Category: Uncategorized

Armistice Day

By , November 9, 2015

Soldiers marching in paradeEver wonder why Veterans Day is always November 11? It seems a little odd when most of our other national holidays are the second Monday or the last Thursday of the month. The truth is, November 11 is an important day in world history. In 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (or, November 11), a temporary cease fire went into effect between Germany and the Allies, effectively ending World War I. Although it would take seven more months for the Treaty of Versailles to be signed, November 11 is often thought of as the end of the Great War.

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day in 1919, starting the trend of national celebration of peace and World War I veterans. Eventually, the title was changed to Veterans Day to acknowledge all of the servicemen and women that have sacrificed for our country. The Veterans History Project Collection at NPL preserves the history of these individuals through letters, photographs, oral histories, and other materials. Over 400 veterans have contributed to this collection bringing us personal stories from military service in World War I to the present.

For example, Alice Mikel Duffield was a captain the Army Nurse Corps during World War I. She worked at Camp Pike in Arkansas where she was assigned to treat African American soldiers during an influenza outbreak. In her oral history, she remembers the impact of the armistice at home :

And I thought the war was over! It was – or at least I thought it was. And then I told the chief nurse that I – that the Armistice was over, been signed, I wanted to go home. And she said, “The war is not over, Miss Mikel! Do you think we can – This place is filled with men that are sick and wounded. We can’t just walk off and leave them here. They’ve got to be taken care of.”

But Duffield’s plans to marry the next day resulted in her immediate discharge since women could not be married and in the Army Nurse Corps at the time. She continued to dedicate her life to the military as a civilian, working in veteran hospitals for several years.

Another solider, George O’Bryan Trabue, was in Europe less than six months before the armistice. His father recalled the reaction in Nashville upon hearing the news:

Letter describing Nashville celebration

“I immediately assembled about 30 girls from our office and store. We took all of the dinner bells, cow bells, horns, flags, etc. we could find around the store and commenced marching”

He goes on to say: “We were the first to make any demonstration on the street but before it was two hours old all principle streets were filled with marchers.”

In another letter, Private Ralph Jones remarks on Trabue’s limited time in the field.

Letter from Ralph Jones

“Buddie it sure is tough to train all those months and then not get to show how much good it done you. If I were in your place I would feel like giving up.”


Veterans Day is a time to thank everyone who has served our country. One of the best ways to do this is to remember their stories.  To hear the memories of veterans for the past 100 years visit the Veterans History Project Collection online or at the library. And remember to thank a veteran!

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with Wilson!

By , September 28, 2015
One of the lithographs created by Robert Motherwell for Three Poems.

One of several lithographs created by Robert Motherwell for Three Poems.

Between what I see and what I say, between what I say and what I keep silent, between what I keep silent and what I dream, between what I dream and what I forget: Poetry.”
~ Octavio Paz

Hola Mis Amigos!

It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month and that means it’s that time of year dedicated to celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. And there’s no better way to celebrate this month than by discussing some of the amazing books that we have in the Wilson Limited Editions Collection by Latin American authors.

The Wilson Collection includes a diverse variety of authors and artists from many different countries around the world. This includes several well-known Latin American authors such as Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Jorge Luis Borges, Octavio Paz, Alejo Carpentier, and many more. Here’s just a small selection of books from the collection:

The Alienist by
The Alienist

Author: Machado de Assis
Artist: Carroll Dunham
Published by Arion Press: 1998

Peculiar and bordering the avant-garde, The Alienist is a story that is both about madness and full of madness. The author, Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, is more commonly known by his surname – Machado de Assis and is considered to be one of the greatest Latin American novelists of the 19th century. During his lifetime, he was not commonly known outside his country of Brazil but has since gained the accolades that he deserves for his writing. The Alienist is only one of his many works of literature and represents one of his most unique stories as well.

The Alienist

One of the drawings for The Alienist by Carroll Dunham.

Originally published as The Psychiatrist but later translated as The Alienist, the novella follows the storyline of Dr. Simon Bacamarte as he is working to discover a universal method to cure pathological disorders and to distinguish sanity from madness. In a small town in Brazil, Bacamarte opens an asylum named “The Green House” where he is conducting his research. Not only does the doctor take in mentally ill patients, but also healthy citizens that he believes will soon develop some form of mental illnesses as well. I don’t want to ruin the rest of the story for you, but I can assure you that the book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest came to mind when I was researching this book. 

