Now on View: Audubon’s Birds of America
Volume two of John James Audubon’s famous Birds of America is now on view in the Special Collections department at the Minneapolis Central Library. This is a rare opportunity to view this work, which is part of a larger exhibition of books and prints from the Spencer Natural History Collection. A different bird will be shown weekly through October.
Renowned naturalist and artist John James Audubon’s Birds of America is considered by many to be the finest work of its kind ever made. The 435 life-size paintings were printed and sold over a 12-year period from 1827 to 1838, in a subscription series that cost buyers $1000 (about $20,000 in today’s dollars). In December 2010, a collector in England bought a complete set of Birds of America for 7.3 million British Pounds, which is about $12 million in today’s dollars. The Minneapolis Athenaeum owns a complete four volume set, housed in a climate controlled space in Special Collections.
The magnificent double elephant folio consists of hand-painted, life-size prints, made from engraved plates, measuring around 39.5 by 26.5 inches. Audubon spent much of his life painting the birds and working to get his opus published. He partnered with the highly skilled engraver, Robert Havell, to publish the works. While a precise figure is unknown, it is believed between 175 and 200 complete sets were made. Approximately 130 remain intact. The Minneapolis Athenaeum purchased their set in April, 1909, from a dealer in London for $2,725, which included Audubon’s 5-volume ornithological text describing the birds and their habitats.
Special Collections is open 10:00-4:30 Monday through Thursday and every first and third Saturday of the month.
Julia Child in Minneapolis
“Some people don’t dare make an omelet or a soufflé,” Julia Child told a Star Tribune writer in 1970. “Instead, they should think that eight eggs are expendable, take a devil may care attitude and they’ll be able to do it.”
Child was in Minneapolis on October 27, 1970 to promote volume two of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. After presiding at a breakfast in Dayton’s Sky Room, Child signed copies of her cookbook.
The first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published in 1961. Craig Claiborne, the New York Times food critic, hailed the recipes as “glorious.” By 1970, Child had sold more than 700,000 cookbooks. In Volume II, Child used ingredients readily available in US supermarkets and took advantage of kitchen machines over hand techniques.
Today, August 13, 2014, marks the 10th anniversary of Child’s death.
Browse the Hennepin County Library catalog for books and digital materials by and about Julia Child.
In The Stacks with Hans Weyandt: Scattered Ecstasy
The beginning of any new adventure is the usual mix of excitement and nerves. I have tried, over the past few weeks, to not imagine what this would be like or what I might see. Because I simply couldn’t imagine the possibilities. So when I first walked through the old wooden arch into the room that houses some of the Special Collections I went a bit fuzzy. There is awe, of course. So many other descriptors could fit: I was bewildered, enthralled, transfixed, spellbound, and bewitched. Yes, all of that. And due to our overuse or misuse of so many of these words, they still seem to come a bit short of the things zooming through my head. Like a kid in a candy store is appropriate, and again, so dull in its current meaning.
Entering the Hennepin County Library’s Special Collections (located at the downtown Minneapolis branch) is not unlike stepping into a secret society or land. There is something about it that feels almost forbidden. Yet that is very much not the case. I had no special badge to be there. I own a Hennepin library card. As part of my residency here I will be allowed to access materials available to all of us.
The Minneapolis History Collection alone is worth a visit. Maps, posters and books both rare and old are neatly shelved everywhere and one can get access to much more by making simple requests. That is what I will be doing and writing about. I am beyond thrilled to have this chance and embarrassed that I have never done it on my own.
Bailey Diers, one of the librarians on staff, pulled some stuff to show us a bit of the range of the collection. Some of the treasures included: an Icelandic bible from 1612, a copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream autographed by illustrator Arthur Rackham, several fine press books from local artists and other books that had been transitioned from the general collection into this one because of their age. I kept flipping through the Shakespeare—laughing at his unique humor and staring at the art. I kept thinking, “Stop looking at this. There is so much more to see.”
Bailey pulled a record card for my home address that showed when all original permits had been pulled. It showed that our house was built in 1926, one year earlier than we had been told when we bought it. She remarked, “Most people are given incorrect facts about their homes.”
