Tag Archives: acquisitions

Other People’s Mail

Working with archival material allows the researcher opportunities to learn about different places and other times.  Photographs of long-vanished buildings or reports of events long over are reminders of things no longer present.  But perhaps the most immediate, and occasionally the most poignant, way to immerse yourself into a different world is through reading other people’s mail.

Stacks of World War II letters

World War II Correspondence

Archival collections often contain a variety of correspondence, including business communications, official statements, organizational announcements, and academic inquiries.  For many researchers, however, it is personal correspondence that best brings the past to life.  When reading mail sent years or even centuries ago, one can’t help but try to fill in the gaps, to hunt for clues in deciphering the stories behind the penned or penciled words, seeking the individuals who wrote or received the letters.  Recently, the Rare Books & Special Collections division of Boatwright Memorial Library purchased a collection of more than 700 letters, the majority of them written during World War II.  The collection is a compilation of several different sets of correspondence.  Although connected by the time period, these different sets offer a view into the lives of many individuals, each with their own story to tell.

For example, one set of about 100 letters written on U.S. Navy letterhead share the story of a young couple named Paul and Charlotte.  Paul wrote almost daily between March and July 1944, and through his letters, readers come to know a bit about life in the Navy, the challenges of planning a wedding via correspondence, and enough of a hint about Charlotte’s world to spark curiosity.  A bit of research uncovered that Charlotte and her family were Jewish immigrants to the United States, having left Germany in 1934.

The largest set of correspondence in the collection are the approximately 250 letters written by George Orlikowski to his girlfriend, and later his wife, Mary Zyla Orlikowski, which cover the time between July 1942 and March 1945.  In addition to learning much about both of their lives, many of the envelopes and stationary are humorous by themselves.

World War II letter

Letter from George to Mary with code for salutations

In one letter written in December 1944, George offers a secret code to Mary so that she can know where he is at in the Pacific after he sails without the censor catching on to them; he indicated he would change which salutation he uses in his letters to her to identify his location. Even after more than 70 years, the letters still carry the scent of his cigarette smoke.

Perhaps the most intriguing series of correspondence in this collection are the variety of letters sent to Dorothy “Dot” Raynham, a female college student, by a variety of soldiers between 1942 and 1944. With at least fourteen different men writing her from nearly all branches of the military, these letters offer glimpses of military life as well as life on the home front for at least one college student and her family.  Whether it is a bomber pilot wistfully recalling their dance to a Glenn Miller tune or a sailor encouraging her in her schoolwork, the range of correspondents suggests there may be an interesting story about this particular moment in her life.

Reading other people’s mail in the archives offers a glimpse into the past, one way to bring history alive, for researchers of all types, including University of Richmond students.  This collection has already been utilized in several classes, including a Weekend College session doing hands-on history and a first-year seminar exploring a life in letters.  Materials from this collection as well as correspondence from other collections is currently on exhibit on the first floor of Boatwright Library through the end of April.

Civil rights leader donates permanent collection to Boatwright Library

Wyatt Tee Walker, a distinguished theologian and civil rights leader, has gifted his personal collection to the University of Richmond Boatwright Memorial Library. The collection includes hundreds of historical pieces, including papers, recorded sermons and memorabilia.

Walker, who lives in Virginia, served as chief of staff to Martin Luther King Jr., executive director of the Southern Leadership Conference and special assistant for Urban Affairs to Nelson Rockefeller. He is a specialist in sacred music, cultural historian and prolific author. Walker is pastor emeritus of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem.

Significant items in this historical collection include photographs Walker took of King while they were jailed in Birmingham in 1967; numerous letters to King and others regarding civil rights issues; and journals, drawings, diagrams and notes kept by Walker’s wife Theresa, who was also active in the civil rights movement. The collection also includes books, records, awards and clothing.

“We are justly proud that we were on the right side of history and can share our experiences with the general public through this partnership with the University of Richmond,” said Walker.

“We are honored that Dr. Walker has entrusted Boatwright Memorial Library with the care of this amazing collection,” said Lynda Kachurek, head of rare books and special collections. “We expect civil rights and other historians from all over the country and world to be interested in this scholarship, as well as our faculty, staff, students and the general public.”

