A Hepster’s Dictionary

–Music & Lyrics by Al Sherman & Harry Tobias from the film Sensations of 1945.

Cab Calloway (1907-1994 ). The New Cab Calloway’s Cat-ologue: A Hepster’s Dictionary. 2nd revised ed.  ([New York?]: Privately published by the author, 1939). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process


The first Black American musician to sell a million records from a single song, Cab Calloway (1907-1994) was also the first to write a dictionary. Working with his manager, Irvin Mills, Calloway recorded the unique lexicon he and his fellow musicians had developed and published it in June 1838 as Cab Calloway’s Cat-ologue: a Hepster’s Dictionary. It was so successful a second revised edition was published the following year as The New Cab Calloway’s Cat-ologue, with a foreword by Ned E. Williams (managing editor of Downbeat magazine). Seven more editions followed through 1944.

Calloway’s foreword to the 1944 volume began: “Some six years ago I compiled the first glossary of words, expressions, and the general patois employed by musicians and entertainers in New York’s teeming Harlem. That the general public agreed with me is amply evidenced by the fact that the present issue is the sixth edition since 1938 and is the official jive language reference book of the New York Public Library. … Many [words] first saw the light of printer’s ink in Billy Rowe’s widely read column “The Notebook,” in the Pittsburgh Courier.”

He wasn’t kidding. According to the New York Daily News, June 3, 1944, “The New York Public Library announces that it will use Cab Calloway’s Hepsters’ Dictionary as the official jive reference book…”

This wonderful radio program from the BBC will tell you everything: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b04mcmnl


Armstrongs are the musical notes in the upper register and friskin’ the whiskers means the musicians are warming up. A barbecue is a girl friend and if you need a match you would say, Boot me that match.”

[Newark, Ohio] 17 June 1938: 4.



Calloway and his orchestra played at Princeton many times, but he never left a copy of his dictionary.


Minneapolis Tribune 18 June 1944: 32.



Matthews’ views of Sierra Leone

The papers of Captain John Matthews (died 1798), lieutenant in the Royal Navy were pulled yesterday to view his watercolors of the African coast, mostly 1785-1797. The Matthews collection, C1575, documents his involvement in the transatlantic commerce of enslaved Africans in Sierra Leone. Four detailed journals document Matthews’s employment as an agent for the African Company of Merchants between 1785 and 1787; as captain of the HMS Vulcan and the HMS Courageux in the Mediterranean Sea during the 1793 campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars; and as captain of the HMS Maidstone, a British patrol ship monitoring trade in Sierra Leone and the Caribbean in 1797 and 1798.

The watercolors by Matthews were engraved by William Porter for his later published book. One is by Lieut J. Larcom and four signed M.C. Watts.

“…By this conversation nothing more is meant by the African than that his brother, or his friend, was gone into the country to purchase slaves from the nations who are at war; or, perhaps, his own tribe might be at war with some of the neighboring states; and as they in general sell their prisoners, (though even now it is not always the case, revenge sometimes proving too powerful for avarice) they may with the ship to remain in expectation of having more prisoners to dispose of, But I must again repeat that the primary cause of these wars is not merely to procure slaves, but arises from the captious, quarrelsome, and vindictive, disposition of the people. But it is not the prisoners made in the wars which the inhabitants of the sea-coast have with each other, nor those whom the laws of their country, in consequence of their crimes, punish with slavery, that constitute a tenth part of the Naves who are purchased by the Europeans; for, in fact, the inhabitants of the sea-coast are only the merchants and brokers, and carry the goods which they receive from the Europeans into the interior country, and there purchase the slaves from other merchants. The nations who inhabit the interior parts of Africa, east of Sierra-Leone, profits the Mahometan religion; and, following the means prescribed by their prophet, are perpetually at war with the surrounding nations who refuse to embrace their religion …”

–selection from: John Matthews, A voyage to the River Sierra-Leone, on the coast of Africa; containing an account of the trade and productions of the country, and of the civil and religious customs and manners of the people; in a series of letters to a friend in England by John Matthews … during his residence in that country in the years 1785, 1786, and 1787. With an additional letter on the subject of the African slave trade. Also, a chart of part of the coast of Africa, from Cape St. Ann, to the River Rionoonas; with a view of the island Bananas (London, Printed for B. White and Son, and J. Sewell, 1788). https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009710868


