Enfilade

Huge New Discovery of Notes on Hegel’s Lectures

Posted in books, the 18th century in the news by Editor on December 20, 2022

From The Guardian:

Sara Tor, “Manuscript Treasure Trove May Offer Fresh Understanding of Hegel,” The Guardian (29 November 2022).

One of the papers from a trove of 4,000 notes on Hegel, found by Professor Klaus Vieweg (Photograph: Marko Fuchs/Copyright Archiv und Bibliothek des Erzbistums München und Freising).

Library discovery of undocumented transcripts of German philosopher’s lectures like ‘finding new Beethoven score’

A biographer researching the German philosopher Hegel (1770–1831) has uncovered a massive treasure trove of previously undocumented lectures that could change perceptions regarding one of the leading figures of modern western philosophy. More than 4,000 pages of notes on Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s lectures were found by Klaus Vieweg in the library of the archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

“The discovery of these manuscripts is comparable to finding a new score by Beethoven or a previously unseen painting by Constable,” said Vieweg, a professor at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany.

He said an early reading of the notes had hinted at a fresh understanding of how Hegel formed his influential ideas on aesthetics, the philosophy around beauty and art, and how he analysed Shakespeare’s plays to help develop his ideas.

The transcripts are thought to have been written by Friedrich Wilhelm Carové, one of the first students at Heidelberg University to be taught by Hegel during the philosopher’s time there between 1816 and 1818. Hegel’s ideas and works are notable for their formidable difficulty. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell described him as “the hardest to understand of the great philosophers.” Vieweg hopes the new find might bring clarity. The papers will now be compiled into an annotated edition by a team of international experts, headed by Vieweg and Christian Illies, a professor of philosophy at the University of Bamberg.

“Major sections of Hegel’s work are only known through his lectures, so scholars have long been trying to find transcripts,” said Illies. “Several were found and published in the 19th and 20th centuries, but over the years uncovering new material has become less and less likely.”

Vieweg’s find is probably the single largest of its kind ever made. It was unearthed after a reader of his recent biography on Hegel pointed him to the archive of Friedrich Windischmann. Windischmann was a professor of Catholic theology in Munich whose father, Karl Joseph Hieronymous Windischmann, was a philosopher and friend of Hegel. A letter between Hegel and Karl Windischmann shows that Carové gave the set of manuscripts to the latter as a gift.

Although research on the material has only just begun, there has already been one significant find: the boxes contain a transcript from one of the very first lectures Hegel gave on aesthetics. Currently, any knowledge of Hegel’s thoughts on aesthetics originates from much later lectures given in Berlin. These were published after his death by his student Heinrich Gustav Hotho using a combination of lecture transcripts and Hegel’s own notes. As there have been no other sources to compare this with, questions have arisen as to how far this material was influenced by Hotho. The discovery of early lectures, therefore, could help to finally clear up the uncertainty. . . .

The full article is available here»

In the News | Russia Steals Potemkin’s Bones

Posted in the 18th century in the news, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on November 6, 2022

A domed sandstone church with a portico of four Tuscan columns and heavily rusticated walls.

Cathedral of St. Catherine, Kherson, Ukraine, 1781–86. Dedicated to Catherine of Alexandria, the patron saint of the reigning empress, it was one of the earliest churches built in ‘New Russia’ (Photo by Sven Teschke, July 2004, from Wikimedia Commons).

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So many twenty-first stories are also eighteenth-century stories. From The NY Times:

Marc Santora, “Why Russia Stole Potemkin’s Bones From Ukraine,” The New York Times (27 October 2022). The 18th-century military commander and lover of Catherine the Great helped conquer Ukraine and looms large in the version of history the Kremlin uses to justify the war.

With Ukrainian forces bearing down on the occupied port city of Kherson this week, the Kremlin’s puppet rulers dispatched a team to an 18th-century stone cathedral on a special mission—to steal the bones of Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin.

Unfinished oval portrait, depicting a man's face shown in three-quarters profile, looking to the right side of the canvas.

Johann Baptist von Lampi the Elder, Portrait of Russian Fieldmarshal Grigory Potemkin, 1790s (Moscow: State Tretyakov Gallery).

