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SCRC Behind the Scenes
Welcome to the employee blog for the Special Collections Research Center and Belfer Audio Archive at Syracuse University Libraries. This is a place for us to share our experiences while working in the collections and to highlight interesting and exciting things we find. Please visit the main SCRC and Belfer websites for more information about our collections and services.

Who’s that old guy?

February 1st, 2013 by Nicole Dittrich

In my first post on SCRC Behind the Scenes I wrote about a serendipitous find in our Leopold von Ranke Papers, in which I mentioned that von Ranke’s library formed the foundation of Syracuse University’s library. Inspired by the many times I’ve been posed the question “Who’s that old guy?” when visitors notice the von Ranke portrait (see below), I’d like to take the opportunity to expand on von Ranke’s legacy a bit.

Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886) was a German historian famous for his insistence on empiricism in historical study (read: basing the study and writing of history on actual evidence). After his death, his substantial library (even von Ranke himself did not know its extent and contents) was offered for sale by its heirs — to the Prussian government. Undaunted by the competition, Syracuse University professor (of history and logic) and librarian Charles Wesley Bennett met with Leopold’s son Otto and secured the right to purchase the library if the Prussian government passed on the deal. Surprisingly to Otto, the Prussian government declined, and Professor Bennett swooped in to claim the library, most likely using money supplied by his godfather, Rev. Dr. John Morrison Reid of Genesee College.

SCRC pays tribute to the von Ranke library heritage by prominently displaying a portrait of Leopold in our Reading Room (below). The portrait is an oil painting by Hans G. Hermann. It was painted in 1883 but is based on a portrait painted by Julius Shrader in 1868, when von Ranke was 73. Note the books on the table at his left hand–I like to think those very books are included in the von Ranke collection in SCRC today!

Portrait of Leopold von Ranke

Additional Sources

Galpin, W. F. (1952). Syracuse University: Volume I: The pioneer days. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

Jackson, J. C. (1972). Leopold von Ranke and the von Ranke library. The Courier, 9(4) & 10(1). Retrieved from

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Sneak Peek of new exhibition Strange Victories, Grove Press 1951-1985

January 15th, 2013 by Nicole Dittrich

 by Susan Kline, Grove Project Archivist


SCRC’s newest exhibition, Strange Victories: Grove Press 1951-1985 opens January 17th.

Here’s a sneak peak of the installation and this week’s exhibition related events.

From left to right: co-curator Lucy Mulroney, exhibition intern Mengya He,    conservator David Stokoe and co-curator Susan Kline.




Counter-Culture Colophon: Grove Press,
the Evergreen Review, and the
Incorporation of the Avant-Garde

January 16, 6:00 p.m.

Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, First Floor, Bird Library

Loren Glass, Associate Professor of English at the University of Iowa, will tell the story of how the press and its house journal, the Evergreen Review, revolutionized the publishing industry and radicalized the reading habits of the “paperback generation.”



Remembering Grove

January 17, 5:00 p.m.

Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, First Floor, Bird Library

Glass will moderate a panel discussion with former Grove Press employees, including, Judith Schmidt Douw (foreign rights), Fred Jordan (editorial), Claudia Menza (the Evergreen Review), Nathaniel Sobel (sales), and Astrid Rosset.



Strange Victories: Grove Press, 1951-1985

January 17, 6:00 p.m.

SCRC Gallery, Bird Library, Sixth Floor

The Special Collections Research Center invites you to join us for drinks and hors d’oeuvres to celebrate the opening of Strange Victories: Grove Press, 1951-1985.


These events form part of the 2012-13 Ray Smith Symposium “Positions of Dissent,” co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Center, School of Architecture, LGBT Studies, and the departments of English, History, African American Studies, and Art, Design, and Transmedia.

For more information contact Barbara Brooker at or 315-443-9763.

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Bird chirps from bawdy boxes inside the Grove

December 14th, 2012 by Nicole Dittrich

By Jennifer Peters, Grove Press Graduate Student Assistant

In the 1950s, radical publishing company Grove Press came on the scene ushering out the wholesome mindset, freshly victorious from the battlegrounds of intercontinental dysfunctional paralysis of WWII, they wooed the minds and libidos of thousands, sponsoring roaring voices treading new ground in the combustible political landscape of the 1960s.

Coming upon this collection, I didn’t imagine having the several moments I do when looking up from my pile of documents and whisper, “Am I really looking at this at work?”  Social radicals and eroticism rule my day and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  A welcome respite from the more technical trappings of general coursework, flesh and conspiracy have wrought me from the malaise of academic doldrums to whet my literary appetite.

Grove has a plethora of stories in which to choose from when writing about the bawdy side of the publishing world.  There are classics from Pierre Latour’s “Up in Heaven” to Frank Harris’ “Freewheelin Frank, Secretary of Angels: As Told to Michael McClure by Frank Reynolds”, and translations of Marquis de Sade’s work [graphic novelizations included]; the list goes on and on.  While all these are scintillating masterpieces, one title in particular has caught my attention.  I always say that I do enjoy a good mystery; though the mystery lies not in the pages but in the anonymity of this alluring treasure.

