Archive for April, 2011

John S. McIlhenny Library Research Fellowships Available

Monday, April 25th, 2011

The Special Collections division of the LSU Libraries is pleased to announce the availability of the John S. McIlhenny Library Research Fellowships to support graduate students using the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections for research. Thanks to support from the Coypu Foundation, six fellowships of $1,000 each will be awarded.

Special Collections includes extensive research collections to support scholarship in several areas, including Louisiana and the lower Mississippi Valley, 18th-century British history and literature, fine printing and book arts, and natural history. The John S. McIlhenny Library Research Fellowships are open to graduate students in any field of study supported by Special Collections’ holdings. For more information about Special Collections, visit

The fellowships honor John S. McIlhenny, a life-long philanthropist and naturalist who sponsored numerous research efforts in wildlife conservation and scientific expeditions in various parts of the world. His many notable donations to the LSU Libraries include the E. A. McIlhenny Natural History Collection, administered as part of the Libraries’ Special Collections division.

Applications will be considered as they are received. Application information can be found at

LSU Libraries Hosts Viewing of Audubon’s Birds of America

Friday, April 15th, 2011

The LSU Libraries will host a viewing of the famed double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America (London, 1827-1838). The viewing will be held in the McIlhenny Room of Hill Memorial Library on the LSU campus, on Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m.

A renowned masterpiece of natural history art, the Birds of America records the rich bird and plant life Audubon saw and drew first-hand when he lived in Louisiana in the 1820s. The edition is known as the “elephant” folio because of its large size, with each of its 435 pages measuring 39 by 27 inches. Publication took eleven years, from 1827 to 1838. LSU’s copy of the Birds was purchased with a grant from the Crown Zellerbach Foundation in 1964, and it has been shown in various venues over the years.

In 2007, it was determined that LSU’s copy could no longer be shown safely due to structural damage to the bindings caused by their large size and other problems with individual plates. In 2008, the Coypu Foundation made a donation of $99,000 to enable conservation of this work by Etherington Conservation Services. Over the course of more than a year, the work was painstakingly completed. The final volume returned to the library on December 28, 2009. Thanks to the Coypu Foundation, one of the Libraries’ greatest treasures is now restored to fine condition and can again be displayed.

During the May 14 showing, copies of Danny Heitman’s book, A Summer of Birds, will be available for purchase, as will DVDs of the LPB documentary based on the book. From 10 to 11:30, Heitman will be on hand to sign copies of the book, which focuses on Audubon’s summer at Oakley House and features reproductions of original Audubon plates held by the LSU Libraries.

Audubon Day events are free and the public is invited, but reservations are required. Viewings of the folio volumes are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 noon, and 1 p.m. Only 40 people can be admitted for each showing.

To request a reservation, visit the Libraries’ Special Collections website at or call 225-578-6544 during business hours.

LSU Libraries Featured in “Treasures of LSU”

Friday, April 15th, 2011

A few of the LSU Libraries’ many treasures are featured in the television documentary, “Treasures of LSU,” produced by Louisiana Public Broadcasting. Introduced and discussed by librarians Elaine Smyth and Mark E. Martin, the library treasures include Audubon’s Birds of America, a bible used by Huey Long, the Description de l’Egypte, and a photographic portrait of an African-American woman taken in Natchez at the Norman Studio circa 1875. For a limited time, LPB has made a high-quality video file of the full program available at the following link: Treasures of LSU

“Our little village was in the greatest excitement…”

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Yesterday, April 12th, marked the 150th anniversary of the bombardment of Ft. Sumter, the event that began four years of bloody Civil War.

In this letter from Special Collections’ Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, Sara E. Ker Butler of Le Carpe Plantation, Terrebonne Parish, La., writes her sister-in-law, Margaret Butler, and relates news of the bombardment and war excitement in Houma: “those who wished to go (nearly all had signed an agreement to that effect, among them some who ought to be home, taking care of their wives and children).” She also relates news of the capture of Ft. Sumter, thankful to hear none were killed on either side and credits U.S. Major Robert Anderson “with trained gunners must have tried not to hurt anyone.” She discusses how she feels it is impossible to have enthusiasm for “our side,” admitting we should defend our rights but a war of brother vs. brother is awful.

