In December 2014, UNC-Chapel Hill provided the Internet Archive with a digital facsimile of an extremely rare treasure: the Rare Book Collection at Wilson Library’s copy of James Malcolm Rymer’s The String of Pearls, or the Barber of Fleet-street, A Domestic Romance—the longest and final edition of this original source of the urban legend of the homicidal barber Sweeney Todd.
The bound volume consists of a complete run of individually-published parts of the “penny blood,” a Victorian fiction serial targeting working-class family readers. Only two such copies exist. The other one is in the Barry Ono Collection at the British Library and is not entirely identical to the UNC copy. At the open-access Internet Archive, anyone with internet access can read The String of Pearls.
This is an important text in the British reaction to the Industrial Revolution. In The String of Pearls, Todd’s accomplice Mrs. Lovett hires a succession of frighteningly disposable workers to operate her subterranean “pie manufactory” (58). The archaic term emphasizes that it’s a factory, not a bakery, not even an industrial kitchen. The workers are warm, housed, and fed, but without any company, dialogue, art, science, or other kind of humanistic solace, they “contemplate… suicide” (241).
However, it is not the most accessible Victorian novel. There is no critical edition of the 1851–1 text, nor any edition of that text published since 1850. This is problematic because the penny parts are riddled not only with references to a culture that no longer exists, but with a great many typesetting errors, probably due to its publisher Edward Lloyd’s frenetic publication pace. Moreover, the interface of the Internet Archive doesn’t easily facilitate twenty-first century popular reading—that is, reading on a phone.
To solve these problems and make the story of Sweeney Todd accessible to a new generation of readers, upper-level undergraduate students of English and Digital Humanities at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay (UWGB), have been creating a digital documentary edition of The String of Pearls. Since 2015, these students and UNC alumna Rebecca Nesvet, Assistant Professor of English at UWGB, have been correcting the Internet Archive’s OCR-generated transcription of the UNC copy, encoding the resulting transcription in XML in accordance with the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Guidelines, and annotating the text with contextualizing notes (and corrections of the original typos.) In 2016–7, UWGB student (now alumnus) Matt McAnelly designed a Graphical User Interface (GUI) intended to make the edition legible on a phone. By January 2018, the team has produced a very rough draft of the first sixty chapters. This spring, we will receive feedback from external peer reviewers: undergraduates at Babson University, taught by Prof. Kellie Donovan-Condron.
Still to come is proofreading of most of the existing chapters, additional chapters and notes; web development for improved accessibility and nonlinear reading; a bibliography; and a searchable gallery of illustrations, displayed in a carousel.
To “attend the tale of Sweeney Todd” (as Stephen Sondheim advised in his 1979 musical adaptation), you can start with Nesvet’s General Introduction, then read the main text chapter-by-chapter. Alternately, consult the Chapter Synopses to find the most exciting bits of the long-running serial.
The UWGB editorial team is inexpressibly grateful to the RBC for acquiring The String of Pearls in 2013 and making it publicly available both in Wilson Library and via the Internet Archive.
1968 was a turbulent year characterized by extensive global protests, political repression, and conflict between citizens and governments. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this landmark year, Wilson Library is displaying a selection of album covers, magazine advertisements, musical scores, and photographs drawn from the Southern Folklife Collection, North Carolina Collection, and UNC Music Library. Titled Sounds of ’68, this exhibit explores how music mirrored the changing times through protest, experimentation, and the merging of music genres, as well as how the music of 1968 has influenced the world of today. It is on view in the Saltarelli Gallery in Wilson Library from January 16 to April 22.
Universities were particularly affected by the global tensions of 1968, serving as centers for radical and political thought, and often as stages for organization and protest. Student protests and uprisings occurred globally, although their scope and purposes varied. The Rare Book Collection recently acquired materials on two such student uprisings: Mexico 1968, a pamphlet that addresses the government repression of the student protests in Mexico that preceded the 1968 Summer Olympics, and Action, a student newspaper covering the events of the student uprising and accompanying general strike that brought Paris to a standstill in May 1968.
