The Library was closed last week for maintenance and the Museum remained open. What were we doing during our week closed? Let me show you.

There are quite a few ongoing projects that we have to update the Library and modernize our collection organization practices. One of the long-standing projects was the periodicals section in the Lower Level of the Library.

Years of shuffling and crowding had taken their toll on the ability to navigate the Library's periodicals collection.
Years of shuffling and crowding had taken their toll on the ability to navigate the Library’s periodicals collection. Many magazines and newspapers had overrun their boxes or were not left any new space to grow as new issues are printed.

Our periodicals collection is of vital importance to researchers at NSLM. Over the past year, I’ve been working hard to reorganize the book collections that were stored on the lower level, as well as to process some backlogged donations. This cleared up enough space that we could finally reorganize and alphabetize our periodicals, leaving plenty of space for active subscriptions to grow. The reorganization took all week (and the weekend, too!) and wouldn’t have been completed in time without the help of one of our part-time workers, Emily. Emily does not have to go to the gym this week, she got a huge workout moving our back-issues of the Blood-Horse!

Enough to make an organizationally-obsessive librarian weep for joy!
Loose copies in boxes, clear labels, and alphabetized from A to Z.

While I was occupied on the Lower Level, Nicole was busy adding to the permanent collection objects on display in this building. Several bare spaces now have attractive prints and paintings, and the Library definitely feels a lot more cozy now.

Bare lower-level walls now have art!
Bare lower-level walls now have art!
We've had a large bare spot in the Main Reading Room since we sold all those Robin Hill prints in last year's book sale. Thanks to Nicole, we now have Cecil Aldin's depictions of the Grand National there instead.
We’ve had a large bare spot in the Main Reading Room since we sold all those Robin Hill prints in last year’s book sale. Thanks to Nicole, we now have Cecil Aldin’s depictions of the Grand National there instead.
Some of the sculptures around the Library moved, too.
Some of the sculptures around the Library moved, too.

Nicole also replaced labels throughout the Library. A larger font size and alterations to the layout will promote legibility and give the entire Library a unified look and feel.

 

A larger typeface makes reading easier throughout the Library.
A larger typeface makes reading easier throughout the Library.

Our stairwell wall got a new layer of paint, and some fabulous vinyl lettering to direct visitors to the Lower Level. The lettering was designed and installed by Nicole, who had a very busy week.

Vinyl lettering in hunter green directs visitors to the Lower Level.
Vinyl lettering in hunter green directs visitors to the Lower Level.

We took the opportunity to open the massive case that houses the toy stable. It took three of us to get the case open. We came away certain that the stable is well-protected! It was in need of a good cleaning, and the coachman who had fallen over is now returned to an upright state. Many thanks to Nicole for restoring order in our miniature equestrian structure.

The Stable and Coach house model were gifted to the NSLM by Paul Mellon in 1996. The hand-carved wooden horses and coach are dated c. 1912. The amazingly detailed stable and coach house – with coachman, dogs, cats (and mice!), tack and grooming supplies – were constructed in 1936.
The coachman fell over when the case was moved for carpet replacement. Now he's upright again!
The coachman fell over when the case was moved for carpet replacement. Now he’s upright again!

 

Lastly, we had new outdoor panels installed on the exterior of the building. These signs list our hours of operation, and I’ve been anxious to get them installed for quite a while now.

Now you can read all about our hours, right at the door!
Now you can read all about our hours, right at the door! Well, next to it, anyhow.

I hope you’ll come see us this week now that the Library’s open again!

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In spite of growing up in rural Wisconsin, I have only been fishing a couple of times. I wasn’t very good at it. There seemed to be too much variety to have a chance of getting things right: lures, rods, fish varieties, and locations all seemed to be beyond me. I spent far more time hunting than fishing. But over the past couple of weeks I’ve had a chance to sit down and talk with Marcia Woolman, who will be hosting a fly-tying demonstration at NSLM shortly, and it’s unlocked the subject for me quite a bit.

Marcia Woolman is an avid trout fisherman, fly tier, and cold water conservationist. With over 33 years of experience with Trout Unlimited, she has a wealth of experience in the entomology of streams.
Marcia Woolman is an avid trout fisherman, fly tier, and cold water conservationist. With over 33 years of experience with Trout Unlimited, she has a wealth of experience in the entomology of streams.

It’s easy to get lost when you focus on the material objects involved in angling. For centuries, anglers have been expanding their options in search of flexibility. With her view beyond the plethora of options, Marcia gets to the heart of the matter: it’s about nature and how we interact with it. For much of Marcia’s presentation, the tie is an avenue for learning about nature. It’s really a lesson about all the players in the ecosystem; the life cycles of the mayfly and the fish, the changing of the seasons and the habits of all throughout the day. The successful angler will be the one who is most familiar with the habits of the animals in the ecosystem.

