Exhibition | Imperfect History

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on August 22, 2021

From the press release (20 August 2021) . . .

Imperfect History: Curating the Graphics Arts Collection at Benjamin Franklin’s Public Library
The Library Company of Philadelphia, 20 September 2021 — 8 April 2022

Curated by Erika Piola and Sarah Weatherwax

Exhibition poster with ten images framed in roundels, four large and six small.New exhibition reveals visual cues of bigotry and inequality over hundreds of years in America.

At a time when Americans are constantly bombarded with graphics, some with hidden meanings, our ability to interpret visuals has taken on new urgency. Imperfect History: Curating the Graphics Arts Collection at Benjamin Franklin’s Public Library is a new exhibit designed to help us read between the lines of popular graphics. Drawing from a collection of extraordinary breadth spanning 300 years, Imperfect History showcases hidden and rare items, the unseen stories of everyday people, and the prejudices and preconceptions of different time periods. It’s a visual time machine of the good, the bad, and the ugly of American culture.

“The point is not to take things at face value,” said Michael Barsanti, the Edwin Wolf 2nd Director of the Library Company. “Inequalities and prejudices have existed in plain view for centuries. We just need to look for the clues in visual materials. Our hope is that this exhibition will help teach the public to understand racist, sexist, and other biased imagery in popular culture today and throughout history, in an effort to mitigate bigotry.”

Items glorifying white men, stereotyping African Americans, satirizing feminism, and representing economic disparities will be on display. So too will ‘imperfect’ works that would never see the light of day in a fine arts exhibit, but that offer important lessons in how people lived, what they cared about and what they really thought.

“We want to help patrons understand American history through graphic materials,” notes co-curator Erika Piola, Director of the Visual Culture Program. “These are images created and seen by everyday people. They were collected by the son of a Library Company librarian, hung on the walls of American homes, were saved in scrapbooks, and mailed to the dwellings of average citizens.”

Included in the exhibition are an ink blotter with female nudes on lettuce, a promotional item never seen before publicly. There are rare items such as a print of an enslaved teen with vitiligo who was exploited as a sideshow curiosity and a lithograph of living and dead all-white male Masons described as the “wise and good among mankind.”

Among the exhibition’s five areas is the ‘Imperfection Section’ with items that have been altered, suffered age deterioration, damage, have artistic errors, or inscriptions. “We want people to appreciate that just because items like photographs, prints and sketches might be damaged, it doesn’t make them any less important to future generations,” says Piola.

Co-curator Sarah Weatherwax, Senior Curator of Graphic Arts notes, “Benjamin Franklin founded the Library Company to prepare colonists for citizenship by giving them access to books. But today, being an engaged citizen requires us to look beyond text and also focus on visuals, to understand nuance and context.”

The Imperfect History project includes an exhibition, publication, digital catalog, a visual literacy workshop, a one-day symposium, and a curatorial fellowship. It is in commemoration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Graphic Arts Department.

Digital Catalog
The digital catalog creatively demonstrates multiple viewpoints through descriptions of the same visual material written by four guest catalogers from different fields. The exhibition publication is an illustrated catalog providing an overview of the history of graphics collecting at the Library Company as well as narratives and a case study of the relationships between American art history, visual culture and literacy, race, gender, and Philadelphia imagery and image makers.

Visual Literacy Workshop: Urban In-sights
A select group of historians, curators, and other professionals from around the U.S. gathered virtually at the end of June for a workshop designed to enhance participants’ ability to ‘read’ and analyze graphic materials. In addition to historical context, they learned about different graphic processes, and how to conduct primary and secondary research using graphic materials.

Symposium: Collecting, Curating, and Consuming American Popular Graphic Arts Yesterday and Today
The one-day symposium scheduled for 25 March 2022 will examine the changing and innovative trends in how popular graphics are curated, interpreted, used and understood by those who produced, viewed, and consumed them.

Curatorial Fellowship
Imperfect History included a 20-month fellowship providing an aspiring graphics curator with practical career training.

Support for Imperfect History is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation, Walter J. Miller Trust, Center for American Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Jay Robert Stiefel, and Terra Foundation for American Art.

