Category Archives: Museum object collection

Britannia Set Me Free

Thanks to Steven Knowlton, Librarian for History and African American Studies, the Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired this oval framed plaque with a wax figure of a crouching slave in chains appealing to the representation of Britannia, with “Britannia set me free” lettered above the slave and a ship in background. The interior measures 90 by 90 mm, painted on ceramic or ivory with gilt mount, all in a contemporary turned wooden frame. [Great Britain, ca. 1830].

Quote taken from the dealer’s catalogue:

The image adapts the iconic design of the crouching figure with the motto “Am I not a man and a brother” first produced as a jasperware medallion by Wedgwood in 1787-88. The formation of Thomas Clarkson’s Committee for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1787, “marked the transition of what had hitherto been the Quaker cause of abolition into a national, even an international movement. The emblem of the campaign–designed by the master potter Josiah Wedgwood, a committed supporter–was an inspired piece of propaganda, worthy of the Roman Church, or of a modern political party” (Thomas). The image had an immediate impact–women wore the medallions as necklaces or transformed them into bracelets, pins, or brooches to identify themselves with the abolitionist cause.

The image also appeared on the title-page of works written in support of the abolitionist cause. After Wilberforce’s Bill to abolish the slave trade finally passed in 1807, activists turned their attention to the abolition of slavery and the image of the of the enchained, crouching slave was adapted for a new use. Now the image came to symbolize slavery generally and in the framed plaque, the crouching slave implores Britannia, a personification of the British nation, to set him free. The ship in the background may be a slave ship, and if so would allude to the earlier triumph of the campaign to abolish the slave trade and hint that a similar result awaits the anti-slavery campaign.

In the sky between the motto “BRITANNIA SET ME FREE” and standing Britannia, is the ever-open-eye, which symbolises the omniscience of God. The symbol reminds the viewer that God knows of all the injustices perpetrated by man and subtly suggests that the viewer is complicit in the injustice if he or she doesn’t act against it. There are a number of different versions of this wall plaquette. In one the frame is alabaster rather than wood–see the example residing at the Hull Museum [accession number KINCM: 2006.3747]. In others the visual layout of the scene is slightly different i.e. in one the figure has a white loincloth and the motto is more circular. The wall plaques were produced up until parliament passed the Abolition of Slavery Act in 1833.

See also: Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade, London, 2006, p.492.

When Size Matters: The Eidograph

A quick and (relatively) simple way to enlarge or reduce an engraving, map, or chart in the 19th century was to use a Pantograph. See:

But if you were a skilled, sophisticated graphic artist, you might prefer the more complex instrument known as the Eidograph, such as this one recently acquired by the Graphic Arts Collection.

Although a similar instrument can be traced to 1631 and the Jesuit astronomer Christoph Scheiner (1573-1650), we usually credit William Wallace (1768–1843) with the invention of the modern version in the 1820s. Princeton’s model was made by Joseph Casarelli’s Manchester firm, Casartelli & Sons, in the late 19th-century. Ours has a three foot beam calibrated 90-0-90 with vernier scale, locking screw, and cast pulleys connected to the center point by tension cables. Each connects by a similar vernier socket to their respective calibrated adjustable arms fitted with attachments for transposing lines onto paper.Pantograph Gif:

The Eidograph came housed in its original fitted mahogany box with its accessories and pasted instructions to the lid as well as a hand-written paper copy. The approximate measurements of the box are 36 x 5 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches (91 x 14 x 17 cm). According to a previous owner, this Eidograph was used in the Surveying Department of Eppleton Colliery, Hetton Le Hole in the Durham Coalfield. A similar example by Casartelli is in the Institution of Civil Engineers Museum Scotland.


As with many inventions, there are disagreements as to who the true inventor of the Eidograph really was and A.D.C. Simpson wrote the whole story in a wonderful article: “An Edinburgh Intrigue: Brewster’s Society of Arts and the Pantograph Dispute,” The Book of the Old Edinburgh Club 1 (1991): 47-73. DA 890.E2 B665 (Here’s a pdf: edinburgh intrigue). Well worth a read even if you will never own or use the instrument.

