Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch, Post 28
By Elaine Grublin
The following excerpt is from the diary of Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch.
Monday Dec. 7th, 1863
Mr. Loring declines my book, considering it too much founded on the subject of slavery to suit the present taste. Don’t know; but have this morning secured a perusal of it from Mr. Spencer...The war goes on, with further gain in Tennessee & Georgia, but a check on the Rappahannock. Congress meet to-day. God bless their deliberations!
Tuesday Dec. 22d 1863
Of public affairs, the president’s message & proclamation, with his plan for reorganization of the insurgent states, are most observable. Heaven has given us a great blessing in our wise and firm chief magistrate.
| Published: Wednesday, 4 December, 2013, 12:00 AM
This Week @ MHS
We return from our Thanksgiving break well-rested, well-fed, and grateful for the respite it provided. We have two hectic weeks ahead here at the Society before we slow down once again for the next holiday break. This week we have a plethora of programs on tap for public consumption.
Starting things off on Tuesday, 3 December, is a public seminar from our Early American History series. Serena Zabin of Carleton College present "Occupying Boston: An Intimate History of the Boston Massacre." In this talk, Zabin shows the fundamental component that women constituted in the British army's experience in Boston, evidenced by the records of some forty marriages of military men and more than a hundred baptisms of their children. This chapter from a larger study of the occupation of Boston examines the personal, social, and political meanings of these new families. Comment provided by Lisa Wilson, Connecticut College. The seminar begins at 5:15PM and is free and open to the public. RSVP required. Subscribe to received advance copies of the seminar papers.
On Wednesday, 4 December, spend your lunch hour at the Society for "To Spread Liberty to the North: The Invasion of Canada and the Coming of American Independence, 1774-1776." In this Brown Bag talk, Amy Noel of Boston University presents research on her project which seeks to explain the enormous changes taking place in American society between 1774 and 1776 by examining the failed invasion of Canada. The campaign played a crucial role in shaping colonial attitudes toward Catholicism and Britishness, the escalation of rebellion into an imperial civil war, and the looming issue of American independence. The talk begins at 12:00PM and is free and open to the public.
And on Wednesday evening, join us for "Elegant Interiors in Early 19th-Century Boston." In this public program related to our current exhibition, Richard and Jane Nylander discuss the new styles of architecture and furniture that appeared in early 19th-century Boston and will provide a glimpse of the interiors of the homes of some of the city's wealthiest citizens, among them Nathan Appleton, Charles Russell Codman, Benjamin Bussey, Barney Smith, and David Hinckley. Pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM and the talk begins at 6:00PM. Registration is required for this event and you can RSVP here. This program is part of the Massachusetts Furniture Series.
On Thursday, 5 December, the Society hosts a special year-end reception for MHS Fellows and Members to celebrate the season with the Trustees and staff of the MHS. The event begins at 6:00PM and is open only to MHS Fellows and Members at no cost. Please RSVP here.
Then, on Friday, 6 December, there is a public author talk. Join us at 2:00PM for "End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy." Fifty years ago, our country was jolted by tragedy: our 35th president was shot. In End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy, historian James L. Swanson offers a comprehensive understanding of this historic day, lending edge-of-your-seat storyteller's mastery to the subject. This event is free.
And last but certainly not least, on Saturday 7 December, come by the Society at 10:00AM for "The History and Collections of the MHS." This 90-minute docent-led tour exposes visitors to the Society's public rooms and touches on the history, collections, art, and architecture of the Society's historic building at 1154 Boylston Street. The tour is free and open to the public. No reservation is required for individuals or small groups. Parties of 8 or more should contact the MHS prior to attending a tour. For more information please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
| Published: Tuesday, 3 December, 2013, 10:36 AM
Considering Collation: Decoding the Formula (2)
By Dan Hinchen, Reader Services
If you have ever had the pleasure of perusing books from the 18th century, or earlier, you may have noticed the appearance of sequences of letters and numbers that appear at the bottom of pages. Maybe you saw a series of four pages that had C, C2, C3, C4, in that order, followed by four pages without those letters. Then, four pages with the same sequence using the letter D, and so on through the alphabet. If you have noticed these, have you ever wondered what they mean? Well if so, keep reading because this post is for you.
During the hand-press period of printing books, the printers included these alpha-numeric sequences, called signatures, to indicate to the binder the order in which the material should be bound together. Nowadays, when constructing descriptive bibliographies of these rare books, examination of the signatures can show anomalies in the printing process and can help distinguish among various printings of a single title.
In my last post I provided a collation formula for a book called The Doctrine of Devils and explained how to determine the format of the book. Now we can look at the collation and signing statement. As you might remember, the collation formula for the book looks like this:
8°: A4 B-O8; [$4 (-A3,4) signed; missigning I4 as I3]; 108 leaves; pp.  1-205 .
We know that the first part means that the book is an octavo which we determined by looking at various physical clues to find out that the pages were created on large sheets of paper that were folded three times to create gatherings of eight leaves, or 16 pages. Now, we can use that information to explain the collation of the book and the signing statement. These two pieces of the puzzle appear in the formula as:
A4 B-O8; [$4 (-A3,4) signed; missigning I4 as I3]
The first part, the collation, tells us how many sections are in the book and how many leaves are in each section. Here, we see that section A has four leaves, while sections B-O have eight leaves each. [If the book was longer, it might go from B, all the way to Cc, meaning that we ended the alphabet once and started again in double]. The second piece, appearing in brackets, is the signing statement, which informs us of the pattern of signatures throughout the book and also indicates any mistakes or deviations. $4 tells us that the printer signed the first four leaves of each gathering, or half of the gathering (-A3,4 indicates that in gathering A only the first two leaves had signatures). Also, we see that the printer incorrectly signed the leaf that was to be I4 and instead used I3 again. Otherwise, there appear to be no other mistakes or deviations, pretty simple.
One last step is to do a leaf count, which is just as it sounds, and then determine the pagination. We can use the leaf count to double-check our collation to ensure it makes sense. In this case, the leaf count yielded a total of 108 leaves. We know from the collation that section A has four leaves, and that each section, B-O (excluding J*) contains eight leaves. So, we have 4 + (8 x 13) = 108. It appears to all match up.
pp.  1-205 
The pagination statement is a check to see how the pages are numbered and if any got skipped or left out. The statement above means that there were eight pages of front matter that did not get numbered, so they are in brackets. Then we have the pages that were numbered, 1-205, with no mistakes. Finally, there are three pages at the end that also are unnumbered. Adding those together, we get a page count of 216, which is exactly double the leaf count. Everything agrees!
So the next time you have your hands on an old book, pay attention to all of these little signs and indicators and you might just be able to figure out your own collation formula for the book and have your own little coded description.
And since this will probably be my last post about collation for a while, I want to leave you with one more example of a formula that is a bit more complex, just to illustrate how long and tedious these can get. Unfortunately, I no longer have the title of the work, just that it was published in London in 1773. Good luck deciphering!
2°: [A]1a2b1 B-6Z2 7B2*7B2 7D-7F2 χ7F2 7G-7I2 [$1signed]; 296 leaves; pp.1-548 553-557 [=553]  [misnumbering 200 as 300, 248 as 548, and 412 as 112].
*Printers used the 23-letter Latin alphabet when creating their signatures rather than our modern 26-letter alphabet. In the 23-letter alphabet, I and J are interchangeable, though never both used; ditto for the letters U and V; last, there is no W in the Latin alphabet.
| Published: Friday, 29 November, 2013, 1:00 AM
Thanksgiving in War-time, 1862-1864
By Susan Martin, Collection Services
The life of a Civil War soldier was difficult even at the best of times, but holidays were particularly poignant. Many of the men were very young and away from home for the first time. Edward J. Bartlett of Concord, Mass. had been just 20 years old when he enlisted in August 1862. In his letters home in November of that year, written from New Bern, N.C., he described his first Thanksgiving as a soldier, the elaborate preparations, the decorations, and especially the food:
First we had oysters then turkey and chicken pie then plum pudding then apple raisin & coffee with plenty of good soft bread & butter. After we had all eaten a little too much, people usualy do on Thanksgiving days and we who had lived so long on hard tack did our best[,] we had a fine sing.