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About the Library Company of Philadelphia

Established in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin, the Library Company of Philadelphia was founded as the first public library with the mission of putting books in the hands of ‘ordinary citizens’. It is the oldest cultural institution in America, the Nation’s first Library of Congress, and the largest lending library through the Civil War.

Today, the Library Company is an independent research library and educational institution specializing in American and global history from the 17th through the early 20th centuries. With one of the world’s largest holdings of early Americana, the Library Company also has close to one million pieces in their collections that relate to African American history, economic and women’s history, the history of medicine, and visual culture. The Library Company promotes access to these collections through fellowships, exhibitions, programs, and online resources.

The holdings of over 100,000 items in the Graphic Arts Collection comprise one of the few public collections in the United States specializing in historical American popular graphics from the 17th century through the early 20th century. The works represent the multiple perspectives and aesthetic senses of their creators, while they also serve as material documents of the culture, politics, and economics in which they were produced and consumed.

Exhibition | Seeing Coal

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on August 22, 2021

Title page of James Hutton, Theory of the Earth (Edinburgh, 1795) with plate 4 of volume 1 unfolded to show a depiction of a geological formation.

James Hutton, Theory of the Earth, with Proofs and Illustrations
(Edinburgh, 1795)

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Though focused on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the online component of the LCP exhibition begins with James Hutton’s Theory of the Earth, with Proofs and Illustrations (Edinburgh, 1795). For the much wider arguments of coal’s significance for the industrial revolution—with important stakes for the history of science, economic history, and various forms of material culture, particularly textiles—see Margaret Jacob, The First Knowledge Economy: Human Capital and the European Economy, 1750–1850 (Cambridge UP, 2014); for one economic historian’s response to the book, see Cormac Ó Gráda, “Did Science Cause the Industrial Revolution?,” Journal of Economic Literature 54.1 (March 2016): 224–39. More recently, for the topic generally, see Ralph Crane, Coal: Nature and Culture (London: Reaktion Books, 2021). CH

Seeing Coal: Time, Material, Scale
The Library Company of Philadelphia, 3 May — 28 August 2021

Curated by Andrea Krupp

Printed materials from the 19th and early 20th century attest to coal’s ubiquity. Today, coal has practically disappeared from Philadelphia’s visual and cultural landscape, though it is still extracted, traded, and consumed worldwide. Seeing Coal looks at Pennsylvania anthracite coal, and raises questions about the significance of its visible and invisible presence in our world. Through historic images, material specimens, poetry and visual art, coal is presented as a material that can help us re-think our relationship with Nature and Time.

It is 300-million-year-old life matter transformed into carbon. It performs a vital function—storing carbon underground. It is rich with meaning and portent, and it deserves our attention. Human lives are ephemeral, yet our actions in the here-and-now shape an unseen future. Through its dynamic materiality, coal connects us to Deep Time and Nature. It reminds us of our own Earth origins and helps us re-vision how to live on a fragile and finite planet.

The exhibition was curated by Andrea Krupp, Library Company Conservator and visual artist.


New Book | Strata

Posted in books by Editor on August 21, 2021

Published by Thames & Hudson and The University of Chicago Press:

Edited by the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, with an introduction by Douglas Palmer and a foreword by Robert Macfarlane, Strata: William Smith’s Geological Maps (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2020), 256 pages, ISBN: 978-0226754888, $65.

Book cover, with grey lettering on a blue background.Lavishly illustrated with full-color geological maps, tables of strata, geological cross-sections, photographs, and fossil illustrations from the archives of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, the Geological Society, the London Natural History Museum, and others, Strata provides the first complete presentation of the revolutionary work of nineteenth-century geologist William Smith, the so-called father of English geology. It illustrates the story of his career, from apprentice to surveyor for hire and fossil collector, from his 1799 geological map of Bath and table of strata to his groundbreaking 1815 geological strata map, and from his imprisonment for debt to his detailed stratigraphical county maps.

This sumptuous volume begins with an introduction by Douglas Palmer that places Smith’s work in the context of earlier, concurrent, and subsequent ideas regarding the structure and natural processes of the earth, geographical mapping, and biostratigraphical theories. The book is then organized into four parts, each beginning with four sheets from Smith’s hand-colored, 1815 strata map, accompanied by related geological cross-sections and county maps, and followed by fossil illustrations by Smith contemporary James Sowerby, all organized by strata. Essays between each section explore the aims of Smith’s work and its application in the fields of mining, agriculture, cartography and hydrology. Strata concludes with reflections on Smith’s later years as an itinerant geologist and surveyor, plagiarism by a rival, receipt of the first Wollaston Medal in recognition of his achievements, and the influence of his geological mapping and biostratigraphical theories on the sciences—all of which culminated in the establishment of the modern geological timescale.