Eunice Burton Berger’s printing plates and illustrated music

When an author finishes a book or a poem, she sends the text off to a publisher. When a painter finishes an oil painting, it is hung in a gallery so buyers can see and hopefully, buy it. What happens to a composer who writes music for a marching band? How do you print the 35 parts and have them distributed to be copyrighted and played? The Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired a suitcase filled with the printing plates, proof sheets, and published music by Eunice Burton Berger (ca.1888-1966), a Dorchester, Massachusetts musician who did just that. Together with her husband, Louis H. Berger (1879-1965), an engineering and surveying instrument manufacturer, Berger wrote, printed, promoted, and sold her music to radio programs, military bands, and national music companies.

Note the initials, E.B.B. by the handle.

One of many examples of her self-promotion is a reply she received from Harvey S. Firestone Jr., Princeton University class of 1920 (1898-1973) and son of Harvey S. Firestone (1868-1938), in whose memory Princeton University’s Firestone Library is named. In addition to managing the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, both father and son sponsored The Voice of Firestone (originally called The Firestone Hour), a radio broadcast on NBC Radio beginning on December 3, 1928, featuring classical musicians and popular Broadway stars. The show later became the first series to be simulcast on both radio and television, and Harvey Jr. actively managed both the radio and television programs. [Broadcasts archived]It is unknown whether Berger’s music was ever included in one of the Firestone broadcasts.


Berger’s compositions include: “On the Brink,” “The Song of the Sea,” “The Spirit of Our Forefathers,” all copyrighted by her between 1939 and 1943, plus “Men of the Sea,” copyrighted in 1960. A few additional poems and partially completed musical scores are also found in her suitcase, along with correspondence between Berger and various members of the branches of the service thanking her for sending her scores. Copyright notices and certificates from the Library of Congress are present for each of her compositions along with paste-ups and proof at each stage of the printing process. There are contracts for royalties and research on the art to be included on the sheet music.

Engraved metal plates for “The Spirit of our Forefathers” come with instructions to the engraver as to what Berger wanted changed or improved. Although she shared credit with Charles E. George, bandmaster of the Irving Post of the American Legion in Roslindale, Massachusetts, on this and several other songs, it was Mr. and Mrs. Berger who produced sheet music and endlessly promoted the work.


The Spirit of Our Forefathers music by Charles E. George and lyrics by Eunice Burton Berger

The 35 marching band parts for “On the Brink,” copyright applied for October 31, 1939, include Berger’s notation additions and printed title laid down at the head of the page. There is a contract dated August 31, 1944, between Eunice Burton Berger and Broadcast Music wherein she gives them exclusive rights to perform “The Song of the Sea” for five years, and they agree to pay her royalties. Along with this are four small brass plaques commemorating relatives lost at sea, possibly the inspiration for several of her song.

The remainder of the material includes a family genealogy by Berger, a number of photographs, and love letters between the dedicated couple. Canadian-born Eunice Burton Berger was married twice, first to Charles Redmond in Canada, and then to Louis H. Berger, a partner in his father C.L. Berger’s firm in Boston, manufacturers of Engineering and Surveying Instruments. The couple lived in the Dorchester section of Boston.

Magic Lantern Actors and Actresses

Going on vacation. Can you identify the unknown actors and actresses while I’m gone? Thank you.
Julia Marlowe Taber as Lydia Languish

top left: Chauncey Ollott as Sir L. Trigger–Powers as Bob Acres. bottom left: Mr. J. Jefferson as Bob Acres. bottom right: Captain [ Jack] Absolute, The Rivals.


top left: unknown. bottom left: Helen Hayes, What Every Woman Knows. top right: John Baldwin Buckstone as Bob Acres 1802-1879. bottom right: unknown.

Eva Le Gallienne (1899-1991)

All unknown.

Bobbie Clark as Bob Acres?

All unknown.

The Beach of Trouville

Princeton University Library’s collection of 1920s French silence movies for Pathé home movie projectors are primarily black and white. A select few have been hand colored using stencils, also called pochoir coloring. A good example is this documentary about the beach at Trouville.

