“The Torrid Zone”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

The November release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a 17th-century magnum opus and a turn of the 18th-century scholar’s compilation of hundreds of works, both of which attempt to describe their entire known worlds. Also in this release is a history of trade with Africa which contains the texts of several ancient treaties.


Cosmography, in Four Books: Containing the Chorography and History of the Whole World, and All the Principal Kingdoms, Provinces, Seas, and Isles Thereof (1670)

By Peter Heylyn

In this ambitious 17th-century work English scholar Peter Heylyn attempts to give a detailed account of nearly every aspect of the world. Writing about Africa, he describes the origins of the continent’s name:

By the Grecians it is called most commonly Lybia…part of it taken for the whole; by the Ethiopians, Alkebulam; by the Indians, Besecath. But the most noted name thereof is Africa, which Josephus out of Cleodenus and Polyhistor, deriveth from Epher, or Apher, one of the Nephews of Abraham, by Midian the Son of Keturah. The Arabians, by whom it is called Ifrichea, derive it from the Verb Faruch, signifying to divide; because more visibly divided both from their own Country, and the rest of the World, than any other part thereof which was known unto them.

“The Torrid Zone”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

“A Breed of Moral Vipers”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1921

The November release of Black Authors, 1556-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a guide for self-improvement, the autobiography of the founder of Latta University, and a collection of essays by the Bard of the Potomac.



The College of Life, or, Practical Self-Educator (1896)

By Henry Davenport Northrop, D.D., Hon. Joseph R. Gay, and Prof. Irving Garland Penn

This self-improvement manual was written as a guide to African American success. The authors summarize their work, writing:

…portraits of many successful men and women of their own race, with sketches of their achievements in life, are given as examples of what may be accomplished through education, patience, perseverance and integrity of character. Many engravings illustrating Afro-American Progress are introduced as object lessons of the great advancement of their own people, impressing them with the fact that they must educate and elevate themselves if they would attain success in life.

This volume is intended as a Self-Educator and is in no sense a history or book of biography; therefore it cannot be expected to include the portraits or mention all prominent men of the race, nor describe all historical events. Sufficient portraits and sketches of successful Afro-American men and women are given as a GUIDE TO SUCCESS, and illustrations of places, objects and events are given for the purpose of inspiring ambition and as an incentive for the sons and daughters of the race.

Included in the “Contents of the Proper Conduct of Life” are sections on: 

“A Breed of Moral Vipers”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1921

An Independence-Minded Ally, Wistful Postbellum Memoirs, and a Forgotten Comic-Strip Savant: The Readex Report (November 2015)

In this issue: the heralded 19th-century return of an independence-minded ally; wresting insight from wistful Postbellum memoirs; and an entire genre fueled by a forgotten comic-strip savant.


Lafayette’s Return: An Early American Media Event

By Jonathan Wilfred Wilson, Adjunct Instructor, Department of History, University of Scranton

In summer 2015, a wooden frigate named the Hermione sailed from France to the United States. It was recreating one of the voyages that brought the Marquis de Lafayette to fight in the American War of Independence. The new Hermione was a painstaking replica of Lafayette’s ship, built with authentic eighteenth-century methods. Its voyage, however, became a modern multimedia spectacle—with international television coverage, a website, and a busy Twitter account. > Full Story 


Reading between the Lines: Exploring Postbellum Plantation Memoirists through Digitized Newspaper Collections

An Independence-Minded Ally, Wistful Postbellum Memoirs, and a Forgotten Comic-Strip Savant: The Readex Report (November 2015)

Beyond the Climate of Fear: Environmental Research in the Soviet Union during the 1960s

Although the United States competed with the Soviet Union politically, economically and technologically, our countries shared many of the same concerns regarding the environment. During the era when Rachel Carson was publishing Silent Spring in the West, in the East the Soviets were also looking into the dangers of organic compounds. They discussed climate change seriously, studied the effects of radioactive fallout from nuclear tests, and explored the mysteries of the northern lights. 

In this month’s highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, we’ll take a break from politics to consider some of the more fundamental aspects of life.  


On the Problem of the Mechanism of the Selectivity of Toxicity of Organophosphorus Insecticides

Gigiyena Truda i Professional'nyye Zabolevaniya (Labor Hygiene and Occupational Diseases) — May 1963

We’re familiar with the organic compound DDT through its historical use as an insecticide and its toxic effects on wildlife. This report considers how the chemicals’ effects on insects differ from their effects on warm-blooded animals.  


