Object of the Week: “Animate Creation: Popular Edition of ‘A Living World;’ A Natural History” by The Rev. J.G. Wood

Animate Creation:  Popular Edition of “A Living World;” A Natural History
by The Rev. J.G. Wood
New York:  Selmar Hess
1885

EARTH DAY 2021 – Restore Our Earth

            Earth Day has been observed annually in the United States since April 22, 1970 when organizers sought to draw attention to the need for environmental protections after decades of unfettered industrialization and pollution.  Millions of Americans were mobilized, participating in rallies, marches and programs driven in large part by students from colleges and universities across the country.[1]  Fifty-one years later, Earth Day is now celebrated in almost 200 countries.[2] This year’s theme is Restore Our Earth, emphasizing collective action to prevent the effects of climate change and environmental destruction.  Many Earth Day events focus on activism, mobilizing youth and social justice themes.[3]

There are numerous social justice issues related to environmentalism.  Developing countries, while most impacted by climate change, are the least able to afford the consequences which are exacerbated by their limited capacity to prevent and respond to the effects of rising seas, deforestation, wildfires, drought, pollution and the like, leaving millions of peopleImage of the resplendent trogon bird (which is green and orange) in nature vulnerable.  In urban areas and developed countries, green spaces improve mental health and well-being while simultaneously protecting watersheds, biodiversity and restoring animal and plant life.[4]  The World Health Organization predicts that by the year 2030, approximately 250,000 deaths will result annually from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress due to environmental causes.  Gender inequalities are also deepened through losses in health, income and access to resources.[5]   As a result, migration will increase and attendant conflicts will rise, resulting in more people competing for fewer available resources.[6]  Conservation works to ensure the preservation of the environment, including and animals and plants, as well as people, cultures, heritage, and livelihoods.

Climate change affects everyone in numerous ways.  Unsurprisingly, there has been an impetus to view the issue through interdisciplinary frameworks including politics, ecology, ethics, justice, cultural studies, biology, diplomacy, anthropology and various other fields of study.[7]  Many scholars and activists view the issue through the lens of interspecies justice and colonialism, like Lia Cheek of the Endangered Species Coalition.  She believes the way we relate to nature is an extension of colonialism – taking what we need from the earth without considering, acknowledging or understanding the impacts on others, including plant and animal life which she believes also have rights.[8]  Cheek argues present environmental policies, rooted in financial concerns, have led to disastrous results.  Consider that three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions.[9]  When The Rev. J.G. Wood published “Animate Creation:  Popular Edition of “A Living World;” A Natural History” in 1885, roughly 100 years into the Industrial Revolution, the deleterious effects of industrialization were already becoming known.  In response, in 1886, under the administration of President Grover Cleveland, Congress created the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy, validating Lia Cheek’s assertion about the links between conservation and finances from the advent of the movement.[10]  The formation of this government division was preceded by public sentiment in favor of protecting wildlife.  In 1883, the American Ornithologists’ Union was created to bring awareness to the need to protect birds and their habitats, which were at risk due to degradation of the environment and over-hunting. In 1895, the first chapter of the Audubon Society was formed with a mission dedicated to the conservation of birds and their environments.  By 1905, the National Association of Audubon Societies for the Protection of Wild Birds and Animals was formed.[11]

Image of the Lammergeyer bird (which has an orange and brown body) in the snowy mountains.In fin de siècle America, bird watching became a popular past time as people became interested in observing birds in their natural habitats.  Birding as a past time was aided by instruments such as binoculars and books like the one published by The Rev. J.G. Wood, from which these images come.[12] These colorful and accurately detailed bird illustrations stimulated the popular imagination and introduced many to the idea of conservation and ecology.  Wood, a British citizen and parson, was also a prolific and successful natural history writer and lecturer.[13] His drawings vividly illustrated what was at stake if the environment was not protected – spurring activists of his day and beyond to advocate for the environment through rallies, boycotts and legislation.[14]  If you would like to take action this Earth Day, you can find events on the Earthday.org website and their Billion Acts of Green Initiative.  More locally, you can participate in the Earth Day Cleanup sponsored by DOVE, SAB and the South Orange Community Garden on Saturday, April 24th from 9:30am to 1pm.


The images and materials shown here are but a small part of the vast patrimony available to students, faculty and researchers.  For access to this or other objects in our collections, complete a research request form to set up an appointment or contact us at 973-761-9476. 

 

 

[1] https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-first-earth-day, accessed 4/15/2021.

[2] https://isilanguagesolutions.com/2020/04/22/earth-day/, accessed 4/15/2021.

[3] https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2021/, accessed 4/15/2021.

