03.23.2022

Recent Acquisition: Views of Boston

Views of Boston, about 1890 
Schraubthaler (coin-shaped case) housing accordion-folded, tinted-lithographs of Boston scenes 
Chicago: Rand McNally and Company
Purchase, Karin Arntz Dumbaugh and Charles T Dumbaugh Fund, 2020

03.23.2022

Recent Acquisition: Histoire des ballons

Gaston Tissandier (1843–1899)
Histoire des ballons et des aéronautes célèbres, 2 vols.
Paris: Librairie artistique, H. Launette & Cie, 1887–1890
Purchase, on funds given by Joyce M. Bowden and Adam M. Lutynski in honor of Stanley Ellis Cushing on the occasion of his retirement, and proceeds from the Wick Book Fund, 2018
Click here to learn more
 

03.23.2022

Recent Acquisition: Harriet Hayden Albums

Harriet Hayden, compiler
Harriet Hayden Albums, 2 vols., about 1860–1863
35 photographs [albumen prints] in vol. 1; 52 photographs [albumen prints, tintypes, gem photographs] in vol. 2
Purchase; Howe, Hunt, Sammarco, Steiner, and Bromfield Funds; 2018; Conserved through the generosity of Timothy and Ruth Carey
Click here to view albums

03.23.2022

Recent Acquisition: Ashes to Ashes

Shirley Whitaker
Ashes to Ashes
Connecticut River Valley: SAW Press, 2018
Purchase, Jerrold I. W. Mitchell Fund, 2018
Click here to learn more

03.23.2022

Recent Acquisition: A South East View of the Great Town of Boston in New England in America

John Carwitham (active ca. 1723–1741)
A South East View of the Great Town of Boston in New England in America, about 1737
Engraving
Purchase, Katherine Lane Weems Print Fund, 202

03.23.2022

Recent Acquisition: Portraits of James Trask Woodbury & Augusta Porter Woodbury

Sarah Goodridge (1788–1853)
Portraits of James Trask Woodbury & Augusta Porter Woodbury, 1828
Watercolor miniatures on ivory
Purchase, Paintings and Sculpture Fund, 2020

02.23.2022

March Madness

Check out these sporty books, perfect for spring.

Picture Books

The Field by Baptiste Paul and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara
(New Picture Book Basket)
A community comes together for a game of futbol (soccer). They clear a local field of cows and work together to get all they need for a fun game.

Ready for the Spotlight! by Jaime Kim
(New Picture Book Basket)
Tessie loves ballet and feels like she is very good at it. That is, until her big sister Maya lands the solo and outshines the rest of class. Even Tessie’s freestyle dancing can’t raise her spirits. Perhaps the spotlight will be big enough for two and the sisters can each help each other dance even better.

Zuri Ray Tries Ballet by Tami Charles and illustrated by Sharon Sordo
(New Picture Book Basket)
Zuri loves trying new things with her best friend Jessie. The two do everything together and always like the same things, until ballet camp. Jessie is happy as can be doing pirouettes in a pink tutu, but Zuri can’t find her balance and feels uncomfortable in the ballet clothes. Will Zuri be able to find a way where she and her best friend can have fun at ballet camp? Perhaps her family will help inspire her.

Beginning Reader

Don’t Throw it to Mo ! by David A. Adler
(Beginning Reader Children Picture Book ADLER)
This wonderful beginning reader series follows Mo as he explores different sports. Mo is the smallest on the football team. His teammates avoid throwing the ball to him because he is clumsy. Coach soon comes up with a plan to make Mo the team’s secret weapon.

Youth Fiction

Lola Levine is Not Mean! by Monica Brown and illustrated by Angela Dominguez
(PZ7.B81633 Is 2015)
Lola loves writing in her diary and playing soccer. When a soccer game gets too competitive at recess, Lola accidentally hurts a classmate. Suddenly everyone is calling her “Mean Lola Levine.” With the help of her family and her best friend, Lola will need to learn how to navigate school and show others she isn’t mean.