The illustrations were created by American artist, Carroll Dunham. And as a fun fact, Carroll Dunham also happens to be the father of actress Lena Dunham. I’m reminded of Picasso when I look at his work and also, the old Nickelodeon cartoon, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. They’re definitely both related, right? Well I’m reminded of Picasso because of the lines and disorder in his work. And the cartoon came to mind in the way that Dunham illustrated each human being. It’s just odd but definitely cohesive with the story line.

LEC_Sight and Touch

One of the many color woodcut prints by Balthus for Sight and Touch.

Sight and Touch 
Author: Octavio Paz
Artist: Balthus
Published by the LEC: 1995

A man of many words and awards including the Miguel de Cervantes Prize and Nobel Peace Prize, Paz is also famously known to have written Luna Silvestre (1933), Piedra de Sol (1957), and Salamandra (1962). Yale professor Gon-zales Echevarria said that Paz “was able to cull from the language of the avant‑garde the very best to create a Latin‑American poetic language.” This is demonstrated well in Sight and Touch. The poem is about light, which Paz describes as “a wavering river that sketches its doubts and turns them to certainties” and “Light is time thinking about itself.”

LEC_Sight and Touch_2

Sight and Touch was signed by both author and artist. A rare find among the Wilson books.

FrancoPolish artist and dear friend of Paz’s, Balthus, created 3 illustrations for the poem. He has illustrated several other books for the Limited Editions Collection including Wuthering Heights and Cosi Fan Tutte. Like several other recognizable artists in the collection such as Barry Moser, Jim Dine, and Thomas Hart Benton (and so many more that I could fill this page), his complete work in the collection is fluid but also unique. The LEC copy of Wuthering Heights is one of my favorite books in the collection because of the artwork. It’s honest, beautiful, and above all – cohesive with each story. There are only 3 illustrations in Sight and Touch, but 3 is all you need to match Paz’s brilliance.

The LEC published another work of Paz’s - Three Poems. I won’t go into full detail about what this book includes, but I can say that it also includes more than one translation, including the original Spanish version. Well-known artist and friend of Paz’s, Robert Motherwell, created 27 lithographs for the book. And another fun fact – it happens to be the largest book we have in the collection at 22-1/2” x 23-1/2 inches.


LEC_Kingdom of this world

The Kingdom of This World
Author: Alejo Carpentier

Artist: Roberto Juarez
Published by the LEC: 1988

Though I already raved about how much I like Balthus’ artwork, the beautiful etchings created by Roberto Juarez for The Kingdom of this World are completely out of this world…ha, see what I did there! They’re my favorite because they provide a delicate and cultured supplement to the story line, which is essentially the story of Haiti before, during, and after the Haitian Revolution as seen through the eyes of the main character  - Ti Noel.The story does not have a conventional, continuous plot but is rather more of a series of vignettes of descriptive moments throughout the character’s life.

Carpentier was inspired to write this novel after taking a trip to Haiti, where he became fascinated with the history of the country. For his research, he explored the island’s museums, libraries, and church archives. The novel was originally published in 1949 in Mexico, and translated into this English version by Harriet de Onís in 1957.

Along with Borges and Neruda, Carpentier is considered to be a founder of modern Latin American fiction. His background in other literature and culture is diverse, however, having been born in Havana and eventually moved to Paris for 11 years. Though he returned to Cuba in 1939, he also traveled throughout Europe, the United States, and South America – providing him with a wide range of cultures to explore and combine.

How Juarez created this unique look that almost appears to be velvet: He used combined methods to have both a sharp and feathered look. He first drew on copper plates with a power tool that was equipped with a bit used for jewelers. He then drew straight line etchings where the lines are drawn through an asphalt ground and etched in acid.

How Juarez created this unique look that almost appears to be velvet: He used combined methods to have both a sharp and feathered look. He first drew on copper plates with a power tool that was equipped with a bit used for jewelers. He then drew straight line etchings where the lines are drawn through an asphalt ground and etched in acid.

Cool stuff, right?! Well the Wilson Collection is filled with many treasures like these. Be sure to make an appointment to come view them for yourself. Click on the link “make an appointment” and fill out the info box with the date and time of when you would like to make an appointment for the Wilson Collection. Be sure to include that you are requesting a tour of the Wilson Collection as well.


Several of the books are always on display in the Wilson Room on the 3rd Floor of the Downtown Library. Everyone is welcome to come visit the collection at any time, and an appointment will allow you to look at any of the books up close! Stayed tune for next month’s special post!

