Pulp, Periodicals, and Victorian Print

Literary figures like Charles Dickens have been studied and edited in terms of their own work for more than a century. How did Victorian authors reflect upon the influences of the day, and how has our treatment of them changed over time?

Students from Professor Rae Yan’s Fall 2022 English Literature course on Charles Dickens attempted to answer those questions by posting single items that stood out to them from a selection of Victorian ephemera from the Rare Book Collection. Over the course of two visits, they generated a caption for that item, then worked collaboratively to select their favorites and refine their descriptions into object labels.

The result is a mini exhibition of their work, showing how the work of authors, illustrators, and publishers, who were instrumental in producing these materials for their immediate audience, and the readers and collectors who have used and changed them since. Many thanks to the students for digging into the collections, and for their work in researching and revising the labels for this display!

Please scroll through the sections in order, or use the links to each individual section.

Part I: Newspapers

  • “The Murdered Family Near Uxbridge,”
  • “Cinderella – Painted by George Cruikshank”

Part II: Songsheets and Ballads

  • “A Basket of Onions”
  • “The Black Horse”
  • “A New Song for the Times”

Part III: Almanacs

  • “The Tables Turned at the Zoo”
  • “The Death of Richard III”
  • “Paterfamilias Tries the Cold Water Cure

Part IV: “Collectible” Dickens

  • A Christmas Carol, 1843
  • The Cricket on the Hearth, 1846
  • Sketches By Boz, 1850

Part I: Newspapers

“The Murdered Family Near Uxbridge”
from the Illustrated London News, June 4, 1870

  • Article Describing the Murder of a family in Uxbridge - England

The Illustrated London News began in 1842 as a conservative-leaning weekly periodical. As the first illustrated newspaper, it reported on sciences, culture, and the British royal family. This selection from June 1870 details the murder of the Marshall family through an engraving of their home and an article on the murders. Sentimental language and homely imagery are used to invoke pathos as the journalist discusses the children’s ages, the family’s good-hearted nature (especially its patriarch’s), and the engraving of the home. The article reflects prejudices against indigenous peoples, as the journalist analogizes the savagery of natives in the Americas and New Zealand in attempts to communicate the grotesqueness of the murders committed – a harmful statement for a science-based newspaper.

Object Label Created by:
Carly Achinapura, Maria Hernandez Rea, Victoria Kevers


“Cinderella – Painted by George Cruikshank”
From the Illustrated London News, July 29, 1854

This engraving is George Cruikshank’s, a renowned British caricaturist, take on the classic fairytale Cinderella. It depicts the young woman in awe as the fairy godmother transforms a pumpkin, mice, and lizards into a carriage led by horses. Cruikshank uses his own caricaturistic style when describing the fairy godmother. He depicts the magical fairy as a small, elderly godmother with a frightening visage. The image’s caption mentions that Cruikshank typically recounts a history of the “follies and street enthusiasms” of 19th century London. The writer comments that Cruikshank’s admirers would be pleased by his illustrations of the fantastical, attributed to his sobriety, rather than his caricatures of London’s socio-political environment.

Object Label Made by:
Veronica Varona, Saloni Patel, Reese Johnson, and Antonio Salgado


Part II: Broadside Ballads & Songsheets

“Basket of Onions”
Printed by T. Pearson, Manchester (c. 1850-1899)

Easily accessible to the working class, song sheets such as this were a penny each. Its value is evident in its creasing and typo, indicating poor paper and printing quality. Holes at the top suggest this page was pinned to the wall. Decorative elements, including an ornate column and the image of a woman, were included to make the sheet more desirable.
The lyrics recount an actor’s love for an onion-seller, who claims they cannot wed because she is poorer than he; he persists regardless. Ultimately, the actor is pelted on stage, lamenting lost love, and the woman marries someone else. This narrative cautions against marriage below one’s socioeconomic class, reinforcing class divisions and revealing social priorities in nineteenth-century England.

Object Label Created by:
Isaac Ahn, Katherine Panagoulias, Amanda Priore


“The Black Horse” (and “The Temperance Band”)
[unknown author, unknown publisher]

The Black Horse ballad is printed alongside The Temperance Band. The sheet is yellow, folded, and has holes suggesting it was pinned.  The lyrics of the ballad reveal the resistance of men to enlist. The narrator, Charles Egan, lives as a “prince” exercising liberty. While in Galway, an officer recruits him. Charles is from Armagh, Northern Ireland. The song ends with Charles bidding farewell to his family and girls.