Foreword — Robert Macfarlane
Introduction — Douglas Palmer

Borders and the North
Fossils: London Clay to Greensand
i  Apprentice — Peter Wigley

Wales and Central England
Fossils: Brickearth to Clunch Clay and Shale
ii  Mineral Prospector — Peter Wigley
iii  Field Work — Dave Williams

East Anglia and the South East
Fossils: Kelloways Stone to Fuller’s Earth Rock
iv  Cartographer — Tom Sharpe
v  Fossil Collector — Jill Darrell and Diana Clements

The West
Fossils: Blue Marl to Redland Limestone
vi  Well Sinker — John Mather
vii  Mentor — John Henry

Table Detailing William Smith’s Fossils Featured as Photographic Plates in This Book

Bibliography and Sources of Illustrations
Index and Acknowledgments

NEH Announces $28.4 Million for 239 Projects

Posted in museums, resources by Editor on August 20, 2021

Selections from the press release (17 August 2021):

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) today announced $28.4 million in grants for 239 humanities projects across the country. . . .This round of funding will support vital research, education, preservation, digital, and public programs. These peer-reviewed grants were awarded in addition to $53.2 million in annual operating support provided to the national network of state and jurisdictional humanities councils. . . .

Several projects receiving grants today will help preserve fragile historical and cultural collections and make them more accessible to the broader public, such as grants to safeguard the Providence Atheneum’s collection of rare books, pamphlets, and artwork—which includes rare first editions of works by Walt Whitman, Louisa May Alcott, and Herman Melville, nineteenth-century antislavery and temperance pamphlets, and a 25-volume reference work on Egypt commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte.

A grant to the Oneida Indian Nation will help preserve tribal archives containing textiles, artifacts, and historical records documenting the Nation’s history, including the personal papers of Chief William Rockwell, who played a pivotal role in a U.S. Supreme Court case preserving the Oneida Reservation, and the pipe of Chief Skenondoa, an American Revolutionary War hero involved in the 1794 Canandaigua Treaty recognizing Oneida sovereignty and land rights.

NEH Preservation Assistance Grants will improve preservation conditions for valuable humanities collections at seventy-one smaller museums, archives, and historical societies across the country. . . .

Forty institutions received grants to support professional development and research opportunities for K–12 and college teachers through summer workshops and institutes on humanities topics such as: the social and cultural history of the space race on Florida’s ‘Space Coast’; the role of books in circulating the ideals of the American Revolution; the twelfth-century migration of Pueblo communities from Chaco Canyon, the hub of Puebloan civilization in northwestern New Mexico, to the Mesa Verde region of southwestern Colorado; the overlooked histories of ten influential African-American women who helped define American ideals from the Revolutionary Era to the early twentieth century; and accounts of the 1918 influenza pandemic in history and literature.

This round of funding also marks the addition of the Boston Public Library as a hub for the National Digital Newspaper project, expanding the reach of the Chronicling America online database of historical American newspapers to include newspapers published in Massachusetts between 1690 and 1963. Additional funding awarded in this round will support ongoing newspaper digitization work in Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Montana, Rhode Island, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

A number of newly funded projects received grant support through NEH’s A More Perfect Union initiative, designed to demonstrate and enhance the critical role the humanities play in our nation and support projects that will help Americans commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 2026. Among these are grants to fund new episodes of the PBS series Poetry in America, a collection of essays on the architecture of the African diaspora in the United States, and preservation planning for the Digital Library of Appalachia.

A full list of the 239 grants by geographic location is available here (these particularly caught my eye -CH) . . .

The Revolution in Books (Adrian Finucane and Victoria Thur), $141,929
A three-week, residential institute for 25 college and university faculty on the history of the book in the American Revolution.

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Bringing Old North to the 21st Century (Nikki Stewart), $75,000
A planning grant to reinterpret the colonial Old North Church in Boston and its congregation’s ties to slavery from the American Revolution to the Civil War.

