Special Collections Showcase March 2024

Special Collections Showcase March 2024

Once a month, five objects from across Special Collections’ vast holdings will be on display in the lobby of Firestone Library for anyone to come and see. Here are the objects featured in March 2024:

Object 1: Pank-a-Squith (1909) — (E-000072)

Published in 1909 for the UK-based Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), in this suffrage-themed board game, players move around the board in an effort to gain access to Parliament and secure the right to vote for women. Named after suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst and the staunchly anti-suffrage British Prime Minister at the time H.H. Asquith, suffragettes dodge the police, attend rallies and organize committee meetings. Sold as a way to “popularise the cause”, increase awareness of the WSPU’s work and raise funds, this was one of several games sold at the time themed around the fight for suffrage. Today, the game elicits delight, but in its time, the issues and struggles it represents were serious and life-threatening. Notably absent are the harsher realities of the WSPU’s campaigns: the violent forced feedings of women on hunger strikes in jail, the public bombings, and attempted arsons. What does it mean to play the game of civil rights both in the past and today? 

A board game showing progress around a spiral from the outside to the center

Object 2: Anthropometamorphosis by John Bulwar (1653) — (N-002210)

English physician John Bulwar (1606-1656) established his career studying and writing about hand gestures. This work led him to be one of the first people to publicly advocate for the education of deaf people and would later inform the field of deaf studies and the development of British Sign Language. This book, his last, is not about deafness or hand gestures. Instead, Anthropometamorphosis (meaning “humanity-changing”) is one of the first studies in comparative cultural anthropology and is considered to be the earliest book on tattooing and body modification. As one can imagine, the language and images land as othering and insensitive to the modern eye. The book is a mixture of fact, fiction, and moralization, and in addition to being a chronicle of cultural practices from around the world, Anthropometamorphosis is a lightly veiled political commentary. He writes that “the beauty of the Universe consists in things perfect and permanent” and argues that just as human bodies are ruled over by the monarch (nature) so too should human political systems be ruled over by a monarch (a king). Anthropometamorphosis does many things, one being how it illustrates the many ways in which the relationship between the issue of bodily autonomy and the reach of the government can be and have been in conversation in many ways for many years. 

A book open to a page showing an illustration of a man with a long beard

Object 3: Milton’s Poetical Works: including Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes, Lycidas, Sonnets, &c (1854) — (3859.1855q Oversize)

This remarkable copy of John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost was printed in raised type by the Perkins School for the Blind in 1855. Perkins was approached about the publication by Morrison Healy, a deafblind author, and disability advocate known colloquially as the “blind bard of Kentucky”. Healy was a voracious learner and worked tirelessly to improve the lives of deaf and blind people through his many inventions (including a self-opening gate, a coffee thermos, a swivel chair) and the establishment of the American Printing House for the Blind, which is still in operation today. Milton was an apt choice for the APH’s first endeavor as the author himself spent a lifetime gradually loosing his eyesight before becoming fully blind at the age of 43 in 1652. There is a lot to say about Perkins, Healy, and the history of books for people who are blind (some of which staff member Charles Doran wrote about in his blog post on the Marrakesh Treaty), but note that this book is not in braille as it would be if it were printed today. Braille was first used in the US by the Missouri School for the Blind in 1854, the same year Healy started fundraising for his copy of Milton, but not formally adopted in until 1917. There are only two known copies of Perkin’s Paradise Lost in libraries today – one at Perkins and this one at Princeton. 

Cover page to raised text version of Paradise Lost
Cover page to raised text version of Paradise Lost

The image on the right is a digitally enhanced version of the image on the left, which allows for easier viewing on screen.

Object 4: [Portolan charts and a manuscript map] (1642) — (Scheide 26.13)

First made in the Mediterranean region in the 13th century, Portolan charts are nautical navigation aids designed to help sailors plan routes from one port to another. The lines radiating from different points represent direct compass directions, simplifying steering. Other symbols and markings represent hazards like low water, rocky outcroppings, and reefs. These maps were incredibly accurate making the dangerous task of crossing the seas safer, easier, and more reliable. In turn, tools like Portolan maps made possible new trade routes, facilitating the exchange of goods, ideas, and art across the globe, ushering in world-wide revolutions like the Renaissance. Conversely, these routes also prompted the Age of Discovery / Exploration when European countries explored, colonized, and conquered regions and peoples across the globe. Beautiful, informative, and consequential, portolan maps like this one are essential pieces in understanding the past and present world.   

Map of the Mediterranean

Object 5: Students commemorate anniversary of Malcolm X assassination, February 21, 1969 — (Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series, AC112

Three men standing around a coffin in the snow

The first protest following new faculty guidelines for on-campus protest passed in February 1969 was organized by the Association of Black Collegians (ABC) on February 21, 1969. On a wintry day, a group of Black Princeton students mourned the fifth anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Malcolm X through a peaceful demonstration on Cannon Green. 75 out of the 97 Black students on campus at the time participated, with alternating groups of three standing vigil from 8:30 am until 6 pm next to a black casket shrouded in the Afro-American flag. Alfred D. Price ‘69 described the composition of the scene as a “[symbol] of black pride, unity and power.” The only time the stationed trio would acknowledge others moving past was to offer a Black Power salute (a raised fist) to Black people -otherwise, they were silent and stoic.  

At 2:30 pm, a more formal memorial ceremony took place. Black students marched in double file lines from Wilcox Hall to Canon Green where an honor guard moved the casket to McCosh 10 trailed by a procession of students and adults from all races. A poetry reading followed, featuring pieces on centering the Black Revolution read by Darryl L. Johnson ‘69 and John D. Semida ‘72. Participants then left the ceremony with the Arabic phrase ““As-Sa-laam-Alaikkum” or “peace be unto you” (a gesture toward Malcom X’s Islamic faith). 

This was not the first nor the last demonstration organized by the ABC, which was active on not just Princeton campus, but across the United States throughout the nineteen seventies. Aimed at increasing the number of Black students on predominantly and historically white campuses,  the group organized outreach to local high schools, put on conferences about the Black experience on college campuses, and coordinated protests against South African apartheid and the trial of Angela Davis, among other causes.

More information can be found in the Office of the President Records: William G. Bowen Subgroup (AC187) and the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students Records (AC136).

Join us at the next showcase in the lobby of Firestone Library on April 25th from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. for a new round of objects!