Wikipedia Wednesday, Apr 16 2014 


Did you know that there has been a campaign to get all of the over four million Wikipedia pages printed into books? It’s called the Wikipedia Books Project and the promoters hoped to publish the 1000 books, display them at the Wikimania Conference in London in August 2014, and then send the volumes, as a traveling exhibit, around the world.  The fundraiser, hosted by Indiegogo, has failed to reach it’s goal of $50,000. Maybe it failed because a fundamental question remained unanswered: Why? Why convert a constantly changing, essential, organic, internet entity into a static, heavy, dust collecting object? Here is their answer:


Another Wikipedia item of interest reported recently by Mashable is the Tumblr known as “TL;DR Wikipedia.” Silly, irreverent, and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… an example:



A final bit on Wikipedia is this amusing piece by Judith Newman from the New York Times:  What does Judith Newman have to do to get a page?

Flappers Wednesday, Apr 2 2014 

Image credit: NYPL Digital Collections

Image credit: NYPL Digital Collections

This is one of a collection of cigarette cards held by the New York Public Library, and written about in the blog The Passion of Former Days. Flappers as butterflies, ephemeral and beautiful. But the darker side is explored in the new book, Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation. Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, and Zelda Fitzgerald, are Americans; Diana Cooper and Nancy Cunard, are British; and Tamara de Lempicka, is an escapee from the Russian Revolution. Their young lives led among the avant garde in Paris and New York, unconsciously furthered women’s rights.  




Of course a lot of what went on looks like a silly good time:


Beowulf, Again Friday, Mar 28 2014 

The Guardian reported recently that J. R. R. Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf  will be published this May by HarperCollins and that it will include Tolkien’s Oxford lectures on the poem from the 1930′s.

Prompted to search our catalog for copies of the “epic poem”  I found that we have some interesting editions. Our oldest is A. Diedrich Wackerbarth’s 1849 edition:

blog pics 011

Although criticized for abandoning the original meter in favor of a more readable Middle English ballad meter, it makes sense we would have this more “popular” version.

But this poem lends itself to illustration and we have a couple of fine examples. In the children’s collection we have James Rumford’s Beowulf: A Hero’s Tale and in the YA graphic novel section we have Gareth Hind’s adaptation:

blog pics 017

Both are imaginative and the illustrations are wonderful.

Should the Athenaeum purchase the Tolkien edition? We shall see.

Margaret B. Stillwell Book Collecting Prize Friday, Mar 21 2014 

blog pics 008

The Stillwell Prize, sponsored by the John Russell Bartlett Society, has been awarded  to budding bibliophiles, earning undergraduate degrees in Rhode Island, since 1985. Students with a collection of printed material are welcome to apply and if chosen, present their collection and receive a cash award. The winning topics are far ranging, as this list of past award winners shows. The Providence Athenaeum has hosted the event in the past but this year the judging will be held at the John Carter Brown Library on April 14th.

Zarafa: Spectacle of the Giraffe, 1826 – 1839 Friday, Mar 14 2014 

What use Giraffe pt.2 001

     As a complement to the Salon series, “What Use is the Giraffe?” the exhibition Zarafa: Spectacle of the Giraffe, 1826-1839 documents the historical, political, and social/cultural influence of the Pasha of Egypt’s gift of a giraffe to King Charles X of France in 1826. The “bel animal du roi” wintered in Marseille where she was met by the natural historian Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, and escorted on foot by an entourage that included several exotic attendants and three cows, on the 560 mile journey to Paris. She created a growing spectacle as crowds gathered along the route to see the first giraffe in Europe in over 300 years, and her image appeared on decorative objects like ceramics and wall- paper, influenced hairstyles, and led to paint colors with such names as “belly of giraffe.”

     The exhibition culminates in the arrival of the first giraffe or “camelopard” onto American soil, which was on display in downtown Providence in 1839.

This exhibit will be on display in the Philbrick Rare Book Room from February 7th to May 31, 2014.

Thanks to guest blogger, Kate Wodehouse, Collections Librarian

The Art of Travel Writing Tuesday, Feb 18 2014 


In anticipation of the long awaited arrival of The Broken Road,* the third installment of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s trilogy chronicling his walk from the hook of Holland to Constantinople, this month’s staff picks celebrates some of the classics of the art of travel writing.

