The Composition Notebook

For my final project, I will use my research of the New Paltz Composition Book for the Collaborative History Project, along with additional research about New Paltz, surrounding areas, common fashion styles, local architecture, and the elementary school system during the 1900s, to create a realistic fictional narrative about Gertrude Dubois and her interactions with the composition book and her surrounding environment in 1904. Once I also learn about when Janie Hayden married and/or left the New Paltz area, I can also include her. Otherwise, the main characters are Gertrude Dubois, her mother Catherine Deyo Dubois, and her father Phillip D. Dubois (as he does not die until 1907).

The narrative will start with the day Gertrude finds the composition notebook. Already intrigued by the dress of the time, and perhaps drawing clothing designs in other books, she pours over clothing catalogues and fashion magazines while her mother gets ready for a local gathering. As Gertrude helps her mother fit into her corset and dress, Catherine encourages her daughter to focus on her studies rather than dress, convinced by the “young society women” that women will be the scholars of tomorrow. She uses Janie (Hayden) as an example of how Gertrude should be: educated and inclined to further academic study. With this in mind, she asks her daughter to start her essay, but she needs scrap paper to plan her essay before putting it into her class workbook, so Catherine finds one of Janie’s old notebooks from the 1890s. Gertrude starts working on her assignment in the back, but when her mother leaves to attend a society gathering, Gertrude stops her work and looks at the catalogues again. This time, she uses other empty pages in the book to draw women in similarly-styled clothing. Curious about what exactly is in the book, she flips through the composition book and decides to keep it, feeling a connection to her sister since they wrote in the same book.

Following scenes will describe her travels around town, and to Poughkeepsie via the local trolley, with her sister’s old composition book. Since her architectural drawings are elaborate and detailed for a fifth grader, I expect her architectural doodles are inspired by buildings around town, her picture of an igloo relevant to a recent reading about the exotic structure, and her clothing sketches a testament to her family life and social class. Since she descends from two New Paltz founding families (Deyo and Dubois), her mother would likely be a society woman, unconsciously inviting her daughter into the social scene. From the composition book, one could see Gertrude Dubois as a creative young girl, inspired by her world around her. By meshing research about her family and surrounding environment during the early 1900s with her contributions to the composition notebook, the realistic fiction short story reveals the intriguing relationship between Gertrude and her half-sister Janie.

I would showcase a sample of my work, but I write in a sporadic fashion and none of my pieces fit together in a coherent narrative. I am enthusiastic to receive feedback on the ideas presented in my summary.

Looking at Books and Print as Objects

In a world of mass-produced media, in an information-flooded culture, books are taken for granted across the Western world, both for their style and content. A casual reader would hardly recognize differences in binding or font unless drawn attention to the glued spine or the use of serif fonts in nearly all their favorite publications. Bibliophiles hoard books into their personal libraries, sometimes faintly aware of their aesthetic appeal, yet more so taking advantage of their accessibility. Thanks to computer processors and rapidly-progressing technology, e-readers offer immense content and a variety of design styles at one’s fingertips.

communications circuit

Yet without the written word and its sturdy encasing, our monumental creations would carelessly alter at the whim of one’s memory. A few stories of oral tradition survived, but only when transcribed into a translatable language, such as Beowulf. Nearly all literary merit originates with the transcription of text and the mass reproduction thanks to the printing press, credited to Johannes Gutenberg in 1450. Similarly, the study of the history of books primarily starts with the famous machine, since documents were otherwise mainly scrolls without strong binding, and expands towards other steps in the printing and distributing process. A book only persists in the common media with the right “communications circuit that runs from the author to the publisher (if the bookseller does not assume that role), the printer, the shipper, the bookseller, and the reader” (Darnton 67). The reader then influences the author with critique, and because “authors are readers themselves” (Darnton 67). Even in our expansive world today, we can see how authors draw from their readership, anticipate their audience’s reaction to their work, and form a reader/writer literary community that pushes the cycle. Perhaps more of such exists today because of widespread media. Take John Green for example; he discusses his upcoming novels on his video blog series with his brother, and he can easily garner the reaction of his work by scrolling down the Youtube comments. As such, the full cycle persists.

According to Darnton, book historians take a singular section of the full cycle and analyze, then contextualize the part to the whole, particularly in the context of and to describe the economic, social, political, and cultural environment. In “What is the History of Books?”, Darnton offers the publishing history of Voltaire’s Questions sur l’Encyclopedia, particularly analyzing the role of the bookseller Rigaud, to vividly illustrate the full cycle and reveal crucial missing evidence that continues to leave holes in the book history narrative. The successful bookseller relies on the readership, just like the author, and Rigaud’s variety in his bookshop catered to varied audiences: “travel books, histories, novels, religious works, and the occasional scientific or philosophical treatise” (Darton 70). Similarly, the bookseller competes with other businesses, vying for dominance in the industry, just as one could find today with the liquidated Borders and expanding Barnes & Noble. Yet, Darton’s questions towards all part of the cycle, starting on page 75, reveal the heavy burdens of the study of the history of books. Some documents persist to answer the questions, but not enough data can be found to solidify conclusions about mainstream literary trends.

