On November 12, 2011, an exhibition of items from the Phillips Library opened at the Peabody Essex Museum. Unbound: Highlights from the Phillips Library at PEM displayed more than 30 rare and storied objects from the library’s collection. Items on display gave the museum visitor a “glimpse into historical documents that were acquired for their power to both delight the eye and change the world.”
Printed on the back of the envelope: The destruction of the Snake of South Carolina, Nullification and Secession. and all her progeny, by the National Bird.
The Phillips Library was the recipient of a grant from the National Historic Publication and Records Commission (NHPRC), which provided the opportunity to process more than 85 manuscript collections of historic significance. One of these collections is MM 8, Civil War Patriotic Envelope Collection, which houses more than 9,400 examples of envelopes created to promote the political and social causes of the war, depicting both Union and Confederate perspectives.
Recently a colleague was looking through handwritten catalog cards and remarked, Who writes like that today? His comment reminded me of the penmanship handbooks and scrapbooks we hold in the Phillips Library collection. So, I went into the vault and pulled three volumes of penmanship samples from our Essex County manuscript collection, which had been completed by students in the Salem schools in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Jennifer Hornsby, the Assistant Archivist, and I enjoyed a pleasant morning looking through the volumes, marveling at the many beautiful examples of this lost art.