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Siam's Twins and Early Asian America

Joe Orser portraitAuthor Joe Orser will present a free public talk on “Siam’s Twins and Early Asian America” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Burling Library Lounge.

Orser will explore Chang and Eng Bunker, conjoined twins who toured as a curiosity throughout the world from the 1820s to the 1890s, settling in North Carolina.

Orser teaches history at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and is the author of The Lives of Chang and Eng: Siam's Twins in Nineteenth-Century America.

Orser’s talk is part of The Asian American Association’s celebration of Asian Pacific Islander American Awareness Week, Sunday, April 26 – Saturday, May 2.





Special Collections and Archives Item of the Week

A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe was published in 1722 in London.  A fictionalized, first-person account of the year 1665, it chronicles life in London during the Great Plague. Defoe was a novelist, pamphleteer, and journalist, and is best known for his novels Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders.

Defoe’s work is notable for many scholarly reasons, but what makes individual copies of notice to students and patrons interested in book history is the provenance associated with each particular book. Another source of academic interest is the information about Defoe placed inside the book and its accompanying slipcase and what that might suggest about a previous owner and their use of the book.

The term provenance refers to origin or chain or ownership, and is how archivists and special collections librarians keep track of the people or institutions who owned the materials now in their collection. Bookplates are a common way of identifying previous ownership.  Grinnell’s copy of A Journal of the Plague Year three bookplates in addition to one small plate of a bookseller.  Also common is owners writing their names on the inside covers or on the title page. This particular book has two signatures from previous owners.

Pasted to the original pages of the inside cover and first blank page, as well as on the inside of the accompanying slipcase, are clippings of bookseller descriptions of A Journal of the Plague Year and about Defoe as an author.  Two clippings are dated 1920 and 1965, while the remaining two are undated.  The clippings inside the slipcase describe two different copies of A Journal of the Plague Year, one a first edition and the other a second addition.  Differences in print year, condition, and price are noted.  When the bookseller plate is taken into account, it seems likely that the owner was noting which copy he had purchased – the first edition – from which bookseller, and why. Based on the additional bookplates and signatures, other inferences can be made about the chain of custody and how this book came to be at Grinnell College, but we’ll let you discover them for yourself!

We encourage anyone with an interest to drop by Special Collections and look at this fascinating book in person.  Special Collections and Archives is open to the public 1:30-5:00pm Monday through Friday and mornings by appointment.


Special Collections and Archives Item of the Week

Think back to the first time you experienced the Internet and realized that vast quantities of information were now at your fingertips. This same sensation was felt by our ancestors who first experienced photography. The invention of stereoscopes allowed for an entirely new experience: photographs with dimension. A stereoscope is device that allows a user to see a 3-D image through a lens viewer. They no longer had to rely on illustrations and paintings, but could view still images that precisely captured a scene.

Stereoscopes were a largely Victorian middle class form of entertainment. Unlike wealthy members of the upper classes who could afford to travel abroad, the middle relied on photographs and descriptions in books to learn about the wider world. The images on stereo cards captivated people, giving them a glimpse of far away and exotic places they had only heard or read about. The use of stereoscopes declined with the increasing popularization of motion pictures. Using these stereoscopes allows students and patrons to better comprehend its importance as a means of entertainment.

Stereoscopes were highly popular from the mid-1800s up through the 1930s. Although it was not the first created, the Brewster stereoscope was the first handheld stereoscope. The inclusion of the devices at The Great Exhibition in 1851 raised their popularity and created a demand for more 3-D images. The most well-known variation was created by noted poet, author, and lecturer Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1861.

The images viewed in stereoscopes were hugely entertaining because people had never seen photography with so much depth as to give the illusion of dimension. In an 1859 article, Holmes wrote of the stereoscope: “The first effect of looking at a good photograph through the stereoscope is a surprise such as no painting ever produced. The mind feels its way into the very depths of the picture…Then there is such a frightful amount of detail, that we have the same sense of infinite complexity which Nature gives us.”

Stereoscopes work by placing two photographs side by side on a card, which is then placed on the end of a sliding mount.  The sliding aspect means that the image can be brought closer or farther away from the face. The 3-D effect of the images comes from the fact that two photographs are not identical, but rather taken from very slightly different angles. When the photographs are seen through the viewer, the left and right eye images come together to give the effect of one three dimensional image.  The name comes from the stereo cards used.

We encourage anyone with an interest to drop by Special Collections and put themselves in the shoes of the people who first experienced three dimensional images by using these entertainment devices from the past. The models available in the Special Collections and Archives are Holmes Stereoscopes.

Special Collections and Archives is open to the public 1:30-5:00pm Monday through Friday and mornings by appointment.