Since I live just a short walk from the Shenandoah River, I’ve been reading up on angling. Marcia’s been an inspiration: I may try fishing again this summer! I have a host of options for additional reading. The Chapman Collection is a huge resource on fly fishing.

On the wall of the Main Reading Room, we have a selection of flies collected and framed by George Chapman.
On the wall of the Main Reading Room, we have a selection of flies collected and framed by George Chapman.

Since I live so close to the Shenandoah, it makes sense to look up bass fishing first, as the Shenandoah is a haven for both smallmouth and largemouth bass. The Chapman Collection has quite a few titles on bass fishing, and many general fly fishing titles as well. The aggressive nature of bass also make it an excellent option for beginners. Perfect!

Larger fish prey on swimming mice and small rodents. The mouse is a staple in fly fishing.
Larger fish prey on swimming mice and small rodents. The mouse is a staple in the fly fishing repertoire.
The flies were carefully framed by Chapman, who donated a large fly fishing book collection to the Library in 2011.
The flies were carefully framed by Chapman, who donated a large fly fishing book collection to the Library in 2011.
These rare pre-serial Orvis rods make perfect centerpieces, and are the gift of NSLM member Viviane M. Warren and her son, Nicholas Frederick Pratt.
These rare pre-serial Orvis rods make perfect centerpieces, and are the gift of NSLM member Viviane M. Warren and her son, Nicholas Frederick Pratt.
Flies tied by Doug Swisher, whose books on fly fishing strategy are available for access in the Main Reading Room.
Flies tied by Doug Swisher, whose books on fly fishing strategy are available for access in the Main Reading Room.

Marcia’s presentation, “Tying Flies for All the Right Reasons” will be on February 7 in the Library. We still have a few spots left, so contact me if you would like to join us!

In the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, I came across a rare gem, tucked away in the John H. Daniels Manuscripts Collection. It’s a poem called “The Bonie Moorhen: A Hunting Song.” The manuscript is an autograph manuscript by Robert Burns (1759-1796), the foremost national poet of Scotland. Burns wrote poetry and composed songs, and he also collected Scottish folk songs for publication. Many Americans haven’t heard of Robert Burns, but still sing his song “Auld Lang Syne” at the end of each year.

Its not every day you can crack open an autograph manuscript from the king of Scottish poetry!
Its not every day you can crack open an autograph manuscript from *the* Scottish poet!

At face value, the poem is a hunting song about the difficulty of capturing a grouse in the wild. A local manages to win away with the grouse where all others failed.

The transcribed hunting song. A "moor-hen" is more widely known to us as a grouse, whose excellent camouflage and sudden flight makes it a difficult target.
The transcribed hunting song. A “moor-hen” is more widely known to us as a grouse, whose excellent camouflage and sudden flight makes it a difficult target.

However, there’s intrigue and romance afoot in this poem: The poem serves as an allegory for Burns’ relationship with Nancy McLehose, who exchanged letters with Burns in the 1780s. Nancy was estranged from her husband, and urged Burns to refrain from publishing the transparent song.

Apparently, the poem is a not-so-loosely veiled allegory about Burns and his correspondent friend, Clarinda, who married a Glasgow gentleman named Maclehose.
Apparently, the poem is a not-so-loosely veiled allegory about Burns and his correspondent friend, Clarinda, who married a Glasgow gentleman named McLehose.
Burns did not publish the poem in his lifetime, submitting to Clarinda's request not to publish. The poem was published after Burns' death.
Burns did not publish the poem in his lifetime, submitting to Clarinda’s request not to publish. The poem was published after Burns’ death.

Do you want to learn more about Robert Burns? If you’re in the region, you should check out the upcoming event, Hylton in the Highlands at the Hylton Performing Arts Center on GMU’s Prince William Campus. This year’s festival is next Saturday, January 24 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The day-long festival celebrates Scottish culture with music, interactive presentations, exhibits, and food tastings.

Further, the Hylton Center also hosts a Burns Supper to commemorate the life and works of Robert Burns. The event is complete with a special performance by the musical duo Alan Reid and Rob van Sante, a poetry reading, Scotch whisky tasting and the presentation of Scotland’s “National Dish,” haggis.

Our first five bookmark designs contain images from the Library and Museum collections.
Our first five bookmark designs contain images from the Library and Museum collections.