How does this all relate to the physical book you will present in class? How does it not? The interconnected cycle offers a rich history of the social climate. Voltaire’s success with Questions reveals an Enlightenment trend in the 1770s and 1780s through literature; Harry Potter’s massive sales reveal a cultural trend towards children’s literature, perhaps even as backlash against surging visual media. A bookstore, even today, detects what would be successful, orders in massive stock, and promotes its great wares. In a way, the book lives not because its creator bestowed life but because the seller validates its importance to the literary world. If none of the booksellers believed Questions or Harry Potter would be profitable, the books would never receive such high acclaim and awareness. Yet, the bookseller decodes its readership to make its purchases, and the readers encourage the authors to produce more.

Such logical interconnection does not falter in studies of print. Just like books, the printing press launched the development of fonts; with the advent of moveable type, printers could style text typefaces for massive reproduction. Themes of readability and simplicity dominate font style both in books and on a multitude of printed works. While mainstream books and newspapers do not deter from serif fonts, since the feet naturally separate the letters and make otherwise cramped text easier on the eyes, contemporary shorter printed media (signs, advertisements, etc.) abandoned the serif. Prior to the creation of Helvetica in 1957, a san-serif was introduced in the early 1800s, but popularity of san-serif hit spiraled in the 1900s with types such as Johnston (used by the Transport for London), Gill Sans (popularized as the typeface for LNER’s marketing materials), and Broadway. As recognized in the movie Helvetica, the font type dominated the print sphere because of its simplistic design. It offers no emotional tug and became the basis for other sans-serifs developed decades later, such as Arial, Century Gothic, and Calibri. In their lack of emotional attachment to viewers, the font exists and persists in the background, unknowingly beloved by millions of viewers because it does not call attention to itself. Since the font does not suggest anything, the designer can adjust it for their visual aesthetic, and the viewer can imbue their own meaning to the text. This modernist trend conflicts with post-modernist font trends that reject such simplicity; post-modernist fonts are intentionally designed with implied meaning. One could classify Papyrus as a post-modern font due to its apparent replication of ancient Egyptian scroll-work, adding a certain foreign and relic element to the text. No matter what type of font used, its careful design and craft reflects on its object quality, offering a narrative that pervades multiple media trends, from books to the world wide web.

Annotated Bibliography

“History of Books and Printing: A Guide to the Collections of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.” New York Public Library. n.p, n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2013.

The New York Public Library, located near Bryant Park in Manhattan, offers its collection on the history of books and printing in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Their works are divided into several subcategories: Bibliographical Description of Books; General Surveys; Bibliographies; Antiquity: Alphabets, Writing Systems, Writing Materials; Medieval Period: The Codex an Manuscript Production; Art of the Book; Invention and Spread of Printing; Publishing and Bookselling; Books and Society; and The Book in the United States. Online, a dedicated scholar can look up all their resources according to category, along with their call number, to aid in further research at the library itself.

Hutchings, Emma. “Typeface Timeline Shows Us the History of Fonts [Infographic].” PSFK. n.p., 3 Apr. 2012. Web. 05 Apr. 2013.

This graphic timeline of the history of western typefaces primarily starts with the invention of moveable type with the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg up to 2011 when Matthew Carter, who designed Georgia and Veranda, won the national Design Award for lifetime achievement. Notably, the sans serif first originated in the early 1800s, but only skyrocketed in the 1900s, especially when Helvetica was created in 1957. The timeline also notes significant font debuts in popular media, such as Catul for the Google logo, a modified Klavika Bold for Facebook, and Futura for The Social Network poster.

“The Centre for the History of the Book.” The University of Edinburgh. n.p., 19 Apr. 2012. Web. 05 Apr. 2013.

The Centre for the History of the Book, established in 1995 as a leading resource for advanced interdisciplinary research and study of the material culture of the text, offers a website to aid scholars in navigating its resources, showcase related events, and offer information for its postgraduate programs in the History of the Book. The Centre is affiliated with the University of Edinburgh, located in Scotland.

Helvetica. Dir. Gary Hustwit. Plexifilm, 2007. DVD.

This feature-length documentary on the development and prevalence of Helvetica exposes the culture, history, and art of print-making and text design, centered on the typeface of the same name. Candid interviews with leading graphic and type designers, such as Matthew Carter, who originally designed web fonts Verdana and Georgia, assist brief glances around New York City, where Helvetica continues to populate and persist across the bustling city, a history of the typeface, and insight on the battle between modernist and postmodernist type.

“Jessica Hische – From Berlin with Love.” Gestalten TV. Vimeo, March 2013. Web. 08 April 2013.

Jessica Hische talks to Gestalten TV about designing letters B, E, R, L, I, and N. She also discusses the balance of personality in font design, the value of serifs, and collaborating with other print-makers in a recent two-day Gestalten workshop. In conclusion, Hische finds font design a unique exposure of self and personal artistry, as each font design will end up differently depending on the designer. Hische, a letterer and illustrator, has been named a Forbes Magazine “30 under 30” in art and design, an ADC Young Gun, and one of Print Magazine’s “New Visual Artists.”

By Jaime Burns and Jessi Putnam

P&G’s Lapel Button

Note: Most of this is very much a work-in-progress. Since I did not receive word back from the owner of the button in time, I could not provide images or fully research the item. I also need to look back for a few extra bits of information in the Oracle. I might even have to research Manny’s, if that is where the button was really made.

Pat & George’s Lapel Button
New Paltz, New York
On the button reads “Pat and George’s” and “Make Orgies, Not War.” From such clues, the item places New Paltz at the heart of the counterculture movements in the mid-twentieth century, where the sexual revolution combines with dominant anti-war sentiment.

Physical Description:Cannot be determined.

