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Meg Piorko’s Weekly Pick

“Christmas Eve” in Bright Flowers: Choice Stories for Little People

For the month of December the blog will be featuring holiday themed materials from Falvey’s Distinctive Collections.

“Christmas Eve” is the first story in the children’s book Bright Flowers: Choice Stories for Little People, published in New York in 1889. This 19th-century illustrated children book is formatted with a short story on the left page with a corresponding image adjacent to the text.

“Christmas Eve”

In the story “Christmas Eve”, three children (Alice, Clarence, and Grace) worry that Santa won’t be able to visit them on Christmas Eve because of the snow. The eldest of the children, Alice, assures her younger siblings that the snow will actually assist Santa’s sleigh pulled by reindeer in their travel. However, she cautions her siblings against being greedy children only concerned with receiving presents during the Christmas season.

The History of Santa Claus in America

American folklore around Santa Claus came out of New York in the 19th-century, which is when and where this book was published. Washington Irving, the author of “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, led a movement to create a Santa who was family-friendly and cheery in response to the carnivalesque Christmas celebrations that occurred during this time. This version of Santa Claus was inspired by the Dutch Sinterklaas. When adopted to an American tradition Santa Claus diverged from Sinterklaas by wearing a bright red fur coat rather than a bishop’s robe, is plump not thin, and drives a team of flying reindeer instead of traveling by flying horse.

Illustration of Santa Claus for “Christmas Eve”

“Christmas Eve” and the depiction of Santa in Bright Flowers is an attempt to circulate this new image of Christmas and Santa to American families. This and other 19th-century popular literature books can be found in our Dime Novel and Popular Literature Collection, many of which are available in the Digital Library.

How will you be celebrating the Christmas season at Villanova?

Take a trip back in time to Villanova Christmases of yore and glimpse how Villanova alumni celebrated the holiday season with Santa Claus and friends in the Belle Air yearbooks, available in our Yearbooks Collection.

Belle Air Yearbook, Villanova Class of 2000


Meg Piorko’s Weekly Picks

Meg Piorko’s Weekly Pick: Linguistic Stocks of American Indians, North of Mexico.

In honor of Native American Heritage month I will be highlighting materials in our Distinctive Collections relating to Indigenous peoples and experiences.

The Linguistic Stocks of American Indians, North of Mexico (1890) is a map of indigenous language groups of North America, published by John Wesley Powell (1834-1902). Powell was an American geologist and professor at Illinois Wesleyan University known for leading a three-month expedition along the Green and Colorado rivers, marking the first U.S. government supported passage through the Grand Canyon. Powell was named the first director of the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian for his work on linguistics and sociology.

Smith map

Linguistic Stocks of American Indians, North of Mexico, 1890.

Capturing a moment in North American colonial history

This map illustrates various Native American languages and the regions in which they were spoken in the late-19th century. In the coming years European colonists would continue to displace many of these indigenous groups westward in the name of imperialist expansion. A map produced in the early 20th century depicting the same language groups would look very different.

This and other historic maps are part of our John F. Smith, III and Susan B. Smith Antique Map Collection. Click here to listen to John Smith describe this map in his own words.

What to learn more about the Smith Map Collection?

Check out the current Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement exhibit titled, “Art of War: Illustrated and Military Maps of the Twentieth Century” located on the first floor of Falvey Memorial Library, co-curated by Rebecca Oviedo and Christoforos Sassaris.


Meg Piorko’s Weekly Pick

Meg Piorko’s Weekly Pick: The Snow People by Marie Herbert

In honor of Native American heritage month I will be highlighting materials in our Distinctive Collections relating to Indigenous peoples and experiences.

The Snow People (1973) is a self-published, firsthand account of Marie Herbert’s experience living among the Inuit people for one year with her explorer husband, Wally Herbert, and their young child. Wally Herbert specialized in exploring lands considered the most remote and uncharted by Europeans.

The Snow People

Front cover, The Snow People

Wally’s goal in living among the indigenous people of northwest Greenland was to document their “vanishing culture”. Rather than record their lives via film or other technology-based documentary methods, the Herbert family attempted to assimilate with the Inuit people. Marie, Wally, and their ten-month old baby lived in a hut on a settlement located 90 miles north of a U.S. airbase, isolated by a frozen sea.

