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Special Collections Blog

Nature texts in the Archives by Jim Hetherington

Beyond Time from the Zuck collection

From the Zuck Collection of Botanical Books, I picked Beyond Time. Written and illustrated by Gwen Frostic, it is an all-encompassing take on nature through illustrations and poetry. Like any adventure in print, Frostic delivers symbiotic description binding works of art with words. Frostic highlights impressions lent to her by nature: the designer herself.

Every page is printed on different kinds of paper, and handmade illustrations are put on each spread. Multicolored, some words are printed hovering over artifacts in nature. From the pine tree to the loud bullfrog, to a rare hummingbird retreating to her hungry nest; each page turn holds purpose.

Pondering the title Beyond Time, I reckon nature is timeless and these moments frozen in time hold infinite meaning. Being there is no prologue nor epilogue, Beyond Time is open to interpretation as there are zero other voices within these pages: solely that of a poet. Now a book has architecture! Different kinds of paper every page, pulping. Even fray and watercolor on the edges. Akin to nature, Beyond Time unfolds and appeases the explorer. The drawings are of design; printed, each one looking stenciled, accurate as can be, and made given the story told.

A lighthearted page turner, every beginning and ending segues through drawings and poetry. Fathom the value, compound the botanics, reread about the artistry, try your hand at emulating how it reads, and feel more experienced now that you have sought a new attitude. Between the different text formats and calligraphy amongst styles of punctuation mixed in, soothing and inspirational thoughts are dug up. When reading, some may recognize how the narrative veers away from affecting nature, just observations in silence. Noting how harmony and zest appear far and deep in her nature, the creature and plant coexist.

“As the dynamics of its natural growth expand = it becomes an inseparable part of its milieu = = = = utilizing the resources accessible to become = = = and to flourish…….”

Every moment, page to page, the real significance is flocked by the astonishments pulled from outdoor experience. Some outlast others, some gather, some fly free, some make an eternal home, and some even understand life furthering their existence. Each poem is like an artifact holding its own influence on the reader, with no titles. No doubt. A premise of understanding ripple effects is clear. Where Frostic excels is when she foretells the light in each natural force in an accurate way depicting a dynamic beauty. A giant so supreme. We learn things unimaginable from: plants communicating, the ancient spiderweb designed like a target, storms replenishing the lands with water, birds migrating; everything all sought to be ancient rhythms of the universe, forever playing their part.

Religious text in the Archives by Jim Hetherington

Daily Food for Christians, from the Rare Book collection

I have here a book of hymns called Daily Food for Christians. I hold it in one hand and ponder how the accessibility of the item flourished day to day thought. Each day correlates to a devotion consisting of a promise from the Bible, a verse of hymns and an additional scriptural passage. Each page contains two days’ worth of verse, and you ought to know this here item is teeny tiny. Like they say, “big shadow, tiny tree.” Much like all types of calendars from the classical to day by day creative fact ones, folks look ahead and project the plan, planting the seed for the future. Here, Daily Food is like a spiritual forecast. I’m sure. Folks who had a copy may have a personal devotion they hold dearly.

The trifecta of promise, a hymn, and scripture is valuable because I do believe in matching different resources, oh so you know, to cross-examine related themes. This book has all the citations for a reader to reread and further explore an aspect, branching away from the initial uncovering of a plenty of good ideas. That book was popular in the nineteenth century for its meditation was used by missionaries, servicemen and other Christians for guidance and inspiration. Given its notes, by nature, every promise referencing the Lord is followed by hymn proclaiming the faith again. The additional scripture (“finalizing” the daily call) concludes free knowledge that we all relate to in the end. Now, like anything really, rereading proves to jog our take on the scripture. It is essential to identify the tone of the reading as separate from the tone of the author. Doing so yields an intellect that considers the underlying meaning of each and every devotion.

Daily Food has the charm of a lottery ticket where you can pick any number and feel good about it. Furthermore, how did each day get allotted scripture? Maybe each holiday was decided upon and then the remaining days were filled in? Structuring that tiny book takes time and brain power; something that is simply not all that understood. With each page turn, I find more and more again instilling a sense of security within a reader. As we know it, there is an inscription on the inside cover reading, “Willie W. C.” with the date June 24th, 1866. Some may choose to believe that due to the age, this collection of devotions is not relatable. Yet it is considered to be a reliant form of self-help by many. Holy literature does not always tell you what to think (or how), but what to think about (it’s a tao aka way). Spanning 192 pages, it’s lengthy yet practical to read anywhere, anytime. Often we do not talk about what makes us tick; thus our secrets grow in number as we hold them close… only understood by each of us. Daily Food is like a recipe for faster faith. The readability of Daily Food for Christians signs point to delving back into the same book a year later. Like a favorite song (just longer), movie you quote, book with handwriting in the margins, or a piece of art; we create habits to hold, strengthening a foundation now for better tomorrows.

Witchcraft in the Archives by Jim Hetherington

Sermon on Witchcraft, 1697, from the George Fraser Black Collection

James Hutchisone preached in court on April 13th, 1697, addressing seven “unfortunates” condemned to die for their occult activity and bewitching of a girl. As the minister of Kilallan, he spoke before the judges to pressure the conviction and death sentence of four witches and three warlocks. The sermon transcribed onto that booklet is introduced by Geo Neilson, informing the readers of the “contemporary spirit” that lies within the minister’s words. Here, contemporary is modifying spirit, that is to say, we must be in tune with all that life hands to us. The aforementioned “painfully direct pressure on the judges to convict and sentence to death” snippet placed before the sermon in this manuscript sums up how black and white the dichotomy of angels and demons is.

Hutchisone guides the audience to understand that witchcraft is a construct of Satan, and so are the practitioners. The sleight of hand in Neilson’s sermon falls where he divides the populace. To him, we are from the ground up of devilrie or of God’s spirit, alienating the witchcraft and solidifying the judge, jury, an all’s “covenant with God as well as the parents.” And he spoke his mind. No longer are we contrasting the occult and a man in the sky, but parenthood is woven in to evoke emotion and memory of being raised and having a guiding force to appease our authorities. Hutchisone even compares the “Honourable Judges” to Gods, saying they are among the “mightie,” passing judgment on the condemned. With all due respect the preacher’s argument was flimsy, lacking a complete look at the crime on the table. The witches and warlocks were underrepresented, compared to sin and not in the least bit humanized as functioning members of society. Their occult crime in 1697 centuries ago was not honed in on, in fact, the preacher man was building an army to renounce Satan when the myths and rituals of the specific seven witches remained untold. The trial called for reason, not ranting around. Within this particular work, the power of suggestion influences the crowds to source their life and even themselves to a good or bad seed. Nowadays, the prosecution of these witches and warlocks would be secular: justice not Jesus.

Here in the George Fraser Black Collection, it is clear as day that witchcraft is much like fiction, yet it was practiced like calls to prayer or based on early texts that can be found in Drew University Special Collections. Witchcraft, or Wicca, is much like a religion. It propels followers to engage in symbolism and calls of prayer. Anyways, crimes are crimes and stealing items for a ritual or engaging in other illegal activity is one way to get locked up or worse, especially back then. Christianity is indeed in the mix here. The moral is to tread lightly especially amongst supernatural thoughts and ways. What at first seems like a shortcut (like a spell) evolves into a chosen God’s glory “bring[ing] their works of darkness to light.”