Our next item of interest is in a small green box, labeled with the mysterious title, “A Peep at a Fox Chase – Ephemera – 1829.” Let me explain why this is intriguing.
Merriam-Webster defines ephemera as “paper items (as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles.” It’s one of the broadest archival categories, and one of the more difficult ones on which to make decisions. Archives is all about balancing historicity with limitations of space. The main question is, “What gets kept, what doesn’t?” Does the library keep railway tickets? What about postcards? “Ephemera” becomes a blanket term for all these things. It could mean something prosaic or it could mean something weird, amusing, or unidentifiable.
Anyhow, let’s open it up and see what’s inside. 1829 was a long time ago. This could be almost anything.
I should note that the box is a current-day custom storage box that book sellers will sometimes make to protect rare materials. In the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, many of the older books of a manageable size are in these boxes.
The John H. Daniels collection comprises a lifetime of collecting: over 5,000 sporting books, periodicals, manuscripts, and small, odd diamonds in the rough like the “Peep at the Fox Chase.”
I muddled around with this thing for a little while before I figured out what it is. I don’t really know the proper word for it. It’s like a panorama, but since it’s not giving a wide view of everything, that term doesn’t seem to fit cleanly. It’s a neat little 19th Century image viewer that lets you see a picture in 3D. This one was difficult to get on camera in all its glory. Maybe someday I can create a video of how it opens and shuts.
I love how the lady in the foreground has to restrain the child from running along after the hunt. Horses and hounds are headed every which way! The hunt is caught out in an instant of pure pandemonium. Although it’s a novelty item that probably fits well into the definition of “ephemera,” I’m fond of this little item. It represents an elegant solution to 3D imaging, considering the technological limitations in 1829.
George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian