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Winged Words: Visualizing Sappho

This second installment of ‘Winged Words’ is brought to you in honor of Women’s History Month. This week’s picks includes selections of Falvey Distinctive Collections materials pertaining to the visual interpretation of the ancient poetess Sappho (c. 630—c. 570 BCE) from the ancient world to the 20th century.

The Life of Sappho

There is not much biographical information on the life of Sappho of Mytilene. Historical records tell us that she was a Greek poet from the capitol city of the island of Lesbos. Extant sources provide only one date, that of her exile to Sicily by democratic despot Pittacus in 598 BCE. Sappho married a rich man from Andros, with whom she had one daughter, named after her mother Cleïs. Sappho was known to have intimate relationships with women, notably with Atthis, Telesippa, and Megara.


On the Wings of Sappho

Much of Sappho’s reputation today has been mediated through the lens of the Roman poet Horace (c. 1st century BCE). The few surviving sources on her physical appearance describe her as having bird-like features, and aviary metaphors are frequently used to describe both Sappho and her poems.

“[Sappho is] small, dark, and very ill-favored… like a nightingale with ill-shapen wings enfolding a tiny body”.

Depicting Sappho in the 20th century

This English translation and glossary of Sappho’s work contains illustrations by Véra Willoughby that depict Sappho in the contemporary Art Deco-style with Greek features.

“A selection of the poems of the world’s greatest woman poet”

Tutin, J. R. Sappho the Queen of Song. London: 19—.

The selection of poems was illustrated by E. A. R. Collings, who interpreted Sappho’s poetry in an Art Nouveau-style as Greek mythological tropes within surrealistic landscapes, including fragmented Greek statues that symbolize the fragmented nature of her work today.

These and other works are featured in the spring 2023 exhibit “Poetic License: Seven Curators’ Poetry Selections from Distinctive Collections” located on the first floor of Falvey Library.

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Winged Words: Sappho’s Poetic Influence

In celebration of Women’s History Month, this week’s pick includes selections of Falvey Distinctive Collections materials pertaining to the ancient poetess, Sappho (c. 630—c. 570 BCE). These and other works are featured in the spring 2023 exhibit “Poetic License: Seven Curators’ Poetry Selections from Distinctive Collections” located on the first floor of Falvey Library.

The Tenth Muse

Sappho’s poetry was renowned in her own time, and while brief, her poetic works are full of feeling that still resonates with readers today. Plato called her “the tenth Muse”, while Strabo described her as an unrivaled “marvel”. Her fellow countrymen put her face on their coinage, and Sappho continues to be a popular name in her hometown today.

Alloy coin of Mytilene with head of Sappho. Roman Empire, 2nd c. The British Museum.

Poésie de Sapho

Parny, Évariste. Poésie de Sapho: Suivies, de différentes poésies dans le même genre. London: 1810. 

This little book of poetry containing French translations of Sappho was published in London in the early nineteenth century. The French word for poem (poésie) might also be read as a play on words as the English word “poesies” can be translated to French as a bouquet of flowers.

The frontispiece is an image of Sappho depicted as a Victorian portrait pendant surrounded by flowers and bundles of wheat. The bundles might also be interpreted as visual symbolism for the collection of poems within the book, as the Latin fasciculus means collection and can be more literally translated to “bundle of twigs”. Below the portrait two putti play a lyre, illustrating the lyrical style of Sappho.

Parisian Manners

Daudet, Alphonse. Sappho: Parisian Manners. New York: 1900. 

This dime novel is no. 147 of The Sunset Series, a popular series on manners and etiquette. On the cover, Sappho is depicted as a maiden holding a cornucopia filled with grain (a reference to fertility and femininity) and wearing a garland on her head (a reference to her crowning). She stands on a wheel with wings, the iconography of Hermes the messenger god and a symbol of Sappho’s “winged words”.

The story describes an exchange between a pifferaro (musician who plays an oboe-type instrument) and a Fellah (Egyptian) woman in the author’s studio. Based on the French novel Sappho (1884), this version of the poetess places her in Alexandrian Egypt.

Words of Air

Sappho, from the island of Lesbos, wrote in a traditional Lesbian style of lyrical poetry which was meant to be sang aloud. Unfortunately, the majority of her work was lost before the Christian era. All that remains are later copies of her Odes and some fragments.

