Archive for April, 2010

J. M. Scanland

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

John Milton Scanland must have shaken in his boots when he opened his door one day and stood face to face with a man he thought was dead — Wyatt Earp.

More than two years earlier, in March 1922, Scanland, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, had published an article about the legendary western lawman best known for his involvement in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. The truth about the fight had become distorted since 1881, when it took place, and Earp’s reputation had been tarnished by rumor and false accusations. Rather than as an upholder of the law, Scanland depicted Earp as a no-good bandit and murderer. He even claimed Earp had been killed at Colton, California.

In fact, Earp was alive and well — and living in Los Angeles. When he opened up his copy of the Times and found Scanland’s disparaging article, he decided he’d had enough of all the lies people were spreading about him. Although it took him several years to find the article’s author, he eventually tracked him down, intending to give him a piece of his mind. To his surprise, Earp discovered Scanland was an old man like himself who said he had just been trying to make a living. Earp settled for a written apology and retraction of the article’s statements. But from then on, he decided, things were going to be different. “Earp buffs everywhere owe Scanland a debt of gratitude,” one historian has written. “There can be no doubt that Scanland’s garble of historical libel prompted Wyatt to overcome his reluctance to talk about his life.”

Who was J. M. Scanland? Research recently conducted for the Louisiana Digital Newspaper Project sheds light on this unwittingly important figure in the history of the American West.

Scanland was born in Mississippi around 1843. Orphaned at a young age, he began his career at the Caddo Gazette in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he and his brother William Henry Scanland, who later rose to prominence as editor of the Bossier Banner, worked as apprentices. After serving in the Confederate army, Scanland edited the Bienville Messenger in Sparta, a small town near Shreveport. There he courted Adele Coleman, daughter of a prominent local planter. Scanland’s reasons for leaving Sparta aren’t clear but may have stemmed from Coleman’s rejection of him and marriage to Marshall Harvey Twitchell, a troublemaking Carpetbagger from Vermont. Twitchell was later a target of Louisiana’s equivalent of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral — the Coushatta Massacre of 1874, in which at least 11 men were murdered because of their political views.

By 1867, Scanland had become editor of the Natchitoches Spectator, a Democratic newspaper. His politics, however, were somewhat ambiguous. When accused of being sympathetic to the Radical Republicans, who had taken over Louisiana after the Civil War, Scanland denied the charges, but in September 1868, he sold the Spectator to Major James Cromie, a Republican officeholder and former commissioner of the local Freedman’s Bureau. Cromie immediately began publishing a Republican newspaper, the Red River News.

Scanland eventually found his way to California, where in the 1880s he edited the Ojai Valley View and the Santa Paula Graphic. Later he wrote articles, mostly on western topics, for various newspapers, including the L.A. Times, which hailed him as “a pioneer California journalist” when he died in 1935. In 1908, in El Paso, Texas (where he was probably working as a news reporter) Scanland published a biography of another western lawman only slightly less famous than Wyatt Earp — Pat Garrett, the man who killed Billy the Kid. Garrett, incidentally, had grown up on a plantation not far from Shreveport. One can only wonder whether he and Scanland crossed paths in their youth.

– Michael Taylor, Asssitant Curator of Books

LSU Day Events in Hill

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

AfricanAmericanStudentMemorialTowerOn Saturday, April 24, LSU will open its doors to the public for LSU Day, a free, fun-filled day of exploration throughout central campus. In Hill Memorial Library, visitors will have a variety of options. Throughout the day, they will be able to view “Campus Chronicle: 150 Years of LSU,” an exhibition of images and documents that covers topics ranging from the original LSU cadets, to athletics, the Civil Rights movement, prominent faculty, buildings and more.

In addition, Special Collections staff will offer 4 presentations during the day. At 10 a.m., Barry Cowan, Assistant University Archivist, will give an illustrated talk about the “Campus Chronicle” exhibition, with many interesting images of LSU days gone by.


At 11 a.m., Jennifer Abraham, Director, T. Harry William Center for Oral History, will talk about the work of the Center in “What Endures: Oral History and Community Partnerships.” Her talk will feature information about how the Williams Center helps document the lives of Louisianans.

laura1[1]At 2 p.m. Athena N. Jackson, Project Librarian, will present “Extra, Extra, Read All About It! Digitizing Louisiana Newspapers,” describing a two-year grant-funded project that will make 100,000 pages of historical Louisiana newspapers freely available via the Internet in 2011, as part of the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America website.

IMG_0985-300x224[1]Finally, at 3 p.m., Elaine Smyth, Head of Special Collections, will speak on “Saving the Past for the Future: What Special Collections Does for You,” providing an overview of the work carried out by Special Collections staff, collecting, preserving, and making available our cultural heritage.

We hope you will stop by and pass a good time!

A Confederacy of Dunces Abroad

Monday, April 19th, 2010

LSU Libraries’ Special Collections  and LSU Press
host mini-exhibition and panel discussion

Een samenzwering van idioten.  Tökfilkók Szövetsége.  La conjuration des imbéciles.  No matter how you say it, A Confederacy of Dunces is a world-wide sensation.  Published by LSU Press in 1980, the legendary novel of New Orleans by John Kennedy Toole won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction the next year.  Today, there are over two million copies in print in over thirty languages.  But how does such a culturally-specific literary work translate for readers across the globe?

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of A Confederacy of Dunces and its own 75th anniversary, LSU Press will host a panel discussion about the various translated editions of A Confederacy of Dunces on Tuesday, April 27, at 4:30 PM in LSU’s Hill Memorial Library. Betsy Wing, an award-winning French translator, Rod Parker, director of the LSU School of Art, and Laura Gleason, assistant director and design and production manager at LSU Press will discuss how publishers in other countries have interpreted both the text and the cover art of this iconic novel. 