[4] https://www.endangered.org/a-conversation-on-endangered-species-and-social-justice/, accessed 4/15/2021.

[5] https://www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/issues_development-enjeux_developpement/environmental_protection-protection_environnement/climate-climatiques.aspx?lang=eng, accessed 4/15/2021.

[6] https://en.unesco.org/courier/2019-3/climate-and-social-justice, accessed 4/15/2021.

[7] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2514848620945310, accessed 4/15/2021.

[8] https://www.endangered.org/a-conversation-on-endangered-species-and-social-justice/, accessed 4/15/2021.

[9] https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/, accessed 4/15/2021.

[10] https://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amrvhtml/cnchron2.html, accessed 4/20/2021.

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Audubon_Society, accessed 4/20/2021.

12 https://www.britannica.com/topic/bird-watching, accessed 4/20/2021.

[13] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_George_Wood, accessed 4/20/2021.

[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Audubon_Society, accessed 4/20/2021.

Documenting Setonia – Written by Hand and Handled With Care

January 23rd marks National Handwriting Day which was established in 1977 to promote and celebrate the usage of writing instruments from the quill to ballpoint pens along with the paper upon which such methods as cursive, script, and other self-expression is put into print for posterity.  This particular date was also chosen to commemorate the birthday of John Hancock, first Autographer of the Declaration of Independence who arguably has the most famous signature in American History.  However, the story of handwriting can be traced further back in time.

Iconic Illustration from the 1926 White & Blue, Seton Hall College Yearbook

Written communication can be traced back to Ancient Rome (c. fifth century AD) that was built on contributions from other founding civilizations and in the process became an important means of non-verbal communication and by extension preserving the word of the author for future reference.  As this practice caught hold and moving forward to other eras, the Medieval period has been noted for manuscripts reproduced by cloistered monks who patiently and expertly provided copies of texts (mainly Christian and classical-based) as an important service to humanity as a means of promoting literacy and inspire deeper learning opportunities than ever before.  With the advent of the Printing Press during the sixteenth century this lessened the need for handwritten, mass produced works and ushered in a new era of mass-produced writings.  Despite this invention the trade art of “penmanship” still became a sought after skill set especially in the documentary establishment of the American Republic and as the nation grew in size and population where school systems, mail service, and other forums for handwritten communication were created.

With the establishment of the United States and moving into the nineteenth century, a bookkeeper named Platt Rogers Spencer who adopted a method to teach cursive writing that was captured in various textbooks and made its way to various schools and colleges to help students improve their respective writing styles.  Eventually print and cursive developed into various methods side-by-side in the dawn before typewriters and later computers would help with journaling and interpersonal communication.  Overall, expanded technology has superseded the need or want to write as a matter of preferred course.  More information on the historical evolution of handwriting can be referenced via the V-Letter and History Channel sites found via the links located below . . .

https://www.vletter.com/help/font-faq/history-of-handwriting.html

https://www.history.com/news/a-brief-history-of-penmanship-on-national-handwriting-day#:~:text=Borrowing%20aspects%20of%20the%20Etruscan,script%20for%20transactions%20and%20correspondence.&text=Elegant%20handwriting%20emerged%20as%20a,educating%20generations%20of%20master%20scribes

Page featuring student autographs – 1926 White & Blue Seton Hall College Yearbook

Although handwriting is not in vogue in the present day except for the most part among those who prefer traditional forms of communication and to “jot down” information, but if nothing else a personal signature and/or requested autograph are at the very least a form of handwriting that has held on as a mark of personal identification and shows that the practice has not departed altogether.  These examples are true to life within the world of Seton Hall academic life where note-taking is now mainly done via a computer laptop, etc.  But there is always a place for handwriting to remain even though it is rarer to find schools that teach this craft in full, or even the elementary level basics nowadays.

When looking at historical textbooks and examples within our Rare Book Collection there are a pair of texts found that show how the student of the nineteenth century learned the finer art of taking their writing skills into advanced applications.  The following works include the following texts . . .

A volume entitled: Five Hundred Mistakes of Daily Occurrence in Speaking, Pronouncing, and Writing the English Language, Corrected. (New York: D. Burgess & Co., 1856) [Call Number: PE1460 .B8 1856] is one that saw print in the same year that Seton Hall College was founded.  Within this book, the modern reader can see what some of the most common errors and correct approaches were made among the student body of yore.

Within this volume you can see five hundred individual examples from the first . . .

“THE business would suit any one who enjoys bad health.”  [From an advertisement in a daily newspaper of New-York.]  Few persons who have bad health can be said to enjoy it.  Use some other form of expression: as, one in delicate health, or, one whose health is bad.”