“The words I begin are words of air, But good to hear” -fragment from a book titled Winged Words held by Sappho in this vase-painting.

Sappho reading, detail of the Vari vase. National Archaeological Museum in Athens 1260.


The brief remains of Sappho’s words only exist today as citations from ancient writers or papyrus fragments of her lost Nine Books, excavated from ancient Egypt during the late-19th century. To what extent should scholars fill in the gaps of Sappho’s fragmented poetry?


What’s in a name?

Becoming Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was born Michael King Jr., after his father. Michael King Sr. was a Baptist minister and early American civil rights activist born into the sharecropping system in Jim Crow era Georgia.

In 1934, Michael King Sr. attended an international conference in Germany on Martin Luther (1483-1546), the author of Ninety-five Theses and the father of Lutheranism. King Sr. was so moved by the life and deeds of the 16th century Augustinian friar that he decided to adopt his name for both him and his son, Martin Luther King Jr.

In his life and work, Martin Luther King Jr. would go on to emanate the revolutionary and reformative ideology of the friar Martin Luther. In 1964 King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequity through nonviolent resistance. The next year, on January 20, 1965, King spoke to an audience of over 4,000 Villanova University students on desegregation and the newly instituted Civil Rights Act.

Martin Luther’s Bibliographical Legacy

Augustinian friar Martin Luther translated the Bible into German, making it more widely accessible to the laity. His vernacular German Bible helped to standardize the German language and the art of translation.

Villanova holds a copy of a collection of Luther’s writings in German (Wittenberg: 1561). This text was published in at least 5 editions between 1554-1572, a reflection of its wide popularity.

The title page image of a crucifixion scene depicts Christ flanked by a kneeling John the Baptist (left) and Martin Luther (right). This image serves to align Luther with the piety and humble nature ascribed to John the Baptist, portraying him as a ‘man of the people’.





Tribute to Harriet Tubman, the modern Amazon

In honor of Black History Month, this week’s Distinctive Collections pick is a newly acquisitioned memorial speech titled: Tribute to Harriet Tubman, the modern Amazon.


Harriet Tubman, American abolitionist

This speech was written by Rev. James E. Mason, B. D. to celebrate Harriet Tubman, her legacy and bravery through Christian faith. The grand testimonial was given at the unveiling of a tablet in honor of the late ‘Aunt Harriet’ (1822-1913).


Known as “the Moses of her people” Harriet Tubman, an African American woman, was enslaved from birth. In her lifetime she guided over 400 enslaved peoples to the abolitionist northern states, and served as a nurse and spy for the Union Army during the American Civil War. During this time there was a warrant out for Tubman in several Confederate states, offering over $40,000 for her, dead or alive.

“Come along, come along,

Don’t be a fool,

Uncle Sam is rich enough

To send us all to school.” -Harriet Tubman

Rev. James E. Mason, B. D.

Tribute to Harriet Tubman is reprinted from the Advertiser-Journal, originally published in Auburn, N.Y. (1914). The author of the speech is Rev. James E. Mason, B. D., who was the Financial Secretary of Livingstone College, Salisbury N.C. as well as one of the incorporators of the Tubman Home.

Portrait of Rev. James E. Mason, B.D. from The New York Public Library Digital Collections

The Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent African Americans

South street, Auburn NY

The property that The Herriet Tubman Home sits on is comprised of 25 acres, including the brick home that was her residence, 2 frame cottages, and 2 barns. Originally selling for $1,250.00, Tubman purchased the property in June 1896 “on faith”. $250.00 of the cost was paid through donations, and the Cayuga County Savings Bank loaned the remaining amount. Tubman rented out the property and housed people in need with her in her own home until her health declined. Harriet Tubman lived as an honored guest at a nearby home in Auburn, N.Y., where she was cared for by the Empire State Federation of Women’s Clubs from May 1911 until her death on March 10, 1913.

Harriet Tubman National Historical Park

For many years The Tubman Home was an asylum for the needy, oppressed, and unfortunate—regardless of nationality. Today, the Harriet Tubman Home is an independent non-profit established by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church to manage and operate the homestead of Harriet Tubman. In 2017 the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park was established on these grounds.


“The Tubman Home should be a Mecca for Afro-Americans in particular, and patriots generally; that the rising youth may be impressed with the important lesson how noble it is to live for others and the elevation of their native land.” -Rev. James E. Mason, B. D.