The memory of the 18th-century conqueror is vivid for those in the Kremlin bent on restoring the Russian imperium. It was Potemkin (1739–1791) who persuaded his lover, Catherine the Great, to annex Crimea in 1783. The founder of Kherson and Odesa, he sought the creation of a ‘New Russia’, a dominion that stretched across what is now southern Ukraine along the Black Sea.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February with the goal of restoring part of a long-lost empire, he invoked Potemkin’s vision. Now, with Putin’s army having failed in its march toward Odesa and threatened with ouster from Kherson, his grand plans are in jeopardy. But among Kremlin loyalists, the belief in what they view as Russia’s rightful empire still runs deep.

So it was that a team descended into a crypt below a solitary white marble gravestone inside St. Catherine’s Cathedral. To reach Potemkin’s remains, they would have opened a trapdoor in the floor and climbed down a narrow passageway, according to people who have visited the crypt. There they would have found a simple wooden coffin on a raised dais, marked with a single cross. Under the lid of the coffin, a small black bag held Potemkin’s skull and bones, carefully numbered.

Kremlin proxies have made no effort to hide the theft—quite the contrary. The Russian-appointed head of the Kherson region, Vladimir Saldo, said that Potemkin’s remains were taken from the city, on the west bank of the Dnieper River, to an undisclosed location east of the Dnieper, as Ukrainian troops edge closer.

“We transported to the left bank the remains of the holy prince that were in St. Catherine’s Cathedral,” Saldo said in an interview broadcast on Russian television. “We transported Potemkin himself.”

Local Ukrainian activists confirmed that the church had been looted and that, along with the bones, statues of venerated Russian heroes had been removed. By the count of historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of the book Catherine the Great and Potemkin, it was the ninth time Potemkin’s restful peace had been interrupted. . .

The full article is available here»

Statue of Elizabeth Freeman Unveiled in Massachusetts

Posted in anniversaries, on site, the 18th century in the news by Editor on August 24, 2022

On Sunday (21 August) a statue of Elizabeth Freeman (ca.1744–1829) was unveiled in Sheffield, Massachusetts, as reported by the Associated Press:

Brian Hanlon, Elizabeth Freeman, 2022 (Photo from the artist’s Instagram, hanlonstudio1). As noted by @PhyllisASears at Herstorical Monuments, there is also a sculpture of Freeman at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

The story of an enslaved woman who went to court to win her freedom [in 1781] more than 80 years before the Emancipation Proclamation had been pushed to the fringes of history.

A group of civic leaders, activists, and historians hope that ended Sunday in the quiet Massachusetts town of Sheffield with the unveiling of a bronze statue of the woman who chose the name Elizabeth Freeman, also when she shed the chains of slavery 241 years ago to the day.

Her story, while remarkable, remains relatively obscure. . . .

The enslaved woman, known as Bett, could not read or write, but she listened. And what she heard did not make sense.

While she toiled in bondage in the household of Col. John Ashley, he and other prominent citizens of Sheffield met to discuss their grievances about British tyranny. In 1773, they wrote in what are known as the Sheffield Resolves that “Mankind in a state of nature are equal, free, and independent of each other.”

Those words were echoed in Article 1 of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, which begins “All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights.”

It is believed that Bett, after hearing a public reading of the constitution, walked roughly 5 miles from the Ashley household to the home of attorney Theodore Sedgwick, one of the citizens who drafted the Sheffield Resolves, and asked him to represent her in her legal quest for freedom, said Paul O’Brien, president of the Sheffield Historical Society.

Sedgwick and another attorney, Tapping Reeve, took the case. Women had limited legal rights in Massachusetts courts at the time, so a male slave in the Ashley household named Brom was added to the case. The jury agreed with the attorneys, freeing Bett and Brom on August 21, 1781. . . .

The full article is available here»

Fort Ross in the News

Posted in on site, the 18th century in the news by Editor on April 22, 2022

Orthodox Holy Trinity St. Nicholas Chapel at Fort Ross State Historic Park, Sonoma County, California. Occupying historic lands of the Kashaya Pomo tribe, the site’s first chapel, built in the mid-1820s, was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. In 1970, a reconstructed version burned. Shown here is the latest chapel, built in 1973, which continues to be used for Orthodox worship services. (Photo by Frank Schulenburg, via Wikimedia Commons, December 2016). For how the Russian invasion of Ukraine is dividing leaders of the Russian Orthodox church, see Jeanne Whalen’s recent reporting for The Washington Post.

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From The Washington Post:

Jason Vest, “‘Russia’s Jamestown in America’—and the Oligarch Who Has Helped Fund It,” The Washington Post Magazine (12 April 2022).