Here is a translation of the film titles:

Trouville, the queen of beaches. The beach of Trouville, with fine and uniform sand, is overlooked by a large terrace on which stands a casino. In the mirror-like puddles left by the tide, fisherwomen find an abundance of shrimp and sadeels. The bathers who go in at all hours offer a lively and joyful spectacle. “The Planks” are the summer boulevards of Paris. On the coast are pretty Norman chalets with braced windows surrounded by greenery. Romantic villas half buried in ivy. Flower beds are acclaimed by the residents to laugh. Mossy, dilapidated, century-old trees dominated by the heavy foliage at their summits. The little church of Criqueboeuf, buried under ivy, stands next to a flowery pond of water lilies. The calvary which stands against the beach uncovers an immense horizon. The Port of Trouville is situated at the mouth of the Touques and the Seine. Sometimes the delightful scenery is transformed and the furious ocean mounts and attacks the works of men that curb its flow. The end. Composition by Melle. G. Jousset.

The Princeton University Art Museum owns a beautiful oil painting of the beach at Trouville painted eighty years earlier by Eugène Boudin (1824–1898). Here is their description:

Eugène Boudin (1824–1898), The Beach at Trouville, 1865. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Estate of Laurence Hutton. y1950-65. Boudin took Claude Monet under his wing in the 1850s, when the aspiring artist was still in his teens. Monet came to embrace the older painter’s primary artistic concerns, which included a fascination with the transience of visual sensation and the effects of light and weather on the landscape. He also taught the young man to value everyday scenes of French life and leisure. Boudin was among the first artists to capture in oils that novel, yet prosaic, nineteenth-century pastime, the beach vacation. Such excursions were made possible by the new railway lines, which first reached the northern coast of France, where this scene was painted, in the late 1840s.

Spencer Ervin

In 1895, Spencer Ervin (1856-1897), on the board of the New York & New England Railroad Company, was given an honorary A.M. degree by Princeton University.

Two years later, Mr. Ervin died and a death mask was made for the family to remember him by. Recently, his great-grandson Newcombe C. Baker III, Class of 1974, and their family generously donated the death mask along with its original carrying case to the Graphic Arts Collection.

The mask will join the collection of life and death masks formed by Laurence Hutton (1843-1904), who was also given an honorary A.M. degree by Princeton University in 1897.


The makers of the death mask took special care to carve the mustache, eye brows, and hair into the cast of the face. They also took separate casts for the ears and carefully wrapped in the carrying case, we found extra plaster ears, in case the others were damaged.

Automatons and Anamorphics

Nicolas and Alexis Kugel are the fifth generation of a family of antiques dealers founded in Russia at the end of the 18th century by their great-great-grandfather Elie Kugel, a collector of clocks and watches. In 1985, the Kugels took over the family business and in 2004, relocated the gallery to Hôtel Collot, 25 quai Anatole France, built in 1840 by Louis Visconti for Jean-Pierre Collot, director of La Monnaie (the French Mint).

Galerie J. Kugel is unique in its specialties and the eclecticism of the works of art it offers, including silver, sculpture, Kunstkammer objects, automatons, scientific instruments, and much more.

While visiting Galerie J. Kugel, we had the pleasure of viewing some of the unique treasures featured in Alexis Kugel’s most recent catalogue A Mechanical Bestiary: Automaton Clocks of the Renaissance, 1580-1640 (Marquand (SA) Oversize NK7495.G4 K8413 2016q).

Some pieces came from the Kugel family collection, which Mr. Kugel recalls playing with as a child: “I probably broke one or two, forcing the needle so it would animate,” he told Jake Cigainerosept of the New York Times.

Cigainerosept notes that the technology for automaton clocks dates to Heron of Alexandria, the ancient Greek mathematician who wrote extensively about mechanics. Their popularity surged during the Renaissance, when many were made in Augsburg, Germany, the artistic center of Bavaria at the time.

There is a pug dog whose eyes spin and tail wags; a monkey that beats his drum; and an elephant with dancing soldiers. “If you couldn’t afford a real elephant or lion for your menagerie,” noted Mr. Kugel, “then you could compromise with one of these.”