Mexico 1968: A Study of Domination and Repression was published by the North American Council on Latin America (NACLA) in 1968, shortly after the Tlatelolco Massacre on October 2, 1968. It provides a study of the historical, economic, and political contexts surrounding the Mexican student movement of that year. Through interviews with eyewitnesses, translated articles, and an analysis of official sources, Mexico 1968 presents a narrative of the uprising and subsequent repression that differs significantly from official reports. It also examines the dynamics of the Mexican economy on an international scale, paying careful attention to the role that US intervention played in shaping the conditions that the protests grew out of. Photographs from the demonstrations and illustrations inspired by the events are scattered among the text, which is broken up into essays and articles by various writers. Illustrations in a striking red on the front and back wrappers show skeleton-like soldiers armed with rifles and bayonets, as well as a tank whose treads display the five rings of the Olympic Games.
Mexico 1968 traces the student movement back to a conflict between two groups of students from rival schools that was met with surprising brutality by granaderos (grenadiers/riot police). This event sparked an uprising, prompting demonstrations that grew in size as the summer went on, all of which were met by violence from police and the army. Students barricaded themselves inside the schools, leading to invasions by the granaderos and the army that violated university autonomy and left many dead, injured, or arrested.
The protests blossomed to cover a range of social, political, and economic grievances directed at Mexican President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz and the Institutionalized Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) regime. The government’s expensive preparations for the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in contrast with the lack of resources allotted for social services was also a point of contention. Mexico 1968 provides a historical class analysis of the political and economic problems that led to the social unrest, as well as the antecedents that paves the way for the movement that began on July 22, 1968.
The demonstrations largely ended after an initially peaceful rally at the Plaza of Three Cultures. Plainclothes police opened fire into the crowd, sparking a violent response from the army that surrounded the protesters. Students and bystanders were equally targeted, and those that fled into the nearby Tlatelolco housing projects were pursued, shot at, beaten, and arrested. Though the government put the official death toll at between 20 and 28 people, Mexico 1968 depicts the event as a massacre of hundreds, including children, with hundreds more arrested, tortured, and disappeared. With most of the movement’s leadership either dead or in custody, the movement fizzled out, and, with the government-controlled media refusing to report on the situation, it became buried under the fanfare surrounding the Olympic Games.
Published the year of the demonstrations and the Tlatelolco Massacre, the book presents a perspective that significantly differs from the official explanation for the violence. The government blamed student militants for provoking the attack, explaining that the army acted only in self-defense. Mexico 1968 posits that instead, plainclothes policemen acted as agents provocateurs and provoked the massacre. In 2001, Mexican President Vicente Fox released formerly classified documents related to the massacre, which revealed that special forces called the Falcons opened fire from the surrounding buildings and provoked and coordinated the attack on government orders. Mexico 1968’s analysis of the events proved to be largely accurate.
The Mexican student demonstrations of that summer were not the only student uprisings of 1968. Another that played out several months earlier was the student uprising in Paris, in which students occupied their universities in protest of the closure of their schools by administration. Action, edited by Jean Pierre Vigier between May 7, 1968 and May 2, 1969, provides a contemporary account of the events of the May 1968 student uprising in Paris from the point of view of the students who participated in the demonstrations and the strike. Action documents events occurring in France as well as internationally with a focus on the happenings in Paris. Through articles, essays, photographs, cartoons, and posters, Action provides comprehensive coverage of the uprisings that froze Paris that May.
The first several issues between May 7 and June 24 cover the student demonstrations and the general strike in and around Paris in 1968 that lasted between May 2 and June 23. The conflicts began with a series of student occupations of Paris universities in the Latin Quarter of the city in protest against capitalism, consumerism, imperialism, and traditional institutions and values. The demonstrations evolved into a mass movement that sought to overthrow the prevailing socioeconomic structure of state-capitalist society and build an equal society founded on leftist thought. The occupation of the universities and associated demonstrations were met by brutality from the police and the military, leaving many students dead, injured, or arrested. Inside the occupied universities, students and faculty built small societies without hierarchies called Comités d’Action (Action Committees), in which responsibilities were shared and actions were based on the desire to change one’s circumstances.