Refreshed and brought back into the light from the dark corners of private and institutional collections, “My Secret Life” is a rare and prolific account of one man’s clandestine, gallivanting wonder years in staunch Victorian England.  Published by Grove Press in 1966 with an introduction by another Grove Press author G. Legman, the eleven volume set encompasses the sexual memoirs of a well-heeled Victorian gentleman, known only as “Walter.”  From his early twenties and on, “Walter” meticulously contextualizes every sexual transaction with reflections on emotions, environment, and the “players” in the pairing; the mise-en-scène or the telling of the story, arouses curiosity as it lures you in to the sordid undercurrents of the stifling etiquette of Victorian society.

While the profound eroticism secretively bubbled under the surface of good manners, perhaps most mysterious is the questionable identity of “Walter.”  Legman suggests that the memoirs’ author “Walter” is erotica connoisseur and author H. Spencer Ashbee.  Despite Legman’s convincing parallels drawn between Ashbee and “Walter,” the true identity remains unknown.  Be it Ashbee or a fellow from Whitechapel I recommend delving into this abundant autobiography for a closer look into the seedy Victorian social life and its continued popularization.

Image of book cover used with permission of Grove/Atlantic.

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Stephen Crane, Shortstop

November 26th, 2012 by Nicole Dittrich

The Red Badge of Courage first edition cover Before I started working here at SCRC, the first thing that came to mind when Stephen Crane was mentioned was The Red Badge of Courage, his famous Civil War novel, and then probably Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, his novella about a girl from the Bowery slums. It’s not that SCRC doesn’t have material relating to these books; we do. For example, we have the first edition of The Red Badge of Courage, published by D. Appleton and Company in 1895 (pictured left). It’s just that an item in our Stephen Crane Collection has taken pride of place in my brain: a baseball Crane used in a game. We know this about the baseball because there is a handwritten note on the ball itself: “Stephen Crane played with this ball May 23, 1891, Geneva, NY, Hobart 6, Syracuse 5” (pictured right).

Baseball used by Stephen CraneCrane attended Syracuse University during the Spring semester of 1891 and played for the varsity Syracuse Orangemen baseball team as both catcher and shortstop (hopefully not simultaneously). He took classes in literature, history, and Latin, but focused primarily on his extracurriculars: aside from baseball, he also played cricket and was a member of sledding and eating (yes, eating) clubs.

You can see a 19-year-old Crane in the 1891 SU baseball team photograph (below): he is in the lower middle, pensively resting his chin on his hand as befits a budding author.

As wonderful as the baseball is, there is one thing I would change: couldn’t we have a baseball from a game we actually won?

1891 SU baseball team photo

Additional Sources

Burton, R. (Summer 2010). Syracuse and a Civil War masterpiece. Syracuse University Magazine, 27, no. 2. Retrieved from

Stam, D.H. (May 1986). Preface: A Stephen Crane special issue. Syracuse University Library Associates Courier, 21, no. 1. Retrieved from

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The relationships within

November 2nd, 2012 by Nicole Dittrich

by Susan Kline, Grove Project Archivist

At Barney Rosset’s memorial service earlier this year, a tribute by Nobel Prize winning Japanese author Kenzaburō Ōe was read to the attendees. Ōe described his first meeting with Rosset and the sadness he felt upon hearing of Rosset’s passing.

Ōe’s tribute bookends their nearly 50 year relationship.  Archival materials, correspondence in particular, related to Ōe in the Grove Press Records, flesh out more of their relationship as well as the relationships Grove Press had with many other authors including Allen Ginsberg, Henry Miller and Samuel Beckett.

In March 1964, Barney Rosset received an air mailed postcard from Tom Fitzsimmons of Tsuda Daigaku, a private women’s college in Toyko. The short typewritten note suggested that Rosset look into a young Japanese writer by the name of Kenzaburo Ōe and the most suitable translator for Ōe’s work would be John Nathan. Rosset took the suggestion seriously and started down the path of being Ōe’s American publisher.

Grove published his story, “Lavish are the Dead” in Evergreen Review No. 38 (1965). When Grove Press decided to publish Ōe’s novel A Personal Matter, they cabled Ōe an offer of a $5000 advance.  Rosset met Ōe, finally, in September 1965 when Ōe visited the United States.  In March 1966, Rosset returned the favor and visited Ōe in Japan. The photo of Oe at right was likely taken by Rosset during that trip.

Ōe soon developed relationships with many staff at Grove Press. Business letters referred to Ōe as a good friend and letters frequently blended the professional and the personal. Ōe often asked about Rosset’s family. For example, in response to an inquiry about how to handle a check written out to Grove Press that was really for Ōe, Ōe responded that Grove could keep the check and use it to buy a gift for Barney Rosset’s newborn daughter.

An equally personal letter can be found below, one in which Rosset writes of the death of his dog Suki and signs the letter on behalf of his entire family, dogs included.

Photo and letter posted with permission of Astrid Rosset.

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