June 2010 Archives


Liberty & The American Revolution: Selections from the Collection of Sid Lapidus ‘59 won the Katharine Kyes Leab and Daniel J. Leab “American Book Prices Current” Exhibition Award from the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS), of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. The catalogue took the honors for division one of the award competition’s five divisional groupings. Exhibition organizer and catalogue editor, Stephen Ferguson, received the award certificate on Sunday June 27, during the annual meeting of the American Library Association in Washington, D.C. The awards recognize outstanding exhibition catalogues issued by American or Canadian institutions in conjunction with library exhibitions, as well as electronic exhibition catalogues of outstanding merit.

Richard Noble, chair of the RBMS Exhibition Awards committee and rare books cataloger at Brown University, said of the catalogue: “The purpose of this catalog is succinctly put in [curator] Stephen Ferguson’s preface: ‘How does one gain … a sense of the past? Not only by experiencing books as physical objects, seeing them as readers of that day saw, felt, and handled them, but—through the extensive quotations from the books themselves found in this catalogue—by making them speak as well.’ This is, in essence, a catalogue of books and a book of quotations that trace the evolution, in a multiplicity of spheres, of the concept of ‘liberty’—a concept which it is all too easy to interpret ad lib. Whatever else the many books presented in this catalog may be about, the organization of the entries and passages quoted all address the question posed in the introduction by Sean Wilentz: ‘What are the boundaries of American liberty?’ The texture of these texts is itself a pedagogical device, a taste of the books. Pick it up and read it aloud to yourself and you realize that this is also a catalog of voices.”

For more on the awards, plus details of the division two Leab Award going to another Princeton University Library catalogue, Beauty & Bravado, see: http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/news/ala/2010-rbms-leab-exhibition-award-winners

Teach Yourself Arabic -- In Yiddish!

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Author: Selikovitch, George, 1863-1926. Title: Arabish-Idisher lehrer : ṿeg ṿayzer far di Idishe legyoneren in Tsiyon = Turjumān ʻArabi wa-Yahūdī / fun G. Zeliḳoṿits. Edition: 3. oyflage. Published/Created: Nyu Yorḳ : Sh. Druḳerman, 1918. Physical description: 31 p. : ill. ; 23 cm. Location: Rare Books: Oversize (Exov) Call number: PJ6309 .Z444 1918

Rachel Simon, Senior Librarian and specialist for Middle Eastern languages in the Library, has just published “Teach Yourself Arabic — In Yiddish!” in the most recent MELA Notes: The Journal of the Middle Eastern Librarians Association. [For full text of the illustrated article see: sitemaker.umich.edu/melanotes/files/melanotes82complete1.pdf.] She details the fascinating story of Getzl (George) Zelikovitz (1863-1926), a linguistic prodigy born in Lithuania, educated at the Sorbonne, and served as an interpreter under Lord Kitchener in the Sudan. He settled in the United States in 1887. He remained in the US until his death, working chiefly as a journalist for the Yiddish press in New York and prolifically publishing fiction, poetry and works of scholarship. In 1918, he separately published in Yiddish an instruction book for learning Arabic — certainly a first of its kind and surely the sort of publication that could only come out of melting pot America.

According to Dr. Simon, “The introduction [of Arabish-Idisher Lehrer] explains the purpose and method of the book. Its goal is to teach colloquial Palestinian Arabic—namely, not literary Arabic—to Jewish Legionaries, settlers [kolonisten], merchants, tourists, learned people [maskilim], laborers in Palestine, and maybe even Hebrew teachers abroad. This aim and the target population dictated the method, structure, and style of the book: a practical teaching aid in Yiddish, so that following a short study period the student would be able to talk with Arabs.” (p. 4-5)
She concludes: “The book does make the student somewhat aware of Arab customs, but it reflects more Jewish and Western views and issues. Although it was intended to serve as a guide for Jews as to how to reach out to Arabs, it is more reflective of Western Jews, their beliefs, customs, and modes of expression.” (p. 14-15)

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Part of the story of the rising professional self-consciousness among American artists during the nineteenth century is the creation of art academies and associations. Following a model first set up in Philadelphia, artists in New York in 1859 set up “The Artists’ Fund Society.”

“The name of this association shall be ” The Artists’ Fund Society.” Its location, the city of New York. Its objects, the accumulation of a fund for the aid of its members in disablement, in sickness and distress, and the assistance of the widows, children, and families of deceased members.” —Extract from the Consitution, Article 1, Name.

Funds were raised chiefly by an annual auction of member’s paintings. More than twenty seven auctions were held between 1860 and 1889. The Library now has an extensive set of the catalogues for these sales. [Call number: (Ex) Item 5732011. At right is a clipping about the 1875 sale, laid into the catalogue for that year.] Many are priced by member David Johnson (1827-1908). Some has his comments. Such priced catalogues are a unique source for tracking changing art values, shifts in taste, as well as supplying raw data for establishing an artist’s oeuvre.

A brief history of the fund is given in the catalogue for the 26th sale (1886):

“After the death of Mr. Ranney, which occurred twenty-six years ago, his pictures were sold at auction, for the benefit Of his widow and children. A specific sum of money being required to relieve a mortgage on the house in which his widow lived, his brother artists determined each to contribute a picture to be sold with, the Ranney collection. To accomplish this end the business required an organization, and the necessary officers were duly appointed.

At the close of this generous act on the part of the artists-the pecuniary results being much larger than they had hoped. for-it was resolved to Continue the organization, in order to be prepared to meet any similar emergency in the future. Several plans by which the object might be effected were brought forward and discussed arid finally the one by which the ‘Artists’ Fund Society’ is now governed was unanimously adopted and in 1861 its charter was obtained from the State.

For twenty-six years the Society has been enabled-from the funds accruing from its annual sales-to afford relief in time cases of misfortune common to all classes of professional men. Since its commencement it has paid thousands of dollars to widows and orphans of deceased members, besides relieving many cases of actual need among the living.

The Society has three funds; the First for the widows and orphans of deceased members; the Second for the relief of members; and the Third a Benevolent Fund which is used to meet the wants of artists not members of the Society.

The first two funds are kept supplied by the annual sales of works contributed by the members. The third fund is made up by donations in pictures or money, from those interested in artists who have been unfortunate through sickness and other causes.

Mrs. A. T. Stewart, some years ago, donated to the Society $2,000 and Mrs. Edwin White, $1,000, which sums were placed to the credit of this fund, invested in U. S. Government bonds, yielding a small but sure revenue, which is judiciously administered by the Board of Control after favorable report by a regular ‘Visiting Committee.’ This Benevolent Fund is inadequate to meet the demands which are constant and increasing.”

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