See more of the journals and Matthews sketches digitized: https://dpul.princeton.edu/wa/catalog/cc08hk56t


Julio Plaza and Augusto de Campos

Julio Plaza (1938-2003), Objetos Serigrafias Originais; Augusto de Campos Poema (São Paulo: Julio Pacello, 1968-69). Illustrated book with poem and ten cut-and-folded screen prints. Copy VI of 30 ex. FC (outside the trade). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021-in process


In the late 1960s, the Brazilian artist Julio Plaza began experimenting with cut and folded paper. “There was the idea of breaking with plastic form and advancing into space,” he remembered. Various models were developed working on stiff white paper, which would eventually be screen printed in bright primary colors.

Augusto de Campos was brought in to write a critical essay as the forward to whatever this book project was going to be but instead, he chose to write concrete poetry integrated into Plaza’s moving shapes. Published as Objetos, these were in fact the first poemóbiles. Plaza and de Campos continued to work on various projects throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including Caixa Preta and many editions of Poemóbiles.




The pages of Objetos are folded and placed inside a colorful slipcase, allowing for the exhibition of individual sheets alone or in multi-layer groups. Although they are usually photographed as perfectly symmetrical geometric forms, they can be seen at a variety of stages of opening or closing, from a variety of angles.

Other projects in paper architecture include Abracadabra by Werner Pfeiffer, Dieter Roth’s Book AC 1958-1964 and various projects by the Dutch graphic artist and resistance fighter Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman, all available in the Graphic Arts Collection at Princeton.








The First Opium War

The First Opium War between Great Britain and China ended with the signing of the Treaty of Nanking on August 29, 1842. Sir Henry Pottinger met with Qiying, Yilibu, and Niu Jian to finalize the document. The treaty was ratified by the Daoguang Emperor on October 27, 1842 and by Queen Victoria on December 28, 1842. This allowed for the opening of five ports including Amoy, Guangzhou, Foochow, Shanghai and Ningpo, altering British-Chinese trade for the rest of the century.

Several British artists depicted the major battles and final events of that war, including Michael Angelo Hayes (1820–1877) and Sir Harry Francis Colville Darrell (1814-1853). One artist who has no record of Opium War battle scenes is George Cruikshank (1792-1878). Nevertheless, when Richard W. Meirs, class of1888, donated his George Cruikshank collection — including approximately 1000 books, nearly 1,000 prints, drawings, oil paintings, broadsides, panoramas, and a significant archive of correspondence — the six watercolor sketches concerning the First Opium Wars were attributed to George Cruikshank.

Recently the Cruikshank attribution has been called into question. Not only is the line quite different from his other work, Cruikshank was extremely busy at that period illustrating his own publications and creating plates for Richard Harris Barham, Catherine Grace Frances Moody Gore, Thomas Ingoldsby, Samuel G. Goodrich, and William Harrison Ainsworth. We are now researching the six Opium War sketches to find their true artist. Do you have a suggestion? A start might be this lithograph [above] by James Henry Lynch after Michael Angelo Hayes, The 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot at the storming of the forts of Amoy, 26 August 1841. More work is needed to make an attribution.



Tennyson Cigar, 5 Cents

Alfred, Lord Tennyson by London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company, ca. 1870

Tennyson cigars 5 cents: Panetela and Invincible, long filler imported Sumatra wrapper ([Detroit]: Mazer Cressman Cigar Co., Inc. makers, no date, [ca.1920]). Graphic Arts Collection 8359710

John Bain, Tobacco in Song and Story (H. M. Caldwell, 1896). [left]


Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) was a well-known lover of cigars. In his honor, the Mazer Cressman Cigar Company in Detroit named one of their best for the poet. In addition, the Cadillac Can Company manufactured a tin humidor for display in stores, featuring a lithographed portrait of Tennyson when open. There are several other boxes or canisters advertising Tennyson cigars, a few pictured here.