As a ballad of unknown origin, it is likely an Irish song passed through generations. The surname Egan is Irish, Atkinson is English. The ballad and Eagan’s resistance may be due to the political atmosphere. It is indicative of the long and strained relationship between the Irish and English people.

Object Label Created by:
Maria Hernandez Rea, Yasaswini Potluri, and Michael Fontane


“A New Song on the Times”
[unknown author, unknown publisher]


This is a partial broadside song sheet made of thin cheap paper, easily accessible to the lower classes. The ballad validates the deplorable state in which the working class lived, while also recognizing the need for change. The song is eight stanzas and follows a common meter that forms a catchy tune allowing for easy memorization, allowing workers to recall the ballad at worklines and pubs.

The audience is further established by the diction used, ‘o’ is replaced with ‘a’, for example ‘hame’(ln. 7), others are altered so they are hard to comprehend like, “Aud gi’es a’” (ln. 6). Overall, the spelling of words reflects the pronunciation of the targeted audience, for easier comprehension, and allows them to identify with the ballad.

Object Label Created by:
Clara Cajade, Alicia Grove, Amy Nekhaila


Part III: Almanacs and Cartoons

George Du Maurier, “The Tables Turned at The Zoo”
Punch’s Almanack for 1867


George Du Maurier’s “The Tables Turned at the ‘Zoo’” is a satirical cartoon published in Punch Almanac (1867), a British magazine that explored Victorian challenges with humor and satire. This image accentuates concepts of human superiority within zoos. 
The roles of humans and animals are reversed, illustrating a variety of wild animals dressed as Victorians while poking, prodding, and staring at their human counterparts trapped in cages. This propounds on the controversies of keeping animals in captivity by using anthropomorphism and dehumanization.
 
The London Zoological Society was founded 40 years earlier, demonstrating the increasingly prevalent discourse of animal rights.

Object Label Created by:
Jillian Colosimo, Elizabeth De Solo, and Benjamin Li


Thomas Nast, “The Death of Richard III and the Birth of Napoleon Bonaparte”
Nast’s Illustrated Almanac for 1871

Thomas Nast (1840-1902) was an American caricaturist famous for his political cartoons during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Nast’s Illustrated Almanac, published between 1871-75, introduced a (short lived) critical twist on the standard almanac through the use of caricatures, cartoons, and comics.

Nast included cartoons illustrating significant historical events for each month, with this image representing August. The central image depicts King Richard III’s defeat at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, marking the rise of Tudor monarchs. It also celebrates Napoleon’s birth in 1769, while foreshadowing his future as a revolutionary miltiant leader with soldiers. Below, the dogs allude to the phrase the “dog days of summer”. True to Nast’s style, his drawings poke fun at these events–from baby Napoleon’s clothes to King Richard III’s facial expression and body language.

Object Label Created by:
Isa Motola, Clare Lucian, and Rikki Baynard


John Leech, “Paterfamilias Tries the Cold Water Cure in a case of Organ-Grinding”
Punch’s Almanack for 1858

John Leech, an esteemed artist specializing in social caricature, created humorous woodcut illustrations depicting urban London urbanity featured in the yearly publication of Punch’s Almanack. Enjoyed by the English middle class, Punch offered social commentary through illustrations, jokes, and facts.

John Leech’s illustration in Punch’s Almanack for 1858 depicts a man spraying a disheveled organ-player from a water pump. This illustration is accompanied with the description, “Paterfamilias tries the cold water cure in a case of organ-grinding.” In Victorian society, organ-grinders were looked down upon as they were often immigrants and seen as beggars. The paterfamilias, or the male head of household, drenches the street musician while the sons inside the house follow suit, perpetuating the hatred of organ-grinders. 

Object Label created by:
Grace Mercurio, Sadie Wiliams, and Olivia Giovenco


Part IV: “Collectible” Dickens

A Christmas Carol
London: Chapman & Hall, 1843

The edition of A Christmas Carol shown in our collection demonstrates the prestige it had among Dickens’ other works. Having been published first in a gift series, the publishers intended for it to attract the public eye. Every illustration is beautifully colorized, making it unique among its black and white counterparts. The cover was once the same vibrant red as the rest of the series, however, having been read and handled so often it has caused the color to fade.