Provenance: To be determined. Likely was either created at P&G’s or Manny’s between 1947 and 1980s, when the restaurant was known as Pat & George’s due to changes in ownership. Ed and Mike Beck, previous and current owners of the establishment, have no clue about the button and the whereabouts of the owners beforehand. I am currently attempting to contact the current owner of Manny’s and the owner of the lapel button in question.

Date of Creation: Between 1947 and 1980.

The button pulls New Paltz into the grand narratives of the Vietnam War and the sexual revolutions from the 1960s to 1980s. On October 14th, 1969, in the same year Edwin Beck purchased P&G’s, the Oracle publishes an open letter “sent to all New Paltz merchants concerning their role in tomorrow’s Vietnam Moratorium.” To protest the war in Vietnam, at a point when thirty-five thousand Americans have died and after five years of demonstrations and outrage, students initiated a movement to stop all town activity on October 15th, 1969. “Students and other citizens are going to suspend their normal activities by not attending school or work,” so town merchants were similarly encouraged to “not conduct business” and join with Poughkeepsie and many American communities in protest. The open letter gets more serious in its urgency for action and repercussion:

UUP and P&G 022“This is part of a continuing nationwide protest that will begin on the 15th of every month with an additional day of protest each month the war continues. Thus, in November it will be a two day protest, in December three days, etc. However, we are only asking our merchants to close the FIRST protest day of each month, beginning at 12:00 noon.
Any store remaining open the first day of protest each month will be boycotted for a period of one week this month followed by an additional week each succeeding month.

Such efforts join country-wide sentiments and actions against the war. On November 15th, 1969, more than five-hundred thousand people marched on Washington to protest the war, remaining the largest political rally in history and eliciting no response from the government. The war continued on until April 30, 1975, but the Vietnam Moratorium at New Paltz did not. (insert info about last mention of Moratorium in Oracle)

Not long after mentions of the Moratorium, Oracle issues in 1970 and 1971 feature campus events and discussions about sex in their “This Week On Campus” column. Little other news about sexual revolution activities exist in SUNY New Paltz news until the 1990s, when the school hosted a sex conference which included a lecture panel on sadomasochists, and instructional workshop on sex toys. However, mention of sex talks in the Oracle already shed light on the socially-progressive nature of the campus in the late 1960s and early 1970s, influenced by popular sex-liberating literature such as The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (1963) and nationally-recognized protests such as the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Such cultural exposure allowed the “Make Orgies, Not War” button to exist, as more prudent towns would never hold such items.

The lapel button finally offers the deeply rooted connection of SUNY New Paltz to its surrounding community. After Edwin Beck took ownership of Pat & George’s in 1969, he hosted a party on-campus to introduce students to the restaurant. Subsequently, issues of the Oracle featured advertisements for Pat & George’s nearly every other issue. Nick Wesley, a disgruntled student writing in the Oracle on October 14th, 1969, expresses his disapproval of the Moratorium because “P&G’s is closing for the afternoon” and such would anger many World Series fans and picketers. Prior to that academic year, there is no mention of the establishment in the campus newspaper, confirming claims on the P&G’s website that Edwin Beck’s party at SUNY New Paltz reached out “to a wider audience and gave the students… a new place to call home.”

This button explains why there is a party life at SUNY New Paltz, why students today flock to P&G’s, McGillicuddy’s, Cabaloosa, Oasis, Snugs, and many other local institutions on weekend nights for their party fixes. These restaurants and clubs can owe their late night business to Ed Beck, an ambitious business man who converted his neighborhood bar into a local institution shared by townspeople and students alike. Because of his keen interest to invite the college students off campus, demonstrated by the liberal-minded button evoking the sexual freedoms and anti-war sentiments of 1970s college students, Edwin Beck converted New Paltz into the college town it is today, flourishing due to active student involvement at off-campus institutions.

“A History of P&G’s.” P&G’s. 2012. Web. 29 March 2013.
Oracle, 1967 to 1971. Microfilm.
Skarda, Erin. “Moratorium Against the Vietnam War, Nov. 15, 1969.” Time. 28 June 2011. Web. 04 April 2013.
Wishnick, Ken. “The “Hello New Paltz” Show #113- Mike Beck.” Vimeo. 2011. Web. 29 March 2013.

New Paltz Composition Book

Gertrude Dubois 03

New Paltz Public School Workbook
New Paltz, New York
Between 1896 and 1904
This book features schoolwork by two students that graduated from the New Paltz Normal School, but the contents do not feature New Paltz Normal material. Jane Hayden planned examinations across disciplines for her public school students from October 1896 to April 1897. The later inheritor, Gertrude Dubois, sketched contemporary clothing designs and architectural illustrations alongside her predecessor’s examination questions. She also wrote part of a history essay in January 1904.

Physical Description
???????????????????????????????On face, the thin composition book, approximately 10×7.5 inches, hardly stands out as a historical artifact of New Paltz history. Barely threaded together within brown cardboard covers, the pages yellowed over time, yet the typical blue lines reminiscent of today’s marble notebooks are visible on each piece of paper. Inside the front cover, one clearly wrote “Jane Hayden” in pencil to indicate ownership; a scrawled script in the top right hand corner on the adjacent lined paper can be faintly decoded as “Janie Hayden,” though it looks like someone smudged the pencil marking or attempted to erase the name. Below, “Examinations Oct. 1896” heads the first page, following with “7 Arithmetic” and questions in a fine script. Other pages are headed by the following subjects: literature, grammar, geography, spelling, language, and physiology. Some of the questions are followed by answers, indicated by “Ans.” As the pages progress, thick pencil drawings of elaborately-dressed women and foreign architecture fill the blank spaces alongside examination questions and even some blank pages. On the back, Gertrude Dubois wrote a fifth grade History essay about Cyrus and Croesus in 1904, almost a decade after the previous owner dated her last page at April 9, 1897.


