Cutting up Documents for Fun and Profit

If anyone makes a special collections horror movie, this would undoubtedly be one of the scariest villains: autograph scraps

These are just a few of the hundreds (HUNDREDS!) of autographs in our Miscellaneous Manuscript Collection. Many were collected by a single, dedicated individual whose interest in history went as far as the signatures on the documents but not so far as the documents themselves. In some cases the autograph collector apparently sent a blank card requesting a signature, as in this example signed by Mark Twain:

Twain Signature

But in many cases signatures were brutally cut from their proper places:

Tillinghast letter 2013-11-20 07.46.37

It would be nice to know what Daniel Tillinghast was writing in 1785 ("... will not answer ... till she is over..." is an intriguing bit to have), but that isn't likely to happen thanks to our autograph collector. I recently came across an example of the autograph industry from the other side of the mirror: Laid into one of our copies of Thomas Clarkson's History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade (1808 ed.) is a letter from Clarkson to the book's owner at that time, a man named Edward Raleigh Moran. The copy is inscribed by Clarkson, and Moran is requesting information about the recipient to whom Clarkson presented the book:

Clarkson Letter

In a postscript Clarkson writes "I have below sent you two autographs, which you may cut off and give to any of your friends should any be desirous of having them." Mr. Moran's friends apparently were not desirous of having them (or perhaps Moran wasn't desirous of cutting up his letter and giving them away), because they're still visible at the bottom of the page. (The verso of the page is blank, so if Moran had in fact cut out the signatures at least we wouldn't have lost any original writing.)

 
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Jordan Goffin

Special Collections Librarian Jordan Goffin has been mining the wonders in the Library’s Special Collections since early 2011. If you’d like to stop in and spend some time with the historic and noteworthy books, manuscripts and ephemera at PPL, contact him by email at jgoffin@provlib.org or by phone at 401.455.8021. Also, visit the Notes for Bibliophiles blog (http://pplspcoll.wordpress.com/) to read more about the exciting materials in Special Collections and to keep up with events and announcements.


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