Object Label Created by:
Bryce MacKay and Ryan Knutson


The Cricket on the Hearth
London: Chapman & Hall, 1845

The Cricket on the Hearth was an eerie Christmas story written by Charles Dickens, popularly sold in a holiday set. In harsher climates like London, the winter season saw greatly increased illness and death. This reality led many authors to experiment with death, the afterlife, and related fantastical elements. Components of terror in Dickens’ thrillers engaged his upper-class readers and contributed to a sense of the “sublime,” enabling audiences to relish the “appalling” for its stark contrast with their reality. In the example above, an illustration of a comfortable domestic scene crawls with winged creatures, rural greenery, and an ominous clock tower. Here, themes of time, afterlife, and tradition combine to form the thrilling genre which prospered within seasonal conditions.

Object Label Created by:
Claire Sabino, Kiki Shaffner, and Madison Engler


Sketches by Boz: Illustrative of Every-Day Life and Every-Day People
London: Chapman & Hall, 1850

Sketches by Boz, is one of Dickens’s earliest works, containing a series of short pieces paired with illustrations by George Cruikshank. Ranging from child workers to prison inmates, these pieces explored London’s people of all classes and struggles by describing their daily lives and providing social criticism. This “cheap” edition, published in 1850, was part of the first re-issue of Dickens’ collected works. It remains in its original binding of stamped green cloth with a gilt spine and applied gold leaf. Despite the price, the book is displayed with a book box commissioned by a nineteenth- or twentieth-century consumer as a decorative piece made to mimic a quarter-leather binding with gold leaf applied.

Object Label Created by:
Serenity Greenfield, Jessica Mordan, Aidan Burnham, and Amanda Priore


Welcome to our University Scholar, Lee Hoffman!

Hi, I’m Lee Hoffman (pronouns: They/Them),

Photo of Lee Hoffman (they/them)

This academic year, I will be researching independent alternative presses under the guidance of Dr. Weijer. Specifically, I will look at historical publications that were created and published independently, without a larger publishing entity. These publications took many forms before desktop publishing software or social media, such as pamphlets, zines, and newsletters.

Even though their audience is small compared to the output of publishers and mass media outlets, they let a single person or small group control every part of the process of making and distributing information. Intrinsically, people create independently published material because they have something to say, and I want to listen.  We can uncover the depth of humanity in the unfiltered ideas that people have written.

Last spring, I had the opportunity to intern with the PK Yonge Library of Florida History Florida Special Collections, where I worked on a small counterculture publication called the Great Speckled Bird. I schemed to find a way to continue haunting the archives. One fateful day, I had a conversation with Dr. Weijer. I was wearing a shirt that read “What’s more punk than a public library?” which prompted him to ask if I had ever been to the Civic Media Center, Gainesville’s DIY alternative library. Not only had I been to the Civic Media Center, but that dusty library had become a haven for me.  

An abstract illustration in the pages of one of the Civic Media Center's zines.
One of the Civic Media Center’s art zines.

The Civic Media Center holds the largest collection of Zines in the southeastern United States. Zines are an example of independently published material, but conceptually they’re so much more than that. They give us clues in to the authors and audiences that used them – sometimes they deliberately hide that information or leave it out entirely. My favorite zine from the collection (shown in this post) has almost none of the information you’d find in a published book. As I research the historical evolution of small independent press and zines, I hope to uncover more of these connections between creators, their audiences, and the technologies they used and hacked in order to spread their messages.  

  

Visionary Communities

A Tarot Deck in a handmade box

This post comes to us from Discovery Fellow Chrishann Walcott

As the semester concludes, I’d like to take a reflective glance at the materials that I have come across in the Special Collections. At the beginning of my research, I intended to focus more on the influence of two major religions—Judaism and Christianity—on politics and culture in America during the early 20th century. After taking a deep dive into Koreshanity, I became interested in investigating the so-called “offshoots:” religious and spiritual communities that classified as utopias, as documented by late 19th and early 21st century materials.

Now, what is a utopia? Edward Bellamy’s 1888 fiction novel “Looking Backward,” depicts a utopia as a state of collectivism in which society has reached its ideal state. Bellamy’s ideas were a response to the volatile sociopolitical reform movements of the late 19th century. Some of these ideas have flowed into the principle of communitarianism that had become central to the foundation and maintenance of many of these utopian communities. Utopian communities are bound together through a collective mutual identity, whether that identity is spiritual or political.