Since Vladimir Putin loosed Russian troops on Ukraine, there hasn’t been much pity for Russian oligarchs, who have seen their funds seized with alacrity. But there exists in America, thanks in part to a now-sanctioned Putin-allied billionaire, the most genuinely Russian landmark in the Lower 48. It’s called Fort Ross—or Fort Russ, as the Russians called it, way back in 1812, when it was founded. Today it’s a California state park and on the National Register of Historic Places. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean from high, craggy cliffs, the nigh-forgotten outpost—a challenging two-hour drive north from San Francisco—has lately garnered more attention than usual as something of a historic curiosity. . . .

Established in 1909 as one of the first entries into the California State Park system, today Fort Ross scrapes by with a staff of 11 and a budget of about $500,000. It is, in tandem with nearby Gerstle Cove in Salt Point State Park, long a favored family or school field-trip destination for Northern Californians. . . .

Sarah Sweedler, chief executive of the Fort Ross Conservancy notes at the end of the article:

“We have gotten a few weird emails,” she says. “But we’ve also gotten some supportive emails. Hopefully common sense will prevail. . . . Fort Ross is a rich story that goes way beyond the Russians. It’s a part of California history that’s ours—everyone’s.”

From Wikipedia:

Fort Ross is a former Russian establishment on the west coast of North America in what is now Sonoma County, California. It was the hub of the southernmost Russian settlements in North America from 1812 to 1841. Notably, it was the first multi-ethnic community in northern California, with a combination of Native Californians, Native Alaskans, and Russians. It has been the subject of archaeological investigation and is a California Historical Landmark, a National Historic Landmark, and on the National Register of Historic Places. . . .

War in Ukraine | On Ukraine’s Cultural Heritage and Art Now

Posted in the 18th century in the news by Editor on March 22, 2022

A selection of essays addressing the crucial role of art and culture in the war . . . Information on sites where one can contribute include Forbes, UNICEF, The Art Newspaper, HyperAllergic, and the Global Heritage Fund.

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From The Conversation:

Gauvin Alexander Bailey, “Ukraine: Heritage Buildings, If Destroyed, Can be Rebuilt But Never Replaced,” The Conversation (14 March 2022).

The tragic loss of life and desperate living conditions caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine have gripped the world’s attention. However, another threat looms for the country’s heritage architecture, including United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage monuments of global significance. These buildings lie directly in the line of fire as Russian forces advance on Kyiv and increase bombardments near Lviv. UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay has called for the protection of these testimonies to the country’s “rich history.” . . .

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Bailey’s essay includes a link to Evan Rail’s article:

Evan Rail, “‘This Is Everyone’s Culture’: Ukraine’s Architectural Treasures Face Destruction,” The New York Times (11 March 2022). The country’s vast array of historic buildings, artworks and public squares are an integral part of Ukraine’s cultural identity. Amid the violence of war, many are being reduced to rubble.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought searing images of human tragedy to witnesses around the world: thousands of civilians killed and injured; broken families, as mothers and children leave in search of refuge while fathers and other men stay behind to defend their country; and millions of refugees having already fled to neighboring countries, after just two weeks of war. In addition to that human suffering, a second tragedy comes into focus: the destruction of a country’s very culture. Across Ukraine, scores of historic buildings, priceless artworks and public squares are being reduced to rubble by Russian rockets, missiles, bombs and gunfire. . . .

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From The Washington Post:

Max Bearak and Isabelle Khurshudyan, “‘All Art Must Go Underground:’ Ukraine Scrambles to Shield Its Cultural Heritage,” The Washington Post (14 March 2022).

Emptying a museum is a gargantuan task, and the entire workforce of the Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv had been at it for a week before the final piece—a century-old portrait of the museum’s namesake—was taken down, leaving the last of its walls bare.

Ihor Kozhan, the director of the grand gallery opposite Lviv’s opera house, explained the rush. “There is an egomaniac in Moscow who doesn’t care about killing children, let alone destroying art,” he said. “If our history and heritage are to survive, all art must go underground.”

Across Ukraine, artists, gallerists, curators and museum directors are desperately but carefully unhooking, wrapping and stashing away the country’s hefty cultural endowment as Vladimir Putin’s onslaught closes in. Statues, stained-glass windows and monuments are being covered with shrapnel-proof material. Basement bunkers are crammed with paintings. . . .

