Wisconsin Undergraduates Share the RBC’s Tale of Sweeney Todd


UWGB Editorial Team
The 2017-8 editorial team. L-R: UWGB students Faith Klick, Heather Matchefts, Sara Ladwig, Emma Ferron, Marisa Slempkes, Miriam Laird, Erica Sorenson, Maria Lemens, Kyle Pech-Kortbein, and Beth Siltala. Photo by Rebecca Nesvet.

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.


The Incubator Awards: Research Grants for Creative Artists

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.

Incubator Awards Poster: Research Grants for Creative Artists

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.

Excerpt from Lizard Ramone in Hot Pursuit
An excerpt from Lizard Ramone in Hot Pursuit about using archives for creative research

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.

A Tearful Goodbye to Sandi Honnold

On March 15, 2017, Wilson Library said goodbye to Sandi Honnold after 38 years of service to the Libraries. Sandi began her career in 1979 and over the years has worn many hats. Since 2009, she has been part of the Special Collections Technical Services department, working behind the scenes to provide accurate resource description and access for rare books.

L to R: Nancy Kaiser, LeTroy Gardner, Sandi Honnold, Eileen Dewitya, and Elizabeth Ott

Sandi’s retirement comes at the end of a long and wonderful career. Colleagues past and present stopped by Wilson to say goodbye, giving speeches attesting to Sandi’s warm and friendly personality, as well as her deep institutional knowledge. Sandi brought an ethic of hard work and care to the RBC, and we are sad to say goodbye!

Jan Paris gave a tearful speech about Sandi’s years at Wilson Library

The following speech was delivered by Eileen Dewitya, Head of the Bibliographic Technical Services section for Special Collections:

Over the span of her career, Sandi developed into a talented rare book librarian as she learned each of the specific areas involved in rare book librarianship and became a resource to her colleagues. She was responsible for ordering/acquiring rare materials, accessioning once the items arrived at Wilson, cataloging up to national standards, working on exhibitions, participating in programming events, meeting with donors, and managing student employees (many of whom became librarians themselves). She always kept us moving forward with her attention to detail, incredible memory, infinite patience, and caring ways.

Sandi has been my partner in crime the past 7.5 years, offering constructive feedback, ideas, historical context, unconditional support, and a sense of humor. I always trusted in her ability to hire exceptional students, and I knew she’d jump in to take on more work when staffing needs shifted and left us short.  

Sandi has been a most thoughtful team player, not only for the Rare Book Collection and Technical Services, but also for the greater Wilson Library. She was always one of the first to volunteer for reference shifts when her colleagues needed assistance due to illness or scheduling conflicts. 

The national cataloging standard has changed over time, and Sandi has weathered pre-AACR2, AACR2, and RDA. We have laughed and commiserated along the way, but you have done it gracefully and successfully. When I looked at your official application form, your comment under Typing ability was, “a bit slow but accurate.” You always joked about your technical skills, but you were always willing to put the time in and learn something new.

Sandi, you have been the library’s constant for 38 years, and mine since July 6, 2009. You’ve done so much work and been a great friend along the way. Thank you for everything. We all wish you much happiness in the future!

Wilson Library Receives $5 Million Gift

Photo by Mark B. Perry, Jr.

We are excited to announce that Wilson Special Collections Library has received a $5 million gift, the largest in the history of UNC Libraries, from alumna Florence Fearrington (’58). The gift will facilitate infrastructural improvements in the third floor reading room, renamed the Fearrington Reading Room in Florence’s honor, and will enable us to continue building the Library’s collections for future readers.

Read more on the Library News and Events Blog and The Daily Tar Heel.

Commemorating Waterloo

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, the battle in which Napoleon was at last decisively defeated. Now remembered primarily as a conflict between England and France, the Battle of Waterloo took place south of Brussels in present-day Belgium and included armies from Prussia, Austria, Hanover, Nassau, the Duchy of Brunswick, and England. This Seventh Coalition formed expressly to defeat Napoleon after his return to power during the Hundred Days following his exile on Elba. The Battle of Waterloo ended Napoleon’s rule and two decades of war across the continent of Europe. A precursor to the World Wars of the twentieth century, the Napoleonic Wars brought issues of imperialism and nationalism to the fore, inaugurating modern warfare as they changed the face of Europe.

