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From the Stacks

“From the Stacks” offers a regular helping of Newberry sustenance for the hungry intellectual. Learn about one of our hidden treasures, meticulous maps, or enduring ephemera, highlighting the resonance between the Newberry’s 125 years of collecting and the timely—and timeless—issues of today. These items, covering a wide range of subject matter and form, are presented here in all their scholarly pathos and quirky splendor.

The Birth of "The Star-Spangled Banner"

Francis Scott Key

VAULT Ruggles 203

Francis Scott Key penned “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” the poem that would become “The Star-Spangled Banner,” after watching British ships bomb Fort McHenry, near Baltimore, in September of 1814. This birth of the United States’s national anthem is one of the most well-remembered events of the War of 1812, now in its bicentennial.

The Great Chicago Fire

Map 6F G4104. C6 1871 R3

On the evening of Sunday, October 8, at 9:32 pm, the Great Chicago Fire began. It did not end until about 10 am the following Tuesday morning. According to Richard’s Illustrated and Statistical Map, the fire covered 2,320 of the 22,400 acres that were part of the city of Chicago, with the exact area destroyed marked in red on the map. In the inset, “Statistics of the Fire,” it lists the principal edifices destroyed, including churches, synagogues, banks, hospitals, and schools.

200 Years of Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

Case Y 155 .A9446

Jane Austen was barely older than her 20-year-old heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, when she attempted to publish her novel, First Impressions, in 1797. After its initial rejection, Austen spent the next 15 years editing the manuscript, eventually re-naming it Pride and Prejudice, a phrase taken from the novel Cecilia by Fanny Burney, an author Austen admired. Despite some success with her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, Austen sold all rights and profits of Pride and Prejudice to publisher Thomas Egerton.

John Adams Letter

John Adams

VAULT Case MS 6A 81

In the early spring of 1788, John Adams returned from Europe, where he’d spent a decade conducting diplomatic business. He arrived in Massachusetts at a seminal moment; he was stateside, acclimating to his Braintree home, when the U.S. Constitution was formally ratified.

May Day

Adolph Fischer

VAULT Ruggles 12

This bilingual broadside, written by labor activist Adolph Fischer, calls on “workingmen” to attend a rally in Chicago’s Haymarket Square. In the demonstration’s aftermath, eight anarchists (including Fischer) were unfairly accused of slaying police officers. An openly biased judge sentenced seven of these defendants—known as the Haymarket martyrs—to death; the eighth was sentenced to 15 years in prison. In 1887, four were executed, after one committed suicide.

Earth Day the Newberry Way

Nicolaus Germanus

VAULT Ayer 6 .P9 1482a

Perhaps no single work has exerted a greater influence on the development of cartography in the modern world than the Geographia of the ancient astronomer, mathematician, and geographer Claudius Ptolemy (c. 90–168). Ptolemy lived in Alexandria during a time when the Egyptian port was the cultural, commercial, and scientific center of the eastern Mediterranean. He had access to centuries of Greek scientific and mathematical learning as well as to geographical information world travelers brought to the great port.

Henry James Letter; What Maisie Knew

Happy Birthday, Henry James!

Henry James

VAULT Wing ZP 883 .S8935

Henry James, a nineteenth-century behemoth in literary realism, published What Maisie Knew in 1897. This coming-of-age narrative, which follows a sensitive daughter and her divorced, frivolous parents, is an unflinching account of a dysfunctional family. Its pages plunge the depths of childhood guilt, fear, and growth. With astonishing precision and candor, James inhabits the consciousness of his eponymous heroine—from her earliest glimmerings of awareness to her final, comprehensive worldview.

September 1, 1939

Bringing Auden Full Circle

Carl E. Kurtz, W.H. Auden

Vault Oversize Wing MS 196

Bringing Auden’s Poetry Full Circle

In conjunction with one of our current exhibitions, “Exploration 2013: The 27th Annual Juried Exhibition of the Chicago Calligraphy Collective,” we look back at a past Newberry Purchase-Prize winner: “September 1, 1939” by Carl E. Kurtz, a work that attempts to recuperate a line of W.H. Auden’s poetry that the poet himself disavowed.

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