The Artificial Control of the Climate of Large and Small Areas

Izvestiya Akademii Nauk SSSR, Seriya Geograficheskaya (Bulletin of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Geography Series) — 1963

Understanding the biochemistry of an insecticide is important. On the macro end of the scale, it’s also important to know the impact of our actions on the global climate. No politics intrudes on the science in this report.


Translations from Radioactive Contamination of the Environment [1962]

Beyond the Climate of Fear: Environmental Research in the Soviet Union during the 1960s

A Violent Desire of Making Discoveries, or, The Passion for Traveling: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

From Afro-Americana Imprints

The November release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia contains a remarkable 18th-century history of the Age of Discovery, featuring abundant maps, charts and illustrations, and a dramatic 19th-century work about an around-the-world excursion, which was written by the first blind person to circumnavigate the globe.


A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels (1745)

This four-volume tour de force details nearly all aspects of the Age of Discovery. Its subtitle proclaims it to include:

every Thing remarkable in its Kind, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, with respect to the several Empires, Kingdoms, and Provinces; their situation, extent, bounds and division, climate, soil and produce; their lakes, rivers, mountains, cities, principal towns, harbors, buildings, &c. and the gradual alterations that from Time to Time have happened in each: also the manners and customs of the several inhabitants; their religion and government, arts and sciences, trades and manufactures; so as to form a complete system of modern geography and history, exhibiting the present state of all nations…

The work introduces the Age of Discovery through the explorations of Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, and Ferdinand Magellan:

A Violent Desire of Making Discoveries, or, The Passion for Traveling: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“I Love My Country More Than I Love My Party”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

The November release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes a speech by an eventual vice-president of the United States in which he renounces his party. Also described below is letter by the second president of the Continental Congress to his son as well as a beautifully illustrated retrospective of life in antebellum Virginia.


Senator Hamlin's Withdrawal from the Democratic Party (1856)

By Hannibal Hamlin

Hannibal Hamlin (1809–1891)I ask the Senate to excuse me from further service as Chairman of the Committee on Commerce. I do so because I feel that my relations hereafter will be of such a character as to render it proper that I shall no longer hold that position. I owe this act to the dominant majority in the Senate. When I cease to harmonize with the majority, or tests are applied by that party with which I have acted to which I cannot submit I feel that I ought no longer to hold that responsible position.

Senator Hamlin made this request just six days after his party’s national convention in early June 1856. Hamlin’s Democratic Party had suffered heavy losses in the previous midterm elections and was now fracturing over the platform’s plank allowing an extension of slavery to the territories. Hamlin supported the Missouri Compromise and the Wilmot Proviso, both of which attempted to regulate the extension of slavery in the West and territory seized in the Mexican-American War. In 1856, the Democratic Party’s platform embraced the Kansas-Nebraska Act which effectively repealed the Missouri Compromise. 

Continuing with the sentiment that his party had left him, Hamlin resumed:

“I Love My Country More Than I Love My Party”: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

“Put a Rattlesnake into Her Bosom”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

Mary Frances McCray (1837-1898)The October release of Black Authors, 1556-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an intriguing sermon by Lemuel Haynes (1753-1833), a former indentured servant and minuteman who became a groundbreaking African American pastor. Also included is the biography of Mary Frances McCray (1837-1898), a slave until her mid-twenties who became the first African American female preacher of the Methodist Church in the Dakota Territory, and a compelling slave narrative published in Canada by the little-known William H.H. Johnson.


Universal Salvation: A Very Ancient Doctrine (1821)

By Lemuel Haynes, A.M.

Lemuel Haynes was an influential religious leader and the first African-American pastor of a white congregation, first in Torrington, Connecticut, in 1785 and again in Rutland, Vermont where he remained for much of his life.

Prefacing this sermon on Universal Salvation, Haynes offers what could be called a universal truth.

There is no greater folly than for men to express anger and resentment because their religious sentiments are attacked. If their characters are impeached by their own creed, they only are to blame. All that the antagonists can say, cannot make falsehoods truth, nor truth falsehood.

“Put a Rattlesnake into Her Bosom”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

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