Spiritual utopian communities, in particular, mark their communes as sacred spaces, usually isolated or physically demarcated from the rest of the world. In the post-civil war era, Spiritualist movements blossomed as many wished to reconnect with their deceased loved ones, something that they could not do under the restraints of traditional Protestantism, but could do with the help of spiritual mediums who act as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual world. Furthermore, the age of Spiritualism coincided with the women’s rights movements, and thus women played a crucial role in the movement by gaining authority as spiritual mediums.

In the collections, I came across a 1972 newspaper clipping from The Floridian detailing the activities of a Spiritualist Camp in Cassadaga, dubbed the “Psychic capital of the world”. The commune was established in the mid-1890s by the prominent medium George P. Colby as led by spiritual guides to “…fulfill a prophecy and found a retreat in the wilderness,”⁠—a revelation not uncommon among leaders of communes or religious sects. More communes rose along the East Coast as the movement grew in popularity and believers wished to create a definite structure for their doctrines.

Diagram of “The Mounts of the Hand,” from the Study of Palmistry (c. 1900)

Currently, Cassadaga maintains its status as a community with a set of flexible theologies and is run by trained individuals that provide services such as healing, palm readings, and other means of clairoyance. One subject that I found interesting to dive into was the role that religious commercialization has played in the Spiritualism movement, and in the livelihood of Cassadaga in particular. The commercialization of Spiritualism reinstates a fundamental boundary between devoted believers those who might be hesitant of such practices and seek to exploit followers for monetary gain.

By taking a look backwards at utopian communities within the state of Florida, we can understand how and why certain beliefs and customs have persisted through time—appreciating the spirit of mutual acceptance that binds members together and their stories. This fellowship allowed me to explore how religious and spiritual beliefs in the context of utopian communities have been perceived by the general public and think more critically about how such material is presented in popular culture. In the future, I wish to learn more about other communities that may have been obscured in mainstream history.

A later “sixpence” edition of Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward” (1900) sold in illustrated pink paper wrappers

What’s the Use? pt. II

Binding detail from John Muir's The mountains of California, showing a scence of mountain and a forest surrounded by a pine wreath.

This post comes to us from Discovery Fellow Natalie Triana

The time I have spent as a Discovery Research Fellow this semester has been nothing short of fulfilling. I was able to dive into the history of the conservation movement, explore new questions about people’s environmental values, and gained an even greater motivation for pursuing these topics in the future. As a bonus, I was able to spend my time in the Special & Area Studies Collection reading room in Smathers Library –– UF’s most stunning library (in my personal opinion, at least).

As I read books from early environmentalists, such as William Bartram, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and John Muir, I noticed differing perspectives regarding the value of nature in relation to humans. Authors like Thoreau and Emerson argue for nature’s intrinsic value, whereas others discuss the “uses” nature provides to human beings. These contrasting ideologies reaffirm the concepts I was learning in one of my academic classes this semester, which questions why humans act (or don’t act) on their environmental values.

  • John Muir inscribed this copy of the mountains of California to a woman he met in Cedar Key, Florida

In this class, I learned that many people are incentivized to act sustainably because nature serves a function to us (food, recreation, economic prosperity, etc.). Unfortunately, the downside to this thought process is that our emphasis on nature’s “use” perpetuates the notion that it is inferior to humans and therefore must benefit us to be valued. This causes many people to overlook endangered species and ecosystems that may appear useless or unattractive to the human eye. By examining how different authors view nature’s value, I hope to reexamine the way environmentalists communicate the need for climate action to a general audience. In the future, I would like to see environmentalism shift from an egocentric perspective to a biocentric perspective, where people can appreciate the environment not only for its services but for its mere existence.

Poster presentation at the UF Undergraduate Research Symposium
Research from the CURE class was presented at UF’s Undergraduate Research Symposium in April 2022

Overall, this research fellowship has inspired, intrigued, and informed me beyond what I expected. In the future, I will take the skills that I learned, such as conducting individual research, exploring areas of interest, and knowing how to find materials in a library collection, with me to law school and beyond. This opportunity has allowed me to become more well-versed in environmental literature and in archival research as a whole.