Patrick Leigh Fermor set out from Holland in December 1933 at the age of 18. His plan was to travel on foot relying on the generosity and hospitality of the people he met en route, from Dutch peasants to German counts. He finally arrived in Constantinople in 1935. The first volume, A Time of Gifts (published in 1977), chronicles his journey as far as Hungary, and the second, Between the Woods and the Water (1986), takes the reader as far as Romania. The third and final volume, The Broken Road, completes the journey and is comprised of two texts that Leigh Fermor worked on to within weeks of his death in June 2011.

The poetic beauty, erudition, and both human and historical insight of the first two volumes are beyond compare and this, combined with the gentle humor with which he describes his adventures, have made the books classics of the genre. Indeed, Patrick Leigh Fermor has been described as one of the greatest prose stylists of the last century. For Jan Morris, “he has no rivals, and so stands beyond envy.”

While we wait for the publication of what promises to be a third masterpiece, why not enjoy another travel classic? Travel along the shores of the Mediterranean, walk through the Hindu Kush or climb a mountain in Tibet with some of the finest travel writers of the 20th century.

  • A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water – Patrick Leigh Fermor
  • Bitter Lemons – Lawrence Durrell
  • Journey Without Maps – Graham Greene
  • The World, the World and Tomb in Seville - Norman Lewis
  • Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle and South from the Limpopo – Dervla Murphy
  • My Journey to Lhasa – Alexandra David Neel
  • A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush and On the Shores of the Mediterranean – Eric Newby
  • Arabian Sands – Wilfred Thesiger
  • Shadow of the Silk Road and To A Mountain in Tibet – Colin Thubon
  • Baghdad Sketches and In the Valleys of the Assassins – Freya Stark

*The Broken Road is due to be released in the U.S. on March 4th and should arrive at the Athenaeum shortly afterwards!

Ravenous would like to thank guest blogger Kirsty Dain, Circulation Assistant Extraordinaire!

My Best of 2013 Wednesday, Feb 5 2014 


“My Best of 2013″

Or rather, it should say “Favorites”. These are not culled from awards or other lists, but from my own reading history of 2013. These are MY favorite books from the Athenaeum YA Corner of 2013. Please note! Not all of these were PUBLISHED in 2013. They were READ in 2013. So, as they say, Your mileage may vary, but here are my favorites of the year.

This is probably my favorite new series, set in 15th Century Brittany/France.  A Convent dedicated to the God of Death, where they take in young girls, and train them to be deadly assassins. Yes. Assassins.

THE ARCHIVED, Victoria Schwab
A must-read for library/book geeks.  A “Library” full of “Histories” that are actually ghosts, except not really, more like copies of a person’s lives and memories. And the Keeper, a teen girl with losses of her own, trying to keep everything from slipping into chaos.

THE PECULIARS, Maureen Doyle McQuerry
Part Fantasy, Part Steampunk, Part Romance, Part coming of age story, the Peculiars has more libraries (LIBRARIES!), a swoony-nerdy leading man, a race of outcasts, and an intriguing heroine. My only complaint is that it could have been two books: the ending seemed a little rushed. But all in all, it didn’t take away too much from the experience.

THE SUMMER PRINCE, Alaya Dawn Johnson
Seriously. You guys. The Summer Prince. This is DEFINITELY my favorite stand-alone book of the year. Futuristic Techno-Brazil/South America, with a Matriarchal system, and human sacrifice. Our heroine is a political performance artist, and for anyone who likes “Love Triangles”? This is a way of doing it that I’ve not really seen before. And not for the reason you might think. Don’t miss this one.

I don’t normally go for “contemporary, issue driven” YA, but something in the voice of this one caught me from the first page. It’s a story about grief and loss, and other people’s expectations, and watching people change, and changing your OWN self. And it is about running. Running in the cold, the woods. Running away. And running toward.

SCARLET, Marissa Meyer
Great follow up to CINDER. I like how the story is getting bigger, more political, and this had some of my favorite side characters in any book this year.

Spooky, without being too scary. More of a mystery than a horror novel, or ghost story. Set in early 1900s with Spirit Photography, the Spanish Flu and the heroine’s lost love at the center. Just lovely.

I just can’t even talk about it I loved it so much. It has more of a start-and-stop quality than the first 2 books, just like it felt like for me being 14, like September is in this book.

NANCY DREW SERIES (Applewood Facsimile Editions)
An old classic that always bears re-reading. I especially like the Applewood Facsimile Editions. Nancy was VERY different in the 1930s.

Please. So good, I can’t even.