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Preserving Works on Paper at Historic Deerfield (Amanda Lange), $10,000
Conservation assessment of 350 works of art on paper, including eighteenth-century British portraits, silhouettes, political prints, military and other maps, and other pieces that represent New England life and tastes in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The project would also include a workshop on object handling and storage best practices that would be open to staff and volunteers of other local museums and historical societies, as well as the development of a rotation schedule for the light-sensitive pieces in the collection.

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Recovering Black Performance in Early Modern Iberia, 1500–1800 (Nicholas Jones and Elizabeth Wright), $96,347
Planning and holding a conference on Black performance in early modern Iberia and preparation of conference papers for publication in a journal special issue.

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Rehousing and Cataloging the RISD Museum’s Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Wallpaper Collection (Ingrid Neuman), $10,000
The rehousing of approximately 700 historical European and American wallpapers from the late eighteenth century to the mid nineteenth, 500 of which were collected by French artist Charles Huard and his wife, American writer Frances Wilson Huard. The collection includes examples from manufacturers Zuber, Joseph Dufour, and Jean-Baptiste Réveillon that are representations of highly skilled and time-intensive production techniques, including the use of hand-drawn and hand-carved woodblocks for printing.

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Collections Monitoring and Housing Improvement Project at the Old Stone House Museum (Mahala Nyberg), $9,300
Purchases to improve preservation conditions and environmental monitoring at the Old Stone House Museum and Historic Village. The museum, on Vermont’s African-American Heritage Trail, includes buildings significant to the history of Orleans County from the mid eighteenth century through the nineteenth, including the home of Alexander Twilight, an African-American educator and minister and first African American to graduate college in the United States.

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First Family: George Washington’s Heirs and the Making of America (Cassandra Good), $30,000
Research and writing of a history of the heirs of George and Martha Washington between the American Revolution and the Civil War.

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A Plague in New York City: How the City Confronted—and Survived—the Yellow Fever Epidemic in the Founding Era (Carolyn Eastman), $60,000
Research and writing of a book on the yellow fever epidemics of 1795 and 1798 in New York City, emphasizing the experience of doctors and other caregivers, including African Americans.

Colonial Williamsburg Acquires Tankard by Paul Revere

Posted in museums by Editor on August 20, 2021

Press release from Colonial Williamsburg (17 August 2021) . . .

Tankard, Marked by Paul Revere, Jr. (1734–1818), Boston, ca. 1795, silver (Colonial Williamsburg Collections Fund, 2021-45).

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has added to its renowned American and British silver collection a rare tankard made ca. 1795 by America’s best-known colonial silversmith, Paul Revere (1734–1818) of Boston, Massachusetts. Originally used as communal drinking vessels, tankards are among the largest forms produced in Revere’s shop. Approximately three dozen Revere tankards are known, and this one is typical of those from the 1790s, with tapering sides, midband, tall domed lid, and pinecone form finials.

“Colonial Williamsburg has long sought a significant example of Revere’s work,” said Ronald Hurst, the Foundation’s Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator and vice president for museums, preservation, and historic resources. “With its impressive size, fine detail, and excellent condition, this tankard fills a significant void in our American silver holdings.”

A beloved American patriot, Revere is well known for his activities during the Revolutionary War. Widely recognized as an exceptional colonial silversmith, Revere also engraved prints and bookplates, ran an import business, established a bell and cannon foundry, and started the first successful copper rolling mills in the new nation. Many of the objects made in his silver shop are well documented today due to the survival of his record books.

Colonial Williamsburg’s Revere tankard stands nearly 10 inches tall and holds 48 ounces of liquid (usually wine, ale or cider), making it weighty to lift when full. Its apparent size is enhanced by a stepped domed lid and an elongated finial. The tankard has a lighter appearance thanks to its scrolled openwork thumbpiece. It lacks engraving, which leaves the identity of the original owner a mystery. Details such as the decorative features and the substantial weight (nearly 34 troy ounces) may one day provide ownership clues through careful study of Revere’s shop records.

“Paul Revere is the best-known and most celebrated American silversmith,” said Janine Skerry, Colonial Williamsburg’s senior curator of metals. “A large, eye-catching object such as this tankard is a great way to connect with the public and draw both children and adults into the story of this amazing material and its role in our early history.”

