Hidden Beneath: Watermarks in the Early American Document Collection

This summer, as the Smith Intern at Special Collections, I was tasked with working on a hodge-podge of assembled documents, previously referred to as the “18th Century Document” collection.   The box’s contents had been around for just about as long as anyone could remember, and really only got exposure for the Revolutionary War classes that had class sessions through Special Collections.  Yet, as I browsed through the collection (which was really a small assemblage of papers), the box was much more than a Revolution collection.  In fact, a fair portion of the documents came from the colonial era, with a surprising amount from 1720’s Philadelphia.  When I say hodge-podge, it truly was so: some letters, court records, survey manuscripts, other administrative documents, etc. It needed some love, but I was very pleased to be working with such a breed of tangible history.  I dove into my project, trying to read the colonial script (with varying success) and getting a grasp on the content.

And then I showed the documents to Mary, our lovely conservator, to tell me more about the condition of the documents.  After all, they were quite aged and appeared so.  She held the document up to the lamp, as if by habit, and asked if I had seen the beautiful watermarks on the manuscript, to which I responded with a drawn-out “….what”.

Suddenly, a whole new dimension opened up within the collection.  I vaguely knew of watermarks, but would have never thought to seek them out.  Thankfully, Mary did.  So my next few days were rather occupied with researching these watermarks: trying to identify their maker, the source of the papermill, why they chose that design, who these people were….there were so many questions unanswered, and more questions contributed by Mary’s daily guidance.

Coat of Arms of Amsterdam, Early American Document Collection, Special Collections at Gettysburg College

Coat of Arms of Amsterdam, Early American Document Collection, Special Collections at Gettysburg College

Eventually, I began to find my answers.  My first lead came from the Internet (of course), where I discovered that the lions and X patterns were the Coat of Arms of Amsterdam.  I researched other leads from there (ensuring that it was not also the New Amsterdam crest, trying to locate domestic papermakers that used the crest, etc.) for a while more, as there were multiple copies of this watermark, but in various forms.

Clover of the Rittenhouse Mill, Early American Document Collection, Special Collections at Gettysburg College

Clover of the Rittenhouse Mill, Early American Document Collection, Special Collections at Gettysburg College

Mary, my watermark mentor, continued her help from there.  Many of the documents, tattered and brittle, had been sealed in an adhesive of which Mary did not approve.  So, she decided to teach me a lesson in rehousing.  While doing so, we opened a letter that was a few layers deep, and found a gorgeous clover watermark on one of the pages within.  As it turns out, that watermark can be traced to the Rittenhouse family, the first papermakers in the United States, who started in Germantown, Pennsylvania around 1690.  This particular piece of paper was used as an order from the Mayor of Philadelphia in the 1720’s.  Thus, we could tell that some of these papers could be quite valuable, not only for their content and age, but also for the paper itself.

I was excited to show Amy Lucadamo, our archivist, what Mary and I had discovered.  So I showed her some of the watermarks, what I had found on the contents and background, yada yada ya….until she removed what I thought was the bottom of the box, only to expose about two dozen more documents.

Klaus Rittenhouse watermark, Early American Document Collection, Special Collections at Gettysburg College

Klaus Rittenhouse watermark, Early American Document Collection, Special Collections at Gettysburg College

Two dozen more documents means probably a dozen more watermarks.  For someone full-swing into watermark joy, it was my Christmas in July.  So, when I had time, I continued to identify watermarks, and research what I could on these hidden symbols.  I knew that I wanted to publish the watermark information that I found, so I kept pounding away, attempting to source the paper and finding a little history behind the big history.  Mary and I even ordered books, by Thomas Gravell and John Bidwell, to aid further research and to get more visual help.

In total, the Early American Document Collection (as it is now called) contains 32 watermarks, on a majority of the documents within.  They will hopefully be digitized and available online, alongside the documents themselves, by the end of my internship, or if not, in the coming fall.  The choice was made that the watermark pictures should be included for the reasons I had briefly outlined above.  Watermarks can be the hidden history beneath the historic manuscript content itself.  The life of a paper can tell a story, from the inspiration behind the watermark design, to the location of the papermaker who produced it, to the far-away or nearby person who ended up using said paper.  So much more can be contributed to the dialogue of a given piece with the addition of the watermark story, the hidden layer of history.