Upcoming Events related to the Collection:

  • Stay tuned for the art exhibit displaying several of the books and pieces of artwork from the Wilson Collection! Coming around the beginning of October and will be on exhibit in the first floor art gallery at the Main Downtown Library.
  • The Handmade & Bound Festival and Marketplace takes place this weekend at Watkins College of Art & Design. It’s from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and guess what, I’LL BE THERE! Come visit because I will have a few Wilson Books on hand with me as well as Library Card applications so that you can sign up on the spot.
  • Our next #Throwback Thursday with the Wilson Collection is next Thursday (Oct 8th) from 3:30-5:00 in the Teen Area (at Main). Come visit, I’ll have a special Halloween-related craft this time!

Crowdsourcing History

By , September 14, 2015

Military PassWorking in Special Collections, I often marvel at how amazing it is that we have letters from Civil War soldiers, store ledgers from the 1900s, and interviews with people that lived through the Depression. These objects gives us a glimpse into our past and helps us see through to our future. Our collections are vital resources to researchers and community members alike. However, even in just the last 10 years, the way we access information has changed drastically. The number of individuals wanting to interact with our collections online has grown exponentially. Check out the success of Freegal, Hoopla, and Overdrive, for example!

Special Collections departments across the country are finding creative ways to make their resource available online, too. NPL has a fantastic digital collection that includes portions of our Veterans History Project Collection, Civil Rights Collection, Banner Archive, and many more (not to mention all of the resources the Metro Archives has made available). One of the challenges to making our collections available online, however, is the inherent uniqueness of them. Digital circulating collections can be made available through many different services that specialize in that one area and have a dedicated staff.

But we work with one-of-a-kind materials, which means that anything digital is most likely scanned, cataloged, and processed in house by your friendly neighborhood librarian. It may not seem like much work but getting an item from the shelf to the screen can take several hours, especially if it has a large amount of text that needs to be searched.

Outline Building FootprintsSome libraries are working with the public to divide and conquer! Take, for example, New York Public Library’s Building Inspector. Any member of the public can access the site and help the NYPL librarians outline, label, and classify buildings on historic maps. This makes the maps searchable and is helping them build a “NYC Space/Time Directory,” or as they are calling it, “a digital time-travel service.” Not only is this helpful to the library, but it’s kind of addicting!

There are tons of these projects out there. Ancient Lives lets you look at ancient Egyptian papyrus and try to interpret it. The Smithsonian has a project where volunteers have transcribed over 145,000 pages! The National Archives has a whole slew of projects for Citizen Archivist from tagging to subtitling to transcribing. Thousands of people are contributing to these types of projects and helping to make historical documents more accessible. There are even websites like Metadata Games and Helping History designed to connect you with a project you will enjoy.

So, does it sounds like fun?? Go ahead and try one! Not only will you help a librarian but you might just learn something :)

- Amber

Solemnizing Marriages Not-So-Solemnly: Humor from a Justice of the Peace

By , September 6, 2015

When two people got married in Nashville during the 19th century, it was not unusual for the officiant to write something like, “I hereby certify that I solemnized the rights of matrimony between the above named” on the back of the marriage certificate, and sign it. Some of these notes are wordy and elaborate, some are short and sweet. In the case of Justice of the Peace Willie Barrow, the notes also contained flashes of dry wit and sarcasm.

Barrow appears to have gone above and beyond the call of duty as an officiant by giving us some tidbits of information that we normally would not have.

William Barrow inscription on the back of a marriage license reads "11th March 1819 being the evening after the steam boat arrived and while I was marrying the couple there was two fights in the yard"


“I certify that I married the within named persons at the house of Dudly Kingston on the evening of the 11th March 1819 being the evening after the steam boat arrived and while I was marrying the couple there was two fights in the yard. W. Barrow”

No doubt this wedding was a festive and exciting affair.

Occasionally, Barrow would chime in with his own thoughts about the happy couple.

William Barrow inscription on back of a marriage license reads "April 14th 1823 Willie Barrow solemnized the wrights of matrimony between the within named parties on this day, and not very great folks"


“April 14, 1825 Willie Barrow solemnized the wrights [sic] of    matrimony between the within named parties on this day -    and  not very great Folks.”

That’s a shame.