This Revere tankard was acquired entirely through the generosity of The Friends of Colonial Williamsburg Collections. It is now on view along with a ca. 1765 Revere silver porringer, another recent acquisition from the Joseph H. and June S. Hennage bequest announced earlier this year. Both objects are found in the exhibition Silver from Mine to Masterpiece in the Margaret Moore Hall Gallery at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, one of the newly expanded Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.


Call for Articles | Fall 2022 Issue of J18: Silver

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on August 19, 2021

From the Call for Papers:

Journal18, Issue #14 (Fall 2022) — Silver
Issue edited by Agnieszka Anna Ficek and Tara Zanardi

Proposals due by 1 September 2021; finished articles will be due by 1 March 2022

Ornamental plaque (mariola or maya), one of a pair, 1725–50, Moxos or Chiquitos missions, Alto Peru (present-day Bolivia), silver, 42 × 31 × 3 cm (Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Gift of Landon T. Clay, 1992.346).

Silver has held an illustrious place within early modern decorative arts as well as histories of empire, slavery, and colonialism. From cutlery and serving dishes to liturgical goods and medals, silver graced the collections of rulers and churches. During the eighteenth century, silver’s mutability lent itself well to the rococo’s penchant for metamorphosis. Highly regarded for its pliability, sheen, and virtuosity, silver was also esteemed for its inherent value. Silver’s capacity for transformation—from raw material into objects of beauty or currency—made it a valuable medium for artists, a tool for global expansion, and income for rebuilding state treasuries. As a currency standard in the eighteenth century, silver did not share the same vacillations as paper money, but it was subject to the fluctuation of quantities available in quarries, such as Zacatecas or Potosí, since its mining production could directly impact the consumption of goods for which it was traded.

In addition, silver’s mineralogical value became a source of appreciation so that silver, in its raw form, was placed in natural history cabinets. Complementing developments in the natural sciences, including geology and mineralogy, as they became more specialized, silver invited close scrutiny by artists, natural historians, and collectors. Silver’s discovery in quarries sparked the development of silversmithing sites, terrestrial exploration, and mining activities, including novel processes for extraction and the growth of enslaved labor and human trafficking. This intermingling of silver’s multifaceted roles—silver as a source of artistry, revenue, curiosity, and subjugation—positions it directly within the complexities of the eighteenth-century global world.

We welcome proposals for contributions that examine silver from diverse perspectives—metallurgical, artistic, imperial, and financial—and within a wide range of geographical locales. By situating silver within the context of geopolitics, economics, diplomacy, newly specialized sciences, and art, we aim to offer a broad analysis of silver’s vital roles in scientific, economic, and artistic circles across the eighteenth-century world.

Issue Editors
• Agnieszka Anna Ficek, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
• Tara Zanardi, Hunter College, City University of New York

Proposals for issue #14 Silver are now being accepted. Deadline for proposals: 1 September 2021.

To submit a proposal, send an abstract (250 words) and brief biography to editor@journal18.org and taramzanardi@gmail.com. Articles should not exceed 6000 words (including footnotes) and will be due by 1 March 2022. For further details on submission and Journal18 house style, see Information for Authors.

Online Workshop | Imperial Material: Napoleon’s Legacy

Posted in conferences (to attend), online learning by Editor on August 18, 2021

From Eventbrite:

Imperial Material: Napoleon’s Legacy in Culture, Art, and Heritage, 1821–2021
Online, 3 September 2021

Organized by Matilda Greig and Nicole Cochrane

Two hundred years after Napoleon Bonaparte’s death, this online workshop confronts his vast material, visual, and cultural legacy.

Napoleon Bonaparte died exactly two hundred years ago on a small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. He had spent the last six years of his life in exile on St Helena, removed from political and military power, in the unusual situation of being able to try to shape and preserve his own posthumous legacy. He was, in a way, phenomenally successful. Napoleon is an instantly recognisable name to this day, and despite growing efforts in recent years to critically revise his reputation and highlight his role in issues such as the reinstatement of slavery, he has largely managed to escape the same level of historical censure as other infamous military dictators. This is perhaps partly because his name has become such an adaptable brand, standing for an entire era of people, places, and events, as well as a full two centuries’ worth of art, craft, and consumer commodities. While other events marking the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death have weighed his contributions to legislative, political, and military reform, less work has been done to confront his vast material, visual, and cultural legacy. This workshop therefore brings together researchers and museum and heritage professionals to reflect on the enduring material and visual legacy of Napoleon, what our interpretation and use of it means for the future, as well as how it affects our understanding of the past. The workshop is free to attend; registration information is available here.