“Be Honest and True: Golden Days Puzzle Poems”

After a long hiatus, the Spare Change Library podcast is back! You can listen here: 

Villanova Digital Library

If you’ve enjoyed pondering the Puzzle Poems submitted by Villanova alumnus T. A. Daly to Golden Days for Boys and Girls weekly story paper, you won’t want to miss the latest episode of Spare Change Library podcast.

Puzzle Poems and Solutions 

This episode explores a very personal ‘Villa Nova’ connection to reader-submitted puzzle poems from Golden Days for Boys and Girls (c. 1880-1907). It features interviews with Rebecca Oviedo (Distinctive Collections Archivist) and Demian Katz (Director of Library Technology at Villanova) as well as readings from Golden Days story papers, hosted by yours truly–Dr. Meg Piorko (Distinctive Collections Librarian).

Can’t get enough poetry? Falvey has got you covered!

Check out the spring exhibit: “Poetic License: Seven Curators’ Poetry Selections from Distinctive Collections” located on the first floor of Falvey Library.


Meg Piorko’s Weekly Picks: Puzzle Poem Solutions

Happy Friday! As promised, here are the solutions to last week’s puzzle poems, published in Golden Days for Boys and Girls story papers (c. 1880-1907)

Puzzle Poems submitted by “Villa Nova” featured in Golden Days

Puzzledom Solutions

Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 38, August 20, 1887.

No. 7 solution (Wide-spread.)


Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 41, September 10, 1887.

No. 9 solution (The demon of despair.)


Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 45, October 8, 1887.

No. 5 solution (Care-worn.)


Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 23, May 7, 1887.

No. 9 solution (Ruined castle.)

Need more Distinctive Collections poetry content?

Check out the exhibit “Poetic License: Seven Curators Poetry Selections from Distinctive Collections” located on the first floor of Falvey Library

Tune into my inaugural episode hosting the Spare Change Library podcast to learn more about the puzzle poems featured in Golden Days for Boys and Girls story papers


Meg Piorko’s Weekly Pick: Puzzle Poems

Puzzle Poems from Golden Days for Boys and Girls

This popular children’s story paper (published from 1880 to 1907) featured a weekly section titled “Puzzledom.” The editor solicited puzzles and published solutions submitted by readers. Finding the solution to puzzle poems typically involves rhyming riddles, in which words have more than one meaning, clues that hint at a keyword or phrase, and anagrams that require rearranging the letters of a given word or phrase.

Example Puzzle Poem and Solution

Puzzle No. 5 A Transposition.

Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 36, August 6, 1887.

Answer: Talent, latent.

Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 37, August 13, 1887.

Try your hand at solving these Villa Nova (T. A. Daly) puzzle poems

Answers will appear in next week’s blog post!

Puzzle No. 7 Charade.

Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 37, August 13, 1887.

Puzzle No. 9 Anagram.

Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 40, September 3, 1887.

Puzzle No. 5 Charade.  

Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 44, October 1, 1887.

Puzzle No. 9 Double-Word Enigma.  

Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 22, April 30, 1887.

Golden Days poem featured in HBO series Boardwalk Empire

Golden Days for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 25, May 21, 1887.

The first episode of the final season (e1s5) of Boardwalk Empire opens with the main character having a flashback to himself as a boy in 1880’s Atlantic City. The scene opens and closes with a voiceover of the poem “Be Honest and True” by George Birdseye read aloud from Golden Days for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 25, May 21, 1887. This episode of Boardwalk Empire illustrates the incredible popularity and influence of Golden Days story papers during the late 19th century.



19th century “Villa Nova” puzzle poems

“Villa Nova” poetry featured in Golden Days

Golden Days for Boys and Girls was a weekly children story paper published from March 6, 1880 through May 11, 1907. The paper was produced in Philadelphia by James Elverson (originally intended as a companion to his adult story paper: Saturday Night—also available in our Digital Library) but circulated widely from coast to coast.

Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 1, December 4, 1886.

Thomas Augustine (T. A.) Daly

Daly was a student at Villanova from 1880 to 1887. Daly went on to have a prolific career publishing many books of his dialectic poetry. But before he was a renowned author, he submitted original “puzzle poems” to Golden Days for Boys and Girls under the pseudonym Villa Nova. Today, Villanova holds issues of Golden Days from 1887 containing Daly’s puzzle poems, as well as his personal notebooks where he crafted the cryptic poetry.