CODE NAME VERITY, Elizabeth Wein
I was worried it would be too harrowing. It wasn’t. I was worried it would pretend like the terrible things didn’t happen. It didn’t. A love story between friends, a puzzling thriller, and a heartbreak of a book. Kiss me quick, Hardy.

Ravenous would like to thank  guest blogger, Amy Eller Lewis, Writer, Circulation Clerk Extraordinaire and host of YA: Your Athenaeum, for this post.

What use is the Giraffe? Wednesday, Jan 29 2014 

The Athenaeum Salon Series for late winter/spring 2014 begins on Friday, February 7th with part one of our new series, ‘What use is the giraffe?’ — The Evolution of Science, Society, and Spectacle in the Cosmopolitan 19th Century. Read more about the background for the series here, including a description of the February 7th Salon:

In the summer of 1827 a very young giraffe arrived in Paris, a gift for King Charles X from Muhammad Ali, the Pasha of Egypt, who had reason to curry political favor from the ruler of France. The giraffe’s first stop in France had been Marseilles, where she had arrived by ship from Alexandria in the fall of 1826, and where she and the two men who had attended her on the voyage – one a Beduoin and one of Sudanese origin – had spent the winter. In late May, with a retinue that included her handlers, along with three cows to provide her with milk, the giraffe set off to walk to the 560 miles to Paris. This precarious undertaking was overseen by one of the most important French naturalists of the day, Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, who had made his name 30 years earlier as a member of Napoleon’s scientific expedition to Egypt. Geoffroy had also contributed scholarship to the Description de l’Egypte, a multi-volume report of the expedition’s findings on natural history and science in ancient and modern Egypt; its publication and dissemination between 1809 and 1829 had ignited a blaze of “Egyptomania” – a craze for all things Egyptian – in France and around the world.

The giraffe’s journey took 41 days, paced in part to accommodate the increasing and frenzied crowds of thousands, even tens of thousands, of eager spectators that she attracted in towns along the way.  Shortly after arriving in Paris she was presented to the King, and thereafter made her home in the Jardin des Plantes, where for over a year she created an unprecedented sensation, sending Parisians into a state of delirious “giraffomania.” In her extreme, unknowable otherness and mysterious self-possession, she became the means by which all manner of ideas and desires – cultural, political, and sociological – could be given expression, and she appeared as a character, mouthpiece, and/or image in everything from novels, plays, and philosophical essays to political cartoons to designs for hats, wallpaper, and souvenir sweets. Her celebrity waned after 1830, and during her remaining 15 years she was sought out only, as Balzac noted in an essay on the vagaries of fame, by “nannies with young children, simpletons, and backward provincials.” But in a fittingly quiet way, her allure endures, and she is still visited today – albeit in taxidermied form – at the Museum of Natural History in La Rochelle.

Yet, as when she was alive, it is her mystery more than her manifestation that makes her noteworthy today, and a host of scholars and artists are now interpreting her significance across a range of disciplines, including science, history, and the arts. We invite you to meet several of them and learn about their work this spring when we feature a new Salon series, ‘What use is the giraffe?’ – The Evolution of Science, Society, and Spectacle in the Cosmopolitan 19th Century, and an accompanying exhibit, Zarafa: Spectacle of the Giraffe, 1826-1839.

The question “What use is the giraffe?” in our series title comes from a pamphlet written by Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. We chose it because in the story of the 19th century’s elusive giraffe we will trace the intertwined chronologies of the study of natural history and science, including evolving ideas about the origin of life, racial differentiation, the role of order in the natural and man-made worlds, and the development of sociological theories;  the effect of new, applied technologies on travel, communications, international relations, economics, and the craze for crazes, including the craze for ever more dazzling public spectacles that called into question a person’s ability to rely on direct experience to distinguish what was “real” from what was not; as well as the political responses that all these developments brought about.

Perhaps best of all is that in preparing for this series and exhibit we have stumbled upon traces of the mysterious giraffe in the very collections of the Athenaeum itself. One of our most beautiful and important holdings is our copy of the Description de l’Egypte. It is treasured not only for the significance of the work itself, but for what its purchase, made in 1837 as our Benefit Street building was under construction, tells us about the aspirations of the Athenaeum’s founders for both the library and the community it would serve. The fact that the giraffe’s protector, Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, was a contributor to the Description thrilled us, but we were especially gratified to discover a more direct connection to the giraffe. Bard Graduate Center Assistant Professor Michele Majer, one of the Salon speakers we will feature this spring, wrote a article describing an essay by Balzac, in which he used the giraffe’s waning popularity to warn the ultra-royalist Prime Minister, Prince Jules de Polignac, that his power, too, would be fleeting. Balzac was prescient; the essay was written on the eve of the 1830 revolution that would see the government overthrown and the Prince forced into exile in England. His belongings were eventually sold, including his copy of the Description. It was the Prince de Polignac’s very copy that the Athenaeum was able to purchase when it came up for auction several years later.