April 17 Book Talk

Gill Michael

Why is the sexuality of people with intellectual disabilities often deemed “risky” or “inappropriate” by teachers, parents, support staff, medical professionals, judges, and the media? Should sexual citizenship depend on IQ? Confronting such questions head-on, Already Doing It exposes the “sexual ableism” that denies the reality of individuals who, despite the restrictions they face, actively make decisions about their sexual lives. A powerfully argued call for sexual and reproductive justice for people with intellectual disabilities, Already Doing It urges a shift away from the compulsion to manage “deviance” (better known today as harm reduction) because the right to pleasure and intellectual disability are not mutually exclusive. In so doing, it represents a vital new contribution to the ongoing debate over who, in the United States, should be allowed to have sex, reproduce, marry, and raise children.

Please join us for a book celebration for Mike Gill, Assistant Professor of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, at 4:15p.m. Friday, April 17 in Burling Library Lounge.

Gill will read from his new book Already Doing it: Intellectual Disability and Sexual Agency (University of Minnesota Press 2015) and open the floor for questions.

The event is free and open to the public.  Light refreshments will be served.

Special Collections and Archives Item of the Week

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens was first published in 1849 in London by Bradbury and Evans. Illustrations are by H.K. Browne. This particular copy from our collection is a first edition, first issue.

As with many of Dickens’ works, David Copperfield was originally published in serial parts or installments. It was published between May of 1849 and November of 1850. The serialization of novels was not an invention of the Victorian era, but it certainly reached its peak popularity during this time period. Being able to examine David Copperfield in its serialized form gives students and patrons a view into the reading experience of the Victorians who first read this novel. Also of historical interest are the numerous advertisements present in each installment. A wide variety of products are advertised, ranging from clothing to medicine to books.

Novels were frequently published in installments over a period of time, appearing in newspapers, magazines, or as small, individual pamphlets. Serial installments of books were as eagerly anticipated in their day as the next episode of popular television shows are today. This method of publication was cost effective for many readers because purchasing installments allowed payment to be spread out over a longer time period rather than paying to purchase an entire book outright. Many Victorian authors published works in serial format, among them George Elliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Other serial novels written by Dickens available in the Special Collections and Archives are Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Our Mutual Friend, and the unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood. We encourage anyone with an interest to drop by Special Collections and look at these serial novels in person.

Special Collections and Archives is open to the public 1:30-5:00pm Monday through Friday and mornings by appointment.

Amana and Grinnell: Creating Community on the Iowa Prairie in 1854

In celebration of the 160th anniversary of the establishment of the Amana Colonies in Iowa and the founding of the town of Grinnell, the exhibition “Amana and Grinnell: Creating Community on the Iowa Prairie in 1854” is now on display on the main floor and in Burling Gallery on the lower level. The exhibit aims to explore the shared intentionality, prairie location, and religious motivations of the Congregationalists who founded Grinnell College and settled Grinnell and the Inspirationists who established the Amana Society. Also explored is the differences between the two communities.

Materials displayed in the collection come from the Burling Library Special Collections and Archives, the private collection of Anthropology professor Jon Andelson, and the Amana Heritage Society.

The Amana Society

The Community of True Inspiration, also known as the Amana Society, was a theocratic community that settled in Iowa in 1854. Property was owned communally and all members worked for community owned businesses, such as the woolen mill and flour mill.  Members of the Society rejected ordained clergy, but instead followed church elders and those they called “instruments” who they believed to be divinely inspired.

Iowa College and Grinnell

Iowa College – later renamed Grinnell College – was established in 1846 by eleven Congregational ministers who formed under the name the Iowa Band. The college was originally located in Davenport, Iowa, but at the urging of J.B. Grinnell moved to the new town of Grinnell.

J.B. Grinnell was a Congregationalist minister and capitalist entrepreneur who helped found the town of Grinnell. He hoped to establish a religious and educational community and set about preparing for the formation of an institution of higher learning.

The exhibit was curated by Chris Jones, Allison Haack, and Jon Andelson. Thanks to Jon Andelson and the Amana Heritage Society for their loan of the items featured in the exhibit, and to Diane Lenertz for her graphic design skills.

Online Bibliography for "A Century of War" Guest Speakers

In conjunction with the Humanities Center's "A Century of War" events, the Grinnell College Libraries compiled an online bibliography that provides direct access to the speakers' selected works. 

Featured speakers are: 

  • Joanna Bourke, Professor of History, Birkbeck, University of London; 
  • Anton Kaes, Professor of German and Film & Media, Univertisy of California, Berkeley; 
  • John H. Morrow, Jr., Professor of History, University of Georgia; 
  • Vincent Sherry, Professor of English, Washington University in St. Louis.

What's New, Spring 2015

New Faces

We welcome Allison Haack, who joined us in November as the Library Assistant in Special Collections and Archives. Allison earned her B.A. in History from Simpson College and her Master of Library Science with a specialization in archives and records management from Indiana University-Bloomington. She brings with her experience in academic libraries and archives, and looks forward to learning more about Grinnell and the Special Collections.


We also welcome Meredith Carroll ’16 as our newest research tutor.  Meredith, a history major, has just returned from a semester of study at the Newberry Library.  Students can work with our tutors at Burling’s research desk or online to get an early start on their research projects this semester.   