F R I D A Y ,  3  S E P T E M B E R  2 0 2 1

All times are in BST

10.00  Opening Remarks

10.15  Keynote
• Napoleon: A Life Told in Gardens and Shadows, In Discussion — Ruth Scurr (University of Cambridge)

11.10  Break

11.30  Panel 1: National Responses
• Vive L’Empereur!: Napoleon’s Material Legacy in Australia — Emma Gleadhill (Macquarie University) and Ekaterina Heath (University of Sydney)
• Napoléon alla turca: The Ultimate European — Fezanur Karaağaçlıoğlu (Boğaziçi University)

12.15  Panel 2: Politics of Iconography
• Victory Shall Be Mine: The Form, Fate, and Fortune of the Vittoria di Fossombrone and Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker — Melissa Gustin (University of York)
• Napoleon’s Iconography: Politics of Images and an ‘Imperial Corporate Design’? — Andrea Völker (Leuphana Universität Lüneburg)

13.00  Lunch Break

14.00  Panel 3: Napoleon in the Museum
• The Mysteries of Napoleon’s Toothbrush — Harriet Wheelock (Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and TU Dublin)
• Absence and Ubiquity in the Louvre’s Commemoration of Napoleonic Art Pillage — Nancy Karrels (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

14.45  Panel 4: Representations on Stage and Screen
• I, Napoleon: Blurred Boundaries in Napoleonic Performance — Laura O’Brien (Northumbria University)
• The Emperor’s New Close-Up: Napoleon’s Enduring Impact on Contemporary Film as an Iconic Historical Brand — Aidan Moir (York University)

15.30  Break

16.00  Panel 5: Objects from the Sacred to the Mundane
• From Mania to Relics: The Artefacts of the 1890 Waterloo Panorama — Luke Reynolds (University of Connecticut)
• The Relics of Napoleon and Modern Memory — David O’Brien (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

16.45  Panel 6: Urban and Cultural Legacies
• Perpetual Erasure: Napoleonian Politics and the Cemetery — Kaylee P. Alexander (Guilford College)
• The Legacy of the Napoleonic Era on Hairstyle and Hairdressing — Hervé Boudon (Independent scholar)

17.30  Closing Remarks

New Book | No Wood, No Kingdom

Posted in books by Editor on August 17, 2021

From Penn Press:

Keith Pluymers, No Wood, No Kingdom: Political Ecology in the English Atlantic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021), 296 pages, ISBN 978-0812253078, $50 / £40.

In early modern England, wood scarcity was a widespread concern. Royal officials, artisans, and common people expressed their fears in laws, petitions, and pamphlets, in which they debated the severity of the problem, speculated on its origins, and proposed solutions to it. No Wood, No Kingdom explores these conflicting attempts to understand the problem of scarcity and demonstrates how these ideas shaped land use, forestry, and the economic vision of England’s earliest colonies.

Popular accounts have often suggested that deforestation served as a ‘push’ for English colonial expansion. Keith Pluymers shows that wood scarcity in England, rather than a problem of absolute supply and demand, resulted from social conflict over the right to define and regulate resources, difficulties obtaining accurate information, and competing visions for trade, forestry, and the English landscape. Domestic scarcity claims did encourage schemes to develop wood-dependent enterprises in the colonies, but in practice colonies competed with domestic enterprises rather than supplanting them. Moreover, close studies of colonial governments and the actions of individual landholders in Ireland, Virginia, Bermuda, and Barbados demonstrate that colonists experimented with different, often competing approaches to colonial woods and trees, including efforts to manage them as long-term resources, albeit ones that nonetheless brought significant transformations to the land.

No Wood, No Kingdom explores the efforts to knot together woods around the Atlantic basin as resources for an English empire and the deep underlying conflicts and confusion that largely frustrated those plans. It speaks to historians of early modern Europe, early America, and the Atlantic World but also offers key insights on early modern resource politics, forest management, and political ecology of interest to readers in the environmental humanities and social sciences as well as those interested in colonialism or economic history.