View Butler’s letter in its entirety in the Louisiana Digital Library:,609

This letter is from the Margaret Butler Correspondence, Mss. 1068, Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, La.

Accidents Happen: Protecting & Saving Family Treasures

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

FYI: The Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) will present a free webinar addressing preservation issues on April 26, 2011. Interested participants may register online at the following URL:

Description of program as provided by ALCTS:

Accidents Happen: Protecting & Saving Family Treasures

Date: April 26, 2011 All webinars are one hour in length and begin at 2pm Eastern, 1pm Central, noon Mountain, and 11am Pacific Time.

Description: Accidents and disasters happen. When it does are you prepared? Are your family treasures stored safely in your home or elsewhere? How do you save your photos when they’ve been submerged in flood water? What do you do if your books smell mildewy? What if your basement floods or worse? Attend this session to learn answers to these questions and more.

Kraft will provide tips and tools for checking out possible hazards around the house, dealing with mold and salvaging keepsakes, documenting damage for insurance purposes, and keeping your family safe.

Learning Outcomes:

- Steps to take in preparing for and responding to a disaster
- Basic understanding of dealing with mold
- Simple techniques for salvaging keepsakes
- Awareness of available disaster assistance

Audience: Anyone interested in learning about disaster preparation and response. Strategies discussed during the presentation can be applied to home, library, or business.

Presenter: Nancy E Kraft, Head of Preservation at the University of Iowa Libraries, is responsible for directing the preservation and conservation of the library collections at the University of Iowa. In

2009 she received the Midwest Archives Conference Presidents’ Award for her extraordinary work following the historic levels of flooding that struck Iowa in the summer of 2008. Kraft has assisted in many disaster recoveries, large and small, including the Iowa Floods of 1993 and 2008, the University of Iowa Old Capitol fire, the water soaked State Historical Society of Iowa building, and a mold outbreak in the Law Library’s rare book room. Her passion is assisting the individual to preserve his/her keepsakes.

Free. This is a complimentary webinar presented as part of the Preservation Week events. Watch for further announcements on additional complimentary webinars during Preservation Week.

Laussat’s Memoirs of My Life

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Special Collections is pleased to announce the acquisition of one of the rarest and most important books on the early history of Louisiana—the Mémoires sur ma vie of Pierre-Clément de Laussat. Born in 1756 in the Pyrenees region of southern France, Laussat served as a minor bureaucrat until the outbreak of the French Revolution. After the signing in 1800 of the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso, by which Spain returned Louisiana to France, he seized the opportunity to become colonial prefect (governor) of Louisiana. Napoleon Bonaparte appointed him to the post in 1802. Not long after Laussat’s departure for Louisiana in January 1803, however, Napoleon sold the vast Louisiana Territory to the United States to help fund his wars in Europe. His hopes for a distinguished administrative career dashed, Laussat had to settle for formally receiving Louisiana from Spain on November 30, 1803, and then, just twenty days later, overseeing its official transfer to the Americans. (He also supervised the transfer of the Spanish colonial archives to Spain and the United States.)

Laussat went on to hold administrative posts in Martinique and French Guiana, but it is as the last French governor of Louisiana that he is remembered today. His experiences in Louisiana comprise nearly a third of his Memoirs. In the forward to the English translation of the work (published by the LSU Press in 1978), Robert Bush writes that Laussat’s account of the Louisiana Purchase is important for many reasons. In addition to offering a French point of view, it provides essential contextual information about the “living conditions, personality conflicts, institutional patterns, modes of dress, local cuisine, labor relations, manufacturing and agricultural techniques, transportation problems, [and] the issue of slavery” in Louisiana at the dawn of the nineteenth century. “An amazing amount of valuable factual information is contained in thirty pages of a census report that [Laussat] compiled while visiting planters and small farmers residing along the Mississippi and bayous,” Agnes-Josephine Pastwa, the translator of the Memoirs, observes. “Added to these sources of information are several others: memoirs, questionnaires, travel accounts, charts, and records submitted at [Laussat’s] request by the knowledgeable pioneers and prominent citizens of Louisiana.”