The Strongest Element, pt. II

Proof from Byrne's Elements of Euclid

This post comes from Discovery Fellow Christian Harris

In continuation of my research, I first observed current trends in Geometry education. While understanding that visual stimulus is appreciated in modern math education, I wanted to look at specific findings surrounding the use of diagrams, such as Byrne’s Elements. Overall, it seems that diagrams are becoming an increasingly popular tool for math education. As programming and digital tools have developed, our ability to visually demonstrate “difficult” math concepts has increased dramatically since Byrne’s writing. These visual tools can help increase math comprehension, especially in young learners. As well, visual modeling, and a slight stray from Euclidian based proofs, have contributed to the growth of other forms of math (such as Hyperbolic and Spherical geometry). However, it has also been shown that visual components can have no impact on exam performance, and if a student is not experienced with specific forms of visual media, that media can actually become a hindrance to student comprehension. Overall, visual media has become a near-necessary aspect of math education, boosting student comprehension. However, this is given that the student has been allowed to understand and gain experience with the formatting of the visual media.

Use of 3D modeling techniques in 7th grade advanced math textbook (Burger et. al, 2015)

These findings are quite evident when observing geometry textbooks throughout different levels of education. For students who are younger or have little experience with geometric concepts, Euclidean proofs are not presented. Instead, there are findings, absent of proofs, followed by computation and many visual components to help students understand what exactly they are reading. If proofs are presented, they do not reflect the Euclidean style, but are instead simplified and backed by visual/ computational components. However, once you reach college level Geometry (where a student is expected to have experience with geometric concepts), textbooks still reflect pure Euclidean-styled proofs. In many ways, college level geometry textbooks reflect Euclid’s Elements, with minimal edits to diction, syntax, and classifications. Of course, there is variance in textbook content dependent on the publisher, different levels of government, and the standards of each university, so these results are generalized to an extent.

Standard proof from college level Geometry textbook (Venema, 2012)

While post-secondary geometry education has remained largely unchanged, it seems that the use of visual media (such as colors, diagrams, etc.) has flourished in middle/ high school geometry education. What does this say about Byrne? Well, there are many different possibilities for how these changes to education came to fruition. Perhaps it is due to Byrne, who argued that his work was revolutionary (and was later praised by education research). Possibly, changes in legislation surrounding public education enforced changes in curriculum. As well, it could be due to advancements in education research, which prompts change in academic textbooks. More probable, these changes are due to an amalgamation of different trends, both in math education and academia. While I was not able to uncover the direct influence of the implementation of visual media in geometry education, I believe a future path for this research is clear. To continue this research, one would have to specify the causes of changes to U.S. geometry education, specifically looking at how visual media worked its way into middle/ high school curriculum.

Sadly, it is improbable that Byrne is solely responsible for changes to geometry education. However, it is incredible to think that Byrne’s Elements, despite its failure, offered a new perspective into geometry education. The book reformulated the rigid, yet beloved Euclid and showed mathematicians that adaptation is not only possible, but beneficial in cases.

Figure 4: Colors used in 6th grade advanced math textbook (Burger et. al, 2015)

The Madame Butterfly Trap, pt. II

This post comes to us from Discovery Fellow Allyson Maldonado

The Madame Butterfly Trap has effects on stage and film for Asian/Asian-American women for decades. As a brief reminder the Madame Butterfly Trap is the notion that Asian women are not sufficient on their own and in fact are only used to exemplify the actions of their white romantic counterparts. As Asian women fight against these ideals and constantly strive for a larger place on the stage there are also lasting effects on Asian/Asian-American men in theater. In the case of Asian men on stage there is even a smaller space for them as they do not have any lasting strong idealistic/stereotypical roles that they are able to fill. A confined space for Asian women becomes even infinitely smaller for Asian men who do not even have a role like Kim in Miss Saigon. It is very seldom we see an opportunity for large number of Asian roles like those in Flower Drum Song, which first appeared on Broadway in 1958, and highlighted the cultural aspects of Asian immigrants by telling a comedic love story with a happy ending.

Detail of the original Broadway playbill for Flower Drum Song (1958)

After more in-depth research into the lyrics and story, I thoroughly believe that Flower Drum Song was able to triumph because it became a bridge between Asian immigrants and Americans in the fact that it was set in a familiar place (Chinatown) and had characters that were clear symbols of the differing opinions of that time amongst immigrants: assimilation vs. integration. Characters like Wang Ta, the main love interest, acted as a voice of resistance against tradition deciding to assimilate into American culture. He did this against the wishes of his immigrant father, Wang Chi-yang, who would rather keep all traditional views from China. Asian-Americans saw themselves in this show as they themselves wrestled between assimilation and integration, and as they balanced their numerous cultures and what they identified with. Flower Drum Song also did not succumb to the Madame Butterfly Trap, not only at the conclusion of the musical Mei Li, the main female love interest, was able to be with Wang Ta and be happy. Along with that, women were never used directly to mirror the desirable parts of the men in the show.

