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Blog Posts by Subject: Manuscripts and Rare Books

Srimathi Gina: A Life Devoted to Indian Classical Dance

A photograph found loose in a binder of Indian classical dance terms and definitions; although the photograph is unmarked, the dancer is believed to be Gina Blau.One needs to only glance at the papers of Gina Blau (also known as the performer Srimathi Gina) to see that her study of Indian classical dance was truly her life's passion. From the highly detailed (and copious) writings in her many notebooks, to the intricate drawings of various hand positions—or 'mudras'—of Indian classical dance, there is a thoroughness and sense of 

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The Adagio Dancers, the Ballroom Dancers and Richard Stuart

Today, the word adagio is rarely used to describe ballroom dancing. If you told someone that you were going adagio dancing, most likely, this would draw a blank stare. Substitute the words adagio dancing with ballroom dancing, the recognition factor would increase tenfold.

The widely accepted definition of adagio is acrobatic balance with counterbalance. It is 

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Focus On: Recent Acquisitions in the Manuscripts Division

The Manuscripts and Archives Division of the New York Public Library supports historical research. Each year, individuals with all levels of library experience arrive at the Division's Reading Room to consult collections assigned the classmark, or call number, 'MssCol.' In an effort to provide a glimpse into activities of the Manuscripts Division, kindly accept this blog series 'Focus on,' as I seek to highlight recent acquisitions, research opportunities, and new publications.

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Freedom to Dance: The Mikhail Baryshnikov Archive, Part 2 - White Oak Dance Project

The cover of one of the many White Oak Dance project programs within the collection.When Baryshnikov founded the White Oak Dance Project with choreographer Mark Morris in 1990 the focus was to give choreographers a venue for developing new works, as well as creating a touring arm to present them. The project also revisited modern works from previous decades, presenting 

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Leon Dabo’s Notebook: An Interview with Frank Goss

In 1955, the artist Leon Dabo (d. 1960) donated a thin manuscript volume to The New York Public Library. Prolific during his time, Dabo is perhaps best known as a muralist and landscape painter. Dabo also spent many years in New York, and was involved with organizing the artistic community, including a part in shaping the 1913 Armory Show. Seemingly an address book, the volume Dabo donated also contains a handful of small sketches. Looked at as a whole the pages provide information about his social life and artistic 

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Camouflaged Anti-Nazi Literature

In the early eighties, rare book librarian John Rathe pulled down a dusty box, wrapped in twine, from a remote corner of the Rare Book room. Attached to the box was a label that said: "Do not open until war is over." Which war? The Civil War? The War of 1812? What he discovered was a box filled with disguised anti-Nazi tracts hidden in packets of tea and shampoo and concealed in miniature books both popular and scholarly.

Notice the concealed pamphlets sticking out of the packets of shampoo, tea, and tomato seeds.

A Brief History

On January 30, 

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Vegetable Drolleries

Revolt at the Salad BarHave you seen the Library's long-running exhibition "Lunch Hour" yet? If not, this is your last chance, for it closes on Sunday, February 17. To whet your appetite, I'd like to present a delightful volume that was recently added to the Spencer Collection.

The work is Drôleries végétales (Vegetable Drolleries), also known as L'Empire des 

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New Mendelssohn Discoveries in the Music Division

Felix Mendelssohn's signature from Drexel 4903It is still possible to discover amazing things in the New York Public Library in 2013, its 108th year of existence. What's even more amazing about this story is that the discovered items have been with the Library since its founding and have gone unnoticed until now. I am happy to write this story in anticipation of February 3, 2013, the 203rd birthday of composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.

Part of my work in the Music Division involves cataloging scores — not newly published materials, but a portion of the over 

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Winter Fun for Kids and Cats

This snowy Saturday afternoon has brought to mind a couple of scenes from nineteenth-century children's books in the Rare Book Division. First, a scene of "Wintervergnügen" (winter fun) from Jugendspiele zur Erholung und Erheiterung (Tilsit, 1846). This is a two-volume work, one devoted to girls and one to boys. Sledding is categorized as one of the boys' games (Knabenspiele), but of course that needn't stop 

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Transmissions from the Timothy Leary Papers: MPLP, the New Standard?