Personal photo

The Herbert’s did however take personal photos of their time with the Inuit.

In her book, Marie Herbert recounts the domestic experience of living as an Inuit woman. She learned skills such as how to collect ice for fresh water, skin a fox, make sealskin shoes and polar-bear pants, guide a sledge through hazardous rocks and ice, net migrating birds, make dog harnesses, and more! Marie’s daughter Kari learned to speak the local Inuit language before she could speak English.

What does Inuit language Inuktitut sound like? Click here for recordings of people speaking Inuktitut

Inuit with Herbert baby

Portraits of Inuit women and an Inuit man holding the Herbert’s baby

This and other arctic Distinctive Collections materials are part of the Jamie Wheeler Collection recently acquired by Falvey.

What to learn more about this new collection?

Check out the digital special collection exhibit, “That Fairytale of Ice”: Polar Exploration in Mind and Memory, curated by Distinctive Collections librarian Rebecca Oviedo.


Meg Piorko’s Weekly Picks

This week’s pick is “The Rescue,” a poem by Horace F. Tussey

In honor of Native American Heritage month I will be highlighting materials in our Distinctive Collections relating to Indigenous peoples and experiences.

“The Rescue” tells the story of the capture and rescue of Olive Oatman from the perspective of Captain William F. Drannan who was aided by Nawassa, a young Apache woman who risked her life to help return Oatman to her people. Tussey includes photographs and personal illustrations throughout the manuscript, and compares the bravery of Nawassa to that of Pocahontas and Sacagawea.

Photo of Nawassa

Photograph of a Native American with the name Nawassa written across it.

This and other poems by Horace F. Tussey (Sapulpa Oklahoma, a. 1910-1920) are available in our Digital Library’s Americana Collection. Tussey wrote about frontier life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Drawing on urban legend and personal experiences, Tussey illuminates the famous historical tales as well as the mundane daily life of the Wild West in his unique poetic prose.

Did you know?

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that does not recognize an Indigenous tribe within its borders, despite the rich Indigenous cultural heritage across the occupied land. To get acquainted with the Indigenous communities of Pennsylvania and the world, check out this interactive map!


Meg Piorko’s Weekly Picks

Welcome to the third spooky installment of Meg Piorko’s Weekly Picks!

The final Halloween themed rare book for the month of October (don’t worry—there will be more spooky content throughout the year)

Eynatten, R. D. Maximilien. Manuale Exorcismorum. Antwerp: Balthasarem Moretum, 1619.

The long title (translated from Latin) is Exorcism Manual: containing instructions for exorcism and casting out of evil spirits from possessed bodies, warding off evil, and checking for demon infestations

Exorcism Manual

Exorcism Manual, title page

A note hidden behind the front paste-down reads, “This book will be carefully preserved in sacrifice, that it may be found easily when in need”

Exorcism Manual

Front paste-down

The Science of Demonology

Throughout history, demonology was a very real concern for people of religion and science alike. Within Christian theology, demons are considered the evil counterpart to angels of God. These evil spirits were thought to be masters of deception, and healing mortals afflicted with spirit possession required a scientific process of evaluation. Exorcism manuals, much like this one here at Falvey, provide methods of expulsion based on ancient references and depictions of demons from the Bible. St. Augustine even wrote about demonology—arguing that a spiritual contract exists between humans and demons.

A Practical Guide to Exorcism used by Doctors and Priests alike!

The front flyleaf has provenance notes that a medical doctor by the name of Walter Franklin Atlee (1828-1910) gifted this practical guide to exorcisms to Father Thomas Cooke Middleton (1842-1923)—who was the Villanova College Librarian for 58 years until his death.

Exorcism Manual

Provenance notes

“For Father Middleton from Dr Atlee”

“Thurs, June 6th 1895, I was presented with this book by Walter F. Atlee, M. D. 210 South 13th St., Phila.”

Villanova holds the papers of Father Middleton, including his correspondence with Dr. Atlee on topics ranging from religion, the soul, and secret societies. The men frequently switch to writing in Greek at the end of the letters, possibly to obscure information.

Not Scared Enough?