Saving art was secondary only to saving lives, many of those interviewed said, because Ukrainians’ pride in their culture serves as a deep well of inspiration for its resistance to invasion. Putin has made it clear that he considers Ukraine to be part of greater Russia, a contention artists here say denies Ukraine’s distinct heritage.

“With each invasion, some loss of culture is inevitable,” said Taras Voznyak, director of the Lviv National Art Gallery. “Putin knows that without art, without our history, Ukraine will have a weaker identity. That is the whole point of his war—to erase us and assimilate us into his population of cryptofascist zombies.” . . .

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From The Washington Post:

Peggy McGlone, “A Lab in Rural Virginia Is Racing to Preserve Ukraine’s Cultural Heritage,” The Washington Post (19 March 2022).

In the southwest corner of rural Virginia, about 5,000 miles from the war zone, a small but mighty team of archaeologists, historians and high-tech mapping experts are using sophisticated satellite imagery to help to protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage. Housed in the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, the Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab is the museum world’s version of a war room: a network of computers, satellite feeds and phones that represents one of the newest tools being employed to protect national treasures threatened by natural disasters or geopolitical events.

Created last year in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution Cultural Rescue Initiative—a world leader in this field—the lab is compiling imagery of Ukraine’s cultural sites to help track attacks on them. The goal is to quickly alert officials in Ukraine of damage, in case action can be taken—perhaps to protect artifacts exposed to the elements, or to board up stained-glass windows in the wake of a direct hit on a church—and to document the devastation.

“It’s a 24/7 operation,” director and archaeologist Hayden Bassett said, adding that the staff of six has been working 12 and 18 hours at a stretch to maintain their rapid response. “Even though we might not be staring at a screen at 3am, our satellites are imaging at 3am.”

Using their database of 26,000 cultural heritage sites—including historic architecture, cultural institutions such as museums and archives, houses of worship and places of archaeological significance—Bassett and his team of art historians, analysts and techies have identified several hundred potential impacts in the conflict’s first few weeks. . . .

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From NPR:

Lauren Frayer and Olena Lysenko, “How Some People Are Trying to Make Art, Not War, in Ukraine Right Now,” NPR Morning Edition (17 March 2022).

[Lyana] Mytsko [director of Lviv Municipal Arts Center] says artists and musicians keep contacting her and asking how they can help. Here’s what she tells them: “Art is not an extra little thing—a sidebar—in this war. Putin has said Ukraine is not a real country—that it doesn’t have a real culture of its own. Go out and prove him wrong” . . . .

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From i:

Isabella Bengoechea, “Ukraine War: Cancelling Russian Culture Is a Mistake and Helps No One But Putin, Say Art Lovers,” The i Paper (21 March 2022). Alex Beard, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, told i: “Swan Lake is for everybody.”

Since Russian bombs began falling on Ukraine, the world has united to make known its disgust for Vladimir Putin’s regime through sanctions targeting Russia’s economy, its business, military and its elites. However, high culture, traditionally a jewel in the crown of Russia’s soft power, has not escaped scrutiny. Russian performers have been dropped. Musicians have been told to denounce Mr Putin. Performances of Russian works have been cancelled—literally and figuratively—across the West. Vissi d’arte has been tried and found wanting, as the theatre of war bleeds into the concert halls and opera stages of the world.

This month, the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra cancelled a Tchaikovsky evening because of the conflict, while the Russian composer’s 1812 Overture was dropped from the Royal Albert Hall’s Classical Spectacular concerts, by Japan’s Chubu Philharmonic, by the Akashi Philharmonic and the Zagreb Philharmonic.

Switzerland’s Théâtre Bienne Soleure replaced Tchaikovsky’s Ukraine-based romantic opera Mazeppa over concerns about depicting war on stage, while the Polish National Opera cancelled a performance of Modest Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov, about the downfall of a murderous tsar. Then two university ensembles, Trinity Orchestra and UCD Symphony Orchestra, said they would remove all music by Russian composers from the repertoire.

“This is a mistake,” said Maksym Tymoshenko, President of the Ukrainian National Tchaikovsky Academy of Music in Kyiv, whose musicians made headlines this month staging an outdoor concert in the city’s Independence Square. Mr Tymoshenko told i: “We disagree with banning Russian music. We don’t think it’s appropriate or reasonable. That you cannot perform great works of art, whether 1812 or others, is very twisted logic. Modern Putin’s Russia has nothing to do with the great Russian culture. By banning it we are not doing anybody a favour.” . . .