Obituary of Jane Hayden in Haviland-Heidgerd collection at Elting Library; reveals family connection.

Obituary of Jane Hayden in Haviland-Heidgerd collection at Elting Library; reveals family connection.

Two names are found within the workbook: Jane Hayden and Gertrude Dubois. Both were daughters of Catherine Emily Deyo from different marriages; John Hayden fathered Jane (July 18, 1873) and her older brother James while Phillip E. Dubois fathered Gertrude (Sept. 21, 1893). (See family tree, below) Jane graduated from the Classical program at New Paltz Normal School in 1894 and her notes from 1896 and 1897 presume educating students in seventh and eighth grades. In 1904, her half-sister Gertrude stumbles upon the book and uses it for her drawings and bits of schoolwork. Gertrude moved to Ft. Lauderdale with husband Watson Eltinge Jr. between her high school graduation (1912) and the birth of her daughter Bernice (1922). There remains no record on how the book ended up in the SUNY New Paltz Special Collection.

Date(s) of Creation
The physical book itself has no indication of where and when it was created. The date of the text within, however, is well-marked. The first writing sample is dated Oct. 1896. A few pages later, the “Final Examinations of the Fall Term” offer the final date of the exam period: December 24th, 1896. The Winter Term kicks off on February 19, 1897. Next, the final examinations of the Winter Term are dated as April 9, 1897. Finally, Gertrude writes her short History response on January 24, 1904.

???????????????????????????????First, the object is a unique historical document of the New Paltz Normal School. Between 1986 and 1917, no yearbooks exist for the institution, and while graduation lists and select school events were documented in local magazines, a very thin trace exists of the institution or surrounding academia during this time period. The exam book offers a glimpse into New Paltz academics during these undocumented years. In the same way, the composition book views the effect of the higher education institution rather than the school itself. Jane Hayden, the first author, graduated from the Classical course at New Paltz Normal in 1894 as the secretary for her class; the first date in the exam book is 1896. One could argue that the notes indicated future academic study at New Paltz Normal or elsewhere; after all, a Classical degree does not come with an education certification like the Normal course.

From A History of the New Paltz Normal School.

From A History of the New Paltz Normal School.

However, some of the headings do not match the subject programs offered through the Normal course (i.e. Geography and Spelling), and many of the Normal classes do not exist in the book (such as Zoology and Ethics). Also, no record exists of Jane Hayden, or Jane Minnick (her married name), graduating again from the institution, either in newspaper clippings or the Paltzanga. Plus, the small number notations alongside subjects indicate that she instructed seventh and eighth grade. However, it is also well-known that the New Paltz public school system at the time stopped instruction at sixth grade. Students would attend private institutions in Poughkeepsie and other surrounding areas. As such, no record exists at local collections on Jane Hayden’s teaching career. We only have the book to faintly hint at what instructional material would be offered at the end of the nineteenth century.

???????????????????????????????Second, Gertrude’s notes and sketches offer a glimpse into the educational prowess and social interests of a ten-year-old New Paltz girl. At the back of the book, Gertrude writes her brief essay in a loose, messy script, and a similarly messy grammar and argumentative style follow suit down the page. One could presume the essay was a rough draft, since text follows up along the side, the page appears on the very back cover, she flips over the book to write a few more notes, and no grade is indicated. Such information could excuse her poor word choice and minimal detail, but what else can you expect for a fifth grader learning about Ancient Greeks and Persians? Through her drawings, one could see that Gertrude admired contemporary fashion and architecture more so than her history studies. Her half-sister’s composition notebook became her artistic playground, where she could illustrate eloquent society ladies with curled locks, and adorned in large hair accessories and elaborates dresses. ???????????????????????????????She also sketched various building designs harking from various eras and cultures, demonstrating that young New Paltz girls were exposed to foreign cultures and societies, either through school or travel. Gertrude even learned about igloos, and designed her own with three rooms: a living room in the back, a dog room in the middle, and a sled room in the front. Her love of fashion continues years later; in the Historic Huguenot collection, a letter between Gertrude and her cousin Sarah describes the New Paltz Normal School burning down in 1906 and her trip to Poughkeepsie with her parents. She draws a rough sketch of a coat on the same page as her still-coarse script.

Johnson, Carol A. New Paltz Revisited. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2010. Print.

Johnson, Carol A. New Paltz Revisited. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2010. Print.

Although her writing and drawing in the composition book presumably does not continue far after the stated date, Gertrude Dubois would later make her appearance in the New Paltz Normal School scene. In New Paltz Revisited, a photograph captures her graduating class, including her future husband’s sister, Anna Eltinge. Paltzanga notes her graduation in 1912 from the high school, her marriage to Watson Eltinge, and present status in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. An Eltinge genealogy records that she died in the same town in August 1981 and that her daughter Bernice survived her.