Other times, Barrow simply injected a bit of sarcasm into his notes:

William Barrow inscription on back of an 1825 marriage license


“The undersigned acting Justice of the Peace for Davidson County solemnized the rites of matrimony on the night of 20th January 1825 between the within parties, the groom’s first wife had been dead for at least five weeks.  W. Barrow”

I guess sometimes five weeks is all you  need.

Who was Willie Barrow, other than a dry-witted (and slightly jaded) Justice of the Peace? According to John McGlone in a 1989 article in Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Willie (sometimes Wylie) Barrow settled in Nashville in 1795. Other sources in our Barrow family file state that he married Jane Greer in 1799, and had three children: David, Alexander, and Jane.

A few years after he was widowed in 1802, Barrow married Anne Wilson Beck. Together, they had several more children, including the prominent soldier, newspaper editor, and politician George Washington Barrow. According to our will books, he died sometime in 1825.

While his family file tells us the facts, it is the routine notes on the backs of these marriage licenses that give us a small idea of his personality. As a Justice of the Peace, he appears to have seen it all – from wedding side brawls to inebriated witnesses to freshly-widowed grooms. And it appears that he took it all in stride with a healthy sense of humor.

- Kelley


The Wilson Collection is music to my eyes and ears

By , July 27, 2015

Music notes

“The drums come in on the beat of one to lift my soul.” ~ Maya Angelou, Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul

Like other forms of art, music represents an expression that’s free, open-to-interpretation, and loved in its many variations. It also has an advantage among other forms of art – its intangible presence allows it to be weaved throughout the rest of the art world (and for that matter, the rest of the world in general). Like many others and many of my fellow staff members, I am an avid fan of all types of music. Without getting too sentimental about what music means to me, I can simply say that if I go a day without listening to music, you know something is wrong. I use it to think, chill out, calm down, get excited, read a book, get work done, to get cleaning done faster, go on road trips, ponder meaning in the world…you get the idea.

So I’m going to combine my love for music with my passion for books, and discuss a few books from the Wilson Collection that are either music-related or musically inspired. I’ve discussed this first book before if you recognize it, but because it’s such a unique part of the collection, it’s worth mentioning again…

Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul 

"Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul" by Maya Angelou

“Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul” by Maya Angelou

by Maya Angelou
LEC, 2003

Of course anything by Maya Angelou is going to be well worth the read, but this one is significant because it is a first edition book created strictly for the LEC. And what about music, you say? Everything about the poem and book is rooted in music. Angelou links joy and pain and music all in one, not as her own but as humanities pain as well. 

An original jazz composition was created by Wynton Marsalis just for the book, as well. The disc includes a 30-minute composition of Angelou reading the poem, with Marsalis on trumpet and a few more instruments in the background. This added feature helps bring the poem alive, along with the 6 colored etchings by Dean Mitchell.

It’s an amazing all-in-one package for the LEC subscribers and even more valuable because only 400 copies were printed, and the book was signed by the author, artist, and musician.  

"Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul" by Maya Angelou

"Music, Deep Rivers in My Soul" by Maya Angelou

A Lie of the MindA Lie of the Mind
by Sam Shepard
Arion Press, 1993

One might say that the author of this play has “The Right Stuff” when it comes to writing. Hahaha, I realize I am probably the only one chuckling at this one so let me explain. Though he is a man of many talents, having won a Pulitzer Prize for a previous play in 1979, Sam Shepard is more commonly recognized as an actor. And more specifically, you can find him playing Chuck Yeager in the movie, The Right Stuff. If you haven’t seen that, then maybe you’ve seen him in Black Hawk Down, Swordfish, August: Osage County, The Notebook, Steel Magnolias…ladies. But if you are still clueless, clearly you don’t watch much tv. Just kidding, just IMDB him.

But anyway, he’s a talented playwright as well, with this play being named the best new play of the season by the New York Drama Critics Circle in 1986. The story is a heavy one following two families as they struggle to deal with a severe incident of spousal abuse. Now for the musical relation – along with the book, subscribers to the Press also received a CD recording by the Red Clay Ramblers from the first production of the play. Actually, the current tapping of my toe is due to that soundtrack, it’s quite catchy being an “Old Crow Medicine Show”-type sound.

A Lie of the Mind     A Lie of the Mind


"Requiem" by Anna

“Requiem” by Anna Akhamatova

by Anna Akhamatova
LEC, 2000

The power of this poem can certainly be felt in the music that accompanies it. Requiem is a group of short poems written by Anna Akhamatova, a Russian poet whose work was officially prohibited during the Stalin era. The years were tough for Akhamatova and remained that way until the dictator’s death in 1953.