Harmful stereotypes have plagued minorities for as long as immigration has existed, it is no different in the stories written about them for the stage. Flower Drum Song used these stereotypes create a story that can be easily consumed not only by Americans but also Asian immigrants, who could see themselves on stage. For instance the song “Chop Suey” exemplifies how assimilation was used by Asian immigrants to earn a living. By creating a song so outwardly stereotypical, immigrants were able to profit off it, however at what cost?

In the original musical version of “Chop Suey,” Wang Chi-yang plays off exoticism from Americans by calling this dish an “Ancient Chinese Delicacy” which is funny given that Chop Suey was created by Americans and had no Chinese roots.

Welcome to Club Chop Suey, where East meets West seven swinging nights a week.
Tonight Sammy has prepared, for your pleasure, Ancient Chinese Delicacy!

This song is later modified in the film version of Flower Drum Song to shed light on the vast differences of Americans and Asian immigrants. The song is turned into something that celebrates the integration of Asian ways of living with American ways and claiming the American-made Chinese dish “Chop-Suey” back to describe their feelings about living in America.

Decades before now we saw that the only representation that minorities saw were either negative or written by those who were European, American, and overall white. People felt as if their stories had become diluted, misconstrued, inaccurate and offensive. Across multiple platforms we continue to see these issues in the present day, spaces for creators and performers of color continue to be much smaller or limited in their scope. How can we use a niche, important space like musical theatre to amplify Asian voices? How will we tell more accurate Asian stories? Spaces like musical theatre provide a way to view the history of representation in cultural spaces over time.

Costume design for the 2002-2003 revival of Flower Drum Song, from the John David Ridge Collection.

The themes touched on in these shows help with the broader understanding of the American immigrant experience. The same type of thinking can and should be extended to larger spaces like the film industry, movies like Everything, Everywhere All at Once has become a hit not only for phenomenal writing but for unprecedented representation for minority voices. How can we continue this trend where we open the floor for those unheard? What can we do with our artistic skills to encourage a louder conversation about representation past protests and politics? We need a bigger space for Asian performers to ensure that we will be able to continue telling these amazing, rich Asian stories.

The Limits of Whiteness

School Photo from the Jacksonville Jewish Center - 1931

This post comes to us from Discovery Fellow Meir Schochet

The place of Jews in relation to definitions such as “the white person” has long been a topic of discussion. It became so for me in my senior Jewish history seminar in high school, when my professor presented us this very same question: are Jews white? It has also recently become a topic of much debate considering the comments of Whoopi Goldberg earlier this year. Throughout the course of my research in UF’s Price Library of Judaica, I have been pondering this question and trying to see what others say on the subject so I could broaden my perspective.

I have focused my research on two main areas up to this point. First, I have looked at the writings of antisemites and other bigoted people, and I have also looked at the works of academics and marginalized groups to get a wide perspective of how different groups view the Jewish experience. This post will deal specifically with the academic approach. 

In White Jews: an Intersectional Approach, David Schraub presents an interesting idea, that is “there is the matter of particular persons who, but for their Jewishness, would be (in the American context) unambiguously White.” This is a fascinating idea that has really been the main one that I have been coming back to in the context of my research. This idea is as follows: in the Americanized definition of whiteness, most Jews have conditional passing whiteness which concatenates them into the class of white people. This allows for most Jews to experience a degree of whiteness, if they so please, simply by dressing themselves and presenting themselves as an average white American. 

German/Jew: An artist's book by Karen Baldner composed of multiple paper casts of the artist's head
“German/Jew” by Karen Baldner (2003). The overlapping words “German” and “Jew” show different layers of identity using paper moulds of the artist’s head.

This point above has some interesting complexities to it, however. Specifically, “What counts as a “Jewish problem” or a “Jewish experience” or a “Jewish history” is often, in fact, particular and partial to the specific problems and experiences of the Jews described in the first paragraph: the White Jews” (Schraub). It is true essentially that the large history of the “Jewish experience” often focuses on those experiences of the stereotypical white-passing Jew and ignores the Jews of marginalized groups who do not possess the ability to be white-passing.