This special collection will be the largest under the care of Boatwright Library. It will be housed in the Galvin Rare Books Room. The collection will be catalogued and processed and is expected to be available for research beginning in late 2016.

“This collection documents a critical moment in American history,” said University of Richmond President Ronald A. Crutcher. “It will help generations of students and scholars better understand the men and women who led the Civil Rights Movement and their work for social justice. We are so grateful for Dr. Walker’s generosity and for the opportunity to bring this collection to the University library.”


Link to original press release

New Materials in Rare Books & Special Collections

Rare Books & Special Collections has acquired a number of new additions this fall, both from generous donors and from purchases, to continue building our rare book and archival collections. Many of these items will be featured in upcoming posts, but we are so excited to have these wonderful items, we thought we’d offer some highlights from our eclectic new additions:

1) The Pennyroyal Caxton Bible (currently on display in the Silent Study Area through mid-December) – This edition of the King James version of the Holy Bible illustrated by Barry Moser, the foremost American master of wood engravings, is the first such illustrated Bible since Gustave Dorè’s edition of the Le Saint Bible in 1865. Volume one contains the five books of Moses, the historical books and the books of poetry. Volume two contains the books of prophecy and the New Testament. Both measure 16 x 11.5 inches and are laid into its own full linen tray case. The beauty of this Bible does not rest on the illustrations alone. It is also a singular typographic achievement and an example of some of the finest printing of our time. The papers were made, some by hand, especially for this project and the exquisitely crafted vellum bindings are a marvel of craftsmanship. (Gift of Bruce and Suzie Kovner).

2) The Library of Julio Santo Domingo: The LSD Archive (currently on display in the Silent Study Area through mid-December) – This two-volume set was privately printed in a limited edition of 500 copies to commemorate the LSD Library, Julio Santo Domingo’s comprehensive collection of rare books, ephemera, manuscripts, art, and other materials focused on altered states of consciousness and related subjects. This 900-page set, finely bound and housed in handmade boxes, is lavishly illustrated with items chosen from the collection, representing literature and graphic arts on topics such as the occult, youth culture, rock music, and drug culture. (Gift of the family of Julio Santo Domingo).

3) New photographic materials include a handheld stereoscope with 14 St. Louis World’s Fair stereo cards and 21 stereoviews of destinations such as Jerusalem, Cairo, Italian catacombs, Kyoto, Tokyo, and the Swiss Alps. Also added were 2 cased ambrotypes of a bookbinder/author and his book.

Opening pages of our new Mother Goose book

Opening pages of our new Mother Goose book

4) Historic children’s literature additions include 5 early American titles dating between 1820 and 1850: Grandpapa Pease’s New Mother Goose (ca. 1848) contains beautiful hand-colored illustrations. The Little Esop (1845) measures just 3 3/16” x 2 ¾” and is a miniature book bound in purple cloth with gold gilded edges.   Other titles include Henry and his Garden (ca. 1830), Rhymes by our Good Old Nurse (ca. 1835), and History of Beasts (ca. 1848). We are also anxiously awaiting a new gift, a 3-volume set of miniature children’s books (2×2”) published in London in 1742-1743, which should arrive in early December.

our 1906 C&P Platen Press

Our 1906 C&P Platen Press

5) Book Arts materials:  As we work on creating our Book Arts studio, donors continue to delight us with special gifts.  This fall we were privileged to receive a 1906 Chandler & Price Platen Printing Press along with letterpress printing type in 108 fonts, the corresponding type cases and cabinetry, type forms, engravings and cuts, along with tools and other equipment.  In a separate donation, we also received an extensive set of tools, projects, and related materials to help us begin supplying our studio.

6) Cutters: There is nothing I hate more than Myself, a limited edition artists’ book exploring words, photographs, and art about the practice of self-harm (gift of the author).

7) University scrapbooks: In the past few months, we have received several scrapbooks documenting Westhampton and Richmond College and the lives of alums, including students who attended in the early 1900s, the 1940s and the 1950s. Along with the scrapbooks, we’ve also received some letter sweaters and even a UR boater hat!

The generosity of our donors continues to amaze us with each new addition.  Our collections are certainly strengthened through their kindness.  We hope that if you are around campus, you’ll drop by Rare Books & Special Collections to explore our materials, new and old!