 

In the News | Wreck (Perhaps) of Cook’s HMB Endeavour Found

Posted in the 18th century in the news by Editor on February 6, 2022

The HM Bark Endeavour Replica, on display at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, Sydney (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, November 2017). The ship, on of two replicas, was completed in 1994.

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From The New York Times:

Manan Luthra, “Captain Cook’s Ship Caught in Center of a Maritime Rift,” The New York Times (4 February 2022). After researchers in Australia reported finding the wreck of the Endeavour off Rhode Island, their U.S. partners issued a startling rebuke.

When the British explorer James Cook set out in 1768 in search of an “unknown southern land” called Terra Australis Incognita, he sailed on a navy research vessel called the HMB Endeavour. More than 90 people were on board the ship, described by some historians as homely but sturdy.

Two years later, it dropped anchor off the east coast of what is now Australia, precipitating two centuries of British control. It would go on to transport British troops during the American Revolutionary War, and meet its demise in 1778, part of a fleet of ships that historians believe sank off Rhode Island.

For more than two decades, a team of Australian and U.S. researchers have been scouring the waters in search of the wreckage.

Then, on Thursday morning, 254 years after Cook set sail, archaeologists at the Australian National Maritime Museum announced that they were “convinced” they had identified the final resting place of what the museum’s chief executive and director, Kevin Sumption, called “one of the most important and contentious vessels in Australia’s maritime history.”

But soon after the news conference in Sydney, there was an unexpected response from the museum’s American research collaborator, the Rhode Island Marine Archaeological Project.

From Rhode Island, where it was still the middle of the night, a terse statement appeared on the project’s website. It called the identification of the wreckage “premature” and the Australian museum’s actions “a breach of contract between RIMAP and the ANMM for the conduct of this research and how its results are to be shared with the public.”

The dueling statements raised several questions. Did the Australians jump the gun, announcing the finding without the Rhode Island group’s approval? Why had they chosen to hold their news conference at a time seemingly inconvenient to their American research partners? What, exactly, did the breach of contract consist of? And most important: Had the wreckage of Cook’s famous ship finally been discovered, or not? . . .

The full article is available here»

230th Anniversary of Robert Carter’s ‘Deed of Gift’

Posted in anniversaries, the 18th century in the news by Editor on September 6, 2021

Staggered over time, the manumission took decades to complete. A certificate of freedom for one of the freedmen reads, “Dennis Johnston, a Male Negro aged about twenty seven years of dark Complexion five feet ten or eleven inches, stout and well made liberated By Benjamen (sic) Dawson, trustee for Robert Carter by Deed dated the 3rd day of November 1799, and duly recorded in the County Court of Frederick. Registered this 2nd day of February 1809.” (Winchester, Virginia: Stewart Bell Jr. Archives, Handley Regional Library).

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As reported by Eliott McLaughlin for CNN, yesterday was the 230th anniversary of the start of the largest liberation of enslaved people in the United States prior to 1863.

Eliott C. McLaughlin, “Like Washington and Jefferson, He Championed Liberty. Unlike the Founders, He Freed His Slaves,” CNN (5 September 2021).

It was 230 years ago Sunday that Robert Carter III [1728–1804], the patriarch of one of the wealthiest families in Virginia, quietly walked into a Northumberland County courthouse and delivered an airtight legal document announcing his intention to free, or manumit, more than 500 slaves. He titled it the “deed of gift.” It was, by far, experts say, the largest liberation of Black people before the Emancipation Proclamation more than seven decades later.

On September 5, 1791, when Carter delivered his deed, slavery was an institution, a key engine of the new country’s economy. But many slaveholders—including founding fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who knew Carter—had begun to voice doubts. That was the extent of their umbrage. . . .

Today, descendants of both Carter and the men and women he freed say more must be done to propel the largely uncelebrated deed of gift into the national conscience.

Meriwether Gilmore, who grew up in Westmoreland County, where Carter’s Nomini Hall estate once spanned 2,000 acres, is related to Carter on her mother’s side. Her sister is named after his mother and oldest daughter, Priscilla. Her father worked with Black churches in the area to commemorate the deed of gift’s bicentennial in 1991.

