Connected \\ July 20, 2021
Exploring new acquisitions at Phillips Library
One of the most exciting parts of my job in the Phillips Library is when we discover an item that perfectly complements our existing collection, or fills a gap in our holdings. The effort to find and acquire these treasures is one aspect of the behind-the-scenes work of the library, and we want to share with you the thrill of our new acquisitions!
On Monday, August 2, the Phillips Library staff invite you to our Reading Room in Rowley to view a selection of library materials that were acquired or processed during the last year. We will be here from 10 am to 7 pm to tell you about them and enjoy looking at them together!
You will see that we collect broadly, in both material type (books, manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, etc.) and subject matter (Salem, India, maritime, Asia, fashion, and more) to reflect the near-encyclopedic collections and activities of PEM. Several items from the approximately 1,500 that we acquired last year really stand out, and I will briefly mention three of them here.
Ranjani Shettar, Varsha (detail), 2012, Phillips Library, N7433.4 .S423 V37 2012 ++, Purchase, Library Visiting Committee Fund, 2021. © Ranjani Shettar. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum.
When was the last time you read a 40-foot-long book? Varsha is constructed in an accordion-fold format and stretches to nearly 40 feet when opened! In 2012, the Library Council of the Museum of Modern Art published this artist’s book in a limited edition of 150 copies. Ranjani Shettar (Born 1977, Bangalore, India) is known primarily for her large-scale sculpture and installation work; Varsha is her only artist’s book to date.
The book is comprised of 16 prints — a combination of etchings, silkscreens, woodcuts, pigment printing, and lasercut — representing the 16 phases of the monsoon and the classical Indian astronomy used to predict them.
Its unique, blackened metal covers depict constellations in a dark sky. M. A. Rauf and his son Mohammed Abdul Bari in Bidar, India, created these hand-worked zinc alloy covers using a centuries-old method.
Nathaniel Bowditch, Letter to Moses Dorman of Boxford, Mass. (detail), Dec. 16, 1794, Phillips Library, MSS 3, box 1, folder 1, Purchase, funded by Jonathan Loring, 2021.
Nathaniel Bowditch Letter
In 1804, East India Marine Society members elected famed mathematician and navigator Nathaniel Bowditch as its first inspector of journals to organize and manage its books, papers, and charts — in other words, our first librarian! This is among the earliest existing letters by Bowditch, referencing his pivotal first sea voyage of 1795-1796 and hinting at the intellectual talents and habits which were to vault him into the pantheon of American mathematicians. It is dated Dec. 16, 1794, when Bowditch was just 21, and predates by nearly 15 years any Bowditch letter to have appeared for sale.
Dan Finamore, Associate Director - Exhibitions and PEM's Russell W. Knight Curator of Maritime Art and History, explains, “This is the young Nathaniel Bowditch expressing dismay that he can't sail with the captain he wanted to on his first voyage. The captain he wanted to sail with, Gibaut, had a library he wanted to consult [on his ship].”
We integrated this manuscript into our Bowditch Family Papers collection (MSS 3).
Artists in the United States, Mugshot Album (detail of George Day, burglar), 1884-1885, Phillips Library, MSS 891, Purchase, Library Visiting Committee Fund, 2021.