Keith Pluymers is Assistant Professor of History at Illinois State University.


Note on Spelling and Dates

Introduction: A Wooden World
1  Scarcity, Conflict, and Regulation in England’s Royal Forests
2  Creating Scarcity in Ireland’s Woods
3  The Political Ecology of Woods in Virginia
4  Conservation and Commercialization in Bermuda
5  Deforestation and Preservation in Early Barbados
6  Toward an Atlantic or Imperial Political Ecology?

Archives Consulted

New Book | The Age of Wood

Posted in books by Editor on August 17, 2021

From Simon & Schuster:

Roland Ennos, The Age of Wood: Our Most Useful Material and the Construction of Civilization (New York: Scribner, 2020), 336 pages, ISBN: ‎978-1982114732, $28.

As the dominant species on Earth, humans have made astonishing progress since our ancestors came down from the trees. But how did the descendants of small primates manage to walk upright, become top predators, and populate the world? How were humans able to develop civilizations and produce a globalized economy? Now, in The Age of Wood, Roland Ennos shows for the first time that the key to our success has been our relationship with wood.

Brilliantly synthesizing recent research with existing knowledge in fields as wide-ranging as primatology, anthropology, archaeology, history, architecture, engineering, and carpentry, Ennos reinterprets human history and shows how our ability to exploit wood’s unique properties has profoundly shaped our bodies and minds, societies, and lives. He takes us on a sweeping ten-million-year journey from Southeast Asia and West Africa where great apes swing among the trees, build nests, and fashion tools; to East Africa where hunter gatherers collected their food; to the structural design of wooden temples in China and Japan; and to Northern England, where archaeologists trace how coal enabled humans to build an industrial world. Addressing the effects of industrialization—including the use of fossil fuels and other energy-intensive materials to replace timber—The Age of Wood not only shows the essential role that trees play in the history and evolution of human existence, but also argues that for the benefit of our planet we must return to more traditional ways of growing, using, and understanding trees.

A winning blend of history and science, this is a fascinating and authoritative work for anyone interested in nature, the environment, and the making of the world as we know it.

Roland Ennos is a visiting professor of biological sciences at the University of Hull. He is the author of successful textbooks on plants, biomechanics, and statistics, and his popular book Trees, published by the Natural History Museum, is now in its second edition. He lives in England.

New Book | Féau & Cie: The Art of Wood Paneling

Posted in books by Editor on August 17, 2021

From Rizzoli:

Olivier Gabet and Axelle Corty, with a foreword by Michael S. Smith and photographs by Robert Polidori, Féau & Cie: The Art of Wood Paneling, Boiseries from the 17th Century to Today (New York: Rizzoli, 2020), 288 pages, ISBN: 978-0847868506, $65.

The French woodwork purveyor Féau & Cie has supplied architects, designers, and museums with period paneling since 1875. Featuring documents, drawings, plaster models, panels, and antique boiserie rooms, its archive of 25,000 pieces—many from the eighteenth century and Art Deco era—is an unrivaled source of inspiration for re-creating heirloom spaces as well as for constructing spectacular contemporary pieces. Though the house remains best known for its magical historic rooms, it has collaborated with architects and decorators on original projects since its beginnings, and today’s design greats—including Michael S. Smith, Brian J. McCarthy, and Robert Couturier, among others—regularly call upon the firm for elaborate projects.

In this first book of the firm’s work, Feau & Cie reveals a selection of its most exceptional projects, from magnificent historical abodes to daring modern creations, including a palace in Tuscany and residences in Paris, London, New York, Malibu, and Atlanta. Dazzling images of finished interiors are accompanied by details of panels, doors, and decor, while exclusive photographs by Robert Polidori explore the house’s Parisian atelier. The unique savoir faire of joiners, sculptors, gilders, and painter-decorators shines through in this visual celebration of decorative masterpieces, which is bound to delight design masters and art lovers alike.

Founded in 1875, Féau & Cie is a Paris-based firm specializing in antique wood paneling and reproductions. Olivier Gabet is the director of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Robert Polidori is one of the world’s most acclaimed photographers of architecture and interiors.

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