Fast Pitch by Nic Stone
(PZ7.S8825 Fas 2021)
Shenice Lockwood is determined to lead her team, the Fulton Firebirds, to win the regional softball championship. As the only all Black team in the league, the Firebirds work twice as hard to prove that Black girls belong at bat. When her great-uncle Jack reveals that a career-ending—and family-name-ruining—crime may have been a setup, Shenice’s focus is tested. Will she be able to lead her team to victory and uncover the truth about her family’s past?

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
(PZ7.A3771 Cr 2014)
This engaging, fast-paced novel in verse follows Josh Bell and his family. Josh and his brother, Jordan, are kings on the basketball court. As the brothers work to come to terms with growing up, a life changing event happens that will change their family’s lives forever.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds
(PZ7.R333 Gh 2016)
Ghost loves running. But not on a track team, he has always run on the basketball court. When he challenges a sprinter to a race, the track coach notices him and his talent. But Ghost isn’t just running for fun, he is also trying to outrun his past. Will he be able to embrace his talent on the track team or will his past finally catch up?

Out of Left Field by Liza Ketchum
(PZ7.K488 Ou 2014)
A perfect book for any Sox fan excited for the season to start at the end of the month. Brandon McGinnis is excited for the summer of 2004. He’s on the varsity swim team, has a job, will get to spend time with his friends, and see games with his dad. He is most excited to see if this will be the year the Sox end their 86 year curse. When tragedy strikes, Brandon’s plans for the summer fall apart. Instead, he begins to unravel his father’s past, discovering a 30 year old secret tied to the Vietnam War.

Nonfiction

Women in Sports : 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win by Rachel Ignotofsky
(GV697 .A1 I33 2017)
A beautifully illustrated look at women athletes from the 1800s to now. Learn more about famous athletes and discover new lesser-known trailblazers from the past.

Undefeated : Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin
(GV958.U33 S54 2017)
This book is much more than an astounding underdog sports story. While Sheinkin tells the tale of the Carlisle Indian School’s incredible football team, he also tells the story of the atrocities the American government committed against Native Americans. Diving into the history of the boarding schools meant to eradicate Native cultures.

Growing Up Pedro by Matt Tavares
(Lg GV865.M355 T39 2015)
This picture book biography is perfect for young baseball fans. Follow Pedro Martinez as he grows up in Manoguayabo, Dominican Republic. He and his brother, Ramon, would play baseball together dreaming of one day playing in the major leagues together. Tavares tells the tale of how that dream came true.

Young Adult Books

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
(PZ7.K4955 Da 2018)
Darius feels lost in between his identities. As an Iranian American, he doesn’t feel as American as his classmates or as Iranian as his extended family. He is thus very anxious for his first trip to Iran. The trip is further complicated by Darius’s clinical depression which is less accepted there. While getting to know his mother’s family, Darius also meets Sohrab, his grandparent’s neighbor. The two become fast friends bonding over soccer. Sohrab becomes Darius’s first true friend.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
(PZ7.O39 Awi 2017)
This urban fantasy follows Sunny who was born in New York but now lives in Aba, Nigeria. Contrary to her name, sunny is albino and therefore sensitive to the sun. All she wants is to be able to play football and fit in at school. When she befriends Orlu an Chichi, those dreams of being a normal girl are abandoned. The escape to the world of the Leopard People, a place where your worst flaw becomes your greatest asset. There, they form a Oha Coven and work to track down a man responsible for kidnapping and harming children. Will Sunny and her friends be able to find him and defeat him?

Spinning by Tillie Walden
(CT275.W1788 A3 2017)
In this graphic memoir, Walden explores what it was like to come of age and come out in the world of figure skating. Having been a figure skater for ten years, skating was a large part of her identity as a teen. When she changed schools, discovered a passion for art, and started seeing her first girlfriend, Walden began to question if she still wanted to skate. A beautifully illustrated look at changing identity and continually finding oneself, this graphic novel is a must read for anyone sorting out who they are and who they want to be.