Through to the five-hundredth on their list . . .

The last direction which this little book will give on the subject with which it has been occupied, is one that long ago was given in the greatest of books – “Let your conversation be as it becometh the Gospel of Christ.”  If obedience to this injunction may not guard him who heeds it against the commission of such mistakes as are numbered in this catalogue, it will not fail to lead him out of the way of errors more grievous and solemn.”

More specific to Setonia, is the book entitled – How to Write Letters: A Manual of Correspondence Showing the Correct Structure, Composition, Punctuation, Formalities, and Uses of the Various Kinds of Letters, Notes, and Cards by J. Willis Westlake (Philadelphia: Christopher Sower Co., 1876) [Call Number: PE 1485 .W4 1876]  Our version was once owned by a former student – Thomas Raftery, ’93 who not only possessed this copy, but along with the book, but also found within the text block was a letter from his mother that shows a perfect example of cursive writing from that period.

Letter written Mrs. Raftery found in the book of her son (c. 1880s-early 1890s)

Along with their primer in tow, Mr. Raftery would have encountered a core curriculum that was totally structured and included detailed classes in English Composition along with optional instruction in stenography and/or drawing (for $50.00 per annum apiece) to help with his writing practice and perfecting his form.  Even though Mr. Raftery attended the school for a brief time without graduating he did have the basic tools to aid with his writing efforts.  This is one of many examples that features unique handwritten registers, letters, and other documents based content that have been transcribed and preserved in our repository.  These materials are available to researchers for exploration and perspective on handwriting styles and content that have been created through sight and hand alike.

For more information on the other 498 Mistakes, see other examples of handwriting in the name of academic life and administrative business, and other aspects of handwriting along with the Rare Books and Seton Hall History feel free to reach out to us via e-mail at: Archives@shu.edu or by phone at: (973) 275-2378.

Martin Luther King, Jr. – His Influences Rediscovered & Setonia Ties

The impact that the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) had on society is manifest especially when it came to his legacy in regard to the Civil Rights movement.  The individuals, writings, and imagery that captured his life and impact is extensive.  However, it is also noteworthy to reference and reflect upon those who influenced his own philosophy and teachings.

Poster proclaiming the visit of Ghandi’s Grandson as part of the Seton Hall MLKSA celebration in 2003

Among the more famous individuals that Doctor King has cited include Indian lawyer and ethician Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi (1869-1948) and his embrace of nonviolent resistance to unjust laws along with the political writings of American statesman, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) found in his pronouncements on “liberty,” “democracy,” and “equal rights” in particular.

In addition to notable secular figures, another individual cited as part of the early education is the prophet Moses (1391-1271 BC) who was seen as a living symbol connected to the law of God.  In American historical annals, when it came to slavery such figures and role models as Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman each became a latter-day Moses in leading their people to a promised land of freedom and grace.  Ironically, Doctor King would not only quote Moses on a regular basis within his sermons, but he was equated by many of his adherents as another Moses for his efforts to achieve freedom and equality within American society.  More on the relationship between Doctor King and Moses can be found within the Stanford Freedom Project site accessible via the following link – https://stanfordfreedomproject.com/multi-media-essays-on-freedom/the-biblical-exodus-in-the-rhetoric-of-martin-luther-king/

MLKSA Seton Hall Scholarship Banquet Menu, 1992

Connections to Doctor King, Moses, and/or Seton Hall have been made within the Archives & Special Collections Center.  Along with records relating to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Program (MLKSA) is the oldest and most prestigious Servant Leadership Program on campus and one of the first in the United States having been founded in 1970.  This initiative deals with tuition funding, management, leadership skills development, and research opportunities covering social justice, spirituality, critical thinking, and community service.

Frontispiece of the book: The History of the Heavens (1752)

In regard to Moses, various theological-centered volumes are found in the Rare Book Collection including a 1752 edition of a text entitled:

The History of the Heavens : Considered According to the Notions of the Poets and Philosophers, Compared with the Doctrines of Moses. Being an Inquiry into the Origine of Idolatry, and the Mistakes of Philosophers, Upon the Formation and Influence of the Celestial Bodies, 2 vols. (London: J. Wren, 1752) by Noël Antoine Pluche (1688-1761) and translated from the French by John Baptist De Freval.  The catalog entry for this work can be found under the LC Code – BL305 .P68 1752.

For more information on Doctor King, Moses, and other figures of note that are connected to the history and academic curriculum of Seton Hall University please contact us for information.  E-Mail: Archives@shu.edu, Phone: (973) 275-2378.