“I think the story of Robert Carter III is incredibly important,” she said, “and not just to glorify another rich, White man, but to show how personal convictions can be stronger than the status quo, that doing the right thing is often hard but important and that people matter—that people are more important than the work that they perform.” . . .

A religious wanderer drawn later in life to integrated churches, Carter III was not the first to free his slaves. Others, middle-class Quakers and Baptists among them, had released a few slaves here, a few there, but none rivaled Carter’s deed, which established a schedule to free 511 slaves, starting with the oldest and later their children.

Carter also allowed the freedmen to choose their last names so they could keep families together and pass down wealth. He ensured they had salable skills, arranged for them to buy or lease land, and bought their wares. He also spent a great deal on transporting them from his plantations to the Northumberland courthouse, and on lawyers to guarantee his heirs—some none too happy he was paring their inheritance—didn’t undo his wishes. . . .

The full article is available here»

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As noted in the article, the Nomini Hall Slave Legacy Project works to chronicle the descendants of the enslaved Africans who were freed by Robert Carter III from his Nomini Hall estate.

For Carter’s biography, see Andrew Levy, The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter, the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves (New York: Random House, 2005).

Commodore Collection Now Preserved in Maryland

’30 Dollars Reward’ broadside for a man named Amos, detail, 11 February 1793 (Chesterton, Maryland: Commodore Collection). The full document with more information is available here.

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From The Washington Post:

Michael E. Ruane, “A Maryland attic hid a priceless trove of Black history. Historians and activists saved it from auction,” The Washington Post (28 June 2021). Among the artifacts is an account of escape from enslavement that is among the oldest ever found.

The 200-year-old document was torn and wrinkled. It had stains here and there. And it was sitting on a plastic table in the storeroom of an auction house near the Chester River hamlet of Crumpton, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Historian Adam Goodheart had seen it before, but only in a blurry website photo. Now, here it was in a simple framed box—a wanted poster for “A Negro Man named Amos” who had fled from his enslaver in Queen Anne’s County.

It was chilling. There, on cheap rag paper, was the story of American slavery. Amos was “a smart fellow,” about 20, who might be headed for his mother in Philadelphia. But in 1793 he was the property of one William Price, who wanted him caught.

The poster, or ‘broadside’, was one of hundreds of rare documents discovered earlier this year in the attic of an old house on the Eastern Shore and saved from the auction block by a group of Washington College historians and local Black activists. And the reward poster turned out to be one of the oldest known, said Goodheart, director of the college’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience in Chestertown, Maryland . . . .

The full article is available here»

Receipt for the ‘hire’ of an enslaved man, 15 July 1776 (Chesterton, Maryland: Commodore Collection). More information is available here.

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From Sumner Hall:

Sumner Hall is proud to share with our supporters the successful effort to rescue and preserve a significant collection of local records.

“The Commodore Collection of original historical documents on the early experiences of African Americans in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties is a rare find,” according to Dr. Ruth Shoge, First Vice President of Sumner Hall. “The documents, which are intellectually enriching, also evoke an emotional response to the harsh reality of the lives of enslaved and freed Black people in 17th- and 18th-century America,” she continued. “It is very important to Sumner Hall that this collection has been given to us in perpetuity. The ownership of this collection is an honor and, in a special way, a homecoming for the memories of our ancestors. This collection supports our mission of promoting an understanding of the African American experience within the overall context of American history and culture.”

Thanks to the efforts of local Black residents and the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College, approximately 2,000 pages of documents were purchased from Dixon’s Crumpton Auction this spring. The collection, named after Washington College’s first local Black alumnus, Norris Commodore ’73, will belong to Sumner Hall but is being conserved and archived at the school’s Miller Library. Mr. Commodore, who has deep roots here, gave generously toward the acquisition cost and was joined by the Hedgelawn Foundation, the Kent Cultural Alliance and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The papers are being digitized as a part of the Chesapeake Heartland Project, and several can already be viewed online here.

President of Sumner Hall’s Board of Directors, Larry Wilson, says, “The Commodore Collection is a very meaningful record of African American life and survival. I believe that it is very important to know our history and to learn from the lives of our ancestors as we work together for equal rights, justice and freedom in this county and across the country. We look forward to having exhibits at Sumner Hall based on these materials soon.”