02.17.2022

Rachel Slade

February 2022

Interview by Mary Warnement, edited by Carly Stevens

Rachel Slade is an accomplished journalist and author. She started her career as an architect in Boston before becoming an editor and writer. After working as an editor at Boston magazine for ten years, she published her first book, Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro, which was named a New York Times Notable Book and an NPR Best Book, and won the Mountbatten Award for Best Book. Slade and I spoke over Zoom in early February about her career as a journalist and about her upcoming book, American Hoodie. To learn more about Slade and explore some of her work, please visit her website

Our conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: Can you tell me about your background, both personal and academic?

RACHEL SLADE: I’m from Philadelphia and after college, I went to the University of Pennsylvania for my Master in Architecture. That was an incredibly intense experience, trying to learn fluency in a new language, the visual language. I worked at a Boston architecture firm doing institutional work. When the firm downsized, which happens in that industry, I decided to try writing about design.

To get writing gigs, I began reaching out to the architecture firms I thought were doing terrific work, asking them if I could trot their best projects in front of editors. In a short time, my byline was popping up in a lot of different places. One day, I got a cold call from Boston magazine. They said, “Would you like to run our home design magazine?” And I thought, ‘I’m an architect. I can do anything.’ Well, it was not easy.

I ended up writing and editing all kinds of stories—politics, crime, real estate—which was a great education. I left Boston in 2016 and immediately felt the panic everybody gets when you leave a full time job, so I started pitching like crazy. One of the first stories I pitched was to Yankee magazine about El Faro, the American container ship that sunk in October 2015. While I was reporting that story, I had a feeling it would become a book. I put together a proposal, published a book, and the book did well. Now I’m working on my second book.

Q: How did you find the Athenæum?

RS:  I can’t tell you when I first heard about the Athenæum but I was under the impression that it was a highly exclusive club. During the pandemic, we all found we needed to find our so-called third space. We have our homes, many of us are fortunate to have a work space or an office somewhere, but the idea of a third space has become increasingly important. 

I wanted to be in a place where I could focus all day, and that drove me to the Athenæum. Then I started looking at the bookshelves and could not believe how blessed we are. What a strange collection of stuff!

I love that it’s a community of scholars. Everybody understands that if you sit down with a book or flip open your computer, you’re working. If you stay all day, nobody’s going to give you the side-eye or wonder what you’re up to. It’s a legitimate place to get work done. 

Q: Can you tell me how you found the story of El Faro?

RS: When I left Boston, I knew I wanted to write about Maine, so the first thing I did was set up a Maine list on Twitter and begin eavesdropping on all the newspapers and media sources in the state. My feed filled up with car accidents, school board meetings, that sort of thing. One day, I saw a tweet about some Maine families settling with a shipping company for the loss of their loved ones. I clicked on the article and went down the El Faro rabbit hole. I couldn’t believe an enormous American commercial ship had gone down three months before and I hadn’t heard about it.

I was further embarrassed by the fact that I didn’t know anything about maritime culture in the United States. We have ships, but who’s on those ships? How do you learn how to sail a ship? What kinds of people go into this industry? Turns out, there’s a huge maritime community in Maine. 

A lot of people in this region have gone to Maine Maritime Academy or Massachusetts Maritime Academy and are making a fine living on ships sailing around the world, just as so many others have done over the centuries. Of course, the ships have changed. The things on the ships have changed. The way we pack ships has changed. Where we go has changed. But the idea that you can lose somebody at sea has not changed. 

I was obsessed with finding out what happened to El Faro. Why did it sail into a hurricane when they had all the modern weather prediction and communication tools aboard? I also wanted to learn our maritime history, and how we’d lost our connection to the sea. 

When the book came out in 2018, I did a lot of speaking around New England, Philadelphia, and New York. I would talk about how we think we’re connected by the internet but that’s only partially true. Ships connect us globally. If the internet went down, we would feel it less acutely than if global shipping broke down.