My friend Berit, who was along for the ride, and I kept grinning at each other maniacally. Can you believe this? As we left she said, “This is beyond whatever you could think about it.”
Indeed it is. I’m not yet certain how I will limit my time here and try to put something together that is beyond scattered ecstasy because that is a real danger. There is so much to see and I’m ready to dive into all of it.
Hans Weyandt is currently a writer-in-residence at the Central branch of the Hennepin County Library. Hans has worked at four independent bookstores in St. Paul and Minneapolis over the past 15 years. He is the former co-owner of Micawber’s Books and the editor of “Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores” published by Coffee House Press. He currently works at Sea Salt Eatery, Moon Palace Books and Big Bell Ice Cream.
Join us Thursday, September 18th at 6:15 pm for a tour of the collection and a conversation with Hans.. Visit our Facebook event page for more info.
We are happy to have Hans in Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library. He’ll be at Central to discuss his experience as writer in residence on September 18.
Asked by iamberks
Yes, We do have old issues of both Twin Cities Reader (1976-1977) and Sweet Potato (1979-1981). Both can be found in our online catalog and can be viewed in the Special Collections department at the Minneapolis Central Library. Special Collections has hundreds of local magazines and newspapers covering a range of time periods and subjects. Come take a look!
Outdoor Reading Rooms
From August 5th to 15th, the New York Public Library is offering an open air reading room as a partial substitute for their currently closed Rose Reading Room. In the 1930s, the Minneapolis Public Library set up their very own outdoor reading library at Gateway Park, located at the intersection of Hennepin and Nicollet, 8 blocks from the Main Library. The library provided tables, umbrellas, and of course, reading material! Gratia Countryman, head librarian at MPL from 1904 to 1936, had a strong outreach philosophy. During her tenure, reading rooms were established in such places as fire halls, factories, hospitals, and outdoors at the Gateway!
Where do you read? Tell us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram. #ireadeverywhere
Botanical Illustration New and Old
Tour the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden Florilegium exhibition and see related historical botanical books and prints (including those above) in the Special Collections exhibition, Medicinal Herbs and Mesmerizing Blossoms: Four Centuries of Botanical Illustration from the Spencer Natural History Collection.
Opening reception Thursday, August 14, 6:30pm in the Doty Board Room.
Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden Florilegium Exhibition, Cargill Hall (Minneapolis Central Library, 2nd floor gallery), August 15-October 15, 2014
View nearly 50 botanical paintings created by students of the Minnesota School of Botanical Art. These watercolors serve as a tribute to America’s first public wildflower garden. Accompanying the exhibition will be the sounds of the birds that frequent the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary. Presented in collaboration with the Minnesota School of Botanical Art and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
A tragic tale of the lives and deaths of an eccentric dentist and his African-American comrade in early Minneapolis.
Kirby Spencer was a founder of the Minneapolis Athenaeum and is the namesake of the Spencer Natural History Collection.
Early Stonework Revealed During Downtown Dig
These photos show early Minneapolis stonework revealed during the building excavation going on across the street from Minneapolis Central Library, on the southeast corner of 4th St. and Nicollet Mall (future home of the Xcel Energy corporate headquarters). The exposed wall has since been covered up (not torn down), but it will likely reveal itself again, as the site changes every day.
The site was most recently home to a nearly-50-year-old, 6-story parking ramp with vacant retail below. Prior to that, the old Minneapolis Journal (built in 1889) and Minneapolis Tribune (built in 1884) were located there, on a portion of 4th Street known as Newspaper Row.
These photos were shot from the Preservation Unit on the 5th floor of Central Library during the week of July 7, 2014.
Storefronts and Prices 75 Years Ago
In the summer of 1939, one could buy three heads of iceberg lettuce for $0.10 and two pounds of cherries for $0.17. Stoneware mixing bowls cost $0.14 a piece, brooms were $0.29, and ladies got a free rose at the hardware store on Wednesdays. How does that compare to what we’re spending 75 years later? Inflation accounts for some of what we pay today, but not entirely.
Photos: Top: 20th Century Market at 724 Hennepin Ave. Photo taken soon after the store opened, June 11, 1939. Bottom: Warner Hardware, on 7th Street between Hennepin and Nicollet. Night photo taken around the store’s grand opening, June 28, 1939.