Finally, the names tied to the book establish the complex family histories in New Paltz. Throughout New Paltz academic records and graduation listings, historical surnames such as DuBois, Deyo, Eltinge, and Lefevre appear again and again. Nearly all of these names could be traced back to the Historic Huguenot founders, and even surnames unrelated to the original founders get pulled into these historic families. Although John Hayden (Jane’s father) hails from Illinois, Catherine’s second marriage to Phillip D. Dubois pulls the non-native family into a complex web of relations. This family web already establishes Gertrude in the Eltinge genealogy before her marriage to Watson Eltinge Jr. Familial webs are inconclusive up to Gertrude and hardly mention John Hayden; below is a rough genealogy sketch from Catherine Emily Deyo down to offer to numerous collections of New Paltz history. Current graphical genealogies found online do not touch upon Catherine Deyo and her descendents; this can be the first step to alleviate the issue.
rough genealogy


Dubois, Gertrude. Letter from Gertrude Dubois to her cousin mentioning the burning of the Normal School. Education in a Valley Fair. 2008. Hudson River Valley Heritage. Historic Huguenot Street. 12 March 2013
Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Vol. 8. Albany: 1895. Web.
Haviland-Heidgerd Collection. New Paltz: Elting Library.
History of the New Paltz Normal School, A. SUNY New Paltz Special Collections.
Johnson, Carol A. New Paltz Revisited. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2010. Print.
Paltzanga. SUNY New Paltz, 1941. Print.
Rachel Eltinge Family Tree. The School Letters of Rachel Eltinge. 02 Jan 2012. Hudson River Valley Heritage. Historic Huguenot Street. 15 March 2013.
“United States Census, 1910,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 Mar 2013), Watson Elting, New Paltz Ward 2, Ulster, New York; citing sheet 9A, family 26, NARA microfilm publication T624, FHL microfilm 1375097.
“United States Census, 1910,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 Mar 2013), Gertude Dubois in household of Catherine E Dubois, New Paltz Ward 2, Ulster, New York; citing sheet 4B, family 63, NARA microfilm publication T624, FHL microfilm 1375097.

The Thread between SUNY and the Village: a New Paltz Observation

Since I am less informed about the Village of New Paltz than my (soon to be) alma mater (which I did not know either; I doubt people know their alma mater until they graduate), I observed the New Paltz Wikipedia page in its similarities to the campus. Since New Paltz is a college town, formed by not just its history but the vigorous youth attracting business to shops and art and culture, I yearned to find connections between the two pages, especially since I know there are plenty of people who stay in the area after school, or students who make up a huge portion of the off-campus population.

Looking at the demographics sections on each page, there is a notable correlation between school and village racial populations (roughly 80% to 73% for White; 5% to 8% African American; 11% to 11% for Hispanic or Latino; 3% to 7% for Asian/Pacific Islander). While one could argue that New York State populations do not change dramatically, unless one lives in a highly urban or rural area, the similarities are striking when most of the SUNY New Paltz students hail from lower New York areas, such as the five boroughs, Long Island, and the lower Hudson Valley. From my perspective, I view SUNY New Paltz as racially diverse; my roommate, who attended a performance high school in the city, was initially shocked by the amount of white students on campus. Statistics could offer a fairly pale-skinned melting pot, but racial diversity remains a slightly biased subject, as a northern Westchester student will be exposed to different cultures than a city-dweller. Statistics strip cultural expression.

The demographics section (on the Village page) also reveals the heavy effects of college students living off campus, as I implied earlier. “The per capita income for the village was $11,644. About 11.8% of families and 36.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.6% of those under age 18 and 12.2% of those age 65 or over. While this is one of the lowest median household incomes in the area, it includes large number of college students who attend SUNY New Paltz, many of whom have incomes that would place them below the poverty line.”

To which I say “obviously.” Nothing screams college town more than an incredibly low per capita income and 58.7% of a population consisting of 18-to-24-year-olds. Most students can hardly afford tuition, let alone pay for their monthly rent, let alone live on their own. Students drastically affect the village environment, perhaps largely on this economic level. There was no information on tax rates in the village (which is troubling on another level, since plenty of locals complain about high tax rates in the area), but one would assume lower cost-of-living to balance out low incomes. The other way likely exists since less of the population can provide taxes, many exempt as students and receiving wages well below the poverty line, and yet the village and town must keep up maintenance not just for its townspeople, but for the prospective students of SUNY New Paltz. The village apparently thrives on the large student population, as it makes such a large majority of residents, and the town must always keep up with the unstable population. None of that exists on either Wikipedia page. Most of the speculation depends on a single bit of information I mentioned earlier was not provided. Yet did that not explain the very complex dynamic of a college town?

Another missing piece: the Farmer's Market, held every Thursday in warm weather. Not only a strong connection between campus and village, but a hint to the environmentally-friendly atmosphere on - and off-campus.

Another missing piece: the Farmer’s Market, held every Thursday in warm weather on the Academic Concourse. The event not only reveals a strong connection between campus and village, but hints at the environmentally-friendly atmosphere on – and off-campus.

While the village Wikipedia page includes several notations of its dependence on the student population, it hardly goes far enough. Similarly, the SUNY New Paltz page hardly interacts with the village environment, making no mention of the effect its students and activities have on the community. Since the college is such an asset to the village, albeit sometimes a burden, at least give credit to the town offering such academic hospitality. Then again, these are Wikipedia pages, not official reports. Still, it is incredibly apparent the two environments intertwine, and should offer such on the SUNY New Paltz page. SUNY Binghamton discusses transportation options on their Wikipedia page; why not discuss taxi services, escort services, and the Loop on the SUNY New Paltz page?