Now, in 2022, I don’t have to preach anymore because shipping and the supply chain are top of mind. We see empty spaces on store shelves, we’re having trouble manufacturing cars and all kinds of things due to supply chain issues. The huge backups in Long Beach, California, are now on the front page of the New York Times

Q: What were the challenges and joys of conducting and using interviews for Into the Raging Sea

RS:  That was the most difficult reporting I had ever done. Not only had people lost family members, but some of the family members were very young. When you lose somebody at sea, there is no closure. There is no body. You cannot say goodbye fully and wholly the way we humans need to. It was very painful.

It’s always a gift when somebody is willing to talk to you and entrust their story to you. I learned that people were willing to do that with me. That was one of the joys. That also meant I had a tremendous responsibility to tell the story right, which is why the hardest moment was sending out copies of the book to those same family members. If they didn’t feel that I had been honest or fair, it would have been devastating. The stakes were so very high. Fortunately I got some lovely messages back from folks and I continue to get messages from mariners around the world saying they felt the story was well told.

In fact, I wrote about a third of the book on a ship. I took a cargo ship from Italy to Baltimore, Maryland—a 12 day voyage. I wrote from the bridge looking out at the Atlantic, observing the captain, the mates, and the helmsmen going about their days. I cannot think of a better way to write a book about a cargo ship than on a cargo ship.

Q: Can you tell me more about the book you are currently working on?

RS: The book is called American Hoodie. It explores the political, economic, and social history of textile manufacturing in America. The book asks, ‘Can we make things in America in the twenty-first century? Is it even possible anymore?’

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from American Hoodie?

RS: I want people to understand the value of things. We have a tendency to go to the store and quickly flip through racks and piles of things. This object right here [Slade holds up a small gray bag with a zippered top]—think about the technology required to make this fabric and the ingenuity it took to create a zipper. Think about the craftsmanship it takes to design a sewing machine that will do all of that in a fraction of a second. There are millennia of information and human intelligence packed into this object. It is an incredible thing. And that’s true with all the objects we interact with every day. We’ve forgotten that. We’ve lost touch with that meaning because stuff is so cheap. The price we currently pay for things does not reflect their value. I hope that through this book, readers will share the marvel that I have of what it takes to create the things we often take for granted.

Q: Did the Athenæum’s collections assist your research?

RS:  There is an incredible wealth of information in the Athenæum about the textile industry and I asked Curator Ginny Badgett to help me. She found this crazy little pamphlet published in Boston in 1765, written to address the growing number of homeless women and orphans living on Boston’s streets. In ornate prose, the pamphlet proposed that these women and orphans start manufacturing linen, because there was a need for it. There was little textile industry in America during the colonial period—nearly everything came from England. England was rapidly industrializing and the textiles coming to America were cheap and of high quality. Just before the American Revolution, people were starting to think, ‘Maybe we should have a textile industry here.’ It was not until after the revolution that it became a necessity.

While working on this book, I’ve stumbled onto some really wonderful stuff that I’ve been able to work into the book. In the Portsmouth, New Hampshire section on the fifth floor, I found the log of a cargo ship that came from England in 1635. So, what did England think the settlers in Portsmouth needed? Well, here’s the entire tally of everything that was on that ship—just sitting there on a shelf! 

The Athenæum is a cabinet of wonders. It’s a unique, wacky, and wild collection of things that people over the past 200 years thought might be valuable to keep around. That makes it quirky and fun to explore.

Q: Do you have a favorite spot to do work at the Athenæum?

RS: Like a Maine lobsterman, I’m not telling you! 

Q: Fair. 

RS: I do like to say that working for an hour on the fifth floor is like working five hours anywhere else. American Hoodie would not be what it is without the time I have spent at the Athenæum writing it. The Athenæum has a deep respect for objects. There is such faith in the printed word. Being in this space gives me the courage to believe that what I am doing has value.