Laussat’s memoir was privately printed for his family in his hometown of Pau in 1831, four years before his death. One authority asserts that only 100 copies were printed. Six copies are known to exist in U.S. institutional libraries today and just one in Europe, making this one of the rarest items of nineteenth-century Americana. Special Collections plans to digitize the work and make it freely available in the Louisiana Digital Library.

Returned to Sender: Armand Duplantier Letters Donated

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Almost 230 years to the day he arrived in Louisiana, the letters of French émigré and Baton Rouge plantation owner Armand Duplantier and his family returned to the state from France when LSU Libraries Special Collections accepted the donation of the Armand Duplantier Family Letters on March 26th at Duplantier’s former home, Magnolia Mound Plantation.

The collection comes to LSU through the generosity of the descendants of Armand Duplantier and their French cousins, the descendants of Armand’s brother Guy Antoine Allard Duplantier.

The papers comprise 94 letters written between 1777 and 1844 to relatives in France by Armand Duplantier, his son Armand, his granddaughter Amélie Augustine, and his uncle Claude Trénonay,. They have been passed down through the family in France. Two of Guy Duplantier’s descendants transported the letters from France and were present at the donation ceremony.

LSU Chancellor Michael Martin and LSU Libraries; Special Collections Head Elaine Smyth officially signed the deed of gift turning over the papers to LSU, which was followed by a reception hosted by Friends of Magnolia Mound and LSU Libraries’ Special Collections.

Armand Duplantier was born in Voiron, France, in 1753. He served as aide-de-camp to the Marquis de Lafayette during the American Revolution and came to Louisiana in 1781 to assist his uncle, Claude Trenonay, in running his plantation in Pointe Coupée. Soon after his arrival, he married Trenonay’s step-daughter, Augustine. Armand continued to manage his uncles interests in addition to purchasing and expanding his own properties and the enslaved population necessary to run them. Armand held land in Pointe Coupee, the Felicianas, and the Baton Rouge area. Cotton, indigo and tobacco were the major cash crops of the day, and Armand planted these throughout his holdings. He also developed real estate in New Orleans, where he lived for a time. Soon after his wife’s death of yellow fever, in 1802 Duplantier married Constance Rochon Joyce, the widow of John Joyce, the original owner of Magnolia Mound Plantation near Baton Rouge. Failed crops and poor investments led Duplantier to declare bankruptcy in 1814.

In addition to his planting activities, Duplantier was involved in public life. His friendship with Lafayette had continued after the Revolution, and when Lafayette was granted lands in Louisiana in 1803 in recognition of his service during the American Revolution, Duplantier was charged with acquiring them. He was also part of the delegation that welcomed Lafayette during his 1825 visit to Louisiana. Concerned about suitable educational opportunities for his children, he helped establish Baton Rouge College in 1822. He died five years later and was buried in Highland Cemetery with military honors. According to his obituary in the Baton Rouge Gazette, “few men possessed in a higher degree the qualities essential in a character to command our esteem in private life; he was a warm and sincere friend … charitable to the poor and a bright example in the different characters of husband, father, and master.”

“The Armand Duplantier Family Papers are significant not only for what they tell us about the history of Baton Rouge and nearby Pointe Coupee Parish, but also in what they reveal about the state’s French colonial period, Francophone Louisiana in the territorial and antebellum era, and the enduring legacy of the state’s French antecedents,” said Tara Z. Laver, curator of manuscripts for LSU Libraries’ Special Collections. “In addition they form a linguistic archive of four generations of Louisiana French speakers. “

The papers will become part of the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, the largest accumulation of materials about Louisiana and the lower Mississippi Valley in existence. In addition, they will be translated and made available through the LOUISiana Digital Library.

