This Old Book of Poetry by the Bard of Milford

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“Come, heavenly Muse, my humble harp inspire,

And on its strings, O breathe thy melting fire.”

This week, we revisit the expansive spirit of one of Delaware’s most eminent literary figures, the poet John Lofland, known affectionately as The Milford Bard. Below are excerpts from his 1828 publication  The Harp of Delaware; or, The Miscellaneous Poems of the Milford Bard.  The table of contents are provided, which show the breadth of his interestsFor those who enjoy poetry, this bard of Delaware, although no longer so well known as he was in Jacksonian America , is still deserving of recognition. Considerable nuance, melancholy, and aspirant nobility permeate his thought. The Harp of Delaware is 212 small pages and is the physical size, roughly, of an apple 5s smart phone.  Below are a sampling of poems:

To the Duellist; What Is Charity; Ingratitude; Triumph of Genius; Bandits Cave; Hope; The Bride; What is Love; and Melancholy

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Don Quixote

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Our Old Book here, which I was delighted to find resting comfortably in the DHS’s smorgasbord of rarities, is the famous tale of an errant knight and his stalwart servant, Sancho; who are, in a round about way, prototypes for Tolkien’s Frodo Baggins and his loyal, salt of the earth friend, Samwise.  Don Quixote was written in 1605 by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. It  is popularized in the 1960’s musical Man of La Mancha,  (the ‘man’ being actor Peter O’Toole).  Dreaming the Impossible Dream. Perhaps that’s the essence of why homo sapiens are more unique than flying pigs. ( A  C.S. Lewis reference there).  I’m not sure why but this classic seems perfectly suited to highlight on April Fools Day.

We Were Three

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This Old Book is an ode to the joy of childhood and of having siblings. Anne Parrish is the author. It was printed in Claymont, Delaware in 1945.  Ms. Parrish’s handwritten inscription mentions her uncle, Delaware Chief Justice Charles B. Lore. Lore Avenue in the hamlet of Edgemoor, Delaware stems from this Lore family. She states only 6 copies were made of her reminiscences.

Letters on Improvement of the Mind, Dr. John Gregory’s Legacy, and A Mother’s Advice

This week we showcase a tiny (13cmx7cm) curiosity published in New York in 1826. Mrs. Chapone, whose first name is mysteriously omitted in the introduction,  penned her letters in 1773. Her writings are full of wisdom, optimism, and stewardship, directed as they are to her niece. They explore morality, religion, scripture, the ‘heart’ and affections, temper, economy, accomplishment, geography, and ‘reading history’. Similarly, Dr. Gregory’s letters cover marriage, religion, amusement, and behaviour, and Lady Pennington’s advice to her daughters explore themes of motherhood and her vision of the feminine character. All three essays are remarkable testaments of piety and earnestness. They were all written in the late 1700’s, well before the publication of this edition.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

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For the month of March, we will highlight works by female authors in the Delaware Historical Society’s rare book collection. Our first selection is by the famously controversial and poignant Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. I’m quite sure all reading this have at least heard of this classic. Perhaps the reader has read a passage or more from the book. However, I am equally if not more confident that no one reading these words has read this book in Welsh, which is what follows.  The Historical Society’s edition was published in 1853 by John Cassell at Ludgate Hill in “Llundain” (London). Although it is written entirely in Welsh, the numerous illustrations convey their own meaning, more or less. Additional details about this edition are available on our online catalog AskCaesar in the library module.

Report Cards, 1859 Style.

Academic Report Cards, which tend to inspire an odd mixture of dread and excitement in a student, have been around a long time. Below is a report card from 1858/59 for a chap named John Cranston who attended the T.C. Taylor Select School, located in Wilmington, Delaware.  Cranston was a better than average student, assuming high grades were not merely rubber stamped at the Taylor School. He was ranked 25th/26th of 80 students in the school. Numerous courses of study are identified, as are signatures of James Cranston, presumably the boys father, as well as John A. Cranston. A ‘note to parents’ is also displayed.

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William Still and Stories of the Underground Railroad

This week’s rare book offers many harrowing real life experiences of those traveling along the Underground Railroad. Below, in the extensive table of contents, we see many examples of the struggles faced by runaway slaves. As first hand accounts, the stories in this book powerfully convey the physical dangers and severe anxieties endured by slaves making their way north to freedom.

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Presidents and Their Wives

We honor Presidents Day by sharing excerpts from a rare pamphlet in our collection which contains biographical information and images of all First Ladies and U.S. Presidents from Martha Washington through Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Some of the more under-celebrated Presidents, such as Chester A. Arthur and Andrew Johnson are highlighted in our blog here, as derived from this 1939 revised edition of a 1933 publication. The author is Frederic J. Haskin of Washington D.C.

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A Hidden Jewel of Poetry

February, being Black History Month, is an ideal time to spotlight the collection of poems penned by African American Stanford E. Davis. Excerpts from his 138 page compendium Priceless Jewels provide a glimpse of the range of Davis’s observations and vibrant personality. Many of his poems are written in a colorful, informal vernacular. Often adjacent to poems written with homespun charm are those written with lofty, grammatical elegance.

Stanford E. Davis

Stanford Davis
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