From Professor-Student to Collaborators

Youths with Map from MF

From the “Meine Fahrten Collection”, located at Special Collections, Gettysburg College

I had not met Michael Ritterson before he visited the Conservation Lab at Special Collections, where he was having a book mended, but I had certainly heard of him. A former faculty member of the German department, Mr. Ritterson is now a German translator, taking on projects from translating the work of a 17th German woman’s study of butterflies to the poetry of a Berlin leftist written during the 1968 Movement. And, by previous contact in the mail, he had heard of me. So after Mary Wooton showed him the fully repaired book, we were formally introduced and had the opportunity to discuss his translating projects. It was more than an opportunity to chat with an interesting visitor; it was an opportunity to share talents and abilities.
In the course of the conversation, we had the opportunity to talk about some of the work I was doing for Special Collections. It was then that I sensed an opportunity for me to ask for his help. Bringing out another box, I showed Mr. Ritterson the “Hitler Youth” photo album, a collection photographs taken on youth hiking trips in the 1920s and 1930s. Also included were two sketches done by the maker of the album, one showing two boys reading a map, another depicting a lively campsite scene on a North Sea island. Both had writing in a flowing German script.
This was where I had suffered a week of difficulty. The script was Suetterlin, otherwise known as German handwriting, created by a graphic artist in Berlin around the turn of the 20th century. Like other cursive scripts it has gone out of style, so I was obligated to use a website to begin deciphering first the script, and then the idiosyncratic hand of the writer. I had puzzled out a few words and phrases, but otherwise was far from understanding the meaning of a long passage at the bottom of one of the sketches.
Mr. Ritterson spent more than a minute staring at the writing. Then he informed me that it was a poem and began to read word for word what it said. Soon, words that had stumped me for weeks became clear. Even then there were two words that remained unclear. Yet Mr. Ritterson, after his years of work on translating German poetry, puzzled through these words, making suggestions based on the structure of the poem and the context.
An hour later when I was translating the poem into English, the words were a clear hymn to the values of the German Youth Movement, a paean to the life out of doors, nationalistic and independent. The story of the album’s maker and the world in which he lived were now more accessible to future researchers.
This new situation of finding collaborators in our fields of choice is not new to us in a liberal arts college. The accessibility of professors has allowed us to build personal relationships outside of the classroom. Mentorship through independent studies and grant projects allow us to work closely with professors in an area of interest during the semester and even into summer break. Most of us are familiar with requiring letters of reference from professors for outside projects, a sign that the relationships we build today do not end when we leave the college.
Yet the dynamic begins to change once we do leave. Mr. Ritterson, while an expert, was not in the position of a professor, in charge of my grade and responsible for judging my work. Instead, he was an expert, visiting in an unofficial capacity. Unlike a student, I had, to some degree, control over the sources I was now showing him. Together, we provided each other with access to material we might have not otherwise seen or understood. In these circumstances, we became collaborators, partners working on a project, if not equal in those skills.
This collaboration has continued beyond my current internship. At the end of our conversation, I mentioned to him a book I was translating into English that included a primary document in a German dialect. He offered to read it and perhaps provide a transcription into High German. A few days ago I received his response. He had translated much of it, but was still uncertain about some of the words. In order to clarify them, he offered the names of several institutions where I might find additional help, but where he no longer knew anyone. This is an opportunity for mutual help for years to come.

The Fortenbaugh in a Music Education Context

This past weekend I attend the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) Annual Conference in Hershey, PA. Along with the rest of my music education program here at Gettysburg College I went on a two day trip the Hershey Lodge to attend professional sessions, network with in-service teachers and administrators, and walk the music education marketplace. Now that I am back it is time to begin work putting together my library research guide geared towards helping others involved in music education and I have new insights to consider.

In building my research guide I am keeping several items in mind: music education repertoire, professional development, accommodating a diverse classroom, methodologies and teaching strategies, etc. A section of my guide will address the first item; with the help of student workers in the conservatory as well as my adviser, Dr. Talbot, there will be a list of all the repertoire (song books, music games, method books, etc.) available in the music ed classroom in Schmucker Hall. This list will function as a general reference list and organizational guide for building age-appropriate classroom repertoire. With regards to professional development, the second item, there will be links to professional development events and certification programs in different teaching methodologies, etc. to inform music educators on how to better their own knowledge. For accommodating diverse students there will be a variety of sources from teaching students with IEPs to creating dialogue and a safe environment to address social issues. Finally, for teaching strategies and methodologies, the final item, I plan to provide sources for the different teaching methods (Kodaly, Orff, Sezuki, Dalcroze, etc.) to better inform music educators on the many different ways students can be engaged in music learning.

I am grateful to have had such a great experience in my internship thus far. I have learned a great deal about my own teaching ideologies through the process of organizing different resources necessary to be a successful music teacher.

On the Web-WorldCat, Digital Publications, and New Editions

Hi everyone!

I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the warmer weather!  Despite the real arrival of spring and sun, the Reference Desk is expecting a huge pick-up in the library and in citation and research questions as we move towards the end of the semester and the due dates for final research papers.

