Bingham Center News
Discovery at the Rubenstein: Italian-Language Version of Edith Wharton’s Short Story, “The Duchess at Prayer”
As a Humanities Writ Large Fellow at Duke this year, one of my goals was to explore the archives in the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, extending work I had done at the Kislak Center for Special Collections at University of Pennsylvania creating archival research exercises for undergraduate humanities students. My scholarship focuses on late nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American women’s writing, so I knew that exploring the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, currently undergoing processing, would be especially exciting. But little did I know that I would uncover a genuine “find”—an Italian-language typescript of a short story by Edith Wharton, translated by the author and featuring corrections in her own hand.
The typescript, the only piece in the collection by Wharton, is a translation from English into Italian of Wharton’s story “The Duchess at Prayer” (“La Duchessa in Preghiera”). The textual history of this story is complicated: Wharton first published the story in Scribner’s in August 1900, where it featured illustrations by Maxfield Parrish (full text at hathitrust.org) and then republished it in the short story volume, Crucial Instances (1901). The translation in the Rubenstein appears to have been made after the 1900 publication. Drawing on Honoré de Balzac’s “La Grande Bretèche” (1831) and likely Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” (1842), Wharton’s tale recounts the story of a seventeenth-century Italian Duchess whose cruel husband discovers her adulterous affair. To taunt and threaten his wife, the Duke gives her a Bernini statue crafted in her image, and, as Emily Orlando has argued in Edith Wharton and the Visual Arts, in the conclusion of the tale, the woman “becomes a statue chiseled in marble at her husband’s command” (45). The typescript in the Rubenstein appears to be a word-for-word Italian translation of the Scribner’s version, though that will have to be confirmed against the version of the short story in Crucial Instances.Figure 1
“La Duchessa in Preghiera” attests to Wharton’s linguistic expertise. The author, who spent much of her childhood in Italy and adulthood in France, was fluent in multiple languages. There’s no evidence that the story was published in Italian periodicals of the day; rather, it seems most likely that Wharton translated the story as a language exercise. In this translation, Wharton’s sophisticated Italian reveals her careful self-education; for example, she uses the passato remoto to refer to events in the distant historical past, where a less experienced Italian writer might use the passato prossimo. On the typescript pages, we see how Wharton added accent marks that were not available on English-language typewriters at the time (figure 1; no Microsoft Word symbols here!). Wharton used her own work as a source of language practice several times during her career: she first conceived the novella Ethan Frome as a French exercise and translated some of her stories from English to French for publication in French periodicals. The typescript in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection reveals her immersion in Italian culture as well her mastery of two languages. Just a year after the publication of Crucial Instances, she would publish her first novel, The Valley of Decision (1902), set in eighteenth-century Italy.
While “La Duchessa in Preghiera” deepens our appreciation of Wharton’s multilingualism, it also advances the scholarly record in another way. I am one of a number of volume editors contributing to The Complete Works of Edith Wharton, to be published by Oxford University Press. To date, there is no authoritative scholarly edition of Wharton’s complete works. In the process of editing Wharton’s extensive corpus, volume editors must locate extant manuscripts and typescripts for all the works in their purview. “La Duchessa in Preghiera” suggests that Whartonites should expect to find her work in unexpected places.
For example, after finding the typescript in the Rubenstein, I learned that an additional copy of “La Duchessa in Preghiera” has been located in the Matilda Gay papers at the Frick Museum in New York. Matilda Gay was a friend and neighbor of Wharton’s in Paris and two women came from a similar social class in New York. The next step would be to compare the Rubenstein typescript with the version in the Frick. The existence of these translations elicits multiple questions: did Wharton share a translation with her friend, and for what purpose? Do the two versions differ in any way? What do these translations tell us not simply about the author, but about the sharing of texts between friends, two female expatriates, at a particular historical moment, grappling with life and literature in another language? As with many forays into the archives, this initial exploration of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection reminds us of how much we still have to learn.
Post Contributed by Meredith Goldsmith, Humanities Writ Large Fellow 2015-2016 (Associate Professor of English, Ursinus College)
Maria Sibylla Merian. De europische insecten. Tot
Amsterdam: by J.F. Bernard, .Join the staff of the Bingham Center as Duke History Professor Thomas Robisheaux gives a lecture on the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, highlighting his use of works by naturalist and artist Maria Sibylla Merian. The lecture is free and open to the public; light refreshments will be served.
In celebration of:
Heralding the Way to a New World: Exploring Women in Science and Medicine through the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection
On display in the Michael and Karen Stone Family Gallery from January 20th to April 1st, 2016
From the first entomologist to capture the stages of metamorphosis of the butterfly (1705) to the author who published the first comprehensive volume on contraception (1923), the women in this exhibit were pioneers in science and medicine. Whether self-trained or classically educated, they not only made groundbreaking contributions to their fields, but also helped open the way for future generations to follow in their footsteps. Despite their accomplishments, most of these women remain overlooked or under-recognized.