“View from Mont St. Jean at the Battle of Waterloo,” from Thomas Hartwell Horne, An Illustrated Record of Important Events in the Annals of Europe, During the Last Four Years… (London, 1816) | D308 H81 1817

The Battle of Waterloo is also significant in its immediate incorporation into popular imagination. Only days after news of the victory reached British soil, the battle was already being heralded as one of the most important events in history. Commemoration of the battle began within weeks, bolstered by eye-witness accounts from returning soldiers–many more of whom were literate than had ever been the case in previous wars.

M. De Beauchamp, An Authentic Narrative of the Campaign of 1815… (London, 1815) | Hoyt 235

Accounts of the battle took advantage of modern media. Portraits of the generals and principle agents of the battle appeared frequently, creating a cult of celebrity around the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon in particular. Maps, memorials, charts, and dramatic scenes all sought to deliver to the British reader an authentic experience of the battle and its particulars.

Literary reactions to the battle also abounded. Newspapers and journals of the day printed patriotic poetry affirming Britain’s supremacy in the wake of the victory. Leading writers, regardless of their political affiliations, joined the chorus. Sir Walter Scott was among the first to try his hand. His highly publicized Field of Waterloo figured itself as a philanthropic gesture; the proceeds were to fund relief efforts for returning soldiers.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 10.32.00 AM
John Booth, The Battle of Waterloo… (London, 1815) | Hoyt 237
Walter Scott, The Field of Waterloo (Edinburgh, 1815) | PR3513 F5 c.2

William Wordsworth, long troubled by the threat to European culture and history represented by the chaotic ruin of Napoleon’s campaign, published an ambitious Pindaric ode titled Thanksgiving Ode, January 18, 1916 to commemorate the battle–an effort that met with mixed reviews due to his reluctance to praise the Duke of Wellington, whom he was known to dislike.

A sonnet included with the first publication of Thanksgiving Ode | William Wordsworth, Thanksgiving Ode, January 18, 1816 (London, 1816) | PR5869 .T43 1816

Robert Southey’s contribution, The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo, participated in the emerging tourist culture that surrounded Waterloo and other sites of the wars. Southey’s visitation to the scene of the battle provides a template for the literary traveller, who can follow in the poet’s footsteps on a pilgrimage of his own. That Southey’s poem was used as a kind of guide book is apparent in the Rare Book Collection’s copy, which is bound together with an actual travel guide to Belgium, published in the same year.

PR5464_P6_1816_la belle
Robert Southey, The Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo (London, 1816) | PR5464 P6 1816
The Battle of Waterloo… (Manchester, 1816) | Hoyt 368

The primacy of the battle did not fade as the nineteenth century wore on. It remained a watershed moment in the British cultural consciousness. Eye-witness accounts of the battle continued to emerge throughout mid-century, including Fanny Burney’s posthumously published narrative in her Diary and Letters of Madame d’Arblay (1842) and Robert Gleig’s popular Story of the Battle of Waterloo (1848). William Makepeace Thackeray’s fictionalized version of the battle provided emotional crisis for the heroine of his much-read novel Vanity Fair (1847).

Models and panoramas of the battle provided another avenue for commemoration. Panorama paintings first began to appear in the 1780s but gained wide popularity during the nineteenth century as a pre-cinematic immersive experience for those who could not afford to travel to historic sites. Guides, prints, pamphlets, and other ephemeral publications produced in conjunction with panorama displays can help us recreate the space of the panorama, if not the experience.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 10.32.27 AM
Great National Panorama of the Battle of Waterloo, Painted by Chevalier Philip Fleisher (London, 18–) | Hoyt 1147

Patrons interested in learning more about the history of Waterloo may consult the Rare Book Collection’s Hoyt Collection of French History. The collection includes over 5,000 valuable books and documents related to the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.