02.15.2022

From the Archive: The Boston Athenæum and the London Library Business Correspondence

The Boston Athenæum and the London Library business correspondence

In 1913 the London Library was hired by the Boston Athenæum to create book lists and help select popular English novels that could not be purchased in the United States. This relationship is documented in our archive of letters (Boston Athenæum’s carbon copies and London Library originals).  This relationship lasted over three decades and through two World Wars.

In January 1913 Charles Knowles Bolton, the Boston Athenæum’s Librarian and Director, wrote to Sir Charles Theodore Hagberg Wright, the Secretary and Librarian at the London Library, inquiring about hiring them to obtain books by English authors. The following two letters describe the beginnings of this relationship. Wright suggests that his assistant Charles Purnell act as agent. Bolton describes the sort of books the Athenæum members like to read and so begins this relationship.

Wright to Bolton January 24, 1913
Bolton to Wright, page 1 of 2, February 8, 1913
Bolton to Wright, page 2 of 2, February 8, 1913

The letters describe some of the challenges faced by librarians during the World Wars. World War I was unlike anything one could have imagined.  War disrupted the normal flow of books from England and Europe to the United States.  The business correspondence between these two libraries reveal an institutional friendship whose scope extends beyond the realm of books. In the following two letters Bolton and Purnell mention censors reading correspondence, the USA entering the War, the recent advance made by the Austro-Hungarians in Italy, and, one of Purnell’s catalogers who suffered greatly but is rewarded.

Bolton to Purnell, April 12, 1917
Purnell to Bolton, page 1 of 2, October 31, 1917
Purnell to Bolton, page 2 of 2, October 31, 1917

Time passes and countries regain strength, publishing houses recover or open up, writing styles change, and books are bought and transported across the ocean again. During this time Charles Knowles Bolton retires and Sir Charles Theodore Hagberg Wright dies. Miss Elinor Gregory (later Mrs. Metcalf) becomes the Librarian in 1937 and continues the correspondence with Charles Purnell.  WWII begins and the two librarians are steadfast about book purchases among the devastation that surrounds London.  The following three letters describe Purnell’s environment: ruin down the street from the library and damage inside the library. Miss Gregory numbers the letters she sends for fear of lost letters, business continues, and Boston prepares for war.​

Purnell to Gregory, April 19, 1941
Purnell to Gregory, May 12, 1941
Gregory to Purnell, June 10, 1941

The United States joins the war and members of the Boston Athenæum staff (men and women) sign up and head to Europe. More war preparations are made at home and abroad. Fighting continues. The two libraries carry on with corresponding and ship books across the ocean with uncertain destiny. Eventually, the war ends. Here are two letters that mark victory, hope and, of course, the continuation of book business (with a side of grape jelly).

Purnell to Metcalf, page 1 of 2, May 15, 1945
Purnell to Metcalf, page 2 of 2, May 15, 1945
Metcalf to Purnell, August 14, 1945

These surviving letters tell a remarkable story of global cooperation and resilience in the face of great challenge. The news from London was shared with all the staff at the time and with our members within the pages of Annual Reports. News of London and Boston, general library news, and personal updates (children, weddings, vacations, etc.) are shared and the bounds between both libraries grew stronger with every letter.

One can read more about the Boston Athenæum and London Library relationship in our Annual Reports online and by making a Special Collections appointment. For more information about The London Library, please visit their website

Letters are from:
B.A. 5 .10
Librarian’s records
Boston Athenæum letters received
Boston Athenæum letters out
Boston Athenæum letter files

02.15.2022

From the Archive: The Athenæum Librarian, the Freed Slave, and “Our Friend A.L.”

The Athenæum Librarian, the Freed Slave, and “Our Friend A.L.”

The Republic, Richmond VA. 1865 September 16.
Boston Athenaeum Advertisement in The Republic, Richmond VA. 1865 September 16.