The purchase was arranged by founding member and bibliophile John Russell Bartlett, who then designed and commissioned the Egyptian cabinet that housed the volumes of the Description until the library’s addition in the 1970s, when they were moved to the new climate-controlled Philbrick Rare Book Room, where they reside today. We still cherish the cabinet, and it is fitting that just as the giraffe exhibit and programming get underway, it will be moved into the Philbrick Rare Book Room, where it will be better protected and can be seen to full advantage. Come view it anew, along with the exhibit on the giraffe; join us for the Salon series, too – and don’t miss the host of giraffical activities in the Children’s Library this spring, see the full list on our website! We thank Dr. Joseph Chazan for his munificent sponsorship of the series, which was also made possible by the generous support of Susan Jaffe Tane and several friends of the Athenaeum who wish to remain anonymous.

Join us on Friday, February 7th for the first Salon in the series as well as the opening of the exhibit Zarafa: Spectacle of the Giraffe, 1826-1839:

Salon: University of Pennsylvania History & Sociology of Science Associate Professor John Tresch on “Transformative Milieu: The Paris of Geoffroy’s Giraffe,” part 1 of ‘What use is the giraffe?’ – The Evolution of Science, Society, and Spectacle in the Cosmopolitan 19th Century, a series on the giraffe who went to Paris in 1827.

The giraffe who accompanied Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire from Egypt to Paris arrived at a city in the throes of rapid change. The most exciting cultural developments of the 1820s and 30s embraced that change. Napoleon’s empire had fallen, and the Restoration was under threat by republicans, liberals, and socialists. Romanticism laid waste to classicism and rationalism; new technically-enhanced spectacles created dizzying and sublime effects. Physicists and engineers abandoned  the clockwork universe to explore the conversions and interactions between electricity, magnetism, heat and light, immersing them all within ambient, vibrating ethers. Steam engines and other novel technologies– batteries, photography, printing presses– rose up as “romantic machines,” merging with nature and transforming the social order. The giraffe itself was evidence for Geoffroy’s argument– inspired by Lamarck– that species changed in response to their environment or milieu. Geoffroy’s ideas had a transformative impact on his own milieu, with its shape-shifting technologies, machines, and laws: for George Sand, Balzac, Hugo and others, he was a philosopher of pantheism at war with crushing materialism, a prophet of unity in an age of fracture. The giraffe was in very good hands.

Our Salon sponsor is Dr. Joseph A. Chazan;  also made possible in part by Susan Jaffe Tane and several friends of the Athenaeum who wish to remain anonymous. Free and open to the public, the event takes place at the Providence Athenaeum, 251 Benefit Street, Providence; more info: 421-6970.

Ravenous would like to thank guest blogger, Christina Bevilacqua, Director of Programs and Public Engagement for this post.

Providence Athenaeum Illustrated Monday, Dec 23 2013 

Talent abounds among the staff of the Athenaeum. Most are writers, but we do have an artist, Mary Brower, Head of Circulation.


Athena in the Reading Room

By day she is the heart of library operations, but by night she creates whimsical art like this:


Christina holding court at a Salon

Here is her latest: a quirky interpretation for the holidays.

Happy Holidays 2013

Happy Holidays 2013

Cheers! And Happy Holidays!

~Ravenous ~

Emoticons, Emoji, Language? Wednesday, Dec 18 2013 

Language is alive. It grows and changes with usage. PBSoffbook speculates emoticons are expanding our language and represent our future:

Emoji, Japanese ideograms used in digital messaging, have migrated around the world and thanks to this Kickstarter campaign have resulted in the translation of Moby Dick into:

The Guardian has an interesting article about emoji and Fred Benenson, the creator of Emoji Dick.

This American classic has seen other creative translations like Matt Kish’s 2011 illustrated version. Ravenous embraces Moby Dick in all it’s forms.

Next Page »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 66 other followers