During the past several years, the archives profession has been rocked by a paper by Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner titled "More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing."[1] Through examining surveys of archival processing practices, Greene and Meissner proposed that switching the emphasis from physical arrangement and preservation practices to intellectual arrangement and description would expedite the processing of most collections. The upshot of their findings was a plea to end backlogs for unprocessed collections. This method (now 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: After Antietam

September 17, 2012 marked the 150th anniversary of the battle of Antietam, often called "the bloodiest day in American history." With Alexander Gardner's images before us, we can easily imagine the horrific strife of those few hours that left behind over 23,000 casualties. Other contemporary materials can show us what it was like for a soldier to experience that single day within the context of a long and grueling campaign. Project staff member Joseph Lapinski describes such an item encountered in the USSC's 

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Transmissions from The Timothy Leary Papers: What I Thought I Knew

When I first started the Leary Processing Internship in June, I had what is probably the most common impression of Timothy Leary. I had obviously heard about him before, but honestly, all I knew about him was that he was famous for his line "turn on, tune in, drop out." To me, he was simply the LSD guru of the 1960s. Not having grown up in his heyday, I only knew what was best and most widely known about him.

Fast forward two months, and here I sit at my desk at the New York Public 

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Floriant et Florete: Treason in Translation

The hero's name as written in the manuscript.

The most important factor in Floriant's obscurity is its complete lack of originality. As an imitative rather than an original work, Floriant holds little appeal for either the academic or the amateur. Yet it is precisely Floriant's derivative nature that shines a new light on the practices of rewriting and reinterpretation when they are taken to their logical extremes. In fact, Floriant can be read as a subtle allegory on medieval 

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Floriant et Florete: An Arthurian Romance of the Mediterranean

A marginal decoration of the manuscript of Floriant.Floriant et Florete, a thirteenth-century Arthurian romance, is preserved in a single manuscript that has been held, since 1941, in the Archives and Manuscripts Division of the New York Public Library. Although neglected by scholars and unknown to common readers, its text is not only interesting as an entry in the annals of Arthurian history, it is also fascinating as a work of literary pastiche.

A "pastiche" is a feat that resembles plagiarism in its 

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2012-2013 Short-Term Research Fellowship Recipients Announced

The New York Public Library is pleased to announce the awarding of Short-Term Fellowships to support the following scholars from outside New York who will research the Library's archival and special collections between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013.

Dorot Jewish Division and Slavic, Baltic, and Eastern European Collections  

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Rare Books: Machinae Novae of 1595

We often get asked about firsts in printing history in the Rare Book Division. Machinae novae Favsti Verantii siceni (Venice, 1595) known as Machinae Novae, or New Machines, contains some of the first printed images related to engineering and machinery.

Machinae Novae was written by scholar-diplomat and scientist Fausto Veranzio in Venice; only a few copies 

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United States Sanitary Commission Processing Project: A Day at the (Civil War) Office

Anna Peterson, a graduate student at the University of Michigan's School of Information, recently helped us organize some correspondence of the USSC's Hospital Directory office in Philadelphia. Here are Anna's impressions of a letter she found in the collection during her internship with the Manuscripts and Archives Division:

The Hospital Directory, with offices in Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Louisville, was established in 1862 to collect and record information concerning the location of sick and wounded soldiers in U.S. Army hospitals. Members of the 

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Transmissions from The Timothy Leary Papers: The Self-Annotated Papers

Annotations throw a wrench in dating materials, and Timothy Leary liked to annotate... everything. Aware of his demise after being diagnosed with cancer in 1995, he wrote notes and signed printed matter, clippings and correspondence from his personal files. Although he authored the autobiographies High Priest and Flashbacks, it will be his 

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Iceland Moss and Charles Dickens

Thanks to bibliophile George Arents, the Rare Book Division's holdings include an extensive collection of nineteenth century books in parts, and they are fascinating artifacts of their time. Little did I know, however, that I'd learn about a healthful and tasty lichen drink while reading 

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Transmissions from The Timothy Leary Papers: Applying Archival Processing

A box of unprocessed papersPeople ask me what my work entails as I process the Timothy Leary papers. As I pore through the boxes, I am faced with over 400 linear ft. of material created and collected by Leary which I must process to make available for research. I encounter various media, such as photographs, video tapes, computer disks, prints and posters. I encounter quite a bit of paper.

My responsibilities include determining the record keeping structure and making decisions 

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