Photo0232There are other small points of mention on the SUNY New Paltz page in particular. First, the “Campus theaters” subsection does not include the newly-renovated Julian J. Studley Theatre, connected to Old Main building. The page includes the completion of Old Main in the section above entitled “Campus,” but perhaps the authors could not detail the theater, which hosts on-campus theater performances (such as Into the Woods by Miami Theater Players in Spring 2012), choirs, lectures, and even the President’s Inauguration in Spring 2012. Second, “Clubs and traditions” includes Student Association and Residence Hall Student Association, but not the United Greek Association, which is the presiding body over the Greek life, even if it does mention fraternities and sororities. Third, not once did any part of the page mention the awesome outdoors environment during the beginning and end of the academic year. Such little facts about students lying down outside on nice days, playing instruments, or throwing a frisbee–it’s a whole new environment when the snow melts and the skies clear–would add a distinct personal touch to the page and resonate the name with the school many students adore.

Harry Potter and the Cultural Phenomenon

Front cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, projected for re-publication Summer 2013.

Front cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, projected for re-publication Summer 2013.

Out of interest to extract as much content from one object as possible, I shall continue my observations of Harry Potter. In related news, following up from last week’s discussion of book covers, Scholastic just unveiled a new cover series in time for the 15th anniversary for the US publication of Sorcerer’s Stone. A few posters noted the darker tone induced by the cover, along with the complete scene shift, from the outside of Hogwarts to Diagon Alley. The detail of people and location heightens the wonder shared by both the reader and the protagonist, yet the image is also self-aware of the novel’s wonder, drawing that scene out from so many others. The article notes that the 1998 release, rather than 1997 in England, “really took the Potter craze to the next level.” In context of this week’s blog agenda—to reveal a historical route or trace of the object and its functionality—the separate publications and the fame of the book, despite its juvenile literary status, marks a shift in cultural use of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and for juvenile literature as a whole. 

J.K. Rowling’s eclectic story about witches and wizards at boarding school marked a crucial point in modern literary history, especially in children’s and YA literature. Although authors such as Roald Dahl and E.B. White amassed novels of prolific and wondrous success prior to Rowling, Harry Potter contested stereotypes of juvenile novels. For one, children’s books no longer needed to be shorter than their older counterparts. At over three-hundred pages in the US paperback edition, Sorcerer’s Stone and its British counterpart contested repeated concern that children would not read such thick stories. It goes to show that my mother could finish reading The Giver and not the Sorcerer’s Stone, but many children, like me, were far from daunted by the page count. Secondly, juvenile novels could match more “sophisticated” work, receiving critical attention from scholarly sources and literary observers.Philosopher’s Stone mainly received children’s literary awards in the UK. However, as listed on the back cover, Sorcerer’s Stone received the following non-children-specific awards almost immediately after entering the US: New York Times Bestseller, Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1998, ALA Notable Book, and A New York Public Library Best Book of the Year 1998. Most notably, Sorcerer’s Stone stayed on top of the New York Times Bestseller list from August 1999 to July 2000, when a distinct, separate category was created for children’s literature, legitimizing the juvenile novels for critical acclaim. Without Sorcerer’s Stone, the multitude of different Bestseller categories would not exist today: “Children’s Middle Grade” and “Young Adult” were separated out of the general Children’s Chapter Books’ list this past December. Funny enough, at the time, many felt Scholastic was gypped by the new category. No one predicted the explosion of juvenile and YA literature in US popular culture after the newly-created category.

(The observation also adds temporal weight to my edition of Sorcerer’s Stone; the NYT Bestseller listing provided impetus to the September 1999 reprint in my hands. Barnes and Nobles likely marketed the NYT placing with the Harry Potter book at the storefront, and my mother picked up the novel at the onset of the literary revolution.)

Front cover for The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles (2010)

Front cover for The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles (2010)

As mentioned earlier, the book, originally intended as a simple children’s literary story, transformed into a universal novel and an academic source. Type “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” on JSTOR, Gale, or other library databases, and scholarly observations of character, religious context, and even an intriguing mirror theory in literary narratives will pop up amongst many, many others. Books exist to examine the world of Harry Potter in such a similar fashion (such as the one depicted to the right; I own a copy and enjoy it as a close, scholarly examination of themes and motifs prevalent through the series). At SUNY New Paltz, Sorcerer’s Stone is commonly used in the Classic Juvenile Fantasy Literature course. Similar models exist in famous schools such as Yale and Stanford (which observes good vs. evil in Philosopher’s Stone). Each explores not just the cultural status of the novel, but its relation to a child’s education, mindset, and as a study of the human condition. Rowling could have never guessed her work would be examined in universities.

When inspired on a train ride from Manchester to London in 1990, Rowling only thought of Harry Potter as one of her many writing ideas since six-years-old. After years struggling with poor economic means, hum-drum office work, a divorce, and single-motherhood, Harry provided a much needed outlet for her creative interests and a shed of hope to be published. Instead, she created an artifact of the late 20th and early 21st century, a literary movement, a fan culture, and a future for the advancement of juvenile fantasy in the marketplace, in academia, and in millions of children’s homes.

In class, we labeled the uniqueness and complexity of de Waals story by its thickness and its movement away from cliché or “other people’s stories.” Such notion of thinness, in this label, as a vice follows the narrow-minded perceptions we decided to abandon on day one. Does a collective story not entail a signature of awe? When millions of children experience a passion for reading from a single novel, a single story, could that “cliché,” or “thinness,” or shared story, really be so dulling and singular-minded? Isn’t there beauty and amazement when significance matches up to cultural phenomenon?