On Saturday morning September 16, 1865, The Republic, a Richmond Virginia newspaper, published this advertisement: 

“Files of ‘The Republic’ and all other Richmond papers from April 1 to August 1, 1865.  Parties having a file of any newspaper, or a collection of books or pamphlets, printed at the South during the war, may find sale for them by sending description and price to the librarian of the Boston Athenæum.”

Fourteen letters of response to Poole’s advertisement reside in the Archive. One in particular, dated September 22, stands out, that of Richard Kennard of Petersburg, VA who had bought his freedom in 1858.  Kennard did not tell Poole that he was a free slave in the letter. Poole found out, quite accidentally, when he attended a talk given by Rev. Dudley who had visited Petersburg and met Kennard when he mistook his grocery store for an eatery.

Poole wrote Kennard on October 30 and informed him that the library’s run of The Republic was complete but other papers were also sought. Poole mentioned his meeting with Dudley. Poole was an Abolitionist and his sympathetic sentiment was clear in his brief comments to Kennard that “colored men” should have the same rights as whites, should be free all over, as in Massachusetts.  “Just drop me a line if you have time…., ” Poole concluded. Poole’s consideration inspired Kennard to reply:

“PS:  …I received this morning your second kind letter and you will see by the date of the above that I had postponed the answer to your first but fearing that I might be troublesome is why I did not mail it—I know not how to express my self to you a stranger to me for such kind expressions… . To make this communication a little more interesting as you are so kind I will send you a very short history of my self & life. I was born in Petersburg augt 24th 1824 my mother a colored woman and a slave tho my father a white man and very rich whose name I take the privilege to call my own… . …hoping every day to have something good to us from President Johnson – as we have lost our friend A. L.”

With this correspondence, initiated by the newspaper advertisement, one can see the day-to-day operations of the Library acquiring a Civil War collection—but the day-to-day becomes extraordinary.  The experience of reading these letters brings one close to knowing the individuals who were essential to creating the Civil War collection that the Library houses today.  You may see the advertisement and the  Richard Kennard and William Fredrick Poole’s letters below.

If you would like to see any of these items in person, please request a research appointment.

Carolle R. Morini
Caroline D. Bain Archivist, Reference Librarian

1865 September 22, Letter to William Fredrick Poole from Richard Kennard, in response to the advertisement above.  Boston Athenӕum Archive 

Page 1, right & Back, left: 1865 September 22 Letter to William Fredrick Poole from Richard Kennard. Boston Athenaeum Archive
Page 2 & 3: 1865 September 22 Letter to William Fredrick Poole from Richard Kennard. Boston Athenaeum Archive

 1865 October 30, Letter to Richard Kennard from William Fredrick Poole. Boston Athenӕum Archive 

Pge 1: Copy of, 1865 October 30, Letter to Richard Kennard from William Fredrick Poole. Boston Athenaeum Archive
Pge 2, left & page 3, right: Copy of, 1865 October 30, Letter to Richard Kennard from William Fredrick Poole. Boston Athenaeum Archive

 1865 October 3 & November 8, Letter to William Fredrick Poole from Richard Kennard.  Boston Athenӕum Archive

Page 1: 1865 October 3 & November 8, Letter to William Fredrick Poole from Richard Kennard. Boston Athenaeum Archive
Page 2: 1865 October 3 & November 8, Letter to William Fredrick Poole from Richard Kennard. Boston Athenaeum Archive
Page 3: 1865 October 3 & November 8, Letter to William Fredrick Poole from Richard Kennard. Boston Athenaeum Archive
Page 4: 1865 October 3 & November 8, Letter to William Fredrick Poole from Richard Kennard. Boston Athenaeum Archive

Credit for images: Advertisement,The Republic, (September 16, 1865); Masthead, The Republic (September 16, 1865); Two letters by Kennard from:  Boston Athenæum Letters (1806–1887) B.A. 22, Box 12, Vols. 23-24; and Poole’s letter to Kennard from: Letters Out Volume (copies of letters he wrote).

(photographs by Carolle R. Morini, 2013).