Notebook, Thomas A. Daly’s Villanova Notebook v. 2, 1886-1887.

For more on Daly’s Villanova legacy and Irish American dialectic poetry, check out Distinctive Collections Archivist Rebecca Oviedo’s digital exhibit: Rediscovering T. A. Daly: Immigrant Voices in Poetry

Puzzle Poems

Puzzle poems combine logic puzzles with poetic language, requiring an aptitude for English and mathematics to both create and solve the riddle. Types of puzzle poems featured in Golden Days include numericals, charades, anagrams, enigmas, and forms (such as pentagon, square, diamond, inverted pyramid, etc.) Finding the solution to puzzle poems typically involve rhyming riddles where words have more than one meaning, clues that hint at the answer, and rearranging letters of a given word or phrase.

Puzzledom section. Golden Days : for Boys and Girls, v. VIII, no. 1, December 4, 1886.

Golden Days for Boys and Girls solicited reader submissions of puzzle poems with the following call in each weekly issue:


Original contributions solicited from all. Puzzles containing obsolete words will be received. Write contributions on one side of the paper, and apart from all communications. Address “Puzzle Editor,” Golden Days, Philadelphia, PA.

Stay tuned!

The Falvey Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement staff will be producing a Spare Change podcast episode on Golden Days puzzle poems to complement the spring exhibit “Poetic License”, coming to Falvey Library next month. Solutions to a selection of Daly’s puzzle poems will be featured in next week’s blog post.


Meg Piorko’s Weekly Picks

This week’s blog post highlights one of the newly digitized Distinctive Collections materials published in 1927, which now makes it public domain. For more on Public Domain Day 2023 see last week’s post.

The Chronical of the Northern Baptist Caravan

This daily devotional was published by The Northern Baptist Convention Board of Missionary Cooperation in 1927. Each section represents a single day, meant to be read aloud as a family for the duration of one month.

The Land of Adventure: a virtual journey

This imagined caravan journey through the “Land of Adventure” includes a variety of virtual modes of transportation such as car, boat, camel, and even elephant. Baptist missionary destination highlights from the “Land of Adventure” include: The Castled Walls of Carcassonne, Shanghai China, Burma, El Salvador, and New York City.


A Book Sewn Shut

The introduction gives explicit instructions for its intended use, “Each day’s discoveries will be disclosed by cutting the corners of one page of the book.”

These books were sold with the pages sewn together. The cutting of the thread each day in order to discover the daily devotional was an important aspect of the spiritual reading practices of this particular text. The material evidence of the holes where the book was previously sewn shut appear in the top and bottom corners of each page.




Newly Digitized Public Domain Materials from 1927 in the Digital Library

In addition to the Northern Baptist Caravan, here is a list of some of the materials in the Distinctive Collections that are now available in our Digital Library:

150th anniversary of the battle of Germantown, October 1st to 4th, 1927 : programme

Neddie Burd’s Reading letter: an epic of the early Berks Bar / by J. Bennett Nolan

Anthony Comstock, Roundsman of the Lord

Irish medieval monasteries on the continent : a dissertation / by Joseph Paul Fuhrmann, O.S.B.

Mysteries of the missing / By Edward H. Smith  


Meg Piorko’s Weekly Picks

Public Domain Day 2023

Happy New Year! January 1 is Public Domain Day in the United States. On the first day of the year 2023, US copyrights expire for works produced in the year 1927 and these materials enter the public domain. In celebration of Public Domain Day, here is a list of some of the materials in the Distinctive Collections that are now available in our Digital Library.

The Chronicle of the Northern Baptist Caravan


The wonder smith and his son : a tale from the golden childhood of the world


Coaster captain : a tale of the Boston waterfront by James B. Connolly


Diamond Dick’s red trailer : or, A hairbreadth escape by W. B. Lawson


Pirates of the Prairies by Kilpatrick Mason (Texas Pat)


Famous Media from 1927

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes the final set of 12 Sherlock Holmes short stories by British author Arthur Conan Doyle

To the Lighthouse a philosophical novel by Virginia Woolf set in early 20th century Scotland

Metropolis a German expressionist sci-fi film direct by Fritz Lang and written by Thea von Harbou, based on his novels by the same name

Music by the jazz studio group Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven from the Okeh Records recording session

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Last Modified: January 6, 2023

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