That is the story of Harry Potter, how one wizard boy with an unparalleled destiny unearthed the dreams and futures of so many children in the twentieth century. Sure, the copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in my hands remains solely in my care; the memories of reading the book around my home cannot be duplicated. Yet, strangely, they are; every time I read someone else’s experiences with the book, I remember my own, the stories fused and intertwined into a collective memory. Perhaps you experience that, too.

The Visual Makeup, Illustrations and All, of Harry Potter

Early February 04When deciding whether to continue exploring my previously mentioned item, a tattered copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the object’s lack of inheritance or personal cultural significance stopped my initial drive short. After one post about a very well-known, non-antique item, I could no longer see what should be described. I focused in on how my copy reflected my memories with the prized item, rather than vivid details of the book itself. Even though I provided pictures of the novel, you could not inherently know that cracked embossed metallic silver-gold lettering for the author, series title, a “THE EXTRAORDINARY NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER,” and the writing on the spine still stood out from the smooth, semi-sheen outer book layer. You would not conceptualize the size of the novel: 7.5×6.5x.75 inches, which is small compared to the hardcover and later books in the series, but large for its time as a juvenile novel. You could not visualize the semi-coarse pages glued to the spine, as opposed to a much sturdier woven fashion, marking the paperback as a massed-produced, short-lived item rather than an object worthy of artifact-status centuries from now; I will prove those bookmakers wrong. You could not identify the typeface, even by looking through the pages. Despite several online users stating the back cover of each Harry Potter novel identified its typeface, a 12-point Adobe Garamond, such could not be found in my edition. I love its fallacy. The other font, used across the novel for chapter numbers on the table of contents, the dedications, numerous “HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE”’s before the story unfolds, chapter titles, the two-line drop-caps, page numbers, and headings, reveals the sheer magic of the novel, conjuring new font styles for visual delight. Mugglenet, a well-established fan-based Harry Potter website, provides a nearly-identical font called Lumos for all the obsessed Harry Potter fans. The same font exists on the cover page and spine’s metallic words, except “Harry Potter”: mimicking-font “Harry P” on Mugglenet almost matches the unique typeface except for more stubbly jagged lines for the electric-style stem of the “P.”

DSC02660I also did not describe the illustrations within the pages. At the beginning of each chapter, true to its identity as a children’s literature book, a black-and-white picture faintly hints at what is to come in the following pages. As if US illustrator Mary GrandPre set fine charcoal to the pages, the thick grayscale illustrations match her front-page style of skillful shading and blending, masking grand portions of the pictures in darkness. Unlike the much more realistic illustration on the front cover, the smaller chapter pictures feature thicker outlines, oftentimes identifying Harry by little more than their body outlines, a few clothing details, and hair, such as the illustration for Chapter Twelve, the Mirror of Erised.

Back cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998)

Back cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1998)

While my pictures provided a familiar view of the book to many in our age group, sometimes referred to by columnists and fans as the Harry Potter Generation, there are several distinctions between the American paperback versus hardcover illustration. Behind the embossed metallic font, the American front cover features a young black-haired boy in a yellow and red striped shirt, blue jeans, and a red cloak hanging from his neck, flying on a thin, wooden broom through two stone pillars, decorated by an intricate swirling design. His arm extends to catch a tiny gold ball with white wings, the gold hue and yellow blur of movement nearly blending into the brown stone. Behind the boy, a unicorn dashes from the middle out towards the woods on the left side of the cover; three beastly dog faces growl from the shadows of a castle on the right; small purple shadows of people on brooms stand against the pink-purple sky. While a golden “Harry Potter” stands out from the illustration, the rest of the title disguises itself in the middle archway. At the bottom, behind the embossed “J.K. Rowling,” a slightly opaque blue-and-red diamond strip covers the bottom pillar rungs and the thin grass landscape; the spine repeats the design. The front cover image prevails across most American copies, paperback or hardcover, although newer editions are significantly lighter, as if a graphic designer turned up the brightness and contrast in Photoshop. The back cover, differing from its hardcover counterpart, gives way to the light-hearted summary written upon the green drape (pictured to the right). Behind the drape, a dark hand decorated by peach cloth holds a similar-color candle on a brass candle-holder; the bright candlelight hardly illuminates the purple-brown blur behind. I do not believe anyone knows who this mysterious man might be, especially since this back cover only exists on paperback editions. As many more people turn to hardcover editions for material examination—perhaps because of promised longevity of the artifact—everyone recognizes Hedwig and Dumbledore on the back of the version’s book sleeve. Although the peach-clocked man behind the green drape exists on the front-inner flap of the hardcover sleeve, HP1_CoverGoogle Images reveals the figure’s arched bare foot, as if tiptoeing to his next destination. The figure, although still mysterious, could be linked up to the actions within the book, as several characters snoop around the castle at night to find the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Front cover of UK Bloomsbury publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997)

Front cover of UK Bloomsbury publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)

In contrast, the UK Bloomsbury edition of the first Harry Potter book features a much more simplistic illustrative and type style. The front page, with title, illustration, and front-page praise divided by thin green lines, distinctly separate images from words. “HARRY POTTER,” written in a gold Times New Roman, and “and the Philosopher’s Stone,” written in a small, white italic script, sit upon a solid crimson background. Underneath, an orange oval encapsulates a “J.K. Rowling” in a black Times New Roman-esque font style. The illustration of Harry Potter in front of the Hogwarts Express on Platform 9 and 3/4, evokes a distinct cartoon style with thick lines, bright colors, and unrealistic indications of time, place and environment. The Hogwarts Express, written in gold against a large green plate
Original back cover of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997)

