Everyone knows these famous lines even if the rest of the poems escapes them. “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” more popularly known as The Night before Christmas, was written in 1823 by Clement C. Moore (1779-1863) and is a staple in many families’ holiday traditions. But what accounts for the poem’s enduring popularity?
In the basement of Swem Library is a room used mostly for storage. Along two walls are machines and wooden cases full of drawers. The machines are printing presses and the cases are filled with type – individual letters cast in metal, designed to be set by hand and printed on the machines. The basic principle–of metal type used in a press–was a technology in use for five hundred years in the West, from the mid-fifteenth century until the twentieth. Now, however, our printing is done by different machines, with jets of ink replacing the metal letters of the past. An upcoming exhibition at Swem Library examines printing from the early days to the present, using some actual equipment, as well as early modern rare books and modern day private press books, all from Special Collections.
SCRC has an active instruction schedule during the academic year, as professors from all departments bring their students in to see the amazing materials housed in Special Collections. However, many may be surprised to learn that SCRC houses objects, texts, and ephemera related to virtually every discipline.This week included a reminder of how rich a collection we have related to the arts. Professor Brian Kreydatus brought in his ART324 Relief Printmaking class to view the vast array of materials we have pertaining to the book arts and printmaking.
While his family was busy with operating the Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, Norfolk-born Alexander Galt, Jr. (1827-1863) possessed artistic aspirations. His main ambition was to become a first-rate sculptor—and indeed he completed several sculptures in his brief life of 36 years—yet Galt’s sketchbook, housed in the Special Collections archives, is a testament to his mastery of drawing not only portraits and the human form, but also animals, architecture, and landscapes. In 1860, Alexander took the sketchbook with him on a trip to Florence, Italy to study sculpting, and in it he produced numerous beautifully detailed pencil drawings of men, women and children, many whom he names. A detailed sketch of a sitter’s hair falling above her ear reveals Galt’s careful attention to the most intricate curves and details of his subject.