Congo Mango’s bond on behalf of Cato Daws, 31 July 1800. Mango (later known as Congo Mander), a free Black man, purchased Daws in order to grant his freedom (Chesterton, Maryland: Commodore Collection). As noted in the document description, “This small piece of paper opens a window into the life story of a man who was born in Africa, enslaved in Maryland, gained his freedom, and helped others become free. He gave rise to a Black family that can be traced to the present day.” More information is available here.

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Sumner Hall, located in historic Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, is one of two existing African American Grand Army of the Republic buildings still standing in the United States. Built circa 1908 and fully restored in 2014, it serves today as a museum, educational site, performance stage, social hall, and gallery. Sumner Hall is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, funded by donations and memberships.

Shaker Museum Scheduled To Open in 2023

Posted in museums, the 18th century in the news by Editor on June 23, 2021

Rendering of the Shaker Museum in the village of Chatham, New York. Selldorf Architects is charged with the design of the $18million museum complex. Renderings are presented alongside select Shaker objects as part of a special pop-up exhibition The Future is a Gift, on view in downtown Chatham through August 29 (Image: Selldorf Architects/Shaker Museum). Additional views are available at The Architect’s Newspaper.

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From The NY Times . . .

Patricia Leigh Brown, “The Shakers Are Movers, Too,” The New York Times (20 June 2021). The country’s most significant collection of Shaker objects, out of public view for a decade, will relocate to an $18 million museum complex designed by Annabelle Selldorf.

In an earlier life, the moribund red brick Victorian at the foot of Main Street in this thriving Columbia County village [of Chatham, NY] had been a sanitarium, a hotel and tavern, a furniture store and an auto dealership. These were the warm-up acts for its latest incarnation: a permanent new home for the Shaker Museum, widely considered the country’s most significant collection of Shaker furniture, objects and archival material. The museum, set to open in 2023 and to include a new addition, is being designed by the architect Annabelle Selldorf, whose current projects include the expansion of The Frick Collection in New York and an addition for The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego La Jolla. . . .

Nelson Byrd Woltz has been tasked to design a Shaker-inspired landscape for the complex, pictured here in the landscape site plan (Nelson Byrd Woltz/Courtesy Shaker Museum).

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The museum’s exhibitions are still in the nascent stages. Maggie Taft, a guest curator, said the permanent exhibition will address the fundamental aspects of Shakerism, which reached its Zenith in the 1840s with 18 villages from Maine to Kentucky, but also the unexpected subtexts. The sect—an international Protestant monastic community—was founded in 1774 by Mother Ann Lee, the charismatic illiterate daughter of an English blacksmith (a swatch of one of her aprons is among the museum’s most prized possessions).

Although the sect was known for gender equality, Ms. Taft noted that women and men were “divided in ways that resembled worldly labor divisions”—with men toiling outside on agriculture and other tasks while the women worked indoors. The exhibition will also explore the different generations of Shakerism, especially the third generation after Mother Ann Lee’s death in 1784, when young women’s ‘encounters’ with her were manifested in drawings and texts thought to be ‘gifts’ from the spirits. . . .

The full article is available here»

Tailor’s counter painted blue, pinewood, ca. 1815
(Shaker Museum)

Napoleon Two Centuries Later

Posted in anniversaries, books, catalogues, exhibitions, the 18th century in the news by Editor on May 10, 2021

Two centuries after his death (the anniversary of which arrived last week on May 5), Napoleon’s legacy remains combustible. From the Musée de l’Armée:

Napoléon n’est plus / Napoleon Is No Nore
Musée de l’Armée Invalides, Paris, 31 March — 31 October 2021

The death of Napoleon I on 5 May 1821—although it went relatively unnoticed in the eyes of the world—was extremely well documented by his companions in exile. Despite the abundance of memories, letters, sketches, relics, and stories, this history nevertheless includes grey areas, uncertainties, contradictions. In this exhibition, we examine the major themes surrounding the death of Napoleon by changing the perspectives. By calling in new scientific disciplines (archaeology, medicine, chemistry) in order to complete already known historical sources and material evidence of this history, the musée de l’Armée provides visitors with all the necessary elements to enable them to conduct the investigation by themselves.

This exhibition is part of the 2021 Napoleon Season organised to celebrate the bicentenary of the Emperor’s death. The musée de l’Armée will present a rich and varied cultural offering evoking the end of Napoleon’s personal adventure, while opening up to the topicality and the current reality of his legacy to the world. . . .