We’re excited to announce our first NSLM bookmarks available at the Library! These limited-edition bookmarks are available for free to our visitors, and include images of artwork and illustrations found in the collections of the National Sporting Library & Museum. Collect all five; when these designs are gone we plan to have new ones!

Last week I showed you some images from “Howitt’s Animals,” a two-volume presentation set of etchings by Samuel Howitt (1765-1822). We did a brief article on these volumes in the Fall 2014 NSLM Newsletter, but I wanted to show off more of the images than we had space for in print. Without further ado, let’s get to the pretty pictures!

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I find it very easy to see the influence of the country on Howitt. He often chooses images that would be passed over by the mere sportsman, such as a mother tending to her pups.
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The stealthy approach? Maybe one of our readers who is more familiar with wing shooting and dogs can tell me more about what’s depicted here.
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Howitt’s animals sometimes have very large eyes, which strikes my modern eye as cartoonish. The detail, however, is quite fine in the antlers.
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I admit, this one makes me chuckle. If that horse on the right isn’t a parody of somebody that Howitt knew, I’ll eat my hat! Those horses are flat-out gossiping.
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An impressive depiction of a hare. Whenever I show this volume, people like to stop on this page and look for a few minutes.
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Growing up in the country, Howitt likely spent a good deal of time around cows. His trees always seem to twist and turn, too. Many of these images have excited branches stretching out into smaller branches close to the ground.
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This is my favorite. These sheep really stand out to me. Maybe it’s the realistic detail in the horns, the ears, the eyes.
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I love it! It merits a closer look.

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NSLM welcomed Erin Livengood to our staff recently. Erin comes on board as NSLM’s new Educational Programs Manager & Fellowship Advisor. She will be working to grow the educational programming events and projects at NSLM, as well as providing liaison support for participants in the John H. Daniels Fellowship Program.

Erin received her Master’s degree in Social Science from the University of Chicago, focusing in museum studies and historic archaeology of the Southeastern United States. She holds a Bachelor’s degree with honors from the American University, where her honors thesis focused on historic archaeology in Virginia.

Before joining the National Sporting Library and Museum, Erin worked in artifact registration at the Oriental Institute in Chicago. Erin has experience in exhibitions, registration, and curation at the Oriental Institute, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society, as well as at the University of Chicago and American University. Erin has varied archaeological field experience in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Louisiana.

A native of Cumberland, Maryland, Erin now lives in Winchester, Virginia with her fiancé, Will Carosella. They both enjoy yoga, tour cycling, hiking, gardening, and visiting the many vineyards in northern Virginia.

Today’s item is a relatively recent addition to our collection. Purchased in early 2014, these are presentation copies of etchings labeled “Howitt’s Animals.” They are stored in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. Samuel Howitt (1765-1822) was a prolific artist known for his watercolors, etchings and illustrations. Prone to drinking and gambling, he was obliged to take up art after the loss of his family fortune. We did a brief write-up about the books in last Fall’s NSLM Newsletter, but we could only show one image and these are too good not to share! There are so many I picked out, that I’ll detail them in a special two-part post.

These volumes are presentation copies -- special copies the author or artist inscribes to friends or family. These are inscribed to William Edkins.
These volumes are presentation copies — special copies the author or artist inscribes to friends or family. These are inscribed to William Edkins: “The gift of Samuel Howitt who etched these to his friend William Edkins.”
Howitt was raised in the country, and his affection for sport and nature made his art quite faithful to the realities of life in the wild.
Howitt was raised in the country, and his affection for sport and nature made his art quite faithful to the realities of life in the wild.
Howitt is noted for his tremendous output, mainly as an illustrator.
Howitt is noted for his tremendous output, mainly as an illustrator.
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Howitt produced illustrations for The Sporting Magazine in 1793, and eventually contributed over 150 plates covering a wide variety of sporting subjects.
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Several pages on these volumes contain foxing, which usually occurs in machine-made paper of the late 18th and the 19th Centuries. Foxing is not entirely understood, but appears to arise from fungal contamination in the paper.
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Howitt produced during a time when animal art and sporting art were not clearly delineated. I’m of the opinion that some of his best work would be considered animal art instead of sporting art.
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I’m quite convinced that Howitt’s strength was birds. He does a beautiful job of portraying fowl. He has, however, been criticized for shying away from providing landscapes in the backgrounds of his work, presumably because this was an artistic weakness.
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These proofs were specially selected by Howitt as a gift for Edkins. The two volumes appear to be unique.
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Howitt is also known for illustrating books, and he provided watercolor illustrations for Orme’s British Field Sports, a highly-regarded color plate book.

More to come next week in Part 2!