The meal was followed by songs (including “Auld Lang Syne”), speeches, toasts to President Lincoln and the troops, games, and a dance. Deep in hostile territory, the men were determined to celebrate “in the true home style.” Bartlett concluded that:
The whole day was very succesfull every thing went of[f] pleasently, not a thing went wrong. We were surprised that such a dinner could be got up in this God forsacken country. Twas pleasent to celebrate Thanksgiving in such a way.
The next year, his letters were more sober. Writing on 15 November 1863 from Nashville, Tenn., Bartlett reflected:
Our company Thansgiving in the barracks last year is a day that I can never forget. Six of those boys are now dead. Poor Hopkinson, the president, in his address, [said] “that he hoped the next year would see us all at our own family tables.” He died two months after.
Bartlett spent Thanksgiving 1864 stationed at Point Lookout, Md., guarding Confederate prisoners-of-war. He wrote to his sister Martha about his homesickness on the evening before the holiday:
Thankgiving eve. I sat over the fire, thinking of what you were doing at home, and what I had done on all the Thanksgiving eve’s, that I could remember.
The day itself, however, proved to be a rousing celebration that included music and dancing (“It was fun to see them kick thier heels about.”), horse races, sack races (“Such a roar of laughter I never heard before. Most of them were flat in the dirt before they had gone three steps.”), wheelbarrow races, a turkey shoot, greased-pole climbing, and greased-pig chases (“This made more sport than all the rest put together.”). Bartlett again, unsurprisingly, lingered over his description of the meal: oysters, turkey, duck, beef, chicken, vegetables, apple pie, pumpkin pie, mince pie, etc., finished off with cigars.
Edward J. Bartlett survived the Civil War and lived to 1914. To learn more about Bartlett, visit our Civil War Monthly Document feature for November 1863 or visit the MHS Library to read more of the papers in his collection.
| Published: Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 12:00 AM
This Week @ MHS
We start this week's installment of the events calendar by noting that the MHS is closed Thursday, 28 November - Saturday, 30 November, in observance of Thanksgiving. Normal hours resume on Monday, 2 December. But before that we have two public programs for you.
First, on Monday, 25 November, the Society hosts and author talk with Thomas Whalen of Boston University who will present "JFK & His Enemies: A Profile in Power, 1946-1963." At nearly every stage of his political career, Kennedy collected his fair share of enemies. Whalen will discuss the complex and strained relationships Kennedy had with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and how their mutual hostility inadvertently led to this assassination on 22 November 1963. This public program begins at 6:00PM with a pre-talk reception starting at 5:30PM. Please RSVP for this event.
On Tuesday, 26 November, is the latest in our Immigration and Urban History seminar series. Join us as David Hernández of Mount Holyoke College presents "A Place Reeking with Rottenness: The 'Corpus Christi Situation' (1933) and Legacies of Abusive Immigrant Detention." This talk examines an internal investigation of the Immigration Service in 1933 which exposed allegations of violence, sexual abuse, extortion, and coerced testimonies in a detention facility run by Julia and Olivia Valente. The event is part of a legacy of detainee abuse--from denial of legal rights and poor conditions of incarceration to violence, sexual abuse, and death that is widespread in immigrant facilities today. The case of the Valente Detention Home thus provides the operating terms for understanding contemporary detention practices, in particular, the use of private and non-federal facilities and management for detaining immigrants. Comment provided by Daniel Kanstroom of Boston College Law School. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. Talk begins at 5:15PM.
| Published: Sunday, 24 November, 2013, 12:00 PM