Napoléon n’est plus (Paris: Gallimard, 2021), 296 pages, ISBN: 978-2072931604, 35€.

From the Musée de l’Armée:

Napoleon? Encore!
Musée de l’Armée Invalides, Paris, 7 May 2021 — 13 February 2022

Curated by Éric de Chassey and Julien Voinot

This contemporary art tour evokes the figure of Napoleon as well as his legacy. Thirty contemporary artists received carte blanche to question this symbolic and historical figure.

Echoing the commemorations of the bicentenary of the death of the Emperor, the musée de l’Armée is presenting, for the first time in its history, a contemporary art tour at Les Invalides. The presentation of pre-existing works and specially commissioned orders entrusted to renowned or emerging artists, from France and abroad, evokes the figure of Napoleon as well as the impact of his action in today’s world. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Napoleon Is No More, the curation of this contemporary tour was entrusted to Éric de Chassey, Director of the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, and Julien Voinot, Collections Manager in the Department of 19th-Century and Symbolic Art of the musée de l’Armée.

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From The New York Times:

Roger Cohen, “France Battles over Whether to Cancel or Celebrate Napoleon,” The New York Times (5 May 2021). President Emmanuel Macron laid a wreath at the emperor’s tomb on the 200th anniversary of his death, stepping into a national debate over the legacy of Napoleon.

Jacques Chirac couldn’t stand him. Nicolas Sarkozy kept his distance. François Hollande shunned him. But on the 200th anniversary this week of Napoleon Bonaparte’s death, Emmanuel Macron has chosen to do what most recent presidents of France have avoided: honor the man who in 1799 destroyed the nascent French Republic in a putsch.

By choosing to lay a wreath Wednesday at Napoleon’s tomb under the golden dome of Les Invalides, Mr. Macron stepped into the heart of France’s culture wars. Napoleon, always a contested figure, has become a Rorschach test for the French at a moment of tense cultural confrontation.

Was Napoleon a modernizing reformer whose legal code, lycée school system, central bank and centralized administrative framework laid the basis for post-revolutionary France? Or was he a retrograde racist, imperialist, and misogynist?

By paying his respects to Napoleon, Mr. Macron will please a restive French right dreaming of lost glory and of a moment when, under its turbulent emperor, France stood at the center of the world. The French obsession with the romantic epic of Napoleon’s rise and fall is undying, as countless magazine covers and talk shows have underscored in recent weeks. But in the current zeitgeist, Napoleon’s decisive role as founder of the modern French state tends to pale beside his record as colonizer, warmonger and enslaver. . . .

The full article is available here»

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Rendering from Pascal Convert of his Memento Marengo as envisioned at Les Invalides in Paris.

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From Apollo Magazine:

Laura O’Brien, “The Celebrity Horse That’s Putting Napoleon in the Shade,” Apollo Magazine (6 May 2021).

On a cold December day in 1840, Napoleon Bonaparte’s body made its final journey through the streets of Paris for reburial at the Dôme church at Les Invalides. Nineteen years after his death on Saint Helena, on 5 May 1821, the former emperor’s remains had been repatriated to France. The procession to Les Invalides included a lone, riderless white horse. In the emotionally charged atmosphere of that day, some witnesses even believed for a moment that this was the emperor’s most famous mount: Marengo.

Now, 200 years after Napoleon’s death, Bonaparte and Marengo are to be reunited, albeit temporarily. As part of Napoleon? Encore!, an exhibition of contemporary art responding to Napoleon’s image and complex legacies [on view from 7 May 2021 to 13 February 2022], the French multimedia artist Pascal Convert has created Memento Marengo: a life-sized, 3D-printed copy of the skeleton of the Arab horse said to have been Napoleon’s favourite—or one of his favourites, at least. Convert had originally hoped to use the real skeleton, which is usually on display at London’s National Army Museum, but its fragility made this impossible. Memento Marengo will hang from the ceiling of the Dôme church, the equine skeleton suspended a few metres above the enormous red quartzite tomb of its ex-master. On 5 May, President Emmanuel Macron placed a wreath of red, white, and blue flowers at the foot of the tomb, as part of the official commemorations—not celebrations, as the Élysée Palace has carefully insisted—of Napoleon’s death. Memento Marengo was not in place during the solemn ceremonies at Les Invalides, but with these now completed, the artwork can be installed ahead of the planned reopening of the museum later this month. . . .

The full article is available here»

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