Archive for July, 2008

Documenting Louisiana Sugar 1845-1917

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Richard Follett of the University of Sussex announced completion of Documenting Louisiana Sugar 1845-1917. Sources housed in the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections were amongst those consulted for the project.

For additional sugar resources in Special Collections, please consult our online catalog and our “Sugar” subject guide.

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After Katrina

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Madonna of Desire
“Madonna of Desire” by Donn Young

In commemoration of the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, LSU Libraries’ Special Collections presents “After Katrina,” an exhibition on display July 21 – September 27, 2008 in Hill Memorial Library on the LSU campus. The exhibition features images salvaged from the studio of New Orleans photographer Donn Young in the weeks following the flooding accompanying Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Young’s compelling post-storm photos of the Crescent City round out the exhibition, which is being held in conjunction with the exhibition “40 Days and 40 Nights” on display at the Louisiana State Archives. Young will give a lecture open to the public in Hill during September. For more information, visit the Special Collections exhibitions page at http://www.lib.lsu.edu/special/exhibits/index.html.

What do Charles Darwin, Ulysses S. Grant and Mardi Gras have in common?

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

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Mardi Gras celebrations in Louisiana are almost always tinged with political and social satire. President Bush, Governor Jindal, and even Britney Spears — these are just a few of the names that have inspired colorful floats and costumes in recent years. In 1873, New Orleans’ famous Mystick Krewe of Comus took their inspiration from none other than the British naturalist Charles Darwin, who had recently published On the Origin of Species, a highly controversial book in which Darwin presented his theory of natural selection.

Dressed as everything from mice to monkeys, the members of the krewe paraded through the streets of the city. A poem, in imitation of Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man, was painted on transparencies and carried along by the revelers. The real butt of the joke, however, was the Republican Party, not Darwin. The city police force, which supported the GOP and its plan for reconstruction of the post-Civil War South, wasn’t amused. As the parade tried to cross Canal Street, the police put an end to it.

Nevertheless, that didn’t prevent the publication of a small book to commemorate the event. Now part of the Irby C. Nichols Papers at the LSU Libraries and entitled The Missing Links to Darwin’s Origin of Species, the book contains over a dozen cartoons of strange creatures, half man, half beast. Some of the characters are identifiable. Ulysses S. Grant, for example, has been crossed with a caterpillar and lounges on a leaf smoking a cigar. General Benjamin Butler, the despised commander of the Union army in New Orleans during the Civil War, is shown in another cartoon dining with a party of bears and hyenas. Members of the notoriously corrupt metropolitan police are depicted throughout the book as sundry slithering animals. Such men, the poem suggests, were fit subjects for Darwin’s investigations as well as proof that he was right — men are descended from apes! Just look at the people who are running our city!

This post is the first in a new category on the Special Collections blog, the Cabinet of Curiosities. Need a subject for research? Take a peek into the Cabinet! Descriptions of especially ususual or interesting items that could form the basis of a research paper will be posted here.

– Michael Taylor, Assistant Curator of Books

New book acquisitions

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

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LSU Special Collections recently acquired two unusual bilingual texts. The first is a so-called “artist’s book” — a work of art that is bound like a book and in which text and image are merged. Designed by the French artist Bertrand Dorny, the book contains a short poem, Bilingue, written in French and English by the experimental writer Michel Butor. The poem and images describe a flight across the Atlantic during which travelers’ conversations blend together, “a spiral up the wand of Mercury” (the Roman god famous for flying from place to place in the blink of an eye). Although artists’ books (or livres d’artistes) are primarily a twentieth-century innovation, the form is often said to have originated with the English poet and artist William Blake (1757-1827). Artists’ books are typically produced in very small editions. Only ten copies of Bilingue, for example, were produced.

A related acquisition that also merges text, image, and mythology is Les Traits de l’Histoire Universelle (1761) by Jean-Louis Aubert, an eighteenth-century French dramatist, poet and essayist. The work contains selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in French and Latin and over 120 engravings illustrating the verses. An outstanding example of an early educational text illustrated for children, this book was also intended “for the instruction or amusement of persons of all ages and of all sexes.” The Grimm brothers, however, didn’t think the stories would be of much interest to adults; Voltaire, on the other hand, supposedly enjoyed them.

– Michael Taylor, Assistant Curator of Books

New Digital Library Collection: Louisiana Ecology and Conservation: the Percy Viosca Jr. Collection

Monday, July 7th, 2008

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Take a look at this visual record of the state’s natural resources and history. Louisiana Ecology and Conservation: the Percy Viosca Jr. Collection is a collection of images by one of Louisiana’s most acclaimed biologists and conservationists. The images presented in the digital library offer a range of subjects such as documentation of his biological science and conservation work, the Mississippi River flood of 1927, and images of his work with the Boy Scouts of America.

The collection includes more than 1,100 images by Percy Viosca. These images were scanned by the staff of Hill Memorial Library after being salvaged by Louisiana Sea Grant and the LSU AgCenter Extension. For more information about this project and the work of Percy Viosca, Jr., visit the project website. To view the collection, visit the LOUISiana Digital Library.


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