This exhibition highlights the stories of seven revolutionary women in science and medicine and celebrates the arrival of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, from which these materials were selected.
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Researchers! The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2015-2016 travel grants.
The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, and the History of Medicine Collections will each award up to $1,000 per recipient to fund travel and other expenses related to visiting the Rubenstein Library. The Rubenstein also offers the Eleanore and Harold Jantz Fellowship, a $1500 award for researchers whose work would benefit from use of the Jantz Collections.
The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, artists, and activists who live more than 100 miles from Durham, NC and whose research projects would benefit from access to collections held by one of the centers.
More details—and the grant application—may be found on our grants website. Applications must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM EST on January 29, 2016. Recipients will be announced in March 2016.
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For the past few months, I have had the pleasure of processing the papers of Dr. Mab Segrest, a leading feminist writer, activist, scholar, and speaker, who has traveled the United States and around the world fighting for social justice. Her papers are an foundational collection for the Sallie Bingham Center and a valuable resource for the study of feminism, race, class, sexuality, and gender, as well as literary theory and social movement history.Mab Segrest in her home in Durham, circa 1978-80
Filling 124 boxes and spanning from 1889 to the present, the materials document many aspects of Dr. Segrest’s personal and professional history. In the series related to her family, there are a variety of valuable materials, including correspondence from the Panama Canal, Civil War portraits, and artifacts from her childhood in Tuskegee, Alabama. Professional materials include everything from correspondence, teaching files, and organizational records to drafts and research materials from her most famous published works, Memoir of a Race Traitor (1994) and My Mama’s Dead Squirrel (1985).Mab Segrest circa 1979
The largest section of the papers document Dr. Segrest’s wide-ranging activism, especially her work with North Carolinians Against Racist and Religious Violence (NCARRV), a public interest organization she co-founded in 1983 that rallied citizens against an epidemic of hate violence in this state. NCARRV files contain public communications as well as materials documenting strategy for on-the-ground activism in which she played a central role.
Dr. Segrest’s papers are a great testament to her long-standing commitment to education. Her teaching career started in 1971 when she accepted a position at Campbell University while working on her Ph.D. dissertation (earned at Duke University in 1979). Dr. Segrest has also taught courses at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke. She taught at Connecticut College from 2002 to 2014 where she was the Fuller-Maathai Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies. Most recently Dr. Segrest has taught at both Emory University and Georgia College while researching the history of Georgia’s state mental hospital in Milledgeville.Mab Segrest, feminist activist, writer, speaker, and educator
There is a good deal of connection among the different dimensions of this collection. In particular, it is impossible to separate Dr. Segrest’s work as an activist from her many academic accomplishments as these parts of her life have informed and shaped one another. When processing a person’s papers, it is impossible not to feel connected to them in some sense. I’m moved by Dr. Segrest’s enormous resolve and courage, and my time with her papers has increased my appreciation of her work and her dedication to activism and social justice.
The Mab Segrest Papers are an incredibly deep and rich resource within the Bingham Center and the Rubenstein Library. It has been a privilege to work with this collection and it is exciting to imagine the scores of students, scholars, and others whose work will be informed by these materials.
Post contributed by Rachel Sanders, intern for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.
“From the Underground to the Archive in Ten Years: Girl Zines, Feminist Networks, and the Politics of Memory” – Janice Radway, Northwestern University
Thursday, December 10, 6:00 p.m.
National Humanities Center, 7 T.W. Alexander Drive, Research Triangle Park, NC
In the early nineties, a certain cohort of dissident, non-conforming girls turned to self-publishing to express their deep dissatisfaction with conservative reaffirmations of normative femininity. Calling themselves “Riot Grrrls” after several influential all-girl punk bands, they crafted handmade publications known as “zines” in order to voice their disaffection and to think through alternative ways of being in the world. Despite their own fairly small numbers and the fact that they reproduced their zines in limited fashion, these young women quickly caught the attention of the mainstream media, cultural commentators, and a range of academics and librarians alike. Within ten years, at least three major collections of girl zines had been collected at places like Smith College, Barnard College, and Duke University. This lecture will explore the significance of girls’ self-publishing efforts, the complex reasons for their zines’ quick assimilation into legitimate cultural institutions, and the political benefits and drawbacks to this kind of memorialization.
Janice Radway is the Walter Dill Scott Professor of Communication Studies and a professor of American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies at Northwestern University. She is also Professor Emerita of Literature at Duke University. This year, as the Founders’ Fellow at the National Humanities Center, she is working on a book project, Girls and Their Zines in Motion: Selfhood and Sociality in the 1990s.
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A manuscript (i.e. handwritten) cookbook can tell us a great deal about its creator. What foods were available to her? How would her family have celebrated holidays and birthdays? Was she an elite woman with a cook who could prepare elaborate dishes, or a farm wife who had to prepare simple, hearty fare and preserve her harvest to feed her family? Do the recipes reflect a particular ethnic or religious background or geographical location? As is the case today, routine meals do not require a recipe. It is the special occasion recipes, especially those that require careful measurements to work properly, that are recorded for future reference.