A key feature of the movement and a focal point of Action, Comités d’Action were created to address specific concerns or needs, including reaching out to the workers and encouraging their participation in the movement. Comités d’Action were the result of student experimentation with direct democracy, and eventually numbered in the hundreds. Action itself was produced and published by several Comités d’Action, with the support of the Union Nationale des Étudiants de France (UNEF). On May 14, the movement spread to the factories, leading to mass demonstrations of workers and the beginning of the two-week long wildcat general strike that 11 million workers participated in. Other demonstrations took place throughout Paris, calling for the overthrow of the government and the holding of new elections, leading President Charles de Gaulle to flee the country for a few hours. On May 30, de Gaulle proposed a new election to be held on June 23, and the threat of revolution faded. Afterwards, the movement lost steam – workers returned to the factories, universities were reclaimed and reopened, and the violence ended. Action continued to be published for almost another year, reporting on current events and maintaining a revolutionary fervor, but the movement itself had since ended.
Although subsequent issues continue to focus on events in Paris and in larger France, many of the articles began to have an international element as well. Action covers many of the other demonstrations, uprisings, and conflicts of 1968, including the Prague Spring, the Vietnam War, US student protests, the German student movement, and the Mexico student uprisings of 1968. The newspaper provides a leftist, student perspective on the international unrest of the time, the writers showing their solidarity with the students and the protesters. In addition to covering current events, many essays and articles were dedicated to exploring and analyzing the history of the class struggle and communist thought.
Mexico 1968 and Action provide contemporary perspectives on events that shaped history, and serve as key primary sources for understanding the unrest of the summer of 1968. The Sounds of ’68 Exhibition presents another perspective on the year, showing how music both reflected and shaped the attitudes of the time. Between January 16 and April 22, come visit the Saltarelli Gallery in Wilson Library to see and hear the emergence of influences that still reverberate loudly today. As we leave a year of comparable social unrest and approach the 50th anniversary of these uprisings, it is as important as ever to study the student movements and their subsequent repression that characterized 1968.
To prepare for the Wilson Special Collection Library’s upcoming Hallowzine! event, I wanted to learn more about the history of zines to gain a better understanding of the historical and social contexts they evolved from. When I started my research, it seemed that without fail any website or article I found about zines would always begin by trying to answer one question: “What is a zine?” The answer is broad, and the content, style, and audience of zines vary widely, but there are several shared characteristics that make a zine:
Zines are self-published or published by a small, independent publisher. Self-publishing allows marginalized voices to express themselves beyond the constraints of mainstream media, and also lets authors take control of the process of publishing. Zines also present an alternative to the hierarchical and commodified world of mainstream media.
Zines are non-commercial, and are printed in small numbers, circulating only through specific networks. They are underground publications that tend to have niche audiences.
Zines provide a vehicle for ideas, expression, and art. They build connections between people and within groups, and provide modes of communication in addition to information dissemination.
There are exceptions to every rule, and though many have shared characteristics, there is no formal definition of a zine.
Zines were first created in the science fiction fandoms of the 1930s, taking their name from fanzine, which is short for “fan magazine.” Long before the advent of the Internet, zines allowed fans to create networks, share ideas and analyses, and collaborate on writing and artwork.
The counterculture movements associated with the Beat generation of the 1950s and 1960s saw a growth of the underground press, which played an important role in connecting the people across the US. Although the underground press often involved significantly more people and resources in the production of materials, it provided a function that became a key part of zine culture in the 1980s and beyond: giving people a voice outside the scope of the mainstream media.
Art and literary magazines of the 1960s and 1970s were based on a similar need to circumvent the commercial art world, and were printed cheaply and spread through small, niche networks. Many of them combined art, politics, culture, and activism into a single eclectic publication, redefining what a magazine could be, and influencing the rise of activist artists’ magazines that shaped the punk and feminist scenes later on.
