Monday, February 27, 2012

Angry Birds

Back cover of The Gift: A Christmas and New Year's Present (Philadelphia, 1839). [Gift of Michael Zinman]
This book cover has such interesting gold stamping. The unusual design of the four corner brasses incorporates images of animals in the swirls and curlicues.

The birds look so determined as they fly under the ornaments!

I particularly love the roaring lion with his tongue sticking out.  If you look closely, his tail has become one of the swirls of the corner piece, although it’s in the wrong place to attach to his body properly.

Jennifer Rosner
Chief of Conservation

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mr. Rementer’s South Philly Pear Orchard

Screen shot of Greater Philadelphia Geohistory Network’s Interactive Maps Viewer with detail of Samuel L. Smedley’s 1862 Philadelphia Atlas:
 I was recently contacted by James Rementer, a descendent of a South Philadelphia family that owned a pear orchard on Irish Tract Lane for more than a century before it was covered with landfill in the late 1800s. Though long gone, Irish Tract Lane was located in the vicinity of 18th and Wharton Streets (see above map). Mr. Rementer forwarded the below article printed in the July 1872 issue of Gardener’s Monthly and Horticultural Advertiser, mentioning his family’s orchard.  The author describes venturing into the doomed orchard to document the pear trees before the encroachment of over six feet of fill.  Executed for the purpose of supporting an underground sewage system in South Philadelphia’s marshy landscape, the fill would soon blanket most of the area.
July 1872 issue of Gardener’s Monthly and Horticultural Advertiser, retrieved from:
Adam Levine, an historian for the Philadelphia Water Department, recently presented his findings related to South Philadelphia’s buried topography at the Grid + Flow symposium held at Temple University in April 2011.  In his research here at the Library Company, he was able to track down the following image illustrating how the fill drastically altered South Philadelphia’s landscape.  In the lower left hand quadrant of the below photograph, one can see how the grade advanced upon existing farmland and structures in the vicinity of the Philadelphia Rapid Transit car barns, which now serve as a bus garage for SEPTA, on the site of the present-day Acme at 19th St. and Oregon Avenue.
Philadelphia Rapid Transit Car Barns, photograph by Aero Service Corporation. Ca. 1930.
One wonders if any pre-row home estates still exist today and, from my own findings, it appears as though Stephen Girard’s estate, Gentilhommiere (seen in modern photograph below), may be the only 18th-century structure remaining after the fill.  If anyone can correct me, I’d be glad to know of other existing historic structures south of Washington Avenue that may have survived the fill, other than those closer to the Delaware River.
Modern-day Photograph of Stephen Girard’s estate, Gentilhommiere, by the author.
Nicole Joniec
Print Department Assistant & Digital Collections Manager

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Mourner's Gift (1837)

Connie King writes:
Much as we send sympathy cards today, Americans gave small volumes of consolation literature to people who were in mourning during the early decades of the 19th century. In recent years, the Library Company has been able to acquire numerous examples of the genre in order to preserve this aspect of the elaborate cultural response to death in the antebellum years. Recently, with funding from the Davida T. Deutsch Women’s History Fund, we acquired a title that had eluded us previously: The Mourner’s Gift (New York, 1837). The book is small (less than 3 x 5”), which is typical, because the books were intended to be very personal. Edited by a woman, The Mourner’s Gift contains poetry by various writers including Mrs. Sigourney (“A Father to His Motherless Children”), Hannah Gould (“The Widow’s Lullaby”), and others.
When the book arrived, we discovered that The Mourner’s Gift had many gifts in store for us.
Close-up with raking light

Andrea Krupp writes:
This little book is beautiful in so many ways.  As a conservator with a special interest in 19th-century bookcloth, I noticed that the silk had been lined with a thin paper, which was common practice for silk bindings. But the cloth itself was unusual. Typically, silk-covered bindings from this period are decorated with a moirĂ©, or “watered” pattern, a type of fabric which was probably borrowed from the dressmaker’s stock and brought into service as a book covering material.  But this is the first example I’ve seen of a damask woven silk cloth on a book. The wear around the edges demonstrates why this delicate material was not well-suited for bookbinding. Another unusual feature is the stamped design on the front and back covers. The result is awkward compared to other blind stamping from this period, but it is the first time I have seen such stamping on a silk-covered binding. But beautiful it is– and an extraordinary example of the out-of-the-box thinking that characterized bindery operations in the 1830s.