We know, based on the ingredients, that Rubenstein Library’s New England Manuscript Recipe Book, [ca. 1860]- comes from the northeastern United States. It is no surprise that the little book includes a page of maple recipes, since maple is such a distinctive regional product.
I was intrigued by the Maple Ice Cream Recipe, in part because I am the proud owner of a fancy electric ice cream maker, so much easier than the hand-crank models that would have been available when the recipe was recorded. There is also the nostalgia of tasting maple: Santa always left a maple sugar woman in my Christmas stocking.
This is an extremely simple recipe, with just three ingredients: eggs, maple syrup, and cream:
I made a couple of changes. Given concerns about salmonella, I was not comfortable leaving the egg whites uncooked. I was also worried that mixing the eggs and syrup and boiling the mixture would result in curdled eggs. Instead, I boiled the syrup for about ten minutes to reduce it slightly, thereby intensifying the flavor. In a separate bowl, I beat the whole eggs. Then I slowly dribbled in about a cup of hot syrup, whisking the egg mixture constantly before whisking the egg mixture into the pot of hot syrup. Then I brought the mixture to 170 degrees, turned off the heat, and stirred in the cream.
Finally, I strained the mixture through a sieve to remove any solids and chilled it overnight before freezing, emptying into a plastic container, and leaving it in the freezer for a few hours to firm it up. The result: an absolutely luscious and elegant frozen dessert.
How did it taste? I brought in the whole container to share with my Rubenstein colleagues and it got rave reviews. It is very rich (note the quart of heavy cream!), but delicious.
Intrigued by the annotations (1896, Mrs. Kimber Thomas, Ladies Uplift Club), I did some searching and found a Morrisville, Vermont Uplift Club in The Register of Women’s Clubs (1922). I wondered whether Mrs. Kimber Thomas was given the recipe for Maple Ice Cream in 1896 and contributed it to an Uplift Club fund-raising cookbook and was thrilled to find a reference to this 53-page cookbook: Tried and Proven Recipes from Many Households. Morristown, Vt. : Ladies of the Uplift Club. The one known copy is in the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Staff have dated it to 1921, based on advertisements printed in the cookbook. As I write this, I am waiting for scans that I hope will confirm my hunches about the Maple Ice Cream recipe’s provenance. The tradition of noting the source and date of a recipe is a lovely way to link culinary creations to a vast network of friends, family, community, and history. The additional information would also allow us to more precisely identify the origins of this precious little cookbook.
Post contributed by Elizabeth Dunn, Research Services Librarian
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I catalog manuscript and other archival materials, the majority of which are unpublished and not described. They also cover a wide variety in type of material. Among the more exotic finds I have cataloged: a salesmen’s kit with patterns for men’s suits, musical instruments used by a jazz percussionist, feminist t-shirts, John Brown commemorative medals, and envelopes of 19-century bath and other powders.
Last Spring we acquired the Lisa Unger Baskin collection, which features five centuries of women’s history. Among the items is a work of needlepoint, a flower study, completed by Charlotte Brontë around 1840. I had never cataloged a work of needlepoint.
When faced with an unfamiliar format, a cataloger begins by looking for similar materials cataloged by colleagues nationally, searching in WorldCat. I found only a few pieces of embroidery, usually samplers, and those did not include extensive description of the item. I was determined to provide more detail than a basic record.
Fortunately, our donor had included with the Brontë needlepoint a photocopy from a book on Brontë artwork. The page focused on a flower study Charlotte had completed in watercolors while she was still in school. It offered a description of the piece which provided the level of detail I was seeking, so I based my own approach on it. However, to move forward with this approach I needed to confirm what flowers were depicted in Charlotte’s needlepoint study.
There was no argument that the top flower is a white lily. I felt the bottom left flower was a peony, while others said it was a rose. I had no clue what the bottom right flower might be. Who to consult? I approached a colleague who hails from England, and she offered to forward my photograph of the needlepoint to her father, who is a master gardener. After consulting his references, he agreed that the bottom left flower is a peony, and determined that the unknown flower on the bottom right is probably a carnation.
I also had to consult with Beth Doyle, head of our Conservation Services Department, regarding whether Charlotte’s needlepoint should be removed from its frame. While answering this question (no) Beth let me know the thread Charlotte used was probably wool. Beth’s mother is a master needleworker who may be able to determine what type of stitch Charlotte used.
Using all of this information, I wrote a description that provided the level of detail I was seeking, to give someone a basic mental image of the piece they would then find in our collection. However, even after I finished my initial work, one more consultation was required. My colleague, Lauren Reno, checked my catalogue record in RDA, the new cataloging standard I am applying to manuscript materials. She made several helpful enhancements.
I am very grateful for the “village” of people I can call upon in support of my work.
Post contributed by Alice Poffinberger, Archivist/Original Cataloger in the Technical Services Dept.
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