Juliana Powell Earns Student Employee Award

image001The Rare Book Collection is proud to congratulate Juliana Powell, Class of 2016, on winning the 2014–2015 Library Student Employee Appreciation Award. Recipients of the award are chosen by SLAB, the Student Library Advisory Board, a dynamic group comprised of graduate and undergraduate students who broadly represent the academic programs and overall diversity of the UNC student body.

Juliana has worked in the Wilson Library as a student employee since 2012. Her wide-ranging intellectual interests, which span from Japanese language and culture to biology and medical sciences, are matched by an assiduous work ethic. Juliana’s primary duties include paging and reshelving books in the Rare Book Collection, as well as special projects.

We asked Juliana to contribute her thoughts on her work at Wilson, and to tell us about her favorite volume handled during her time as a research and reference associate. She had this to say:

“There are undoubtedly numerous collections that I could comment on, including C.S. Lewis’s personal, annotated library, as well as the Wordsworth collection with its winsome bindings and Type-A cataloguing system. I have collected antique books with my mother since I was a child, namely children’s books that include first editions of Maurice Sendak’s work and Sam, Bangs & Moonshine by Evaline Ness. Although there are few children’s books in the Rare Book Collection, Wilson’s copy of The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey is a children’s book with illustrations similarly styled to the work of the aforementioned authors. The nature of the book and that of Gorey’s previous work ranges from innocent to nothing less than sombre, and I was captivated by this light-hearted, yet, anomalous story. For me, the following verses summarize a genuine reaction towards life, and it has taken my fastidious self years to realize that I am not capable of being in control of every aspect of my life. In the grand scale of a metaphor, however, expecting the doubtful guest and knowing when to surrender concerns is an equally anomalous story in and of itself.”

When they answered the bell on that wild winter night,
There was no one expected—and no one in sight.
Then they saw something standing on top of an urn,
Whose peculiar appearance gave them quite a turn.
All at once it leapt down and ran into the hall,
Where it chose to remain with its nose to the wall.
It was seemingly deaf to whatever they said,
So at last they stopped screaming, and went off to bed.

The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey is call no. PS3513 .O614 D6
The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey is call no. PS3513 .O614 D6

Thank you Juliana! For more information on the awards, see the UNC Library News Blog.

Celebrating the Seven Millionth

Reception in Peacock Atrium of the FedEx Global Education Center
Reception in Peacock Atrium of the FedEx Global Education Center

A week ago, on Thursday March 20, some two hundred Library supporters gathered in the FedEx Global Education Center’s Peacock Atrium for a reception and viewing of UNC-Chapel Hill’s seven millionth volume, Juan Latino’s first book, the first book of poetry in a Western language published by an individual of Sub-Saharan African descent.

Food for the mind. The first literary work of the African Diaspora in the West
Food for the mind. The first literary work of the African Diaspora in the West. Juan Latino, Ad Catholicum, pariter et invictissimum Philippum . . . (Granada, 1573) / PA8540 .L615 A65 1573 supv’d
Professors Frank Domínguez, Bill Andrews, and Rosa Perelmutter
Professors Frank Domínguez, Bill Andrews, and Rosa Perelmuter
Food of the more common kind to sustain the evening's intellectual activity
Food of the more common kind, to sustain the evening’s intellectual activity
Teresa Chapa, Latin American and Iberian Studies Librarian
Teresa Chapa, Latin American, Iberian, and Latina/o Studies Librarian
Professors Genna Rae McNeil and Bereket Selassie, foreground
Professors Genna Rae McNeil and Bereket Selassie, foreground










After much joyous socializing, the crowd moved into the Nelson Mandela Auditorium, where University Librarian Sarah Michalak welcomed the audience and spoke about the significance of Latino’s book for UNC-Chapel Hill. And then Borden Hanes formally presented the volume to Chancellor Carol Folt as the gift of the Hanes Foundation in memory of his father, University benefactor Frank Borden Hanes, Sr.