In relation to the anti-Semitica that I have been both privileged and pained to read, it seems that most Jew-hating peoples felt the way they did about Jews regardless of their skin color. This is to say, the experience of marginalized Jews has been disregarded largely due to the overwhelming amount of white-passing Jews compared to others, however, those hateful people who believe they can define the word “whiteness” would largely still exclude Jews from that word.

Koreshanity: A Look into Florida’s Utopian Communities

Cellular Cosmogony Cover - Diagram of a Concave Earth

This post comes to us from Discovery Fellow Chrishann Walcott

Entering the Discovery Fellowship, I definitely knew that I was inclined towards exploring the diversity of religion and religious communities in the landscape of American culture in the 19th and 20th centuries. Having access to Special Collections gifted me with the opportunity to navigate the many avenues through which I can foster this interest. 

I had first decided to trace the development of different religious communities in Florida, diving into a few sources from the P.K Yonge Library of Florida History, as well as the Rare Book Collection. It is here that I came across a multitude of books that documented the rise and decline of utopian societies in Florida, as well as biographical materials that discuss the people behind these unique communities. It is important to note that many of the earlier utopian communities of the mid-19th century were religious in nature, however, there were a variety of successful secular and social utopian communities that persisted throughout the 20th century. 

Lyn Millner’s The Allure of Immortality (2015) introduced me to the story of the Koreshans⁠, a utopian community established in Estero, Florida, by Dr. Cyrus Teed. Teed was an eccentric apocalyptic hailing from Utica, New York who believed himself to be a divine messenger sent to warn of the Second Coming of Christ, thus abandoning his pursuit of eclectic medicine. Teed renamed himself “Koresh”, the Hebrew transliteration of Cyrus (referring to Cyrus the Great). One of the most distinctive beliefs that characterized the Koreshan faith was the rejection of the Copernican model and instead brought a new principle that the Earth is a concave sphere, as explained in The Cellular Cosmogony.

Optical diagrams from the Cellular Cosmogony

One of the most interesting aspects of Teed’s religion was his integration of science and “alchemy” in consolidating a belief system that would reconcile the laws of the natural world with God’s will. The Koreshans illustrated their theories and tried to evangelize new members in various materials, from pamphlets to monthly-issued journals. 

I continued to look through other materials that gave an in-depth description of the activities and social systems that became central to members of the Koreshan Unity. Notably, the Koreshans were a self-sufficient community that included recreational buildings, gardens, dining areas, and other complexes. Teed’s permanent settlement in Estero mirrored that of the Harmonists, a Pennsylvanian communal society founded by Johann Georg Rapp in 1804. Like Rapp, Teed had taught his followers about celibacy—even claiming celibacy allowed Koreshans to connect with divinity and thus achieve immortality. 

The Koreshan Unity commissioned editions of its own works form a Chicago printing company in the early twentieth century.

Learning more about the Koreshans has allowed me to understand more of the contextual basis behind why utopian communities were created, and how they reflect the shifting socioeconomic dynamics and the desire to retain both cultural and religious identity in an increasingly urbanizing landscape. As of now, I am exploring other utopian communities that no longer exist, but have been etched into Floridian history, such as the Yamato colony and Moses Levy’s Jewish utopia.

A copy of a pamphlet with magazine advertisements, now part of the collection at Koreshan State Park.

What’s the Use?

View of the Hudson River from Picturesque America (1874)

This post comes to us from Discovery Fellow Natalie Triana

As I delve through the books, magazines, and drawings within the Rare Books Collection, I am actively exploring the way environmental values have transformed throughout time, as well as how these values are manifested within literature and language. Although many policy scholars debate the importance of attitudes in predicting environmental behavior (also known as the value-action gap), I believe there is a stark contrast between our conceptual values and embodied ones.

            For instance, at a conceptual level, most of us care about the environment and hope to protect it –– however, protecting the environment may not trump the value of protecting friends and family, whom we perceive to have a far more direct relationship to us. In fact, protecting the environment may even fall second to saving our cell phone from damage. Evidently, values matter, and so do our perceptions of people and things. As we continue to perceive the environment as increasingly separate from us, we feel far less affected by its degradation, which is evident within the literature that sparked the U.S. conservation movement.

William Bartram’s Travels (1791) set the tone for a generation of writers and scientists that would follow.