For additional information about the collection, please contact Tara Z. Laver, or 225-578-6546, or read the Advocate‘s article about the donation:

A Book for All Seasons

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Students and scholars of English literature, history, and philosophy will be pleased to learn that Special Collections recently acquired the first collected edition of the works of Sir Thomas More. Introduced into modern popular culture by the 1966 film A Man for All Seasons and best known as the author of Utopia, More has been admired for his unwavering adherence to what he believed was morally right in the face of overwhelming political pressure.

This edition of More’s works is of bibliographical and textual significance because in it, the editor, More’s nephew William Rastell, preserved texts which would otherwise have been lost, including a number of English poems written by More in his youth, a corrected and expanded text of “The history of king Richard the thirde” (from a copy in More’s own hand), an unfinished “Treatise uppon these words of Holy Scripture, ‘Memorare novissima et in eternum non peccabis,’” dated 1522, and several devotional works written by More while imprisoned in the Tower of London.  Rastell also preserved letters written to More’s family and friends just before his death.

Dedicated to Queen Mary Tudor, the volume includes writings related to More’s controversy with William Tyndale over the Protestant Reformation and Tyndale’s English translation of the Bible. More’s “Tower Works,” written while awaiting execution, include “A Dialogue of Comforte against Tribulation,” long acknowledged as a “literary and spiritual masterpiece, perhaps the finest of his English works.” The history of Richard III, which, through Richard Grafton’s “Chronicle” (1568) and Holinshed’s “Chronicles” (1587), provided the main source for Acts I to III of Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of King Richard III,” is of particular interest for the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections as a complementary work to the 1632 Second Folio edition of Shakespeare’s works, one of the highlights of the Rare Book Collection.

The original front paste-down has been preserved and on it appear the following verses in a 16th-century hand:

The works of More most profitabell
set out as you may se
no dowt a thinge most comfortabell
to be red of eche degre

Sir Thomas Phillipps’s Old English Grammar

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

The history of book collecting is studded with colorful figures. One of the most honored but also most eccentric was Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872). The illegitimate son of a wealthy textile manufacturer, Phillipps spent his inheritance indulging his passion for medieval manuscripts. His obsession was so great in fact that he referred to himself as a “vellomaniac,” from the word vellum, the material on which early manuscripts were written. It has been estimated that Phillipps acquired more than 100,000 books and manuscripts, spending as much as a quarter million pounds, a colossal sum by nineteenth-century standards. As proof of just how much material he amassed, his library took more than 100 years to disperse, the last sale catalog being issued in 1977.

By the end of his life, Phillipps was not only deeply in debt but had also become estranged from most of his family. Had it not been for him, however, many important manuscripts would have been lost forever or lain undiscovered for many more years. One of his most important finds was a fragment of a grammar and glossary written by the Anglo-Saxon abbot Aelfric of Eynsham, known as Aelfric Grammaticus or Aelfric the Grammarian. The manuscript also contained a number of Old English poems which Phillipps subsequently published.

The discovery of another grammar book, now in the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections, further reveals Phillipps’s interest in this area of study. The Rudiments of Grammar for the English-Saxon Tongue, published in 1715 by the “Saxon Nymph,” Elizabeth Elstob, a pioneer in Old English studies and one of the first professional women scholars, was inscribed by Phillipps at his Worcestershire estate, Middle Hill.  The copy is of some interest for its annotations about etymology, apparently in Phillipps’s hand. He wonders, for example, whether the word geswingen, meaning “to whip,” is the source of “the schoolboy’s threat ‘I’ll give him a good swingeing.’” The connection to Elstob is also interesting on account of Phillipps’s acquisition of the manuscript collection that she and her brother William Elstob owned and studied.

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