Borden Hanes and Chancellor Carol Folt
Borden Hanes and Chancellor Carol Folt and the book, with Carolina blue ribbon

Following Chancellor Folt’s acceptance on behalf of the University, Curator of Rare Books Claudia Funke had the great pleasure of introducing the evening’s speaker, Professor Michael A. Gómez, who gave a masterful address, “Juan Latino and the Dawn of Modernity.”

Michael Gomez and Juan Latino's first book
Michael Gómez, Professor of History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University, with Juan Latino’s book

The public program concluded with closing remarks from Sarah Michalak and the distribution of a beautifully printed keepsake edition of Professor Gómez’s lecture.

Curator of Rare Books Claudia Funke with a printed copy of Michael Gómez's lecture
Curator of Rare Books Claudia Funke with a copy of Michael Gómez’s lecture


Keepsake edition
Keepsake edition






Sarah Michalak and Borden Hanes
Sarah Michalak, University Librarian, and Borden Hanes, Chairman, John Wesley and Anna Hodgin Hanes Foundation




There were further festivities at Wilson Library, where the book will be on public view through April 17 and live thereafter in perpetuity in the Rare Book Collection. Seven is indeed a lucky number!

Daphne Bissette and Alia Wegner of the Rare Book Collection with Juan Latino's book
Daphne Bissette and Alia Wegner of the Rare Book Collection with Juan Latino’s book at Wilson Library


RBC's Tori Darden finishes an exciting evening's work with a smile
RBC’s Tori Darden finishes an exciting evening’s work with a smile

Snow Days

Wilson Library reopens tomorrow at 9 a.m. after two days closed due to the storm. We hope you had the chance to enjoy the snow and we look forward to welcoming you back.

Somewhere on the outskirts of Chapel Hill
Somewhere on the outskirts of Chapel Hill

Spanish Civil War Novels

Professor Lo Re with one of the novels
Professor Lo Ré with one of the novels

The Rare Book Collection was delighted to receive a visit this spring from Professor Anthony George Lo Ré, UNC alumnus and retired faculty member of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. Professor Lo Ré received his doctorate from Chapel Hill in 1965 with a thesis entitled The Novel of the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1960. To complete his dissertation, he corresponded with forty novelists and collected first and significant editions of their books. In 2004, he honored the University Library by donating his collection of over one hundred Spanish Civil War novels to the RBC.

The Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) began when armed Nationalists rose up against the Popular Front, a coalition of Liberals, Socialists, and Communists that was elected to govern the Second Republic of Spain. Hitler supported the Nationalists, led by General Francisco Franco, and the Republicans turned to the Soviet Union for aid. Foreigners sympathetic to the Republicans fought in the International Brigades, a phenomenon famously fictionalized by Ernest Hemingway in his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).

PQ6605 .A857 V4 1956
PQ6605 .A857 V4 1956

While many in the U.S. know Hemingway’s book, few know the dozens of Spanish-language novels that appeared during the war years. Publication also flourished a decade later, as Professor Lo Ré established in his thesis. One of the most popular of the second wave of novels was El Vengador [The Avenger] (1956), by José Luis Castillo Puche, a friend of Hemingway. Castillo Puche, according to the account he gave to Professor Lo Ré, had a complex personal history that intersected with different aspects of the conflict. He served in the Red Army, while his family was persecuted and almost exterminated; he experienced a religious crisis at the end of the war and entered a Roman Catholic seminary; and he subsequently abandoned his religious vocation to study journalism. Castillo Puche wrote El Vengador out of a need for inner peace, as he noted in his letter of July 27, 1960, which is printed in the appendix of Professor Lo Ré’s thesis. Castillo Puche’s Hicieron Partes (1958) had won Spain’s National Prize of Literature. However, the author judged El Vengador to be his novel that had had the most success—a novel about the futility and sterility of vengeance. The original edition’s existentialist cover art certainly resonates with that message.

When Professor Lo Ré acquired El Vengador over half a century ago, it was a recent publication. Today, it and the other novels he donated to RBC have the patina of the past. Thanks to Professor Lo Ré’s generosity, researchers now have the opportunity to consult these evocative volumes at Wilson and examine one of the twentieth century’s most polarizing world events through the literature it engendered.