The punk music scene of the 1980s expanded upon the self-published format by creating a wide of array of constantly evolving zines dedicated to the musical genre that were both fanzines and political tracts. Punk zines were more than just magazines–they represented the aesthetic and ideals of an entire subculture, a condensed version of this cultural revolt against authoritarianism.
Similarly subversive, the riot grrrl movement grew out of the punk subculture and developed a zine culture of its own, focusing on feminism, sex, and chaos. The Sallie Bingham collection at Duke University’s Rubenstein Library has a large selection of zines by women and girls created during this period. The collection’s website also provides a short description of the role of zines within the riot grrrl movement:
“In the 1990s, with the combination of the riot grrrl movement’s reaction against sexism in punk culture, the rise of third wave feminism and girl culture, and an increased interest in the do-it-yourself lifestyle, the women’s and grrrls’ zine culture began to thrive. Feminist practice emphasizes the sharing of personal experience as a community-building tool, and zines proved to be the perfect medium for reaching out to young women across the country in order to form the ‘revolution, girl style.'”
Examples of zines can be found at the Sloane Art Library as well as in the Rare Book Collection. Within the Rare Book Collection, zines comprise part of the Beats Collection, the Mexican Comic Collection, and the Latino Comic Collection. All three collections provide diverse examples of the genre.
The Mexican Comic Collection, a collection of comic books and other graphic material produced in Mexico by Mexican writers and artists, contains examples of self-published artist zines and fanzines from the contemporary comic and graphic novel scene.
The Latino Comic Collection, a collection of comics and graphic material produced by contemporary US-born Latino artists and writers, also contains several examples of zines. Many of them are small, hand-drawn booklets, but others are more professionally produced.
Pizza Puffs, a zine made to share one of the artist’s favorite recipes. PN6726.L38
If you’re interested in learning more about zines, check out the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s Sallie Bingham Collection at Duke University, which contains a robust collection of zines by women and girls. They also provide a resource page that is an excellent starting point for learning more about zines and their history.
And if you’re interested in making zines, please join us on October 31st from 1:00 pm – 4:00pm for Hallowzine!, a zine-making event at Wilson Library where you can learn more about zines and apply your DIY skills to making one of your own. A variety of zines from the Sloane Art Library’s collection will also be on display in Wilson Library during the event, so please stop by!
This year, the Wilson Special Collections Library is partnering with the Sloane Art Library to support the art community of UNC with the Incubator Awards: Research Grants for Creative Artists. The Incubator Awards are designed to encourage students to draw on UNC’s Special Collections for creative research, and will provide financial and research support to project proposals that incorporate UNC’s historical and rare library materials into their artistic practice. In November, selected proposals will be awarded for the Spring 2018 semester. Awards provide between $1000 and $3000 in financial support for projects. Applications will be evaluated based on the feasibility and strength of the proposed projects. Graduate and undergraduate students from all creative disciplines are welcome to participate.
To learn more about the Incubator Awards, join us for the Incubator Awards Open House on Tuesday, October 10th. At the event, applicants will have an opportunity to discuss their interests and potential project with the library staff, and browse a diverse sample of special collections materials. This will be a drop-in, informal event for those interested in our collections to help formulate ideas for projects.
Artists using special collections material often have a different relationship to research than traditional academic researchers. Special collections research provides creative artists an opportunity to enhance and inform their work, but may take a more open-ended, exploratory path. This topic is explored in an entertaining zine from the Providence Public Library in Providence, RI, created by a local artist in collaboration with library staff called “Lizard Ramone in Hot Pursuit: A Guide to Archives for Writers and Makers.” The comic tale is designed to “demystify archival research” and be a “bridge helping artists and archivists to find each other.” Our hope is to create another such bridge between creators and librarians through the Incubator Awards.
If you’ve never used our Special Collections before, and even if you have, this is a great opportunity to dive into our unique and vast repository of books, music, films, maps, and other materials in your creative work. The Incubator Awards aim to foster engagement with UNC’s rich cultural and historical resources and encourage students to pursue new directions, topics, or methods in their work and creative process.