The origin of curry, the saucy, spiced dish celebrated in India and Great Britain, is not exactly known. But it is now thought that similarly spiced dishes were developed concurrently, but independent of each other, in England and in India thanks to the spice routes that spanned from Asia and into Europe. Exotic spices like turmeric and pepper made their way into England during the conquests of the Romans in 40 AD and the Moors in 711 AD, and came in handy during Middle Ages when highly seasoned meats could make aging meat more palatable. Continue reading
Blogs across the Smithsonian will give an inside look at the Institution’s archival collections and practices during a month long blogathon in celebration of October’s American Archives Month. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.
Arthur Sydney Waller may be best known as the white hunter who led a 3,000 mile personal safari for the Duke of Gloucester in 1928 and for the entourage of the first MGM major motion picture shot in Africa, Trader Horn, in 1930. Waller is somewhat lesser known as one of the early breeders of the Rhodesian Ridgeback, first registered as a standardized dog breed by the South African Kennel Union in 1924 as the “Lion Dog”, and imported from Rhodesia into Kenya by Waller that same year. According to the memoir of his second wife, Kathleen, he also exported the first dogs to his homeland, England, in 1927 where they made quite a splash at the Kennel Club Show at the Crystal Palace London in 1928.
The absolute origin of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is still not certain. It is believed that in the late 1880’s Dutch settlers in the Cape Colony of South Africa bred an imported hound dog from one of their trade routes (possibly from Malaysia) with the aboriginal canine hunting companion of the nomadic Khoikhoi peoples (then named the Hottentots). Although the earliest presence of domesticated dogs in Africa dates back to 4700 BCE in Egypt and around 600 BC in southern Africa, just how indigenous that local Khoikhoi breed was is unclear, although it is considered by many to be the original Ridgeback.
Above all else, the Ridgeback is distinguished by a raised ridge of opposing hairs along its spine. Its temperament and endurance endear the Ridgeback to its master. Characterized by its loyalty, sweet temper, and valor, this barrel-chested animal was an ardent protector of the farmsteads, flocks, and campsites of the ever-widening colonial settlements. In the early 20th century big game hunters like Waller became very attracted to the Ridgeback because of the dogs’ renowned ability to “ball up” or keep at bay large animals such as lions.
Eventually, in large part due to Waller, a standardized breed of Ridgeback made its way north-northeast from the Cape area through Rhodesia (today, Zimbabwe) and into Kenya, where Waller had moved to profit from the influx of wealthy Englishmen and Americans keen on game hunting for sport. Waller died in Nairobi in 1952 of malaria, but during his lifetime the direct progeny of his Ridgebacks made their way to England, America, India, and Sweden.
Currently the Waller materials are being mined for historical documentation on the development of the Ridgeback breed. The Waller archive in the Russell E. Train Africana Collection includes several Sydney Waller photograph and news clipping albums (annotated!) and an unpublished memoir by Mrs. Kathleen Waller.
The Train collection, consisting largely of 19th and early 20th century Africana and featuring books, manuscripts, photographs, and artworks focused on exploration, adventure, and game hunting, awaits further exploration. Within, you can find material by and about David Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley, Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Francis Burton, Sydney Waller, and slew of others. To plumb the depths of this collection, contact the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History for information on access.
All images from the Russell E. Train Africana Collection in the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
*Author's correction (12/16/2011): The Waller family lived in Southern Rhodesia, not South Africa as was origially captioned in the photo above with the two family pets. The name Fairview refers to the family homestead, not the city in South Africa. Thanks to Linda Costa for catching this misinformation!
It is not hard to find special collections librarians who believe that there are no duplicates, meaning that no two printed items made by hand are the same, even if from the same type, plate, or press.
This may seem funny to some since the very goal of publishing and printing is to make reproduceable copies of the same thing over and over again, but if you consider that all aspects of early books and printed matter were made by hand: the type, the ink, the paper, the binding, the illustration plates, everything, then differences between copies that were meant to be the same may be a little easier to understand.
Think of a batch of homemade cookies and how they all taste the same, but each is a little different, some are rounder than others, some with more chips, etc.
So when the American Printing History Association (APHA) during their conference "Learning to Print, Teaching to Print" came to visit the Special Collections Department of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, there were plenty of things to show.
Consider these different copies of the same plate by Friedrich Heinrich von Kittlitz, a 19 century naturalist, artist, and explorer:
Each is printed from the same plate, but coloured by hand differently: some are spotted, some are not; some are striped, some are not, etc. This is not only interesting from a printer's and illustrator's point of view, but also from a scientist's point of view. In printing and the printing arts, there are so many variables that can influence the end product. This is why we say there are no duplicates and why, in part, special collections librarians and printing historians have jobs. We provide perspective about the historical and technical nuances of these handmade printed documents.
Other types of printed matter we displayed for APHA were modern handmade artist's books about the history of science, variant copies of an illustration in different editions of a Galileo work, an illustrated 18th century encyclopedia on how to print, a 19th century scientist's proof copy of printed illustrations with corrections alongside the original drawings.
But there was a time when science wasn't so exact.
In the 16th century when the natural sciences were just beginning to be developed and scientists were just beginning to venture farther out, the scientific rage was to compile encyclopedic tomes of all known animals and plants. In those volumes hearsay would oftentimes be used in place of direct observation.
When an animal could not be directly observed, images would be copied from other sources. The result would be exaggerated, and sometimes fantastical, images that were quite removed from what the actual beast looked like. Sort of like playing the game "Telephone" where the message becomes diluted and misinterpreted with each transmission.
For instance, Swiss naturalist Konrad Gesner (1516-1565) in his Icones Animalium (Animal Icons), shown to the left, copied some of his images of whales from Swedish historian Archbishop Olaus Mangus's (1490-1557) Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus (History of the Northern People).
So what looks like a sea monster to us is really a rendering of a killer whale, attacking a beaked whale, attacking a seal, as shown in the image at the bottom.
The Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History collects these valuable early works that are still used by researchers here at the Smithsonian Institution. —Daria Wingreen-Mason
Western Abenaki is an almost extinct form of the Algonquin language indigenous to Quebec on the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Quebec City.
This book is a purchase from the Frank T. Siebert sale. Siebert was a pathologist and scholar of Penobscot Indian linguistics. He amassed one of the largest and most complete collections of books on North American Indian linguistics ever known. His collection was dispersed at auction by Sotheby’s in 1999 after his death in 1998.
Native American Indian linguistics is a subject that Smithsonian Institution Libraries is committed to collecting. Catalog records for other Indian readers our collection can be found in SIRIS, the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System catalog.