Eventually, the Writer’s Union paid tribute to “the great Soviet poet who for more than half a century devoted herself to the noble service of Russian poetic speech, of the homeland, and of Soviet society building a new world” (LEC newsletter).

Though love was primarily her focus, Requiem focuses on her experiences during the siege of Leningrad. The poems combined include her work between 1935 and 1943. This passionate piece of work focuses on love, shame, and hatred. Subscribers to the LEC received a treat when the CD including Sir John Tavener’s musical rendering of Requiem was included with their book. This recording is from the 1981 rendering played at London’s Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time that the LEC included a musical recording with its books.



Other musical tidbits:

Outside of the good music mentioned above, the Library has other means of providing good tunes. For example, the variety you can find if you use Freegal and Hoopla. Freegal is a great service because you can download the music for you to keep (only 7 songs a week, please). And Hoopla is also cool because you can listen to an entire album that was recently released, and then purchase later as I usually do. For example, some of the albums you see below are found on Hoopla

"The Fool" by Ryn Weaver

“The Fool” by Ryn Weaver










If you like the Glass Animals, you will like this girl. Her song “Octahate” came across my radar when I was listening to a Glass Animals Itunes station. The album is solid and full of variety. Also look for “Pierre” and “Promises”.

Marina and the Diamonds

“Froot” by Marina and the Diamonds










Also another similarity to Glass Animals and Ryn Weaver, Marina has several more albums out prior to this one which I plan to listen to when I get the chance. But to speak for this one, it has a fun, somewhat ‘poppy’ feel to it but infused with Florence-like tones.

"Drones" by Muse

“Drones” by Muse









Though I have not listened to this album fully as of yet, I love the band and all of their previous albums. A friend and co-worker recommended this one to me, explaining that it is possibly the best thing that he has ever heard. I don’t doubt him.

The Wilson Room is open during regular library hours. If you are interested in viewing any of the Wilson Collection books individually, you can make an appointment by calling either (615) 880-2356 or (615) 880-2363, or simply respond to this blog post.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for a special Off-the-Shelf post about school next month!


Book List: Genre-Bending Authors

By , July 25, 2015

We all have our favorite type of fiction – for example, I tend to read science fiction and fantasy more than anything else. We also tend to have our favorite authors that are our go-to reads in those genres. So what do we do when our favorite science fiction author puts out a romantic comedy novel set in current times? Or our favorite historical fiction writer suddenly gets the idea to write a science fiction thriller?


The Bourbon Kings, J. R. Ward1.First on our list is J.R. Ward. Her Black Dagger Brotherhood series features vampires, romance, and horror – good combinations for those guilty-pleasure reads that have a little bit more…ahem…bite to them. People typically group J.R. Ward with authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon and Charlaine Harris, and her books have a huge following. However, her latest novel moves away from the vampire-loving crowd, and into the exploits of a rich Southern family at the heart of the bourbon empire in a novel called The Bourbon Kings. There is a distinct class division in this – the upper-crust family and their hired help. When lines are crossed between the two, chaos and heartbreak ensues. Changes are coming, in the return of the prodigal son of the family. This novel presents a shift for J.R. Ward and her fans. The novel comes out on July 28th of this year, and coincidentally, she will be at the Nashville Public Library to promote it as part of the Salon @ 615 series! For more information (and tickets) please check out the link here.


Cry to Heaven, Anne Rice2. The next author on the list is Anne Rice. Many people know her for the Vampire Chronicles featuring the adventures of the vampire Lestat, as well as the Mayfair Witches books. She also wrote the book Cry to Heaven which is a historical fiction novel based on the lives of 18th century Italian castrati (male sopranos who were both revered and loathed in Italian society). Under another name, A. N. Roquelaure, she wrote a trilogy of erotica novels (simply called the Beauty series) that rivals 50 Shades of Grey. Under the name of Anne Rampling, she wrote two more novels, Belinda and Exit to Eden. Belinda is strongly reminiscent of the novel Lolita, with a bit more dimension in the characters. Exit to Eden seems to be yet another erotica, but this one takes place in the Caribbean, at a very exclusive club. There was a movie made out of it (starring Dan Aykroyd and Rosie O’Donnell) that came out in 1994.