Are you craving more spooky Distinctive Collections material? Stop by our Halloween Exhibit Event on Monday, October 31st outside the Holy Grounds to see this Exorcism Manual for yourself as well as play some haunted games with DCDE staff.


Meg Piorko’s Weekly Pick: the Phaedo

Welcome to the second post in my new blog series where I will highlight materials in Falvey’s Distinctive Collections. For the month of October I will be showcasing spooky texts from our stacks. This and other “creepy” objects from the collections will be on display at our Halloween Event. Stop by our table and trick or treat with some of the Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement staff.

Meg Piorko’s Weekly Pick


Phaedon: or, On the Immortality of the Soul, in Three Talks

German edition published by Friedrich Nicolai (Berlin: 1768)

by Moses Mendelssohn, German Jewish Enlightenment philosopher (b. 1729—d. 1786)

Title page

The title of this text refers to the Phaedo, one of the most widely read dialogs written in ancient times. Attributed to Greek philosopher Plato (d. 348/47 BCE), the Phaedo gives an account from the prison cell of Plato’s mentor Socrates (b. 469—d. 399 BCE) on the day of his execution by drinking a poisonous plant called ‘Hemlock’ by order of the state of Athens.

Drawing on the metaphysical, psychological, and epistemological views on death presented by Plato in his Phaedo, Mendelssohn rewrites the dialog as if Socrates was living in a post-Leibniz 18th century Germany. In the preface to his text Mendelssohn writes,

“[Phaedo] has recourse solely to the lights of the moderns, and makes Socrates speak as a philosopher of the eighteenth century.”

Engraving adjacent the title page

Picturing Death

The engraved frontispiece image adjacent from the title page depicts a defeated version of Socrates who has accepted his fate and is contemplating the meaning of life by meditating on memento mori allegories such as the skull with a butterfly to symbolize life and death. In this copy of the book a previous owner has hand drawn a burning candlestick onto the printed image; another allegory for the passage of time.

Poison green leafing on the edges of the pages

Poison Green?

Another unique aspect of the copy in our collections is that the edges of the pages are painted a specific shade of bright green. Ironically fitting with the theme of the text contained within, this codex may have had toxic materials applied to it to create the vibrant green color visible on the paper when the book is closed.


Meg Piorko’s Weekly Picks

Meg Piorko, PhDHi! I’m the new Distinctive Collections librarian at Falvey Memorial Library. I came from the Science History Institute where I was an Allington Postdoctoral Fellow (2020-2022) training in the Special Collections. I have a PhD in history from Georgia State University, and my research is on the materiality of early print and scribal culture in alchemical texts. I have worked on public programming around digitizing materiality in special collections materials, and recently cracked a 17th century cipher text containing an alchemical recipe for the Philosophers’ Stone.

This is the inaugural post in a new blog series where I will highlight materials in our Distinctive Collections. For the month of October, this series will be Halloween themed.


Meg Piorko’s Weekly Picks

The Dance of Death (Paris: 1490)

Facsimile reproduction made from the copy in the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection, Library of Congress

Latin ed. printed by Guyot Marchand for publisher Geoffroi de Marnef.

This edition contains 24 woodcuts depicting Danse Macabre, or the Dance of Death featuring images ranging from daily life scenes such as “The Author writing” to more serious religious themes such as “Four figures of Death, playing on musical instruments.”

“The Author writing”


Woodcuts from the Dance of Death

“Four figures of Death, playing on musical instruments”

This practice of juxtaposing everyday life with mortality comes from the memento mori tradition, and functions to impress upon the viewer that they must always be ready to meet Death because no one knows when it will find them.

The first French edition of this text (published in 1485) contained 17 woodcut illustrations. This book was so popular, that the very next year a Dance of Death of Women was published (there are no feminine figures in the first edition). Subsequent French editions contain printed illustrations from both.

These editions are examples of very early hand-press printing and are referred to as incunables. However, there is evidence of people using engraving techniques to print images on textiles all the way back to 7th century Egypt!

This facsimile and other spooky rare books will be on display at our Halloween Event. Stop by and say hi (or ‘Boo!’) to some of the Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement staff.

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Last Modified: October 10, 2022