Steal This Post

Fifty years ago, when Steal This Book was published by Abbie Hoffman, Peter Vandevanter, Class of 1973, checked to see if the bookstore would carry it. He shared his findings in the Daily Princetonian (March 18, 1971): “Princeton’s book store seems amused and un-intimidated by the new book. ‘I definitely couldn’t put a book like that out on the shelves, because I’m afraid someone would steal it,’ commented Ralph Shadovitz, the buyer for the Princeton Book Mart on Palmer Square. But he does plan to stock the book behind the counter if it receives sufficient advertising. The Princeton University Store has ordered the paperback, which will be ready for sale in mid-April. The Resistance Book Store has no knowledge of the new Hoffman book, according to co-manager Mary Ann Bacon. ‘If Abbie Hoffman will send it to us free, we’ll be glad to put it on the shelves for anyone to take free.’”

At the time, neither Princeton University Library nor the Library of Congress added the book to their holdings. Today, a section from the book can be read in Princeton’s copy of “The Best of Abbie Hoffman.” Both Harvard and Yale have a copy locked in the non-circulating rare book vaults. No copy is available on Googlebooks or HathiTrust, although a portion of the study guide for students is available online (listed as a nonfiction classic). If you are a member of the Internet Archive, you can log in and read it, otherwise only the first few pages are visible.

Although the book was published in April 1971, it wasn’t until July that Dotson Rader reviewed it for the New York Times, beginning “If you are a teenage runaway on the lam, or a 50-year-old executive finally gone bananas and about to drop out, then what you should probably read is Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book. It will tell you how to live for free and survive.”



In his introduction, Norman Mailer writes, “this book is a remarkable document, is, indeed, the autobiography of a bona fide American revolutionary . . . . Of course, we all think we know the sixties. I always feel I can speak with authority on the sixties and I never knew anybody my age who didn’t feel the same way (whereas try to find someone who gets a light in their eyes when they speak of the seventies). Yet reading this work, I came to decide that my piece of the sixties wasn’t as large as I thought. If we were going to get into comparisons, Abbie lived it, I observed it.”

Who was the first African American musician to perform at Carnegie Hall?

Onward ([Chicago:] W.L. Haskell, 1903). Poster mounted on linen and framed. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process

Reported to be the highest-paid African American performer of the late 19th century, soprano Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones (1868 or 1869–1933) was also the first African American to perform at Carnegie Hall in 1892 (called simply “the Music Hall” at that time). Sometimes billed as Black Patti, as in this 1903 poster titled “Onward,” the reference compares her to the white soprano Adelina Patti (1843-1919), a moniker Jones discouraged.

In 2018, The New York Times gave her an obituary, where she is quoted as saying, “Try to hide my race and deny my own people?” she responded in the interview… “Oh, I would never do that.” She added: “I am proud of belonging to them and would not hide what I am even for an evening.”–https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/15/obituaries/sissieretta-jones-overlooked.html

This poster promotes Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), alongside Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) with vignettes of prominent African Americans including Jones, Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963), Hightower T. Kealing (1859-1918), and Wilford H. Smith (1863-1926). A second version replaces the top and bottom with text listing the achievements of the central men.

The poster is one of many the white Chicago publisher William L. Haskell printed and sold with composites featuring the best poets, best musicians, and so on. Here is an early advertisement:

Between Lincoln and Douglass, a figure of Liberty appears holding a scroll with the motto, “Truth and justice / Shall not fail / Work and wisdom / Shall prevail.” The other scenes include illustrations of the house where Washington was born; a young Douglass learning to read; the log cabin where Lincoln was born; classroom and shop scenes from the historically black Tuskegee University in Alabama, which was co-founded by Washington; and a view of the Tuskegee campus.


Here, Carnegie Hall’s Archives and Museum Director Gino Francesconi relates the story of rise and fall of “The Black Patti” and how they came to have a very rare piece of Sissieretta Jones memorabilia on display in the Rose Museum at the Hall.

Who was the first African American musician to perform at the White House?

Blind Tom Concerts at Odd Fellows’ Hall, Columbia, Thursday Evening, October 29th, ‘68. Philadelphia, 1868. Printed handbill/program. 1868. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process.



The International Dictionary of Black Composers lists the 19th-century pianist who performed under the stage name “Blind Tom” as Thomas Greene Wiggins Bethune (1849-1908). Bethune was the name of the man who purchased Wiggins and his family when he was only a child and who served as his manager throughout his career (winning several court battles to retain custody). Wiggins was born blind and enslave but found to be a musical prodigy when Bethune bought a piano for his daughter. It was Wiggins who excelled on the instrument and made his concert debut at the age of 8.