The Casual Vacancy, J. K. Rowling3. Anyone who has access to books in the past decade or so has probably run across the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The series about the Boy Who Lived was one many people grew up with. Each book that came out showed Harry and his friends a year older, a year wiser (sometimes), and facing new challenges in their wizardry careers. After the final book in the series, J.K. Rowling wrote an adult novel called The Casual Vacancy. It was a dark novel,  following the aftermath of the death of a member of a parish council, and the ensuing war for his place. Conflict seems to be at the center of this novel – husband against wife, teenager against parent, rich against poor, and the ending is far more depressing than anything seen from her previously. J.K. Rowling also wrote mystery novels under the name Robert Gilbraith. When the first one came out (before she was revealed as the author), demand for the books exploded. The Cormoran Strike series is expecting a new addition (Career of Evil) sometime this year.


Naked In Death, J. D. Robb4. Speaking yet again of authors and pseudonyms, Nora Roberts typically writes contemporary romance novels, that sometimes have a hint of the paranormal to them. Several of her novels have an Irish angle to them – either in the characters or location. Her novels regularly have a long hold list on them at the library – but so do her science fiction hardcore cop dramas (called the In Death series) written under the name of J.D. Robb. In these novels, Detective Dallas is a hardcore detective in the homicide department, in New York City. It is the future, and guns have (for the most part) disappeared.  Homicides take place in interesting ways, and the novels are spent with Detective Dallas and (later) her husband Roarke, as they solve them.


On, Off by Colleen McCullough5. Last on our list is Colleen McCullough. Although she typically wrote historical fiction (she has series entitled Masters of Rome which chronicles the life and times of various important figures and wars in Roman history), she also had a series of five books that were murder mysteries (called the Carmine Delmonico series), focusing on forensic science and suspense. These books were a bit more sensational – with murders, sexuality, and detailed descriptions of forensic science. Looking at other people’s reviews of this book, it is obvious to see people who were surprised to see someone who wrote such detailed historical fiction diving into the murder mystery genre.

Savor Summer: The Art of Cooking

By , July 23, 2015

The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity, than the discovery of a new star.” ~ Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste

You know what really goes together…summer time and food…and books, of course. There’s nothing better than sitting poolside (or beach side) with something sweet and a good book. Maybe you’re reading a classic like Fahrenheit 451 out of inspiration from the weather. Or you’re reading the newest book by Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman. Or even better, you’re reading a book ABOUT food. That sounds yummy to me. Allow me to make a few recommendations based on some books from the Wilson Collection:

"The Physiology of Taste" by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

“The Physiology of Taste” by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

The Physiology of Taste by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Originally Published: Dec, 1825
Published by LEC: 1949
Translated and annotated by M.F.K. Fisher
Arion Press published their own copy in 1994 but that version is not included in the Wilson Collection.

This was one of his most famous works and was published in 1825, two months before his death. Arguably one of the most famous books ever written about food, The Physiology of Taste was first published in 1825 and continuously has been in print ever since. It is a classic because it is a combination of recipes, anecdotes, reflections, and general musings about anything gastronomical by Brillat-Savarin. He was a French Lawyer and politician prior to publishing the book, and also famous for the statement: “Tell me what you eat and I shall tell you what you are.”

In the author’s preface, Brillat-Savarin says that it was not a lot of work to prepare this book because he only needed to organize the material that he spent so long collecting. “It was an entertaining task, and one which I did well to save for my old age.”



I think my favorite part of the book – Under Meditation 6: On Food in General, #47: Chocolate and its Origins

My mouth was watering as I read: “we have come to think of chocolate as the mixture which results from roasting together the cacao bean with sugar and cinnamon: such is the classic definition…And when we add the delicious perfume of vanilla to this mixture of sugar, cacao, and cinnamon, we achieve the ne plus ultra of perfection to which such a concoction may be carried.” Excuse me while I go hunt down a candy bar…

Other fun tidbits:

  • The book begins with “Aphorisms of the Professor” that serves as a preamble to the following work and as a foundation for the science of Gastronomy. The first “aphorism” is “the universe is nothing without the things that live in it, and everything that lives, eats.”
  • I recommend reading the chapter about Truffles (pg. 96 under On Food in General), he pretty much hits the nail on the head with the description of Truffles. Mmmm, chocolate…
  • There is also a brief chapter about death and how your appetite relates to that; this man really does discuss every aspect of gastronomy. It’s a good thing the chapter is brief.
A Commonplace Book of Cookery by Robert Grabhorn

A Commonplace Book of Cookery by Robert Grabhorn

A Commonplace Book of Cookery by Robert Grabhorn
Published by Arion Press: 1975
Preface by M.F.K. Fisher

This is a rather unconventional book because it is not one that follows a specific plot or anecdote. Prior to Arion Press, Grabhorn Press was one of the best and most successful presses in California. Robert Grabhorn was one of the owning brothers of the press and was very good at what he did. He also had a hobby of clipping and collecting quotations throughout his life. So essentially what we have here is about 170 pages of quotes – all kinds of quotes about food in every form, context, and opinion, that he collected throughout his life.