Original back cover of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)

on the front of the red train, overtly proclaims its presence; the “9 3/4” sign towards the top looks like a piece of parchment floating in the sky; and stars within the smoke evoke magic rather than a realistic portrayal of stars with bright colors and skewed angles. The first back cover featured a wizard named Wizzy, created by illustrator Thomas Taylor and completely unrelated to the book content, donning a very odd wardrobe of purple and brown, carrying a large brown book, and smoking a pipe. The book description is just as silly: “Harry Potter thinks he’s an ordinary boy — until he is rescued by an owl, taken to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch, and does battle in a deadly duel. The Reason: HARRY POTTER IS A WIZARD.” After a few editions, Wizzy is replaced by Albus Dumbledore holding a Puter-Outer, and the summary receives slight renovation, though nothing compared to the eloquent, enticing summary on the US editions. Of course, by the time the novel reached the US, Americans were already ecstatic about the story, buying UK editions. The US cover reflects achieved fame, while the UK cover expresses a small hope in a long, complex children’s story nearly unprecedented across the globe.
Back cover of UK edition of  Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Revised back cover of UK edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)

Many differences between the UK and US editions amassed plenty of critical examination and pages of online content. As the most apparent change between the versions, Scholastic altered the title from “Philosopher’s to “Sorcerer’s” when buying US copy rights because the publishing company believed no child would read about a “philosopher.” America is also not as familiar with the legend of the “philosopher’s stone,” a legendary alchemist substance capable of turning base metals to gold or silver and as an elixir of life (just as described in the novel). Otherwise, one of many sources for each word change between the books can be found here at the Harry Potter Lexicon, another fan-made website for Harry Potter needs.

A Tattered, Personal Edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

January 2013 7Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first novel in a children’s literary phenomenon inspired by a train ride from Manchester to London, resides in millions and millions of homes across the country and the globe, inspiring young minds to read and write with its wonderful, fantastical tale. My book and I are just a part of the masses, yet its fourteen years of wear mark the 309-page novel as an artifact in my library collection—it similarly outdates nearly all objects I own—and is perhaps my most prized possession.

The book marks a muddled childhood and a certain dream. I remember sitting beside my mother, listening to her read an eclectic collection of stories for a seven-and-a-half-year-old. The Magic Tree House series decorated many near-21st-century family bookshelves. I later learned that educators labeled The Giver as a seventh-grade book. In the summer of 1999, before second grade, Mom came home with this now-aged copy of the Sorcerer’s Stone, saying the children’s book displayed in front of Barnes and Nobles amassed rave reviews. I recognized “Harry Potter” since I saw the Chamber of Secrets in my school library only a few months before. While reading the final chapter, “The Man with Two Faces,” Mom confessed she could not read any further, complaining it was “too long” and had “too many characters” to remember. I finished the book that night on my own. From then on, I read every story, no matter the difficulty, by myself.

Examining the contents of my copy, and searching the Internet for well-known facts about the famous book series, I know what I just described is impossible. On the fourth page, on the other side of the title page, at the very bottom, reads the following: “First Scholastic trade paperback printing, September 1999”: that is when I entered second grade. A quick look on Wikipedia will show that Chamber of Secrets entered the US in June 1999; I doubt my small upper-Westchester elementary school library would receive a children’s book about witches and wizards so quickly before I left for the summer. Even if my memories are somehow a lie, that I fabricated details about some of the most vivid moments of my life, my drive to write exists, and I accredit my near-fifteen-year passion to this little tattered book.

January 2013 15Already, I delved into the appearance of the nearly fifteen-year-old object. The cover and spine display considerably light wear-and-tear, given its age, and the edges are tattered and curled. On the front, a thin line runs between “SORCERER’S” and the bottom hem of Harry’s shirt, matching the several crease lines on the spine. The largest tears are upon the spine; while exposing the first few pages on either side, the curling edges threaten to release all its contents.

January 2013 12On the inside of the front cover, a green Post-It note covers a sticker of a young, short-haired girl in a white nightgown reading a novel, surrounded by copious amounts of blankets and pillows, a window behind providing fair lighting for her literary escape. On the bottom, within a slightly opaque box, reads “Jaime” in bright pink gel ink; a very poor drawing of a heart in the same color ink accompanies the name. In my early elementary-school days, nearly all of my books proudly displayed this label inside their front covers, yet I could not say where you would find these other books. I must have not touched them for years. The Post-it note, a fairly recent addition to the relic, holds some bullet notes for my Classic Juvenile Fantasy Literature final exam. On the other side, random pencil scribbles distract from the “Praise for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” A tiny pink splotch towards the bottom proves the child filling her name on the opposite page did not wait for the ink to dry.

January 2013 9The yellowed pages, due to time or my father’s cigarette smoke floating around our household, make the book stand out from any other novel or collection on a bookshelf. Open to the beginning, and detached sheets which describe the Dursleys and their very strange day, will fall into your hands. Bend the book; the pages and binding, used to curving in unnatural waves, will give in to your force. Slide your fingers against the sheets–work them like a flip book–and you will find random folds on the top of pages, notation of numerous readings. Good luck trying to keep the first few pages intact.