Wiggins is believed to be the first African American performer to play at the White House, giving a concert for President James Buchanan in 1859, the same year newspaper advertisements bill him as “Blind Tom.” It would be untrue to say he was completely self-taught since as an adult he studied composition with W. P. Howard and with Joseph Pozananski.

Judging from his publicity at the time, Wiggins performed constantly until 1898, sometimes two or three times a day. An internationally celebrated figure, there is a great deal of information available on Wiggins, including a chapter in Oliver Sachs’ An Anthropologist on Mars, appearances in novels by Willa Cather and John Steinbeck, as well as the novel The Song of the Shank by Jeffrey Reynard Allen.

The Graphic Arts Collection acquired a previously unrecorded 1868 handbill/program for a series of Philadelphia concerts by Wiggins. It joins a broadside [left] already in our collections promoting the pianist.


Liberty Triumphant or The Downfall of Oppression

Attributed to Henry Dawkins (born England, active in New York, 1754-57; Philadelphia, 1757-72?; New York 1772-80), Liberty Triumphant or The Downfall of Oppression, published after December 27, 1773, but before April 1774. Engraving. 275 x 377mm. Purchased with funds given by the Friends of the Princeton University Library. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process

Thanks to the generous support from the Friends of the Princeton University Library, the Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired a remarkable pre-revolutionary war print, entitled Liberty Triumphant or The Downfall of Oppression, significant not only for the history and symbolism but for its excellent provenance. While many American historians focus on 1775 and after in terms of print and propaganda, it was 1773 and 1774 when opinions were more fluid on both sides of the Atlantic that are at once less well-known and deeply interesting.

Our impression of the rare Liberty Triumphant engraving comes from the highly regarded collection of Ambassador J. William Middendorf II (born 1924), which “includes some of the most important documents and works on paper representing the history of the United States from its 17th-century colonial origins through the American Revolution and the Founding Era.” As noted in Barron’s profile “the 96-year-old Middendorf II served as the U.S. ambassador to the European Union from 1985-87, and ambassador to the Netherlands from 1969 to 1973. He also served as the Secretary of the Navy from 1974-77.” He was also a preeminent collector of early Americana with an excellent eye, compelling no less than the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.) and the Baltimore Museum of Art to mount a major exhibition in 1967 of his American paintings and historical prints. In 1973, Sotheby’s held a sale of American historical prints, books, broadsides, maps from the collection of Ambassador and Mrs. J. William Middendorf II, but at that time the family retained their favorite pieces, unwilling to give them up, until now.

Henry Dawkins has an important connection with Princeton University. While we know very little about the artist, who immigrated to the American colonies around 1753 and settled in Philadelphia, we know he traveled regularly to New York City on the coach that rested in Princeton, NJ. He worked as assistant to James Turner until 1758, when he opened his own engraving shop. Of special note to Princeton friends is Dawkins’ engraving after William Tennant, A North-West Prospect of Nassau-Hall, with a Front View of the Presidents House, in New-Jersey, published in Samuel Blair’s An account of the College of New-Jersey, 1764. Two original copies, bound and unbound, are held by the Princeton University Library. We also have the rare portrait of his contemporary, the abolitionist Benjamin Lay, printed by Dawkins while both were living in the area. Significant research still needs to be done on this important but little known artist and what better place to focus that research than Princeton University.


Finally and most important is the inventive iconography and compelling narrative of this rare political print. The artist’s opposing scenes concern the American resistance, beginning late 1773 and early 1774, to the tea tax and the East India Company monopoly, presumably engraved shortly after the Boston Tea Party but before news arrived of the retaliatory “Intolerable Acts” that would close the Port of Boston. There is no evidence that Dawkins produce it as a magazine illustration or book frontispiece but rather printed it on his own, as one of the few large, separate engravings of the American Revolutionary period.

Each of the historical figures is identified from a key provided at the bottom, including Lord North, Lord Bute, John Kearsley, John Vardill, the Duke of Richmond, and others (18 in all). Interspersed with the living characters are allegorical figures, such as Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils, who whispers to Kearsley, “Speak in favor of ye [the] Scheme Now’s the time to push your fortune” and Kearsley replies “Gov T[ryon] will cram the Tea down the Throat of the New Yorkers.”