Apart from regular work at the Desk, I am still working on the Collection Development Project, now in the online section of the project.  I’ve been working a lot with MUSCAT and WorldCat, trying to discover how many copies of the Parkin books are available in other libraries and to see how rare each book is.  Some of the books could only be found in ten or so other libraries worldwide!

After finding out how many other copies were available and making sure they were the same edition, I looked through Hathi Trust and Internet Archive for links to digitized publications of the books.  Hathi Trust and Internet Archive are great sites for giving the public access to older books, specifically books that are out of print and no longer under copyright law.  Hathi Trust can provide a multitude of contemporary reactions to events like World War I or the Spanish-American War for interested scholars.  In our collection development, we were looking to see if Parkin’s books could be found in digital publication in order to make a decision about moving rarer books upstairs into Special Collections.

Finally, I move onto searching for the books through Amazon.  Amazon is very much a “buyer-beware” for collection development; many of the offered copies for these older books are cheaply produced print-outs of the digital publications.  On Amazon, I have to look for later editions of these books and avoid the digital reprints and other first edition copies.

Collection development often feels like a balancing act.  Older and unused books take up space on the shelves and some of these books are damaged and would be safer in Special Collections.  However, we still want to keep these books accessible to the patrons and so we look for digital publications or new editions in order to do so.

After the Collection Development Project, I will be working with Alexa on the Finals Week Study Break!  Everyone should come (there will be free ice cream!) to de-stress and catch a breath from studying for final exams!

“Weeding…It Isn’t Just For Gardens.”

Hi all!

Sorry, I haven’t posted in a while; I’ve been holding out until I got to the finishing stages of the Collection Development project.  Yes, that’s right, for the past couple of weeks, when I was pacing up and down the stacks on the second floor, I was not actually going crazy.

The project was designed for me to look through the collection of older books on World War I and find books donated by Major Harry Parkin.  Many of the books donated by Parkin were broad historical surveys or memoirs by participants.  Curiously, some of the books he donated were marked up, either with pasted in book reviews or with Parkin’s own assessment.  Parkin’s marginalia is incredibly interesting as he either praises books as “first-class war novels” or derides them as “unimportant.”  As presumptuous as it might sound, I begin to gain an understanding of who Major Parkin was through his choice in books and his scribbling.  A product of early 20th century race relations, Parkin wrote in a book on black soldiers in WWI that it only proves “the negro soldier led by the white officer is first class, led by the negro officer he is simply no good.”  Parkin’s donations offer insight as to how soldiers of the war responded to the subsequent early WWI literature.12884483_10205102975127904_1856331460_n

Now, the project drives us to decide which books to retain in the main collection, which to potentially move off-site, and which to move up to Special Collections.  The process is called “weeding” and can almost be considered a consistent and continuous house-cleaning that never really ends.  Looking at how else the books might be available, through Interlibrary Loan, through databases like Hathi Trust, or through Amazon, we have to decide what would be most helpful to our patrons.


It’s been a long project but as we look to complete this one, Alexa, Mallory, and I are already looking forward to planning the Spring Finals Week Study Break!

-Jake Farias

Perusing the Stacks: Cataloging Music

This week and last I have been learning about some of the basics of cataloging. While the cataloging of books is often fairly straight forward, such is not case with music. There are some extra, important bits of information that make a big difference in cataloging and finding musical works.

When it comes to finding a book, most people can stop at the title and author (maybe even just the title!) and find what they are looking for. With music, however, a piece of music can have different transcriptions, arrangers, publishers, or score size, all of which have varying effects on the music. In practicing cataloging I came across a piece called Air. In looking further I noticed that not only was a composer listed, but a transcriber as well. It turns out the piece I was assigned to catalog for cello and piano was not the original version and it was actually written for violin and piano a year earlier. In this case in particular, it would be important for a musician to know what instrumentation the piece is for and whether or not other editions are available. Another way in which music cataloging involves that extra step is when it comes to different publishers. If one were to pick up two different copies of To Kill a Mockingbird by two different publishers, chances are the story itself would be the same word for word. With different music publishers, on the other hand, there could be differences in accidentals (whether a note is sharp or flat), articulations, phrasing, dynamics, cadenzas (little show off-y, soloistic sections), and even rhythm and pitch. It is not uncommon for publishers to add their own artistic input to a piece of music or to interpret it a different way. It is not likely you will have a book publisher decide to change the end of Where the Red Fern Grows. 

While music and all its extra ins and outs makes cataloging a bit more in-depth, as a musician who has been sent by my private teachers to “peruse the stacks” it feels I am doing a service for all those other musicians out there looking to make music.

