Living in the stacks amongst the vast collections of historical primary source material at AAS, one will find books of a much younger age. AAS does not only seek to collect one copy of every thing printed in the United States up until about 1876; we also strive to add recent scholarship written about topics that reflect the time period of the collections. Having scholarship alongside these historic gems allows for some context to be provided for the materials, as well as encouragement for the fulfillment of possible missing areas of research and other untold stories. After all, there will always be an item inside of an archive that is waiting for an eager reader to stumble upon it and place it in context of the larger historical picture.
Here are some highlights from our Recent Arrivals Shelf, which can be found under the dome in the Reading Room for a short while before they make their way to their new home in the stacks.
On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-thousand-year History
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013)
By Nicholas A. Basbanes
AAS Member (elected 1995)
Published in 2013, this book was also the topic of a talk given at AAS by the author on November 12th of this past year. In the first part of the book, Basbanes traces the history of the invention and spread of paper beginning in China and then traveling to North America. Aside from the timeline of the life of paper, Basbanes’ particular interest in regards to this book has to do more with the idea of paper, “one that certainly takes in the twin notions of medium and message, but that also examines its indispensability as a tool of flexibility and function” (Basbanes, xii). Basbanes also explores how paper has been a force in shaping historical events across time and place. On Paper was recently placed on the ALA’s shortlist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Excellence in Nonfiction. Read more about this honor here.
Also by Nicholas Basbanes:
- About the Author: Inside the Creative Process (2010)
- A World of Letters: Yale University Press, 1908-200 (2008)
- Editions & Impressions: Twenty Years on the Book Beat (2007)
- Every Book its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World (2005)
- A Splendor of Letters: The Permanence of Books in an Impermanent World (2003)
- Among the Gently Mad: Perspectives and Strategies for the Book-Hunter in the 21st Century (2002)
- Patience & Fortitude: A Roving Chronicle of Book People, Book Places, and Book Culture (2001)
- A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books (1995)
The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013)
By John Demos
AAS Member (elected 1979)
Just published last month, this book will be the topic of an upcoming public lecture to be given by the author on June 10th, 2014, at 7:00 p.m. in Antiquarian Hall. The Heathen School tells the history of the Foreign Mission School of Cornwall, Connecticut, which was founded in the early nineteenth century. “Heathen youth” from all over the world would be brought to the school to be educated on Christianity and “civilization.” The story of this school encompasses the legacy of “American exceptionalism” as a nation that promotes, “a feeling of obligation…to make the world as a whole a better place” (Demos, 4). After a seemingly perfect start, the school was soon enveloped in controversy when some of the students began courting local white women. Ultimately, the reasons behind the failure of this school demonstrate that there are many points in American history that we need to encounter, learn from, and reflect on more often.
The Heathen School was also featured in a recent NPR article and Fresh Air story.
Also by John Demos:
- The Enemy Within: 2,000 Years of Witch-hunting in the Western World (2008)
- Circles and Lines: The Shape of Experience in Early America (2004)
- A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony (1999)
- The Tried and the True: Native American Women Confronting Colonization (1995)
- The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America (1994)
- Past, Present, and Personal: The Family and the Life Course in American History (1988)
- Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England (1982)
Selling the Dwelling: The Books that Built America’s Houses, 1775-2000
(New York: The Grolier Club, 2013)
By Richard Cheek
AAS Member (elected 2004)
This book was published as an accompaniment to an exhibition by the same name at the Grolier Club in New York which ran from December 11, 2013-February 7, 2014. The author of this book, who also curated the exhibit, is an architectural photographer who specializes in recording the visual history of American architecture. Both the exhibit and the publication explore how advertising ephemera, such as builder’s guides, pattern books, and catalogues, helped to portray a particular ideal home and market that home in order to make a sale.
“Cheek highlights the more visually arresting and socially compelling examples, focusing on books that reveal the character of our country as much as they do the style of our houses. With over 600 examples illustrated in the text, plus an appendix listing several hundred additional items, Selling the Dwelling is a significant contribution to the bibliography of American domestic architecture.” – Oak Knoll Press
Read more about the publication and the exhibition at the Grolier Club website.
Also by Richard Cheek:
- Land of the Commonwealth: A Portrait of the Conserved Landscapes of Massachusetts (2000)
- Gardens and Landscapes of Virginia (1993)
- Newport Mansions: The Gilded Age (1982)