The presentation will feature a slideshow of thirty of the most interesting book jackets, one for each year since the book’s publication.   Door prizes will include copies of the Dutch, German, and Spanish translations.

In association with LSU Press, LSU Libraries’ Special Collections presents a mini-exhibition featuring the cover art of 30 foreign-language editions. The exhibition will be on display from April 21 through July 31, 2010. 

Type Designer/Book Artist Speaks in Hill, April 18

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

On Sunday, April 18, type designer and book artist Russell Maret will give an illustrated lecture on “Letter Forms as Content”at 3 p.m. in Hill Memorial Library on the LSU campus.

Maret, who began studying letterpress printing and typography in 1989, will discuss the development of his work and the evolution of his obsession with the alphabet.
This free event is sponsored by the LSU Libraries and the Baton Rouge Bibliophiles, and the public is invited. A reception will follow the lecture.
SL_Cloister03[1]In his book, “Mediaeval in Padua,” Maret explores and illustrates the multitude of variant forms, calligraphic whimsy and sculptural skill of anonymous artisans in Padua, Italy, whose work crosses the centuries to illustrate the transition from Romanesque lettering to the highly ornamental and regimented Round Gothic epigraphic style. He has just completed a residency at the American Academy in Rome, which provided him with rich resources for further study of historical letterforms.
In Maret’s most recent book, “Aethelwold Etc.: Twenty-Six Letters Inspired by Other Letters and Non-Letters and Little Bits of Poetry Rendered with Accompanying Notes,” the text and images were printed from 163 plates in 105 different colors on a hand-fed Vandercook Universal III proof press. The book was bound and boxed in Texas by Craig Jensen and Gary McLerran at Book Lab II.
Maret began studying letterpress printing in 1989 with Peter Koch in San Francisco and went on to be resident printer at the Press in Tuscany Alley. He continued his studies at Firefly Press in Somerville, Mass., where he worked as a Monotype and Linotype compositor, as well as a pressman. He returned to New York in 1993 and began printing and bookbinding at the Center for Book Arts, where he was artist-in-residence in 1996. In the late 1990s, he began to study and explore geometric and pre-typographic alphabetic form, a focus from which his current work on the alphabet has developed.
Maret also won the 2009 Rome Prize in Design, an endowed residency awarded each year given to 15 emerging artists to refine their artistic aptitudes while living at the American Academy on the Janiculum, Rome’s highest hill. During that time, Maret documented and map all of the in situ lettering in the accessible roman catacombs and evaluated the variant lettering styles found there.  His project, “The Subterranean Antique Letter,” will be documented in a forthcoming monograph as part of his series of books titled “Swan & Hoop.”TrastevereType[1]
Maret has taught and lectured on letterpress printing, bookbinding, the history of letter forms and the history of the book at the Center for Book Arts, New York; the Center for Contemporary Printmaking, Norwalk, Ct.; La Casa del Libro, San Juan; and La Escuela de Artes Plasticas de Puerto Rico, San Juan.
For additional information on Maret, visit or visit .
For additional information about the April 18 event, contact Elaine Smyth, head of LSU Special Collections, by calling 225-578-6552 or email

Gordon Delivers Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Lecture at Hill

Friday, April 16th, 2010

LouisianagirlThursday evening, April 15, Professor Linda Gordon (NYU) delivered the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar lecture to a crowd of 80-plus students, faculty, and community members (including a feature writer from the Advocate – look for the article coming soon), the Hill Memorial Library lecture hall. The lecture was videotaped, thanks to University Relations, and it will soon be freely available on the Internet. The url will be posted here when it becomes available.

In her talk, Professor Gordon explored the ways in which documentary photographer Dorothea Lange used her art as a democratizing force, to break down stereotypes. By revealing the dignity, grace, and humanity of those she photographed, Lange subtly demanded that her viewers question why those people – be they poor migrant workers, Japanese interns during World War II, or African-American sharecroppers – were suffering the conditions in which we see them.

Drawing on the research she did for her recently published biography of Lange (Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits, which reviewers describe as a “riveting portrait of one of America’s most renowned photographers” and an “astonishing and deeply moving biography”) Gordon provided a biographical context for Lange’s work, and discussed the fate of her work, various portions of which are held by the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the Oakland Museum.

The audience was appreciative and asked questions for 25 minutes following the 50 minute talk. In addition, Professor Gordon met informally with two groups students during the day to discuss topics related to the history of birth control and abortion and related topics. Special thanks are due to the LSU Department of History, for co-sponsoring the event, and especially to Alecia Long, Carolyn Lewis, Nancy Isenberg, Gaines Foster, and Victor Stater, for their help with arrangements. The LSU Libraries and University Relations also provided support.

The purpose of the Visiting Scholar program, which is administered and supported by the national Phi Beta Kappa organization, is to contribute to the intellectual life of the institution by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students. This Visiting Scholar was certainly a success, and congratulations are due to all dues-paying members of the LSU Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for supporting the event.

Daily Reveille article about Special Collections

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Feature article about Hill Memorial Library appeared in the April 12, 2010 Daily Reveille.


The Hill Memorial Library has been part of the University for 85 years, but many students still don’t know the history in its stacks.

Funded completely by donations, the Hill — also known as Special Collections — stores a wide array of rare and valuable historical materials, ranging from a first edition of Samuel Johnson’s “History of the English Language” to the manuscripts of Louisiana natives.
The library requires a certain amount of security because the items are rare, said Elaine Smyth, head of Special Collections.

Visitors must sign in at the front and wear an ID badge at all times. Personal belongings are stored in a locker, and no materials can be taken outside the building…

See entire article

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