From the Classroom to Musselman Library: Bridging the Gap for Music Education

I am in my sixth semester as a music education major through the Sunderman Conservatory and yet I had no idea there was a music education collection here at Musselman Library until just a couple weeks ago. After reading up on some policies and practices for maintaining collections I was given some time to peruse the music education collection more closely. As I looked through the shelves and skimmed some introductions and tables of contents of a few of the books in MT1 I began considering how I would go about updating and maintaining this small collection.

I began thinking about certain aspects of collection development such as the audience it applied to, relevance and value of more dated materials, etc. At an undergraduate liberal arts institution such as Gettysburg College, there is not a huge demographic to which a music education collection would apply to aside from, well, the fairly small music education department. While the target demographic is small, the collection is open to all, which is where I ran into some issues with some of the materials contained in those shelves. There is a fair amount of outdated teaching approaches and philosophies that just do not apply to the modern classroom or modern perspectives on education. For the average looker-on who may not have had the same experience, through course discussions in the education or music education departments, there may be teaching content that is no longer the contemporary and progressive form of music instruction and so it can be misleading. What those in our program know that others do not is that there is an entire collection of music classroom application materials in our main classroom in Schmucker Hall, accessible to music education majors 24/7.

In terms of content and audience, the main audience who would be accessing both sources is the students in the music education program. After a brief meeting with my intern adviser, Amy Ward, and my academic adviser and head of the music education department, Dr. Brent Talbot, we discussed ways in which we could bridge the gap between the two collections and to make them complement each other. My goals, as the Forthenbaugh intern and as an educator, are to make as much information accessible as I can for the music community on campus and those interested in learning more about it.

Getting My Feet Wet

In the past two weeks, I have become much more comfortable at the Research Help Desk.  I have been asked a whole variety of questions, from printing to citation to looking for books and articles.  Despite a few challenging requests, I feel more confident in answering difficult research questions (which is good, because next week I’ll be working my first solo shift!).  I will miss working with staff members at the Desk, largely because I enjoyed chatting with them about research skills, politics, sports, or anything that piqued our interests.

The big highlight of my past two weeks was working with Janelle and Alexa in an instruction session for Environmental Science 125: Marine Megafauna.  Despite some initial nerves, I enjoyed teaching about how to use MUSCAT and research books to an assortment of first-years, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  I am hopeful that there will be more opportunities to participate in instruction sessions, even in subjects I am not an expert in.

As we move on, I look forward to collection development with Clint and Carolyn and my first solo shifts at the Desk, as library patrons begin to delve into their big research papers and projects.


Starting at the Research Help Desk

Hi!  My name is Jake Farias and I am the Fortenbaugh Research and Instruction Intern for the Spring of 2016.

I am a graduating senior with a major in History and minors in Education and English.  Last summer, I worked as an intern in the Civil War Institute, researching the New York City Draft Riots and designing a mock debate focused on key perspectives during the riots.  I was born and raised in Massachusetts, own a dog and a cat, and I have a little sister who is beginning her “teenage angst” stage of life.


I have just completed my second week at the Research Help Desk and feel as though I am starting to get a good handle of the work.  Even after our intense boot camp training, I felt nervous to start fielding questions.  But after working through printer issues, citations, and some source searches with patrons, I am feeling more and more comfortable every day.  With that said, I still have loads more to learn in the next few weeks.

It’s been a great first two weeks at the Research Help Desk and I am hopeful for many more to come!

Life in the Fishbowl

I was never quite certain what went on in those offices behind the glass windows on the second floor of Musselman Library, but two weeks into my Fortenbaugh Music Librarian Internship I am beginning to get an idea. After talking with some of the staff that work in the fishbowl I have gotten a glimpse at some of the goings on behind the scenes of the librarian. If you’ve ever wondered how all these books and resources came to be or how in the world you are able to find a single thing in this place (maybe with some assistance), well, I can tell you it is not the work of little library fairies.

The staff working in technical services catalog and organize countless resources to make them accessible and able to be found. Many of them are also liaisons to different departments across campus to make sure each department has a collection of useful and pertinent resources and materials for the students and faculty in their programs. Maybe one or more of your past bio or living environment teachers/professors have mentioned that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. Well Tech Services is kinda like the powerhouse of the library. Without the fishbowl staff, Musselman Library would likely be a barren wasteland containing nothing but dysfunctional printers, a vending machine, and a pile of miscellaneous books that have nothing to do with that research paper due tomorrow that you’ve been putting off for weeks.

But why am I here? As the music library intern I’ll be specifically focusing on music collections. So when you’re on the third floor trying not to squish someone between the mobile shelving, look for me.

More to come on my experiences with music collections and cataloging. Until then, see you (from inside the fishbowl).