Our new Indigenous Studies department at Princeton University will find the depiction of America split equally between transplanted Europeans and Native Americans worth study. Labeled the “Sons of Liberty,” one says “Lead us to Liberty or Death,” printed approximately one year before Patrick Henry made his speech to the Second Virginia Convention proclaiming “Give me liberty or give me death.” Their group is led by an Indian queen rather than a male warrior, reflected above in the Goddess of Liberty, who proclaims “Behold the Ardour of my Sons and let not their brave Actions be buried in Oblivion.”

In his study of the four most important American political prints, including Liberty Triumphant, E.P. Richardson writes:

“Eighteenth-century American political prints are a difficult but fascinating study. They are extremely rare. The men and events depicted are often buried deep beneath onrushing time or, if remembered, are presented in so unfamiliar a perspective as to be hardly recognizable. But this is precisely the print’s importance. They show us how history felt as it happened; not the long chain of events of which we, looking backwards, see only the outcome.”

John William Middendorf II understood the importance of these rare sheets. He had the time and resources to collect some of the rarest and most important works representing the history of the United States from its 17th-century colonial origins through the American Revolution and the Founding Era. Now Princeton students can enjoy some of the same treasures.

Rethinking the Incarnation of God as a Corona Warrior

Fragment from Nisha Jha, Incarnation of God as a Corona Warrior, 2020. Ink and acrylic on paper. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2021- in process


The wonderful thing about these posts is the discussion and research and rethinking they initiate, either immediately or over time. Such is the case with this intriguing new acquisition. We are re-posting with new information and a slightly new interpretation thanks to Ellen Ambrosone and Peter Zirnis.

In this painting, Nisha Jha pairs two figures in one: the god Vishnu and a contemporary medical doctor taking a patient’s temperature with one hand while administering the COVID vaccine with the other: a Corona Warrior! The lifesaving syringe also forms a border isolating and protecting Mithila residents from the virus elsewhere.

This composite figure immediately brings to mind the union of the god Shiva and his wife Parvati in a form known as Ardhanarishvara, the god who is half female. But the chakra, a discus used as a weapon, in the god’s raised hand as well as the conch shells in the border tell us this is Vishnu, the god who periodically comes down to earth to rid the world of evil and restore the divine order.  In Corona Warrior Nisha Jha says she presents Vishnu in the form of a doctor to celebrate brave doctors everywhere, their sleepless nights and their absence from their homes. It is through their hard work that “Corona will lose soon and we will win.”


Nisha Kumari’s decision to focus on Vishnu and, purposefully or not, to invoke the easily recognizable male-female form of Shiva and Parvati, allows for a feminist interpretation of the painting. In this work, Vishnu is on the left (for the viewer) as Shiva would be in an image of Ardhanarishvara, and the doctor is on the right as Parvati would be in the same image. Parvati is no ordinary goddess but a form of Shakti, the supreme female force in the universe. Here we see a contemporary expression of the goddess in the form of a doctor battling covid-19 and cleansing the world of an epidemic. One could say we have multiple paintings before us. It’s a matter of looking. If you just see Vishnu you see one painting, if you see Ardhanarishvara you see a different painting.  Or you can see them both at the same time for a more complex view of the world expressed in the Corona Warrior.



This is one of a small group of contemporary Mithila paintings Princeton has acquired, also including work by Amrita Jha, Dulari Devi, Shalini Karn, and Naresh Kumar Paswan. Our sincere thanks go to Susan S. Wadley, professor emerita of anthropology at Syracuse University, for her invaluable help in forming this collection. A virtual session will be held in March entitled: Mithila Art in 2020: Life, Labor, and COVID-19 in South Asia.

Nisha Jha has been painting since she was a child and now works with her mother Vinita Jha refining her skills in a village near Madhubani town. She also has a bachelor’s degree in economics. “Nowadays wives and daughters also learn to paint and supplement family income with their work. Instead of going from village to village to show their scrolls, the patuas now exhibit at craft fairs and melas, and sometimes at venues abroad. Their paints were all made from natural plants, but now some of them admit to buying commercial products.” -Geraldine Forbes