I’m New Here… Week One

February 15, 2019 by  
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It’s a daunting world — Rare & Early Newspapers — and at first it can feel like being in a foreign country, overhearing a few words that sound familiar in a vague sort of way.  At least, that’s my sense.  But I suspect it appeared that way to many collectors at the beginning.  With that in mind, my plan is to share some of my observations, discoveries and even mistakes over the coming weeks, months and years as I learn to navigate this universe of newsprint.  If you have never even held an old paper, much less thought to purchase one, perhaps my adventures will pique your own interest and you’ll find yourself browsing the titles and descriptions of the details of life in a bygone era.  Having “met” a few of you veteran collectors and scholars, I suspect you might enjoy a little reminder of the early days when you turned that first purchase over in your hand, skimmed the columns, and then settled in for a read.

I began and then discarded multiple versions of this initial post — there’s no way to convey the immensity of standing in a treasure trove that is more than three times my height, wider than my house, and filled with papers.  Without moving my feet I can examine the headlines from Harper’s, published every Saturday in the first half of 1869.  1869.  That is not a misprint!  The proper title is “Harper’s Weekly”, subtitled “A Journal of Civilization”.   It is astounding that one hundred and fifty years after these rolled off the printing press, were cut and bundled and delivered to 100,000 people living in a completely different world (regardless of our shared geographical location), I am able to hold an original issue in my hands.  It’s a rag paper, so the pages can be turned without any fear of damaging it.  I verified this before opening an issue; gloves aren’t even required.  The details of manners and battles and grocers and treasury debt emerge and bring the inevitable conclusion.  Life in a different time –even with dramatically changed fashions, altered lifestyles, and varied circumstances– is still life.  Civilization is after all the story of people.  Sometimes it’s seen in broad strokes, sometimes in classified advertisements.  I found the following in an 1861 publication, “When families send for ‘Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce’, observe if it is the genuine JOHN DUNCAN & SONS…”   I am amazed the condiment has been around so long (and wonder, who was making fake Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce?).  Others might be more interested in the 15″ map of Major-General McClellan’s Operations Along The Potomac.

Anyway, the Harper’s Weeklies section is a good place to stand and introduce myself and tell you I am privileged to be here.  Please check in and see the “progress” part of my experience.  Also, tell me what I should look for if you’ve been around a while.  And if you’re new, feel free to ask any questions.  If I don’t have the answer (which is likely, as I am new here) I have recently met some brilliant people who probably do.



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10 Responses to “I’m New Here… Week One”

  1. G. Alder on February 15th, 2019 3:59 pm

    Hi Stephanie, and felicitations on your new role. I am thoroughly envious, and will read your blog with very green eyes!

    You mention the difference between rag pulp and wood pulp papers, and this prompts a question that I’ve occasionally wondered about.

    Does Timothy Hughes de-acidify the wood pulp newspapers in the company’s stock, in order to “fix” them, or is this left to the purchaser? And if the latter, what is the company’s advice about the best way of doing it?

  2. mark strand on February 15th, 2019 4:22 pm

    Wish my former students of journalism history had your enthusiasm if not your expertise, Stephanie. Will look forward to your posts.

    Mark Strand
    Fargo, ND
    (retired professor, Minnesota State University, Moorhead)

  3. OHP Perry Cabot on February 15th, 2019 4:54 pm

    Have been searching Leslie’s Illustrated Magazines for many years to find text associated with various wood-block images. Very difficult. A Master’s Thesis on Edwin Forbes prints has errors; and even the Library of Congress collection has not helped in some areas. I have not seen that you carry those things, but I can always hope!

  4. Victoria Neely on February 15th, 2019 7:19 pm

    Congratulations and welcome to a whole new world! I look forward to learning through your eyes and perceptive words as you travel through time and space in that magical place…all the best to you, you deserve it!

  5. Stephanie Williams on February 18th, 2019 11:01 am

    G. Alder, what a great little excursion prompt. Thank you! From what I can ascertain, rag papers (1860-ish and earlier) have already held up well for the last couple of hundred years and in most cases even museums don’t put any extra time or expense into treating them. The higher wood pulp content papers are vulnerable, but nothing is done here. A decision to pursue that or not would be up to the purchaser. I was told that before going for a diy spray product, we would suggest contacting a professional. Anyway, thanks for reading, and for commenting. Check in Thursdays after midnight…

  6. Stephanie Williams on February 18th, 2019 11:04 am

    Thanks so much! I do feel responsible to “share the wealth” as much as possible, so it’s great to be welcomed so nicely. Keep checking in…

  7. Stephanie Williams on February 18th, 2019 11:07 am

    You are evidently a member of the large group that knows so much more than I. However, I am happy to print out these details and keep your quest in mind when I sally forth. Cheers!

  8. Stephanie Williams on February 18th, 2019 11:10 am

    Thank you, sir! I will do my best to be worth the time spent reading. Also, I should note that I desire to eventually become proficient and helpful (enthusiastically so).

  9. Jim Wheeler on February 18th, 2019 4:42 pm

    Welcome aboard! You have, knowingly or unknowingly, entered a whole new world that most people have no idea exists. And you will experience it with a crew of wonderful group of people in Williamsport , and an eclectic crowd of eccentric collectors with interests that vary as much as can be imagined. In addition, you have the privilege of experiencing history as it happened though as you browse through the vast resources housed in your facility. I am envious and look forward to speaking with you some time soon. In the meantime, I am sure that you have your hands full in learning the ropes and keeping up with daily activity

    Jim Wheeler
    Stow, MA

  10. Stephanie Williams on February 19th, 2019 7:37 am

    That is a beautifully worded welcome — thank you! I look forward to speaking with you in the near future, Jim.

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