            In William Bartram’s Travels through North and South Carolina, East and West Florida, he describes his love for Florida’s wildlife as he accompanies his father on a botanical expedition. Although Bartram proclaims that “men and manners undoubtedly hold the first rank,” he follows this idea by insisting that “whatever may contribute to our existence is also of equal importance.” Bartram possesses an inherent love for nature because, as a botanist, he embodies environmental values on a daily basis and perceives the planet as inextricably linked with his identity. However, Bartram’s writings highlight how society views man as separate from nature, only caring about the planet when it serves as a commodity for human use.

Ralph Waldo Emerson illustrates similar themes within his book Miscellanies: Embracing Nature, Addresses, and Lectures. Emerson actually addresses the concept that nature should be more than just a commodity for people, rather an extension of our own human nature.

Emerson writes that
“nature never became a toy to a wise spirit.”

He also explains how we have been educated with a “doctrine of Use.” Ironically, Emerson structures his essay through the uses for nature, such as commodity, beauty, language, and discipline.

            Overall, it appears that both writers feel as though they are connected to nature, but insist on persuading their audience to agree by listing how the environment benefits humans. Perhaps, our values are derived from the things or people we need in our lives (family, friends, career, etc.). Since Emerson and Bartram both need nature to inspire their professional work, they embody environmental values on a daily basis. Others, however, must be reminded of nature’s contributions to the things they explicitly enjoy (food, recreation, etc.). As I continue this research, I would like to consider how we can embody environmental values in our daily lives, despite living in a highly industrialized world.

Advertisement for Emerson’s writings on the back cover of the Atlantic Monthly. Ticknor & Fields also published the Atlantic.

The Strongest Element

Elements of Euclid 1661 - Title Page and Engraving of Euclid

This post comes to us from Discovery Fellow Christian Harris

Around 300 B.C.E., a man named Euclid worked and taught at the Library of Alexandria. While almost nothing more is known about Euclid himself, his name spread far and wide as the author of a series of books which became known as “The Elements.” These books provided formal proofs which laid the ground for teaching modern mathematics. While we do not have the completed work of Euclid, the majority of the Elements still live through various historical prints. Most prints of Euclid take on very small changes, such as translations, adapting syntax, or an addition of commentary. Since 1482, it has become standard to print Euclid with illustrations of the proofs as well.

I was able to view copies of Euclid from the 1600s through the 1800s, many intended for school or college use. These editions, and many others, are relatively smaller with only small differences between. While some variations of Euclid have been more eclectic (more on that below), history has not favored those who stray too far from Euclid’s traditional format.

While we have been able to use Euclid throughout history to teach math, there are still practical contributions that have not yet been explored or realized. At the beginning of my research experience, I used various editions of Euclid’s Elements to learn more about one such famous problem, called the Perfect Cuboid Problem.

The Perfect Cuboid Problem simply asks if there exists a cuboid (a rectangular prism) such that each side can be divided into two “Pythagorean triple” triangles. A Pythagorean triple is a set of three integers such that the sum of the squares of two integers is equal to the third integer squared (e.g., 3, 4, and 5 are a Pythagorean triple because 32+42=52).

Once you understand what the question asks, it feels almost intuitive that it is impossible for such a cuboid to exist.

However, while no has ever found an example of a “perfect cuboid,” no one has been able to prove it is impossible either. In my research so far, I observed various proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem, attempting to use such information to gain any insight into the Perfect Cuboid Problem.


The title page of Oliver Byrne’s “First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid”

While maneuvering through different variations of the Elements, I spent a lot of time with one of the most unconventional editions ever produced: Oliver Byrne’s “The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid: In which Coloured Diagrams and Symbols are Used Instead of Letters for the Greater Ease of Learners,” (1847). This edition does exactly as the title claims, rewriting the first six books of the Elements in a completely different format, using color and diagrams instead of words to convey its proofs.

The Pythagorean Theorem illustrated in Oliver Byrne’s Elements (1847)

While this book was not well received at its time of release, it has received a lot of contemporary praise for its progressive nature and efforts to improve comprehension. As I have continued to work with this book, my research has shifted towards its failure at the time of its release, and the steady influence it had on future math education. As contemporary research promotes the use of diagrams and visuals in geometry education, it seems that Byrne had a level of impact on modern education. I wish to now explore what level of influence, if any, that Byrne had on math literature and education, and when this influence began to show.

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