In another remarkable room are 18th-century anamorphic panel paintings, meant to be viewed in the reflection of a mirrored cylinder. We have several anamorphic prints in Princeton’s graphic arts collection, although not as rare or historic.




A true blew Priest, ca. 1689

[Copper plate digitally laterally reversed, note the Book of Common Prayer on the floor]

“A true blew Priest, a Lincey Woolsey Brother.
One Legg a Pulpitt holds, a Tubb the other,
An Orthodox, grave, moderate, Prestbyterian.
Half Surplice, Cloake, half Priest, half Puritan;
Made up of all these halfes, hee cannot pass,
For anything; intirely, but an Ass.”

–altered slightly from Hudibras, p. 1, c. iii. l. 1224.

Unidentified artist, A Trimmer, ca. 1689. Graphic Arts Collection Block collection.

The British Museum holds a mezzotint by “W.H.” called  A Trimmer, ca. 1689. They also hold a line engraving of the same figure dressed “half like a Puritan standing in a tub, and half like a clergyman standing in a pulpit, at the side of which is fixed an hourglass upon its stand, such as was used in the sixteenth century.” Falling out of a bag are a broken scepter, divided crown, miter, tiara, an archiepiscopal crosier and orb.

The Graphic Arts Collection has a copperplate engraved with the scene as in the BM’s line engraving. It might be a practice plate because it has been used a second time for another engraving on the verso.

According to Dorothy George, of the BM, this is supposed to be a satirical representation of Bishop Burnet, of whom it has been said that he was “in profession a prelate, a dissenter in sentiment.”  Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury (1643-1715) became Bishop of Salisbury and Chancellor of the Order of the Garter in 1689. He was also the author of The History of the Reformation in England.

On the verso of this copper plate is a very warn engraving, possibly of a wedding. No signature or chop can be seen on either side.


See also: Samuel Butler (1612-1680), Hudibras. The first part (London: Printed by J.G. for Richard Marriot …, 1663). Rare Books (Ex) 3660.5.34.115

The First Princeton Tiger

Woodblock for tiger used in The Princeton Tiger, ca. 1881. Graphic Arts Collection. Gift of W.R. Deemes, Class of 1891.

An alumnus in another column asks when the Princeton cheer came to be known as the “Princeton Tiger.” It was but natural that when first adopted by the College the cheer should lie known as the “rocket.” It is descriptive of the explosion of a rocket and was everywhere called by that name lief ore its adoption here; and it is even now occasionally spoken of in the College as the “rocket.” But while the “Princeton Tiger” has largely supplanted “rocket” as the name of Princeton’s cheer, the public are responsible for this rather than the students themselves. The now name has come into use only during the last few years. The inter-collegiate contests, in which Princeton has so largely figured, gradually engaged the interest and attention of the public until the rocket cheer had become so repeatedly associated with Princeton, that when the press called it Princeton’s Tiger. The “Princeton Tiger” it became. It is interesting to note in this connection that the fourth word of the cheer not only gave to the Princeton cheer its name, but suggested the Tiger as the emblem of the college. And when the undergraduates some four years ago started an illustrated magazine and christened it “The Tiger,” and that magazine represented Athletic Princeton as a Bengal Tiger, the “orange and black” lord of the jungle became Princeton’s emblem forever. And this has reacted not a little on Princeton’s devotion to her cheer.
Daily Princetonian, Volume 10, Number 61, December 11, 1885

Digitally inverted

Sequential Magic Lantern Slides

On a recent visit from Fia Backström’s class VIS 311 The Photographic Apparatus, one of the things we looked at were sequential magic lantern slides. Here are a few examples together with our French magic lantern.


Soldiers going off to war / Soldiers returning from the war

Playing a joke on grandfather.

Prof. Backström’s class is described: “Since its inception, the technical development of photography has arisen out of specific historical and political circumstances that have “naturalized” its practice and ideologically coded its apparatus. Through critical discussions, material examinations, and studio projects, this seminar will take a reflexive approach to photographic technology past, present, and future. What can earlier periods of photography reveal about our current condition? How do lens-based technologies relate to determinations of race, class, and gender? What does it mean to be a photographer, to take photographs, and to agree or disagree with its apparatus?”

Disappearing apples below.