A few reflect an ancient way of thinking while others are rather amusing. Here’s a sample…

  • “All things require skill but an appetite.” ~ George Herbert, 1593-1633, Outlandish Proverbs
  • “Old meat makes good soap.” ~ Italian Proverb
  • “When beer goes in wit comes out” ~ German Proverb
  • “A grapefruit is a lemon that had a chance and took advantage of it.” ~ Author unidentified
  • Heavenly Father, bless us, and keep us all alive, there’s ten of us to dinner, and not enough for five.”         ~ Anonymous, Hodge’s Grace, c. 1850

This book was originally published by Arion Press and then later republished by North Point Press as a trade edition, in 1985. If you’re curious to read more from this collectible, be sure and come by the Wilson Room and check it out.

I’m not the first blogger to mention The Physiology of Taste, or food writing for that matter. Talented fellow blogger, Amanda, recently discussed MFK Fisher and and her book, The Art of Eating in her July 14th blog post. Be sure to check it out too!

And now for food…raiding through some of the recipes in the 1966-67 edition of Southern Living, I wonder that people survived the 60′s eating some of this stuff. No offense to the people that like this stuff, but Cheese Meat Loaf? Franks and Cheese Casserole? Really?! To each their own I guess…

But here’s a recipe from that same magazine that I tried and though it turned out well, be aware that it is incredibly sweet!

Seven-Layer CookiesSeven-Layer Cookies

1/2 stick butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 can (1-1/2 cup) coconut flakes
1 (6-ounce) package chocolate chips
1 (6-ounce) package butterscotch chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chopped pecans

Melt butter in a 9 x 12-inch baking pan (I used an 8 x 8 and it was fine). Add ingredients by layers, in order listed. Bake at 325 degrees about 30 minutes (I went the full 30 minutes). Let cool in pan, then cut into small squares.

These were incredibly easy to make, and even better, hard to mess up because as I told the man bagging my groceries at the store, you’d be surprised how easy it is to mess up a recipe. Word of advice – ALWAYS read the recipe and the box you’re opening. But this was easy, turned out well, the only warning is to eat them in small bites, they are incredibly sweet but flavorful. Enjoy!

Seven-Layer Cookies


Savor Summer: Chefs and the Community

By , July 13, 2015

Women in KitchenThe kitchen was the gathering place in my home growing up so food always plays prominently in my family memories, like the way eating a chocolate chip cookie always feels like getting a great big hug! But since leaving my parents’ home, my husband and I have enjoyed exploring the local restaurant scene in Nashville. And who wouldn’t?? This year Nashville has been ranked in the top ten on Zagat’s “New Hot Food Cities”, number 11 on Travel+Leisure’s “Best Cities for Foodies” and second “Most Barbeque Obsessed City” by Heck, one of our local chefs is even on Food Network Star!

One of the reasons I love eating out in this city is that it feels like my dad cooked those meals for me. Not so much in the quality or type of food, but in the way it makes me feel. Local chefs focus on cooking for the community like they are your family. For instance, in an interview with David Swett, Jr he talked about the way they have cooked at Swett’s since his grandfather started the restaurant.

Swett Brothers. Photo from restaurant courtesy of Trip Advisor

Swett Brothers. Photo from restaurant courtesy of Trip Advisor

We cook everyday as if we are cooking for our own family. That’s just the way we go about it. We require that from the people that are cooking in the kitchen. If you cook like you are cooking for somebody you love, you always do a good job. 

- David Swett, Jr

This focus on cooking with love has led to three generations of Swett family members serving up barbeque to students at nearby Fisk University, Tennessee State University, Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University.

Newer Nashvillians are also adopting this philosophy for their businesses. Javaneh Hemmat, founder of Hummus Chick, channels her Persian roots and passion for cooking for friends into every batch of hummus she makes.

