group Grinnell College G-Tones will sing on Tuesday.

Cookies will also be delivered to Kistle Science Library.

Co-spSGA logoonsored by the Student Government Association.





 

May 16 Libraries Study Break w/Ritalin Test Squad

Grinnell College Libraries invites you to join us at Burling for a quick break from studying with milk, homemade cookies, and student performers!

Study breaks are at 9 p.m. on Monday, May 16, and Tuesday, May 17, in Burling Lounge. The improv group Ritalin Test Squad will perform on Monday, and the a capella group Grinnell College G-Tones will sing on Tuesday.

Cookies will also be delivered to Kistle Science Library.

SGA logoCo-sponsored by the Student Government Association.