New Movie Browser Online

With our New Movie Browser Online, you can conveniently browse through our documentary films, feature films, and foreign films. These links can also be found in 3Search; look under "Browse" toward the bottom of the page.


Tea Service in Kistle

We are now serving hot water and tea in the Kistle Science Library. Please bring your own container with a lid to enjoy the new service!


New Database and Online Reference Sets


JSTOR Collection XI

Arts & Sciences XI will expand JSTOR’s coverage in the humanities, with scholarship in core fields of Language & Literature, History, and Art & Art History. Comprising a minimum of 125 titles, the collection will include important journals in Classical Studies, Architecture & Architectural History, and Music. Other discipline clusters will include Bibliography, Library Science, Religion, Philosophy, Archaeology, Performing Arts, Film Studies, and Linguistics. Interdisciplinary titles will broaden the scope of the collection to include area studies such as American studies, Asian studies, Jewish studies, and African American studies.


Green’s Dictionary of Slang

By Jonathan Green

An unprecedented collection of slang words of the English language, the Dictionary covers five centuries of innovation in all English-speaking regions of the world and takes an authoritative, scholarly approach to slang. Over 100,000 words are defined; each word is authenticated by genuine and full-referenced citations of its use.


New Oxford Companion to Literature in French

Edited by Peter France

This work presents an authoritative guide not only to ten centuries of literature produced in the territory now called France, but also to the rich literary output of other French‐speaking countries around the world. It is a new and completely reconceived work, rather than a revision of the 1959 Oxford Companion to French Literature. Written by an international team of specialists, entries cover individual authors and works as well as the latest scholarship on topics such as chivalry, Occupation and Resistance in wartime France, scholasticism, the sciences, literary movements and genres, and many more.


Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages

Edited by Robert E. Bjork

A reference work covering all key aspects of European history, society, and culture from 500 to 1500 CE, as well as the Byzantine Empire, Islamic dynasties, and Asiatic peoples of the era. Over 800 scholars have assembled thousands of comprehensive entries, lavishly supplemented by hundreds of illustrations and dozens of maps. The Dictionary provides coverage of both the whole geographical extent of the European Middle Ages (including Germany and Austria, Spain and Portugal, the Low Countries, and Central and Eastern Europe, among many others), and of numerous major topics, from art and architecture, medicine, and law to archaeology, ecclesiastical history, and languages and literature.


Oxford Encyclopedia of Biblical Interpretation

Edited by Steven L. McKenzie

This work provides detailed, comprehensive treatments of the latest approaches to, and methods for, interpretation of the Bible. Written by expert practitioners, it provides a single source for authoritative reference overviews of the scholarship on some of the most important topics in the field of biblical studies. The Encyclopedia contains entries ranging in length from 3,000 to 5,000 words, each with a bibliography for further reading and cross-referenced to other useful points of interest within the Encyclopedia.


Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature

Edited by Jack Zipes

Written by an international roster of more than 300 authors, the Encyclopedia comprehensively documents and interprets the books read by children throughout the world. With a global perspective that pays attention to significant international trends and the multicultural expansion of the field, it includes brief biographies of every major author and illustrator. Also included are feature essays on all genres of children's literature, individual works, and prominent trends and themes, as well as general essays on the traditions of children's literature in many countries throughout the world.


St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture

Edited by Thomas Riggs

The St. James Encyclopedia Of Popular Culture, 2nd ed., updates and augments the over ten-year-old first edition. It includes 3,036 signed essays (300 of them new), alphabetically arranged, and written or reviewed by subject experts and edited to form a consistent, readable, and straightforward reference. The entries cover topics and persons in major areas of popular culture: film; music; print culture; social life; sports; television and radio; and art and performance (which include theater, dance, stand-up comedy, and other live performance). The entries analyze each topic or person's significance in and relevance to American popular culture; in addition to basic factual information, readers will gain perspective on the cultural context in which the topic or person has importance.


To access these databases and reference sets, please visit the Libraries’ "Databases A-Z" list.

Online Bibliography for Chicago Symposium Guest Speakers

In conjunction with the February 3-5 Symposium "Chicago: Urban Issues and Social Justice in the Windy City," sponsored by the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights, the Grinnell College Libraries compiled an online bibliography that provides direct access to the speakers' selected works. 

Featured speakers are: 

  • Christine J. Walley, Author and Associate Professor of Anthropology, MIT; 
  • Kari Lydersen, Chicago Journalist and Author; 
  • Virginia Parks, Associate Professor, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago; 
  • Barbara Ransby, Professor of History, University of Illinois at Chicago.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration On-line Bibliography

In conjunction with the College’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, the Grinnell College Libraries compiled an on-line bibliography (https://libweb.grinnell.edu/sp/subjects/guide.php?subject=MLK) featuring selected works of guest speakers Patricia Williams, James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for The Atlantic.