Javaneh Hemmat

Javaneh Hemmat

 Did you know that when we were living in that loft, making hummus was one of the first things I ever learned to make? And today, it’s become my business – my little company, Hummus Chic., I remember every batch I made I would try to make it better than the last one. And I loved sharing it with you and my friends and it created a community around us.

- Javaneh Hemmat

Nashville may be growing, but it is becoming a foodie destination at least in part because of the love local chefs have for our city and the ways they create food that creates community.

What is your favorite food memory? Share it in the comments below or with #SavorSummer

For more of David Swett’s interview or interviews with other restaurateurs and business leaders, check out the Nashville Business Leaders Oral History Collection in the Special Collections Division or hear clips in our digital collection.

Javaneh Hemmat was interviewed as part of the New Faces of Nashville Oral History Collection, accessible in the Special Collections Division at the Main Library.

Also check out “Nashville Eats,” an oral history project by the Southern Foodways Alliance, conducted partly in partnership with Nashville Public Library.

Happy Eating!


Savor Summer: Picnic

By , July 3, 2015


Picnic: recipes and inspiration from basket to blanket   

by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker and Jen Stevenson

Throughout the month we will be sharing favorite Savor Summer titles.

We are right smack-dab in the middle of a cookbook Renaissance. This new crop of cookbooks is fresh and fun from the list of ingredients to the final plating.

Blending decorative cook book illustration with the world of infographics, this new generation of cook books allow the entire family to join in the preparation and relish the results. Chefs of all levels of expertise will try a more complicated recipe because illustrators are making the process easily accessible.

One of the best of the new cookbooks is The Picnic: recipes and inspiration from basket to blanket. From the minute you pick up the book and notice the embossed lettering and light cheerfully illustrated cover you are hungry to see more. The pages are shiny (in case there is any curry on your fingertips that needs wiping clean), the headings are presented in a tomato red print, the more important actual instructions are in a sans serif black font. So visually, you are guided along. But the best part is the illustrations. Simple, colorful yet not jarring, perfectly executed water color washes of the final products.

The book is arranged into 6 chapters, from Basket to Blanket, Bites, Salads, Plates, Sweets and Sips. In the first chapter you will find The Deviled Dozen (twists on the Essential Deviled Egg recipe) as well as 99 ways (and counting) to use a Mason jar. Scattered throughout the book are ten or so Menu pages that put together a themed basket of menu listings (complete with referenced page number) such as “Bells with baskets: court the Carolinas in this celebration of all things south of the Mason-Dixon Line.”

Ten fabulous floats, Picnic attire and Spicy Paloma Punch are just a few of the ideas shared in this new classic of summer cook book selections to savor.

“I’ll affect you slowly as if you were having a picnic in a dream. There will be no ants. It won’t rain.”

– Richard Brautigan


Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941

By , June 28, 2015

Superhero movies have dominated Hollywood for nearly a decade, but superheroes’ popularity is nothing new. Characters like Batman, Captain America, and Wonder Woman have been popular for over seventy years, but many of their caped brethren have fallen through the cracks of history.


Editor Greg Sadowski gathered many of these forgotten heroes into 2009’s Supermen! The First Wave of Comic-Book Heroes 1936-1941, a great anthology about comics’ Golden Age. The idea of the superhero began as an amalgamation of the circus strongman and pulp characters like the Shadow and Doc Savage. Once Superman hit the scene in Action Comics #1 in 1938, publishing companies scrambled to get into the comic book business and create their very money-making superhero.


Trying to come up with the next big thing is almost as difficult as trying to come up with the big thing in the first place, a fact made clear by the creation and immediate disappearance of heroes like Skyman, the Silver Streak, and Yarko, Master of Magic. Still, there’s life in these stories, the kind creative abandon found only when writers and artists make up the rules as they go along.
These creators of these stories didn’t have to bow to the needs of continuity, perform fan service, or concern themselves with maintaining a franchise. They were trying to make a buck, and create stories people would want to read. If nothing else, they were successful on that tip.


Standouts include Basil Wolverton’s Spacehawk, Superhuman Enemy of Crime, and the brutally strange work of Fletcher Hanks. Hanks’ characters Stardust the Super Wizard and Fantomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle are the epitome old, weird superhero comics. Be sure to check out Hanks’ I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! for  more early superhero antics. It’s an excellent companion to Supermen!, and is also available from the library.

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